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Friday, December 31, 2010

Reflecting on Resolution 2010

My resolution for 2010 was:

1. Be joyful always.
2. Pray without ceasing.
3. Give thanks in all circumstances.

For this is God's will for me in Jesus Christ.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

2010 was the first I ever made a New Year's Resolution.  It really did help me keep my focus on being joyful and appreciative and prayerful no matter what came along.  Reminding myself that I cannot be robbed of joy by anything on earth has blessed me all year long.  Remembering that there is always reason to give thanks, that God wants to hear my prayers all the time.....amazing the difference it makes in how I've felt about the ups and downs of life.

I've been thinking for the past couple weeks that I should make a new one for this year.  Then I wonder if I want to move on.  Should I?  I know I won't leave joy-thankfulness-prayer behind, even if I choose another focus for the coming year.    So on the brink of 2011, I still haven't decided whether I should take on a new verse, or continue with this one, or both. 

Book List 2010

Book List 2010

  • Ngugi wa Thiong'o; Dreams in a Time of War: a childhood memoir (NF)
  • Cindy Vine; The Great Mountain to Mountain Safari (NF)
  • Mike Brown; How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming (NF)
  • The British People at War (NF)
  • Alain de Botton; The Architecture of Happiness (NF)
  • Ernie Pyle; Ernie Pyle in England (NF)
  • Suzanne Collins; The Hunger Games
  • Alain de Botton; A Week at the Airport (NF)
  • Phil Craig; Finest Hour: The Battle of Britain (NF)
  • Ethel Starbird; When Women First Wore Army Shoes (NF)
  • Tom Payne; Fame: What the Classics Tell Us About Our Cult of Celebrity (NF)
  • Connie Willis; All Clear
  • Sandra Cisneros; Caramelo
  • Yukiko Sugihara; Visas for Life (NF)
  • Alain de Botton; The Art of Travel (NF)
  • Peter Hellman; When Courage Was Stronger than Fear, Remarkable Stories or Christians who Saved Jews from the Holocaust (NF)
  • Robert Spector; The Mom and Pop Store, True Stories from the Heart of America (NF)
  • Stephanie Dolgoff; Formerly Hot, Dispatches from Just the Other Side of Young (NF)
  • Greg Mortenson; Stones into Schools , Promoting Peace with Books, not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan (NF)
  • CS Lewis: Out of the Silent Planet
  • Ram Oren; Gertruda's Oath: A Child, A Promise, and a Heroic Escape During WWII (NF)
  • Jim Belcher; Deep Church (NF)
  • Simonson, Helen; Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
  • Schoschana Rabinovici; Thanks to My Mother (NF)
  • Mark Frauenfeld; Made by Hand, Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World (NF)
  • Per Petterson; Out Stealing Horses
  • Twyla Tharp; The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life (NF)
  • Elie Wiesel; Night (NF)
  • Margaret Atwood; The Handmaid's Tale
  • Ursula Bacon; Shanghai Diary: A Young Girl's Escape from Hitler's Hate to War Torn China (NF)
  • John Lukacs; Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat: The Dire Warning, Churchill's First Speech as Prime Minister (NF)
  • Leesha Rose; The Tulips Are Red (NF)
  • Evelyn Waugh: Brideshead Revisited
  • John Lukacs; Five Days in London: May 1940 (NF)
  • Alexander McCall Smith; The Unbearable Lightness of Scones
  • Gretchen Rubin: The Happiness Project (NF)
  • Pascale le Draoulec; American Pie, Slices of Life (and Pie) from America's Back Roads (NF)
  • Randi Hutter Epstein, MD; Get Me Out, A History of Childbirth (NF)
  • Kiran Desai; The Inheritance of Loss
  • John Elder Robison; Look Me in the Eye, my life with asperger's (NF)
  • Bill Bryson; Mother Tongue, English and How it got that way (NF)
  • Rose Weitz: Rapunzel's Daughters, What Women's Hair Tells us About Women's Lives (NF)
  • Walter Lord; The Miracle of Dunkirk (NF)
  • Connie Willis; Blackout
  • Eric Weiner: The Geography of Bliss, One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places on Earth (NF)
  • Dai Sijie; Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (re-read)
  • Geraldine Brooks; Foreign Correspondence (NF)
  • Laura Shapiro: Something from the Oven, Reinventing Dinner in 1950's America (NF)
  • Linda Holtzschue; Understanding Color, An Introduction for Designers (NF)
  • Kathryn Stockett; The Help
  • Truman Capote; Breakfast at Tiffany's
  • Nancy Etcoff; Survival of the Prettiest (NF)
  • Bill Bryson; The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid (NF)
  • Julia Child; My Life in France (NF)
  • James McBride; Song Yet Sung
  • Jasper Fforde; Shades of Grey
  • John Irving; Prayer for Owen Meany
New year, new list, tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

thoughts on: Dreams in a Time of War: A Childhood Memoir

Dreams in a Time of War: A Childhood MemoirDreams in a Time of War: A Childhood Memoir by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o

I love reading memoirs, particularly childhoods in other cultures.  So I expected to like this one very much.  I didn't.  There was more time spent on the politics of the day than on personal experience and recollections.  I liked the writer's voice and style, but he kept losing me.  I was more interested in the relationships within his family, but he was more interested in telling me about the political figures of the day than about his many siblings.

Monday, December 27, 2010

She's not really evil.

She's just cropped that way.  Despite being named Bellatrix, this is one sweet kitty.  She belongs to a friend.  (Don't want you thinking I got a cat and didn't inundate you with photos of her.)

Isn't her coat remarkable?  I've never seen a kitten with markings like hers.  She looks like a tabby that has been covered over with white calico. 

365-274 Eyes

I'd like to win this.

As you've probably noticed, I'm a wannabe when it comes to sewing.  I want to like sewing, but I don't usually.  I find it frustrating.  I read books and blogs about it, but somehow the knowledge doesn't make it from the page or screen to my hands.

One of the crafty/sewing blogs I read recently ran a tutorial series on sewing all sorts of pockets, and now, Ikat bag is having a giveaway.  The prize is a quilt made of all 26 pockets.  It's constructed with a removable backing, so the construction can be really seen and understood.

I can picture this hanging on my wall, holding things.  Perhaps inspiring me to put pockets in or on things.  Who doesn't need another pocket?  Doubly useful and pretty, too.  This blog post is my entry.  You're welcome to enter, too.  The giveaway ends Jan. 1st.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

TV Knitting


Lumpy is such a cute model, isn't he? 

Blanket 2 out of 12 done.  Same pattern leaflet as the last one, and like it, this is a pattern I've knit many times for charity. I love simple projects like this.

I've been knitting while watching Bones on netflix streaming with my husband.  Have you seen Bones?  I don't generally like crime dramas, while my husband loves them.  I prefer escapism in fiction, and crime shows tend to go for harsh reality.  Law and Order, his favorite for the past umpteen years, for example, it's very depressing to watch evil go unpunished.  Bones is totally unrealistic.  All the main characters are nice people with quirks, and every crime is solved.  I really like that in my fiction.  Real life has enough sadness and badness in it.

Friday, December 24, 2010

365-273

I shortened a hemline today.  My first successful alteration, it's very exciting.

365-272 Thread

I love these wooden spools of thread.  They are the remnants of my mom's sewing days.  Seeing them in "my" sewing box makes me happy.  The whole box was my mom's, which she gave to me many years ago.  There are other spools of thread, on foam and plastic, and old zippers* and notions in there, but these are my favorites, so they got their picture taken today.

*I need to learn how to sew in zippers.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

thoughts on: The Great Mountain to Mountain Safari

The Great Mountain to Mountain SafariThe Great Mountain to Mountain Safari by Cindy Vine

I won this through Goodreads.  I expected a memoir of Vine's roadtrip, but it is more of a travel guide.  She does write about her encounters with border patrols or mentions wildlife sitings, but more attention is given to naming places to eat or hotels.  At the close of the book, she tells us that  her relationship with her daughter grew during their trip, but she doesn't share those changes with the reader.  Nor does she tell us at all about her vacation at her destination, Cape Town.

As a travel guide, I think it would be excellent.  She includes her daily expenses and recommendations (or not) of places to stay and eat along the road. However, I don't anticipate any road trips through Africa in my foreseeable future. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Writer's Mitts

My eldest liked my Saxon Mitts so much that he requested these fingerless mitts.  That was last January. I quickly knit up the right hand.  Made a mistake on the left.  Got annoyed with myself and set them aside.  Forgot about them for eleven months.

My son has a better memory than I do, however, and he mentioned them a couple weeks ago.   Looking at the half done left hand, I realized that I had no idea where in the patterns I'd stopped, so I frogged it and started anew.

A few days later, he had his mitts.  He wears them both outside and in.  Mostly indoors, while writing.  Like me, his hands get ice cold when he's typing.  So I'm calling these his Writer's Mitts.



We chose the cable pattern from the Arco Guide to Knitting Stitches.  I should buy that book.  I check it out from the library so often, it practically lives at my house.  My husband suggested I ask the library if I can buy their copy.  It doesn't seem like anyone else ever checks it out. 

The basic math for the mitt is Ann Budd's, from her Handy Book of Patterns.  I'm not sure I've ever used anything other than the mitten and glove patterns in that book, but I've used them so often the purchase was totally worth it.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

365-269, 270 Gingerbread People, Two Views

365-268 Blanket 1



I knit this blanket back in November, but didn't photograph it until today.  It will be gifted to a gentleman in a nursing home.  It's a nice size for someone in a wheel chair.

I don't know the recipient.

We're in the process of starting a knit/crochet ministry group at church.  We've decided to set a long term goal of having a lap blanket for each participant of our church's nursing home ministry as a Christmas gift for 2011.  This is the first blanket toward that goal.  I'm going to try to finish one blanket per month for 2011.

This particular pattern is one I've knit many times, as gifts and for the Linus Project.  It is meditatively simple.  It is published in the Leisure Arts booklet, Quick Knit Keepsakes.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

365-266

Sometimes she doesn't even look comfortable.

thoughts on: How I Killed Pluto and Why it Had it Coming by Mike Brown

How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It ComingHow I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown

Thoughts before reading:  Pluto's demotion seemed wrong to me, on an emotional level.  So wrong that I wrote an epic limerick* about it at the time. (I believe it was my friend Sarah who suggested I should.)   I thought once something had been named a planet, it should remain a planet no matter how small, funny looking, or wonky its orbit is. (How would we react if someone declared that Australia isn't really a continent? It just seems mean spirited.) When I saw this book coming out, though, I decided to read it with an open mind.

Thoughts after reading:  Brown makes a compelling case for Pluto's non-planetary status.  He also writes in a very accessible, friendly style.  (Funnily enough, he himself mentions the continent - Australia argument in his book.)  He convinced me that Pluto should not be considered a planet, but it will always have a spot in my solar system.

What convinced me?  There is historic precedence for it.  When the first few asteroids were discovered, they were named and designated planets.  Then scientists realized that there was a whole lot of those little guys all orbiting together in what we now call The Asteroid Belt.  Similarly, long after Pluto was named a planet in 1930, there were many more similar objects discovered way out there in the Kuiper Belt.  Brown is the discoverer of several of these, and it was their discovery that precipitated the astronomy cartel's big decision about Pluto.  They had to decide what was and was not a planet.  

* The Epic Limerick of Pluto
Pluto, the last of our nine.
As a planet, we thought you fine.
You wobble a bit,
but always did fit.
Until Science, in space drew a line.

No irregular orbits allowed!
Came shouts from the science crowd.
Too small anyway.
They said that sad day.
Then they voted and stated aloud:

Lesser Object that Orbits the Sun
Your status as planet: Undone!
Charon at your side,
You kept your pride
and laughed at their pretense of fun.

What difference will make this name?
Was it intended to bring you to shame?
You know you're adored
by the non-science horde
who will love their dear Pluto, the same.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Wardrobe of Happiness, 365-265

“Happiness does not consist in things themselves but in the relish we have of them; and a man has attained it when he enjoys what he loves and desires himself, and not what other people think lovely and desirable.”
-- La Rochefoucauld

That was Sunday's quote on a blog I follow, The Happiness Project.   It is such an obvious truth, but one I think many overlook.  I enjoy and love things that many others do not.  One of them had been on my mind recently:  my wardrobe.  I dress for happiness, my happiness, but every once in a while, I have thoughts like, "Do I dress my age?" or, "Maybe I should get a 'real' hair style," or, "I probably would look better with some make up."  Basically, those are all a variation of the first thought.  It seems like women my age accessorize and do things with their hair.  Other than brush it.

It seems like all the marketing and advice out there for middle aged women is that we should attempt to look put together and sophisticated.  Don't look old or fat.  Don't try to look too young and hip.  Don't let yourself go, but don't look like you're trying too hard.  Lots of do's and  don't's.  I even peeked for a bit at a blog devoted to dressing one's middle aged self, but I had to stop because I found it depressing.  (I have friends who love it, though, so I know there are people who find that sort of instruction genuinely helpful and, therefore, conducive to their happiness.)  I felt harassed by the rules, and got to thinking if every middle aged woman dressed like that, we'd be like stepford wives, varying only in our "personal colors."  (How personal can they be?  There are only four sets of colors for the entire human population.)

The thing is, my tastes have not changed greatly since childhood.  I still love dresses; skirts that twirl a bit; cardigans; t-shirts, no blouses or buttony shirts; thick colored tights; comfy Mary Janes in which I could run, if I was so inclined, which I'm not these days, but maybe one day I will need to chase someone down the street and then won't I be happy I am not hobbled by heels or ballet flats that slip off as I run; and, often, hats.  That's for cold weather.  In summer it is skirts, t-shirts, flip flops, and a straw hat.  (It's okay to run out of your flip flops, because it is summer, and your feet will not freeze.)

The truth is, I'm not sophisticated.  It wouldn't matter if I learned how to choose and wear the right colored make up or figured out how to style my hair or wore jewelry or bought new clothes that successfully tread that very thin line of neither young nor old.  Those things would be, for me, like a preschooler playing dress up.  Fun for a few hours, but not the real me.  I love my girlie skirts, and my red patent leather shoes make me happy every time I look down at my feet.

Fortunately for me, I am blessed with a husband who encouraged me to buy those red shoes of happiness, when I was having doubts about their versatility:price ratio.  He knows my style, and he has never been unhappy with it.  I feel the same way about his.  After all, what is cozier on a cold winter day than a man in a flannel shirt?

Friday, December 10, 2010

365-263 Toys We Keep

I don't think I'll ever get rid of my eldest's old wooden trains.  Unlike many other toys, the trains seem to be just as fun, maybe more, when you are the only child around and have them all to yourself.  I love seeing my little visitors delight in these classics, just like I love having the chance to read their once favorite picture books to new listeners. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

365-262 Their dad is a lucky man

He'll be surrounded by four beautiful women for the rest of his life. 

365-261 Sleeping like a baby

 This darling was only 10 hours old when I saw her this afternoon.  6lbs 12 oz of sweetness.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

2011: Mommytography 365

I have enjoyed participating in the Mommytography project this year, and plan to continue next.   The purpose of Mommytography 365 Project is to get people out using their camera and learning new things with it daily.  

Anyone can join, no need to be a mom.  Tracy, the leader, is very encouraging, as are all the participants.  Seeing what others are doing with their photographs is fun, and often inspires me to try shots I haven't considered before.  

If you are at all interested in improving your own pictures, I encourage you to join.  You can post daily or weekly.  It does not matter what kind of digital camera you use or where you blog.  It does not matter if your goal is to turn pro, come home from vacation with photos people want to see, or take better pictures of your kids.  It does not matter if you fall behind; I've been behind all year.  You will learn by doing, and by observing others, and you'll have fun along the way.

365-260 Expectations Exceeded

This is not what we pictured when her mom requested "a bowl of ice cream," but little eyes certainly lit up when it was brought to the table.  Cherries were eaten first, all four of them.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Friday, December 3, 2010

365-257 Tiny Toes

365-256 One Day Old and Already Daddy's Girl

Today I had the pleasure of visiting friends who just yesterday welcomed their firstborn into the world.  A beautiful baby girl with porcelain skin, bright eyes, and parents for whom it was certainly love at first sight, she is 5 lbs 6 oz of sheer bliss.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

365-255 Does this look like punishment?

It is.  Trixie is a compulsive licker.  Left unchecked, there are times she will lick her paw to the point of licking all the hair off one little spot.  So we keep an eye (and ear, she's a loud licker) on her.  Trixie is also a burrowing creature.  She loves to be under blankets and pillows.  Usually, if I catch her paw licking under the covers, I tell her stop and she does.  However, if she doesn't stop licking her paw, I tell her that she "has lost head under the covers privileges," and reposition the blanket like this.  It's the punishment, and she knows it.