Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday Fill-Ins

This looks like fun so here goes!

l. When I fell in love I was a mere child!

2. I sneeze when the flowers boom and it heat up outside.

3. Oh no! The internet is down, what do I do now?

4. I have no idea what is the craziest tv show ever -- maybe Mork and Mindy.

5. Cheese and crackers make a great meal.

6. I don't need a garden.

7. As for this weekened, tonight I am looking forward to going to sleep, tomorrow my plans include houseework and Sunday I want to go to church.

Friday, April 18, 2008

I *Heart* Kohl's

Remember the days when we looked so forward to getting a new straw bag for spring? Well, it has been years since I have had one -- probably high school. So, I went out looking for one and found one that works perfectly for me! I am so proud of it -- plus, it was on sale so even MORE perfect.

I am now participating in several reading challenges -- Young Readers, Romance Readers, Miss Read and my own personal goal to see how many books I can read that aren't on either of the above lists! And, of course, the Ultimate Challenge -- to finish "London" sometime in my lifetime.

So, I just thought I would take a break from all this reading to show you the Perfect Spring Straw Bag!

Romance Readers Challenge

On April 1, 2008, The Bookworm officially began the Romance Readers Challenge. The only rules are that you have to read five books in 2008 and they can be of any time period or style -- Harlequin, historical romance, modern romance, Jane Austen, chicklit, as long as there is a romance between the two main characters.

This sounds like a light-hearted challenge and one I could take on -- five books doesn't seem to be much.

So, I signed up and will start soon -- however, I don't think "London" will count in this challenge.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Typical Texas Evening

It was a beautiful day here but, as usual, a line of thunderstorms -- with rotation-- fired up late in the afternoon. This is what blew through from the west and pounded our house. I guess I will be making an appointment with the insurance adjuster tomorrow because this was bigger than a quarter. However, it isn't baseball sized like it was when it hit the areas before us.

All is quiet now.
Booking Through Thursday

What do you do when you run across a word/phrase you don't know?

Well, if I can't figure it out from the rest of the text, I look it up. I am sorry to say that I have pretty much given up a traditional dictionary and head to the internet. The internet makes it easier to look up phrases if you are reading a non-American piece.

Besides, isn't that what they taught us in school -- look it up?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Good Ol' Days

Yesterday I was reminded, and not in a good way, how much the world has changed. What happened yesterday? Nothing much -- I had to locate a pair of white gloves. I used to have white gloves but I don't have them anymore -- I guess they were discarded during one of several moves. We didn't wear them anymore -- why keep them. After phoning several department stores, craft stores and bridal shops I accepted the fact that they were not to be found locally. So, I went online. I found them, placed my online order, paid an unbelievable price for speedy shipping and I was done. However, my mind raced back in time and I could visualize where I could go to get white gloves -- the accessory department at Joske's where my aunt worked. Or, Winn's -- the neighborhood five and dime. But, finding white gloves and handkerchiefs and head scarves wasn't a difficult thing. When did we quit needing these things? When life became all jeans and trainers and t-shirts? Everybody says that is an improvement -- no more hose, heels, the trappings of femininity gone or at least changed. Not only was it a frustrating quest, finding these white gloves, it was also sad.

As I look at the photo above I am taken back to a much different time but not ALL that long ago. This photo is of myself (the baby) and my cousin jlshall. The setting, her house, was typical of the time -- postwar housing, slipcovered furniture, venetian blinds of the metal variety and REAL ivy plants. My house looked the same way. Our way of life was different. Cars weren't as plentiful -- we went downtown on the bus every Saturday (sometimes sporting the much coveted white gloves). We would eat at Casa Rio, a big treat which never really ended well for either of us. We shopped at major department stores rather than strip centers. We didn't have to commute to see our relatives -- if either of us wanted to run away from home all we had to do was cross the street to our aunts houses. If we needed milk, we walked around the corner to the convenience store that was owned/operated by the same family for all my life. It was much slower, absolutely primitive compared to today where my daughter has almost a two hour commute to and from her job, where you can't find white gloves and if you want a plain old headscarf you best take yourself to your local antique mall.

Are we better off now? Considering all the media attention directed toward the "greening" of ourselves and our environment I would have to say no. Yes, we live in lovely new homes with new and improved materials, we have nice cars and many modern conveniences from robotic vacuum cleaners to steam washers and advanced climate control, our wood floors are covered in carpet to keep our feet warm. Many new, innovative things -- many of which have proven to be grossly unhealthy.

However, there are days when I long for the times when our a/c meant open windows and a screen door, our clothes were line dried, our normal transportation was public and we walked to school. We played outside in our lawn chair house under the gardenia bush and we played with paper dolls cut from coloring books. Our video games were a deck of cards that we learned to "fish" and "battle" and get really wild with a game of "21". Our music was on records, scratched that they were, and our television view was limited to two channels -- well, until we got three.

We weren't without the normal problems but they seemed to be dealt with more effectively -- nobody committed suicide, turned to drugs or required counseling. We had each other to help us cope.

It was slower then, and some days a little boring, but it was fun when we would all sit outside in the evening and look at the stars as we laid on our backs on blankets. Yes, we could actually see the stars -- they weren't obscured by city lights.

A quick look at the photo reveals more than the home furnishing trends of the time. It shows two children untouched by stress, healthy in a cleaner environment and secure in the family setting that is still, today, so important.

Are the two children in the photo still like that? Well, sort of. Older, wiser, survivors of the 60's, but I think we still revere those times and look upon them as the "gold standard" of generations -- the best of times, the worst of times so to speak. I can only speak for myself but I wouldn't mind going back to those times for a day -- if I could get by without the a/c and if I could take my computer and my new white gloves.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Booking Through Thursday Challenge

Pick up a book.
Turn to page 123.
Read the first sentence.
Read the last sentence.
Now connect them.

Ok, I know it isn't Thursday but let's just say yesterday I was a bit of a mess and just didn't get around to this. Also, I know I didn't transcribe the challenge word for word. My apology.

The book closest to me is "The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place" by E.L. Konigsburg.

"I awakened to the smell of pancakes. This morning, Uncle Alex said nothing--did not even greet me in English -- but stood at the stove, with his back to me, pouring batter into a pan."

I actually think these two sentences make sense together without fiddling with them so I will leave them as they are. Of course, they are better with all the text in between but they still stand on their own.

I haven't started reading this book yet but it was next in line for my Young Readers Challenge. After reading page 123, my interest is piqued and I will start it this afternoon. Thanks for the jumpstart!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Texas our Texas

We have a saying here in Texas concerning the weather -- "if you don't like the weather in Texas, just wait a minute and it will change". Well, I have been waiting for about two weeks and anytime now would be fine with me.

I read a number of blogs that include pictures of their environment. There are pictures of the Rocky Mountains, pictures of the cherry blossoms in D.C., pictures of the fall leaves in the midwest and northeast. So, I have decided to include a photo of what it has been like in north Texas for the last couple of weeks, off and on. It isn't much to look at so maybe next time I will post a photo of the Target going up across the street from me. A lovely view of the loading dock from my backyard, perhaps. If I didn't hate moving so badly, I would say it was time to go to the country.
You, Me and Dupree

A and I watch lots of movies, especially since our recent cable tv upgrade has provided us with 20+ movie channels. Having that many channels doesn't guarantee that there is anything on worth watching nor does it guarantee we are going to agree on what to watch. Since we have had this abundance of viewing pleasure it has come to my attention that A and I have very different taste in movies. Usually one of us gives in to the other but last night was an exception -- we both were able to watch something of our choice because the movies were piggy-backed instead of running concurrently.

I, being the "chick" that I am, chose "You, Me and Dupree". A, being the gentleman that he is, acquiesed politely with a minimum of eye rolling and, after dinner, we settled in for an entertaining evening ahead.

Well, long story short, A laughed. Now, this doesn't happen easily for A. It isn't that he is a grump, or anything like that, he just doesn't find many things particularly humorous. But, last night, he laughed. Out loud. I laughed, too -- at him laughing. It was a good evening.

I would recommend "You, Me and Dupree" for your next movie marathon while waiting for disastrous weather to arrive. Not because it is a fantastic movie but because it made A laugh.

Now, you are probably wondering what A's choice was. I don't know. I didn't watch it. But, I know he didn't laugh.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Miss Read Challenge

I have started on my first Miss Read book -- Tales from a Village School and am zipping right along. It is a collection of short stories all being taken from the author's years as a teacher in village schools in England. Each story is short so it is a quick read.

As JLSHall posted, this isn't a formal challenge -- more of a personal challenge wanting company. However, if rules are necessary, I can make rules. Let's see -- who can read the most Miss Read (any or all of the collections, mix and match) by the end of 2008! That sounds pretty open ended and flexible. So, that is it. Let me know if you are interested and how it is going and we will meet back here on New Year's Eve!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Jeremy -- The Tale of an Honest Bunny

I chose "Jeremy--The Tale of an Honest Bunny" by Jan Karon as my ninth book in the Young Readers Challenge.

This book is a lovely book. The dust jacket is vintage looking with a window to the hard-cover. The hard-cover is a very nice on it's own. The book even has a sewn in bookmark. The illustrations, by Teri Weidner, are exquisite -- reminiscent of illustrations in books of the late 40's and early 50'. It reminds me of the books that I used to get from Joske's Department Store and Ann and Tom Brown's Toy Store.

The story is sweet, albeit predictable. Jeremy is a cloth bunny created In England for a recipient in America. He is alive and talks, a lot like Pinocchio. He doesn't want to be shipped in a box and prefers to "deliver himself" to Candace, his new person in his new home. Expectantly, Jeremy has many adventures and difficulties on his road to America. He resolves his difficulties by being "an honest" bunny which is what he promised Lydia, his creator. The object lesson is honesty and staying focused on the goal.

I would recommend this as a read-to-me book for 5-6 yr. olds. It is conveniently divided into short chapters that work well as a bedtime story to be continued the next night -- about a week's worth. An eight year old would enjoy reading alone. I think this one would top out at about 9 yrs.

It is a good book. A lovely addition to a child's library and a classic that can grow up with a child for a while.

Monday, April 07, 2008

For the Love of Cross Stitch

When I was about five, or so, my mother decided to introduce me to embroidery. It was a set of pre-stamped tea towels. If my memory serves me correctly, the pattern was of kittens. My stitches were too big and some of them were pulled but I was fascinated. That was my first venture with a great span of time until my next attempt as an adult. I did a few crewel kits as a young married woman. They turned out pretty well but I was not the least bit prepared for the fact that moths could actually eat my best attempt -- as it hung on the wall! I was devastated. So, in an attempt to find something that wasn't food for something else, I turned my attention to cross stitch.

I love cross stitch and have done a lot of it over the years. But, I struggle. I absolutely love the look of linen but have difficulty counting out the stitches over two threads -- especially if the stitches are far apart. Evenweave creates the same problem. I tend to stay with aida which is quite limiting in the look that I want to create. Sometimes frustration abounds but still I persevere.

I love the cottages, bungalows, lighthouses -- any houses-- depicted in the cross stitch mags. I have a weakness for small houses. I collect small houses such as David Winter cottages -- I even picture the families in the small houses. So, it is no surprise that I like to stitch them.

The picture posted here is of a WIP that has been recently -- very recently -- completed. It was a WIP for so long I almost never got the masking tape off so I could press it. I swear never to put masking tape on my work again -- I really do. It takes longer to wrap the edges in the tape than it does to put a zigzag around it with the sewing machine. In any event, here is my latest completion.

I have started a new project -- a pair of absolutely gorgeous birds. The thread variation is so intricate I am having to work on it one ten stitch grid at a time. Oh, thank goodness for sticky notes! I will post more when I have more done -- right now it is VERY hard to tell it is a bird.

At any rate, here is my little house!
Miss Read Challenge

I have an affinity for buying books, similar to my affinity for buying needlework/quilting paraphenalia and Poirot mystery DVD's. All of these things are lovely, in their own way, but need to be dealt with eventually because I am sure they have the ability to multiply themselves in the dark. So, here in the early days of 2008, I have been making time to participate in each of these activities -- at least a bit each day.

The Young Readers Challenge has been quite helpful in making me look at my collection of children's books that I have either never read or wish to read again. Unfortunately, it sent me to the bookstore to look for more which my one bulging bookcase can't handle.

As I looked at the bulging bookcase, the books resting there two deep, I became very aware of my reading "style". I tend to like books that are either historical fiction or that represent a cozy, homey sort of life that is found in a time or place that is different from that in which I live. The one notable thing about my selection of books is that they are mostly in series. Since I just finished the latest book by Jan Karon, "Home from Holly Springs", I was looking for something to follow it up with (while waiting for the next Karon) so I went to Karon's website and she suggested a couple of Miss Read books of the Thrush Green series. I went to my bulging bookcase -- noted as the BBC from here on -- and I found that I had a copy of the first Miss Read work from 1955. The title is "Tales of a Village School". Upon further review, I learned that there are two sizable Miss Read series -- the Fairacre series and the Thrush Green series. The book I have is the first of the Fairace series and that is where I will begin. (Note: has a listing of all the Miss Read books by series)

So, I have decided to begin my own reading challenge. I am going to challenge myself to begin the Miss Read books and see how far I go. If anyone would care to join me just let me know. There are no rules -- rules aren't fun -- just choose a book and have a go.

"Miss Read has created an orderly universe in which people are kind and conscientious and cherish virtues and manners now considered antiquated elsewhere...An occasional visit to Fairace offers a restful change from the frenetic pace of the contemporary world." ---Publishers Weekly

See, I told you I liked books from a different time and place than the one in which I live.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Home to Holly Springs

I have read the entire Mitford series by Jan Karon and enjoyed each book thoroughly. I have read many reviews that used words like predictable, sappy, etc. Are they predictable? Yes, but not always. Are they sappy? I didn't find them so but I guess in some peoples opinion they could be. Light? Yes. Preachy? In my opinion, no. To me, they are a welcome relief from a big city world where just turning on the morning news can incite fear for our very being. Mitford is a lovely place to escape to.

So, when I began "Home to Holly Springs" I expected more of the affable Fr. Tim and his host of Mitford characters. I was quite surprised to find a rather deep depiction of Tim Kavanaugh's childhood fraught with violence, deception, racial situations and fear. Karon does, IMHO, an outstanding job of presenting these concepts to her readers without Fr. Tim losing his "identity". She also recreates these events in Fr. Tim's life graphically enough to her get point across but not so much as to lose her tone and HER identity.

In the original Mitford series, religious faith is obviously the main storyline but takes a backseat to the characters and life in the small North Carolina town. Faith is underlying and referred to but it is still light reading. In the Holly Springs books, faith is viewed as deep, long time coming, sometimes difficult to understand and maintain but, in the end, something we all need to get us through the difficulties of life. I found the emphasis on religion between the two series to be completely different -- much more significant in Holly Springs.

Being of a religious mind myself, I was drawn to the original books because of their wholesomeness. They possess comedic situations, are upbeat, have likeable characters and picturesque settings. They show the vulnerability of the human spirit and aren't afraid to confess God in our everyday life. Holly Springs, however, is different. It, too, has great characterization, comedic episodes, and picturesque settings. However, the faith shown in this book is deeper, more urgent, the situations much more serious-- life threatening and life affirming. I found the original series to be faith building but not anything like Holly Springs.

"Home to Holly Springs" is a wonderful book. In my opinion is flows flawlessly, the characters are well developed and it draws you in from the first page. While I succumbed to the faith building aspect of the work, it could be read and enjoyed by anyone of any belief. It isn't preachy -- it just teaches by example, shows how people are really flawed and faith gets them through the tough things that life throws at us.

Predictable? To some extent. Sappy? Sure. Enjoyable? Absolutely. Recommended? Without a doubt!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Booking Through Thursday

When somebody mentions "literature", what is the first thing you think of? (Dickens? Tolstoy? Shakespeare?)

Do you read "literature" (however you define it) for pleasure? Or is it something you read only when you must?

When you say "literature" I immediately think of my senior English class in high school. Somehow the word "literature" and Beowulf seem to go together to me. But, on further review, I guess I look at most fiction as literature. I mean, after all, isn't some of the more contemporary fiction going to be upheld as great literature somewhere down the road?

For the most part, I read for pleasure. I read to escape to another place and put myself in the shoes of another for a while. I choose to read, it isn't something that is forced on me anymore -- i.e. I am not in that sr. English class anymore. I find, though, that I am wanting to go back and read, for pleasure, some of the things I read then because I HAD to.

On the other hand, I do read a great deal for information. As a quilter and a needleworker I read to learn more about those activities. Still, it is for pleasure.

As a child, I wanted desperately to learn to read -- the newspaper fascinated me. Somehow I knew it would always serve me well and I was right -- just give me a book and I am a happy camper.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Wait Until Helen Comes

Written by Mary Downing Hahn, this is the eighth book I have read for the Young Readers Challenge. It was published in 1987 by Avon books.

When I began this book, I didn't like it. The parents, newlyweds, were too self-serving and self-absorbed. When they married they created a blended family, Jean, Michael and Molly,her two children from a previous marriage and Heather, the moody, troubled seven year old daughter of Dave and his deceased wife.

Basically, it is a story about the trials of a blended family and an unwelcomed move to a new home. The subplot is, of course, a ghost story involving Heather and the ghost of a young girl named Helen. Their stories paralleled each other exactly. As the story unfolds, Michael remains pretty much unchanged, Molly is forced to face her fear of her mortality and Heather is able to face her guilt in regards to her mother's death. It all ends well, of course, but I have real problems with the whole thing.

In the first place, Heather was three years old when her mother died in a fire that was started by the toddler. I really think that the guilt is not realistic -- a three year old is not going to remember in detail the events leading up to her mothers death and blame herself. Heather's possession by Helen (the ghost) if you want to call it that, is just disturbing.

The parents, Jean and Dave, are completely self-absorbed and don't seem to be too concerned about their kids until the end of the book. They don't listen. The arguments between Jean and Dave concerning the children are very realistic and, in my opinion, not very entertaining.

Michael is the only well adjusted one, it seems. Not much to say about him -- the character isn't very well developed and you only get his insight once throughout the whole book.

Molly seems to be having issues with her own mortality. I picture Molly to be about twelve, although I don't believe it was ever stated, and I just don't think a twelve year old would dwell on the finality of her death. Most twelve year olds I have known think they are invincible!

All in all, the book was very well written and flowed well. It drew me in and held my interest but I just think it was entirely too graphic, morbid and depressing for anyone under the age of twelve and I am not too sure about a twelve year old -- I guess it would depend on the child.

I would recommend that parents read this book before recommending it to their children.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Rollie All Grown Up

I have decided to add a photo of G. Rollie now that he is all grown up. Grown up, indeed, at the ripe old age of 18 months old, he is on a diet. When he came to us at 5 months old he was a robust kitten. Well, he is now a robust adult and tipped the scales at 17 pounds at his last vet visit. The vet wasn't happy and now Rollie is on diet food and precious little of it. I think he has lost an ounce.

At any rate, the photo is of Rollie enjoying one of his many pasttimes -- helping me with my quilting. He also likes to play with knitting needles and a bobbin of embroidery thread isn't safe anywhere near him. Trying to accomplish anything crafty with Rollie in the vacinity is almost impossible yet, he is so funny, I can't get angry or shoo him away.

So, here he is, showing his patriotism by wrapping himself up in the flag quilt I am making for my daughter's classroom. No surprise that it has taken me about 500% longer to applique those 50 stars than it would have without all the help I was getting.

But, at the end of the day, I am going to have to give him credit on the quilt label because he was obviously an active participant.

Gig em', Rollie!