Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Book give-away

Camille Minichino, author of the "Periodic Table Mysteries, " has written a new mystery series under the pen name, Margaret Grace. This series features a 58-year-old sleuth who makes minatures for dollhouses. The third book, Malice in Miniature, will be out soon, and Ms. Minichino is offering a copy of the book to the first three people to leave a comment here asking for one.

I'm a dollhouse-lover, and have daughters who love to make tiny relpicas of food and fabric furnishings for their old dollhouse. It's hard not to like miniatures.

Thank you, Camille!


Abbreviated reading list for 2009

For the last two years I have selected a dozen books to be my "must-read" choices for the year. It has worked well, allowing me to look forward to one particular book each month, and giving me time to read other books I see or hear about, too. Often the twelve books I've chosen have inspired me to look for other books by the same authors, or more books on the same topic.

Here's my reading list for 2009:

1. What's So Great about Christianity?" by Dinesh D'Souza. I've read several books and many articles by Mr. D'Souza and found them all thought-provoking. This looks like it will be good.

2. A World Lost by Wendell Berry. This past year I read three books by Wendell Berry and am now an unabashed fan.

3. The Story of Edger Sawtelle by David Wroblewski. Long before Oprah picked this for her book club, I read a review in the Sunday newspaper book section that made this novel sound very interesting. I bought the book and then tried to convince our local book club to read it. We will read it this year. I can't wait.

4. Waiting for the Weekend by Witold Rybczynski. Everything I've read by Mr. Rybczynski has been good enough to recommend and loan to other readers.

5. These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer. In my opinion, Georgette Heyer is the only worthy successor to Jane Austen. Her Regency novels read like Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, and Emma without being second-rate sequels.

6. Fishing for Gold: The Story of Alabama's Catfish Industry by Karni R. Perez. I saw this at PaperBackSwap and requested it. I know nothing about it, but I grew up near the Auburn University Fisheries and knew quite a few international students through the years who came to Auburn to learn how to "grow fish" for their homelands. It looks odd, but interesting.

7. 1700: Scenes from London Life by Maureen Waller. Last year I read London 1945 by Maureen Waller and I enjoyed it and started looking for more of her books.

8. An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken. While Penny and I were on our spinning trip last fall I read a review of this book in USA Today. The next day we went to a book store and I bought it. The trick will be waiting to read it.

9. First to Fight: An Inside View of the U.S. Marine Corps by Victor H. Krulak. This book by General Krulak has been in my "to read" pile for a couple of years. This is probably a book I should have read as a young Marine bride. Better late than never!

10. A Splendor of Letters: The Permanence of Books in an Impermanent World by Nicholas A. Basbanes. I love Nicholas Basbanes's books. What could be better than reading about books and reading?

11. The Chilling Stars: A Cosmic View of Climate Change by Henrik Svensmark and Nigel Calder. I bought this last year as one of Joan's science books, but I really wanted to read it myself. (That's one of the bonuses of homeschooling.)

12. The American Senator by Anthony Trollope. Trollope was a contemporary of Charles Dickens. His books are generally set in the country rather than the city, and they are social and political commentaries with usually a romantic story thrown in. His novels are lighter and generally happier than anything by Dickens.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Books read in 2008

Sherry at Semicolon is hosting a Saturday Review of Books especially for book lists. I love hearing or reading about what others are reading or have read, but last night I thought that for me and probably for most bibliophiles, reading isn't so much a virtue as it is a vice.

My default mode is reading. I'd rather read than do anything - and if I can read and do something else at the same time, then I will. But if it comes to choosing between reading and doing something else, reading just about always wins. Poor Steve in 26 years of marriage has never complained or scolded me, although many times he could sing along with Carlos Santana, "When I come home, baby, my house is dark and my pots are cold... ." It's not because I was hanging around "with Jean and Joan and who knows who, " it's because I was hanging around with books. And yet, he's never told me I have to change my evil ways. What a guy!

So last night as I was looking back over the titles I read this past year, noticing I didn't read as much as the year before, I thought about why that was. I realized that the books not read represented time doing other things: conversing with Amy, looking at Karin's pictures, watching the grandbabies play in the yard, taking the dog for a walk, spending time at the nursing home with my friend, enjoying an evening watching a movie with Steve, listening to the kids talk about what they did, cooking delicious and nutritious meals (instead of waving a hand towards the cereal and milk when asked, "What's for supper?" and refusing to put down my book), hanging clothes on the line, visiting Mom and Dad, seeing friends from far away, and the list goes on... .

Christmas with Paula Deen - Paula Deen
The Widow - Carla Neggers
I Am the Messenger - Markus Zusak
Home to Harmony - Philip Gulley
See You in a Hundred Years - Logan Ward
A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini
Leepike Ridge - N.D. Wilson
The Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follett
Economics in One Lesson - Henry Hazlitt
The Monk Downstairs - Tim Farrington
Lord of the Flies - William Golding
Strawberry Fields - Marina Lewycka
The Soul of a Chef - Michael Ruhlman
The Power of One - Bryce Courtenay
Ishmael - Daniel Quinn
Banker - Dick Francis
A Charmed Life - Liza Campbell
South to Bataan, North to Mukden - William Brougher and D. Clayton James, ed.
Twilight - Katherine Mosby
Liberal Fascism - Jonah Goldberg
Dead Cert - Dick Francis
Just Shy of Harmony - Philip Gulley
The Miracle at Speedy Motors - Alexander McCall Smith
Death of a Gentle Lady - M.C. Beaton
Tuning the Rig - Harvey Oxenhorn
The Hydrogen Murder - Camille Minichino
Hot Money - Dick Francis
Twilight - Stephanie Meyer
A Prisoner of Birth - Jeffrey Archer
London 1945 - Maureen Waller
The Winds of Change - Martha Grimes
The Summer of the Great-Grandmother - Madeleine L'Engle
Step on a Crack - James Patterson
Applied Economics - Thomas Sowell
China Lake - Anthony Hyde
Losing It - Valerie Bertinelli
Nineteen Minutes - Jodi Picoult
Little Heathens - Mildred Armstrong Kalish
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - Barbara Kingsolver
World without End - Ken Follett
Blooming: A Small Town Girlhood - Susan Allen Toth
The Body in the Gallery - Katherine Hall Page
Three Bags Full - Leonie Swann
Gambit - Rex Stout
Waiting for Snow in Havana - Carlos Eire
Hannah Coulter - Wendell Berry
The Family from One End Street - Eve Garrett
Books - Larry McMurtry
Stealing from Each Other - Edgar K. Browning
The House of Lanyon - Valerie Anand
No Children, No Pets - Marion Holland
Redeeming Love - Francine Rivers
Freakonomics - Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner
Silks - Dick Francis & Felix Francis
Mason Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines - Kay Gardner & Ann Shayne
Knitting Bones - Monica Ferris
The Gentle Art of Domesticity - Jane Brocket
The Longest Silence: A Life in Fishing - Thomas Mcguane
Knitting America - Susan Strawn
Midwife of the Blue Ridge - Christine Blevins
A Spoonful of Poison - M.C. Beaton
A Quest for More - Paul David Tripp
One Fifth Avenue - Candace Bushnell
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer
America's British Culture - Russell Kirk
Salvation on Sand Mountain - Dennis Covington
The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday - Alexander McCall Smith
The Homemaker - Dorothy Canfield
44 Scotland Street - Alexander McCall Smith
Emily Post - Laura Claridge
Garden Spells - Sarah Addison Allen
The Sugar Queen - Sarah Addison Allen
Jayber Crow - Wendell Berry
First Person Rural - Noel Perrin
The Tales of Beedle the Bard - J.K. Rowling
A Christmas Grace - Anne Perry
The Christmas Sweater - Glenn Beck
The Private Patient - P.D. James
Chocolat - Joanne Harris
Like Water for Chocolate - Laura Esquivel
Feast: Food to Celebrate Life - Nigella Lawson
Quilting for Beginners - (Seams Sew Easy)
Crocheting School: A Complete Course - ( Sterling Publishing Co.)
The Girl with No Shadow - Joanne Harris
A Place on Earth - Wendell Berry
The Christmas Promise - Donna Van Liere
A Dog Named Christmas - Greg Kincaid
Bamboo and Blood - James Church
The Talisman - Sir Walter Scott
The Bible

I think this is a pretty accurate list. If I've left off any books read, I'm certain it's no more than half a dozen.

Reading addicts of the world - UNITE! Wait - we'll just read, so what's the point?

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Hot water!

A few days before Christmas one of our two 40-gallon water heaters died. Steve called our favorite plumber and explained the situation. Our plumber said he'd have to order another water heater and would not be able to install it until after Christmas. Since then our water has been tepid. Tom and Karin graciously allowed us to use their shower, and we washed clothes and dishes in cold water.

Today Wayne and his apprentice arrived with this beautiful new water heater:

And in a few minutes I'm hoping it will be working and delivering hot water for our use!


A Place on Earth

A few days before Christmas I read A Place on Earth by Wendell Berry. Like the other two Berry books I've read (Hannah Coulter and Jayber Crow) this book stands alone very well, but having read those other two books set in Port William, Kentucky I think I enjoyed this one more.

As the title suggests, this novel is more about a place - Port William - than it is about a person, although people certainly are what make the story. Berry gives details of the lives of Uncle Jack, Mat Feltner, Burley Coulter, Gideon Crop, and Ernest Finley, among others. This book reminded me so much of Elizabeth Gaskell's book, Cranford, except that the village is in Kentucky rather than England, and most of the characters we see are old men rather than women. Although there was death - and tragic deaths, at that - it was still a calm and soothing read.

I am amazed at how easy it is to read Wendell Berry's fiction as a series or as a stand-alone novel, and it is enjoyable either way. It's like Anthony Trollope's Barsetshire series, or his Palliser series. One can read one of the books, or all of them (in no particular order, even) and come away satisfied.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

We're leaving soon to go to the Christmas Eve service at church. Afterwards we'll eat supper somewhere then come home. The children will open their new pajamas from Steve and me and we'll prepare a breakfast casserole to bake tomorrow morning as we read Scripture and open gifts. The kids will go to bed, and hopefully I'll remember to fill their stockings. Around midnight I'll put their stockings in their rooms at the foot of their beds. At 6:00 a.m. the kids will get up and start the coffee percolator and pre-heat the oven for the casserole. Then they'll come into our bedroom and watch us empty the stockings they've filled for us. I'll put on Christmas music and start a fire in the living room fireplace, Steve will bring coffee for him and me, then we'll call the children into the living room and read the Bible and open gifts. This takes a long time because only one present at a time is opened, thanks are rendered, and the recipient gets to take a moment to admire or appreciate the gift. Then another person gets a gift, and so it goes until every gift is opened and all trash has been thrown away. It can be as late as noon or as early as 10:30 a.m. when we're done.

We'll make the dishes we're to take out to the grandparents' house Christmas night, then spend the afternoon enjoying the time together. Christmas night is the celebration dinner with the extended family - but no gift exchange this year.

Hope your hearts are full of joy and thankfulness, too!


Friday, December 19, 2008

Layne's socks

Layne called on December 9 and asked if I would knit a pair of socks for each of her three sisters. She explained that she had not planned to give her sisters gifts for Christmas, but then she thought they'd each enjoy a pair of hand-knit socks. And she added, that if it was not possible for me to knit the socks it was okay - she just would not give them anything.

I was delighted to be asked and told her I'd do it or die in the attempt. I already had one sock of a pair for Joan finished, and Joan told me to feel free to give that pair to Layne instead. So that left only 5 socks to knit, and I thought if I could knit half a sock each day, I'd finish in time to mail the socks to Layne and they'd arrive in time for her to give to her sisters on Christmas Day.

I finished the last sock last night and will mail them off today!

Yarn: Interlacements Toasty Toes and Mountain Colors Bearfoot.
Needles: US size 3
Stitches cast-on: 50
Details: 14 rows of k1, p1 ribbing, then stockinette stitch for a 5-inch cuff. Make heel flap and turn heel, then knit foot in stockinette until about 2 inches remain. Decrease 2 stitches every other row until left with 9 stitches, then Kitchener stitch together.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Four short Christmas books

Cindy recommended a few books by Anne Perry for light Christmas reading. Our library had only one Anne Perry Christmas book, and even though it was not one of the ones on Cindy's list, I checked it out and read it. It was a good quick mystery set in Ireland in the late 1800's with a nasty storm, a shipwreck, and questions to be answered about an unfortunate death that occurred in the past. I liked A Christmas Grace and will look for more books by Anne Perry.

Dana wrote a review of this book so I checked it out of the library, too. Dana gave a good summary of the story, but I'll add that I found Eddie's selfishness so destructive that I couldn't see any reasonable redemption possible. The ending did have a neat twist, so don't read the ending first or you'll spoil the story. (I think I would have eventually read The Christmas Sweater because it features a hand-knit sweater!)

Today was my day to volunteer at the museum. Last month not a single person came in while I worked and I knew today would likely be the same so I took two books to read. The Christmas Promise was about Gloria, a 60-year-old widow with grown children whose youngest son, Matthew, ran away at the age of 14, just weeks before his father's death and who has been missing for the last seven years. Some time after her husband's death, Gloria sold her home, moved to another town and began putting her time and energy to work helping others. She finds jobs for single mothers, babysits their children, finds appliances and cars for those too poor to afford them, collects and distributes clothing and food to homeless people, and just generally helps others all day and into the night. Mercy and grace, grace and mercy and loving your neighbor as yourself are at work all through the book. Happy endings for all, and my eyes were very moist when I finished the book.

A Dog Named Christmas was the second book I read at the museum. I liked the cover. I thought it might be funny, but figured it would at least be "heart-warming." Christmas is a lab-mix adopted from the county animal shelter to spend the week of Christmas with a family. His family happens to be a Vietnam war veteran, his kind and loving wife, and their 20-year-old mentally handicapped son. (Okay, I admit that at this point I was already dabbing at my eyes with a tissue.) The father does not want a dog, but he loves his son and thinks it will be a good experience for him. I thought the story would be more predictable than it was (I was pleasantly surprised) and for a few bad minutes when I read through some Old Yeller -type foreshadowing I had to put the book down and walk around, go blow my nose, see if my eyes looked as though I'd been crying before I could resume reading. It was good, but if I let my children read it we'd end up at the local animal shelter adopting all the dogs before the week was out.

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Bamboo and Blood

I picked up James Church's novel, Bamboo and Blood, because the cover looked like winter.

This was a strange book. On the back cover (I think) one of the blurbs compared it to film noir and detective stories with hardboiled detectives like Sam Spade. Some of the dialogue reminded me of books like The Maltese Falcon, but honestly it was more akin to watching a David Mamet movie - through frosted glass.

The book is set in North Korea, in winter, although a part of the "action" happens in Geneva, Switzerland. It's a cold and starving story, with not much action. Even though it was odd, I wanted to read it to the end and find out what happened. Each time I thought maybe I was understanding the story, another twist occurred.

One unexpected benefit to reading this book was that it made me very curious about North Korea, so I spent some time looking through atlasses and reading articles on the internet about North and South Korea.

If another "Detective O" story by James Church comes my way, I'm sure I'll read it - especially if it has an interesting cover.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Green and red lights

Last year I found green light bulbs and red light bulbs at Piggly Wiggly. I think they were $1 each. We put them in all the outbuilding porch lights and enjoyed them through the month of December. I was afraid they looked tacky, so I asked all my neighbors if they were okay with them, and they all (out of kindness, I'm sure, because we are blessed with great neighbors!) said they liked the lights.

David put them all up for me this year, and I hate to admit that they are my favorite decoration. They look so pretty when it's totally dark and I can see them from the windows of the family room and kitchen. It's a cheap thrill.


Monday, December 15, 2008

'Tis the season to negotiate

Mid-December in our house is when the children come to me and ask when their Christmas break begins. They get the kitchen calendar and the lesson-plan book and start their arguments or negotiations.

They begin with pointing out how much school work they have completed. I respond by showing how much is left to complete by the end of our academic year.

They move on to how much potential help they could be with housework if they had no school work. I remind them that this year is a calm year for us. For the first time in three years we are not moving; our home is not on a Christmas tour of homes; we are not hosting the annual Christmas night dinner for the extended family. And this year is an off-year for our big Christmas cookie bake. (We only bake dozens and dozens of cookies to give away every other year.)

Finally, because they know that from my point of view this is the weakest argument, they list everyone they know who is already out for Christmas break.

The end result is that the timing of the break remains the same: December 19 will be our last day of school work, and we will resume our studies on January 5. However, I agree to less daily work - only math and reading. And for reading, instead of their assigned literature they can read Christmas books. They may sleep in late this week, but they have to complete their work before 2:00 p.m. each day.

I think we're all happy with this arrangement.


Friday, December 12, 2008

The Private Patient

I'm so glad P.D. James is still writing books. Her latest, The Private Patient just came out in November.

The story itself takes place in November and December. A tabloid journalist with unhappy childhood memories and an ugly facial scar visits a plastic surgeon and decides to have her scar removed at his stately country home private clinic instead of in London. Adam Dalgliesh and his crew are called in after she is found the morning after surgery, dead and obviously murdered. The murder appears to be an inside job, and there is more unpleasantness ahead. In the meantime, Dalgliesh is getting ready to marry Emma and other characters are progressing in relationships also.

I'm hopeful that there will be at least one or two more books by Ms. James. She's 88, and I was so excited and surprised that she wrote this one.


Sam's cake

Yesterday was Sam's birthday, but he wanted to have everyone together to celebrate with his special birthday meal and we couldn't make it happen. So today he's getting his meal (hamburgers made and cooked by Dad, potato chips, and cake made by Joan - is this not the best meal from a busy mom's point of view? And the other kids wonder why the baby of the family gets so many breaks...) and family celebration.

Joan took Sam to the grocery store and allowed him to select what he wanted for his cake. She then baked him a chocolate cake in the shape of a guitar, with chocolate frosting and pieces of Hershey's chocolate bar on it.

The chocolate eaters in this family are going to love it!

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Cat in a tree

Tom and Karin's cat, Jack, climbed up our Christmas tree and started batting ornaments off. I couldn't believe he tried to climb it. He loves to climb real trees outside, but our Christmas tree is artificial. Must be like the kids climbing those fake rock walls instead of the rock on the side of a mountain or cliff. I guess Jack just wants to keep his skills up to date.

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Our oldest Christmas ornaments

These felt nativity scene characters are our oldest Christmas ornaments. At my "miscellaneous shower" Joanne P. gave me a small box of Christmas decorations: glass ornaments from the 1960's, a couple of boxes of tree lights, a small box of tinsel, and a set of nativity scene characters to be hung on the tree. For years we hung these (and the other wise man, the other shepherd, the angel and the star) on the tree. The children often took the nativity pieces off the tree and played with them. That's how the other pieces got lost. Over the years the glass ornaments broke, the lights stopped working, the tinsel wore out, but these felt ornaments remain - 26 years later.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

First Person Rural

If I were looking for a book to give someone with agrarian sympathies, I'd give him Noel Perrin's collection of essays on his life in Vermont - First Person Rural.

Mr. Perrin clearly loved his life in rural Vermont, but he was realistic, too. He saw and praised the benefits of life in the country and he saw and praised the benefits of modern life, too. He liked sugaring on his own farm, and he liked using his chainsaw and his truck. At times he wrote nostalgically of what was, and other times he was laugh-out-loud funny.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Almond cookies

Becky Y. gave us this recipe 5 years ago. Jacy was babysitting Becky's boys and Becky gave Jacy some Christmas cookies she'd made. Jacy ate one of the almond cookies and immediately asked for the recipe. She came home, rolled up her sleeves and made the cookies that day. Life has not been the same since then.

These are dangerous cookies. They are the controlled substance of the cookie world. It is impossible to eat one or two. They are highly addictive and scream out to be devoured until there is not a crumb left.

Last night Joan told me she'd make a batch of almond cookies for me to take to a Christmas party Thursday for some ladies at church. I got all the ingredients (except for almonds - Piggly Wiggly had none) and Joan mixed and baked. Sarah helped decorate, and Sam tasted.

As they worked I was reading in the living room so as to be away from the cookies. Joan said I'd have to try one. I agreed. Then I thought, "Well, maybe I'll eat two." When the first one was decorated, Joan gave it to Sam. He ate it, and could not leave the kitchen after that. Joan brought me one. Sarah brought me one. Then I made the fatal error of entering the kitchen and I ate FIVE more! Joan is a quick thinker and she rescued all of us by taking a dozen to David, Marley and Steve. They ate their cookies and came into the kitchen looking for more. By that time they were all gone.

Did I mention that none of the cookies had actually cooled yet? So here's the recipe. Bake at your own risk.

Almond Cookies
1 c. butter
2/3 c. sugar
1 egg
2 1/2 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. almond extract

1 egg white, slightly beaten
ground almonds
red and green candied cherries

2 T. butter
1/4 c. shortening or butter
1 t. vanilla
1 egg white
1/2 t. almond extract
2 c. powdered sugar

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg, almond extract and salt. Mix in flour. Roll into small balls and dip in egg white and then ground almonds. Press slightly with thumb. Bake approximately 4 to 5 minutes in a 350-degree oven, then press cookies down with thumb a little more. Bake another 4 to 5 minutes. Cool, frost, then add cherries.

[Because we had no almonds we substituted ground pecans instead. Delicious. Today Joan is going to make another batch so I'll have some to take to the ladies' Christmas party. No one in this house will be allowed to taste one.]

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Jayber Crow

I read so many reviews that praised Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry that I knew it would be worth reading.

At the beginning of the book I thought it was like Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, because everyone close to Jayber died. Then his life as an orphan was reminiscent of David Copperfield and Oliver Twist. His journey from college back to Port William was like The Odyssey as he made his way over the flooded Kentucky landscape after being away for twelve years.

The entire book consists of stories within the larger story of Jayber's life. It's like a family gathering where one can listen to the older relatives tell about events in their lives. Mr. Berry celebrates community in families and in rural areas. He also unabashedly preaches his agrarian sermons from time to time, but they don't spoil the book.

I've only read this and Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry, but they are both definitely read-and-recommend novels.


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Sugar Queen

Set in the mountains of North Carolina, Sarah Addison Allen's book The Sugar Queen is about Josey, a woman in her late 20's and absolutely under her mother's thumb. Josey's one secret pleasure is her stash of candy and other confections in her bedroom closet. Otherwise she lives at her mother's beck and call. Her life changes one morning when she finds in her closet a woman she knows only slightly.

This story, like Garden Spells, was sweet. Josey changes and her life changes without leaving a trail of meanness and selfish destruction behind her.


44 Scotland Street

Alexander McCall Smith wrote and published 44 Scotland Street in serial form for The Scotsman. It was great to listen to as an audio book, but I must admit I became impatient to finish it and bought the paperback edition, too.

The story follows the lives of the residents of 44 Scotland Street and the people with whom they work or associate. Mr. McCall Smith makes each character's story interesting from Pat, the young girl who works in an unsuccessful art gallery, to 5-year-old Bertie, the child prodigy with a pushy mother who won't allow him to be a child.

I have no idea why I ignored this series when it first came out, but I'm so glad to have books to read by Alexander McCall Smith that are new to me.


Monday, December 08, 2008

The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday

I think this series set in Edinburgh, Scotland and featuring philosopher Isabel Dalhousie as the central character just keeps getting better.

Nothing earth-shattering happens - it's basically life as usual. Isabel's baby, Charlie, is getting bigger. Isabel continues to edit and print a philosophy journal. Isabel tries to help a man so overcome with shame that he gave up his profession and never leaves his home.

Life continues to go quietly on... .


Thursday, December 04, 2008

Pop-up knitting

I'd probably finish my larger knitting projects if I did each project in order and not allow myself to wander off on "pop-up" projects. When not at work on Sarah's afghan or cardigan, I'm knitting a pair of socks for Joan and a scarf for Jacy. The socks are done in Interlacements Toasty Toes on US size 3 circular needles and the scarf is made with Colinette Tagliatelle on US size 13 needles.


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Emily Post: Daughter of the Gilded Age, Mistress of American Manners

Laura Claridge's book, Emily Post: Daughter of the Gilded Age, Mistress of American Manners is a very detailed and fascinating account of Emily Post's life and the times in which she lived.

Emily's father, Bruce Price, was an architect and he often took her to the sites of his building projects. Her mother, Josephine Lee, was the daughter of a coal baron and had great financial sense. In Emily, the strong characteristics of both parents were nurtured and developed. Emily never had any formal education, but she did learn quickly whatever interested her. After she married Edwin Post she did her best to manage her husband's income and their household while still keeping up appearances in New York's high society. She soon had two sons, to whom she was devoted. While they were still young, Emily began to write as a diversion and hobby, and was soon published.

Unfortunately, after only a few years of marriage Edwin was unfaithful to her, keeping a mistress in an apartment in New York. When discovered and blackmailed by a tabloid, her husband chose to expose his infidelity himself, rather than be blackmailed. Emily was humiliated, but was willing to forgive and continue on in their marriage. Edwin was not. He divorced Emily and she began writing novels in earnest to support herself and her sons.

At the beginning of the twentieth century women did not work - at least women in the upper social circles did not. Emily enjoyed writing and did not want to stop. She probably would have had enough to live on with her inheritance from her father and grandparents, and later, her mother. However, she told those around her that she needed the income from writing to survive.

Emily's life, though privileged, was not the happiest, but she appears to have faced trouble with sensible determination. She first wrote her book on etiquette in 1922. It went through many revisions over three decades - all done by Emily Post herself - and was at one time listed as the book (second only to the Bible) most often stolen from public libraries.

From Emily Post: Daughter of the Gilded Age, Mistress of American Manners:

"The theme of appearance versus essence, the superficial versus the significant, recurs throughout Etiquette."

"Doggedly, Emily reinforced her central message every chance she had: the way people treated others was more important than an address or last name could ever be."

"Treating respectfully those with less power or position than oneself remained central to the message of Etiquette and to Emily's own life."

"Throughout the decades, in the face of countless changes, the central commandment to put others at their ease would remain constant. 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,' the agnostic etiquette expert maintained."

"To wittingly cause distress to others was, to Emily, the antithesis of good manners."


Another block - 6, I think

The Moderne Log Cabin blanket is now large enough to keep me warm while I knit it. Sarah likes it and I find it perfect knitting for reading or watching a movie with Steve. Who knew garter stitch could be so rewarding?

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

My children are great!

Yesterday afternoon I had to run errands for several hours. I left the children finishing up school work and tidying the house so we could decorate when I got home.

When I arrived home, This is what I saw:

Inside, Joan, Marley and Sam were busy:

All the boxes of Christmas decorations had been brought in from the garage and the entire house was decorated and presents were wrapped!

Decorating is my least favorite chore, so I felt like I'd just been given the best gift. What will I do when they're all grown up and gone?

Years ago we lived in California and Steve was deployed to Okinawa for six months. Glenn and Aric were little and were in Florida with their mother for Christmas. I had no other children. All of my extended family was in Alabama and Steve's extended family was in Florida. I worked, and did not have the money to fly to Alabama or Florida, so I was staying in our house on base alone for Christmas. A friend at work told me I really should get a tree and decorate for the holiday. We had two little boxes of tree decorations and Christmas do-dads, so I pulled out a string of colored lights and hammered a few tacks on the wall in the living room in the outline of a Christmas tree and strung that one string of lights on it. It worked for me, but my friend said it was the most pitiful thing she'd ever seen. My parents surprised me with an airplane ticket to fly to Alabama for a few days over Christmas, so I was able to enjoy their decorations.

Maybe Steve will take over the decorating when the children are gone.

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