Thursday, January 31, 2008

This blog is...

Amy from Buffaloes & Butterfly Wings has passed on this award to me. I'd like to thank the academy...o.k, maybe not. But it still made my day. Now to pass it on to others much more deserving than myself:

Morgan - one of my friends from way, way back. (Like, her birth!) She's not always right *coughhuckabeecough* but I love her anyway. Morgan has a true artist's perspective that is a definite gift from the real Artist.

Ashleigh - one of my newest blog reads, discovered through Morgan. Her spirit and optimism through her current challenges (her husband just left on a long tour of duty) are inspiring!

Amy - Untangling Tales is a rich blog of stories, advice, and commentary. Amy is a truly creative writer and she is partially responsible for my renewed desire to actually write the story I've been thinking about writing for a long time.

Kim - Her blog is just beautiful and chock full of great home keeping, homeschooling, celebrating girlhood goodies.

Monica - The Homespun Heart is another beautiful blog that celebrates femininity and godliness.

Everyone at The Common Room -this entire family is what I want my family to be when we grow up. I check this blog 2-3 times a day because you never know what kind of treat for the eye or mind will be there.

The rules for this award say you are supposed to pass it on to 10 bloggers but I'm afraid I don't know that many (I don't actually know all of the above!). There are a few people I know who should have a blog and don't - I'm lookin' at you Lulu - but if I think of 4 more actual bloggers I'll edit this post to add them. Check my sidebar for the blogs that I must read every day. Each one adds something to my thought life, creative endeavors, homeschool attempts, or just my pursuing the ultimate goal of Christlikeness.

And thanks again, Amy!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

WFMW - Encouraging Reading

As I mentioned a few days ago, my eldest daughter Polly just got her very first library card. My motherly pride is about to run riot, I can tell you. Next thing you know she'll be reading War and Peace. Or not.

We are still working through a phonics program. Reading is not something that comes entirely naturally to Polly. Tigger, her younger sister, actually seems to have more reading "intuition" than Polly does. Still, Polly is coming right along. With her new library card we allow her to check out 5 books, the only rule being that they have to come from 5 different places in the children's library and that Mom and Dad have the ultimate veto power. (Insert evil maniacal laughter here...)

I simply showed Polly the different sections, as in, "Here are books about cooking, here are books about history, here are art books, here are books about crafts, here are stories about real people, here are science books, here are picture books, here-are-the-dime-a-dozen-mass-merchandise books." Yeah, that last category
should be bannedis not my favorite. But just telling her to get "a variety" wouldn't have worked because she would probably choose 5 story books and protest that they are not the same story. As it is she is choosing very interesting book and she examines them carefully even when she cannot quite read them all.

Other ways to encourage reading:
- Be sure your kids see you reading a lot.
- Always, always read a bedtime story aloud no matter how grown up your children seem.
- Encourage the older children to read to the younger. Even Tigger is known to get out a picture book and "read" a story to the baby.
- Play a book on tape or c.d. during nap time or quiet time, as it is known around here.
- Keep books where they can reach them. This is important. The books have to be easy to get out and fairly easy to put away. We have shelves, o.k, shelves are pretty much taking over our tiny house but anyway, we keep many books on the lower shelves for the girls.
- Take them book shopping with you. Show them how to choose a good book. Keep a list of books you want and show your delight as you find what you are looking for at a good price.

These are some things that Work for Me! What ways of encouraging reading work for you?

Monday, January 28, 2008

What Should I Be?

You Should Be a Politician

Confident, assertive, and dedicated - you know what you want in life and how to get it.
Stubborn and opinionated, you can stand your ground... even if it's unpopular.
And while you have strong views, you never overwhelm people with your opinions.
A true charmer, you subtly influence people into seeing things your way.

You do best when you:

- Work according to your own rules
- Can change the world with what you do

You would also be a good lawyer or talk show host.

H/T: In Beauty and In Grace

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Mansfield Park - No Masterpiece

After last week's Northanger Abbey, which I enjoyed despite some unnecessary changes, we come to Mansfield Park. Here I must confess that this is my least favorite Austen novel. Fanny Price has never grown on me and I don't see what is so wonderful about Edmund. I don't dislike him but he doesn't seem like an Austen hero to me either, not on the Mr. Knightley, Mr. Darcy, Mr. Tilney, or Captain Wentworth level. And here are my completely off the cuff impressions:

The Good
- William, Fanny's brother. Perfect casting, in my estimation.
- Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, while possibly different from their novel counterparts (it has been awhile since I've read it) were enjoyable to watch. (Edit: upon further review Lady Bertram was quite different from the novel but it doesn't bother me)
- The costumes seemed nice, if inconsistent in style, era, suitability...
- The sets were lovely, if limited. No visit to Portsmouth?
- Pug

The Bad
- Was it me or does it seem most unlikely that so many different men would be in Fanny Price's bedchamber?
- Rather a lot of "bosom" shots for my taste. 'Nough said.
- Waltzing and kissing in public? Not likely.
- Maria Bertram Rushworth is the Bionic Woman. Michelle Ryan was bad in that (thankfully) short lived series too! Coincidence? I think not.
- PBS has really made a mistake in this 90 minute time frame they've allotted for these stories. Every one has been far too rushed and important scenes/subplots/etc have been sacrificed.

The Ugly
- I'm sorry but there is no gentle way to say this (you may accuse me of being as shallow as Mary Crawford if you like!): Billie Piper (Fanny) and Blake Ritson (Edmund) are two spectacularly unattractive people. He looks like a corpse; she looks like a cross between a horse and a chipmunk. I realize that Fanny is not supposed to be a supermodel but I was actually distracted from the story by Billie Piper's teeth. Maybe it was the lighting or something (I'm being generous).
- Edmund comes to his senses about Mary Crawford and realizes his love for his cousin in about 3 seconds. Ah, a love that will last the ages. Some of this is PBS's fault but seriously, talk about suspending disbelief.

While 100% better than the awful feature length Mansfield Park adaptation of the '90's which I wish I could scrub from my memory bank, it still fell far short of what it could be. I give them a C for effort. Again, I'm being generous. If it comes around again skip it and watch Northanger Abbey instead.

If you'd like to check out the original:

And if you'd like to see if I'm being harsh in my review:

(Picture credit: PBS)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Frugal Fridays - Free Homeschool Resources

We are living in a great age for homeschooling. The Internet has truly revolutionized both the methods and materiel available. Here are some of my favorite Internet resources:Edupics This is a site with many different free printables that are well organized.
And the best frugal homeschool resource? Your local library. If you are a homeschooling family your library ought to know you by name. They ought to smile when you walk in the door. Seriously.

Go as many times a week as you can. Check out as many books as you can carry. Listen to some new music. Watch some documentaries. Ask your librarians for help if you need it.

Today is a momentous day for our family: Polly got her very own library card (see above picture). She checked out 5 books: A Shakespeare picture book, a book about Ice Skating, an easy reader about July 4th, A big book of Aesop's fables, and a My Little Pony book. No, I did not tell her what to get (as that last selection may show you).
Do you have any frugal homeschool advice or websites to recommend? I'd love to hear them!
Find lots of great frugal inspiration at Biblical Womanhood. Or Money Saving Mom. Both of Crystal's sites are great!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

This day in history...

How can one of the best days of my life come four years before I'm even born? I think I just blew my mind there. And while I'm not sure how to sort out that conundrum, meanwhile: Happy Birthday to my very own Prince Charming.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Northanger Abbey Masterpiece

Well, my fellow Austen fans, this week was better than last week. I must admit that I am not as familiar with Northanger Abbey as I am with Persuasion. I believe I've only read it once - but as soon as I finish Persuasion (again...reading it now!) I will read Northanger again.

The characters seemed well played even if Felicity Jones's mouth was open a bit much. (Side note: what is with these young actresses? CLOSE your mouths!) Tilney and Catherine seemed spot on to me, as well as General Tilney, Eleanor, and the silly Mrs. Allen.

The Gothic romance sections of the movie were over the top for me. The Mysteries of Udolpho would be "bad" enough surely, I doubt Catherine's parents would allow their young, impressionable daughter to read the truly horrendous "Monk". And, this may just be me, but I didn't need to see how badly Frederick Tilney treated the money grubbing Isabella Thorpe.

So, a mixed bag to be sure but much improved over the Persuasion adaptation of last week. Did anyone else see it? What did you think?

This is available on Amazon now:

But read the book first!

(Picture credit: PBS)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Frugal Fridays - Sell It!

It's January and for me that out closets and cupboards. Something about a new year (and putting away all that Christmas stuff) inspires me to really tackle the clutter that's been building and building and building... But I digress.

Here's what I do: I keep a laundry basket handy and fill it with the things we don't need or don't like any more. If it's toys or games I'm sorting I whisk the basket away fairly quickly. If it is household items it may sit in the kitchen for a few days.

And then the fun part: decide what to do with everything. Some things need to be given to specific people who would enjoy them. Some things can be listed on Freecycle (old magazines anyone?) and some things can be sold. You have several options here. If it is worth it after all the fees and trouble E-Bay is really fun. If the items aren't a perfect fit for E-Bay there is always Craigslist. I've sold a lot of toys on Craigslist. Not for very much money but hey, every bit helps and I'd rather have a bit of freed up space. You could also save up things for a yard sale but I admit that I'd much rather shop at yard sales than hold one myself.

The important thing here is to not cling to things that don't serve your family or make you happy. Stop thinking about how much something cost and start thinking about how much it is costing you in space and enjoyment. Find great frugal tips at Biblical Womanhood.

A Personality Quiz

Your Personality is Somewhat Rare (ISTP)

Your personality type is reserved, methodical, spirited, and intense.

Only about 6% of all people have your personality, including 3% of all women and 8% of all men
You are Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, and Perceiving.

H/T: Dominion Family

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Classy Guy

Since I'm no longer blogging at my husband's blog I thought I'd post this little exchange here. (H/T: The Campaign Spot)

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Last night, now tell me what was happening. It certainly looked
like Fred Thompson was doing John McCain's bidding. You know Fred, I love him, I
served with him up in Congress, but he's been asleep for the last couple months.
He woke up last night, and he had a hatchet, and he used it all over your head
now. What's going on here?

MIKE HUCKABEE: That he did.


HUCKABEE: Well, I think Fred needs some
Metamucil. I think it would help a lot if he gets some. You know, he was in a
bad mood last night.

BRZEZINSKI: Did he just say that?

Me: That Huckabee sure is a classy, classy guy. And his supporters are only slightly less rabid than the Ron Paulians.

Wordless Wednesday - Three of a Kind

Some outfits must be kept for each child to wear. These little overalls are Prince Charming's favorite.

Monday, January 14, 2008

That Time Tae Kwon Do Broke My Heart

Remember when I told you about this? Well, last week it came time for my Polly to promote from lowly white belt to lofty yellow belt. This involves:

- knowing how to count to 10 in Korean
- knowing a 17 movement "form"
- knowing 10 self defense moves in order
- sparring for 2 minutes (yes, this means fighting)
- breaking a board with a side kick

Each thing adds to a cumulative score. Polly did very well on each thing until the last. She could not break that dumb board, despite the fact that she did break one in class one time. I don't know if she was just nervous or what but the night did not go well. Her teacher went ahead and let her promote, while telling her that she would still have to break that board before progressing further. So she promoted with a low score.

Meanwhile a girl exactly the same age and size promoted with a really high score and two special commendations. Prodigy children are so annoying.

Now I know that there are mothers out there dealing with much larger concerns for their children. (Like Amy and her sweet little one Alan. Pray for him!) And in the grand scheme of things it isn't going to matter whether Polly ever breaks another board in her life. And yet...

I must confess that my first reaction to this (and it was Prince Charming's too, I might add) is to never go back to TKD again. We'll just pretend the past few months of twice weekly lessons (except December which we took off) was a dream. We'll take our yellow belt and run, thankyouverymuch. She tried it, it's not for her, end of story.

But it isn't the end of the story. That was our reaction, not hers. She clapped for each person as they broke their boards. She never got upset. She congratulated the little prodigy at the end of class.

And now she's ready to go back to class tonight, having practiced a few side kicks. She is only slightly discouraged, asking her daddy and me variations on this question: "I will break a board, won't I?"

Whoever said that motherhood is having your heart walking around outside your body was exactly right. So tonight I will load up my heart and her gear and drive 30 minutes to the studio and watch her spar and kick and go on. She'll be great. I'll be a mess. And if this stuff hasn't "taken" by the time the next promotion rolls around We Are Outtathere.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Masterpiece Theatre's lack of Persuasion

O.k, so who watched the beginning of the Masterpiece Theatre's Jane Austen Season? I did. I've been looking forward to this for months and after the 90 min. episode tonight I am...decidedly underwhelmed.

First of all I should clarify by saying Persuasion is one of my favorite Austen novels. (Well, with Pride and Prejudice, and Northanger Abbey, and Emma. It's so hard to choose a favorite! All I know is Mansfield Park is my least favorite.) And I also hold the 1995 version (starring Amanda Root) in very high esteem. So maybe I was too prejudiced going into tonight's show. I haven't read any of my favorite blogs or Austen spots to see what anyone else is thinking yet, but here are my first impressions:

- Maybe Anne would have felt prettier if she would have washed her hair. Like, even once. Seriously, Sally Hawkins (who played Anne) looked like she had bacon grease rubbed over her head before every scene.

- Could Anne close her mouth, please? Prince Charming (who proved how charming he is by watching this with me tonight) and I laughed in every "romantic" or tense scene because her

- Where did Anne's cousin's accent come from? London, Texas? Mr. Eliot is supposed to sound Posh not, um, I'm not sure, just not whatever that guy sounded like tonight. Here I'll admit that I'm a dumb 'ol American who probably just doesn't recognize a true posh British accent when I hear one, but his grated on my nerves.

- Anne's school friend, Mrs. Smith, is gallivanting around Bath? Shame on her for pretending to be an invalid! Or maybe those waters (Nurse Rook?) are truly miraculous. If so, I could use some right now.

- No more staring directly into the camera. Ever. It's been done. I'm well over it. Don't do it again. This pretty much goes for any period film. Stop looking at the camera - it isn't clever anymore.

- Music in an Austen adaptation is always tricky but here's a hint: It isn't Charlotte Bronte so we don't need overbearing, overwrought, over the top music. Less is definitely more.

- (Spoiler alert if you haven't seen it yet) Captain Wentworth buys Kellynch for Anne? I don't think so. Persuasion is not about Anne clinging indiscriminately to the past. And taking your new husband back to the home of your (rather) unhappy childhood is clinging tenaciously to the past. Move on!

My summary? For a movie not made in Hollywood this was an awfully Hollywood-ized adaptation. Watch the 1995 movie instead. Better yet, read the book.

Anyone else see it? Despite my misgivings I will still be watching the rest of the season. If they disappoint I've always got my favorite versions on DVD to watch. Just what I needed, another excuse to get wrapped up in Jane Austen marathons!

A Small Postscript, after reading a few other "Austen Spots" around the web: Not only is it unlikely that the gallant Captain would buy his Anne her family home, it is most likely impossible. What I know about British Regency property law and succession would hardly fill a blog title. I do know that you couldn't just go around buying whatever piece of property caught your fancy, especially if it was entailed on someone else. Anyhow, it's a ridiculous ending.

If you'd like to compare the versions, here's my favorite:

And here's the latest:

And, of course, don't forget the original book. It is a true jewel in Jane Austen's literary crown.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Can You Find the Baby?

Sweet Pea catches a few minutes of shut-eye. The dolls/bears/random Teletubbie have been tossed in her bed by the ever helpful Tigger.

What We Made

Now that Christmas is safely past and everyone has opened their gifts I can show you how Prince Charming and I spent our entire December a few hours. We were making these (and no these are not all of them): We made over 300 magnets. It was addictive, I must confess. Prince Charming often pulled aside some and said, "I have to keep this one." (He ended up keeping about 25). Then we packaged them in gift card tins (24 to a tin). I decorated the tin packages like this:
A couple of my packages are not showing because they had already been sent off. With my extensive magazine collection, some glue, a few strips of magnets, and clear stones from the floral department at Michael's this project cost very little out of pocket. And the wrapping paper is actually recycled grocery bags.

The hard part now is to stop seeing perfect little circles in every magazine I look at. Must not make any more magnets...for now.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Books of 2007, A Year in Review

Total Number of Books Read: 138
Fiction: 43
Non-fiction: 95

Best Fiction: A Thread of Grace (read in August)

Best Non-fiction (tie): America Alone (read in March) and Freedomnomics (read in May)

Best Non-fiction runner-up: Girls Gone Mild. (read in July)

Worst Fiction: Wicked. Wish I could sponge it from my memory. Ugh. (read in June)
2nd Worst Fiction: The Man Who Loved Jane Austen. No. Just, no. (read in August)

Worst Non-fiction: Buy, Buy, Baby. (read in June) Be sure to check out my insightful (ha!) review over at Doses of Reality.
2nd Worst Non-fiction. Wild At Heart & Captivating. (both read in February)

Most Inspiring: Living Artfully (read in January) This book changed how I look at life, it really did.

Most Encouraging: The Spiritual Power of a Mother. Seriously, if you're a homeschooling mom, read it now! (read in March)

Funniest: Somebody is Going to Die if Lilly Beth Doesn't Catch That Bouquet. (read in April) Laugh out loud, and then cook some good food.

Favorite Re-read: The Lord of the Rings (read in June)

Most Disappointing: Boundaries, not sure what I was expecting but everyone speaks so highly of this book. I didn't see what all the fuss was about. (read in March)
Most Useless: Bertha Venation (read in October)
Most Over-hyped (tie): Eragon (read in January) or Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (read in July) and that goes for Eldest, too.
Book With Most Deceptive Title: Living the Sabbath (read in February)

Best Mystery Series: Anne Perry's World War 1 series. (read in September)

Best Parenting Book: Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters (read in October)

Best Marriage Book: Love and Respect (read in November)
Best Self-Help: It's All Too Much (read in April)
Worst Self-Help (tie): What the Other Mothers Know (read in June) or Even June Cleaver Would Forget the Juice Box (read in August)

Best Book / Movie Combo: North and South (read in July)


There you have it, my reading record for the last year. I read some books I regret, some books I want to re-read now, some books I'm still mulling over, some books I forgot instantly, some books I wish I would have read a long time ago, some books I wish I would never have read, some books I probably could have written myself, some books I still don't understand, and through it all I was thinking "so many books, so little time."

O.k, I was also thinking, occasionally, how grateful I am to my mom for teaching me to read. And how thankful I am that we live with the best library system in the U.S. And the best librarians, too, except for that one. But that's a story for another day.