Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I was looking for a sign

Checking my post archives I was hoping to find that I had started my blogging around the beginning of October. That way I could say that I had been on an online literary stint for exactly 3 years. But, alas, it was December. A round number would have been so satisfying. But in any case, here is the sad news. After 2 years and 9 months I am regretfully giving up blogging.

pregnant pause of reflection

Why you ask, agast? Well, the tickling of the idea was forming over the summer as time to book review just didn't appear. Then this fall I attended a meeting that emphasized self-awareness in prioritizing your life and it really hit home.

I am not a multi-tasker. Horrors in this day and age, I know. The simpler the better. Everyone around me benefits when my workload is contained and my mind is not going in a dozen different directions. Blogging was becoming a weight on my shoulders (even when I didn't do it!) and the posts were blah to say the least. So, my contribution to the blog world completed, I move on.

Catch me on Ravelry if you are knitting inclined (teachermom). And otherwise, I hope to see you in person to talk books.

Go with God.

Monday, September 6, 2010

keeping it brief

A technique that I have used in teaching writing to my children is the three word rule. They read a passage and then condense each sentence of the passage to three keywords. The next day they rewrite the passage using only the keywords that they've selected. It's a way to get kids writing without the fear of "what do I write about?" that most of them are prone to.

So here's my take on the three keyword book review:

House Rules by Jodi Picoult - insightful; unsettling; captivating

Corduroy Mansions by Alexander Mccall Smith - amusing; entertaining; perceptive

P.A.C.E. by Al Sears - quick; commonsense; motivating

And that's all she wrote!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mystically Wired

Talking to God - a person that we can't see - is not a habit that our culture actively cultivates. Ken Wilson, in the book "Mystically Wired", submits that human beings are meant to be pray-ers. He claims that indeed, we are wired for it, but our society doesn't lend itself to the quiet and contemplation that will allow us to go beyond our conventional ideas of prayer.
In his book he explores various methods of praying and relaxation techniques that you can use to "go deeper" with prayer. Some of these will take patience, persistence and a willingness to push beyond your comfort zone.

The book is written in a very personal way that draws you along the author's journey of exploring different types of prayer other than the standard ones found in modern homes and churches. Having been exposed to early Christian writings as an immature Christian, his thoughts resonated with me and I found myself wishing to consider his discoveries further. Mr. Wilson doesn't just give you his theoretical thoughts on prayer. This is a how-to manual, so you can begin right away with the practices.

Are you looking to go deeper? Is your prayer life getting a little dusty or few and far between? Check this book out - even adopting one of his suggestions will be a step in the right direction.

Monday, July 12, 2010

No lazy days of summer for me

Summer is in full swing and as usual, is moving along much too quickly. But we finally have some sunny July weather, so it feels like summer at least. I've been reading and knitting and doing some organization (but not as much as I'd like!). A shift is in the wind - more on that in the next weeks.

Books I haven't set aside:
The Boy in the Moon by Ian Brown tells the true story of a boy born with a very rare medical condition that affects his looks and mental and physical development. Written by the boy's father, it is at the same time inspiring and gut-wrenching.

The Alchemist's Dream by John Wilson takes place in the late 1600's and mixes true tales of the search for the Northwest Passage with seemingly fantastic, but also true tales of alchemy and occult.

This Time Together by Carol Burnett is filled with a collection of stories of Carol's life in show business over the long span of her career. The snippets from here and there served to give a better picture of the personality of this well-loved actress. I grew up watching Carol Burnett and truly enjoyed reading about her acting life. What fun she had!

On the knitting front: a mohair/acrylic shawl modeled by my son under great duress (Estelle Watercolours) - my third time to use this yarn and make this shawl. Yellow socks out of Bambino yarn by Chameleon Colorworks. I look forward to cooler weather so I can test out the bamboo. And lastly, some socks for a fundraiser next fall - Regia Jacquard color.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

I'm not a feminist, but....

Reading "The Heart Specialist" by Claire Holden Rothman was a glimpse into life before women were treated as the equals that they are today. Agnes White is passionate about all things scientific and aspires to be a doctor like her father. However, the year is 1882 and things like that are just not done. Women don't even go to university, let alone spend many years there learning. They just aren't made for stuff like that. This book is inspired by the true story of one of Montreal's first female physicians, Dr. Maude Elizabeth Seymour Abbott. It was a page turner and I highly recommend it. Many twists and turns.

Do you ever read any of the blogs in my sidebar? Josh Harris's "Mark Driscoll's: Church is not a restaurant" video clip is right on the mark. Take a few minutes to listen in.

We are having a new baby in our church next month. I made a baby sweater that will hopefully fit in the winter. It's made with a yarn that will be washable for the new mom - Red Heart Eco-Ways, in a soft light teal colour. So soft after washing.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Thank goodness for libraries

I've spoken before of my love of libraries. If I ever spend time in a new town for any reason, I usually check out their library. They are such comfortable places. Think of all the money they save us! One day I'll sit down and estimate how much money I would have spent if I had bought all the books I've taken out of the library. In my present Connie Willis period, I would be in the hundreds of dollars by now. The latest is "The Winds of Marble Arch and other stories". Short stories are satisfying to read, as they can be nibbled at here and there. This is a huge book containing 23 stories of varying lengths. Some are in the time travel vein that I've come to expect of her and others general SF. It was interesting to see how diverse her writing skills are, while keeping to the SF genre.

While camping this past week I finished off a pair of socks for a colleague/friend who recently lost her mother. They will be warm and comforting on cold winter days. Online Linie 3 Highland Color; Farbe 842; Partie 69469. Pattern: K3, P1 down the leg on a standard sock.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Traveling to other times

Science fiction - you've got to love it. SF stretches your mind with possibilities that are sometimes brain exploding. I find time travel to be that way especially. What are the ramifications of traveling backwards in time? What if you change something? What if you step on a butterfly or save a life or merely have your atoms share space with a world that didn't have your atoms in it before? When you mix questions like these with a rousing good plot, the result is a story that begs to keep you up late at night. "Doomsday Book" by Connie Willis (my current favorite author) was a delight to read. Set during Medieval times, it had all the historical accuracy and engaging tidbits I love to learn about, coupled with interesting plot turns and complex characters. These were characters you became close to, laughed with and ached for. We are not solitary creatures wandering the earth - we're meant to live in community. Sometimes that isn't easy, but strengthing our understanding of other people is highly worthwhile.
Are you green? Do you carry around a reusable shopping bag? I find that the more bags I have, the more likely that I'll have one when I need it. To that end I knitted a simple bag out of soft cotton that I will feel very trendy carrying to the farmer's market, should I ever get there. Knit Picks Simply Cotton Organic Worsted yarn; Fantasy Naturale Market Bag.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Racism strikes at our hearts

"The Help" is an exceptional first novel by Kathryn Stockett. I haven't read a book that captivated me like this one for a long, long time. Well, in actual fact I didn't "read" this book at all. I listened to it being read by some incredible narrators. That added immensely to the experience. "The Help" is a story that takes place in Jackson, Mississippi during the early 1960's. Black housekeepers and nannies are known as "help" in that state. In this novel, a group of them are interviewed by a white journalist and their stories are compiled into a book. These stories will draw you in, make you laugh, make you cry and make you ache for the evil that is racism. I did not want to stop listening; I wanted to put my life on hold till I found out what happened to the women involved. A good book should make you a better person and this one certainly gave me a much greater appreciation of the race situation, relationships, friendships and much more. A minor take-away from the reading - one of the characters was in the habit of writing out her prayers every day. It ended up making her a better writer all round. I think this would be a great habit for me to get into.
Do mothers still put hand-made sweaters on their babies? I hope so because I've found them very satisfying to make - quick and so adorable. I recently finished another yoked cardigan for a baby shower gift. Made out of Moda Dea washable wool, it should be an easy item to take care of.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

For the men in my life

Men – what could you do with a map of your spiritual life? Do you think that it might make the Christian life easier to follow? You bet! “The Map” by David Murrow is just that. Using the interesting format of a thriller novel, plus insights he has derived from scripture, Murrow develops the theory that the bible has imbedded in it the image of a map that will help men become deeper followers of Christ. The book was interesting to read and the map concept wasn’t farfetched. I could see it all coming together as the three journeys were laid out. So even if scripture wasn’t arranged to provide this message, a man could gain some valuable direction using Murrow’s ideas. I’m not a man, but after reading this book I was left thinking that I wished a similar book for women was available.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Is Weight Watchers our friend?

Matt Stone is a favorite blogger of mine. He's also written ebooks. He has an interesting perspective on the weight loss/health issue that runs contrary to much that we hear in conventional circles. He makes a lot of sense, but I haven't totally wrapped my mind around the "putting into action" of his theories. Makes for interesting reading/listening though.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Life moves along

A reading blog should have some book reviews on it. Well, how about a list of books read? Better than nothing, and proves that I have been doing something these last few weeks. These are the books I actually finished. The list would be a lot longer if it included those I started and abandoned. Time is too precious to finish a book you're not enjoying.

Oolong Dead - Laura Childs (knitting themed mystery)
Tea Time for the Traditionally Built - Alexander McCall Smith (detective)
Far North - Marcel Theroux (science fiction)
The Liberation Diet - Kevin Brown (health)
Home Safe - Elizabeth Berg (slice of life)
Blackout - Connie Willis (science fiction)
Passage - Connie Willis (science fiction)
Knit Two - Kate Jacobs (knitting/slice of life)
The Raphael Affair - Iain Pears (mystery/historical)
The Kalahari Typing School for Men - Alexander McCall Smith (audio book - great for learning the correct pronunciation of the African names)

And I've been knitting too. But not a lot. A pair of socks are taking me an age to finish. 1 1/2 shawls that I'll take pictures of soon. And the cutest little baby sweater that was so easy to make. I can't stop looking at it - it's that sweet. Fits my son's baby doll - so it's newborn size. (Bernat Worsted; Yoked Cardigan by Hannah Fettig)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

I've just returned from Africa

In this age of video it is possible to travel to distant lands without leaving your seat. That's what I have been doing in my spare time for the last few days. One of my favourite book series is "The #1 Ladies' Detective Agency" by Alexander McCall Smith. A friend put me on to the fact that there is a TV series based on the books. I've been devouring the DVDs and have been captivated by the scenery and customs of Botswana, Africa at the same time. You can get the flavour of the people through the printed word, but for the beauty of the countryside you need to have visual. Highly recommended! (and available at my local library to boot!)

My last pair of socks turned out so "me" that they stayed in my sock drawer rather than become gifts. The yarn is a mystery since I've lost the ball band, but it's a wool/nylon blend of some sort, knitted in my standard plain sock pattern. It's almost too warm to be wearing wool socks now, though. Time for cotton.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Count your many blessings

Today is a GOOD day. Shall I count the ways?
1. Right now I am totally alone in the house. I love my family, but sometimes it's nice to be alone too.

2. My son and I got a lot of cleaning up done today. The light is still not visible at the end of the tunnel, but I feel like we've made some headway.

3. I'm humless for the moment (that makes being home that much more special).

4. Supper is simmering on the stove.

5. The sun is shining in the window.

6. I'm drinking a great fruit kefir smoothie.
My knitting mojo has been hibernating lately. There are too many balls being juggled and knitting has sifted to the bottom of the priority pile. A little gets done each day, but that doesn't translate into many finished projects. A cool item I finished about a month ago is a biscuit blanket (it's like a giant dishcloth to keep biscuits/buns warm in). You just have to love that name! And when a friend gave me a kit to make one, I was so happy. Now I have the pattern and can make more. The cotton yarn was sooo wonderful to work with. It has me spoiled and I won't want to go back to the cheap dishcloth cotton.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

How I cope

Cotton dishcloth knitting is what I gravitate to when life becomes stressful. The feel of the soft cotton between my fingers; the mindless garter stitch. The process calms and relaxes me. I've been knitting a lot of dishcloths the last few weeks. Enough said.
Yesterday I did branch out from my standard Grandma's Favourite dishcloth pattern and tried Eloomanator's Diagonal Knit Dishcloth. Almost as easy as Grama's Favourite, but with a twist. Doesn't it look pretty?
To catch up on reviewing some of the books I've read in the past month, I'll start with "My Life in France" by Julia Child. This book was a birthday gift that I saved for my trip to Mexico. What a wonderful read, on the beach or otherwise. Of course, I came away wanting to be Julia Child, I admired her so much. She knew what she wanted and with energy, just headed there. The descriptions of the food and countryside made me want to travel and cook and eat. The book "Julie and Julia", based on Child's life as well, I quietly returned to the library mostly unread, very unsatisfied with the vulgar tone. Watch the movie, it's far better.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Spring is in the air

I am seeing lots of people out working in their yards already and have to confess that the digging-in-the-dirt thought has been floating through my mind as well. But it's only the beginning of March!

A book to wet your appetite to do things the organic way is
"Diary of a Compost Hotline Operator". Uniquely written; local(Vancouver, BC.) Everything you ever wanted to know about setting up and maintaining a composting system set down in a humorous and easy-to-read way. This was a fun way to begin the gardening season. Now to keep up the momentum.

I finally finished a pair of socks that have been languishing in a corner for well over a year. Showing how much my knitting has improved, I whipped through some lacework that had me stumped back when I was working first on them. However, my tension has loosened up quite a bit, so the second sock is considerable larger than the first. But they're done! I got to cross them off the list - very satisfying. (Knit Picks Essential yarn; Girl's Best Friend Anklets Knit Picks pattern) [Ravelry picture - I think we lost all our pictures with the computer crash]

Sunday, February 21, 2010

If we all take one small action...

Sometimes you feel powerless when seeing all the tragedy around the world. You want to change things; make a difference; have some significance in your life.

Today is Freedom Sunday. A day when people around the world of every faith and non-faith, come together through action and prayer to take one step closer to freedom from human trafficking. Join hands with us.

Freedom Sunday from David Hepburn on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The music never fades

Stories are plentiful when it comes to "The King of Rock and Roll", Elvis Presley. Some are written for money, some for the love of the man himself and some to set the record straight. "The King and Dr. Nick" is a first-hand account of Dr. George Nichopoulos's 10 year relationship with Presley as his personal physician. After Elvis died, Dr. Nick was accused of wrong-doing in the death and spent years defending himself and trying to clear his name.

While I didn't find the story riveting, a die-hard fan of Elvis Presley will be fascinated by insider stories and little-known facts about the behind-the-scenes life of this infamous man.

The book is written in a day by day manner, so either Dr. Nick has a really good memory or kept a journal. The many photographs make reading that much more interesting and also included are a number of photocopies of original documents, lending an air of authenticity to the research.
I would recommend this book to someone interested in learning everything they can about Presley. A less devoted fan might find it a little dry.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Learning curve

My computer died. I have a new one. I'm getting to know it. That takes time...

In the meantime, here's a quick video promoting a new book out there that I'm anxious to read and maybe you will be too. Josh Harris, our darling boy from the homeschooling years, who made good and seems to get better. Check this out.

DugDownDeep_Carnahan.mov from Covenant Life Church on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Back home again

Mexico is a fantastic place to relax and regenerate. The sights, sounds, smells and gastronomic delights soothe you into believing that this is reality. Of course, it's not - for me, at least, but for a short week it was nice to take a step outside normal life and experience something totally removed from my routine. (for my pictures, check facebook)

So...3 books and one pair of socks later, I left Cabo San Lucas a little browner and feeling like I have enough Vitamin D stored up to last till we start getting our own rays here in the dreary northland.

Having forgotten to take a picture of the socks ON the beach like I had intended, I created a pseudo-beach for our dining room table centerpiece and that will have to suffice. The yarn I chose from my stash before leaving turned out to be the perfect colourway for beach knitting. (Drops Fabel - colorway 910) There's a little sun, a little sand and lots of water symbolized in the colours. These will go to a woman at church who's going through some parenting struggles with a wayward teen. From one mom to another - a little love and lots of prayers.

Book reviews to follow once I've figured out how to get back to normal.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Challenge yourself

Challenges abound in the cyberworld and on Ravelry, the knitting/crocheting/weaving online community, there are dozens to choose from. You can knit a pair of socks a week/month; a sweater a month; 10 shawls in 2010. You name it - someone has created a challenge to move you beyond your comfort zone. That is a good thing, as long as it doesn't make you crazy in the doing. Crafting, after all, is supposed to be a relaxing, re-creating activity.

That said, the 52 in 52 challenge intrigued me. Could I make at least 52 projects in 2010? One item a week? I suspect it's possible, because since joining Ravelry about two years ago I have posted 113 projects. So...it's doable. Onward and upward. So far I am four for three, but I'm going away next week. A skein of sock yarn will accompany me, though, so here's hoping for lots of beach knitting.

Charity hat #1 - Vanna's Choice Yarn in navy and (I think) pea green. Crocheted Cat and the Hat Rib Cuff Beanie (I'm finally getting the knack for the joins!)

My listening-while-knitting choice was "Letters of a Woman Homesteader". A fascinating, true story told through letters written to a friend, by a single mother who homesteads in Wyoming in the early 1900's. The irony was that most of my listening was done while cozied up in a comfortable chair, covered in warm fleece, as Elinore Pruitt Stewart sloughed through snow to feed the animals, canned a million jars of fruit, raised children on virtually nothing and enjoyed the whole thing to boot. I lived through it all, vicariously, and that's really how I want it to be. A pioneer woman, I'm not. Elinore is a down-to-earth, marvelously intuitive and transparent woman who you will come to love and admire.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

This could be a challenging read...

I recently came across a book to add to my "to read" list. It was reviewed on a blog that I follow, Passionate Homemaking.

"Womanly Dominion: More Than a Gentle and Quiet Spirit" appears to be a book that could be relevant at any season of a woman's life. She's having a contest right now to win the book - so hop over there and make a comment. It just might be what you need to help you see God's call on your life at this point in time.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Do I have blinders on?

Sometimes I come across new information that is so mind- boggling, so radically opposed to what I have always believed that I wonder how I possibly got to where I'm at today without knowing it. A big part of the answer to that is that it's usually not "politically correct" information and therefore, not readily available. So it is with two recent areas of interest - politics and health.

Richard Maybury and his book "World War I : The Rest of the story and how it affects you today" has blown my ideas of politics and how countries function in relation to each other out of the water. The funny thing is that I have had his books on the required reading list for my high school students, but had never read them myself. They were just accepted to be good reading and I didn't go any further than that. Now I want to read the whole series (I'm partway through WWII and am having to stretch my thinking once again). Basically, Mr. Maybury says that we should have as little government as possible - only the bare minimum. His perspective on war, and in particular the cause of WWI, is well-researched and fascinating. Prepare to be challenged in your thinking!

On the health front, a recent blog post from a radical health nutter that I follow included the following video. It's long, but well worth the watch. It's called "Sugar: The Bitter Truth". In a nutshell, he considers fructose and high fructose corn syrup, toxins, and spends considerable time sharing information that proves his assertion. He's got me convinced.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Not so healthy

We are in the midst of an epidemic...5 of my 6 kids have the chicken pox. That might not be so unusual, except that the older ones are 17, 23 and 24. And the older two are in agony. I feel for them, but there's not much I can do except comfort them and send food.

This picture is of my 9 year old, who probably had the least number of spots.

My 19 year swears that he will. not. get. chicken pox.

I'm torn. Part of me hopes that he doesn't. But it would be nice for him to get it over with. It's out of my hands, though.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Of hats and hardship

It’s fitting that my first finished project of the new year is a crocheted hat. In 2010 I want to get better at crochet, which I have just dabbled in during my lifetime. The only way to get better at something is to do it a lot, so my hats for the homeless will be done with hooks and not needles. Yarn: Noro Silver Thaw (wool, angora, nylon) Pattern: Cat and the Hat Rib Cuff Beanie

I had lots of time to read over the holidays and pulled out a book that has been languishing on the shelves for a few years. “Gap Creek” by Robert Morgan is an Oprah Book Club selection. Her choices aren’t always my choices, but I like to give them a try. This story of a young Appalachian country couple during their first few years of marriage carried me along from start to finish. Not all of it was pleasant reading – life was very hard, both because of the times and because of choices made. It made me thankful for my life situation and prayerful that my children will look to God for their choices and not necessarily to their hearts and emotions.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Power of Respect

The criteria for calling a book “good” is that it touches you in some way or causes you to think – even to become a better person. “The Power of Respect” by Deborah Norville was such a book.

Norville’s definition of respect - “Acknowledging the value and uniqueness of others and being mindful of their feelings, while at the same time trying to put myself in their position.”

Reading through her seven steps to understanding the power of respect caused me to examine my relationships at home and with colleagues and friends. Do I afford them the respect due a person, solely on the basis of being? In some cases, I came up short and so the book was the wakeup call that I needed to be more mindful of others.

A short list at the end of each chapter highlights the key themes that were dealt with. These reinforce the many examples included within the chapter itself. Respect begins at home, so a fair number of pages were taken up with that, but respect in the workplace and self-respect were also covered.

Some noteworthy quotes:

“Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you – not because they are nice, but because you are.”

“People perform to their expectations.”

“Respect is a door that swings both ways.”

Respecting others can take a lot of work, but this book explains why it is vital to any relationship and also provides practical steps to successfully achieving your goal.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The year begins on the right foot

I've been mulling over how to approach the resolutions question and reading other's thoughts on the matter - should I or shouldn't I? . Then I read January 1 of my "My Utmost for His Highest" daily devotional calendar. He says it all in a nutshell:

Let us keep to the point...my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed...Philippians 1:20. It's as if Paul were saying, "My determined purpose is to be my utmost for His highest - my best for His glory." To reach that level of determination is absolute and irrevocable surrender of the will. Shut out every other thought and keep
yourself before God in this one thing only - my utmost for His highest. I am determined to be absolutely and entirely for Him and Him alone.

Do this and everything else should fall into place.

Yes, I will make lists and write down goals. But first and foremost will be my spiritual growth. A pastor I had many years ago put it this way. It's like a car going up a mountain road with no brakes. If you take your foot off the gas, you start to go backwards - you don't stand still. So it is with our Christian journey. We need to keep growing, and that only comes from getting closer to God.

In the meantime the knitting goes on. Luxuriously soft angora - Peter Rabbit by Fleece Artist. Cabled fingerless mitts and keyhole scarf - so warm!