Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Books I Read and Movies I Watched in July

Let's just say this was an embarrassing month. I read a whopping 2 books and watched and re-watched a TON of Hallmark.

Books
So I read two books . . . but only one new one. I did read on plenty of other books that I will be finishing up in August (but that I easily could have finished in July, ahem).

Reread
A Tangled Web
Since I was not super motivated with my main stack of books, I decided to read something I wanted to read. I've since increased my lighter and fun reading pile. I usually have plenty of fun novels, but they are usually shorter, and I read them first, plus this time I didn't finish at least two.

Anyway, I had forgotten some of this, and I love all the details. I laughed out loud at parts. I went back and re-read parts again after I had finished re-reading.

New Read
Cheaper by the Dozen
Dad started reading this to us when we were small; he may have finished it, but what I found most memorable were the times he stopped because of not age appropriate issues. Definitely adult areas, but written in a way a child wouldn't understand, I think. I was surprised at this for the time period though.

Movies
At some point, I might start writing down all my re-watches because I need to limit my movie viewing. I don't want to watch movies at the same pace or higher than I read whether they be new or not. I'm not sure if I've listed everything, but this is bad good enough. I don't have much to say. We, of course, enjoyed the Thin Man mystery, and some of the Hallmarks (the last two listed) were dumb/boring, some were cute and funny (the first two listed) and one had a really funny guy but the rest was blah.

Classics
Shadow of the Thin Man

Rewatches
Hallmarks
How to Steal a Million
Roman Holiday

Hallmark
Surprised by Love
Appetite For Love
Moonlight in Vermont
Autumn in the Vineyard
Chance At Romance



Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Fairy Stories

Today's Top Ten Tuesday is a freebie (here is the list on The Broke and the Bookish). 

Mine is fairy stories, not really fairy-tales, but rather stories that feature the fairy realm. And this is eleven and all that I've read in this category.

~Fairies of the Celtic Lands by Nigel Suckling. This is a book about what is essentially Celtic mythology which is what fairies are. And this is the original dark stuff, not the cute, fun pixies and sparkles and Disney. You can see how Tolkien formed his fictional universe. This is essential to understand better the British based novels below (only Wildwood Dancing is not British)

~Faery Rebels (Knife/Spell-Hunter, Rebel/Wayfarer, and Arrow). Set in Britain and based on Celtic/British mythology. Absolutely riveting.

~Swift and Nomad. These follow the above three chronologically in the same fictional universe (and with some of the same characters) but are part of their own series. The author planned a third but to our sorrow, that hasn't worked out yet. These are my favorite.

~Wildwood Dancing. I love this. Set in Transylvania with a hint of the twelve dancing princesses fairy tale (my favorite) and touches of vampire legends, just enough to spook but not enough to terrify. I didn't enjoy Cybele's Secret as well.

~13 Treasures, 13 Curses, and 13 Secrets. These are technically middle grade, but be warned, they are dark (more like the actual tales), and the last is far too gruesome for that age (and for me in parts)




Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Art Fair Haul

My grandparents and I made our fourth annual trip to a local art fair again. I went once before without them and then after I invited them once we've made it a tradition. I love it. My attention span matches with their strength and the area is a nice, small size.


This lovely tray is made out of recycled aluminum; its as elegant looking as pewter but lighter and less expensive. The lady said is was safer for food use too, but I know other people disagree with use of aluminum with food. 


I love these little houses. I bought different sizes and colors for my sister, and I'd love to have a more full collection. They are adorable alone but can also be used for vases and planters.

I also bought natural bug spray and poison ivy treatment spray. The latter contains jewelweed. I'd read about that before when searching for poison ivy helps (I seem to get it every year, probably from the animals although I haven't got it yet). The lady who made these sprays says jewelweed grows by poison ivy which I thought was fascinating.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Books as Cake Tag

I'm still trying to tie up things for my new blog, and because I'm still learning how to prepare and not wing everything, this is taking much longer than I expected because I'm constantly finding out new things. So, here is another tag.

I've seen a few versions of this tag, but I don't like some of the cakes/haven't had some and didn't think all the choices fit, so I scrambled them up from the sources and then scrambled the tag up and also added my own cakes and categories.

Dark Chocolate Cake: a Dark Book You Enjoyed
All the Light You Cannot See. This is possibly the darkest book that I've read and enjoyed, but I'm not sure I'd read it again. I know too much about WWII (and yet hardly a drop), and I kept adding to what the writer said in my head.

Chocolate Cake: a Book You'd Recommend to Everyone
That would have to be non-fiction, sorry, I don't think people have the same fiction tastes. Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America by David Hackett Fischer. An amazing history of the colonization of the United States that explains SO much of our history and culture. Oh, I'm sorry is does that sound like a vegetable book to you? Well, it shouldn't. I found it quite readable for a scholarly work and absolutely fascinating in content and organization.

Angel Food Cake: a Light Read (because vanilla cake ISN'T light people)
The Ordinary Princess by M. M. Kaye. Princess and fairytale stories are my go-to light reading category.

Vanilla Cake: a Romance
I'm going to put something different from Blue Castle although that is good, everyone seems to be talking about it so instead I will choose The Harvester by Gene Stratton-Porter.

Red Velvet Cake: a Favorite Mystery
Whose Body by Dorothy Sayers. What caught me and held me to the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries. There are few boring ones, but the ones with him and Harriet Vane!

Cheesecake (cause I'm not a cheesecake fan): a Book You Didn't Finish
So many, I don't remember them all. I didn't think them worth finishing after all. The most recent unfinished book was the first of Andrew Peterson's Wingfeather saga. I did appreciate his humorous references to popular fantasy novels and the ridiculous amount he sculled from them. However, that is not enough for a story. His characters were awful and the story slow. And the scatological humor and other gross 6-year old boy descriptions made me want to gag regularly; this was SO unnecessary and beyond distracting. I ended up skimming and sending back to the library.

I don't feel compelled to finish books. I dislike the check box mentality. To-dos are for accomplishing worthy activities, not simply to complete something. Don't waste your time merely to complete something. and there are too many good books in the world and too many good things in the world to waste time on bad and mediocre books.

Carrot Cake: a Book You Had Mixed Feelings About (I'm not sure I really HAVE mixed feelings about books, I'm a bit take it or leave it)
I'm going to go with Jacob Have I Loved. I loved the writing, but the story has some content issues, and I didn't find the ending (and the ending writing quality) satisfying.

Pound Cake: a Book with Great Writing (because the best poundcake has perfect texture)
So many books have great writing. That is a HUGE reason why I like them. And I like reading whole spades of books from authors whose writing I liked. No, wait. I've found one. The Book Thief. I loved the writing for that, but when I tried another of his books, his writing style didn't translate well for that story, it felt overwrought, absurd, and out of place.

Ice Cream Cake: a Book with All the Layers and Details
I'm going to go with a recent re-read, A Tangled Web. So much going on here. So many lovely details that you forget and love to find again when re-reading.

A Teeny Tiny Petit Four (since every other cake fills you quite up): A Book that Left You Wanting More
Okay, I'm going to be lazy and pick an unfinished work: Sandition. Oh, it looks to be one of her best novels and best heroes! There are so many books that leave me wanting more to various degrees. More about continued generations, more about the characters' lives later, more details.

Cupcakes: a Favorite  4+ Book Series
I'm cheating, sort of. My sisters and I consider R. J. Anderson's Faery Rebel trilogy Knife (Spell-hunter in U.S.), Rebel (Wayfarer in U.S.), and Arrow the beginning part of a series with the duology (Swift and Nomad) following because of the same universe and characters and the chronology. I think only the first two are available in U.S., but I ordered them all from Amazon U.K. so all the covers would match together.

Fruitcake: a Book that Was Not What You Expected
Dr. Strange and Mr. Norrell. I expected more of a usual style of fantasy, but this was almost like Dickens plus magicians. Odd too in other ways.

Strawberry Cake: Your Favorite American Novel
I haven't read many U.S. classics and don't like what I've read. I prefer children's classics, and I will go with A Bridge to Terebithia. I love Katherine Patterson's writing.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The "100 Books the BBC Think Most People Haven't Read More than 6 of" Tag

I found this post via Olivia's blog here, but MovieCritic made it here.

Also, I'm not sure there is any evidence that the BBC ever made such a list or made such a claim. Nevertheless, this tag is fun.

The ones I've read (17), I've highlighted. I plan to read some of more of these titles. I'm not absolutely certain about all the ones I've skimmed or started (or which is which), so I didn't mark those. Many of the others I've never heard of. I'm not going to tag anyone, but feel free to tag yourself.

1.  Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen 
2.  Gormenghast Trilogy -  Mervyn Peake
3.  Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë 
4.  Temple of the Golden Pavilion - Yukio Mishima
5.  To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee 
6.  The Story of the Eye - George Bataille
7.  Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë 
8.  Nineteen Eighty-Four - George Orwell 
9.  Adrift on the Nile - Naguib Mahfouz
10.  Great Expectations - Charles Dickens 
11.  Little Women - Louisa May Alcott 
12.  Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13.  Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14.  Rhinoceros - Eugene Ionesco
15.  Baron in the Trees - Italo Calvino
16.  The Master of Go - Yasunari Kawabata
17.  Woman in the Dunes - Abe Kobo
18.  Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger 
19.  The Feast of the Goat - Mario Vargas Llosa
20.  Middlemarch - George Eliot
21.  Gogol's Wife - Tomasso Landolfi
22.  The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald 
23.  Magic Mountain - Thomas Mann
24.  War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25.  Ferdydurke - Gombrowicz
26.  Narcissus and Goldmund - Herman Hesse
27.  Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky 
28.  The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29.  Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll 
30.  The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31.  Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy 
32.  The Jungle - Upton Sinclair
33.  Tom Sawyer / Huck Finn - Mark Twain 
34.  Emma - Jane Austen
35.  Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Defoe 
36.  Delta Wedding - Eudora Welty
37.  The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini 
38.  Naomi - Junichiro Tanizaki
39.  Cosmicomics - Italo Calvino
40.  The Joke - Milan Kundera
41.  Animal Farm - George Orwell
42.  Labyrinths - Gorge Luis Borges
43.  One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44.  A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving 
45.  Under My Skin - Doris Lessing
46.  Anne of Green Gables - L. M. Montgomery 
47.  Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy 
48.  Don Quixote - Miguel Cervantes 
49.  Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50.  Absalom Absalom - William Faulkner
51.  Beloved - Toni Morrison
52.  The Flounder - Gunther Grass
53.  Dead Souls - Nikolai Gogol
54.  Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55.  My Name is Red - Orhan Pamuk
56.  A Dolls House - Henrik Ibsen
57.  A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens 
58.  Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59.  The Idiot - Fyodor Dostoevsky
60.  Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61.  Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62.  Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63.  Leaves of Grass - Walt Whitman
64.  Death on the Installment Plan - Celine
65.  Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66.  On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67.  Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68.  Pedro Paramo - Juan Rulfo
69.  Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70.  Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71.  Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72.  Dracula - Bram Stoker
73.  The Metamorphosis - Kafka
74.  Epitaph of a Small Winner - Machado De Assis
75.  Ulysses - James Joyce
76.  The Inferno - Dante 
77.  Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78.  Germinal - Emile Zola
79.  To the Light House - Virginia Woolf 
80.  Disgrace - John Maxwell Coetzee
81.  A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82.  Zorba the Greek - Nikos Kazantzakis
83.  The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84.  The Box Man - Abe Kobo
85.  Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86.  A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87.  The Stranger - Camus
88.  Acquainted with the Night - Heinrich Boll
89.  Don't Call It Night - Amos Oz
90.  The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91.  Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92.  The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93.  Gravity's Rainbow - Thomas Pynchon
94.  Memoirs of Hadrian - Marguerite Yourcenar
95.  A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96.  Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe
97.  The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98.  Hamlet - William Shakespeare 
99.  Faust - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)
100.  Metamorphosis - Ovid


Monday, July 24, 2017

My Sister's Pixar's Up Travel Themed Wedding: The Reception

Again, iPhone photos I snapped just before the wedding. Since the rain spoiled any chance for more professional before wedding photos (I wasn't crying over that), we waited in a hall for a bit before we went into the reception. People were already eating, and the line wasn't bad, so I didn't have to wait long for food (and I wasn't particularly hungry, and I was rather in an out-of-body state of mind). 


The dance floor is right in from of this. My sister has already hung the map in her living room. She spray-painted the bottles and decoupaged the maps onto the smaller ones. I don't have a photo, but she also decoupaged a grape soda label onto bottle tops which she glued with a pin onto the table numbers (another reference to Up).


These vases are for the wedding party's flowers.



I bounced around for most of the reception. Getting my food, getting candy, talking to people at various tables, begging for cake (the bridal party got the special home-made by a friend of Mom's wedding cake which was amazingly delicious, but hardly anybody ate any, so we shared some and pigged out at home the rest of the week), watching the dancing, wondering if I would dance, sort of trying to dance, getting mad at myself for it, and generally wandering around. 



The reception flew by (and the dancers, meaning mostly our half of the bridal party and friends weren't at all done dancing), and we lined up outside to blow bubbles at the bride and groom, and some children chased them to their car with bubbles.


More Up quotes



And then we cleaned up the place. An idiot (yours truly) caused us to have about 6 whole Costco cakes left. We shared quite a bit of cake, food, and candy. Although I was overwhelmed at the time, I think we easily cleared all the food and decor away since a month later almost everything has a place. My sister took quite a bit for her condo and the little girls took some decorations for their rooms.

Friday, July 21, 2017

My Sister's Pixar's Up Travel Themed Wedding: The Entrance Decor

I cannot share or link any professional photos because of privacy, so I will show you the quick snaps I took on my iPhone before the wedding.


My sister drew this herself. By the end of the wedding, people had filled out the balloons and spread the colors beautifully.  



My sister made this herself, and people filled it up wonderfully. She left places to put in her and her husband's travel photos as well.


My sister painted that painting ages ago (she's always loved Up). And she and her now husband painted their hands on the mailbox.

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Wedding

The day before the wedding, in the morning one of Mom’s friends (so many of her friends helped with the wedding) helped me with the all the flowers. Mom ended up having to buy my sister’s flowers from a variety of stores, so I ended up doing the bridal bouquet all myself. I think our bouquets were as pretty, if not prettier than professionally done ones, but the corsages and boutonnieres were droopy by the end of the day.

My sister had her four sisters, her sister-in-law, and three other friends as bridesmaids. We each picked either a grey/silver or blue dress. My sister gave us rose gold earrings to wear (they are so elegant). My sister’s wedding dress was off-white; her rings, shoes, and hairpiece rose gold; and her bouquet peachy coral. The groom and groomsmen were in grey suits with blue ties.


I bought a brand-new J Crew dress on eBay for $35-$40 (including shipping) which I brilliantly waited to alter the day before the wedding. I bought my shoes from 6pm.com, and I got them in wide, and they are comfortable for heels and fit just about perfectly.


 She had planned for an outdoor wedding, and we had had such lovely weather all the month of the wedding, until the end of the wedding week. Mom and the wedding coordinator (also her friend) bought grey and blue umbrellas the day before the wedding. We knew that rain was pretty much guaranteed, and although we practiced for an indoor wedding in the reception area, we ended up having it outdoors. 


We had most of the photos before the wedding, and then waited indoors, taking fun selfies with Up themed props. The rain stopped briefly, long enough for most of the bridal party to walk out (I’m not sure what we walked down to, but the grandparents walked down to a theme from Up), and then we were given the umbrellas (and one blew inside out and the photographer got an epic photo out of that moment). And though weather was cold and rainy, the wedding was memorable and the photos quite fun and pretty (certainly prettier than they would have been indoors). 


Thursday, July 13, 2017

June Movies

I've already written on our Star Wars marathon, so I will just skip that.

We watched the rest of the Thin Man movies our library has (After the Thin ManAnother Thin Man, and The Thin Man Goes Home, so we still need to see Shadow of the Thin Man). I watched the first with sister #3. Then Song of the Thin Man with that sister and sister #4. Sister #2 joined in for the three this month and so all of us at home are now hooked.  We've added this series to our buy list. Now murder mysteries aren't exactly my thing, well the murder part anyway. It is one thing to read them, but I grew up with a phobia of bodies and bones. And the first one freaked me out. But I do love mysteries, and the thing about these movies is Nick and Nora's relationship and shenanigans. Sister #2 said Nick and Nora are relationship goals; yep.

I watched Miss Potter by myself because I never could get anyone interesting. It was sweet and sad, and I wish the film showed her other love story. Not a favorite film.

La La Land. I thought the concept of a modern musical was fun (once my sister told me it was modern; I'd thought by the clothes that it was supposed to be set in old times). Granted I didn't like all the party numbers and the first scene reminded me of a silly Disney musical number, but City of Stars and the couple's dance numbers?! I wasn't wowed, but I liked it . . . wondering what the end was and guessing by what my sister said. I knew it was sad, but she said she know how it was sad. Which made me rather guess the ending. Except I wasn't sad. I was mad. Disgusted might me a better term. Here is what I wrote for my Letterboxd review:

 "Okay, that ending was absurd. Why bother to make a film about a "love" story that doesn't work out?! That's not "realism" that's absolute flakiness. The ending isn't creative or whatever, its feeble and pathetic. "Not working out" means "someone wasn't that interested" which means the whole love story is a lie. And it made her side of the story that much more silly and flaky. Stereotypical acting dream, stereotypical actor's shallowness and fickleness in relationships."

A sister suggested I just watch it and skip the end. I think I will do that because some parts were SO cute.



Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Would You Rather, Jane Austen 2nd Edition Plus Mr. Darcy's Inner Struggles

I'm borrowing these questions from Cordie. My sister kept mentioning and sending me Mr. Darcy's Inner Struggles on Pinterest, and I only recently realized how many of them exist, so I set about trying to find them all. Here is the original source. The link is to the beginning, scroll down to see the earliest, and then go to the next page and repeat. Enjoy, they are hysterical (note, some language).

1. Would you rather summer at Abbey Mill Farm with the Martins or spend the winter in London with your aunt and uncle?

2. Would you rather be carried away in the moment and insult someone in company or be overcome by horrid imaginings and have to confess your thoughts to someone you admire?
Oh, I'd far likely do the former, and I would probably prefer it too.

3. Would you rather marry Mr. Bingley or Robert Martin?
Mr. Bingley. We can see in the book that he's intelligent, kind, sweet, etc. while I only know that Mr. Knightley thinks Robert Martin could.

4. Would you rather tour the lake country or visit the seaside?
Tour the lake country. I'm rather tired of the Southern default to Florida. Do we have to do the same thing a trillion times? Although, the British beach would be new to me, but I'm trying to translate my experience here. I'd go to Colorado lakes or mountains before another beach trip if I had my choice.

5. Would you rather entertain Miss Bates or Mr. Collins in conversations?
I think Miss Bates would be easier and less embarrassing. I'd rather listen to Mr. Collins safely from afar though for amusement.

6. Would you rather sing a musical piece at a gathering while hiccuping every other line or take a great tumble while dancing?
Fall. Definitely.

7. Would you rather be deceived by Willoughby or Wickham?
I would rather be deceived by someone more clearly wrong and far less interesting, like Wickham, but I'm sure I'd more likely be deceived by Willoughby's good (superficial) qualities.

8. Would you rather fall head over heels in love with a man who turns out to be engaged or fall for a man too busy loving someone else to notice you?
If the engaged man loved me, then the engaged man.

9. Would you rather ride in a carriage or upon a horse to an evening party?
A carriage; I'd want to still look nice when I got to the party.

10. Would you rather accept advice from Mrs. Weston or Elinor Dashwood?
Mrs. Weston? I don't know. I prefer advice from people who have both more of a claim to experience and more mildness and humility of manner. But I wouldn't call Elinor a know-it-all.

11. Would you rather have as a companion Jane Fairfax or Charlotte Lucas?
Probably Charlotte as she talks. I talk a lot, but I don't like talking to silence; I want a response.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Wedding Preparations




I used this lipscrub recipe, but I had used up all my rosewater making a version of this setting spray, so I used essential oils . . . since this is something you want to be comfortable tasting or eating, I wouldn't do that.


Mom bought us new dresses for the rehearsal, and I picked this lovely dress from our local LOFT outlet. It fits me perfectly, which happens hardly ever. Several people asked if I made it, probably because of the fit and modesty.

I practiced my make-up ahead of time. I used mainly this tutorial (I also watched it the day of the wedding), but I also found this one helpful as well.


I made some headbands for my sister, but she didn't end up wearing them; she wore a rose gold flower clip I had instead, and I think that worked better with the shape of her head.


Friday, July 7, 2017

Bridal Shower

We threw a shower for my sister at the end of March



My grandmother has a lovely open floor plan, so we had my sister's shower at my grandparents' like we did my sister-in-law's a year and a half before. And I made cookies as I did before except I think I used a different recipe (this one by Alton Brown, except I added vanilla; they are nice and soft inside yet firm enough to decorate nicely). This time I did a MUCH better job planning (last time I made myself and a few sisters late to the shower we helped throw!). And I also made punch (not super impressed with the recipe, but I'm not sure I followed it right . . . I sometimes have "trouble" following recipes) and a ranch cheese ball (I will try to post the recipe at some point). 







My sister loves to travel (out of all of us kids, she's been to the most states,and the only one to travel outside the U.S.; she's been to several countries outside the U.S., once to teach for about nine months), and she wanted a Pixar's Up themed wedding and travel themed wedding. So, we had some touches of that at the shower. Not shown include her ocean and travel themed bathroom items, and her friend's gift of the Up house hand-painted on a plate.

 Yes, I know this looks like a Pinterest Fail, but I don't care, much, look at my other cookies! I'm so proud of those.



I made the traditional rehearsal "bouquet" out of the bows and ribbons from the gifts. Luckily almost all of them went together well. She had some strips of purple tulle that didn't match, but I didn't want to waste, so I braided those all together for the ring and wrapped it with the ribbon that matched. I was quite proud of my handiwork. Of course, she forgot to use it, but then I'm surprised we even managed to take it to the rehearsal.



Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Ranch Cheese Ball Recipe

Keep in mind that some of this is guessing as I don't measure precisely (this isn't baking, but even then I'm not precise always although I need to work on that for baking which is a science). I think the garlic might be a little high.

2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
1-2 tsp. finely chopped onion
1.25 c. fresh chives or 1 T. dried
1.5 tsp. dried dill
1.5 tsp. parsley
1 tsp. salt
1.25 tsp. pepper
Few dashes of Tabasco sauce
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice, optional
Enough cooked and crumbled bacon to cover cheese ball
2 (8oz.) packages of cream cheese
2.5 c. shredded sharp Cheddar

Blend all ingredients in food processor. Form into ball and roll in bacon. Chill.

We have a lovely marble platter that we serve it on. I also have this woodsy stump stand I want to use for gatherings.

In the same onion, chive, Cheddar, and bacon vein, we love this recipe (I leave out the sugar).

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Strawberry Cake

I made strawberry cake for Easter. I based it off of this recipe even though the blogger has a strawberry cake recipe, I just loved those vanilla cupcakes (I've made those twice although I used a mix of flavorings the first time and used a mini cupcake pan). I substituted boiling strawberry mush (from fresh strawberries) for the water (though more than one cup), and added red food coloring and strawberry flavor. I put strawberries and whipped cream in the middle and loosely based the icing off of this recipe. My sister thought whipped cream instead would've been better as it is lighter and less sugary.


Edit: I also used that cupcake recipe plus cinnamon to make Snickerdoodle cupcakes. Add 1tsp of cinnamon to your favorite white batter and 1T to your favorite vanilla icing. Yum.



Monday, July 3, 2017

June Reads

Re-Reads
The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald
I disliked the book when I first read it, but a sister liked it, it seems a popular classic, and Hamlette held a read-a-along for it, so I decided I'd try it again. Well, I despise this book, probably even more than before.

Fiction
The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
I started this awhile back and picked up where I left off. It is a fun enough read, not anything spectacular although near the later part of the story I was laughing out loud, but the ending is less than satisfactory.

4:50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie
The little girls have been on a Christie reading spree. One of them asked me about something in this one, and sensing an ambiguous ending (which I now realize could put this book in one of my reading challenge categories, yes!), I was intrigued. Of course, the ambiguity didn't end up being all that vague or essential to the story, but I was still fooled (although mostly by Wikipedia, serves me right, I keep saying I will stop being so lazy and unscholarly for serious topics, perhaps I should extend that to fiction!).

Jeeves and the Tie That Binds by P.G. Wodehouse
I think I'm close to the end of the Jeeves and Wooster books. I will have to try to find some of Wodehouse's other works. I frequently turn to the Wooster books as a nice brain break.

The Golden Road (The Story Girl #2) by L. M. Montgomery
I love Montgomery's writing style so much. I love the combination of romance (in the general sense always and sometime also in the specific sense) and coziness in her stories. I like this better than the first book.

Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens
I enjoyed this, but I must say, I don't think it is as well-written as the others at least in terms of character development. Some characters are rather stock and the more "developed" ones have
unbelievable endings or changes.

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
So many levels of ugh. I wanted to try some classic dystopian novels and had suggested A Brave New World for our family book club*, but then I started wondering what good, what benefit I would get out of these novels? What justification for focusing on such vileness did I have? Why should have force myself to read these novels when I already disagreed with the premises, the worldviews, when I can already see moral evil? When I didn't want to? I decided it wasn't worth my time, and skimmed A Brave New World which confirmed my purpose. Fahrenheit 451 I read earlier and do think a worthy work although not very deep, but that left more room for discussion than many of the novels I was considering. Many of the others are written from a worldview so opposed to my own that I don't even understand their points or cannot agree at all or can find to point of reference. I don't think humans progress; we have technological and scientific building blocks, but we in and of ourselves, our very nature is the same. These novelists try to tie our nature with our accumulated knowledge. Accumulated knowledge is not accumulated intelligence or accumulated morality. Our whole cause and effect understanding misses each other by a mile and a half. I know things won't turn out as Wells novel suggests, and I see A Brave New World start to happen, except everyone thinks it’s great, thinks its improvement, and it’s NOT Marxist (how to people still cling to that absurd theory of class warfare, it’s so incredibly simplistic and expects an abnormal about of individual stasis?!) at all when people of all sorts support it.

Nathan Coulter by Wendell Berry
I'm thinking I'm not going to be a Wendell Berry fan. I'm going to try one more novel another blogger mentioned a couple of times as a favorite of hers (I tried Jayber Crow, but didn't end up finishing it. Nathan Coulter was short, and I'd already been disillusioned), Hannah Coulter, but although I might enjoy that, I don't plan of reading more of his. I think he might be better known as a poet, and he is also an essayist, so I will try a bit of those for varieties sake (especially because I need to force myself to focus more on other literary types). I found a strain of banality and vulgarity and in Nathan Coulter a cold, callous, cruelty that disturbed me. Some people might consider it small, but cruelty starts somewhere, and don't try to tell me cruelty to animals is not tied to people. I don't care if the author is "merely" describing it; that matters too. I was contrasting this rural landscape with that of Montgomery, yep, I'd prefer the latter. I must in honesty state I did enjoy one of his short stories (the first I'd ever read of him).

Popular Non-fiction
Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough
I'm not a biography person. I think they are often a dime a dozen and that we really need to understand the era rather than individuals or at least the era before the individual. But I felt that the author researched this quite well, and I found it well-written and enjoyable although I think the author stretched his explanations or interpretations in places. I might add a few biographies alongside my history reading.

The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis—and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance by Ben Sasse
I really enjoyed this book, and I want to get a copy for myself. It reads like a parenting book, but I think that those of this generation who want to change can read it like a handbook. I've heard many of the issues and answers before, but not as a cohesive, gracious, encouraging, inspiring whole. (I usually hear complaints and/or joking (the latter of which is fine by me). And Sasse does trace the root back to earlier generations (the Boomers who raised Gen-Xers and Millennials), but the problem is two-fold. You can choose to learn and grow yourself. You always have to do that whether or not you are raised well. You can be raised well and turn out poorly and you can be raised poorly and turn out well (and kudos to you if you did). You can learn by both negative and positive examples.

Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World by Tim Marshall
I have had a slight exposure to geopolitics or rather historical geo-cultural-politics, but I've never heard the term or knew that it was a field. I found this fascinating. I do think he overstates the case for geopolitics and significantly understates/undermines the significance culture at times, and I don't agree with his (sometimes simplistic) analyses and assumptions (bear in mind that he is a journalist not historian or policy maker). Nevertheless, this is an easy introduction into this field of study.

Night by Elie Wiesel
I read this for a reading challenge category. I'm glad it was short, and I intentionally sped through it. After my Stalinism class, I always read anything real or fictitious about this period fearing too graphic description and too much information. What I've learned causes me to fill in the blanks. Be careful of reading books without context. And be careful of this book if you are sensitive or if you have background information that causes you to view such books with trepidation.

I wish he had left any philosophical mention of God and humanity out of his explanations. (I don't mean his feelings at the time of his interment; I mean his retrospective thoughts). I think we do need to learn (carefully) about the Holocaust, but I feel so many people (Europeans really seem to have this attitude) of missing the forest for the trees. Knowing about genocides in no way stops them. Having Holocaust museums won't prevent another one. We need to talk about total and absolute depravity and humanity being made in the image of God. He said thinking humans were made in the image of God was part of his mistake. Um, no, ignoring the fact of depravity was. If humans aren't made in the image of God, if there is no morality, then how on earth are you going to label evil as evil? How are you going to say destroying people is wrong?! Ideas have consequences. Saying something is evil is meaningless if evil is a subjective term. This was another massive worldview divide far more serious but similar to the dystopian novels divide. Knowing is pointless without understanding.



*I mentioned how I missed our old church book club. Almost everyone there read; we didn't all necessary read the chosen book, but most people were seriously readers or as the case with me, became serious readers/revived our love of reading. I just feel like we don't have that kind of people now. There only perfunctory readers, people who read the current church Christian book, who read YA novels, etc. Anyway. When I was whining, Mom suggested we do a book club in our family. Of course, it only ended up being the ladies, and we chose Little Dorrit for our first book. I'm hoping we can have a discussion and a movie day (but that mini-series is LONG).






Monday, June 26, 2017

What I Read and Watched May

I didn't read much in May, so I thought that I would combine with June . . . but June is shaping up to be the fullest reading (or completion) month yet, so I will combine May books and movies.

Books

The Song of Glory and Ghost (second book in Outlaws of Time series) by N.D. Wilson. Interesting, I suppose. The plot dragged in the first book, and sped up unbelievably for this one. I prefer his stand-alone books and his first trilogy to his more recent series (and I'm still waiting for the end of Ashtown Burials; the last book left with a whole new can of worms opened).

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi. I greatly enjoyed this, but I do think it is kind of misleading. He comes from a privileged, sheltered background and learned from those who cherry picked their doctrines, history, and teaching or from those who learned from those. He points this out, but I still feel that he is trying to translate his experience to far, even for a Western Muslim, he certainly goes too far to include Muslim and Muslim majority countries. I think it’s a good starting point for learning about Islam and Islamic apologetics if you read critically and intend to study further.

From Pride to Humility: A Biblical Perspective by Stuart Scott. I finally read this booklet Mom gave me.

Bookish Things

I often have used scraps of paper for bookmarks, but I've gotten better with using bookmarks of late. I had a bookmark from a birthday card from my parents that had sweet words (like favorite things or something) on it and was pink with a pink ribbon. I didn't think to laminate it to preserve it, and so I wore it out, and instead of ending my stupidity there, I think I threw it out instead of putting it in a scrapbook. Sometimes I really want to go back in time and slap myself hard.


My bookmark collection (I have three more of the Jane Austen quote set; I won them in a giveaway). The Harry Potter ones I haven't used; I like them for decorative purposes. I've had the Switzerland one for probably a decade and a half (my grandmother went on a Beth Moore trip there), and I've had the metal one probably almost as long. The two on the top left I've found in books I've bought or library books. I intentionally got the two cat ones because I just love that art (I also have the greeting card set).

Oh, and more on my blonde-ness. I've discovered "stats" on Goodreads. I've been on there 8 years, people. When I found a stats page via Google, I didn't realize it was something always on my home-page; what an idiot. Anyway, I LOVE this. I can look at what I've read year by year in total books and pages and see what the longest book for each year was, and I can see what proportion of books from different shelves and see the number of books by my rating. Goldmine.

Movies

Rogue One. The horrible pragmatic (which doesn't work) "ends justify the means" worldview that pervades the rebel forces ruins this as a good movie for me. The plot and acting are considerably better than the previous Star Wars movie. Why couldn't the morality be? Especially because I like Cassian (whose morality is the most, um, questionable).

Swing Time. Boring.

An American in Paris. Boring. I skipped a lot of this, mostly songs.

Song of the Thin Man. This is a much lighter version (although, it is still a murder mystery with more than one murder, though not NEAR as many as the first). My sister who hadn't seen the first one now wants to see more these.

Two of my sisters also started watching (and re-watching) all the Star Wars movies in order (except Rogue One) at the end of May through the beginning of June. I'd seen IV and V over a decade ago (I think I was grounded or something when the rest of the family watched the VI, lol). I watched II a couple years after that and then VI several years after that. Then I watched the newest shortly after it came out. The two younger girls hadn't seen I-III, I think. We laughed and mocked the films quite a bit. We decided we still didn't "get" the Star Wars fandom, but we thought the movies were fun. I'm not sure I'd waste much time re-watching them, especially not the first episodes.



Friday, June 23, 2017

Stop and Smell the Wildflowers

I like to have fresh flowers, and I’ve quite a collection of small vases and cute spice jars (that I picked up from an antique place). I had an idea to clear off my chest and line a row of spice jars across the top. Our yard has but an indifferent selection of flowers (I want to rectify this if I can), so I decided to scavenge weeds wildflowers. I need to get outside more. I noticed lots of different flowers and wondered what they were, so after I gathered them, I did some research. This site is what I focused on with help from my memory and other sites. We had quite a variety of flowers, but I’ve identified the most interesting/least weedy. Also, I came across interesting terms like raceme and umbel to describe flower clusters. I managed to press a few samples, and eventually I would like to watercolor next to the samples.

~Miami Mist or Scorpionweed, Waterleaf family. This flower’s funny fused head with its fake “petals” is what got me started. The flower just pops off the stem like a silk flower which I just found rather hilarious.

~Star of Bethlehem (not False Garlic, which has umbels while Star of Bethlehem has racemes, I think?!). This look most like a “real” cultivated plant.

~Striped Violet, has bearded petals. Apparently white violets come in a great many varieties.

~Common Blue Violet.

~Philadelphia Fleabane.

~Chicory (aster family).

~Multiflora Rose. These smelled lovely. But apparently, this is an invasive species.

~A form of honeysuckle. Bush, I think which is also an invasive species. Oh, well its beautiful anyway.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Summer Bucket List and My Art Journal

Watch tons of Classic Hollywood movies
This should be easy!
Read at least half of Classic Club list
Hmm. Not a priority.
Make lots of art and crafts
Well, I’ve put a lot of pressed flower art in my art journal, worked on redoing my first quilt, and worked on dresses for my sisters’ birthdays.
Spend time outside: stargaze, watch the sunset, swim, swing, catch lightening bugs, sleep outside
I’ve spent some time, but I need to make it more of a priority.
Dance
You would think this would be easy.
Go on several day-trips 
I’ve been to the zoo and a baseball game at our local university, and I want to plan one for my birthday.
Jane Austen Festival and local art festival
I’m doing the latter for certain..
Go on or at least schedule one major vacation
I meant myself, but our family is going on one in January
Take a trip with my grandparents
Work extensively on genealogy
Make frozen custard
I should've focused a bit more on, um, less costly options.

I had tons of pressed flowers, so I've worked on tons of pages for my art journal. I've rather more pressed flower pages than I would like, but I'm still learning this art journal thing. These are my best pages to date (05/26/2017), I think.


Didn't that iris press gorgeously?!


My paper back copy of the Jane Austen novels split, so I decided to use the pages for crafts.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Personality Again and Links

I'm sure I've posted too many personality posts, but I am continually finding interesting articles or blog posts.

I enjoy taking these for fun . . . but then it gets too complicated and too rule based. Too many little boxes. Meyers-Briggs is fun for FUN but it’s not a good tool for serious issues (well, not much in psychology is really, much of it is quite frankly, opinion, psychologists are NOT medical doctors, psychiatrists are). The T/F is the one where I really saw an issue. That is NOT a continuum. Plus, I always wonder how honest people are about their faults. Anyway. I have a hard time placing myself in these boxes; nevertheless, I find this interesting

I've read about HSP. And well, it smacks of the same special snowflake snobbishness that the introvert obsession does. And then there is this, perhaps we are just extremely selfish and irritable?


Speaking of, is there anyone else that cannot handle certain senses? I have a low smell toleration and low noise toleration. I can't seem to have too many sensory things going on at once.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Structured Spontaneity

My dad quoted someone as saying some people were running on "chaos" theory. While I'm not sure I'm that bad, I certainly run on fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants theory (I certainly did my Senior year of college; my sister, also a Senior then, told me later that I about gave her a heart attack . . . regularly) . . . or maybe moodiness theory. I think that this is part of the reason why I cannot seem to match personality types to a T (if they are very detailed). I like rules and lists, but I don't like following schedules and lists. I follow honor codes and laws, but silly rules don't appeal to me. I keep some things in my head, and I need a few things on paper and in my phone, but when I have too many to-dos, I get overwhelmed.

I guess I like structured spontaneity. I want a list items to choose from, to CHOOSE from, not to be bound toI think that my entire family might be this way, but some of us are more motivated and disciplined. Now, I don't like completely winging errands or vacations . . . especially since that sometimes means we do nothing. Of course, when we do have lists, my energy is quickly expended.

I'm easily overwhelmed. I don't know why I pin or bookmark these pages, sometimes. I think these can be great as bouncing points. I like the lists of activates, books, etc. to pick from, I don't like the lists of to-dos. I need more general ideas, and sometimes somethings are better left in my head or at least I might use lists to get to that point but not to keep as checklists. The more inspirational things, well, I think I'd like to get a chalkboard for that, those types of pages have been wasted paper in my bullet journal, and they don't matter if they don't take root in my heart anyway.