Showing posts with label Book Lover. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Book Lover. Show all posts

Monday, June 15, 2015

Scout, Atticus, and Boo by Mary McDonagh Murphy

This ended up being such a lovely book.  I was a little afraid that it would be a gimmicky way for a writer to make money off of another wildly successful author, but it ended up being a wonderful idea.

This book (the full title is Scout, Atticus, and Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of To Kill a Mockingbird) is a compilation of various famous people, mainly authors, writing about their experiences and memories of To Kill a Mockingbird.  Everybody from singer Roseanne Cash to Mary Badham (the actress who played Scout), to Jon Meacham was interviewed in this book.  There were moving stories and anecdotes, reflections from people who knew Harper Lee, and thoughts on why To Kill a Mockingbird has been such an influential, lasting book in so many people's lives.

Mary McDonagh Murphy, a director and writer, was heavily influenced by To Kill a Mockingbird and decided that having lots of people's reflections on what this book meant to them would be a good way to honor and celebrate this book. I think that she was successful.  

I read To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time when I was 12.  I don't remember how I got my hands on a copy, but I can still see the beaten up cover of that book from the library.  I remember that feeling of being absolutely sucked in and absorbed, so absorbed that I couldn't possibly go on living my normal life.  I did nothing but read that book.  I remember it was summer, which meant garden season, when I read it and, like it was yesterday, I remember carrying that book down to the garden to read while I weeded.  Once I came up for breath, I remember that empty feeling of realizing that I had just finished one of the best books I would ever read.  I couldn't bear to completely leave Scout and Atticus and Maycomb quite yet and so I just left the book out to thumb through it every once in a while and remember that glorious experience.

Since that day, I don't think I've ever read anything quite so enthralling.  Of course I went on to read many wonderful books that meant a lot to me and were very interesting, but nothing ever took the place of To Kill a Mockingbird.

I think that Scout, Atticus, and Boo succeeded in what its goal-to celebrate a wonderful book, while not stealing its thunder, to inspire people to think about their own experiences with this book.  This is definitely a book to seek out, if only to skim.  I read it cover to cover, however, and found it perfectly delightful.  

What are your memories of To Kill a Mockingbird?  Was it an influential book for you, or did it not make a big impact?  

Friday, June 12, 2015

Favorites This Friday

I missed a couple of weeks of this weekly feature (blame summer), but here's the post for today.  Here are my favorites this Friday, bookish and not-bookish:


1.) Gray Owl Paint by Benjamin Moore-Yes!  I'm embarking on painting the ugly living room next!  The walls are covered in various swatches of blue and gray, but I finally found the perfectly shade!  

2.) Iced Tea-Do I need to say more?  It's 90 degrees and my elbows are sticking to the computer as I type this. Pretty much any kind of tea, but sweet, black, and mint is always desirable.  I also had some iced raspberry green tea that I've been thinking about ever since I had it.  

3.) Now that April's There by Daisy Neumann-A historically, sociologically fascinating read set in England immediately post-war.  I'm hoping to post a review on Monday.

4.) Scott, Atticus, and Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of To Kill a Mockingbird by Mary McDonagh Murphy-Another lovely current read that is making me want to read To Kill a Mockingbird again.  Speaking of which, what do you all think about the latest Harper Lee controversy around her soon-to-be-released book?  I, bad book blogger, hadn't even heard about this until somebody mentioned it at a family picnic.  
I must watch this soon!  Speaking of which, I just
recently learned that there is a King and I Broadway revival right now.  Interesting!

5.) Lots of old Broadway-I've been really into Broadway shows for awhile, particularly the classics and I've been listening to the music from them and watching the old movies quite a bit lately.  So, so lovely.

6.)  Shorthand-I've recently become interested in shorthand.  I can really see the value of having the skill, but we'll see if I actually get passed checking a book out of the library.  

So those are some of my favorites!  I'm going to be gone and busy most of June, so expect sporadic postings.  What are some of your favorites right now?  

Friday, May 29, 2015

What They Don't Tell New Bloggers

I feel that I now have permission to write this post, since I've been blogging for over a year now.  However, I'd love hear what more veteran bloggers think, as well.  

I've been going through a blogging dry patch and, through it, I've had lots of thoughts about writing, particularly blogging.  This has corresponded with my reading this fabulous book, which I really loved.  The more I read and thought, the more I realized that this needed to be a blog post.  So, if you are starting out on this blogging journey, or have been blogging for far longer than I, here are my thoughts on what they don't tell bloggers just starting out.
The dining room!  The painting is done and, if I do say so myself, it
looks lovely.  Now all I have to do is put in a light fixture and
new light switch covers and clean up all the paint
that managed to avoid the drop cloth.  

1.) When you first start out, you will have about 8,000 post ideas a day.  You may have to work very hard to refrain from posting twice (or thrice) daily and you will dreamily imagine spending every morning in a coffee shop with your elegant, non-dented laptop, writing about the stack of beautiful books (all advance copies of course) sitting by your side.  Your loving readers will eagerly flock to hear your witty, sage advice and opinions on every topic under the sun.  
Note the mess on the table.  These pictures were taken 5 days ago and it's still not
cleaned up.  Sigh.

2.) But, somewhere along your blogging journey, you will encounter writers' block.  But this isn't the ordinary case of writers' block.  Oh no.  See, now you have people that are expecting blog posts.  You know because, you're expecting their blog posts in return.  You will frantically wrack your brains for post ideas and may resort to posting old pictures of winter scenery in spring (because you've also abandoned your camera).  This is also okay.  Everybody recovers from even the most virulent case of writers' block.  

3.) There will be months when you have only written 3 posts.  And that's okay.  It doesn't make you a bad writer (or person).  It happens to most of us.  

4.)  There really is unbloggable material.  Like that time I read a total of 15 cookbooks in a week, cover to cover (yes, I have a cookbook reading problem, frequently documented on this blog).  I knew nobody wanted to hear about 15 cookbooks over 5 days, so I let it go and had nothing to show for it.
The first of my roses is blooming!  Strangely enough, when it got exposed
to the ashes, part of it reverted back to its parent plant (it was a hybrid),
so now half is red and half is yellow.  They both smell lovely!

5.) (This piece of advice is strictly for book bloggers.)  Sometimes, you may not be reading very much. Gasp!  Maybe you have a good stack of magazines.  Or you're gone every night.  Or everybody in your house got stomach flu so bad you couldn't even imagine reading.  Or (double gasp) maybe you're just in the mood to watch Netflix. 

6.) Blogger is great.  It's a wonderful writing platform; it's free, and it has some amazing settings.  But don't for a second be surprised when it freezes up and loses a post for the 10,000 time in a week.

7.) Every time you click "publish" on a post, you are going to feel an incredible sense of satisfaction and pleasure knowing that you just created something entirely your own and shared it with an (albeit small) percentage of the world.  And when you read comments of kind strangers whom you have never spoken a word to, all the writers block and and computer glitches in the world seem worth it.

So, weigh in-What advice/tips would you give to a new (book or non-book) blogger?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

An Update

Hello, dear readers.  This is just a quick note to let you know that I'm going to be absent from the blog until the end of next week due to a bunch of deadlines and work that needs to get done.  However, that doesn't mean that I'm not reading, and so you have lots of book reviews to look forward to in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, I'll leave you with my current reading list:

1. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

2. Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis

3. Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers' Guide from the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University, edited by Mark Kramer and Wendy Call (this is, by far, my favorite current read).

4.  The Solitaire Mystery by Jostein Gaarder (same author who wrote Sophie's World, which I loved).

5. Frankenstein, for Classics Club

Happy Wednesday to you all!

Friday, April 24, 2015

My Favorites This Week: Week 1

Here is a new segment that I hope to do every week.  I could call it Friday Favorites, but I scoff at alliteration for the most part, so I will rebel and just call it My Favorites This Week.   In it, I'll list a couple of things that I have been enjoying over the week.  I'm expecting that the majority will be book-related, but who knows.  So here goes!

1. Chocolate Buckwheat Granola-This comes first because I'm eating a bowl of this as I write this post.  This recipe comes from the beautiful food blog, My New Roots.  It's been my go-to granola recipe for a couple of weeks now.  It is just decadent enough to be a little bit out of the ordinary, while still a responsible breakfast item.

2. This beautiful album, from Spotify (actually, I've just generally been enjoying Spotify).  This link is a preview from amazon.


3. Don Quixote-I'm just about finished!  It was slow at parts, but, overall, a very enjoyable book.  And, speaking of Don Quixote, here's a fascinating article about woven tapestries with images from Don Quixote.

4. Jamie Oliver's Comfort Food has been my cookbook of the week.  I've pored over it and drooled and so I'm planning on spending a good portion of my weekend in the kitchen with this cookbook.  It is interesting what Jamie thinks of as comfort food.  A lot of it isn't my comfort food, but it still looks delicious!

5.  On my interlibrary hold list (because I always have far too many books on the hold list):

  • Shakespeare:The World as a Stage by Bill Bryson
  • The Provincial Lady in America by E.M. Delafield
  • The Diary of Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith
  • The Solitaire Mystery by Jostein Gaarder (yes, the author of Sophie's World.  He's written a lot of books!)

6. Goodreads has introduced me to so much!  My TBR list has grown exponentially and all I can think about is the books that I want to read, particularly over the summer.  Tell me, do you have any books that I should have on my Goodreads TBR right now?



Monday, April 6, 2015

Where I've Been and My Reading List

Goodness, I left you in the lurch, didn't I, readers?  First, my family generously shared a head cold with me that left me sneezing and feverish for several days and then on Good Friday I was stricken with a nasty stomach bug, also generously shared by my family members.  So, basically, I've been lying on the couch whining all week.  That's where I've been.  Easter Sunday, I skipped church in favor of sleeping in, then, feeling 100% recovered, I went to the family Easter Dinner and had a lovely time.  On the way home, I started to feel myself crashing.  I came home and relapsed back into my stomach bug.  So here I am, the Monday after Easter feeling weak and still pretty whiney, but I'm at that stage where I have a very strange list of food I'm hungry for, including:
1. Pizza
2. Sushi, but the pickled ginger is what I'm really after
3. Vanilla Custard
4. Chocolate Ice Cream
5. White Rice with Soy Sauce

None of these are probably a good idea, but I did end up caving and eating White Rice and Soy Sauce for breakfast and, oh, did that taste delicious!

But enough about my aggravating viruses.  Because with all that sickness comes a lovely stack of books:
1. Great Quantities of Little Women
2. A bit of Don Quixote
3. Do Butlers Burgle Banks by P.G. Wodehouse
4. As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley
This book was the very best medicine.

While the rest of the books were all very enjoyable, can we just focus a moment on that last title?  Do you know what that is??  It's the latest Flavia de Luce!  Squee!  This is the book that kept me alive through these last couple of days.  Those of you who have been reading for a while will remember that I dearly adore Flavia de Luce.  In general, I don't love mysteries.  They can be formulaic, gory, boring, unbelievable (what on earth is wrong with your supposedly charming small town that there's a crime every 2 weeks?), and/or drone-y.  But Flavia is the exception.  Everything about these books exudes charm and brilliant writing with just enough thrills to keep the books exciting.

I'm not going to give a full review today because I doubt I'd be coherent, but let me just say that it was everything I expected it to be and more.

And that is where I have been, plus what I read.  Tell me, dear readers, how were your Easters?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Anniversary Post

Readers, it has been a year.  A whole year since I started blogging.  I kind of can't believe it.  I thought I would tell you the story of why I started blogging.
Just some chicken pictures.

I have been a voracious reader my whole life.  Books stick in my mind years after I read them and I have lived the majority of my life with many of them.  Funny books, sad books (but only occasionally), scary books, exciting books, how-to books, they all have a special place in my heart.  When a friend started blogging and told me how much fun it was, I was eager to start, but didn't really think that I had much to write about.  I have a pretty normal, quiet life.  Still, I had always noticed the minutiae around me and I thought it might be kind of fun to see if I could make an interesting blog out of it.  And then I thought about books.  I can still clearly remember-I was sitting on the couch, having just finished The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery, with my head in a whirl of thoughts and things to discuss about the book.  And I had a sudden revelation-I could write about books!  I certainly spent enough time reading and thinking about books to write a blog.

And so I started-with a basic blogger template and a bunch of ideas.  I wrote my first post and clicked "Publish" for the first time.  For the first couple of weeks, I carefully watched the statistics as people read the blog.  I found other book bloggers, far more experienced than I, who had been in the blogging business for years.

It turns out that blogging doesn't just involve words (although it does involve a lot of those), but also numbers.  So here are just a few of the numbers I've collected:
Number of posts written: 208
Number of comments made: 390
Number of times this blog was viewed: 12,645
Number of times I have said, "Wow, I love blogging!":1,000,000+


Finally, I want to thank all of my readers, the commenters and the non-commenters.  This blogging journey would not have been nearly as fun if all of you had not read my blog.  I especially want to thank all the family and friend readers, who gave me advice and opinions and shared the blog among each other (Grammy, chiefly, among them).  But also, my fellow bloggers who have participated with me in so many things, from book clubs to book tags to everything in between.

I'm looking forward to another year of blogging!  I'm sure there will be more of the same and maybe some new things, too.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Library Loot 3/11/15

I haven't done a Library Loot post in ages!  This past weekend, however, I went to the library and picked up a substantial stack and now I'm ready to write about my haul.

About Library Loot:

"Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries."


The Plot that Thickened by P.G. Wodehouse-I already reviewed this here and really enjoyed it.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green-I feel I must explain.  This was part of a very long-winded bet with my brother.  I, making amazed noises that people would read The Fault in Our Stars for fun, said that I would never voluntarily read TFIOS because who wants to read a book being wracked by sobs the majority of the time.  My brother got a gleam in his eye and said that if I would read TFIOS, he would, too.  I stretched the bet a little and said that we would each read a John Green book (many of which are heartbreaking).  I haven't heard anything about his book choice, so I don't know how that's going.  I chose Will Grayson, Will Grayson because it's supposed to be actually funny.  John Green is a very skilled and funny writer, so I'm not going to have to brave bad writing, but the genre is not my favorite, so we'll see...


Cotillion by Georgette Heyer- Just a little Regency romance.  Georgette Heyer wrote surprisingly good, historically accurate works of fiction in the 1920s about the 1700s.

The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens-This is partly inspired by my Little Women read along (the March sisters are big fans of Pickwick) and partly because I've heard it is a fantastic book.

The Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas-Some nice fiction that looked good...about a group of ladies in Kansas who brave the Depression together.

The Chili Queen by Sandra Dallas-More good-looking fiction.

The Train to Estelline by Jane Roberts Wood-A novel about a young woman traveling to Arkansas in the early 1900s to teach.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Bits and Bobs

I decided to write a rambling post today.  While I'm enjoying the Little Women read-along so much, I decided to take a day off and write about happenings.  Early March seems to make me ramble.

The kitchen has been filled with activity all week.  With chilly weather and blizzard-like conditions pretty much all the time, we've been keeping the kitchen going to keep the house warm, since the kitchen is the draftiest, coldest room of the house.  There is always something on the stove or in the oven these days-sourdough bread, lime and sea salt brownies, hot and sour soup, pots of stock, baguettes, and much more.  While the table was a mess, the sun came streaming in a window and I snapped a couple of pictures.  It's amazing how pretty a baking mess can look.
The baguettes.  Delicious, but not pretty.
Lime and Sea-Salt Brownies from Kitchn.  Delicious!
Just a pretty mess.  A tea towel, dusts of flour, and the lime zest for the brownies.

Homemade Hot and Sour Soup, also from Kitchn.

I started a book called To the Wild Sky by Ivan Southall who is, apparently a fairly well-known Australian children's author from the 50s and 60s who wrote about children having adventures.  To the Wild Sky is about six children who are on a plane to a birthday party in New South Wales.  Their plans are immediately thrown to the wind when the pilot dies, leaving them in a rapidly falling plane.  One of the boys steers the plane to safety on a deserted island, where the children have to learn to fend for themselves.  It's very exciting and I'm really enjoying having such a gripping book.


While spring is lovely and I absolutely can't wait to see ground again (even muddy ground!) I saw struck by the absolute gorgeousness of winter as I looked out the window at this.



Today is World Book Day!  What are you reading today?  I have To the Wild Sky, Little Women, a few inspiration cookbooks, and November Knits, a knitting book.


It's the Easter Dress time of year again!  I have my dress about half done and waiting by my sewing machine.  I found some fairly cheap organic cotton voile that looks like watercolors.  I'm making it up in a 50s party dress pattern, which I think is going to work perfectly as an Easter dress.

I'm doing the view with sleeves


I am so proud of those neat little pin tucks all down the front.  I still have buttons, a skirt,
and sleeves to put on, but it's starting to feel like a real dress now!




Monday, March 2, 2015

March with the Marches-A Readalong

Just last month, I discovered the lovely blog, The Edge of the Precipice and have been enjoying looking through her archives and reading her new posts.  I discovered her blog because of a read-along that she is hosting for the month of March (and onward).  Bloggers will read Little Women and then post thoughts and questions for discussion every couple chapters.  You can also check in with other blogs joining the read along and join in in their comments.

Little Women is a book that has shaped my life.  When life is unpleasant or hectic or even dismal, I often pull out Little Women and am comforted by the lovely homeyness and wonderful wisdom of that book.  When life is pleasant and all is right with the world, I still turn to Little Women and am amazed at how much the lives of the March family resound with me.  I love all of the sisters, but especially Meg.  She, as the responsible big sister with a love for clothes and a strong sense of justice and what is right always reminded me of myself.  While I've never identified with Jo very much, most of my best friends over the years have been Jo Marches.  In many ways, Little Women is a picture of my life, though I never had three sisters, nor lived through civil war and death from horrible disease.

And that is why I am so very excited to be exploring Little Women yet again (for what I'm sure is the millionth time) in depth on this blog.  Because it has been such a part of my life, I think that this must be  a book that makes it onto this blog.  I hope you enjoy reading through this book with me, even if the only reading you do is my reviews.  I can assure you that I am going to enjoy it.
*********************************************************************************
Chapter 1-Playing Pilgrims

This chapter draws you into the world of the Marches from the start.  It is Christmas Eve and the girls are sitting around the fireplace griping about their lack of so many things, until Marmee comes in, bringing a letter from their much-loved father who is away as a chaplain in the war.  Here are a few of the things that struck me reading through again:

  • Even though the civil war is a huge part of their lives (Father is a chaplain and Marmee is doing volunteer work with some soldier's organization), in so many ways it really isn't present.  There are still jobs to be done, chores to do, school to attend, adventures to be had, and the many, many delightful things that the Marches do.  In spite of the very real presence that the war has in the March's lives, it by no means takes the center stage.  
  • I had completely forgotten about the play that the Marches put on in this book and I am already getting excited to read the next chapter, which focuses a lot on the play.  I remember doing just this kind of thing as a child-props and costumes and far-too dramatic dialogue.  
  • This book is just so timeless.  Cliche, I know, but, nevertheless, very true.  While thinking about this, I had a sudden observation that I've never had before-Little Women hasn't been remade a thousand times!  You know how Pride and Prejudice gets remade and remade and remade in every style from zombies to this great fictional vlog (which, surprisingly, I really loved).  But anyway, I'm getting sidetracked.  But Little Women?  Aside from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1990s movies, which were supposed to be true to the book, there haven't been many reimaginings that I know of.  I think that it is because a.) Romance is not the key feature of the book, making it less desirable to many re-writers b.) The book is really more childlike and child-focused and c.) I think that we have Colin Firth and the hype that surrounded that Pride and Prejudice edition to thank for many of the remakes of classic fiction.  Credit for this observation goes to my mother, who I was discussing Little Women with.  What do you think?  I'd love to hear your thoughts below in the comments.
Questions for Discussion:
1.) This has been asked other places, but….which character do you identify most strongly with?
2.) What do you think of my observation of Little Women and adaptations?  Why do you think Little Women isn't as adapted as other well-loved classics, such as Pride and Prejudice?  
3.) Have you seen any of the movie versions and, if so, which ones?

So those are some of my thoughts for Chapter 1 of this great book!  If you're interested in blogging along too, please join, and if not, chime in in the comments section!

Friday, February 13, 2015

3 Quick Book Reviews and an Update

Hello, dear readers.  I am still here, lest you thought I was frozen into the side a snowbank, never to appear again.

In spite of my lack of blog activity, I have been up to a lot of things, some reading related.  I have 3 books on the reading pile, two of which I have finished.

1. Don Quixote-
My latest Classics Club read.  It's funny and enjoyable and the translation done by Edith Grossman is great.  I've been enjoying just a few chapters every evening by the fire with hot Earl Grey tea, my new favorite.  I usually make the tea into a London Fog-with lots of steamy hot milk.
But back to the book, there is something so eerily amazing about reading a book that is so old.  I'm quite enjoying it and there will be a full-fledged review, once I've finished it.

2. Small Victories by Anne Lamott-
I love Anne Lamott's writing and this is her latest book.  I have about 5 pages in the book and I can't wait to get a review up about it.  Lamott has had a strange, at times pretty rackety life, but the thing that strikes me reading her books is her incredible grace and wisdom through all kinds of scenarios that I am not entirely sure how I would handle.  If you haven't read anything by Lamott, this is definitely a must-read.

3. The Nutmeg Tree by Margery Sharp-
This is a re-read, but I do love Sharp's incredible sly wit.  The Nutmeg Tree is about a young, irrepressible widow who is left in the early days of WWI with a baby.  After a dreadfully boring stint as a respectable young widow, she leaves the baby with her kindly in-laws and heads to the city. Susan, the baby, grows up dull and respectable, until she falls in love with an unscrupulous man and Julia has to help her get out of the mess.  It's really funny and was a very quick read.

In addition to all of this reading, I'm working and doing as little outside as I possibly can (which usually means just the once-a-day trudge to do the animal chores and then scurrying inside as quickly as possible).  I'm also dreaming of summer through a big stack of summer clothes that I have waiting at the sewing machine.  So see?  I haven't turned into a frozen brick of ice.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Book Tag: I Mustache You Some Questions

Lory, from Emerald City Book Review (isn't that the best blog name?) just tagged me in a tag called I Mustache You Some Questions.  Since I have a bit of a penchant for silly puns and I enjoy book tags, I was more than happy to play along.   Here are the questions, most of them original, with one left out because I'm pretty (probably too) cautious about information on the internet and one added :

Four Jobs I've Had:
1. Multiple childcare/babysitting/etc. jobs throughout high school
2. Farming
3. Writing
4. Various musical-related things…some paid some not so much

Four Of My Favorite Songs/Artists/Composers
1. L-O-V-E by Nat King Cole-It's such a cliched, over-used song, but I still love it.
2. Doris Day-This is my cooking music
3. Chopin-When I was taking piano lessons, this was always the composer I most loved.
Even today, I will still listen to Chopin for fun.
4. Simon and Garfunkle-Actually, I love all this 60s music as a genre.


Four Movies I've Watched More Than Once

1. Mary Poppins-I think maybe 3 times?
2. The Parent Trap- Why are all my rematches children's movies?
3. Sense and Sensibility
4. Pride and Prejudice-This one wins for most-watched movie.

Four Books I'd Recommend
1. Absolutely anything by Jane Austen.  If you haven't read Jane Austen, your life is Incomplete (and that does get capital letters).
2. Something by C. S. Lewis; also because your life will be Incomplete.
3. She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith-I just read this and it's laugh out loud funny.
4. The Melendys-A wonderful children's series that needs to be read by everybody.

Four Place I'd Rather Be Right Now
1-4. Places that don't have several feet of snow on the ground

Four Things I Don't Eat
I am not a picky eater whatsoever, so I had to think for quite awhile about this one.
1. Eggs-Eggs are pretty much the only thing I don't like.  There is something that just makes
me shudder about eggs, particularly fried and dippy.  Blech.
2-4.  I absolutely can't think of anything else.  I'm not being pious.  I really can't think of anything.

Four of My Favorite Foods
1. Coconut (milk, flaked, fresh, anything)
2. Grapefruit
3. Really good curry
4. Bagels with lox, cream cheese, capers, tomato, and red onion

Four TV Shows I Watch
Well, I don't have a TV, but I do have Netflix.
1. Parks and Recreation-I've started with Season 2, because my friends told me that Season 1 wasn't any good and that the show only got funny with Season 2, and now I'm on Season 4….3 more seasons to go and I'm already feeling slightly sad about the end.  But really, if you like comedy, this is the best show.
2. Sherlock
3. PBS Miniseries, just as a class
4. Gilmore Girls-Except then it got stupid after about 5 episodes.

Four Things I'm Looking Forward To This Year
1. More reading, but of course
2. Spring
3. Some interesting job opportunities
4. Summer

Four Things I'm Always Saying
1. Have you read this book?  I can't remember the title or the author, but here's the basic plot line.
2. So I saw this thing on Pinterest…
3. That reminds me of this one book….
4. Can you find my (fill in the blank)?  (I am quite absentminded, which leads to misplacing things all the time.  For instance, the other day I stuck my scissors in the fridge and then spent a good 20 minutes looking for them.)


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Thoughts on Narnia

(Girl With Her Head in a Book did a lovely post on Top Ten Irritating Book Characters.  One of the characters she listed was Susan, the responsible big sister in Chronicles of Narnia.  And that is how this train of thought started.)

Narnia is a series that I remember so fondly.  Throughout my elementary school years, my dad was primarily the evening read-aloud parent and we plowed through so many classic children's books together-Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, A Wrinkle in Time and Meet the Austins, Matilda, and so many more.  And, of course, The Chronicles of Narnia made it onto the list.  I remember loving them.  I wept bitterly through Aslan's death and resurrection and laughed at dear Mr. Tumnus and all of the other wonderful characters.  Narnia is one of those books that will live on in my memory probably forever.  Then I picked up the books again at some point recently (maybe 2 years ago?) and I began to notice new elements.

Of course, by the time I read the books again recently,  I was well acquainted with C.S. Lewis and had enjoyed The Great Divorce and the Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity and all of those books.  And I really do admire Lewis as a thinker and a Christian.  However, I also came to realize that he was very much a man of his time and his opinions come through loud and clear.

Of course, it's a pretty much universally known piece of information that Narnia is one great biblical analogy.  The books are about the Christian story, starting with the new worlds created when Edmund and Lucy jump into the pools in The Magician's Nephew and ending with the Book of Revelation-filled The Last Battle.  Aslan is, of course, Jesus and the four children are everyman/everywoman/other biblical characters as needed.  The evil white witch is, I suppose, Satan.  You could go into a whole analysis of why the representation of evil is a human female and I know that many people have.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The thing that drove me wild while reading these books recently was that C.S. Lewis was sexist as all get out.  I think it's interesting that this came out most in a children's book.  It didn't cross my mind when I was reading, say Mere Christianity, but the message is loud and clear throughout most of the book.  I think that we can say very mildly that Lewis did not, ahem, have a very contemporary view of gender and race.

Susan, in particular, bothered me.  She goes from being the personality-less big sister whose sole purpose in life is being the stable Martha-like (as in the Mary and Martha story) character to being cast out of Narnia because she has become interested in makeup and parties.  This struck me as so strange and I will confess to be annoyed to no end on behalf of all big sisters everywhere. And then there's the white witch and her other evil counterpart who appears in The Silver Chair, The Lady of the Green Kirtle, or the Emerald Witch.  There were some weird comparisons to Eve in the Garden of Eden at the beginning of The Magician's Nephew.  Those are just a few off the top of my head.

The other thing I cringed over was the racism in the Horse and His Boy.  I mean, it was bad enough that I was cringing while reading.  Sheesh, did he really just say that?  And that does make a book uncomfortable to read.  The portrayal of the Calormens is hard to take at best; they are every Middle Eastern stereotype you've ever heard.  And the way that they are constantly contrasted with the fair people of Narnia made me gag.

It gives me a bit of a pang to admit all of this.  See, I still absolutely adore Narnia.  The imagery is some of the best out there, the characters are all lovable and the plot is perfectly crafted.  I would be loath to tell any parent not to read these books to their children.  On the contrary, if I were running the world, I would insist on every parent reading these books to all of their children, simply for the beautiful storytelling.  There are some pretty wonderful truths throughout the books that I think everybody should hear, like sibling loyalty and the importance of a culture and, oh, a thousand things.  I could write a whole series of posts on things that Narnia taught me.

So I wonder, am I overreacting?  Should I treat Narnia like I would any old book-appreciating the good stories and the wonderful things they have to offer, while also acknowledging that we have moved on in some ways in our modern world?  And the thing is, all authors are human and, therefore, all authors are flawed and products of their times and places.  Can any book ever be perfect?

I'm not sure why this book struck me particularly.  Perhaps because it was such a crucial book in my childhood, or maybe just because it's such good writing.  Maybe if the writing were less that perfect, I would be willing to write off the author's flaws more easily.  Is it because C. S. Lewis is such a good, good writer that it is harder to acknowledge his personal flaws?

So those are my Narnia musings, all set off by a simple comment and having read the books recently.  Now, tell me, what are your thoughts on Narnia?  Should it get a free pass on any kind of scrutiny because it is such beloved and wonderful writing?  Should we just throw it out and stop romanticizing over the writing?  Or should we strike some kind of happy medium of acknowledging it's problems while also accepting that this is some of the loveliest children's fiction out there?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Snow Day

We're in for a blizzard around here, which means that I'm battening down the hatches, but also making sure that I'm stocked up on entertainment and things to do.  There's a dirty house to get tidy and all the animals to tuck up first, though.  And a blog post to write, because it's been on my list for so long.  Be warned-this is a multi-part post.  So sit down with a cup of tea and prepare to listen to me ramble.
A little wooly worm that I found creeping across the icy snow.
Of course, I tucked him up into the hay in the barn.

*********************************************************************************
Part 1-Snow Ice Cream
Yesterday, the snow hadn't started for real, but we had about 5 inches, so I went outside and filled a metal bowl and prepared to make snow ice cream.  Have you heard of this?  I first read of this in the Melendys books when I was elementary school aged.  The idea enchanted me and I remember making a batch and ending up with sweet, watery milk.  After that, I abandoned the idea.  The memory of that flashed through my head and so I ran to get the ingredients and hurried outside to try snow ice cream again.  And it was delicious!  It's not like regular ice cream, but the trick is to keep everything thoroughly frozen in the snow and to eat the ice cream outside, exclaiming about how cold it is all the while.  I love making this recipe because it's pretty ridiculous to sit outside making ice cream in the middle of winter and, oh is it delicious.  I firmly shut my brain off that is reciting the litany of nasty stuff in that precipitation and pretend that I've never heard of acid rain, er, snow, and heaven knows what else and make this ice cream.  It's lovely.  Here's my recipe:
This is a terrible picture, but white ice cream against white snow is extremely hard to photograph.

Fill a smallish bowl with cleanish snow.  Sprinkle sugar liberally into the snow.  Now that I think of it, maple syrup would be delicious as well.  Actually, maybe more delicious.  Pour about a capful of vanilla into the snow.  Splash full-fat, maybe even raw (if you're a rebel) milk into that sugary snow and then lightly toss together, kind of like you stir egg whites into batter.  Your goal is to keep the snow intact so you have a kind of ice cream-ish texture.  While you're doing this, keep your bowl sitting firmly in the snow so it's staying as cold as possible.  Enjoy!
*********************************************************************************
Part 2-Winter Activities
I have the hugest pile of mending to do.  And, you know what?  I'm actually looking forward to tackling it in front of the fire during these blizzard-y evenings.  I've got a bag filled with yarn and thread and needles and a thimble and I'm ready to go.  I'm also planning to entertain myself with my camera.  I'm in the process of going through the pictures I just took off of my camera and sorting them and, I'm sure, throwing great quantities away.
The cute sweater-wearing (trust me, it's necessary) dog, but also
this perfectly illustrates wood stove season.  There is always ash.  Always.


*********************************************************************************
Part 3-The Buzzards in the Tree
I can't believe it, but these buzzards haven't made it into a blog post.  I apologize to them and now will post several pictures.  We have this very old tree that is dead, but provides great shelter to so many animals.  It is a spectral sight to look out and see that stark, old, dead tree filled with buzzards with their wings spread (we think they're drying their wings, but who knows).  I do wonder what they're watching for.  The chickens?  There are no carcasses that I know of.   I have become peculiarly fond of those old birds.

*********************************************************************************
Part 4-My Book List
I do have a book list, readers.  Of course I do.  Here it is:
The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, because it seems extremely fitting
Essays of E. B. White
The Edwardian Lady: The Story of Edith Holden
The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer
A new vintage magazine that I plan to read
I plan to keep busy with these titles.  I'm sure there will be more reading.  I'll keep you updated.
*********************************************************************************
Whew!  I'm finished rambling.  If you've reached the end, thank you for listening.  Now I'm off to stuff the cracks of the chicken coop with straw.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Family Circle's Complete Book of Beauty and Charm

Yep.  That's the title.  Wanna guess the publish date? 1951.  Knowing my inordinate love of all things vintage, my dear mother got me this book for Christmas.  I saved it for my Sunday afternoon reading and I just finished it this past Sunday afternoon.  And now I'm going to show it to you.

First of all, I took pictures of the inside of the book, so you get an idea of what it's like:


See?  The book tells you comfortingly that glasses can, too, be attractive, if you carefully
read their chart.

This caption says, "Even housewives need to take care of their hands!"

Properly applying foundation.
Necklines depending on your face shape.

I love books like these-books that are simply for the purpose of providing a window into another time, the purpose of inspiration.  This kind of reading is what I call Sunday Afternoon Reading, also known as inspiration reading.  Sunday Afternoon Reading is generally nonfiction, usually filled with pictures, always chock full of inspiration for the coming week.  I don't normally read for the sole purpose of getting good ideas or just for enjoying something for its prettiness.  Books normally have to hold something more for me, but not on Sunday afternoons.  That is when I pick up books just because they're pretty and inspiring and fun.  And while I wouldn't love to read like that all the time, it's actually very lovely to have that one day a week set aside where I do read like that.