Without the love of books the richest man is poor, but endowed with this treasure the poorest man is rich. –Leon Gutterman

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thoughts for Thursday

Several "Thoughts for Thursday." Something for everyone...

Recipes I want to try:

Chocolate Gravy at Boo Mama's--I haven't had this in years.

Potato Leek Soup courtesy of Father John Zuhlsdorf

Blackberry Wine Cake from Lisa at It's the Little Things

Next Christmas I want to try Mommy's Martini's Christmas Cake

Homeschool Thoughts:

Taking Photos of Snowflakes at Pondered In My Heart

Pacifying the Beast at Life Without School.

Not just for homeschoolers, but for all parents--How Can We Encourage Reading Aloud? Jen Robinson has a great post.

Poiema reminded me about String Art! Looks fun.

Jena at yarns of the heart answers some questions, really good questions, about homeschooling.

Politics and/or Religion Thoughts:

Obama's Little Blue Book--didn't Chairman Mao have something similar???? Seen first at Michelle Malkin, but for only$5.95 on Amazon. I. Kid. You. Not. Gift wrap available.

Global Taxes??? I don't even like national ones. Yikes!

From Barbara at Mommy Life--Criticism in the pews. "While I was prepared to keep an open mind about Obama, my definition of open-mindedness does not include letting my brains fall out as so many previously self-identified conservatives seem to have done...

Why not a big party on the lawn?
asks the The Raving Theist (who, for the record, used to be The Raving Atheist).

What the FOCA?--learn what FOCA is really going to do for you. Courtesy of Jean at Catholic Fire.

“We consider right of conscience to be the biggest issue we face," said Dr. David Stevens, executive director of the Christian Medical Association. "If we lose this one, soon there will be no Christian health care personnel debating the other ethical issues like cloning or physician-assisted suicide.”Planned Parenthood: "pro-choice" for abortion, "no choice" for doctors from ProLife Blogs.com

"What have they got to be worried about?"
asks The American Thinker.

What are you thinking about this day?

If you have something you would like me to add to my Thursday links, feel free to e-mail me at ourjoyfuldays at gmail dot com

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sarah, Plain and Tall

sarah plain and tallSomewhere along while back when we began homeschooling, I got the mistaken notion that the Patricia MacLachlan series starting with Sarah, Plain and Tall was for little girls. I am happy to report that I was wrong.

The Sarah, Plain and Tall series is for boys and girls and grown-ups, too. I loved every one. And to my delight, both of my boys really enjoyed the story of Sarah, who comes to live with Jacob Witting and his children on the plains of Kansas.

skylarkI have been planning on writing a review of the books and movies. Don't know what took me so long, but I finally did get around to sharing. I'm sure everyone knows about them already, but I love them so much, I'm going to share anyway.

We have read them as read alouds and as readers. The boys have read them individually and I have reread them more than once. The series includes: Sarah, Plain and Tall, Skylark, Caleb's Story, More Perfect than the Moon, and Grandfather's Dance.

caleb's storyJacob Witting is a farmer in the late 19th century and has lost his young wife when she gave birth to his son Caleb. Busy with his farm and raising Caleb and Anna his daughter, Witting has little time for any fun or merriment.

One day he realizes the children need a woman and he places an ad for a wife in a newspaper.

Sarah Wheaton from New England answers his ad and travels by train to meet the motherless family. She brings her cat Seal and stories of a land where water is as endless as the prairie.

more perfect than the moonMacLachlan uses simple and few well selected words. The volumes are slim, but every sentence is packed to overflowing with content. While the stories are definitely prose they sing in the heart like poetry.

The first two volumes are told from the perspective of Anna, the oldest daughter. The third is told from Caleb's view and and number four and five from Cassie's view.

grandfather's danceThe books are listed as readers for Grades 3-5 and that is definitely appropriate, but younger children will enjoy them as read alouds. Parents will love the stories too.

New characters join beloved characters as the story unfolds and the family grows. The story of Sarah Wheaton and Jacob Witting is a lesson in history, a lesson in growing, a lesson in living and a lesson in love.

There are three beautifully done Hallmark movies with Glenn Close as Sarah and Christopher Walken as Jacob Witting. MacLachlan was involved in the scripting of the series of films and they are true to the books.

I think the simpleness of her writing allowed the movies to be all the more wonderful. They were exactly as I had imagined them as we were reading.

The movies are family fare, no bad language or questionable scenes. If you loved Little House and Caddie Woodlawn you will love Sarah, Plain and Tall.

The Dragon in the Sock Drawer

The Dragon in the Sock Drawer by Kate Klimo

Eight year-old Boo read the Dragon in the Sock Drawer and was really pleased with it. He was tickled that I decided to see what all of the fun was about and read it myself.

This is an incredibly cute book about cousins, Jesse and Daisy, whose dream it has always been to share a magical adventure. When Jesse happens upon a special thunderegg the fun and magic begins.

The thunderegg soon hatches and reveals a very precocious young dragon the cousins name Emerald--Emmy for short. But someone is following, someone is trying to take Emmy away from the new dragon keepers.

As always the children in the story keep secrets from adults, much of the mayhem may have been prevented if they clued Daisy's dad in from the beginning...but come on...what adult is really going to believe that this lizard looking creature is really a dragon from the "Time Before"?

The book is listed as reader for ages 9-12. I would definitely recommend it as a read aloud for younger children who like a good adventure with dragons and a bad guy thrown in to keep the young heroes hopping.

The Tombs of Atuan

The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula Le Guin

The Tombs of Atuan is the second book in the Earthsea cycle. I finsihed the first,A Wizard of Earthsea during the Fall into Reading 2009 Challenge. It ended up being a little treasure.

Having connected to the character, Ged, in the first story, I was a bit put off that Tombs began with a little girl, related in no way to Ged. I admit to taking a very slow approach to reading the book in the beginning. But once I allowed myself to settle in I became as attached to Tenar (the little girl) as I had been to Ged.

Le Guin's stories place an importance on names, geography, upbringing, and cultural traditions. Tenar is taken away from her family at six to the Tombs of Atuan to be the High Priestess of the Nameless Ones. She is stripped of her name and finally her memories. She lives the life of the Priestess, a life that everyone believes existed in the Priestess before her, and the one before her.

Tenar becomes Arha, The Eaten One...

It is almost halfway through the book before we see Ged enter the story. Ged has come to find the Ring of Erreth-Akbe. He also finds, and is found by Arha. He becomes her prisoner, but in doing so helps her regain her memories.

The Tombs of Atuan is as dark as the name suggests. There is so much that Le Guin could have written, so much detail that was left out it seems. But I think in giving the bare bones of the story Le Guin allows the reader to move forward and not become bogged in history that may or may not be of interest. At only 146 pages this books is small, but packs a big punch.

I'll be following up with the third book, The Farthest Shore, soon.

At first I thought there were only three books in this series. But there are more in the Earthsea collection. I kept finding conflicting information and was stumbling around trying to see what the order was, and finally had the brilliant idea to see if Le Guin, herself listed them on her website. What do you know? She did; citing her publisher had put them out of order. The books from Earthsea are: A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore, Tehanu, Tales from Earthsea, The Other Wind.

The Tombs of Atuan was a book on my Winter Reading Challenge List.

Robin of My Two Blessings is hostessing the Winter Reading Challenge.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What's On Your Nightstand--January

Five Minutes for Books offers the monthly meme--What's On Your Nightstand. I thought that would be a nice one to join. So here's my "nightstand" also known as "scattered around the messy house:"

The Restless Sea (The Morland Dynasty Book 27)
by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. This series is fabulous, thirty books deep so far, covering the history of England. I've learned so much and enjoyed it all the way.

When Mothers Pray by Cheri Fuller. Can you ever pray to much for your children? I don't think so. I've enjoyed re-reading this book. My husband gave this to me when the boys were tiny; I think it's meant more for me this time.

Grim Tuesday (The Keys to the Kingdom Book 2) by Garth Nix. I read Mr. Monday for the Fall into Reading Challenge 2008. I didn't think I would go back for more at the time, but Roo, my oldest has really gotten into the series and I want to be aware of what he is reading. This is in his words, "a bit gratuitous" in the weirdness, but hard to put down, nonetheless.

It's Not the Same without You
by Mitch Finley. This was a "stumble on" from the library. As a Catholic returning to the Church after a long absence, I've been blessed by every page.

The Last of the Mohicans
is sitting there...it's not reading itself, either. I'm having a hard time getting into that. I think it will be the last one I read for the Winter Reading Challenge.

I have been starting my mornings with prayer and reading before I start the computer and it has been a blessing. Morning readings are from:

Abide in My Word
St. Joseph's Daily Prayer Book
But Who Do You Say I Am? by Bishop John A. Marshall
My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

I am participating in the Winter Reading Challenge and the Chunkster Challenge 2009. They are overlapping, so I hope I can finish.

What's on your nightstand?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Pumpkin Cake

1 Duncan Hines Spice cake mix
1 1/4 cup pumkin pie mix (the kind that is already seasoned)
3 large eggs
1/3 cup oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix cake mix, eggs, pumpkin and oil. Pour into a lightly greased 9x13 pan or baking dish. Bake for 30-40 minutes.

1 container Duncan Hines Butter Cream Frosting
1 pkg cream cheese (softened)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons butter
cinnamon to taste

Mix frosting and cream cheese, add sugar and butter. Mix in cinnamon to taste. Frost cooled cake.

Simple Chili

1 lg (29 oz) can of Crushed Tomatoes
1 lg (20 oz) can Bush's Mild Chili beans
1 sm (16 oz) can Bush's Medium Chili beans
1/2 lb ground turkey
1/2 lb chili ground hamburger
chili powder
garlic powder
dehydrated onions

Brown burger, seasoning with chili powder, garlic powder and dried onions to taste. In crockpot add tomatoes, beans and cooked burger. Stir and add addtional seasoning if desired.

Top with shredded cheese, sour cream or crackers. Serve with cornbread.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mor-book-ly Obese

I tried really hard not to join another challenge, but with categories like: The Chubby Chunkster, Do These Books Make My Butt Look Fat?, Mor-book-ly Obese and Too Big To Ignore Anymore, I couldn't resist.

Think Pink Dana Feelin' Chunky is hostessing theChunkster Challenge 2009.

I wanted to go for the Do These Books Make My Butt Look Fat? ("this option is for the slightly heavier reader who wants to commit to 3-5 Chunksters over the next ten months") just because it was so funny to say, but I'm going to shoot for the Mor-book-ly Obese (This is for the truly out of control chunkster. For this level of challenge you must commit to 6 or more chunksters OR three tomes of 750 pages or more. You know you want to.....go on and give in to your cravings) because I want to get these books finished this year!!

The White Road by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles (The Morland Dynasty)

The Burning Roses by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles (The Morland Dynasty)

"...And Ladies of the Club"
by Helen Hooven Santemeyer (also on the Winter Reading Challenge 2009)

by Diana Gabaldon (also on the Winter Reading Challenge 2009)

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

The challenge runs February 1st to November 15th, 2009. Rules and details are easy to live with. I'm in!

Thoughts for Thursday

From silly to serious, five links to make you think or inspire your creativity or just for a good read. Click!

Why Blog? asks Elizabeth, In the Heart of My Home.

When Will I Ever Need This Math? at Homeschool Math Blog.

Cute hair bows at Joy's Hope.

AMC Movie Coupon at Happy Hearts at Home.

The Curt Jester on Change.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Shelves Around the House

Still winter here.
We still need some cheer.
Even books can use company.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I Am Mordred: A Tale from Camelot

I Am Mordred: A Tale from Camelot by Nancy Springer

I Am Mordred is a young adult fiction I chose for the Winter Reading Challenge. Originally my thought was to read I Am Morgan le Fay, also by Nancy Springer, but found that Mordred was released first, so chose to read them in order.

To be honest, as an Arthurian fan the Morgan le Fay book really caught my fancy since I loved Mists of Avalon and other Arthurian that include the women in the story. So I started Mordred with low expectations.

At 184 pages, it is definitely not a challenging read for an avid adult reader, Springer's writing is definitely directed to a younger audience, although her imagery is really lovely. But that said, I was hooked from the first sentence: "WHEN I WAS A BABY, MY FATHER TRIED TO KILL ME." Alrighty, then...we're headed at the story from a decidedly nontraditional angle.

Springer sets a well paced story that will keep a reader returning. Her portrait of Mordred, always a villain, will allow a reader to see first, not an angry vicious young man; but a child with a need to be loved, surrounded by a cast of characters trying to control their fates.

Definitely recommended for an older child (my rating would be 5th and above, possibly older for a sensitive reader). Teen/young adult readers with a passion for all things Arthurian will enjoy.

Robin of My Two Blessings is hostessing the Winter Reading Challenge.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thoughts for Thursday

Unplugging the Microwave--Pastor Al talks about prayer in an instant society.

Lisa at House of Many Blessings shares a reminder for homeschoolers.

Should we practice Comparing Our Crosses? Kate Wicker at Momopoly offers insight.

Who will stop you from getting to heaven? Orthodox Father John Brian.H/t to Kyrie, Eleison!

Just for beauty and fun...Have you been to Lisa's Chaos? Her photos are breathtaking. A mini-vacation with just a click. Particular favorites: My Winter Friends, Northern Cardinals, Lions and Tigers and Badgers, oh my! I get in trouble when I check out the archives.

Click, click click!!

Friday, January 9, 2009

What Kind of Reader Are You?

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Literate Good Citizen
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz
I found this at Renee's and had to chuckle. While some of the answers I had to make fit, I had no problem with most of the questions.

Pretty accurate, I think!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Thoughts for Thursday

Do unto others...

Visit Barbara's (Stray Thoughts) thoughts and linking to Whose life is it, anyway?

And at Do You Weary Like I Do? consider the little "mom voice" that I know we all hear. Is it Self Pity?

What am I saying? asks Pastor Al.

"Do the task...so as not to hinder," a gentle nudge from Ann at Holy Experience.

View From the Pews
reminds us how to live with Courage to face The World at My Doorstep.



Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Magi by Daniel L. Gilbert

I received Magi right after Christmas. What a lovely gift! The timing couldn't have been more perfect and I finished it on the Feast of Epiphany. How perfect.

Many times we see the magi/the wisemen as an afterthought, I think; flat, two dimensional characters dressed in kingly robes, bringing gifts that contrast with the rude and humble stable where our Savior was born.

Western tradition teaches three wisemen, Balthazar, Gaspar, and Melchior; Eastern tradition teaches twelve. Gilbert brings to life the magi, and not just three, but many Parthian men who were priests and astronomers, well versed in the prophecies, not just of their own peoples, but in the prophecies of the countries surrounding them.

The central character is Ramates, a young and impulsive magi who is motivated by pride. Ramates is the discoverer of the star, Al Sisiosh, in his language. The astronomers know this is the star that heralds the Deliverer, the One who will free the people burdened by injustice. They know they must go to seek Him and do Him homage. Can the imperfect, impulsive Ramates lead them?

That we know "the end of the story," the wisemen kneeling before the infant, Jesus/Yeshua, in no way makes this a dull tale. The real story is in the journey, the dangerous, difficult, dirty, and long tale that lead the magi to, not the manger scene, but to the more likely scene of Jesus in a home as perhaps a twelve to eighteen month old child. The magi prepare themselves as best they can for an audience with the King, but the road weary men who prostrate themselves before the Child are not the pristine men of the manger scenes.

The story of the magi is our story, too; they were the first gentiles to recognize and worship the Son of God. Our journey is long and hard, sometimes we face uglieness to get there. Will you bow, with Ramates and the other magi, before the King of Kings?2009 winter reading challenge

Magi is on my reading list for theWinter Reading Challenge. I'm really glad that I read it.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Feasting in Mitford

a light in the window karonAt the end of At Home in Mitford there was a "teaser," an excerpt form the first chapter of A Light in the Window. Oh that was not fair!! So of course, upon finishing that I stomped off to the living room to find the second installment of Mitford, confident it would be on my shelves with several of the other Mitford books I had picked up at my favorite haunt (Half Price Books!).

Needless to say, when I got there and found that I did NOT own the second Mitford book, I nearly screeched; thankfully I remembered it was past midnight and I would wake my sleeping sons and my hubby. So I pulled up my library website and found it was on the shelf at my neighborhood branch and purposed to go there first thing in the morning.

Once in possession of the book, I read through it as fast as I could. I must admit to being a bit frustrated with Father Tim. He was not as approachable as he was in the first book. But after thinking about it, well...He was in LOVE! And he was conflicted about what to do with the lovely Cynthia Coppersmith. Oh, yeah, and he's dealing with Dooley Barlowe too boot. Well, I daresay, Father Tim acted almost--human!! It was a bit frustrating. Aren't clergy supposed to be perfect? Hmmmmm...

A Light in the Window is a vehicle to take you to Mitford again. But as with any town nothing stands still. Mitford has had some upheaval since our last visit and the characters have a few more bumps and bruises. I don't think A Light in the Window was quite as comfortable as At Home in Mitford, but it was worth traveling home again for a visit.

these high green hills karonAnd you will want to go back again for These High, Green Hills. The trip back to Mitford didn't last any longer than the first two. These books insist that I read as quickly as I can (and as late into the night as my eyes will allow).

Again the story is not as soft and cozy as the first Mitford book. There is tragedy amidst the day to day happenings, but there is joy, sweet as lilac blossoms, too. Father Tim and Cynthia have married (thank goodness!!) and are settling into their new life. Karon, again turns to focus more on the townfolk and their quirks and intricacies. There are new characters who upset the delicate balance of Mitford.

mitford snowmenMy last trip to the library was to pick up A Common Life, which is actually Book Six in the series, but chronologically falls between Books Two and Three. While there I found The Mitford Snowmen and Esther's Gift. These are sweet little short stories, not even as long as a chapter. I'm not sure they are "must haves," but if you have a Mitford fan on your gift list they would be a fun gift. esther's gift karon

As one gracious commenter says, Jan Karon does have a website. It is as welcoming as a trip to Mitford.

2009 winter reading challengeA Light in the Window was on my reading list for the Winter Reading Challenge. But of course I got wound up, caught up and distracted in Mitford. I'm still pretty sure I can finish all the books on my list even with a few Mitford vacations.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2008 Reading for Roo

Roo read thirty-one books the first part of 2008. The second half of 2008 Roo read 35 books. Sixty-six books is a great accomplishment! Roo is in fifth grade right now.

Some books that he's talked about a lot are the Fire Star series by Chris D'Lacey, the Guardians of Ga'Hoole by Kathryn Lasky and the Septimus Heap books by Angie Sage. Do you see a fantasy trend there? I do. I made sure that he had some good non-fiction books and alternate types of fiction to round out his reading.

One book I know that stood out for him was Mao's Last Dancer by Li Cunxin. It is a biography of a dancer growing up under the last days of the Mao regime and his defection to the United States. There is a juvenile version of this, but I chose to let Roo read the adult version with supervision and lots of conversation and I am glad that I did. He read a copy from the library, but has asked for a copy of his own. I'm looking!

Great job, Buddy!

Roo's Reads: July-December

Apologies for the poor editing on this post!!

2008 Reading for Boo

Boo read fifty-one books in the first six months of 2008. For the second six months he finished 38 books. I'd say 89 books is pretty respectable when you are in 3rd grade. Some books he chose, some I chose and then others we picked out together.

I think if you asked him, Boo would tell you the Sarah, Plain and Tall series by Patricia MacLachlan were his favorites. But, the Poppy series by Avi was great reading too. I found that he consumed non-fiction at least as quickly as the fiction and really enjoyed sharing his newfound knowledge.

Boo, I am very proud of you!

Boo's Reads: July-December

Thoughts for Thursday

This was supposed to post Thursday (the date will say Jan. 1, 2009--But it is the 4th). However my health has been ummm...interesting at best. So belatedly...

Happy New Year!!

Going to try something that is pretty common out in blogland, but new for me--reviewing links on other blogs. Links to lift you up & encourage you, to make you think, to entertain, to make you laugh. Hope you might find something off your beaten path.

Giving Up by Adoro te Devote

Coffee Shop Game
at Homeschool Math Blog

The Day Congress Killed Small Business
by Mommy's Martini

What Jesus Is from Poiema Portfolio

Will Your Cell Phone Crash in an Emergency?
from World Net Daily