Thursday, February 23, 2012

Two Things I Didn't Expect to Hear

1. "It's a boy!"

2. "There's no heartbeat. I'm so sorry. The baby has passed away."

More later, friends. But for now please pray for us.

Monday, February 20, 2012

In Which We Discuss All Things Downton

I finished watching the 2nd season of Downton long ago so some things are not fresh in my mind although I've kept up by reading the recaps and blog posts about it as PBS aired it. (P.S. One reason why I do not like waiting for PBS to air British shows is they always edit them. Region Free is the only way to live if you actually want to watch what the Brits watch.) What say those of you who just finished - better or worse than the first season? I've made a list of my favorite characters (after both seasons), the characters I'm neutral on (could take them or leave them) and the characters for whom I wish the Spanish Flu might make another try (in other words: I can't stand 'em)

  • Violet, the Dowager Countess. Maggie Smith is amazing and, generally speaking, the best thing about whatever it is she happens to be acting in (the Harry Potter movies, for example. Absolute rubbish except for Maggie Smith and Alan Rickman).
  • Lord Grantham. Yes, I was yelling at the screen during all that business with Jane. And yes, I think he had a bit of a hissy fit / midlife crisis this season. I still like him.
  • Lady Mary. This is partially because Michelle Dockery is just such a good actress. She really sells this role. I can't help liking her, even when she's not likeable.
  • Matthew. Sometimes he's annoying but I still want him to be OK and have a happy life. (Preferably with Lady Mary)
  • Carson - Mary's confidant and Downton wouldn't be the same without him
  • Mrs. Hughes - she just seems so sensible and helpful
  • Mr. Bates - should be called Mr. Honorable
  • Anna - although, yes, I could have done without the pillow talk. (My eyes!)
Characters to whom I have no strong feelings, whether good or bad:
  • Cora - I find her voice annoying sometimes but I don't really mind her
  • Isobel Crawley - too bossy by half and annoying at times but a nice foil for the Dowager
  • Edith - if you would have asked me at the end of Season 1, I would have said I didn't like her. I see possibilities with this character now but I wish the writers would make up their minds what they're doing with her. (And no more kissing married farmers, please.)
  • Sybil - at the end of Season 1 she was one of my favorites. Now I could go either way.
  • O'Brien - I ought to hate her but I find her entertaining. She can stay.
  • Mrs. Patmore - eh. Sometimes funny but otherwise a non-factor
  • Dr. Clarkson - he's nice enough but his actual doctoring skills leave a bit to be desired
  • Mosely - always the bridesmaid, never the bride (or something like that)
  • Lavinia - has there ever been such a non-entity love interest before? Plus, her (SPOILER) death bed scene was a triumph of passive-aggressive last words.
  • William - gone too soon, earnest and likeable but boring
And now, for the list of characters that I hope go the way of Lavinia & William:
  • Branson - It doesn't help that Michelle Dockery (Mary) does more acting in one scene with her right eyebrow than this guy ever does. He's not even - in my opinion - good looking. As I told my husband, "If you're going to run away with the chauffeur, he should at least be extremely good looking." I have no idea what we're supposed to think here because the actors who play Sybil and Branson have zero chemistry together and I find their story petulant and annoying.
  • Thomas - He's evil and it's not fun any more. I seriously have no sympathy whatsoever for this character.
  • Daisy - The whiniest over-grown child in the kitchen
  • Ethel - your problems are Mrs. Hughes' responsibility how exactly? Go away and stay away.
  • Carlisle - sinister and just in the way
  • Vera Bates - yes, I know, she's already dead. But I can tell you this - if they hang Bates over her death, I'll want to dig up her body and murder her myself. All this creature lacked was a mustache to twirl.
Did you know that many historic mansions (like Downton) were demolished to make way for modern life?
This blog has a neat series: Dressing Downton. One of the best things about DA is the clothes, I think.
A roundup of links about the second season.
Perhaps you need some Downton Abbey trading cards?

And now, for the fan videos that I love the best (listed by song title):
With or Without You
With or Without You (longer)
I See The Light
The Scientist
Come Home
Fix You
Um, yes, I am a fan of the Matthew & Mary pairing. I admit it. (Hopeless romantic, here.)

So, what did you think about Season 2? Hoping for anything special in Season 3? (I am - I'm hoping Shirley MacLaine doesn't ruin it. She is not one of my favorite actresses.)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Weekend Links - February 18, 2012

1. What I'd Tell My Daughter if She Wanted to Be a Blogger. Plenty of good advice there.

2. Mandi shares 9 Lessons Learned in 9 Years of Marriage. Having been married for almost 13 years myself (!) I can tell you that I wholeheartedly concur with her findings. I especially love her 3rd point: Date Nights are Overrated. Amen. We have four children. The chances for us to get away "just the two of us" are rare. The chances for us to spend time connecting at home if we're purposeful about it are great.

3. Prepare to fall down the rabbit hole: Wishbook Web. Philip and I spent at least an hour looking through the 1988 Sears Christmas catalog and pointing out what we wanted (and what we got). This site has catalogs from 1933 - 1988 so there's sure to be something you remember wanting for Christmas.

4. This is kind of silly but they caught my eye anyway: Renaissance Paintings of Modern Celebrities.

5. Soviet Space Propaganda Posters. Beautiful artwork, but then we'd expect nothing less from the propaganda masters of the 20th century, right?

6. This tool might be useful: What Size Am I? The site has both UK and US measurements and stores.

7. Another great post from Mandi (she was on a roll last week!): Why I Tell My Girls They're Beautiful.

8. Here's a nice infographic on Leap Year. One time Philip and I were in charge of games for a Valentine's Banquet at church and in our trivia game we asked if the year 1900 was a leap year. The answer was "no" (because 1900 is divisible by 4 & 100 but not by 400). There was an argument like you wouldn't believe about this! So, rescue yourself from potential arguments and familiarize yourself with this graphic.

9. For fun: Top 100 Things I'd Do If I Ever Became an Evil Overlord. Good advice for movie villains here. (Such as: "My ventilation ducts will be too small to crawl through.")

10. Man refusing to perform Nazi Salute. What's that line from Kipling? If you can keep your head when all around you are losing theirs...?

Pins of the week:
I know my girls would love these Jello treats:

and I'm sure they'd love to make their dolls some dresses out of sweater sleeves:

So, what caught your eye this week?
This post is linked to Saturday Stumbles at Simply Staci.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Booking Through Thursday

The question of the week on the weekly meme Booking Through Thursday is:
Have you every written any fan-fiction? If yes, why and for which book(s)? If no, would you like to and for which books(s)?
For that matter, do you ever READ fan-fiction?

And now I shall embarrass and shock you all by admitting that I was writing fan fiction before I knew it had a proper name. As a young teenager (and continuing on from then), if I liked a book or a movie I'd scribble a story about it or continuing it in my ever present spiral bound notebooks. (Nothing says "classy" like a $0.10 notebook, am I right?) I still *cough* have some of those stories. I like to think it was good practice.

Then as an adult, after the Star Wars movie prequels came out, I actually wrote and posted 3 different pieces of Star Wars fan fiction on the primary fan fiction website.

And because I know you are wondering, yes, they were well received and yes, I was proud of them. And no, I will not be telling you my fan fiction pen-name. (Although I just checked the other day and they're still up.)

I didn't actually post anything based on a book. I've read some REALLY good L.M. Montgomery fan fiction. Some of those writers could have done an excellent job if the estate ever wanted some more Anne, Emily or their kin type stories. I doubt that will happen but those writers could have done it.

My candid opinion is that most fan-fiction is bad. Some of it is teenagers writing themselves into Twilight so they can push that hussy Bella out of Edward's arms. Some of it is obscene and to be avoided at all costs.

But some of it is fun. And some of it is better than a paperback you might randomly pick up at the library.

What about you? Ever read or write any fan fiction? And did you share your work with anyone else?
This post is linked to Booking Through Thursday.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Weekend Links - February 11, 2012

1. As a fellow challenged of stature (by which, of course, I mean height not reputation, ahem) female, I appreciate these ideas from Alterations Needed for Faking Fit.

2. This year is the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Retronaut has some pictures of some of the survivors.

3. These Jungle Adventurers are Solving Some WW2 mysteries.

4. Love Sarah's Parenting post on Loud Actions, Small Words. Here's one of my favorite paragraphs:
I think one of the gifts of mothering pre-teens and teens can be the chance for US to reevaluate our moral compass...on every issue, big and small. When I became a mom of a teenager I started seeing things through the eyes of a teenager. Did I want to settle, did I want to go with the flow and what it seems everyone else is doing, am I willing to deal with feeling different, and am I willing to set the bar at the highest level and then walk the walk not just talk the talk? That certainly was what I was telling and hoping my teenager would do-was I willing to do it myself?
 I love that. If we want to raise children who do hard things, who challenge their culture, who are not willing to settle for less...then we have to be those kinds of people. What a fantastic challenge!

5. Philip and I have been doing a family budget for a long time. As in, since the first month we were married. That was an easy meeting: we have no money coming in, we can maybe spend "this" much of our savings, and Oh, Lord, please help us find jobs. (P.S. He did.) Our budget is rarely the same from one month to the next and these days we are even more reliant on some irregular income sources. So I appreciated the Simple Mom post On Dams and Water Towers (Budgeting on Irregular Income).

6. I am a comparer - extraordinaire so I needed Amy's post on Counterproductive Comparison.

7. What do you think about the news that Young People are Watching but Less Often on TV? I think if you count kids (teenagers) with their smartphones, people of all ages spend far more time staring at a screen than they used to. (And, just in case you couldn't discern my disapproving tone across your computer screen, I do not think this is a good thing.)

8. These old Autochrome pictures by Alfred Stieglitz are fascinating.

I didn't do a lot of pinning this week. To be honest, Pinterest is getting to be a bit much for me. All of a sudden a lot of my "real life" friends are on it and I feel like I'm honor bound to follow everyone and some of them (new to Pinterest) are Pinning Nuts. For instance: I have twelve pin boards. I've been on Pinterest since about 40 weeks ago. Some of my new pinning buddies had 12 boards up within a day.

Anyway, whine over (for now). I did pin this awesome alternative to baby doors:

Our church nursery has a dutch door so something like this might have occurred to me eventually but this looks so pretty I really do want to do this in the future (with our future new house and a future new baby, you understand. Miss Lili already knows how to open doors).

Stumble on to anything interesting this week? Do share! (And if you have any advice for not getting overwhelmed on Pinterest, I am definitely interested.)
This post is linked to Saturday Stumbles at Simply Staci. Some see what others have stumbled on this week.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Words for Wednesday - On Boredom

A generation that cannot endure boredom will be a generation of little men...unduly divorced from the slow processes of nature, in whom every vital impulse withers. - Bertrand Russell

I'm friends with a lot of younger folks on Facebook (children and teens from our church's youth ministry) and if I had a dollar for every time one of them posts in their status update:
So Bored.

Or something along that line (and not forgetting all the misspelled versions: "board", "bourd", etc. which is another cranky post for another day), then I could comfortably retire. For a little while I wanted to say something like "Read a book!" but I gave up on that. I have better things to do with my time.

Don't be a little man (or woman)!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Books of 2012 - January

When you see this list you are going to think that all I did in January was read. And you would be...not far off. See January (whether cold / snowy / icy or just dreary / mild / breezy) is a blah month after the excitement of December.

Plus, we all had our usual Winter Cold season start in January. None of us have been sick enough to go to the doctor but we also haven't been able to get all six of us to 100% health either. So: we read. A lot.

1.The Princess of Denmark. Fiction by Edward Marston. Series mystery. These mysteries are set during Elizabethan England and concern an acting troupe much like Shakespeare's own. This was not the best in the series but I've read them all and always enjoy checking in with the memorable characters.

2. The Color of Death. Fiction by Bruce Alexander. Another series mystery. This is the Sir John Fielding series. Sir John Fielding was a magistrate and helped to found one of the first professional police forces, The Bow Street Runners. This series of books is a fictionalized look at some of his exploits and the narrator is his (fictional) adolescent "right hand man". They are well constructed stories, although the mysteries vary in quality.

3. Connected: Christian Parenting in an Age of IM and MySpace. Non-fiction by Peggy Kendall. The problem with writing a book like this is that the technology you're talking about it out of date before the ink is dry on the page. These are issues that parents must confront today: what is the prevailing technology and how might it affect my children? There are some good suggestions here, I suppose, but the "just say no" parenting technique that I prefer was sadly neglected. (Her opinion being that teenagers are going to be messaging or making MySpace profiles no matter what.)

4. The Woman in White. Fiction by Wilkie Collins. Collins was a contemporary of Charles Dickens and this is sometimes considered one of the first mystery novels (and certainly one of the finest examples of early "sensation" novels). This is as dense as Dickens but I confess I had trouble putting it down, I just had to find out what happened next. I'll admit I was a little disappointed at the ending (my favorite character seems somewhat neglected). This is one of those books that's been on my shelf for a long time and I'm glad I finally sat down to read it. This one gets to stay on my shelf in view of future re-reading.

5. Embers. Fiction by Sandor Marai. Translated from the Hungarian. Atmospheric and rich but ultimately unfulfilled promise. This is one bitter old man reliving his life in one evening. There are no answers and, ultimately, the reader does not really care what happens to any of the characters because they are all cold and remote. This is one that I'd had on my shelf for a long time (see also #4, above) and it has lost its spot. I will not be re-reading this one.

6. Overture to Death. Fiction by Ngaio Marsh. As a pianist, I've got to say that I love how the piano was the murder weapon in this series mystery. Cold chills! Well drawn characters and fascinating detection.

7. Death of a Peer. Fiction by Ngaio Marsh. Series mystery but I didn't enjoy this one as much as #6 above. I think the readers are supposed to be charmed by the perpetually "hard-up" Lamprey family but I was not charmed. I wanted to slap some sense into any of the supposed adults in this family. Micawber-ism is not a sound financial plan for a large family. ("Something will turn up.")

8. Gaudy Night. Fiction by Dorothy Sayers. Series mystery. This is part of the Peter Wimsey series but it is primarily about Harriet Vane. The descriptions of life at Oxford are fascinating.

9. Entreleadership. Non-fiction by Dave Ramsey. How Dave does business. Practical advice meant for folks running their own businesses (whether large or small).

10. Smuggler's Moon. Fiction by Bruce Alexander. Another entry in the Sir John Fielding series of mysteries. The "mystery" in this one is not all that mysterious but it was still fun to read.

11. Bright Young People: The Lost Generation of London's Jazz Age. Non-fiction by D.J. Taylor. Absolutely fascinating and inspired a lot of related reading.

12. And Only to Deceive. Fiction by Tasha Alexander. First in a series and I'm reserving judgment until I've read at least one more. I tolerated but didn't love the heroine, I didn't exactly enjoy the construct, and it was not as suspenseful as I wanted it to be. But the second book is already on my nightstand so there must have been something there to catch my attention.

13. As the Pig Turns. Fiction by M.C. Beaton. Series mystery. I certainly have a weakness for these British cozy mysteries. Agatha Raisin is a delight - to read about, that is. I doubt I'd like her if she were real.

14. Mrs. Tim of the Regiment. Fiction by D.E. Stevenson. Mrs. Tim is a delight, if often naive. Vintage British Fiction is one of my favorite genres and this is a nice example.

15. The Confession. Fiction by Charles Todd.The latest in the Ian Rutledge mystery series. I think this was one of the best in the series: no Meredith Channing (can't stand her) and, I think, less Hamish (ditto). The "voice in Rutledge's head" construct got old a while back but it didn't bother me as much in this book so I think it must have been less than usual. I will say, not to toot my own horn, that I figured out the bad guy rather early on in this one. Maybe that's why I liked it so well? (I actually told Philip, "In these British mysteries it's always the..." but I'll leave that part blank for you so you can figure it out for yourself if you read it.)

16. The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family. Non-fiction by Mary Lovell. This is one that was suggested by #11 above. These are six sisters (they also had one brother) born between 1904 and 1920. These are some of the most fascinating people I've ever read about. This book is a hefty 529 pages and I couldn't put it down. How and why these women were so brilliant, funny, obsessive, horribly misguided, willful, spoiled, neglected, brittle, devoted, flamboyantly public, intensely private, eccentric, relatively "normal" and so on (you could use almost any opposite adjectives you choose) is a huge subject but the author does a skillful job of presenting the evidence and making them live on (side note: the youngest sister, The Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, is still living), without favoring one POV over another (several of the sisters wrote memoirs or novels about their family). This one inspired yet more reading (of which more in my February round-up).

17.The Wyndham Case. Fiction by Jill Paton Walsh. First in the Imogen Quy mystery series. I particularly wanted to read this series because the author has continued the Peter Wimsey series where Dorothy Sayers left off and I wanted to see how she wrote when the characters were her own invention. I liked this very much and will be reading more in the series.

18. Busman's Honeymoon. Fiction by Dorothy Sayers. No surprise here, I finished out the month with yet another series mystery (The Peter Wimsey / Harriet Vane series, in this case). One of my favorite parts of this book is that Bunter (Lord Peter's longsuffering servant) has plenty to do, unlike in some of the Wimsey books immediately preceding this one. I obviously read a lot of mysteries this month and that may be why I was not really impressed with the method or motive in this mystery.

There you have it: 18
Fiction: 14 (of which no less than 10 were series mysteries)
Non-fiction: 4

Book images in this post are Amazon Affiliate links. Action taken with these links could result in compensation for me. Opinions are my own.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sunday Thoughts

Sloth is the sin that believes nothing, cares to know nothing, seeks to know nothing, loves nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing...and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die. – Dorothy Sayers
Hebrews 6:9-15
But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.
For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:
That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself,
Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.
And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Weekend Links - February 4, 2012

February already?! {insert cliche about the passage of time here} On to the links!

1. Should pajamas be banned in public? I have my own opinions about wearing p.j's in public (I tend to be against it, unless we're talking about babies or small children) but I'm not sure a ban is the best idea.

2. Two related posts: Where Have All the Men Gone? and Cindy of Ordo Amoris' thoughts on Where Have All the Men Gone? The comments on Cindy's post are varied and insightful as well. One big disclaimer: I do not agree with all the points in the original article. For one thing (and this is big to me), I do not think the problem has been "too much teaching". Far, far from it.

3. Being the Anglophile I am, I naturally have a fascination with the British Royal Family. One of my favorites is Queen Elizabeth II and here's a great article: Changing Tyres, Knitting Socks and the Making of a Very Modest Monarch. (Side note: you may want to avoid looking at the sidebar in that story. I have no idea what's in them today but sometimes they are...less than appropriate.)

4. It pretty much goes without saying but I'd love to visit all of these: 20 Most Beautiful Bookstores in the World.

5. Henry Miller's 11 Commandments of Writing. Some great advice there.

6. Lost Island in New York. I've seen these pictures before but they are just so haunting and amazing.

7. Photos of Locations described in Charles Dickens' books. I can tell you from personal experience that it's not hard to imagine Dickens or his characters in some parts of London.

8. I am not as big a fan of Season 2 of Downton Abbey (which, yes, I'm completely spoiled because I saw the British second season long before it ever started showing here on PBS) but I still love the characters. Here's a fun compilation: Downton Stars On and Off Screen. Mr. Bates holding a baby! Mr. Carson riding a bike!

9. My husband wrote a post about Time Management this week. He's honest and he gives great advice.

10. I really like this idea from Mary at Owlhaven: Preparing Teens for Life. I'm storing this idea away for a few years.

11. Great, inspiring story about a boy with disabilities (FASD) and his Wonder Dog.

12. I'm wondering how Heidi's son got one of my daughters to write this note she shares in her post: Real. Some homeschool days are just not the visions of educational bliss we homeschool moms dream about. That's OK. We'll survive. Our kids will survive. (P.S. I think "You Can't Enslave Me" with the accompanying 23 exclamation points should be the new "Don't taze me, bro.")

13. And now for something completely different: Hat Etiquette for Women. I love Solanah's style! (and her dresses and her hats and her hat pins and...)

Pins of the Week:
I love, love, love this kitchen. Someday I will have a kitchen like this.

These crepe paper roses are so gorgeous. I can just imagine hanging several of these in the girls' bedroom:

Finally, Valentine's is coming. You know you need to drink some Red or Pink Hot Chocolate:

So, what did you stumble on this week? I'm linking this post to Saturday Stumbles at Simply Staci.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Quick Takes Friday - My 4th

7 quick takes sm1 Your 7 Quick Takes Toolkit!
1. Apparently turning 30 (which happened last May) means I'm old now. My girls have told me so and they're generally reliable. I now have further proof: I seem to have gone from 29 to 76 because I have a recurring pain in my right hip. Well, it's actually something like this:

Mine starts in my hip but I'm never sure where it will end up. It's not really that bad and I haven't Googled it lest I find out that it's actually a brain tumor. (Because that's always what it comes down to on WebMD: you've merely wrenched something or...DOOM!)

2. These unexpectedly mild days of Winter have allowed the girls (and the Fenster) to play outside the past few days. This is a good thing. Not such a great thing: all the sand from the sand box being tracked inside. A mom shouldn't have to deal with sand in January / February. 

3. Favorite c.d these days:

This is on near constant play around here. Definitely one of her best albums in years and guaranteed to stick in the brain.

4. One thing about me that most people know: I hate change. And guess what changed this week? Dave Ramsey moved from a small radio station to the largest radio station in our city. I'm sure this is great for him, but it stinks for me. Because where he used to be on in the afternoon (that's when he actually broadcasts his show), now he's on at night. And I ask you, who listens to the radio at night? Not I. I wish people would consult me before making these kinds of changes. (She says with tongue in cheek although, yes, it would be nice if my feelings were considered before any and all changes.)

5. Miss Lili wore shoes to church Wednesday night. This is newsworthy as the girl usually won't leave shoes on her feet. When we arrived she just stood in the church entrance and stared at her feet until her Gram and one of our friends actually commented on her shoes. Then she stopped looking at her feet and ran off to play. This struck me as a very Sweet Pea thing to do. Sweet Pea always wants people to notice her new hair-bows or shoes or dresses.

6. Speaking of Lili did you see the scrapbook page I made? That's one of my all time favorite Lili pictures and I'm pretty happy with how the page turned out.

7. Anyone planning to watch that little football game Sunday night? I usually couldn't care less about football and, honestly, this year is no exception. But should Philip and I turn it on when we get home from church I will be cheering for the Giants because what I do know about football is I can't stand the Patriots or Tom Brady. I'm sure you were all wondering about that. Do you have Super Bowl plans?

This post is linked to Quick Takes Friday which is hosted at Betty Beguiles this week.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Groundhog Day

It's Groundhog Day. Again.

And if you've never read Jonah Goldberg's excellent essay on the movie, you can find it here.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Words for Wednesday - On Grammar

Grammar is to a writer what anatomy is to a sculptor, or the scales to a musician. You may loathe it, it may bore you, but nothing will replace it, and once mastered it will support you like a rock. - B.J. Chute
Which may mean some of you feel like this author:
Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life. 
- Lawrence Kasdan