Tuesday, September 02, 2014

July/August Book List

Favorite Picture Books

Amos and Boris by William Steig
A story of an unlikely friendship between a mouse and a whale. The more William Steig stories I read, the more I appreciate the strength of his characters and the simplicity of his prose.  The illustrations are calming with soft colors and basic line drawings.

The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico, illustrated by Angela Barrett
I saw this book first mentioned on Carol's blog and ordered it from our library, completely entranced by the artwork on the front cover. This is the type of book that can capture the mind of a reader and send it exploring along many trails of interest and discovery, such as birds and habitats, history, maps, landforms, sailing, painting and artwork, and geography to name a few. The gorgeous and muted illustrations evoke a slight sense of melancholy throughout the story that compels the reader to truly care about the fate of the bird, the girl and the man. An exceptional read, perhaps more suited for an older child.

Chapter Books

Mary on Horseback by Rosemary Wells
It was in my search for books about horses for a friend's daughter that I came across this title and decided to have a look before possibly recommending it as a great book for horse loving children. This slim volume with one illustration for each of the three short stories is bookended with a prologue about the Appalachian area Kentucky in 1923 and an epilogue biography of Mary Breckinridge, the horseback riding nurse who is featured in these stories told through the voices of children. There is much to be pondered both in the stories presented and the story of Mary's personal life and nursing achievements. I do recommend this book although given the serious injuries and illnesses of the stories, I would not recommend it for most young children.


Let Me Be a Woman by Elisabeth Elliot
This is the third Elisabeth Elliot book I have read as an adult. The first was her biography of Amy Carmichael called A Chance to Die which I can not recommend enough. The second was The Shaping of the Christian Family which is a recounting of her upbringing and one that I unexpectedly enjoyed very much. This third book I absconded from my mother's bookshelf curious to see what Mrs. Elliot had to say to her daughter, Valerie on the eve of her marriage.
I was not disappointed. Each chapter is quite short and to the point, yet written with the classy style and gentle humor that makes her unswerving wisdom appealing. I very much would like our girls to read it as young women, even more so if they find themselves engaged to be married. I am in agreement with her views on womanhood and marriage even if they may have fallen out of favor with some in the wider church.
I posted a fairly long quote entitled Leave Room for Mystery which will give you a taste of the book.
Also the World magazine article Walking Through Fire written earlier this year gives a 'current' peek into her life. It is a reminder to pray for her and her faithful husband Lars Gren who provides timely updates on their life together at Lars' Ramblings from the Cove.

A Primer on Worship and Reformation by Douglas Wilson
While Douglas Wilson books tend to be fairly short, they are not fluffy reads. I've already decided I want to go back through this seventy-six page book and copy longer sections in to my notebook. Here's a shorter example that I want to copy. I am familiar with his idea of using the New Testament quotes of the Old Testament to interpret the Old Testament, but this quoted section provides a great mental image on how to actually accomplish that.

"So, how should we begin our lessons in a sober and biblically grounded typology? Perhaps an analogy can help. Consider the text of the New Testament on a single sheet as an overlay for the Old. The Old Testament is a single sheet underneath. Every place the New Testament interprets the Old in a particular way, (metaphorically) drive a nail through both testaments. Have the New Testament set the meaning of every Old Testament passage it addresses. What does this do to the passages that are not addressed directly? The passages that we have fixed in place limit our range of motion." p. 48

He goes on to say that if you look up every place in the Old Testament which is quoted in the New and marked it, then off in the margin write down the NT reference where it is quoted, then when you read through the OT, you will be constantly reminded that the NT contains authoritative teaching on the OT passage. And he uses Psalm 2 as example since it is quoted multiple places in the NT.  p.49

This material comes from a chapter entitled Thundering the Word.  There is true delight and excitement in studying the Word of God, but it is too often robbed of us by our means and by those who shepherd us. I want to know and understand the Bible, I want to marvel at God's Word just like I do with his Creation. I hate when I find myself reading it with a ho-hum attitude, just reading it to satisfy my conscience. All it takes is an idea, a glimmer of something deep, rich and satisfying and I can think about it for days. Not a mountain top experience, but a genuine understanding where previously there was little or none. Something that you will not forget.

The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer That Changed the World by Stephen Mansfield
As a non-beer drinker, I suppose my interest in reading this book would seem out of place. But it was an online article about the Guinness family and their Christian heritage replete with missionaries that sparked an interest in knowing their story. A few months later, I saw Stephen Mansfield's book come up in a Amazon book suggestion so I checked our library and recklessly added it to my request list. I think it was the brief history of beer brewing from ancient cultures and then later in the Roman empire and onward to the Reformation era that caught me off guard since I was unaware of beer's cultivation and history. Then starting with Arthur Guinness and reading of his desire to use his brewer vocation to further the work of God's Kingdom and to give both his employees and his fellow citizens an opportunity to do the same, my interest grew.
In the epilogue of the book, Stephen Mansfield discusses five maxims from the Guinness history that if understood and followed can leave a legacy for others. The second on the list is Think in terms of generations yet to come, where Mansfield encourages his readers to take the long view on their lives and accomplishments, to give selflessly for the generations that will come after them. These maxims spring from a desire to study history not as a subject to master, but as a study in what prior to 1876, universities called Moral Philosophy but is now referred to solemnly as the History Department. Moral philosophy was the process of studying history in order to profit from it by gaining wisdom, truth and understanding for its pupils, virtues that are much neglected in our modern era. I could say much more about this book but I do like to leave ideas and discoveries to readers who come along later to enjoy finding themselves.

A Fine Romance by Susan Branch
Since I loosely follow Susan Branch's blog, I knew she had taken a trip to England and I knew she was writing a book about it and even what the title would be, but I didn't really have much interest in reading it right now, despite seeing it being read and remarked about in many different corners of the internet. What made me decide to take the plunge and get my name on our library queue?  When I realized that she had included a stop at beloved Ambleside and Lake Windmere in the Lake District. Both areas tied to books and authors like Beatrix Potter, Charlotte Mason and Swallows and Amazons. 
I have known Susan Branch's artwork for years and knew her books from my days at Barnes &Noble Bookselllers, but I never actually read one of her handwritten books. As someone who loves delightful illustrations, handdrawn maps, handwriting, photographs, flowers, gardens, tea, colorful maps, botanical drawings, flags, cakes, clever humor, and definitely maps, this book was perfect for me, complete with a satin red ribbon bookmark to leave my place marked until resuming with delight later. Kathleen, when you read this, please know that I thought of you several times throughout this book, thinking that Susan Branch's diary entries seemed to echo your personality uncannily. I look forward to adding this to my own personal library, in hardcover with a satin red ribbon of course.

An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield
I had thumbed through this book before at the library and thought I would like to read it sometime, but it was a visiting pastor who quoted from it in the closing of his sermon, that renewed my interest in reading it. I borrowed it as part of the Express Collection which gives you I think seven days to return the book. I did read it quickly, not only to get it back to the library but because I was genuinely interested in his writing. He deftly blends his own life story into the larger picture of the various space programs and shares insight into both the technical aspects of space exploration and the human side with humorous anecdotes often at his own expense. There are moments where he writes like a life coach, giving advice and suggestions on work ethics and intrapersonal relationships. I can see this as being useful for younger people to read as they enter adulthood or the workforce.

Classics and Other Such Books

Mrs. Pringle of Fairacre by Miss Read
Oh the inimitable Mrs. Pringle! A robust, albeit rotund woman who knows her mind and reminds her fellow citizens of this fact as often as she likes. I'm quite sure that we all have had a Mrs. Pringle in our life whose very existence makes cringing and scowling an involuntary response.
She is a character who is simultaneously brings foreboding and entertainment. Miss Read recounts a year's worth of interaction with Mrs. Pringle, initially harking back to her own first encounters as well as adding village incidences from both years gone by and current ones. It is a short novel but it contains some of the vintage Mrs. Pringle that endears her character to us. 

Gossip from Thrush Green by Miss Read
Having spent more time in 'Fairacre' over the years, it took me a bit to get up to speed on the residents of Thrush Green again. Miss Read is always a complete delight and easy to read way past a suitable bedtime. She joins a select group of authors that I carelessly burn the midnight oil with no thought for the morrow.

Friends at Thrush Green by Miss Read (not pictured below)
I found this novel to be less lighthearted than some of her other novels which is not a criticism, but merely an observation. The residents of Thrush Green each have their own private struggles, though in typical village life, these struggles do not usually remain private.  Fortunately, helping one another bear their burdens and trials is also part of village life and this interplay is what keeps the story engaging and moving to its conclusion.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

getting ready

"I was old enough to understand that getting ready wasn't simply a matter of playing "space mission" with my brothers in our bunk beds, underneath a big National Geographic poster of the Moon. But there was no program I could enroll in, no manual I could read, no one to even ask. There was only one option I decided. I had to imagine what an astronaut might do if he were 9 years old, then do the exact same thing. I could get started immediately. Would an astronaut eat his vegetables or have potato chips instead? Sleep in late or get up early to read a book?
I didn't announce to my parents or my brothers and sisters that I wanted to be an astronaut. That would have elicited approximately the same reaction as announcing that I wanted to be a movie star. But from that night forward, my dream provided direction to my life. I recognized even as a 9-year-old that I had a lot of choices and my decisions mattered. What I did each day would determine the kind of person I'd become." ~ Chris Hadfield, An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

a gathering of ideas

Here is a selection of online materials that I have been enjoying over the last couple of weeks as I prepare for the return to our lessons in September and as I pray and meditate on the Word of God. How rich we are to have an abundance of godly men and women who can provide such a feast for our souls, even in this dark hour of our culture.

Catechisms for the Imagination

Podcast: Hemingway, Waugh, and the Collapse of Shared Spiritual Value after WW1

Classical Q and A with Dr. Chris Perrin

Theology of Wonder: Integrating the Humanities

R.C. Sproul and D.A Carson on Biblical Exegesis

In honor of Cindy Rollins closing a chapter in her life by pulling her blog Ordo Amoris off the web indefinitely, here are some of her words which I hope will help you think through the role of motherhood and womanhood.

Yesterday I received in the mail my yearly statement from the Social Security Administration. Not much has changed in the last 20 years. If you looked at the statement you could almost say that it reflects 5 years of earning and 20 years of learning. Because I have been a stay-at-home mom, I have had the leisure to pursue scholastics. I am beginning to grasp why the word schola is linked to the word leisure. I have had the leisure to learn. In modern times we think of leisure as the pursuit of pleasure rather than the pursuit of wisdom, but truthfully, you must have leisure to learn.

This isn’t a new idea with me but if that is true then surely mothers at home are the modern equivalent of the monastics. We are the preservers of truth and beauty in our culture. This will never be understood by the culture at large. We will continue to be scorned and told we are not contributing.  But some day, maybe hundreds of years from now, someone will write a book titled How Motherhood Saved Civilization.
In light of this we should be very, very busy in our homes creating an environment of truth and beauty. The future of civilization is depending upon us.

Leave room for mystery

"I know it's hard for you to imagine this early in the game, but some day you may think to yourself (you might even say it out loud), "I'm not sure my husband understands me." You are probably right. He doesn't. He's a man. You're a woman. There are some areas in which ne'er the twain shall meet and we should be glad of that. Although there are times when we are frustrated and infuriated by the inability to fathom the depths of another personality, who can deny the fascination of mystery, of knowing that there are depths we haven't plumbed.
There is a story in the Bible which tells of a man who was able to answer all a woman's questions. The Queen of Sheba went to Jerusalem to test Solomon, the famous king, with hard questions. She went with pomp and splendor--appropriate to so momentous an encounter. We have heard of the wisdom and justice of Solomon, but no mention is made of his longsuffering. This story reveals it, for it is said that the queen 'told him all that was on her mind.' That must have taken a long time. Not many men would want to hear all that was on a woman's mind, but apparently the king listened, for 'Solomon answered all her questions, there was nothing hidden from Solomon which he could not explain to her.'
What a man he must have been to have command of all the answers and the patience to make all the explanations necessary to satisfy a powerful female potentate who had doubtless come with skepticism and perhaps jealousy and scorn. But she was thoroughly convinced. He won her over and she saw his wisdom. She surveyed also the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his officials, the attendance of his servants and their clothes, and his burnt offerings which he offered at the house of the Lord.
When she had seen it all, 'there was no more spirit in her'. The display took all the wind out of the queen's sails. She did manage to pull herself back together sufficiently to commend him and to remind him of God's blessing on him. When she presented him with the gifts she had brought and received gifts from him, there was nothing left for her to do but go home.
Not many men can do what Solomon did. Not many men ought to try. And a woman who sets out to test a man with hard questions should be forewarned that she may end up with no more spirit in her, nothing to do but turn around and go back where she came from. It is probably not only a safer course but much wiser not to tell a man everything that is on your mind, not to press him with hard questions. Leave room for mystery."

~ Elisabeth Elliot, Let Me Be a Woman: Notes to My Daughter on the Meaning of Womanhood.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

May/June Book List updated version

*I found some book photos I had taken but forgot to include them on the list. doh!

Favorite Picture Books

My Favorite Things by Rodgers and Hammerstein, illustrated by Renee Graef
I had this on my wish list and then a young friend of ours participated in a ice skating show based on this song and I thought I would order a copy for her birthday. And of course, if I'm going to order a copy for her, we certainly needed to have our own copy to make sure the book was indeed a good gift. I was drawn to it because of the illustrator, Renee Graef who illustrates many of the My First Little House Books. I will warn you though, it's hard to read it without singing it. So clear your throat and take a long draught of water, because you may need to 'read' it more than once.  Pure delight.

Honorable Mention

Andrew Henry's Meadow written and illustrated by Doris Burn
I saw this title mentioned in passing in a Facebook post from a homeschooling family with a ton of boys and my curiosity was piqued so I looked it up to try to find a used copy. The mother was fondly remembering this story as she shared a link for some outdoor activity.
My 1965 edition says it was presented by Weekly Reader Children's Book Club, which was the 'newspaper' I remember reading in our school. This is what it says on the page at the end about The Author which I think will tell you more about the kind of story she wrote than describing the plot will.

 "Since she was nine years old and first set foot on a small island in Puget Sound, Doris Burn wanted to live on an island. She lived in Portland, Oregon, where she was born, and attended the Universities of Oregon, Hawaii and Washington, where she received her degree, before she found her island home where she lives today.
Andrew Henry's Meadow was created on Waldron in Washington. The island has no electricity, telephones, running water or stores of any kind. Everything has to be brought in on the mail boat from the mainland, including the paper, pens, brushes and inks for her work.
Mrs. Burn's studios a small cabin where she spends the day at work after chopping enough wood to keep the fire going through the day, hauling two buckets of water from the pump for washing brushes and pens and brewing "a perpetual pot of tea." She looks out on the channel and the beautiful Canadian islands.
Her four children attend the island's one-room schoolhouse where she previously taught for a year."

Chapter Books 

Abel's Island by William Steig
A short tale of a well-to-do mouse who becomes stranded on an island and seeks ways to rescue himself in order to return to his beloved mouse wife. Without giving into despair, Abel works diligently to secure his release despite enduring many failed attempts. He is hopeful and ingenious, loyal to his family and steadfast in his heart, everything you would want from a classy protagonist. It was an enjoyable read and I passed it on to Seth to read after I finished it.

Rascal: A Memoir of a Better Era by Sterling North
Considering the problem the  raccoons are giving us with our garbage and compost bin, I should not have enjoyed this book so much. Rascal the raccoon is described with endearing terms and humorous accounts of his activity all of which I found wonderful as long as I remembered it was not him who was rummaging around in our yard most nights. Sterling North has written, as the subtitle suggests, about his growing up years in a time when boys could be boys. This book is a  recounting of one year spent with a pet raccoon and it reminded greatly of the My Side of the Mountain trilogy which I read this same time last year. I hope to find and read North's other books.

Volcano Adventure by Willard Price
I first heard about Willard Price from Carol in her post called Volcano Adventure by Willard Price and when I checked our library they had some of his books, most likely because Willard Price was Canadian, from Ontario in fact although I think he moved to the States when he was four. While I found it interesting to learn more about volcanoes and geography and follow the story line, it did seem to cross the line repeatedly into highly improbable rescues and near death experiences for the characters. If you're familiar with the television show 24, think Jack Bauer. Would I try another in the series? Likely yes. Would both boys and girls like them? Likely so. Not quite a ringing endorsement, but adequate.


Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway
Seeing the buzz around the internet about permaculture, I decided to request a few books from our local library. This was the first one that came in and I'm sad to say that I only made a dent in it before I had to return it. But the thirty or so pages I read and the several pages of appendix, charts and illustrations I pored over gave me a good taste of what this permaculture idea is about. I see permaculture as using wisely God's creation to create sustainable, beauty-filled, life-giving areas around our homes and places of gathering. It is simply what God's people were called to do right from the beginning and what redeemed creation seeks to do now.

A Serrated Edge: A Brief Defense of Biblical Satire and Trinitarian Skylarking by Douglas Wilson
I have yet to meet a Doug Wilson book I haven't liked. He has a writing style that completely appeals to me with meaty content and humorous, witty delivery. This book which defends the use of satire in Christian apologetics and discussion is an easy read and provides an overview of biblical passages in which sarcasm abounds. If you are not used to thinking of the Bible this way or perhaps have considered someone's response as too 'salty' or uncharitable perhaps you may find this book helpful in discerning what a proper response should be to some discussions. Here are a few quotes to give you a taste of what Wilson writes about.
"After Elijah's taunts about how Baal was off in the bathroom, sitting on his throne, we might want to reconsider our glib asuumption that there is never a godly place for scatological humor. And this brings us to the mocking narrative about Ehud, a left-handed deliverer, and Eglon, the obese tyrant. The story is what is called a slave narrative, with an oppressed people having fun at the expense of the established powers that be." p.54
"Nothing is more serious than the sin of idolatry, but this did not keep the prophets from making fun of it. The first thing Isaiah notes is how hard certain men have to work when they are making their god. Hard work being a deity-smith." p.55 (see Isaiah 44:12)

And later speaking about why Paul writing in Phil. 3:8 would use the term dung, animal excrement, in the same verse as "the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord", that he might win Christ, Wilson goes on to say:

"Part of the reason why we might have trouble with this kind of forcefulness in language is that we do not have the same zeal to 'win Christ'. Of course, there are boys in junior high school who delight in bathroom humor, and they need to memorize Ephesians 5:4--so that they might win Christ. No one is maintaining that Christians should routinely speak or write in some foul fashion. Paul prohibits it.
But when certain key issues are at stake, and the verbal equivalent of a tactical nuclear strike is needed from the preacher, the Scriptures show us in a number of places that the prophetic preacher comes through. Ezekial uses calculated moral obscenities, designed to shake up the complacent (Ezek. 23:19-21). Isaiah, attacking the same attitude of religiousity that Paul hated so much, compares all our attempts at self-justification to nothing more than a used menstrual cloth (Is. 64:6). And Paul speaks as noted above." p.65

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

education is a life

"Some of you look at the Mother's Education Course and you can't wait for something like that. But I know that others of you look at it and it's just another insurmountable thing you Can't Do. I've been in both camps.
I didn't read anything other than my Bible the first year that I was a mother. I was just so overwhelmed and lonely. By the end of that year, I knew it'd be the death of me if I continued that behavior, and so I started to read again."

 from On Mother Culture

"After realizing that I was a terrible model, I began to think about screen time alternatives. I was just learning about Charlotte Mason, and I acquired tons of great books, which was great. BUT. . .”Education is a Life.” I needed to get a life!"
from Business vs. Desire

"To improve the lives of their employees, the company provided a savings bank on site and contributed to a fund from which workers could borrow to purchase houses. To make sure that life in these homes was all it could be, the company also sponsored competitions to encourage domestic skills, with cash rewards for sewing, cooking, decorating, gardening, and hat making. Concerts and lectures were provided for the wives of workers, in the belief that the moral and intellectual level of a home would arise only to that of the mother or wife who lived there." ~ Stephen Mansfield, The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer That Changed the World

Thursday, July 24, 2014

vintage literary humor

"I am now seated in the shade of one of Montana's seven trees. When you are in Montana you can say, 'You know that tree near Helena...' Trees and water scarcely exist in this state, and when you do find them they are always together."
~ E.B. White from Letters of E.B. White

For other delightful quotes from E.B. White and other books I've read, click on the post label writing and literature.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

a summer ramble

It's been one of those weeks so far when I have had the most bizarre and truly incomprehensible dreams all night, waking to get drinks of water and figure out if I'm awake or still dreaming, sitting up in bed, getting out of bed and getting back in bed bewildered by it all.  During these hot and humid days, I daydream that Shane surprises me by bringing home a portable air conditioner that allows me to keep my hair long and my house clean without sweating. Then I think how dumb it is to have a machine in our small house that I will have to clean around and generally not need 358 days out of the year.

The laundry is piling up around here, huddled in small groups likely commiserating over their collective needy state. We have gone a week and a half without our own washing machine and we are supposed to be getting our new washer and dryer delivered today by Sears. I have done laundry twice since the machine broke, once at our sitter's house last week(and then again at our next door neighbor's) where I picked the shortest cycles on her machine once she informed me each load takes her an hour to do. As it was the girls and I ate our lunch there and kept our distance from a playmate of Seth's who the sitter was watching for an hour. A playmate who has long hair and was being treated for lice. Poor fellow.
Our sitter owns a computer and many home-shopping network gadgets but she does not want the internet. Sooooo, I spent the afternoon mentally hurrying the washing machine and dryer to do its thing to our clothes so I could be back in time to get our dinner ready and my regular life under control. That was Tuesday. Wednesday after dinner, she came to our house and watched the kids while Shane and I took ourselves into the unknown world of shopping for appliances. This is the first time we have needed to buy any appliance other than toaster ovens and a microwave. I've put off buying a new dishwasher for two years, I think I have appliance-buying anxiety.  Anyways after a terrible dream about the our washer and dryer being delivered in a completely ridiculous manner, I woke up a bit worried and am kind of hoping they make us their last stop of the day and then Shane would be home to handle this. [updated to say, he wasn't here and it didn't go quite as we planned. oh well, we have the new machines.] Let's distract ourselves by looking at another picture.

My girls are currently over at the neighbor's house inside where I rarely allow them to intrude. But the neighbor girl's mom is away having accompanied our next-door neighbor to the hospital in the ambulance that came around eight o'clock this morning. She is having problems with back pain, but it may something more serious so her husband called the ambulance to come fetch her back to the hospital. The other neighbor mom asked her sitter, another neighbor(Have I ever mentioned there are 20 units of condos here?) to come take care of her two girls while she hopped in her car and followed the ambulance since the husband had to be out of town on a work emergency for much of the day and I will spare you the details on why that is.
The neighbor on the other side of us, carried her baby monitor with her so she could sit with the the two girls until the quickly-sought sitter could get herself dressed.  This is not the first time I have realized that this type of condo living has the benefit of forming a natural community since our lives are easily intertwined. Or I should say, can be intertwined. Some of the residents keep to themselves, but those of us with children interact quite freely. Two of the units are currently up for sale, the second one just got the realtor sign pounded into its front lawn about ten minutes ago.

A humorous first occurred in our house this morning. I came downstairs after having showered, dressed and dolled myself up(drying hair, putting on light powder and blush, and using deodorant) and Seth took one look at me and said, "What are you wearing?". Taken aback by this endearing expression of love and concern, I inquired as to the problem. Apparently it was inexplicable as all he could muster was "You look, odd."  Satisfied I was not immodest by his standard, just strange, I proceeded to get on with my day.  Are you wondering what I was wearing that prompted this concern?  Can you imagine a comfy black tennis-type skirt with a equally comfy black crew-neck tee-shirt? I think it was the black ankle socks that did it. I added those because I knew the floor needed to be vacuumed and I wanted to protect my clean feet. I'm going out for dinner with two friends tonight, one of whom is moving away. Since I never do this, I should probably get Seth to check my outfit for the "odd" quotient. Better to know ahead of time what the strange looks sent my way mean.
Of course, if I am seen wearing just a camisole/tank top around the house, Seth and Laura usually ask if that's what I'm wearing to church or just out. Obviously my children are prudent souls concerned for my reputation or more likely they just don't want me to embarrass them. I think they are doing a good job of raising me so far, only time will truly tell.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

morning work and reflection

As we prepare to celebrate Laura's fifth birthday, I was reflecting this morning on how differently I spend my days now.  I am able to work in a leisurely fashion that I never could have dreamed of when the girls were babies and toddlers. Yes, my days are stilled filled with caring for small children, homemaking and home school lessons(well, planning right now), but I have time and energy to enjoy my work, to see and capture beauty out my windows, to have moments of reading and thinking quietly. It is a marvel.

As I write this, Seth is at our patio table by the garden, playing his third board game of the morning with a neighbor friend. The girls have been playing in a neighbor's inflatable baby pool in the front yard where I can see them making a terrible, grassy mess and loving it all. I have been: working in my kitchen cleaning out the freezer, making breadcrumbs, thawing blueberries for baking, in my garden tying up climbing cucumber and pea plants, on the computer organizing my morning photos, outside chatting with the neighbor, and back inside tidying up the house, and a few other activities.

It is quiet right now in the house, but in a moment I will be busy with two bathing suit-clad girls who will likely eat their lunches outside before returning to pool play for a short while, but then the calm will come again when they rest in their beds this afternoon while the temperature soars to very hot and humid. By late afternoon I will be rummaging in the garden for peas and beans to add to our sweet corn and homemade burgers for our dinner tonight.

Nothing is perfect, certainly not our family, but God's grace abounds in our lives and His mercies are new every morning, ready to continue to work He has begun until the day He completes it. May you be encouraged this day to work with what He has given you, knowing it is all from His hand and accomplishes His purposes.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Scrap Journaling

I finally have been able to get underway with a project that has been smoldering on the backburner of my mind for a while now: scrap journaling all the bits I have been saving over the years.
I had no idea how to pull this off until one day I stumbled onto a blog post that seemed to fit what I was capable of doing.  And you know what the hardest part was?  Getting that first page done.  Once I had the scraps laid out, things just started clicking and before I knew it, I was whizzing along filling pages.

Many of the ideas for how to arrange and organize my bits of paper came from this helpful post using SMASH Books products. A quick trip into Michael's while Seth was at soccer scored me a nice archival pen with a gluestick on the other end seen in the linked post above. I also managed to find some small paper pockets on clearance which I have used so far to hold some medical bracelets from when Seth was little. You can see it in the last photo where I stapled it to the page before filling it.
I tape things along the left to create a hinge so that you can turn the paper to see what is written on the other side. I use regular clear tape, but mix in some of my washi tape for fun and color.

I also create a cascade of  papers, taped one over the other so that you can just lift each one up to see what's underneath. Again the idea came from the SMASH post linked above. It's a great way to showcase several similarly sized bits of paper without taking up much space on the page.

Christmas gift tags from over the years

scavenger hunt clues from previous years

I'm using a SKETCH book I found on the bargain shelves at Barnes & Noble. The pages lay open nice and flat which is great for attaching bulky scraps. I haven't gussied up the pages very much as I was trying to just get stuff into the book. Once I am caught up, I would like to go back and fancy up the pages a bit.  I'm so relieved to have found some inspiration for this project and that that intimating first page is behind me. 

garden = happy place

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

in the garden

 Today it's a quick run through the garden to see what's growing this year. First up are the lettuces, two kinds, Romaine and my favorite seen below, Bronze Arrowhead.

A row of slim celery stalks plumping up with each watering.

My trailing cucumbers finally making their way up the fence. I prefer English cucumbers without the seeds. 

Marigolds stationed as guards to help keep unwanted pests away.

Clematis going above and beyond the lattice frame it came with, doing its part to cover an ugly brown fence.

A new kind of bean, something similar to a white kidney bean, but I have been eating them as string beans.

The obligatory sun sugar mini tomatoes, the only ones ripe yet. Mmmm.

The leggy pea plants that grew a million feet while I was away and needed to be tied up to the top of the fence. Hopefully they put their energy into producing flowers and pods now that they have been secured.

One pod in the making, looking forlornly around for others to join him.

Yellow wax beans, already giving us some delicious beans that gleam like gold on our plates.

Yellow zucchinis forming, with unopened flowers waiting to burst open and be pollinated. I like to help with that part if I can.

Russet potato plants thriving and no potato bugs in sight!

Overwintered mint(in a clay pot in the ground) back with full strength, giving its flavor to countless batches of brewed iced tea.

And from my neighbor's garden, a fence full of blooming cucumbers. Isn't it glorious!