Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Creative Life

 "Mrs Willet can tackle a hundred jobs, without having been specifically taught any of them.  She can salt pork or beef, make jams, jellies, wines, chutneys and pickles; she can bake pies--with all manner of pastries--cakes, tarts and her own bread, which is particularly delicious.  She makes rugs, curtains, and her own clothes.  She can help a neighbour in childbirth and--at the other end of life's span--compose a corpse's limbs for decent burial.  She is as good a gardener as her husband, can distemper a room, mend a fuse, and sings in the choir.

She is, in fact, typical of most countrywomen, and with them she shares that self-reliance which is the heritage of those who have had to face tackling daily jobs of varied kinds.

Mrs Willet is small and pale and yet she is 'always on the go,' as she herself will tell you.  The fact that she can do so many things, and takes enormous pride in doing them well, is, I think the secret of this apparently inexhaustible energy.  There are so many different activities to engage her, that when she tires of one, there is another to which she can turn and get refreshment.  From turning her heavy old mangle in the wash-house, she will come in and sit down to stitch a new skirt.  She will prepare a stew, and while it simmers on the hob, filling the little house with its fragrance, she will practise her part in Mr Annett's new anthem, ready for the next church festival.  And--this perhaps is the most important thing--she sees a satisfying result from her labours.  The clothes blow on the line, the skirt is folded and put away in the drawer ready for next Sunday; Mr Willet will come in 'sharp-set' and praise her bubbling stew; and, with any luck, Mr Annett will congratulate her on her grasp of that difficult passage just before the basses come in.

It is a creative life.  There is something worth while to show for energy expended which engenders the desire to accomplish more.  Small wonder that the Mrs Willets of this world are happy, and deserve to be so."

Village Diary by Miss Read

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Twelfth Day of Christmas . . .

Image result for epiphany images. . . was actually yesterday, and I missed it.  But I did pretty well with my pledge to post everyday during the Christmas season, don't you think?

Let's wrap up the list of what I read in 2017, shall we? 

The Birds' Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin--A sweet though sentimental children's story about a an invalid named Carol who was born on Christmas Day.  Caution for the tenderhearted: it has a sad ending.

The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne--More adventures of Winnie the Pooh and friends.  I love the gentle wit of these stories!  They come as close to perfection in the world of children't literature as anything I know.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott--I had forgotten how moralistic this novel is.  There is lots of do-gooding and self-improvement in order to attain heaven, but there is still much to like here.  Beth seems too good to be real and a bit card-boardy, but the other three sisters are realistically drawn and quite likeable.  An enjoyable read that took me back to my childhood.

North and Sound by Elizabeth Gaskell--Long and meandering and twice as long as it needed to be.  I found I didn't like Margaret much and had little patience with her mother.  I hadn't read this before, but I had watched the BBC adaptation, which is quite true to the book (and which I liked better).

Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell--I enjoyed this a lot more than North and South.  Well written and constructed.  The BBC adaptation is also true to the book.

Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace--I missed all the Betsy-Tacy stories during my childhood and my daughters' childhoods.  I had not heard of them when I was a girl, and the library didn't have them when I was raising my daughters, and though I wanted to read them aloud, I never was able too.  It's perfect for girls who have just taken off in reading and want chapter books about other girls. 

The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot by Russell Kirk--This is what I wish people thought of when they used the term "conservative."  So much of what passes for conservatism today really isn't.  This was hard and took a long time, but it was helpful to trace the lines of conservative thought from its early days. 

Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher--Another fun girl book with a good message about not underestimating the abilities of children.  It's not preachy, though.  Fisher brought the Montessori method of education to America, and this book is said to incorporate some of Montessori's methods.  I don't know much about this particular philosophy of education, but a lot of what was portrayed in the book made good common sense to me.  Kids won't notice the message, though.  They'll just enjoy the story.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows--Another re-read and what's left to say about this book?  Always fun, though this last installment of the series has some serious themes and losses (as do some of the others, come to think of it).  It's good to see the threads of the series come together and the loose end tied up. I will always be a Harry Potter fan.

So there you have it!  My 2017 reading line-up.  I hope you all had a blessed Christmas season and have an equally blessed Epiphany!








Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Eleventh Day of Christmas

Elizabeth Shippen Green

More from my 2017 reading list~~

Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery--Two more childhood favorites and always so much fun!  When I was growing up, we had a set of the first three in the series and I thought that's all there were.  I devoured them over and over again until they fell apart.  Imagine my joy when I discovered as a young bride that there were five more!  This series taught me so much about beauty, especially finding it in the ordinary, and I will be forever grateful.  I will probably re-read one or two more this year.

The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming of Age Crisis and How to Re-build a Culture of Self-reliance by Ben Sasse--Dave and I listened to this book on a trip last spring.  Overall I liked the book a lot and thought Sasse, who is a US senator from Nebraska, diagnosed the much talked-about problems with millennials pretty well.  He also offered a lot of solutions, many which I liked and others which I thought were pretty unrealistic, at least for many families.  It was great food for conservation on our road trip. 

All Creatures Great and Small and All Things Wise and Wonderful by James Herriot--Also re-reads and so very enjoyable.  I listened to these, narrated by Christopher Timothy, who played James Herriot in the equally enjoyable TV series.  Such a wonderful glimpse into another time, place, and way of life.

Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin--I picked this up for a dollar at a library sale, thinking anything with that title was bound to something I'd like.  Weeellll, it was just okay.  The author goes through month by month telling her readers how she made changes to her home life that she thought would increase her happiness.  It was so specific, though, that I didn't find it had much applicability to my life.  I confess I got bored and skimmed the last half.

Civilization: The West and the Rest by Niall Ferguson--I read this near the beginning of the year and I don't remember much about it.  Take that for what you will . . .

Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy--This is early Hardy and his plot and characters are not as well developed as his later novels.  I adore Hardy, despite his depressing endings.  He understands human nature and writes astonishingly beautiful prose, but don't start with this one.  Start with Far from the Madding Crowd, which actually has a semi-happy ending.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Ninth and Tenth Days of Christmas

Image result for reading pic


I blew it.  I didn't get a post up yesterday.  So today I will just pick up where I left off and tell some more about my 2017 reading.

Murder on the Orient Express, Murder at the Vicarage, and A Murder Is Announced by Agatha Christie--I wanted to read Orient Express ahead of the movie release.  I had never read it!  But I never did get to the movie, though there is always Netflix or Amazon.  The book was so enjoyable that I decided to enjoy a couple more Christie mysteries, this time with Miss Marple.  Poirot gets on my nerves after awhile, but Miss Marple never grows tiresome.  I enjoy classic mysteries and Christie's Judeo-Christian morality and inventive plots never fail to please.

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson--This had been recommended so many times that I finally took the plunge and read it.  It left me scratching my head, though.  It is beautifully and poetically written with the prose flowing as smoothly hot fudge over vanilla ice cream, but I just didn't get it.  Enlighten me if you can!

Republican Like Me: How I Left the Liberal Bubble and Learned to Love the Right by Ken Stern--The author really missed the boat.  I had high hopes for this book, but it was a disappointment.  Stern interacted with Republicans as if he were observing exotic animals in the zoo and never truly entered their lives or mindsets.  I think he thinks he did, but he didn't.  Now Stern can pat himself on the back for coming out of his ivory tower and mingling with the lower orders, but I doubt it did him much real good.  I will give him credit for trying, which is more than a lot of progressives have done.

Little House in the Big Woods and Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder--Ever since I was a little girl reading these stories I loved have them.  In fact, because of these books I love pioneer stories in general.  Then my husband and I read the series several times to both our girls, and now we have embarked on the series again with our granddaughters.  When they spend the night with us we read several chapters before bed and they love it.  These are classic children's stories about westward expansion and settling the American West.  I am sure they have fallen out of favor due to their portrayal of settler/Indian relations, traditional family structures, and Christian values, but that's a shame.  There a few things that make me uncomfortable too, but they give an opportunity to have good conversations.  The benefits of the books far outweigh the few problems.

Paradise Lost by John Milton--I had never read this and knew I needed to, and I'm glad I did.  I confess, though, that I struggle with poetry, especially long poems.  I am too impatient for it and I see this as a flaw in my character.  I did gain some theological insight, however, and found parts of it profound.

The Story of the Treasure Seekers by E. Nesbit--A family in crisis is saved through the intelligence and creativity of the children, just like in Nesbit's best known work, The Railway Children. I love that about these two books.  Nesbit must have had a sincere respect for children and their abilities.  I appreciate the way the children work together and help each other out, yet they are real children with all the typical follies and foibles of childhood.  Enjoyable story, enjoyable read!

Monday, January 1, 2018

The Eighth Day of Christmas

More from my 2017 reading list~

Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture by Anthony Esolen--The best book I read this year!  Dr. Esolen's insights into diagnoses of what is ailing American culture are keen.  He cuts through politics right into the heart of what's happening in American right now.  This book is no Trump apologetic, either.  Dr. Esolen isn't concerned politics; his concern is what is happening to us as a country spiritually, emotionally, relationally, sociologically, and psychologically.  I had the great privilege to attend a conference last April in which Dr. Esolen was the plenary speaker.  (Dave and I even sat with him at lunch one day!  And he signed my books!)  I had already read Out of the Ashes so knew what to expect.  But I didn't expect him to recite long swathes of poetry by heart, often in the voice of a favorite actor.  Dr. Esolen is my favorite cultural analyst and this is his best book yet.

Life Under Compulsion: Ten Ways to Destroy the Humanity of Your Child by Anthony Esolen--The companion volume to Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, a brilliant treatment of childhood in contemporary America.   The former picks the thread of the latter.  Well worth reading and pondering!

The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation by Rod Dreher--A lot has been written and said about the Benedict Option, much of it wrong.  Before passing judgment, you must read what Dreher himself says about this idea of his.  Clue: it's not about withdrawing from the world.  Instead, it's about engaging the world from a close-knit Christian community.  A lot of Dreher has say makes sense, but I didn't find this book as insightful as Out of the Ashes, nor as inspiring.  For me, reading Dreher is like being bludgeoned about the head repeatedly while reading Esolen is more like listening to Henry V's St. Crispin's Day speech.  Still, Dreher has good things to say and I recommend his book.

Consider the Fork:  A History of How We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson--I really enjoy culinary and domestic history.  This was a fun, interesting book that deals with cooking and eating and all the attendant paraphernalia that accompanies them.  Wilson digs as far back as she can to take her readers from eating with fingers all the way up to food processors.  I bet you didn't know it was possible to wax at length about potato peelers and spatulas!

Bleak House by Charles Dickens--Re-read. Possibly my favorite Dickens novel.  (Contenders are A Christmas Carol and David Copperfield.)  Anthony Esolen (yes, him again :) ) calls Esther Dickens' finest heroine, and I agree. The 2005? series with Gillian Anderson is very well done and quite true to the book, but be sure to read the book if you haven't.  For an audio version, you can't top Simon Vance as a narrator, in my opinion.

When Dave and I were in London this summer, we visited the Dickens Museum, which is housed in the only house still remaining in which Dickens lived.  Here are a few highlights~

Dickens' writing desk.  He wrote some of his novels at
this desk, including Great Expectations.

The elegant dining room in the Dickens house

The reading desk Dickens had designed and built specifically for the dramatic public
readings he gave of his works.  He toured extensively, including in America.  He is said to
have been very good at portraying his characters.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Seventh Day of Christmas

Image result for christmas pic


Blessed seventh day of Christmas and the celebration of the circumcision of the Lord!  For the next few posts I will share my quick impressions of the books I read or listened to in 2017.  There are 37 in all. (A couple? few? of them were read twice.)  What follows is the first installment in no particular order~

A Theory of Festivity by Josef Pieper--Though a short book at less than 100 pages, this was the toughest book I read this year.  I am still digesting it and probably will be for a long time.  The take-away I got was that Pieper thoroughly disapproves of made-up holidays.  He was writing at the height of the Cold War and uses communist "festivals," such as May Day, as his example, but other more recent manifestations kept coming to my mind.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen--A revisit for me.  Austen's wit and insight never fail to please.  Traditionally, "pride" is Mr. Darcy and "prejudice" is Elizabeth, but I'm more convinced than ever that both characters share the two traits roughly equally.  For instance, Elizabeth's pride is injured when Darcy claims in his first proposal that Elizabeth's family  would be an embarrassment to him and her situation in life is so "decidedly beneath [his] own."  And as this comment of Darcy's and many more like it attest, Darcy is prejudiced against Elizabeth for the same reasons.  I'm sure I will be re-reading this book again and again.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens--Every year about this time I read or listen to this story.  I don't think it would be Christmas without it.  My favorite audio version right now is the one read by Jim Dale of Harry Potter fame.  He's always fun!

Lessons from Madame Chic, At Home with Madame Chic, and Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott--These are light, quick reads that I enjoyed very much, though Lessons is a little too "new age-y" for my tastes.  Still, Scott's suggestions for living a more elegant, thoughtful life are very helpful.  Too often, American life has devolved into a sloppy, slouchy affair, and Scott does her best to humorously and patiently lead us to a better way.  I don't do everything she says, and in fact, most of it I was doing anyway, but I enjoyed reading her books.

Join me tomorrow for more from my 2017 reading list!


Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Sixth Day of Christmas

I've caught the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad cold (flu?) that's been going around, what seems like, the entire country. It's definitely putting a damper on our twelve-day celebration.  Today was supposed to include a trip to see Darkest Hour, but alas, it will have to wait.  In the meantime, I'm sharing a photo that was recently taken of my hubby and me.



Our daughter has been involved in ministry to Latvian orphans for a couple years.  She has made numerous trips there (four this year!) and has hosted one particular boy in her home for many weeks over the past eighteen months or so. This all costs a great deal of money, so she and her family put on fundraisers from time to time.  This month the fundraiser featured pictures with Santa with a professional photographer, and guess who played Santa? :)  So I stopped by and had my picture snapped with him too!  I don't know when was the last time I had my picture taken with Santa, but this Santa is my favorite for sure!

If you want to know more about ministering to orphans overseas, particularly in eastern Europe, check out New Horizons for Children

A Creative Life

 "Mrs Willet can tackle a hundred jobs, without having been specifically taught  any of them.  She can salt pork or beef, make jams, je...

Popular Posts