"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." -- Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV)

Thursday, October 11, 2012


1. I have a lot to say about current events - the election, the embassy/Libya attack, the economy, etc. However, I am refraining from speaking out here for a number of reasons. It's sort of frustrating, but I feel that I need to keep mum online for the most part. So much for the 1st Amendment.

But then there's this:

2. So the group of us that Read Through the Bible in 90 Days (link is .pdf) last year (and formed a Facebook group as a result) are planning to do it again after Thanksgiving. This time we're extending the readings to 120 days and we're reading through a chronological plan (link is .pdf). All of the chrono plans I've found are for a full year, so I'm working on condensing the plan to 120 days. It actually works out to 122 days, so we're adding 3 grace days and our plan will be 125 days. I'm looking forward to doing this again and I think reading in chronological order will make it fresher this year since this will be the 3rd year in a row that I'm doing this.

3. A few more books have been completed since I last posted:

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver - This is the 2nd book in the Delirium series and it's definitely a middle book. But I still enjoyed it. Now I'm waiting with the masses for the 3rd book to be released. I listened to the audiobook, which was narrated very well. 4 stars.

Hana by Lauren Oliver - this is a short story, book 1.5 of the Delirium series. It was interesting to hear Hana's side of the events that took place in Delirium. I wanted more when it was over, though, as it ended rather abruptly. 3.5 stars

No Easy Day by Mark Owen - great book. I appreciated why Owen wrote it and think he did a good job of explaining not just the Bin Laden mission, but what it is like to be a US Navy SEAL. 5 stars.

Return of the Rose by Theresa Ragan - middling time-travel romance. It isn't the best, but it isn't the worst either. I was sick on the day that I read this, so it served its purpose well. 3 stars.

Enclave by Ann Aguirre - I wanted to like this book more. Truth is it isn't that great. The premise was interesting, but didn't pan out well as the book progressed. I found that by the end I didn't really care about any of the characters. No plans to read anything else by this author. 2.5 stars.

I'm currently reading The Giver by Lois Lowry on my Kindle and listening to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn on the commute.

4. I'm watching a bit of TV, but mostly it's streaming stuff. I managed to watch the new season of Doctor Who, which was fun. I already miss the Ponds.

I'm looking forward to the start of the 3rd season of The Walking Dead, my new favorite show. I never thought I'd be into anything to do with zombies, but this show is so good despite the zombies.

5. Thanks to credit card rewards (thanks to a lot of purchases made for the house) I was able to get a refurbished iPad 2 for about half price. Already the kids have figured out that gaming on the iPad is way more fun than anything else. I am enjoying it a lot, too. More than I expected to, actually.

I'm sure there's more to share, but it will have to wait. But make sure to take a look at this and make sure to watch the whole thing:

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Book Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

I finished listening to Delirium by Lauren Oliver this morning. It's another in the long list of dystopian YA novels, but this one is different and it is very good.
"Ninety-five days, and then I'll be safe. I wonder whether the procedure will hurt. I want to get it over with. It's hard to be patient. It's hard not to be afraid while I'm still uncured, though so far the deliria hasn't touched me yet. Still, I worry. They say that in the old days, love drove people to madness. The deadliest of all deadly things: It kills you both when you have it and when you don't."

That is the very short blurb at Audible.com. Imagine a world where love is considered to be a disease (deliria) and when you turn 18 a prodecure is done to remove it. And then you're paired with your mate and you're allowed 2 kids only and your life is very regimented in this sterile world. Kids are segregated with girls schools and boys schools and they have no contact with the opposite sex until they have had the procedure.

Lena is our protagonist and she is 95 days away from her procedure. Things are going according to plan and then she had a chance encounter with a boy.

I wasn't sure I was ready for another YA book, much less another dystopian YA book. But Lauren Oliver's writing is so good that I was quickly sucked in. Sarah James as narrator was excellent. I was annoyed with her boy voices in the beginning, but she is so good as Lena that my annoyance at the other voices diminished. I really felt that Lena was telling me her story - I heard every bit of pain, anger, and joy in her voice as she read. Incredibly good.

Anyway, I could try to explain what I loved about the book, but author Veronica Roth (Divergent series) already did that in her review.

It may be one of my favorite books of this year. 5 stars.

Warning: mild profanity and violence.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Handmade - Product Endorsements

I thought I would share some of the products that I now almost exclusively buy from handmade sources rather than large commercial vendors/manufacturers. I didn't plan to become this organic, buy from small business only champion - I still buy most things from the big box stores and Amazon.com. But in the past few years there are definitely some specific products that I prefer to buy from handmade sources and because I love them I thought I would share them with you.

First up is soap. I love handmade soap. Aside from the commercial liquid soap in the charming vintage jar turned dispenser at my kitchen sink, I use handmade bar soap for everything - for my hands, in the shower and even for my face (which I will detail later when I talk about the other products I use on my face). (Beau and the kids use the liquid stuff. Beau prefers it. The kids destroy the bars when they insist on playing with them in sinks full of water. I do have bar soap in the powder room, though, so guests are forced to use those lovely soaps.) Here are a few links to my favorite soapers on Etsy. I try to spread the shopping, but I have listed them in order of preference with my favorite at the top:

Sweet Petula - Cordelia's soaps are awesome. Her fragrances are subtle and wonderful and the soap is long-lasting and lovely. Her soaps are a bit spendy when compared to others, but I think they are well worth the price, especially the big bars.

Beautiful Soaps - Heather also has awesome soap. I use one of her soaps for my face. So I will explain my love of it later.

Fairy Bubbles - Amanda has great soap. My favorite is Summer Cottage, which I buy a lot. I also like Apples & Oak, which is in the soap caddy in the shower currently. I have bought a lot of soap from Amanda - her prices are very reasonable.

Anderson Soap Company - Dennis runs one of the largest soap companies on Etsy. And there is a reason why - his soap is fantastic. My favorite of his is the Calendula Wilderness, which is a small bar. I really need to see if he would do some large bars for me. I also have some of his lip balm, which is great. I actually have two of the same kind - one in my bathroom and one in my purse. It is used daily and often.

There are a lot more, but they are the ones I buy from the most. If you like handmade bar soap, please visit their shops and give them a try.

Next up is cosmetics. Yes, I buy handmade cosmetics - mineral. I started with a sample foundation and blush from one seller years ago. I liked them, but they weren't quite right for my skin tone (very pale). So I started hunting around. Yes, I could have tried Bare Minerals, but the rebel in me didn't want to hop that bandwagon and also it is spendy. Now, I realize that I may not be saving money buying my cosmetics from Etsy sellers, but at least I'm helping small businesses. Not all of the cosmetics I use are handmade - I still buy commercial moisturizer (Oil of Olay), mascara (Maybelline), eyebrow pencil (E.L.F), and lip gloss (Mary Kay). But everything else actually is handmade.

I'll start with my skin care. As I said earlier, I use handmade bar soap as my cleanser. When I was diagnosed with rosacia last year, I did some research and discovered that some ingredients in commercial face soap can cause it to flare up. So I decided to see about using a handmade soap that is completely natural and contains no alcohol or SLS. I found Beautiful Soap's Carrot and White Kaolin Clay bar. (She now sells them by the loaf, which works well for me as I buy them in bulk now.) I love this soap. From the first time I used it I could tell a difference in my complexion. My skin was soft, not dried out, and my occasional breakouts were diminished. I loved it so much that I ordered several bars to have in stock. Now, when I unwrap the second to the last bar in my stash, I know it is time to reorder. I actually just received my latest reorder - 6 bars that should last me about 8-9 months. Each bar lasts about 6 weeks, maybe longer, but that seems to be the average.

I do use Oil of Olay as my moisturizer, as I said. I've used it for years. I'll stick with it for now, but I am tempted to switch to a handmade moisturizer because I received a sample of a really lovely one when some other items that I bought recently, but I'll get to that in a second. To my Oil of Olay, I add a Vitamin C powder. I have officially jumped on the anti-aging train. I don't know if this stuff will actually slow the aging in my complextion. What I do know is that I like how my face feels by adding the tiny bit of this powder to the OoO before I apply it. Then before I apply my make-up, I apply a silicone primer. (NOTE: I linked to the sample listings rather than the full size listings.)

I used to use SmashBox Photo Finish (because I read that it helped to smooth out the skin for mineral make-up to adhere to better, which is true. It works.), but then I found Rtisan's primer on Etsy and decided to give it a try. I like it better. A smaller amount works better and I like that it's handmade. Sharon sent me a sample of one of her moisturizers in my last order and I'm so tempted to buy a larger pot. I loved how velvety my skin felt on the days that I used it and like her primer, a very small amount went way further than the dime to quarter size dollop of OoO that I use every day.

Now, let's discuss mineral make-up. I heart mineral make-up. All of my make-up is in loose powder form from my concealer to my eye shadows. I have a lot of eye shadow in lot of fun colors. I buy almost all of my mineral make up from Simplicity Cosmetics. Her foundation is fantastic - great coverage without being cakey and the Ivory shade is perfect for my very light skin tone. I use her Primrose blush. As I said, I have a lot of eye shadows from Sarah, but my nearly daily go-tos are Wheat on the lid and under the brow, Moonlight in the crease, and Espresso as my liner. I also use Plum in the crease on occasion - today I used Plum. Other colors that I use a lot include Blossom, Glimmer, Stone, Ashes, Petal, and Ocean (a great denim blue color). I also have her lip balm in Blossom (love it) and the lip gloss in Blossom (not currently stocked) as well.

Nail Color - I have bought handmade nail polish, too. I bought some awesome polish from a seller who is no more - Doctor Who themed polish that I love - Don't Blink. Recently, I bought a couple polishes from I Love Nail Polish - Animal Cookie and Bella. Yes, I like glitter nail polish. I haven't received them yet, but I'm excited to try them out when I do.

And with that I'll end the product endorsement post. I hope that you'll consider trying handmade. I think it's worth the trying, maybe additional expense, to support small businesses. I know that I appreciate each of my buyers and with every sale I try to improve my products and service. I can attest that each of the sellers mentioned here offer quality products and excellent service.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Random Things Of Note

This is a long post. You've been warned.

1. I realized the other morning as I was blow drying my hair that it was 10 years ago that I started to blog. At the peak of my blogging career, I think I averaged about 50-60 consistent readers. Today, I'm down to 2 or 3. It's a sad, sad state of blogging affairs. I should just give it up already. But I can't. I need a different outlet than Facebook. I guess.

What I can say about the blogging life, it that I developed friendships with some pretty cool people. Some of whom I know in real life, or met once in real life, or have yet to meet in real life. Here's the list of the people I would not know today if not for having a blog (in no particular order):

CalTech Girl (and her hub, GmTroJan) - Beau and I (and Jesse) met them when we went to California for a family reunion with my in-laws. We are "friends" on Facebook now, where we spend a lot of time liking each others status updates and random links and whatnot.

Sleepy Beth (and her hub, Tim) - I can't remember exactly how we decided to meet in person. I know that it was after Beau and I were married. I think they invited us over for dinner or maybe we invited them over for dinner? Either way, about once or twice a year, we try to get together for dinner. And it is always a fun time, lots of laughs, and fun for our kids, too. We're overdue for having them over for dinner. An invitation is coming, Beth!

The Thinklings - It has been so long that I do not remember how I found this blog. I do know that things got personal when I got an email from Bill asking me to opine on this post. We have all on our separate blogging ways, but I love and appreciate the online brotherhood of these wonderful, Godly men. Over the years there were some really excellent theological debates, discussions about books, movies, and TV, and general silliness. They were with me when I was single, encouraged me when I started dating Beau, and were thrilled for me when Beau and I got married. Today, I am "friends" with Bill and Jared on Facebook as well. I can't wait until the day that I get to meet these men, whether it is in this mortal life or in eternity.

Phil - I think I "met" Phil through The Thinklings. A fellow book lover, we are "friends" on Facebook as well and follow each other on GoodReads, too. I have read books I otherwise would not have considered because of Phil's excellent recommendations. He is another Godly man whom I look forward to meeting one day, be it in person or in eternity.

Robbo - Back when he was a Llama Butcher with his pal, Steve, they organized a blogger meet up. Beau and I went and it was great to meet in person these two smart and witty guys. I also had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Robbo, who is charming and lovely. Steve was as nutty in person as in his writing, so there were many laughs along with the intellectual talk that often went over my head.

Amy - I first met Amy at a Christmas party at my sister's house. She is sweet and lovely and her husband is super nice. We have similar interests and one thing I cherish is our 90-Day Bible Challenge together along with a group of other women. We have done it twice now and I think it will probably happen again in the future. I am glad that I have met Amy in person and I wish we lived closer so that we could hang out.

There are others - folks with whom I am "friends" on Facebook but have never met in real life, folks whom I met in real life and have since lost touch with completely. But all of them have had an impact on my life in the past 10 years and I am grateful.

2. That was a long random note. I'm sorry.

3. Television - remember when I used to post my TV watching schedule and it was this long elaborate explanation of what got watched live and what was recorded and watched later? Yeah, my TV viewing habits are much simpler now. If it's live TV, it means it's on Disney Junior and my kids are awake. Except for Redskins football - I watch that live as much as is humanly possible with two kids who just. don't. get. it. and why aren't we watching Disney Junior?

By the way, have you seen Honest Toddler? I follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and the blog. I have a problem. Although he is making so many things so much clearer.

Anyway, TV. There are exactly 3 shows that get recorded for me these days. They are Doctor Who, Copper, and The American Bible Challenge. At some point, I'll set the DVR for Once Upon a Time and Top Shot when they come back, but that's it for now. I used to think it was sad, but now I'm kind of happy. I'm reading more and I'm not watching crap. Note: Doctor Who is not crap. It's actually much smarter and interesting than I expected and it is why I'm fully Whovian now. Copper is great - even Beau likes it.

Oh yeah, I can't forget Downton Abbey and Sherlock, but they won't be relevant topics until 2013, so we'll discuss them later.

Do you see the pattern, though? Almost everything I watch anymore originates in the UK. They make way better TV than we do in the US.

4. Books - Since the last books post, I have completed the following:

The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure by James Dashner - the 2nd and 3rd books in The Maze Runner Trilogy. I didn't hate the trilogy, but I do think it is way too long. It is also rather violent and gruesome. Interesting premise, though, and that's what kept me in the story. 3.5 stars for the entire series.

Complete Atopia Chronicles by Matthew Maher - This book was recommended by Hugh Howey. It is self-published and actually was a series of short stories, but Maher compiled them into one volume. The premise is very intriguing and the ethics were thought-provoking. That is what kept me reading to the end. It ended on a huge cliff-hanger. My initial feeling upon finishing it was frustration because I was pretty sure I was ready for it to be over. However, maybe with time I'll have renewed interest for the continuation of the story. Who knows? I think I gave this one 3 stars. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either.

Mariana by Susanna Kearsley - I finished this one last night. It was enjoyable, but I liked Kearsley's other novels better. 3.5 stars.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson - I finished listening to this one on the commute this morning. This is the funniest book I have ever read. There is a lot of profanity so if you're sensitive to that do not read this. Really. 5 stars.

Currently Reading: Delirium by Lauren Oliver (audio book) and No Easy Day by Mark Owen (Kindle).

5. The House and All That Entails - We are mostly unpacked. That said, there are still a lot of random boxes scattered around the house. I think maybe half of them are my books. We have a bookcase shortage, so I think those boxes are headed for the basement until we figure out where to put some additional bookcases.

I have always told my mother that when we had a large enough house that we would host Thanksgiving. Guess what? We're hosting Thanksgiving this year. And because I'm completely nutso and I often feel guilty that we spend the major holidays with my family every year, I told Beau that we were going to invite his family to join us, too. By my count I think we're having about 20 adults and 9 children. Um, is it OK to start panicking now? I kid, I'm not panicking. Being the planner that I am, I'm already working out logistics for all of the food (pot luck, sort of) and the sleeping arrangements for those who will need to spend some nights with us (Beau's cousin and his wife have a son a year younger than Jesse and twin girls who will be about 1 year old by then and they live in New Jersey. There is no way that is a day trip for them. I mean, she is an incredible wife/mother, but no way.)

Also, by then Beau's mother should be with us for an extended stay through the holidays/winter. I have worked hard to get the guest room ready for her. There's some clutter that needs moving to other places and then that room is completely finished. I'm really happy with how it turned out.

6. Family Vacation 2013 - We're going to Disney World! Molly calls it Disney Junior. So cute. I am very excited to take my kids to The Happiest Place on Earth. They are going to love it. I labeled a jar The Disney Fund and called the kids over to explain to them that we needed to start saving money for the trip to Disney. Whenever I have spare change, I give it to them and they very carefully drop the coins into the jar. I seeded it with a few dollar bills. Beau laughed and said, "If this goes like the baby bottle fundraiser for the crisis pregancy center, then just write a check and stick it in there." What's the fun in that?

And that is it for now. My fingers are tired of typing.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Eleven Years: Remembering

This beautiful Tuesday is much like that beautiful Tuesday 11 years ago. The skies are cloudless and brilliantly blue. There's a breeze mingling with the bright sunshine. The air is brisk with the promise of the coming autumn.

It's eerie.

I remember and will never, ever forget.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


So this is the school year in which Jesse is supposed to start kindergarten. Huh?

I mean, we've discussed what kind of curricula to use for him this fall and all of that home school stuff, but it only hit me this morning that the Commonwealth of Virginia and the county in which we live expect his little body to show up at the local elementary school on September 4.

Um. Wow. I guess it never clicked since we've been schooling him since he was a baby.

Meanwhile, Beau, who is awesome, has been furiously working to learn what we need to do to make it known to the powers that be that Jesse will not, in fact, being attending the local elementary school. Letters are being written, by us and by our friends and clergy (we are claiming the religious exemption) for submission to the school board.

Related, I got home last night and Jesse promptly informed me that he had a full school "day" of devotions, math, letters, and reading. Good job, Daddy and Jesse!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Books Completed

I apologize that this is basically going to be a link dump with star ratings for the books that I have completed since I last posted any book reviews. I have read quite a few between my Kindle and audiobooks.

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank (narrated by Will Patton for Audible.com) - 5 stars

Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue by Hugh Howey - 3 stars
Molly Fyde and the Land of Light by Hugh Howey - 4 stars
Molly Fyde and the Blood of Billions by Hugh Howey - 3 stars
Molly Fyde and the Fight for Peace by Hugh Howey - 3 stars

Mystery by Jonathan Kellerman - 3 stars

Angle of Investigation by Michael Connelly - 3 stars

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers - 4 stars

Austenland by Shannon Hale - 4 stars
Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale - 4 stars

Black List by Brad Thor - 4 stars

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale - 3.5 stars

The Maze Runner by James Dashner - 4 stars

Wow, that's a lot in about 6 weeks.

The stand-out is Alas, Babylon, which is an older book and about which I had heard great things prior to reading it for myself. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it - the narration was excellent and the story holds up well as a basic premise. I highly recommend it.

Riding the VRE train for a week (2 hours each day) helped with Kindle reading - I finished 3 books that week.

My commute has only increased by about 5 minutes so far, so my audio book listening pace has continued, too.

I'm currently listening to The Scorch Trials by James Dashner (book 2 in The Maze Runner series). And on my Kindle is The Complete Atopia Chronicles by Matthew Mather (a self-published series of stories recommended by Hugh Howey).

Moved Into The Money Pit?

We're all moved in and getting settled. There are still a lot of boxes to unpack, but the key things are done - kitchen, clothes, offices, etc. In our first month, we encountered two large hiccups of the money pit variety.

1. The day after we moved in, I started what was going to be about 7 loads of laundry. After load #1 was washed, I moved it all to the dryer and pushed the button to start and got only a click. About 20 minutes of fiddling and checking and we determined that "she's dead, Jim."

We had talked about adding the frig/washer/dryer to our home warranty, so I asked Beau to call to set up a service call. Turns out that option never was added to the home warranty, so no go. We called the 800 number on the dryer and were told that a service person would be there the next day.

She (!) arrived and then spent 3-4 hours sweating over our dead dryer (which worked fine at the home inspection, btw). She called a more experienced technician with no fix. She called the manufacturer with no fix. She got shocked once for her troubles. She left, soaking wet from sweat and effort and I felt terrible for her. We were not billed at all either.

That night I did some research online and bought a new dryer that was delivered two days later.

2. Last Thursday, after dinner I started feeling warm while moving around the house. Putting the kids got me really sweating. Beau came to bed and we tried to snuggle, but I was a sweaty mess and moved away from his furnace-chest. At that point he said, "Is it warm in here?"


Turns out the AC was dead. The fan was blowing, but the unit outside was not on and we couldn't get it to come on.

We called the home warranty people and they said the soonest they could send someone to take a look was Monday afternoon. I balked hard since our house was sitting at about 86F at that point already and it was going to be a sunny, hot weekend. There was no way I wanted my family to endure my whining and complaining if I had to sweat all weekend. I hate nothing less than to be sweaty constantly. I'm a big time sweat-er.

When I mentioned the problem to a guy in my office he said the exact thing happened to him last month and it turned out to be the capacitor. Simple fix and not expensive. So I begged Beau to call someone to come take a look. It was the capacitor, but the dude didn't have the right one with him and he had to come back on Saturday. We signed a contract for annual service calls, too. After he fixed it, he then serviced the furnace for the winter, so that's good to go now, too.

We are enjoying the house. The kids love having more space for running around. We like having more space for them to run around. I like that Jesse can ride his bike and I don't need to worry that he'll get hit by a speeding car (there's little traffic, but he stays on the sidewalks). I like that the kids can play in the backyard without too much hovering on our parts and they have a large, fun space back there.

The Lord blessed us with a great home for our family. We are grateful. And we're grateful that the first couple of hiccups were small and relatively inexpensive.

Monday, July 16, 2012

An Apology

I re-read my previous post and realized that my short mention of the death of my father-in-law sounded callous. I didn't intend that at all.

The truth is he was a wonderful, Godly man; greatly beloved by all who knew him and very much missed. He leaves a devastated widow and three adult children who will never again have conversation with their dad. There are grandchildren who won't remember their grandfather's tenderness and affection.

There is a public obituary, but because of my semi-anonymity as a blogger, I decided not to link to it. And I had no words that could adequately express our loss at the time I wrote the post in haste. For that I am sorry.

Friday, July 13, 2012

It's Been A Month?

It's amazing how time flies when life happens. Since I last posted a lot of life has occurred:

1. I attended a really exciting** training class in mid-June.  (**By really exciting, I really mean mind-numbingly dull)

2. My mother had total hip replacement surgery the same week that I was in that fun class. The day my class ended I headed to The New Homestead to help my dad to care for Mom.

3. On June 29 we went to settlement and became home owners. Or as Beau says, we now lease a great house from the bank.

4. On June 30 Beau's father was taken to the hospital. On July 2, early in the morning, we received word that his father had died. I returned to work that morning after having been away for 2 weeks.

5. On July 3 Beau and Jesse caught a flight to California while Molly and I hung out at home trying to endure the heat wave that hit us.

6. On July 4 Molly and I went out to hang with Pop and Marmie and friend Andi for a little bit.

7. On July 8 the memorial service for my father-in-law took place. I'm sad I missed it, but I'm told it was good and that many people from long ago came to honor him. He was a good Christian man and is already terribly missed.

8. On July 9 my men returned home. Technically they walked in the door on July 10, but let's not quibble.

9. On July 10 I returned to work after being away for another week. This is when I'm grateful that the summer is generally really slow at work. I had some stuff back-logged from being out for basically 3 weeks, but it was totally manageable and I got caught up quickly.

So now we're quickly approaching our big move to the new house. The guys come to pack up what we haven't packed on Wednesday and then the trucks get loaded on Thursday. To say we're excited is an understatement.

Through it all, God has been present, good, and faithful. His mercies are truly new every morning and His grace is sufficient. We are grateful for His blessing and care.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Reading Room & Bube Tube

Two more books completed:

1. Death of a Gossip by MC Beaton. It was OK. The audio book was narrated by Davina Porter, whom I adore. I give it 3 stars. It doesn't suck, but it wasn't as good as other stuff that I've read recently.

2. An Unmarked Grave by Charles Todd. This is the 4th Bess Crawford mystery and it's pretty good. I listened to the audio book narrated by Rosalyn Landor, who is also a favorite. She amazes me with her men's voices - I sometimes forget that there isn't a male narrator doing those parts. Her voice for the American man was so good in this one. I enjoyed this book very much, even with the weak ending. 3.5 stars.

One more miniseries completed courtesy of Netflix streaming and my Roku. I watched Bleak House this week. Man, is that a long, dreary, depressing story. So Dickensian. Can I consider the book read after watching this? I feel that the producers of this miniseries followed the entire book exactly, but I don't really know since I have not read the book (and do not plan to now).3 stars - it was long and depressing, but it was well done with good acting.

I started listening to Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank and narrated by Will Patton. It's still early into the story, but I'm pretty much hooked. Good writing and pretty good narration.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

15 Days

We're 15 days away from closing on our first house. I'm getting excited. And impatient to just be moved in already. There's so much I want to do to make it our home. There are so many ideas swirling in my head (and my Pinterest boards). There are rugs picked out, sofas picked out, linens identified to be looked at in person, walls to paint, a back yard to make kid friendly, a living room to be turned into a school room, offices to set up, pictures to hang, meals to cook, lives to live.

God had blessed us immensely in our nearly 7 years as a family. We are excited to embark on this leg of our journey. My prayer for this house is that the Lord will be central, this will be the home that the kids always come to (ours and their friends), our guests will enjoy warm and welcoming hospitality, and where grace and love are abundant.

Thank you, Lord, for this gift.

Monday, June 11, 2012


Before Beau and I were even married, we discussed the blessing of children and what to do with any children with whom God chose to bless us. Interestingly, we both expressed an interest in home schooling. Also interestingly, while concerned with the potential for propaganda being taught (climate change, evolution, self-esteem focus, etc.) and increasingly anti-Christian climate in public schools, our greater concern was the actual stuff our kids would or would not learn from the government run schools. Being a single income household private school was not going to be an option. And we both were interested in a more classical education, so home school has been our plan from before the birth of our little blessings.

Before I go further, let me acknowledge that there are excellent public schools. Our region boasts some of the top school systems in the country, high test scores, and loads of Ivy League-bound graduates. And there are many excellent, caring teachers (I am friends with a few and grateful for their hard work and dedication to their students) who work hard to educate the students who come through their classrooms. Beau and I merely want to have a little more control and flexibility with the education of our kids. We want to teach from a Biblical worldview. We want to give them more than what they may receive in a public school - more focused lessons in their learning style and level, more well-rounded subjects (life is school!), more autonomy in the learning environment (self-teaching is good), less homework (school is work), more field trips, more time to play (kids need play time and lots of it).

Beau has been "teaching" the kids since they were infants. For him every moment is a teachable moment. In the past couple of years he worked on teaching Jesse how to write his letters and now he has him doing some basic math (simple addition and subtraction) most days. He's reading well and increasing his vocabulary pretty much daily. And Molly is learning, too. She counts well and has known her alphabet and numbers for a long time. She has a pretty large vocabulary, too. Having an older brother helps spur her to learn more in order to keep up.

So now that Jesse is 5, it's time to make things official. He's supposed to start kindergarten in the fall. We're making the move to notify the county that we're going to be home schooling. We've been reading up on curricula and methods and it's all very overwhelming. I put out the call for curricula recommendations on Facebook and I got a lot of great recommendations and advice. Based on that I have a long list of curricula that have been tested and approved and some basic advice for the early years. With that, the plan for this year is to keep doing what we've been doing (I say we, but it's mostly Beau) - math and grammar (vocab/reading/writing). To make things easier for Beau, because he is still teaching online courses with Liberty University, we bought a basic math workbook and a grammar book for first grade (we believe that Jesse is mostly at that skill level, but where he's behind we can supplement) and Beau takes the kids to the library regularly where they can stock up on new reading material for Jesse to read or for us to read to both of them.

As to the socialization of the kids, I refer you to this post, which pretty much sums up where we are already. That said, we plan to get Jesse signed up for soccer again in the fall and maybe get Molly into a dancing class (Irish step since she already has the hopping thing going when she dances around the house). Our new neighborhood has a lot of littles for them to play with and there are the kids they meet in their classes at church. And we hope to get involved with a home school co-op or group in our new neighborhood, too. I'm not worried about their social skills.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Reading Room and Moovies Reviews

There are two books and one movie to review.

The first book is Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James. I didn't finish it. It was that bad. The end. I gave it 2 stars at the Audible.com site because while the story sucks, the narrator was good. She deserves a star of her own for managing to read that crap so well.

The second book is actually a collection of short stories, Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey. This one defies description without giving away huge spoilers. I'll give you the Amazon brief:
This is the story of mankind clawing for survival, of mankind on the edge. The world outside has grown unkind, the view of it limited, talk of it forbidden. But there are always those who hope, who dream. These are the dangerous people, the residents who infect others with their optimism. Their punishment is simple. They are given the very thing they profess to want: They are allowed outside.
From the first chapter I was hooked. I love this book. It's different from what I normally read, well written, compelling and interesting characters, a good mystery that builds, solid pacing. I think this is my favorite book of 2012 so far. 5 stars. And the bonus is it's only $5.99 for the Kindle.

Currently listening to Death of a Gossip by MC Beaton.

[Edited, June 8]:  Finished First Shift: Legacy by Hugh Howey on the Kindle. This is Wool #6. 4 stars. A good prequel to Wool, but it should be read as #6.

Currently reading Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue by Hugh Howey on the Kindle.

The one movie to review is Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I felt confused for maybe the first 45 minutes of this one, but then all the threads started to come together so that by the end I was totally tracking with it. I loved all of the cast - such a great collection of good actors. Gary Oldman as George Smiley was so good. He's a chameleon, man. So talented.

I liked that it had a late 1970s feel to it to match the actual story. I told Beau that I sort of reminded me of The French Connection only without the car chases. 4 stars out of 5. It lost one for the confusion factor.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Seven Years to One Month

Yesterday was the 7th anniversary of the day Beau and I got engaged. We bought a ring and then he taught me to shoot. A good day, indeed.

Today marks one month out from our closing date on our house. I'm getting more anxious - good anxious to be in there and making it our home and bad anxious because it means we have only 6 more weeks to pack up our stuff.

We went sofa shopping yesterday. One the one hand it was helpful - we determined that do like the same style but we differ on leather vs. upholstery; on the other hand is was extremely frustrating - two littles who were bored to tears the whole time and weren't shy to express themselves. By the time we got home I was ready to kill someone. No buying yet. We're still sort of trying to decide the placement of our current furniture. Certain pieces will determine whether or not we go for a total color makeover or not.

Either way it will be a fun challenge.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Reading Room and Bube Tube Stuff

I managed to get another audio book completed in record time. Crossed, book two in the Matched trilogy, is a good middle of the story book. It moves the plot along rather well and further develops the main characters. That each character was narrated by separate narrators made it more effective as a listen. I liked it and I look forward to the final book when it comes out in the fall.

Interestingly, after I posted my short review on GoodReads.com, I found that most of the readers there HATED it. 3 stars out of 5.

I'm now listening to The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey. It is narrated by Davina Porter, who is one of my favorite audio book narrators. This is a reboot of Jane Eyre, which I have never read. I have seen one of the movies, though, so I am familiar with the general story of Jane Eyre. This seems pretty faithful to the spirit of that classic - Gemma Hardy is still in her boarding school years so there's a long way to go to get to the Rochester character/story. I am enjoying it so far.

On the Kindle, I also started Wool by Hugh Howey. Wool was originally just a short story, but was popular and the author wrote more episodes.I have the omnibus version, which includes all of the short stories in one package. I finished the first story this morning and I can see why there are more. It's dystopian and mysterious. I wish I could read more - I really want to know where this one goes.

On the TV, we watched the final episode of this season of Masterpiece Theater's Sherlock. We watched the first season last year and were surprised at how much we loved it. I am so disppointed that they only do 3 episodes at a time. It's smart, quick, funny, good TV. The last episode of this season blew me away. Such a great show. If you haven't seen it, you must. The first season is available for streaming on Netflix. And for a short time now, you can watch this season at the PBS website.

How Fast Can You Read?

Staples has launched this fun infographic-test that will tell you how fast you can read. Interesting...

ereader test
Source: Staples eReader Department


Friday, May 18, 2012

The New 'Hood

So with every day that passes, we're one step closer to home ownership. Closing is June 29.

Beau mentioned several weeks ago that he needed calling cards for the kids to set up play dates. Jesse has mentioned play dates with random people recently. But he often doesn't know the kid's last name, definitely doesn't know the parent's info, and they definitely don't know ours. Hence, the calling card idea.

Now that we're moving to a brand new neighborhood, the calling card idea became a smarter idea. Tooling around Etsy.com I found a lot of cute options. Did we want individual cards for each kid? A card for them together? A family card?

In the end I opted for the family calling card (in lime) since we will all be new to the neighborhood. As we meet people, we can hand them the card that contains each of our names, Beau's and my cell number, our home phone number, and a family email address (which I created today).

What I bought is the digital file. I'll get them printed from GotPrint.com, where I get my business cards printed.

And I'm also looking at change of address cards to mail to family and friends when the time comes.

Reading Room Reviews: The End of the Affair and Insurgent

I finished two more books yesterday. Thanks to my weekend epiphany about listening to audio books while putting on my make-up (instead of listening to TV, which is pointless), I am cranking through audio books much faster.

I also started reading on my Kindle while blow drying my hair, since most of the time I'm hunched over with the diffuser.

Multi-tasking at its best.

So I finished Insurgent by Veronica Roth in my Kindle yesterday morning. Here's my short review:
Book two in the Divergent trilogy, this middle book does its job well. It moves the story along as a pretty fast pace, increases the tension and action, and develops some of the secondary characters further.

Now I have to wait more than a year for the final book in the trilogy that is definitely going to give The Hunger Games a run for its money in the long run. It is equally as good, equally as thought-provoking about the human condition, the role of structured government versus personal liberty, and the instinctual need for independence and survival.
4 out of 5 stars.

I got home from work with only 5 minutes of listening left to finish The End of the Affair by Graham Greene and narrated by Colin Firth. Hello, Darcy! This is an Audible.com exclusive - I don't think you can find it at your library or other bookstore (although Amazon.com is partnered with Audible.)

TEofA is a modern classic that has been on my must read list for years. When I saw that Firth was narrating it for Audible, I moved it to the top of the queue immediately. I am so glad that I did. Here's my super short review:
Sublime. I am sure Firth's wonderful narration contributed to my love of this book. it's a transcendent tale of love and hate, fidelity and adultery, faith and folly, life and death. It is almost unbearably sad and yet there is redemption that lifts it just enough. This book is a new favorite.
5 stars. It is wonderful and made moreso by Firth's fantastic first person narration.

So now I'm currently listening to Crossed by Allie Condie, which is the 2nd in her Matched trilogy. And I'm reading Gospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson on my Kindle.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday Random

The weekend was good. We enjoyed the first birthday party of the youngest cousin in my family. She is a super cute baby and it was good to spend time with family. My 98 year old grandmother was there and while she's slowing down in her old age, she is still feisty as ever.

Mother's Day in our home was just a typical Sunday. Beau took the kids to church with him in the morning so that I could get some alone time, which I spent coloring my hair, reading, and prepping a meal to be delivered today to some church friends who have a new baby.

Then I headed to church myself to practice with the band before the evening service. Turns out the worship leader was suffering from a hacking cough and she asked me to sing lead on one of the songs. It has been a long time since I've sung anything but background vocals. I was incredibly nervous, but prayed that the Lord would be glorified no matter what happened and that helped to relax me.

I got home to find the house empty because Beau and kids were at the 4th birthday party of a little girl on our street. From the happy screaming, it sounded like much fun was being had. I got to our back deck to find kids running around with water pistols. Molly was on their deck playing with the bubble machine and covered in chocolate from the chocolate fountain. I'm told her dinner was basically chocolate dipped marshmallows and strawberries. So at least there was some fruit involved. And that was before the birthday cake.

So with my reading time, I managed to finish another audio book - Matched by Allie Condie. Here's the review I wrote for Audible.com:
Another in the plethora of dystopian YA fiction that is to be found, Matched is actually quite good and different from The Hunger Games and Divergent. It's less death-defying, which is the huge difference. There's no violence.

But there is a controlling Society who manages every single part of a person's life, down to the person whom they are to marry. And this is where this particular dystopian story differs.

This story is told well. Some of the prose is quite lovely. The characters are full people. And as a first in a trilogy, it's a good start. I'm intrigued enough to want to read the second book, Crossed.

The narrator is very good, with the perfect youthful voice for the first person narration.
I did download the next book, but I'm listening to something else in between to sort of cleanse the palate. Matched gets 4 stars.

So the new book I'm listening to is The End of the Affair by Graham Greene, which has been on my list of must reads for a long time. When Audible announced that Colin Firth was narrating, it moved up to the top of the list to listen to next. I'm about 2 hours in and it is very good, Firth is very good. It's a short listen at just a bit over 6 hours, so I'll get it finished this week easily.

I'm also reading Insurgent by Veronica Roth on my Kindle. It is book two of the Divergent trilogy. I'm about 60% in and it is also very good.

The little bit of TV I'm watching is Once Upon a Time, which is pretty much the only current TV that I care to watch. I had several episodes on the DVR to watch and managed to do that last week. I watched the season finale from last night this morning before getting ready for work. I was curious how there could be a second season if the conflict in this first season was resolved. Turns out they did a pretty good cliff-hanger. You know, fairy tales end happily, but there are a lot of them and they left many of them untouched this season. I look forward to seeing who gets featured next season as the primary tale.

My favorite episodes were the ones that featured Jiminy Cricket and Pinocchio. Also the hunter. And maybe Beauty and Beast. I thought they were really well done and touching.

We are watching the new season of Sherlock, but did not watch last night's episode live after our long day. I crashed. It totally bums me that there are only 3 episodes. Three. Really? *sigh*

And I guess that's all to share on this Monday.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Colonial Williamsburg

We took a long weekend jaunt to Colonial Williamsburg last weekend. It was a badly needed break and loads of fun. The bonus was that my mother- and sister-in-law came with us (although they stayed at a hotel while we stayed at a timeshare resort).

We drove down Friday afternoon and basically checked into our respective domiciles before getting some dinner and calling it a night.

Saturday we spent exploring Colonial Williamsburg itself. We had a leisurely day that was for the most part enjoyable. The only real negative was the intense crankies at lunch time. I and my male spawn were the culprits - both of us were hangry (hungry and angry). Food helps, though, so our afternoon went better.

Let me say this, I love CW and think it's a great place for kids. But the kids need to be school-age and learning about colonial America to have a true appreciate for the place. My kids, ages 5 and 3, were more than a little bored with all the walking and waiting.

Sunday was our Busch Gardens day.

My hope for Jesse was that he was tall enough to ride one of the bigger rides. He's tall, but not quite tall enough for the super thrilling rides. He was disappointed not to ride any of the big roller coasters that he saw meandering above the park as we walked from place to place. But he did ride enough stuff to be satisfied and considered the day a very fun day.

I love this picture. The expressions on their faces say it all. She's totally into the ride and telling the horsies to giddy-yup. It took some coaxing to get him on a horse because he thought he was too big for this little kid ride. By the time it was over, he was smiling and having fun, though.

I love the above picture. This was her first time riding the log flume (she rode it again with me later). She LOVED it and I am grateful that the camera caught her excited expression as they went down the big hill into the water.

Jesse also loved the log flume and rode it again with Beau later. That's my mother-in-law behind us. She is an amazing lady. She and Beau also rode the Alpengeist roller coaster later in the afternoon.

Some random dude gave this stuffed chili to my sis-in-law. I love that it's in the stroller instead of the tired girl.

Our last full day in Williamsburg was a chill out day. We had brunch with Beau's Mom and sister before they headed to SIL's home so that MIL could spend time with the other grandchildren before heading home to California on Tuesday. Molly and I napped after lunch while Beau and Jesse went to swim in the pool. They returned, changed into clothes, went back out to play mini-golf, and returned before Molly or I woke up.

We came back home on Tuesday afternoon after another chill day. We played more mini-golf and spent some time playing video games in the resort game room. I got the above picture of Molly snoozing in the chair when I took some of our packed stuff into the living room. She slept there while Beau and Jesse loaded the car. She slept while I carried her out to the car. She awakened long enough to get her arms in the straps of her car seat, but then konked back out and slept the entire 2.5 hours drive home. She's a trooper and did very well on our very busy weekend. Jesse, too, did really well. It was a fun family vacation.

Up next: California pre-Christmas in December and then Disney World in February 2013.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Reading Room: Muirwood Trilogy, Phantom

I've managed to finish a few more books this week. I'm not getting the sleep I need as a result, but it is what it is. As I posted last time, I had started The Wretched of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler on my Kindle.
Imagine a world where words are so precious they are only etched in gold, and only the privileged are allowed to learn how to read. Muirwood Abbey is one of the few places where learners are taught to read and engrave, and thirteen year-old Lia wants nothing more than to learn both of these skills—yet she is a wretched, an orphan, and doomed to remain in the Aldermaston’s kitchen, forbidden to read and subject to his authority. Her future is destined for preparing recipes in a privileged household until, unexpectedly, a mysterious knight-maston abandons the wounded squire Colvin at the Aldermaston’s kitchen in the middle of the night. Soon after, Sheriff Almaguer comes hunting for Colvin, and Lia is thrust into the greatest adventure of her life as she and the squire are forced into a partnership that brings her closer to her dream—and Colvin closer to his fear of dying on the battlefield. The Wretched of Muirwood is the first book of the Muirwood Trilogy.
I enjoyed this book more than I expected and immediately started book two, The Blight of Muirwood. I thought the second book to be better than the first. I've started the third, The Scourge of Muirwood, and it's great so far, too. I highly recommend this trilogy. I'm guessing the trilogy as a whole will be at about 4 stars out of 5 unless the last books ends up disappointing hugely.

I also just finished listening to Phantom by Ted Bell this morning. This is the 7th (!) in the Hawke series and as is the norm for the Hawke novels, I found it ridiculous but fun. I don't know why I stick with these books, but I like them. Only 3 stars out of 5.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

I've Joined the Ranks of the Whovians

I was a young child, living in England, the first time I was introduced to The Doctor. My first Doctor was The Fourth Doctor, as he is called. I remember a silly TV show with weird robot things called Daleks who yelled, "Exterminate!" a lot and a long multi-colored scarf on the curly-haired traveler. Beyond that, much of what was the popular TV show, Doctor Who, escaped me. And then came the reboot a few years ago. My sister got sucked into it, and a few friends, too. And my Dad. After listening to an in-depth conversation about this new Doctor Who, my curiosity was piqued. I added it to the Netflix queue and time passed. A few weeks ago, after watching several other things in the Netflix and Amazon streaming queues (Lark Rise to Candleford, MI-5, BBC's Robin Hood), I was ready to embark on the Doctor Who voyage. The Ninth Doctor was OK. I liked him by the end of that season, but he died and regenerated into The Tenth Doctor. The Tenth Doctor is the BEST Doctor. Love him. I just finished watching his last adventure and regeneration into The Eleventh Doctor and I'm very sad. I did see The Eleventh Doctor's first full episode, too, and I like him. I know it will take time to adjust to him. The thing is that I didn't actively watch any of the episodes. I was always working on something while it was playing. As a result, I think I missed some very important things. But I'm not sure I want to re-watch 5 seasons again any time soon. Anyway, I'm a huge DW fan now. Huge.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Frivolous Quiz Time: Jane Austen Edition

I agree 100% with this. I think it is why Sense and Sensibility may actually be my favorite of the Austen novels, even over Pride and Prejudice. As much as I love Elizabeth and Darcy, I most relate to Elinor Dashwood.

I am Elinor Dashwood!

Take the Jane Austen Character Quiz here!

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Reading Room

I'm in read mode these days. I'm reading every chance I get.

I finished listening to another book on Friday - Divergent by Veronica Roth.
In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue - Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is - she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are - and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves.... or it might destroy her.
I love it so much I have already pre-ordered the sequel, Insurgent, for my Kindle and which comes out on May 1.

I mentioned in my last book-centric post that I had started The Power Behind the Throne by Sally Nicoll on my Kindle. I admit that it never really grabbed me and since I got it for free, I stopped and removed it from my Kindle. It was kind of liberating to not complete a crappy book. Ah.

Instead, I decided to start The Wretched of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler. This one is only $.99 for the Kindle. I'm about 25% into the story and I'm hooked. It's so not my normal thing, but I really like it so far. This the first in a trilogy, too, so I'm sure I'll read the other books.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Lots of Completed Books

In the past week I have completed several books. It's a miracle, but I must confess that I neglected a lot of other things in order to get in the time to devote to the reading.

First, I listened to A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens in the car. Narrated by Frank Muller, it was such a different listen than what I have done recently. The old, lyrical prose that we just do not get in modern writing. Well, we do, but it's rare. At least it's rare in the stuff I tend to read. I found myself almost in tears at the beauty of certain scenes because of the way they were written.

I had never read AToTC before. When I was a young teenager I saw this miniseries. As such, I knew how the story ended. How it got there, I didn't remember as much. While I sometimes found the journey a little plodding at times, despite the pretty prose and the excellent narration, it was well worth the effort of the listen.

By the time I got to the last 10 minutes I was fully invested in the characters. And the last inner monologue of Sydney Carton broke my heart.

4 stars out of 5.

Next, I managed to re-read the entire Hunger Games trilogy in a week. This time I got them for my Kindle and actually read the words. My first "read" was a listen. I'm glad I did it - there were large portions that I did not remember at all. Given that I listened to them when I was sick for a week last year, it's likely that I dozed off for a lot of them. They are just as good with the second reading and I'm even more convinced that they are not about the love triangle between Katniss/Peeta/Gale. That said, I was able to garner new insights into the triangle, Katniss' relationship with each boy and how things ended up. I'm still happy with the ending. And I cannot wait for the next movie. I'm so curious how it will be done and who will be cast in the new roles.

The entire trilogy gets 5 stars out of 5. The first book is still my favorite of the three, but I really think they needs to be taken as one work at this point. Much like The Lord of the Rings trilogy, it is one story broken into 3 smaller parts.

Finally, I have started two new books: Divergent by Veronica Roth came recommended as one that Hunger Games fans will enjoy. After reading a lot of positive reviews, I got the audio book. I'm on chapter 9 as of this moment and I am enjoying it a lot. The narrator is excellent, too.

On my Kindle is The Power Behind the Throne by Sally Nicoll. I'm not that far in, but it's started out pretty well.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Hunt Begins

Remember a few years ago when we started a house hunt? It was the height of the foreclosure boom in our area and there were a lot of houses available for cheap. It was depressing. And then I got pregnant with Molly and the house hunt stopped because I was ill, ill, ill and the thought of the hunt made me cry.

We are restarting the hunt.

Our goal is to find The House in which I can die when I'm old. This because in my 40+ years of life on this earth, I have moved a grand total of 5,432 times. Actually, that is a slight exaggeration, but not by much. I'm done with moving. Thinking about this pending move makes me want to sit down with a good book and escape from reality. I hate moving.

But ... I'm excited that we are actually able to buy our own home. I'm excited about having a yard for our kids to play and run in. I'm excited about being able to paint and decorate the way that I really want to and can't as a renter.

We have a lot on our plates in the next few months, that adding a house hunt is stressing us both out. So we're open to a short sale knowing that they take several months to get approved. We're happy to move later in the year than in the next few months. We're just praying that God will make it all clear and smooth and within our budget.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Movies: The Hunger Games

(This post has been edited to add new thoughts after a second viewing. Scroll to the bottom of the post for new stuff.) I was one of the millions who went to see The Hunger Games on Friday. I am one of the millions who adore the books and was hoping that the movie would at least be a faithful adaptation of the book. From all that I had read early on in the process of the movie being made, I had high expectations that it was going to be OK. It looked to be well cast (although Woody Harrelson made me really nervous because I am not a huge fan of his), the locations used for District 12 were awesome (I spent my college years in that part of North Carolina and knew that it was perfect), and from the things said by director Gary Ross it sounded like he "got" the story. And then the buzz started about a month ago when the advance tickets started selling. Then it continued to swell because the ticket sales were going through the roof. The March 12 premiere was crazy and the critics seemed to like the movie a lot. I started to lower my expectations out of fear of disappointment. I wasn't very successful. By the time I got to the theater on Friday afternoon I was beside myself with excitement.

I've had the weekend to think about the movie so here's my review. Generally, I liked the movie a lot. I think I want to go see it again in the theater. It's 2 hours, 22 minutes long, but it didn't feel that long to me (or my butt). It is violent, but well done. That said, parents of kids younger than the PG-13 rating should seriously consider whether or not to take those kids to see it. It is one thing for their young minds to try to imagine that violence. It is quite another for them to see how adults enacted it. I give it a solid 4 stars out of 5 - for faithfulness to the original story, a good cast and acting, excellent visuals.

Consider this a ***SPOILER WARNING. What follows will discuss plot points from the book and movie.***

I'll start with what I didn't love:

1. Some of the camera work was too choppy for my older eyes. I found that the first 20 minutes or so were hard for me to watch, especially with my bifocals. That said, what I liked is that by using that technique they were able to convey a lot of information in a very short amount of film. So I liked it on that level, but it caused eye strain. I was grateful that it was short.

2. I wished the scene with Peeta and the bread had been fleshed out more, including the whole thing about his mother.

3. I wished Haymitch would have been a little drunker, dirtier. Sounds weird, but he was cruder in the book. That said, I think that Woody Harrelson was excellent in that role. He far exceeded by overall expectations.

3. I wished there was more Effie, more of the stylists with Cinna, and the Avox. About the Avox, I read why Gary Ross did what he did. I wish he hadn't. I think she could have been part of it easily. The stylists were such a huge part of Katniss' time in the Capitol before the Games that I really missed them in the movie. I wanted to see them, hear them, their interaction with Katniss as they grew to love her.

4. There was not enough of Katniss'/Peeta's time in the cave. I feel that this was one thing seriously lacking, although I understand that to keep the movie to the length of a movie and not a mini-series, it needed a lot of paring. I did expect more of this, though, since it is the genesis of Katniss' conflict Peeta in the later story (Catching Fire and Mockingjay).

5. Can I admit that the first flaming outfits kind of disappointed me? I expected something a bit bigger and more spectacular. My memory of the book description was that the flames were larger. The red flaming dress was cool, though.

Now to what I loved:

1. District 12 was exactly how I pictured it when I read the book. The Capitol was a little too CGI, but still a good portrayal. I loved how the Capitol population were so over the top visually - exactly as written.

2. The overall casting was nearly perfect. I was also nervous about Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, but he was actually very good. I heart Stanley Tucci, who was perfect as Caesar Flickerman.

3. I liked the use of silence. Where a lot of action and drama movies use music to build tension, this movie uses silence to good effect. I was also glad that Gary Ross opted not to use voice-overs to fill in Katniss' thoughts.

4. I liked that it didn't focus on the romance. I never felt that the books were about the Team Gale/Team Peeta conflict. Katniss' main conflict was always about survival, providing for her family, and the revolt against the Capitol. The romance was always secondary and unimportant. My hope for the sequel movies is that they continue to keep this in the background.

Additional Thoughts (Added 3/28) ***Seriously Spoilerish***

1. The dude playing Cato was very good. His last scene was very well acted. Really, everyone was good. But I was struck with the second viewing just how good Cato was in that one scene.

2. Something I missed the first time: Peeta tapping the hand on his cheek. The first time I was watching Cato. The second time I made sure to watch Peeta because I realized later that I had missed some interaction between Peeta and Katniss in that moment.

3. I love the little details that are in the movie that only the readers of the books would know to look for. And you have to have read all three books to catch the significance of them. First, President Snow and the roses. Second, before the gamemakers send the fire down, they note that Katniss is skirting the outer range of the arena. That isn't in the first book, but it foreshadows the next movie.

4. The movie is way more faithful to the book than I remembered. I'm reading it again and I'm pleasantly surprised to see that most of it is in there. The tough part for the filmmakers was getting into Katniss' head space, especially since the book is told in first person. I am more convinced that they did a good job of showing it than I initially thought with the first viewing.

5. I'm also more excited to see Catching Fire next fall when it comes out. They did a good job of setting up the next part of the story.

Friday, February 10, 2012

YouTube of the Day: Parenting Win

This has gone viral and it is awesome. Adult language warning.

Books and TV, Redux

I've gotten less sleep this week, but I managed to finish reading North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell last night. Here's the review I posted on Shelfari:
After watching the BBC miniseries based on this book, I wanted to see how the story was written. As much as I loved the series, I felt that it was a bit rushed. I was right. What was lacking in some of the development of the characters in the TV production was fully fleshed out in the novel. Margaret Hale was more haughty and yet still likable. Mr. Thornton was more vulnerable, if that's possible. Mrs. Thornton was much more sympathetic. The BBC production was very faithful to the book until the very end. They are similar in terms of the ultimate ending, but the locations are different. I'm OK with both endings. What I found challenging was navigating and interpreting the working class English of Nicholas Higgins and his daughters. It took until about halfway through the book for me to feel that I had a good grasp of the entirety of what they were saying. I got the gist enough and having seen the miniseries first helped me to know what was going on. If you like old classics, you may enjoy this book. I did, thoroughly.
I admit to tears at the very end. I am a romantic sap.

I also finished listening to the very short, abridged audio version of Sylvester by Georgette Heyer and narrated by Richard Armitage. He is an excellent narrator who acts the characters instead of merely reading them. I enjoyed listening to it so much that I started Venetia, which is just as fun a listen. And these abridged versions seem to be better than most - there are times when you can tell that there was some heavy editing/paring, but the general story still works.

In TV news, I bought a second Roku unit. The one we got last year got moved to the TV in my office in the basement when we got the new HD TV for the living room. That TV is internet enabled, so we can stream Neflix, Amazon Instant, etc. directly from the TV. However, lately there were times when I was doing things in our bedroom and wishing that I could watch something from Netflix, but couldn't. I had a little money in my PayPal account, so I splurged on the new Roku. It's already paid for itself in the laundry that's been folded and put away in the past couple of weeks! And I've managed to catch up on some stuff that I've wanted to watch for a while.

For instance, I'm watching MI-5, which I started to watch years ago and never got back to. I'm currently in season 8 and it's annoying me. There's a CIA woman who is clearly not being played by a real American if her terrible accent is anything to judge by. She's close, but so not close that it grates on my ears. Add to it that I haven't trusted her character to be honest, which turns out to be the truth, and it's doubly aggravating.

I'm also watching BBC's Robin Hood which is super campy in a Xena sort of way. I never watched Xena because it was campy. So it's a struggle to continue. But I will.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

I Am Second

Have you seen the website called I Am Second? It's fantastic and I can spend hours watching the videos they have featured. I love how a simple concept can grow into a beautiful ministry. These people, mostly celebrities, are amazing in their vulnerability as they share a small little snippet of their faith journey and testimony.

So far I think Scott Hamilton's is my favorite. He had me smiling with joy in the midst of tears because he was smiling with joy in the midst of his own tears. He loves and trusts God for his life and it shows.

Check it out. It's well worth your time.