Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Reading Challenge~~Books #50, #51, and #52


Here we are on the eve of 2012 and I have finished my reading challenge! I will post a wrap-up soon with some statistics and final thoughts. In the meantime, here are the last three (quick) reviews:

I stumbled upon the audio version of The King's Speech: How One Man Saved the British Monarchy by Mark Logue and Peter Conradi at the public library. Mark Logue is the grandson of Lionel Logue, the speech therapist who proved so valuable in helping King George VI (aka Bertie) overcome his life-long speech impediment. Interestingly and atypically, the book came after the movie and fills in a lot of missing details from Bertie's early days as the second son of King George V to the end of his life as the much beloved King George VI. In listening to this book I came to admire both the man who was one of the early pioneers in the field of speech therapy and the man who never wanted nor expected to be king. I like stories of perseverance and hard work and triumph over difficulties and this one did not disappoint. One of my favorite non-fiction reads this year.

Simon Vance did an excellent job reading this book. Another highlight was the inclusion of entire speeches as given by the king. That's something you can't get in a printed book, so I highly recommend the audio version.


A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck was a delight. Peck writes with wit and a purely American flavor reminiscent of Mark Twain. Fans of his award-winning A Long Way from Chicago and A Year Down Yonder won't want to miss the further adventures of Grandma Dowdel. She's as feisty and peppery as ever as she assists the new Methodist preacher and his family adjust to life in small-town Illinois in the 1950's. The theme of Grandma Dowdel's life is helping the underdog while conspicuously maintaining a front of indifference. If you've read Peck's other Grandma Dowdel books you'll recognize Joey (well, his son anyway), Carlene Lovejoy, Effie Wilcox, Mrs. L.J. Weidenbach, and the Burdick clan as they all make appearances in the book. This book can stand alone, but you will appreciate it more if you've read the other two first. I hope this is not the last we hear of Grandma Dowdel.


Martin Luther's Christmas Book is a short 70 pages of excerpts from Luther's sermons pertaining to the events leading up to the birth of Jesus and the events immediately following. This book was edited by Roland Bainton, the prominent Protestant historian, whose best known book is Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther. The illustrations are drawn from the woodcuts of Schongauer and Durer. In addition to the many insights Luther gives regarding the biblical account of Christ's birth, also interesting to me was seeing the quite different viewpoint and treatment of history and tradition Luther exhibits as compared to modern Christians. As we would expect for someone who was born in 1483, Luther's vantage point smack in the middle of the Renaissance is evident. The modern mind and the Renaissance mind are not the same. This is one reason why C.S. Lewis strongly advocates reading old books~it helps to expose our own prejudices and parochialisms stemming from the times in which we live. An enlightening read.

There! I did it! Even though I've completed my 2011 Reading Challenge, I won't quit reading or posting book reviews. I've already got some books in mind for 2012 . . .

Saturday, December 17, 2011

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} ~ Dec. 17, 2011

This is the "better late than never" edition of {phfr}!

For the last few years I've been enjoying the simple beauty of evergreen for Christmas decorations. Instead of packing a lot of things away and replacing them with Christmas-themed doodads, I've been just adding a sprig of evergreen here and there. It adds a festive touch without a lot of rearranging. Here is the shelf in the kitchen all decked out with boughs of, well, not holly, but evergreen. Isn't it {pretty}?





When my in-laws were moving to a new house a few years ago, we helped them go through forty-plus years of accumulated stuff. My mother-in-law didn't want this nativity set anymore, so she gave it to me. I don't know how old it is, but it comes from a refugee camp near Jericho in Jordan. I'm {happy} to have it! I put it on top of our microwave in the kitchen. This is the only nativity set we own in which Baby Jesus, who will make his appearance on Christmas Eve, can be removed from the manger.



My favorite piece of this nativity set is the cute little donkey. I think he's {funny}!



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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

2011 Reading Challenge~~Books #48 and #49


The Pace of Hen: Ways to Fulfullment for a Housewife by Josephine Moffett Benton is a book I expected and wanted to love but which I only moderately liked. Her main premise is that a housewife has so many opportunites open to her that there is no reason for her to languish in boredom and unfulfillment. I agree completely with that thesis. The author writes about many ways a woman at home can enliven her experience, and I think that is a message that needs to be shouted from the rooftops. Feminism has convinced many in my generation and those subsequent that there is nothing worthwhile to do at home. Feminism couldn't be more wrong. This book, written in 1962, one year before The Feminine Mystique was published, explains how a wife and mother caring for her family and community makes a vital contribution to the well-being of our society. Young women especially need to be told this. Mrs. Benton was a woman of wide experience and understanding who clearly has not been stifled in mind or spirit just because she makes home her base of operations. I was amused by how many of the problems women faced in 1962 before the feminist revolution are the same problems women lament about today: feeling isolated at home, being pressured by society to be something more than "just a housewife," and lacking child-rearing wisdom and know-how, to name a few. The subtitle points in that direction also. Some things never change.

What I didn't like was the book's thorough-going Quaker outlook, evident on almost every page. I have many bones to pick with Quaker theology and practice, so I was exasperated with this book at times. Mrs. Benton exhibits a non-traditional, non-historical understanding of what a sacrament is and because of that misrepresents what it means to live sacramentally. Her reliance on our mystical ability to discern God's voice within our own hearts can lead to spiritual and theological disaster and has done just that for many, including myself. I do agree with her insistence that a rich and fulfilling life can be made by just about anyone in just about anywhere, but it's not necessary to be a Quaker to achieve it. What is necessary is thought, prayer, and a very large mental adjustment.

All in all, The Pace of a Hen is not a book I'm likely to return to.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling is, I think, my favorite Harry Potter book, mainly because Man of the House and I have suffered at the hands of a Dolores Umbridge-like teacher and administrator in the past. The resemblance in some ways is striking, and I guess it's this firsthand understanding of what life at Hogwart's was like that makes me more empathetic toward Harry & Co. than usual. The Harry Potter books are great fun, and to me, this one is the most fun of all. I listened to this on CD. Jim Dale will forever be the voice of HP to me. He does an excellent job throughout all seven books.

Just three more books to go before the challenge is over. I think I'm going to make it! I will post a round-up sometime in January.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} ~ December 8, 2011

Since there was no {phfr} on Thanksgiving and I totally missed last week, I have a lot of pictures to share. Let's dive right in!

{Pretty}

This counts as {real} too because I wanted these to bloom over Christmas and they've been blooming for a week now. I followed the instructions on the box, but I guess the bulb hadn't read them because the flowers appeared much earlier than they were supposed to. Early or not, aren't they gorgeous? I love they way the perk up this room!




{Happy}

Lots of {happy} this week! Over Thanksgiving we visited Man of the House's parents, and Girl of the House was finally able to give them a present she had intended for last Christmas. Alas, her illness prevented her from finishing it on time, but G'ma and G'pa thought it was worth the wait! Didn't Girl 2 do a great job? We got the idea for the color scheme from a quilt we saw at an antique store. We knew it was just the thing to help keep the grandparents warm in winter.



Remember my apple-eating squirrel? He's still around though the apples have long been gone. I've been feeding him corn I gleaned from Farmer John's fields the day he took us on his combine. I sneaked up on Squirrel Nutkin one morning and got some good shots of him enjoying his corn. I like to see him frolicking (that is the perfect word for what he does!) in our backyard. I'm happy he's still around!




Girl of the House cooks supper twice a week, something which makes me happy even though I enjoy cooking. Tonight she made individual pot pies from leftover turkey in our new Fiestaware bowls. We always stop at a particular antique/crafts shop when we visit Man of the House's parents, and normally we are shopping for Fiestaware for Girl Out of the House, but Man of the House convinced me that these bowls would be perfect for pot pies. Since these are factory seconds (which have very small, practically unnoticeable blemishes) they were bargains. Doesn't the table look festive and colorful with the red tablecloth and multi-colored bowls? I made us wait to sit down so that I could get a shot! (P.S. Girl 2 wants me to tell you that she ran short of piecrust and that's why they look "funny," as she put it. No matter how they looked, they were delicious!)




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Sunday, December 4, 2011

2011 Reading Challenge~~Book #47


Every Christmas I treat myself to some form of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Sometimes I listen to a recording, sometimes I watch a movie or play, sometimes, like this year, I read the book. Oftentimes I do more than one. It's a compulsion every December for me to fellowship with the Cratchitts, nephew Fred, the ghost of Jacob Marley, and even ol' Ebenezer Scrooge himself. I have nothing original add to the volumes that have already been written about A Christmas Carol, so I won't try. I will, however, recommend a book I read two or three years ago called The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits by Les Standiford. Though it is the story of how Dickens came to write his best-known novel, it is much more. The book is part biography, part literary analysis, and part social history. It was an easy, fun read that filled in the backstory to one of my favorite holiday tales and authors.

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