Wednesday, August 31, 2011

From My Commonplace Book


"First of all educate your son's soul, and he will acquire possessions later. If his soul is bad he will not receive the slightest benefit from money. And vice versa, if he has been given the proper upbringing, then poverty will not harm him in the least." ~ St. John Chrysostom

"The chief aim of the Christian order is to give room for all good things to run wild." ~ G.K. Chesterton

"Earlier in this century someone claimed that we work at our play and play at our work. Today the confusion has deepened: we worship our work, work at our play, and play at our worship." ~ Leland Ryken

"To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common ~ this is my symphony." ~ William Henry Channing

"The smell of the food had been exciting from the beginning. It was rich and good and full of promise. It made hunger merry. It made craving a joy. The rare memory of it would come into lean weeks for long after." ~ Neil Gunn, Morning Tide

Sunday, August 28, 2011

2011 Reading Challenge ~ Book #32


I very much enjoy reading books about housekeeping, so I expected very much to enjoy The Gentle Art of Domesticity: Stitching, Baking, Nature, Art & the Comforts of Home by Jane Brocket. However, I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. I tried to love it ~ I really did ~ but I just didn't, though it did grow on me somewhat as I read my way through it.

The positives of this book were the lay-out, colors, and chatty tone. It's at least half pictures, so it reads a lot faster than most 275-page books. I'm guessing that it's a compilation of posts from the author's blog, Yarnstorm (are blog titles italicized or put in quotation marks? That's something I definitely didn't learn in junior high grammar classes!). If it's not, it certainly was written to read that way. The result is that it's an easy book to browse around in and read in short snippets. I can see going to this book for a quick, rainy-day pick-me-up.

After about a hundred pages, however, the colors began to seem garish, at least to me, a lover of subtle, refined, and calm hues. But what grated on my nerves the most was the author's snootiness about everything from flower bulbs to yarn brands to chocolatiers. I couldn't imagine her stepping foot inside a Jo-Ann Fabrics store, perusing the pages of a Gurney's catalog, or ever eating a good ol' Hershey's Kiss. The book was full of designer this and designer that. She admits to her fussiness, but her admission did little to ameloriate the bad vibes such snobbery created between her book and me. Brocket seemed to have no financial limits. I'm glad for her, but most of us don't have seemingly unlimited resources and can't hop on a plane to go yarn shopping in upscale New York yarnshops. What this book did for me was to help me recognize how much I appreciate resourceful homemakers who can create beauty and comfort for their families with limited means. Almost anyone can do it with a blank check, but it takes real skill and creativity to do it within a limited budget. It's those homemakers I admire the most.

To be fair, the author considers herself a domestic artist; I consider myself a homemaker. Her emphasis is on her own artistic self-expression while mine is on creating and maintaining a comfortable space that serves my family. That doesn't mean that Brocket doesn't care about her family's space or that I don't care about beauty and creativity, but we each put the accent on a different syllable of the same word. She's certainly allowed to view homemaking differently than I do, but her book didn't speak to me like Phyllis McGinley's Sixpence in Her Shoe or Margaret Kim Peterson's Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life. I will return The Gentle Art of Domesticity to the library with little regret.

If you loved this book, please share your reasons in the comments. Maybe I'm missing something!


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} ~ August 25, 2011

{Pretty}

Girl of the House, who's really growing in her photography skills, took this picture. The flag shows Luther's Rose. We got it for Man of the House when he received a call to this pastorate, and it flies proudly from our patio.



{Happy}

Schoolbooks for the new year began arriving this week. That is always an event! Everything else is forgotten while we open the box and inspect the contents, anticipating the vast stores of knowledge and wisdom that will be absorbed in the coming months. It's almost as good as Christmas (which, by the way, is five month from today)!







{Funny}

I'm usually scraping the bottom of the barrel~and sometimes coming up empty~for a funny picture, but this week it was easy. We had ordered a couple chairs and they were delivered this week. Well, the truck pulled up in front of our house, but *we* were responsible for getting the chairs off the truck and into our house. He-Man of the House just hoisted them on his shoulder (one at a time) and off he went! Girl of the House took this picture, and when we looked at it, we laughed because it looks like a box with legs walking down the street!



{Real}

Girl Out of the House and That Boy celebrated their second anniversary recently. In fact, they were married the same day as Man of the House and I and as my parents. They are the third generation to marry on August 8! How's that for tradition?

Aren't they sweet? They "real"ly love each other!




Join the fun at Like Mother, Like Daughter!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

2011 Reading Challenge ~ Book #31


Girl of the House and I read King Lear by William Shakespeare as part of her school studies, though we both consider reading Shakespeare more fun than work. King Lear is one of Shakespeare's greatest masterpieces and that's really saying something! Shakespeare's deep understanding of human nature combined with his complete mastery of the English language means he deserves the title of the greatest writer in the English-speaking world. Shakespeare is the literary equivalent of Bach and Mozart. Of all composers, those two give to their music a profound sense of rightness, of every note being exactly the right one, placed exactly in the right place, held for exactly the right duration, and performed by the exactly right instrument or voice. Their music has a sense of perfection~of there being nothing upon which to improve~that no other composers, great though they undoubtedly are, possess. What Bach and Mozart are to music, Shakespeare is to writing. His word choices, rhythms, cadences, and flow are perfect.

As for King Lear specifically, I don't know what I can say that has not already been said by better minds than mine. So let me talk about the edition we used from the Oxford School Shakespeare series. I'm not very familiar with the various editions of Shakespeare out there, but we have used the Oxford series consistently and have found it very helpful. There is plenty of history and background information provided, along with discussion and essay questions, plot summaries, lists of characters, project ideas, and explanatory annotations within the text of the play itself. A homeschooling mother who is not very confident that she can tackle Shakespeare or a student who just wants to learn on his own will be aided by the many helps provided. Though a small point, Girl of the House and I enjoy the cover pictures because we often recognize the actors! Our Henry V and Hamlet feature Kenneth Branagh, for instance, and our Taming of the Shrew features Vanessa Redgrave and Timothy Dalton. You can get copies from this series on Amazon for 1 penny plus shipping. With the Oxford School Shakespeare series, there is no excuse for not reading Shakespeare!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} ~ August 18, 2011

Joining the fun at Like Mother, Like Daughter once again this week.

{Pretty}

Two days after LMLD's linky party about entryways Man of the House and I were at Lowe's (our home away from home lately!) and spotted this bench on clearance. Plus I had a coupon! We thought this was just what our new front porch needed. It does look nice, doesn't it? But now I think I need to move the cross! lol





{Happy}

Girl of the House makes me very happy. She's a hard worker and a delight to be around. She has adapted to our new town without a complaint and has really gotten into the swing of our new life here. She even asks to do schoolwork in the summer!



{Real}

We were warned that the fruit on the apple tree in our backyard was not very appetizing, but we had to see for ourselves. When they began to turn red, Man of the House and Girl of the House gave one a try. They gave it a definite thumbs down. That's too bad, but the tree sure is pretty to look at!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Update on That Dreadfully Ugly and Boring Corner of the Kitchen

Remember when I asked your advice about this little bit of kitchen dreariness? Here's what it looks like now:



Isn't it loads better? We painted the chalkboard right on the wall using chalkboard paint, but alas, when we pulled off the tape, some of the yellow paint came with it. I think we will use trim to create a frame and cover up those places. The blackboard paint was a breeze to use. We all started writing on it as soon as it was dry, just silly quotations and things. The shelf and china we already had, though I did paint the shelf black. We bought the "Keep Calm and Carry On" sign at Hobby Lobby for $14. What it is is a big sticker! It's sort of become our family motto. I got the clock at that big discount store that begins with a W that everyone loves to hate but is always full of customers. We set it an hour ahead of our time zone to correspond with the time of the internet school we teach for or take classes at, as the case may be. For ten years we lived in the same time zone as the school, but now we don't and we're all afraid we will get mixed up and go to class an hour late! Let's just hope we don't forget and end up everywhere else an hour early! lol

Look at the vintage cuteness of these tablecloths!





I got them at a yardsale for $2 each. They remind me of tablecloths my mom had when I was little.

The little basket is my one and only Longaberger basket (a gift from a friend). It holds chalk, an eraser, and our catechisms, which we review at dinner.



So what do you think? Much better, yes? We still need to replace two of the chairs. We actually already have two Windsor chairs; they just need to be painted. It's a good thing I like to paint considering how much of it I've done this summer! :-)

Up next on the room re-do list ~ the family room!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

2011 Reading Challenge~~Book #30


I first heard about Simon Winchester's The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary on NPR way back when it was first published in 1998. I was intrigued and made a mental note to read it. The problem was, I never remembered my mental note while at the library or bookstore! Then one day a few weeks ago, Girl of the House picked it off the local library shelf for me because she thought it was the type of book I would like. She was right! It's a curious story about a man whose mind in some aspects had lost all reason and ability to think clearly and in other aspects was as sharp and precise as a surgeon's scalpel. The unreasonable part kept him imprisoned in an asylum for the criminally insane; the sharp and precise part made him one of the two most important volunteer contributors to the Oxford English Dictionary that it had.

The making of the OED in and of itself would be fascinating enough in its own right, but add to it the story of Dr. William Chester Minor, American Army doctor who grew up the son of missionaries in Ceylon and served in the Union Army during the Civil War, and you have a thoroughly compelling and captivating book. The path that led Dr. Minor to madness and murder and then to Dr. James Murray, venerable editor of the OED, has been masterfully reconstructed by the author, who has done his research and then compiled it into a tale all the more engrossing because it actually happened. He portrays Dr. Minor sympathetically without excusing his crime. We feel for Dr. Minor and even admire the manner in which he adapted to life in the asylum and sought personal redemption but understand at the same time that he was a danger to himself and others and could not go free. The only flaw, and it occupies only a few pages, is Winchester's complete faith in the modern psychiatric community's insistence that mental illness is always the result of a chemical brain disorder. He poo-poos the idea of mental illness having any moral or spiritual component, though as I was reading the book I could easily trace the effects of specific instances of Dr. Minor's sin on his life and well-being. I know this isn't a popular stance today and I'm taking a risk in saying it, but we don't do ourselves any favors by pretending that our choices have no effect on our mental state. (I do, by the way, believe that the brain can malfunction just as any organ can; I'm just unwilling to say that there are no other contributing factors. Please don't leave nasty comments. You're free to disagree, but be nice about it. :-) I also don't intend to engage in a debate on the issue.) Oh, one more way the book could have been improved would have been to include photographs. They are sorely lacking, and though there are some drawings, it's hard to believe that photographs of important people and places weren't available.

Winchester's writing is excellent. His organization of the book is almost novel-like. At times I forgot I was reading non-fiction. The story never lags, even during the chapters devoted to the history of English dictionaries and the making of the OED. Perhaps that's because linguistics and etymology are interesting subjects to me, but I don't think that's the only reason. The Professor and the Madman is simply a well-written book.



An update on Oedipus the King ~ Man of the House has been very busy lately, so progress has been slow. I'll keep it up as a current read and write a review when we finish . . . whenever that will be. :-)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} ~ August 11, 2011

{Pretty}

This picture is from a couple weeks ago when a storm was brewing at twilight. I took it from the backyard. The light is so intriguing!



{Happy}

Everywhere you look here there are cornfields, beautiful cornfields. Several parishioners are farmers, and one of them brought us about twenty ears of corn last week. (An aside: in this parish and our previous dual parish, farming is an important part of life. Some parishioners make their living by farming and some just have large gardens, keep chickens, and the like. But in both places we were/are often given gifts of produce, eggs, sausage, etc. There is nothing like fresh-from-the-farm, and we are grateful for the generosity of these fine people in sharing with us!) So I took a stab at freezing it following my mother-in-law's methods. I would like to learn more about canning and freezing, but this little attempt made me happy. . . and it was so easy!



{Funny}

Man of the House and I gave Girl of the House this sign as a little "welcome to your new home" present. I spied it at Hobby Lobby and knew it was perfect for her. She is imaginative, creative, and often off in her own world. Lots of children have imaginary friends, but she's the only child I know who had an imaginary enemy. LOL Now she has characters from her stories populating her imagination. The sign is over her closet door.



{Real ~ This could have been happy too . . very happy!}

Man of the House and I celebrated our twenty-fourth anniversary this week. Every day with him is a blessing!



I'm linking to Like Mother, Like Daughter again this week. Join the fun!

Monday, August 8, 2011

A "Reasonably Clean" Welcome

Like Mother, Like Daughter is having a linky party similar to their "Pretty over the Kitchen Sink" from last December. This time we are focusing on entryways. Leila of LMLD has written a series of helpful posts on the Reasonably Clean House, which you can find in the LMLD's sidebar; hence the "Reasonably Clean" Welcome!

As I may have mentioned once or twice *wink*, we moved in mid-June, and I've been swept up in a flurry of nesting ever since. I don't mind because I enjoy nesting, but the focus of said nesting has not been on any of the three entryways this house is blessed with. In fact, one of them is still downright dismal as the room it opens on awaits paint, furniture, and general unpacking. Unfortunately, that seems to be the one lots of people use. But I'm not showing you that one . . . yet. I put my energies into the front entry, the one I *wish* people would use more often and the one that had the least to do to pretty it up a bit. First, some "before" pictures.

This is the front porch:



It's pretty non-descript and not thrilling, isn't it? We brought the geraniums with us when we moved and I just sort of plopped them there to get them out of their box and into the sunshine, although I don't think they are getting enough sunshine judging by the lack of blooms. The marigolds were planted for us before we arrived and thankfully they are blooming. Next year I plan to have a lot more flowers in the beds, but it was too late this year and I was pretty busy with more essential things. (Did I really just say that???) Nothing says welcome more than flowers!

I decided that I could create a more welcoming front entry by accomplishing just a few tasks. First I spraypainted the metal cross that was left here by the previous occupants. Before:




After:



Better, don't you agree?

When I was rummaging around in the garage, this red wagon caught my eye and I had the thought that the flowers would look better sitting in it. They do!



I scrubbed off the sidewalk chalk from the wall . . .



. . . but we are stuck with this little bit of utilitarianism for the time being:



There is also a new doormat where there wasn't one before:



The end result is not strikingly different than what was there before, but it is spruced up a bit. By the way, there isn't much I can do about the storm door. This is a parsonage, and such upgrades are not really up to us. I'm looking on the bright side, though: at least it works well. :-) Next year, I'd like to add a plant stand or something similar and maybe a chair.



If you'd like to see what the inside looks like from the front door, go here. Thanks for visiting! I wish you really could come through my entryway and we could chat for awhile!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} ~ August 4, 2011

{Pretty}

Remember this picture in which I showed you the drab color in the kitchen? Guess what? It's gone! Man of the House and I finished painting it this week, and yesterday I hung the curtain and the doo-dads on the walls. I'll elaborate on each picture as necessary.

This is what you see if you enter from the living room. We painted it with the same paint we used there for continuity. It makes for a bright, sunny room, does it not? I'll hang more plates as inspiration and inclination strike. These three are a set of Wedgwood I bought at an antique store with some Christmas money. They were $18 each, which is more than I usually spend, but they have depictions of Colonial Williamsburg on them, a place we have visited a few times and that I adore. How could I resist? The curtain is just like those in the living room. I actually ordered one too many but put it to good use here.



This shows the view down the hallway, which is not very exciting because it has wall decor still to be hung. The plates are Spode and the rack came from Michael's (half off with a coupon!).



Look at all that counter space! I had about a third of that in my old kitchen, so I really feel like I can s-p-r-e-a-d out now. It's downright luxurious!





Girl Out of the House gave me the tiles for Mother's Day awhile back. I thought over the stove was the perfect spot for them. Please ignore the fact that there is no filter on the stove hood. It doesn't matter because there is no fan! lol Man of the House has asked the church council if one could be put in. I assume we'll get a filter then, too.



And here is the eating area. We still need to paint the chalkboard on the wall and hang a few things. When that's done, I'll show you. And we need a couple more chairs and a tablecloth and . . . Oh, well, it will happen eventually. But the room is much improved from what it was, and I really like it. :-)



{Real}

I can't believe I'm showing you this. It's the room off the kitchen that I guess is supposed to be the TV room, only we don't have a TV, so it'll have to be something else. We yet haven't quite decided what, *plus* it's painted in that same dreary color that used to be in the living room. So it's the current depository for unpacked boxes, painting supplies, and the other detritus of moving. But it's next on the agenda for a makeover. I'll be excited to see what it becomes!




As always, you can see more {phfr} excitment at Like Mother, Like Daughter!

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