Monday, December 27, 2010

Hey Good Lookin' Whatcha' Got Cookin'?

Looks like BROWNIES...

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Dressed in Holiday Style

    My coworkers and I are easily the hippest, funnest, coolest elves, Florists in town.

And my sister who came to pick me up from work and stayed to take pictures of me and my awesome co-workers.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Jazzy Jingle Bells

 Happy Holidays from the City Children's Choir!

Of which my little brother is a proud member.

He wore these light up reindeer antlers that he had to keep switching on constantly throughout the concert because they only blinked for 20 seconds or so after pressing the button.  So, of course he had to keep reaching up and pressing the button.  I don't know who bought him those antlers.  *whistles innocently*

Luke and his friend Elizabeth.  "Choir is FUN!!!!"

And with little siblings.  Who are adorable.  :)
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

JJ Heller Love

JJ Heller is easily my favorite recording artist.

That's saying a lot coming from the girl who can find enjoyment in almost any type of music (obviously exception would be heavy metal, whether or not it's even music is debatable.)  But, although I have a wide range of tastes, and a big list of favorite songs it's not often that I find an ARTIST that I love.  As in, I pretty much love every song she's ever recorded.  I love her sound.  I love her image.  I love that she's an independent artist.  I love that her music is understated and simple with amazing, killer lyrics.  I love that she has an  adorable baby girl that she features along with her adorable sewing projects on her adorable blog  I love that she and her husband travel together and give beautiful un-pretentious concerts where the audience feels more like they're in the Heller's living room than in a concert hall.  By the way, I know about the concerts, because I went to see them a couple weekends ago at the Outeredge Stage (which is awesome by the way.)

 And I took some friends with me.  'Cause it's always good to spread the JJ Heller love. 

My friends drink a lot of coffee.

Then we went to Barnes and Noble and shopped in the used book section on the way home.

So, it was basically a perfect weekend. 

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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

November Book List

101. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller (****)  Re-read.  This time for my book club.  I liked it just as much this time around, found myself asking myself more questions.  I seem to find deeper themes when I re-hear or re-read something. 

102.  The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine
(***)  Also a re-read but, mainly because I was really in the mood for something fluffy.  I know.  *blush* 

103.  Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (****)  I didn't love this book as much as I loved Gilead.  I feel like there's so much more than just the words and the surface story in Robinson's works.  The main theme is Transience, or the deep, undercurrent of transience in three generations of women.  It's a story about danger and beauty, family ties and the lack of family ties.... basically, it's a story about opposite themes and ideas and philosophies.  The characters are constantly at odds with society, culture and even themselves.  Even the title of the book "Housekeeping" sounds crisp and tidy like clean sheets and bread baking, but the story itself is untidy, dark and reclusive.  I'm still thinking about this book... I don't think I can really explain what it all meant to me, but I can't get one phrase out of my head.  In the first few chapters of the book, one woman's three daughters grow up and move away from home one by one, they all leave and almost never look back "She had never taught them to be kind to her."  I wonder if we have to teach people to be kind to us?  I wonder a lot of things...

104.  Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (***)  I didn't love this one as much as I did Steinbeck's The Pearl.  There are a lot of interesting concepts in this novella.  Tons of language though, so be warned. 

105.  Gone Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright -(****)  Cute.  Classic childhood summer.

106.  Les Miserables by Victor Hugo -(*****)  Are there words for the epic-ness of this book?  I think not.  I LOVE it.  Everyone should read it.  Everyone. 

107.  Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (***)  I think I would have gotten much more out of this book if I knew more about Chinese culture.  As it is, I learned a lot about cultures mixing how it works and how it doesn't.  And generational relationships. 

108.  N or M? by Agatha Christie (****)  I think just about any Tommy and Tuppence fan would love this book.  It's so them.  :)  

Thursday, September 30, 2010

September Book List

  85.  Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (****)  I'm not really sure what exactly I expected from the end of this trilogy.  But, it wasn't this.  But, that's ok.  I think this book and it's themes are deeper than the first two books and I wasn't prepared for it.  It's really brutal.  And even though it ended as well as anyone could hope after the experience the rest of the book puts you through... it's still so tragically bitterly sad.

86.  Murder at Hazelmoor by Agatha Christie (****)  It's always fun to read Christie's out of the common way mysteries.  By that I mean, a mystery not featuring Poirot or Marple or The Beresfords.  I love all of those detectives (especially the Beresfords) like I love my favorite foods (weird analogy?) but, regardless, something new is always refreshing and stretching.  All that to say that I did not see the end of this one coming at all.  I really didn't have the faintest notion.  Of any possibilities at all.  I was totally unprepared. 

87.  Enemy Brothers by Constance Savery (****)  I really like this book. 

88.  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 
(****)  A very poignant story about family, war, death, beauty, grief and the value of literature.  I identify with Liesel, sometimes I'm angry at the words, too.  Sometimes they are too beautiful and too true. 

89.  Sabotaged by Margaret Peterson Haddix (***)  This is the third book in The Missing series.  I was looking forward to it, but ended up being sadly disappointed.  I'm not sure that I'd say it wasn't as good of quality as the first two books in the series.  I think I just wasn't in the same mood as I was when I read the other two. 

90.  Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (****)  Excellent.  Highly recommended. 

91.  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (*****)  I can't believe I had never read this book before.   I loved it.  Rephrase that: LOVED it.  :)

92.  The Pearl by John Steinbeck (*****)  Also excellent. 

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August Book List

   70.  Miracles by C.S. Lewis (*****)  C.S. Lewis is some kind of awesome.  As some of my friends and I like to say "He's better than Chuck Norris."  Easily. 

71.  The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes (*****)  Really sweet.  Newberry Honor Book.

72.  Ten Books That Screwed Up the World and Five Others That Didn't Help by Benjamin Wiker (****)  Very interesting.  I would recommend reading it. PG-13 rating, though. 

73.  Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson
(***) Sci-Fi.  Amazingly these books sort of enthrall me.  Plenty of plot twists that are totally unexpected, and I love the main character, Max.  Some language.  

74.  Maximum Ride: School's Out Forever by James Patterson
(***)  Ditto above.

75.  East of Eden by John Steinbeck  (****)  This book blew me away.  I loved the themes and the redemption and the lessons.  Beautifully woven words.  BUT, unfortunately, I would have to give at the very least a PG-13 rating.  This book is intense, vulgar and packed with language and "adult situations" prostitution... you name it.  Ultimately it's a story of good vs. evil, our personal struggles with our own sin nature and the redeeming power of God to save, IF we choose to be saved.  Amazing. 

76. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
(****)  One of Agatha Christie's most famous novels.  Read it and you'll know why.

77.  Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (****)  I can't help it.  I love it. 

78. The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis (*****) Reviewed HERE
79.  Scumble by Ingrid Law
(****)  Pretty awesome.  Companion to Savvy, so read that one first if you haven't already. 

80.  Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller (****)  Surprisingly I kind of loved this book.  It's funny, because I found myself deeply identifying with the author and two paragraphs later raising my eyebrows.  Haha, ok, not really.  What I mean to say is, this book advertises itself as "Non-religious thoughts on Christian spirituality" and that's basically what it is.  A lot of Christians would probably be offended by some of what Donald Miller has to say.  It's not for everyone.  But, again, I liked it.  

 81.  Farewell Summer by Ray Bradbury (***)  Sequel, or rather, extension of Dandelion Wine.  And, disappointingly, not nearly as good.  It just didn't hit me the same way.  *shrug*  But, regardless I still consider the author as having some kind of special magic juice in his pen instead of ink.  Wonder where I could get some of that?

82.  A Shot in the Dark by Richard Powell (****)  Well, if you're in the mood for an action movie from the 1950s but you're really more in a reading mood than a watching mood, and you'd like some soldier-y action and a lot of pretty girls, er dames all referred to by their hair color (i.e. "a blond" "a brunette", etc.) and you like characters that are always making cute remarks, see? And you like those same characters to be addicted to cigarettes in a big way (back in the 50s this was totally normal) and you like international crimes and big deals, and some really fantastic (and funny) descriptive passages.  And just some plain awesome lines, like for instance this one: "According to the books, back in ancient times you had to rescue women from dragons before they felt that they had a first mortgage on you.  There must have been a surplus of men in those days.  In modern times a mouse would do."  Well, then.  This book is for you. 

83.  Prison to Praise by Merlin Caruthers (***)  Feels sort of like a faith thriller.  :)  Good stories.  I'm not sure I agree with all the author's theology but in all honesty, I doubt there's any book on faith or theology with which I agree 100%. 

84.  Lord of the Flies by William Golding
(****)  This book is hard to describe without totally giving away the whole central theme.  Which, without going into too much detail and trying not to sound too shallow at the same time is basically good vs. evil.  It's about human nature, society and government.  In the author's words "The theme is an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature.  The moral is that the shape of a society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on any political system however apparently logical or respectable."   

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Monday, August 02, 2010

July Book List

64. Savvy by Ingrid Law (****) (342 pages) Savvy is just plain an awesome book.  I love the style, I love the message, I love the characters, I love the descriptions, I love the voice.  And the sequel is coming out next month.  :)

65. Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey (****) (203 pages) Very humorous and well written.

66.  Dug Down Deep, Unearthing What I Believe and Why it Matters by Josh Harris (*****) (231 pages)  I loved this book.  I think that the author and I have a lot in common.  Growing up in the church world, Christianity tends to become more of a way of life than a foundation and a belief system chosen of our own accord.  I appreciated this book so much I really can't describe it.  Highly recommended.

67.  Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
(**) (419 pages) Two stars because it held my interest to the end.  Excuse me while I climb back onto my soapbox.  Is anyone tired of hearing this yet?  WHY, WHY WHY???!??!  must there be SO MUCH language and... JUNK in Young Adult Fiction?  I understand that it's nothing kids don't hear every day the minute they walk out their front door.  I don't care.  It's wrong.  It's disgusting.  I finished this book because the progression of it fascinated me in a train wreck kind of way.  Can't bear to keep going, but can't look away...  The plot comes out so slowly and so fragmented that it's illogical to stop 3/4ths of the way through the book because by that time you are only starting to understand what it's all about and you've already invested so much time into it... I'm sure it's designed this way on purpose.  Which is quite genius, I'm sure.  But, I found the main character annoying, and I really didn't like any of the other characters either come to think of it.  The writing is only so-so in my opinion.  Maybe it's just not my preferred style.  Or, maybe I'm just being too nice.  If you have any aversion to language and adult situations, suicide, etc.... do not read this book. 

68.  Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury (****) (184 pages) This book is full of magic words from start to finish.  I think I could've read it one sentence a time and stopped to consider and wonder at each one.  The front of my (borrowed) copy calls it "A novel of the strange and wonderful" which I think is a very accurate description.  This book is summer, life, death, wonder, horror and growing up all neatly packaged into 184 pages of the most beautiful prose that I'm almost tempted to call it poetry. 

69.  The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (***) (374 pages)  Reviewed HERE

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I'm sorry

   I know I said I'd try to be around more.
I've been super busy lately getting ready for kids camp which is next week already!  And...  things have been busy/complicated at work due to health issues with our already very limited staff.
I'm still working on ideas for posts, but I think it's safe to say you won't see me for sure until after camp.  So, hopefully the week after next I'll have some time to post.  I hope everyone is having a really good summer.  I'd love to hear about what you've been doing!

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Monday, July 05, 2010

June Book List

53.  Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy Sayers- (*****) (356 pages) Oh, Lord Peter, how I've missed you.  I love this book.  Is it because Lord Peter goes undercover as "Death Bredon"?  Is it because he plays cricket amazingly?  Is it because Lady Mary and Chief Inspector Parker are so involved?  I don't know.  But, I LOVE it.  :)

54.  The Death of Ivan Illych by Leo Tolstoy- (****) (61 pages) Tolstoy packed a whole lot of life lessons into only 61 pages.  I really don't even know where to start.  The entire novella revolves around the life and death (mostly death) of Illych.  A majority of the last half is him struggling with his imminent death.  He tries to rationalize why he deserves death, because in his opinion, he doesn't deserve it at all.  (As a side note, one of Tolstoy's points deals with every human's reluctance to admit that death is inevitable to every person.  Very interesting.)  I really would recommend that you read this book yourself.  It's a novella so very easy to read through in one or two sittings.  What I learned: Life is about others.  Not me. 

55.  Happy Ever After by Leo Tolstoy (***) (97 pages) Another of Tolstoy's novella's.  This one was on the theme of love.  It was idyllic, enchanting, nasueating, depressing and inspiring by turn. 

56.  Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
(***) (215 pages) 2004 Newberry Honor Book.  Welcome to the Rock.  Imagine growing up on the island of Alcatraz.  Wow.  This book was so much better and so much worse than I thought it would be.  Negative points: Some language.  Crudeness.  Positive points: I like the main character, Moose.  A lot.  He reminds me of my brother.  The central theme of the story is Moose's relationship with his older sister Natalie, who from what I can tell has a very severe form of autism.  Back in 1935 autism had hardly been heard of and most autistic people were admitted to asylums.  I found it very touching. 

57.  The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale (****) (383 pages) I think this was the first Shannon Hale book I read... I think.  Anyway, Hale has a beautiful way with words.  Enchanting. 

58.  The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois (****) (180 pages) 1947 Newberry Award Winner.  I really had no idea what this book was about when I picked it up.  And I was a little nervous about 10 pages in that it was going to be boring.  Lots of technical details about traveling by hot air balloon... But, then it all picked up I found myself devouring all 180 pages in about 2 hours.  Absolutely delightful!  Educational, exciting, adventurous, humorous.  Definitely recommended.

59.  A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner (****) (316 pages) This is the fourth book in the Queen's Thief series.  I enjoyed it, but I wouldn't rank it as highly as the other books in the series.  Still very enjoyable though.  Even though (I don't like admitting this) I feel like I'm always a step and half behind on catching up when I'm reading Turner's books... I feel like I'm just not getting it.  Is this intentional?  Or, is it just me?

60.  Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko (***)  (270 pages)  Sequel to Al Capone Does My Shirts and really just as enjoyable as the first book.  Again, I'm struck by the novelty of growing up on Alcatraz. (As a side note, the Author's Note section is way too interesting to be skipped.)  Again, though, I found myself cringing several times.  Because of language, yes, but mostly just plain crudeness.  Maybe it's just me.  My mouth is cleaner than Comet.  I can't say I can recommend this book or it's prequel unreservedly.  I understand that most people are accustomed to this sort of language.  I even am to some degree.  But, I can't say that I'm comfortable with being accustomed to it.  And I can't say I think it's ok, or that other people should be, too.  Remember, I'm about 15 years older than the target age range of these books.  I do love Choldenko's style.  Minimalistic.  :)

61.  Enna Burning by Shannon Hale (****) (317 pages)  I can never decide which Book of Bayern is my favorite.  As soon as I finish one I think "this is my favorite" then I read another one..  :)  I love this author's style.  But, I think I said that already.  :)  Enna herself is a little beyond my ability to identify with.  But I love Finn.  :)

62.  The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemna by Trenton Lee Stewart (****) (319 pages)  As usual I adore the Benedict Society.  This is the final book in the trilogy and it's not my favorite.  But, I still heart them.  :)

63.  Murder After Hours by Agatha Christie (****) (256 pages) Agatha Christie is some kind of amazing.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Storm

  I woke 
if the world was ending
  I huddled in bed
to the back door rattling on it's hinges
the eerie black claws of a tree branch's shadow 
to a jumpy
off-skew rhythm
Lightning snapped
too many negative image photographs of my bedroom
I wandered the house
for destruction
I marvelled
that four walls and a roof
create a pocket of safety
in the center of violent passion
This morning
the world is a strange loveliness
like a fantastic reality
like a gift
like sun on glass

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Hello. I'm Here.

Well we got home from Virginia last Sunday night and I jumped right into working, and all those other things that happen during the week that suck up time like a dry sponge. 

What HAVE I been doing the past week?  I don't even know... 

This trip really exhausted me, so I've been falling into bed and sleeping hard every night... dragging myself out of bed in the morning, literally not being able to keep my eyes open long enough to get the coffee started.  Isn't that interesting?  No?  Well, that's my excuse for not posting.  :)

The tournament was amazing.  I spent a lot of my time in the library atrium of Regent University watching Luke and Sarah play and freezing, freezing, freezing!  I think the A/C in that place was set to like 30 degrees or something.  When I got a break from babysitting I watched speeches.  And blinked in awe.  For a girl like me who can't speak in front of a crowd to save her life and has always been of... let's say "average" intelligence :) the things I saw these kids do was astounding.  Talent by the bucket loads, and I'm not even exaggerating. 

Just for a little taste...  This is the Duo Interpretation that won first place.

I was actually in the room watching this exact performance and when they were done Mom and I turned to each other with huge eyes and said "WOW."  These kids are AMAZING.  It's a little intimidating to be surrounded by so much talent, let me tell you. 

I wish I could explain more about what NCFCA is...  but I know I wouldn't do it justice.  If you are interested you can poke around the website and see more of what it's all about.  There are so many different speech categories that I don't really know all of them, not to mention debate.  I got an opportunity to watch some "Persuasive" speeches, and that may have been my favorite part of the event.  I saw 8 students give speeches that they had researched, written and performed themselves on whatever subject they felt strongly enough to speak on.  The whole point is to be able to persuade the judges of your point of view.  I saw speeches on everything from Sarcasm to Homosexuality in the Church, Autism, Being a "Doer", Gun Control, Terrorism...  I was in awe.  They all persuaded me. :) 

We also got to do fun things like go to the beach, visit Monticello, Richmond, swim in the pool (or, in my case, watch Luke and Sarah B, swim in the pool) :)  It was a good trip.  Long, but good. 

But, as always, the best part?  Coming Home.  :)

Sunday, June 06, 2010

What We Did in Richmond

    The main attraction for us in Richmond was St. John's Church.  This is the church where the second Virginia Convention met in March of 1775.  This is the church where Patrick Henry made his famous speech.  The one that ends "Give me liberty, or give me death." 

The reason this speech is so special to us is because this is the speech my brother Joe is performing for the speech tournament he is in this week, which is the whole reason that we're in this area in Virginia to begin with.  :)

Anyway, we knew St. John's Church had to be a stop on this trip.  Another very cool thing is that every Sunday in the summer months and many other time throughout the year by special appointment, the church has a re-enactment of the debate that led up to Patrick Henry's speech and the speech itself. 

One word: AWESOME. 

Joe was even drafted to help perform in it!  We were walking the grounds before the reenactment and met a man in charge of the Patrick Henry Foundation.  In the course of conversation Dad mentioned that Joe had studied and performed the speech.  Evidently they always draft a member of the audience to perform the part of Reverend Selden, who opened the convention in prayer.  Joe was the right size to wear the costume.  :)  So, he got to perform in the reenactment and watch from the front row.  :)

 Here is Joe in his Reverend Selden costume with "Patrick Henry"
 With "George Washington"
 With Mom and Dad :)

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Going on a Road TRIP!!

   I'm leaving for Virginia bright and early tomorrow morning with some of my family.  My brother is going to the National Speech Tournament and the rest of us are going along for the ride!  I'll try to keep this blog updated while I'm gone. 

If I don't... then I'll see you all in a couple of weeks!

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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

May Book List

41.  The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer-(****) (280 pages) I can't even tell you how many people have told me that they thought I would love Georgette Heyer's books.  I think she was a contemporary with Dickens....  don't raise an uproar if I'm wrong ok?  Anyway, she wrote a bunch of romances and some mysteries.  I read one of her romances a while ago and it kept my interest and I guess I enjoyed it... but, not enough to go looking for more of her books.  Then a friend of mine read this one and said it was awesome, so I checked it out.  And it is pretty great.  Very funny.  Predictable, but still engaging and I loved all of the characters.  I might look up more of her books.  :)

42.  Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson-(**) (244 pages) 1981 Newberry Award Winner.  Quite frankly, utterly depressing.  Two stars because it was very well written and the book had it's moments that I enjoyed, but, overall I found myself racing to finish it.  Because I didn't want to read it anymore.  The subject matter is weighty and quite a project to tackle.  Self-loathing, low self-esteem, etc. are things that many young people deal with and I wholeheartedly agree that the subject should be addressed.  But, I did not care for the way Paterson addressed it.  Not at all.  Young people that deal with these issues should be encouraged to talk about their fears.  I think it's dangerous to imply that if you just hang on until some indefinite point, it's possible that things may make sense one day.  Maybe.  Unfortunately many young people will have given up by the time that elusive point comes along.  I myself have had similar struggles (although not to the extent that Louise does in the book.  Reading about Louise's problems did not encourage me that other people felt the way I did.  Instead it depressed me.)  The book also has some rather adult elements in it that I would rather not have kids reading.  If I had kids.  :)  Note to parents:  Whatever you do, make a point of making sure ALL of your kids know how much you love them.  :)

43.  Witness for the Prosecution by Agatha Christie-(**) (100 pages) I didn't even finish this one.  The first couple of short stories were good.  Awesome even.  But, I'm beginning to discover that a lot of Christie's short stories are actually ghost stories.  BORING. 

44.  The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner -(****) (280 pages) 1997 Newberry Honor Award.  I don't think I really understood this book the first time I read it.  I enjoyed it much more the second time through.

45.  A Holiday for Murder by Agatha Christie -(*****)  (167 pages) Maybe it's just me... but I think this is one of Agatha Christie's best works.

46.  Missing May by Cynthia Rylant- (***) (89 page) 1992 Newberry.  I have mixed feelings about this book.  One the one hand, it's beautiful.  The words, I mean.  Short and sweet, which I greatly admire.  It's about grief, and moving on and as far as that goes, I think this book is a jewel.  On the other hand, I hesitate to recommend it because of language, and some spiritual content.  Namely, the idea that communicating with the dead by way of a spiritual medium is perfectly ok.  I don't want to go into detail because I'd end up giving away spoilers.  But, that's my opinion.

47.  The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart -(*****)  (485 pages)  I think I already reviewed this book last time I read it.  So, this time around I'll just say that I LOVE THE BENEDICT SOCIETY!  I really do.  This book goes on my "Should've won a Newberry" list.  Now, THIS is the kind of book I'm talking about when I say books should be a good example, books should promote teamwork, education, books should inspire, books for kids should have CLEAN LANGUAGE.  I absolutely love the fact that the author does not feel he needs to cheapen his work with a lot of bad language.  Stewart says his inspiration for this book came from the belief that children are often seen, rarely heard, and always underestimated!  I can't decide which member of the Benedict Society is my favorite.  I incline towards Reynie.  I identify with him the most, even though he's eons above me intellectually.  But, then I LOVE Kate.  Love her.  I'm grinning right now.  And Sticky melts my heart.  And who wouldn't love Constance?  Seriously?  And of course, Milligan.  'Nough said. 

48.  The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner - (****) (360 pages)  Again, I don't think I really "got" this book the first time around.  Much more enjoyable this time.  I'm beginning to see why Turner has such devoted and enamored fans. 

49.  The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner -(****) (385 pages) Third installment of the Thief series and I actually love that this book is told from an entirely new and different viewpoint. (side note: I love Costis, and totally sympathize with him.)  However, I feel like the author keeps trying to recreate the feeling and original mystery of the first book by making Eugenides an enigma.  But, by now, we already know exactly who he is and so it's a little redundant.  And that's my main reason (other than language) that this book doesn't get 5 stars.  This is the third time Eugenides is hurt enough to be forced to remain in bed for enough of the book to make it a plot turning point.  And earrings.  I'm a little creeped out that he's so into earrings.  That could just be me.  In fact, it probably is.  Ignore me. 

50.  The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart -(*****) (440 pages)  Have I mentioned that I LOVE the Benedict Society?  I do.  And I think I have a little crush on Milligan. 

51.  After the Funeral by Agatha Christie -(****) (192 pages) Very fast paced, as all of Christie's works.  Enjoyable.  Genius.

52.  Double Identity by Margaret Peterson Haddix -(****)  (218 pages)  First of all, I love Haddix's writing style and her characters.   After that...  hmmm....  This is one of those books that addresses deep subjects for which there are so many questions and very elusive answers.  But, as one character says "I don't know all the answers, but I've asked all the questions."  I have to give Haddix huge points for even addressing topics like human cloning.  Personally, I'm against human cloning.  But, I've always wondered... what about the person? (assuming human cloning is even achieved.)  It's not their fault they're a clone, right?  Just like a child conceived in sin (out of wedlock) is not responsible for the sins of their parents.  There are a lot of questions.  Not as many answers readily available.  The one answer that the author seems to give us is "Life always wins."  Does life really always win?  I have to believe that in a world where God is in control that it does.  Even when bad things happen life can always come from it, right?  So many questions... but, as usual Haddix manages to wrap everything up super satisfactorily.  Which, in itself is very unrealistic, but so is human cloning.  I think.  


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Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day 2010

Today I'm going to the city's Memorial Day ceremony to see my brother perform a patriotic speech, do a little bit of office work, some shopping in preparation for the trip to Virginia, have dinner with my family, do some housecleaning, maybe some reading?

But, it is Memorial Day and I'm not forgetting the real meaning of the day. 

In lieu of anything better to post... this is the poem I wrote for Memorial Day last year. 

In Memory...
Of all the men and women that gave their lives for this country.
Because they believed in freedom for their families
And for all the people they would never know who would walk this land after them
For their courage under fire
For their sacrifice, because sacrifice means hurt
For their willingness to die for something they would never see
For their families and friends who are privileged to live in the freedom they earned
Who carry the burden of a grief that will never die
And know the names of the unsung heroes.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Gift of Singleness

Very encouraging message for all of the single girls out there!

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

On Books and Reading

 "Reynie's heart gave a lurch when he entered the library.  He loved it instantly, as he did all libraries..."  -Trenton Lee Stewart, The Mysterious Benedict Society
For as long as I can remember libraries have made my heart lurch, my stomach churn, my blood pound.  Such a startling contradiction of two worlds simultaneously co-existing.  One world where stale, still air and somber colors, dust and solitude are sacred. 

"The world is quiet here."- Lemony Snicket

The other world defies explanation.  Because it is always changing, always unknown, always unpredictable, and it depends on which book you open.  

There are books so alive that you're always afraid that while you weren't reading, the book has gone and changed, has shifted like a river; while you went on living, it went on living too, and like a river moved on and moved away.  No one has stepped twice into the same river.  But did anyone ever step twice into the same book? ~Marina Tsvetaeva

A lot of people have asked me why I love to read.  Some people have hinted or even flat out stated that reading is a waste of time.  I agree that not everyone is made of reader material.  So, if you're not a reader, you probably don't understand.  But, that's ok.  There are many things about other people that I don't understand.  But, there are many things about people that I DO understand... because I read.  There are so many different types of books that it's hard to lump them all into one general classification.  Just like there are educational movies about science that are used in college classrooms, and there are movies about Thomas the Tank Engine that are used in pre-school day cares.  There are fluffy books, garbage books, dry books, adventure books, classics, books 1000 pages long all about one person's opinion.

Take a glance at my book lists and you'll see what sort of books I enjoy reading.  Do I think they're a waste of time?  NOT at all.  Here's why:  Every book I read was written by a person I've never met.  No matter the subject, that person has put a lot of themselves into their book.  They write about their opinions, their view of the world, their perception on people, and their personal beliefs whether they really intend to or not.  Reading the work of an author is like reading a little bit of their heart, sweat, blood and tears.  I have learned so much about the world from reading.  Where else could I have a heart to heart conversation with so many different people? 

I'm of the opinion that everyone should read.  You don't have to make it a hobby like I do.  But, read a book a month.  A book every six months...  Whatever you can manage.  A little reading goes a long way.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hanging Baskets

 This year I designed and planted my own hanging baskets.  With a little (read: a lot) of help from my Susie, my resident sister with two green thumbs.  Susie has been working at a greenhouse this spring, so I been visiting her a lot.  :)  The result is lots of new perennials and these hanging baskets.

The baskets themselves, along with the shepherds hooks were gifts from Katie.

I LOVE a variety of textures and colors all combined, so here's what I came up with:
Sweet Potato Vine

Trailing Blue Lobelia

Snow Princess (Alyssum)


Coral Begonias

Ornamental Grass (I can't remember the name of it.  It may have been something like Toffee?)

Finished Project:

Please ignore the obvious weeds and crazy lawn.  I've been assured that the lawn mower and week wacker (aka: my brother) will be paying me a visit very soon.

 Verdict: LOVE.  :)

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Matchy- Matchy Cards Fans

   The boys and I were matching today.  We all wore Cardinals shirts.  :) 

Here's how it went:
ME: "Oh!  We're all matching!!!  Let's take a picture!"
LUKE: *Immediately adopts his current favorite pose for pictures which means he puts both thumbs up*
JOE: "Ok, here you go!" *picks me up and ignores all protests while I hang on for dear life*
SARAH BETH: *is the only person available to take the picture and proceeds to take 3 blurry pictures which you will see below*

ME: "NO!  No more goofy pictures!  Let's take a nice picture!  BOYS! NO!  The yellow pepper canNOT be in the picture!"

 ME: "Ok, now just smile nicely"
MOM: *wanders into the room and "helps" Sarah Beth take the picture.  Immediately the boys straighten up and smile nicely*

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Sink or Swim?

This blog is at a crossroads.
"To be or not to be?" That is the question.

Maybe you've noticed (maybe you haven't) that there hasn't been a lot of activity in this cyber corner lately.  The fault is entirely mine.    I don't have any fabulous excuses.  Nothing exciting is happening in my life.  I'm not refraining from blogging because I have big secrets I don't want to share.  Sorry. 

So, why haven't I been blogging? 

Good question.  I've been asking myself this exact question the past couple of weeks.  I think I have some of the answers but they aren't great reasons.  I'll share some of them.

1.  I'm a very private person.  Introverted.  For that reason alone blogging has always been a challenge for me.  It's also been a growing experience that I wouldn't trade for anything.  But, the fact remains.  It's hard for me.

2.  I have this idea in my mind that my blog is meant to be a place of encouragement for other single young ladies like myself.  This is assuming that there ARE other single young ladies like myself.  There may be a few.  :)  Part of my struggle is that it's hard to be encouraging when you yourself are very discouraged.  And I am.  I might as well admit it.  It's just a phase I'm going through.  I'll bounce back sooner or later, I know.  But, meanwhile, I have a hard time opening up and writing about it.  I hope that's understandable.

3.  I'm busy.  SO BUSY.  I do not like being busy.  I wish everyday were full from beginning to end with things I love to do and that I had plenty of time to blog all about them.  But, I don't.  Posting on my blog 5 days a week requires a time commitment of about 2-3 hours per week.  This doesn't count the time I spend thinking up posts.  I rarely have that much of a block of time to work on my blog.  So, when I do publish 5 days in a week something else suffers.  Usually housework.  I don't especially like housework.  But, boy do I hate having a messy house. 

4.  Nothing changes.  I feel like I should have new and interesting things to blog about.  And I don't.  And that is discouraging to me.  And that's all I'm going to say about that.

I don't want this blog to sink.  I want to swim.  But, I hope you all understand (if you're still hanging around reading) where I am right now in my life.  I'd really like to make a concentrated effort to bring this blog back to life.  But only if you guys want me to.  I know there are plenty of blogs out there.  If mine is a place you enjoy visiting let me know.  And if there's anything you want to see, any suggestions, I'd be happy to take them. 

Sink or Swim?  I'm voting Swim, but I need a direction to swim in and maybe some flotation devices for when I get tired, like right now.  :)

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Sunday, May 02, 2010

April Book List

32.  Ever by Gail Carson Levine- (**)  Eh...  I didn't really like this one.  I had a hard time relating to the characters.  The entire world felt very foreign.  The author creates a world and neglects to explain it to us, the characters names were all too close to being the same, so that by the end of the book I wasn't sure who everyone was.  On top of that, the narration is in the 1st person but it switches every chapter between two main characters.  Make sense?  I was confused too.  It's a book about a girl names Kezi who falls in love Olus, the god of wind and loneliness. (I never understood what being the god of loneliness had to do with anything...he never does anything for any lonely people.)  Of course, there's a lot more to the story, and Kezi's life is in danger and both Kezi and Olus must face their deepest fears and overcome to save her life.  That part was semi-original.  So, the narration switches every chapter between Kezi telling the story and Olus telling the story.  It got... confusing to say the least. 

33. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
-(****)  1962 Newberry Award Winner.  Much better than the last Newberry book I read.  This is one of those books I never thought I'd read because it's Science Fiction.  I'm sort of anti-science fiction.  Not because I think there's anything really wrong with it.  It's just not really my cup of tea.  In spite of that, I do nurture a little love for it.  I know it's strange.  Don't ask me to explain.  I'll just say that science fiction is not normally (read almost never) what I reach for.  Anyway, I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised.  It's a classic good vs. evil plot.  The good is clearly defined.  (points!) The bad is just the sort of bad you love to hate.  It almost has a Narnian feel to it.  Almost.  The author has been compared several times to C.S. Lewis.  :)  In fact the more I think about this book, the more I like it.  I think it's going on my shelf. 
34.  The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian- (*****)  Yes, I know.  I'm not a wife.  Therefore, I can't really put the suggestions in this book to the test.  But, I'm always up for learning and hearing someone's perspective on growing in the Lord.  This book was suggested to me, so I happily dove in.  It's full of lots of practical suggestions which I appreciate.  I'd be interested in hearing an opinion on the book from someone who was able to put it into practice. 
35.  The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli -
(****)  Another Newberry Award Winner from 1949.  This is a great story about obstacles and ingenuity.  It's about a boy named Robin who has a mysterious illness (we're never told what it actually is) that cripples him.  Robin has to learn so many lessons that I'm sure I didn't catch them all in just one time reading through this book.  Ingenuity, Contentment, Bravery, the list goes on.  It can all be summed up in one quote from the book, which I absolutely LOVED.  When faced with a challenge and Robin doubts his ability he is told "Anyone can NOT do it."  The converse of course, is that it takes someone special to rise to the challenge and be a person that CAN do it.  I love this.  Reminds me of the message of Do Hard Things which I also love. 

36.  Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie- (****)  Um... I'm still not sure who did it.  I'm kidding!  Sort of...  It WAS a bit confusing in the end.  But, good.  Very good. 

37.  Piercing the Darkness by Frank Peretti-
(****) Very good.  Most people prefer the first book Peretti wrote (This Present Darkness), but I actually like this one a lot better.  The conflict seems more real and serious somehow.

38.  The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman- (***) 1987 Newberry Award winner.  I remember reading this book as a child and being totally struck by it.  Reading it again, it's not as exciting as I remembered.  It's a classic conflict, rich boy, beggar boy, etc.  Easily and very predictably resolved.  But, the entire of concept of a "whipping boy" gets me just as much now as it did then.  Basically rich, titled families would have a boy who's only job was to be whipped in place of the spoiled son.  So,-  the son plays a prank or disobeys, the whipping boy gets punished.  What is the point?  Well... as far as I can see, it's just so that the parents will have someone to take their frustration and anger out on?  Injustice to the extreme. 

39.  The Westing Game- (*****)  1979 Newberry.  Kind of amazing.  Funny, interesting, attention grabbing and educational.  And a mystery!  And we all know I love mysteries... :)

40.  A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L'Engle -(**)  Sequel to A Wrinkle in Time.  Frankly... I was disappointed.  The whole book felt like the same
thing happening over and over and over again.  And I didn't really get the point the author was trying to make.

Friday, April 23, 2010

I Promise I'm Not...

   Ignoring you on purpose! 

I know this excuse is as old as the hills, but I honestly mean it when I say, my life has been CUH-RAZY!  

Things of note before I rush out the door this morning:
  • Work has been very, very, very busy.  This is a good thing, of course, more business means more revenue, more revenue means more job security... you know.  Anyway, I've been working a lot more than I normally do.  So, that's part of my busyness.
  • Also, My parent's kitchen is being re-modeled as we speak.  This adds a whole new level of interest and complication.
  • I've been working in my yard, it's that busy time of year when the weather turns warm, the perennials start coming up and I start frantically trying to get a lot of things done all at once.  I've already made one trip to the greenhouse and anticipate several more.  :)
  • This weekend my brother and mom are out of town at my brothers speech tournament.  Pray for him if you think of it.  Of course, I think he's amazing and should win every award they've got to give.  But, I suppose every family member feels that way.  
  • Due to the ^ above reason I've been helping out with watching the two littlest siblings, Luke and Sarah Beth.  Yesterday they came to work with me for a little while.  Luke organized practically every roll of ribbon in the place.  This is not an easy job, let me tell you, but he rose to the challenge and even gave us all a great motivational speech about "Never giving up" and "What do you do when you're stuck and you don't know what to do?"  Sarah Beth answered easily that of course, you "Call Mom."  Which I thought was a great answer, but turns out the answer he was looking for was "Ask God to help you."  Which is also a good answer.
  • I have not been getting much reading done, sadly.  
  • Going to visit Grandparents this weekend and plant some flowers for them.  Then home again bright and early Sunday morning to make it in time for church and Luke's spring choir concert.  
  • My sister Katie is working on her Senior Violin Recital.  That will be on Tuesday and then...  after that....  
  • I think my life will slow down again.  
  • May, come soon!!!!!

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sister Pictures

 First, me and Sarah Beth. We both look semi-hammy, but happy.  Right?
   Susie joined us.  We took many pictures.  All of which were variations on the theme above.  Basically, Susie and I sandwiching Sarah, smiling sweetly.  Sarah in the middle looking...  everywhere but at the camera.  

We finally gave up. 
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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pickle Pizza

  Pizza Crust for one pizza.  You can find my current favorite pizza crust recipe here.

Now the good part.  :)

1/2 jar of spaghetti sauce
1/2 lb. ground sausage, cooked and drained
Black Olives, sliced
1/2 Onion, sliced
Baby Dill Pickles, cubed (make sure the cubes are nice and chunky, don't use sliced pickles, they HAVE TO BE CUBES. :)
Shredded cheese.  I like a combination of Mozzarella and Cheddar. 

And that's it.  Layer it all on.  Bake it according to the directions for your crust.  Enjoy.

You've gotta admit... once you've tried pickles on your pizza, you wonder why Pizza Hut hasn't started selling them this way, yet.  If you don't believe me ask Stephanie.   I asked her "Do you think this recipe is good enough to post on my blog?"  She answered "uh huh" immediately, no hesitation.  And she had to say "uh huh" because she had pizza in her mouth and couldn't use real words. :) And then she posed for a picture.  See how she's enjoying it? 

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