Saturday, April 21, 2018

Around My House


How Christianity Changed the World by Alvin J. Schmidt   A good counterargument for the "religion ruins everything" crowd, at least as far as Christianity is concerned.  Schmidt goes back to the very beginnings of the Christian faith to show how much good it has done in the world, while he doesn't deny the errors committed by those who acted in the name of Christ but who nevertheless went against Christian teaching.  Schmidt explains how the establishment of the first hospitals and orphanages, the abolition of slavery, the elevation of the status of women, and advances in science, to name just a few topics, are the direct result of faith in the Bible.


The Scent of Water  by Elizabeth Goudge   I loved this book from the first page!  I'm reading it s-l-o-w-l-y and savoring every sentence.  I've wanted to read Goudge for a long time now, but she is hard to find in used bookstores!  I was given an Amazon gift card for Christmas and after much pondering, decided to use some of it to get three Goudge books:  The Dean's Watch, Gentian Hill, and this one.  One of the things I most love about it is the attention paid to the houses and housekeeping.  I think I developed a taste for glimpses of domestic life while reading the Anne series by L.M. Montgomery and I still enjoy descriptions of houses and how people live in them.  I also very much like Mary, the heroine of The Scent of Water.  My Amazon gift card was well spent!


Image result for series of unfortunate events imagesA Series of Unfortunate Events   This highly enjoyable series is available on Netflix.  The casting is excellent, especially Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf.  I remember him from his Doogie Howser days and knew he had been successful on Broadway, but I hadn't seen him in anything for a very long time.  Count Olaf's various incarnations give Harris the opportunity to showcase his versatility, and it is immense.  This show has me laughing out loud at times.  Highly enjoyable, even for adults!

Image result for great interior design challengeThe Great Interior Design Challenge    Also available on Netflix, this is the decorator's version of The Great British Baking Show.  Amateur designers compete to become the next big thing in the world of interior design.  It's fast-paced and fun and keeps my half hour on the treadmill from descending into drudgery.


Easter is the most important feast of the entire liturgical year and is always a joyous celebration.  Some highlights:

This actually took place on Saturday.  Elizabeth and Justin were hosting a gathering of 25 people on Sunday at their house, but I wanted to have a smaller celebration with just immediate family as well, so we kicked off the festivities a little early at our house.  It was a great time!

Thursday, March 8, 2018


My mother-in-law, who lives nearby in an assisted-living facility (by her own choice), put in a request for gingersnaps recently.  Though I could have bought some, I wanted to make them because I think it's a shame if a person never gets homemade goodies.  I'd never made them before, so I turned to my trusty BHG cookbooks.  I amd currently in possession of three of these cookbooks: a recent one published about five years ago, the 1987 edition which was a wedding gift, and a vintage 1953 edition.  The recent and vintage ones belonged to Dave's mother, but since she never cooks anymore, I'm putting them to good use.  I used the recipe from the vintage edition because, well, just look at this illustration!

How could I resist??  The cover~

And the cookies~

The recipe was easy to follow and resulted in delicious, crispy cookies.  However, I reduced the baking time from fifteen minutes to twelve, and I'm glad I did.  They would have been too brown otherwise.  Here's the recipe~

BHG Old-fashioned Gingersnaps

3/4 c. shortening
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. light molasses (I used dark because I already had some.)
1 beaten egg
2 c. sifted flour (Sift first, then measure.)
2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. cloves
1 t. ginger

     Cream shortening and sugar; add molasses and egg; beat well.  Sift dry ingredients; add to creamed mixture; mix well.
     Roll in small balls; dip into sugar; place 2 inches apart on greased cooky sheet.  Bake in moderate oven (375 degrees) for 15 minutes (I reduced this 12).  Makes four dozen cookies.

I didn't dip mine into sugar because my mother-in-law doesn't like things too sweet.  They are delicious nevertheless!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Recent Hospitality

In the past nine days we have hosted three separate dinners for nine or more people!  The first was our (meaning Wittenberg Door's) twice-monthly Friday night dinner for international students, along with American friends, which features various kinds of American food and English conversation practice.  This week was different, though - in honor of Chinese New Year, we enjoyed traditional Chinese food and activities, led by our Chinese friends.  A fun time was had by all!

We all pitched in to make Chinese dumplings.

There I am, trying my hand at Chinese calligraphy.

The following Sunday we celebrated Dave's birthday with a large family gathering.  His brother and wife moved to town last fall and it's so great to be able to have them join us for family celebrations!

It turns out we didn't take that many pictures, but here's one of Dave and Arane.  (The little ones are so excited about birthday parties, even when they are not their own!)

Arane supervised the gift opening.  She's an expert. :)

Yesterday, my soon-to-be-88-year-old mother and my sister drove an hour and a half to spend the afternoon and evening with us.  They hadn't been here in a long time, so it was wonderful to have them at our house.  Once again, I was too busy enjoying myself to take many pictures, but I really love this of my mother and the little ones watching deer down by the pond.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Around My House


The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks by Kathleen Flinn  I received this book for Christmas.  I added it to my Amazon wishlist after hearing an interview with the author on NPR.  It sounded interesting and it is!  Cooking, or the lack of it, is about so much more than just techniques and knowing your way around a stove.  Apparently, lots of people carry lots of baggage, good and bad, from their childhoods and current relationships when it comes to the simple act of preparing food.  Kathleen Flinn takes nine women from beginner cooks to . . . well, we'll see how far she gets.  I'm only about halfway through the book now.


The Little Book of Hygge:  Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking  Pleasingly narrated by the author, this book clocks in at a little over three hours.  I'm about halfway.  It's a good introduction to the concept of hygge, but you could probably get a enough of an idea just by doing a web search.  Wiking is a happiness researcher who clearly knows his stuff, but I'm not really learning anything new about hygge.  If you're a hygge novice, this book will be helpful.

Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset   The author won a Nobel Prize for this historical epic, which is why I wanted to become familiar with it.  The Penguin edition is 1168 pages and the audio edition I'm listening to is over 44 hours long!  I listen to audiobooks when I think I will get bogged down in a paper edition, which would definitely have been the case with Kristin.  By the end of the second part, though, I needed a break; hence The Little Book of Hygge mentioned above.  I like it--I don't love it--and I'll be glad that I got it through it, even in audio format.


Image result for howards end movie imagesHowards End  The movie based on E.M. Forster's novel is wonderful.  I had watched it several times many years ago, but since then I haven't been able to find a copy of it until Netflix began streaming it fairly recently.  Excitement!  The acting is excellent, the scenery beautiful, the story compelling. I will be revisiting this until Netflix no longer carries it.  And just so you know, the movie is very faithful to the book.

Related imageMary Berry's Country House Secrets   I stumbled across this series on Youtube a few days ago.  I'd never heard of Mary Berry until The Great British Baking Show, which I loved, and so was excited to find this.  There are four episodes, each of which features the always classy Mary taking us through a stately British country house.  We meet the occupants and learn some of the history of the house and area.  And oh, yes, there is a cooking component.  So much fun!


After the great pantry clear out of January, I tackled a big storage closet in our conservatory this month.  It holds board games, puzzles, and the few toys we saved for visiting children, some files, cello music, gifts for future giving, and odds and ends.  One of these days I will learn to take before photos, but here's an after anyway:

There's even room left over!

A Favorite Blog~

Charming the Birds from the Trees

Emily's blog, Charming the Birds from the Trees, is lovely!  She documents her life with her Orthodox priest husband and their three children.  There is some peaceful, lovely homekeeping, a little travel, a little knitting and sewing, some wonderful quotations, and always lovely photos.  I like her approach to living!


The winter pond is so beautiful!  A few days ago we had frost on top of ice, and it was sparkly in the sunshine!

(Just so you know, I don't make anything from Amazon or anywhere else for my opinions about movies, books, etc.  Links are provided for your convenience.)

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Deep Clean: Pantry

I've had time to do some extra cleaning this month, so last week Hannah and I gave her room a deep clean and I also did the pantry.  It had been quite awhile since I had tackled the pantry, and it really needed it.  I was pleased that there were only a couple expired items that needed to be thrown away.  I'm diligent about keeping things in rotation and it's paid off.  I really hate to throw food away.  I may as well just put money straight into the trash.  In addition, the more I've come to realize how hard it is for people in some parts of the world to obtain adequate food, the harder I try to reduce my family's food waste. 

I didn't think to take before pictures, but here's an after:

The walls really are bright yellow.  I may paint them someday, but honestly, I don't care that much.  I got the wire shelves at Aldi and they've been very handy.  I moved all the canning jars and supplies to the (gigantic) storeroom, which let me move some things that had been on the floor to the top shelf (including the big pots and carboy Dave uses for brewing).  The pantry makes me happy now!

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!

Around My House

ing~ Listening~ How Christianity Changed the World by Alvin J. Schmidt    A good counterargument for the "religion ruins everything&...

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