Reading: March 2017

One of my goals this year is to journal more regularly regarding what I’ve been reading. Here are my notes from March.

Currently

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
I’m not a huge science fiction fan, but when I heard this book described on the What Should I Read Next podcast it just sounded too good to be hung up on the genre. I started reading it one night before bed while I was alone and that might not have been the best choice – the beginning is a little hairy and not something you might want to read alone, in the dark, at night. That said, it has totally gripped me and while there are parts of it I totally don’t understand (physics is not my strength at all) the characters and writing are so good that I keep reading. After the beginning part, I can’t say that it’s a scary book per se, just suspenseful and not the most might relaxing thing to read right before you go to bed.

Goodbye, Vietnam
The chick and I are reading this for school as we finish up a study on the period during the Cold Wars. So far it is pretty good. It chronicles the story of a family as they leave Vietnam during all the chaos reigning in their country.

The Living Page
I’m not going to finish this before I have to return it to the library, but I’m loving it and understanding it way more than I did the first time I tried to read it. This book goes through all the different notebooks that Charlotte Mason suggests using and while there are parts of it that are still hard to understand, overall it’s been fascinating. We are moving closer and closer to a more CM style of homeschooling and I my goal has been to study more and more of her methods. I want to start some notebooking ideas in the Fall and this has been a great stepping point as I head that direction. Definitely a book I want to purchase and add to my own learning library.

Hinds Feet on High Places
My daughter and I started reading this book and while I’ve already read it 2 times in my life, I’m excited to read it with her. It’s an allegory and the story of Much-Afraid and I swear every time I read it I get something new out of it. The last time I read it, I journaled a whole series on the blog. I’m so curious what she is going to think of the story in the end.

I’m still pushing through On Being a Writer and Love Walked Among Us this month. I have to admit I’m not working on my writing as much as I wanted too. Life just keeps getting in the way and I’ve got so many other commitments it’s hard to set aside that time to work on it…or work on anything really. I’m just trying to keep up and make deadlines.

Finished

The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic by Jennifer Trafton
This is a great little kid’s novel that the chick and I read for our book club. The adjectives and creativity were just awesome. She write with such humor and freedom and it’s just a sweet and light little book – but there are deep things in there too.

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson
We’ve been studying about modern history this semester and both World Wars. This book was awesome in it’s own right, but to read it after doing all this studying on the leaders and the beginning of all the chaos in the turn of the century made it even more interesting. I’ve never read any of Larson’s books, but I’ve heard them rejoiced many times. I’m totally a fan now.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
This was another one recommended on What Should I Read Next and it was great. It’s another sci-fi sort of book but not too much. It’s different and weirdly I loved it. It’s a quick read and if you are a fan of a Wrinkle in Time and the show Stranger Things you will probably like this one too. I almost want to read it again to see what I missed, because I feel like I missed a lot of underwritten things.

Shiloh by H. Sorenson
I wrote a review of my own for this book. Find it here. It’s part of a trilogy and I can’t wait to get the next 2.

What’s Next?

I got my hands on Upstream again by Mary Oliver and it is just sitting on the table waiting to be read. I’ve already renewed it once, so I need to get busy and read it! I think I’ll try and finish Hillbilly Elegy in April and make that my one big goal. I’m also not doing very well sticking to my original list. I keep reading things that I hear about instead of going after the things I made a goal to read! Geez.

What are you reading?

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Pattern Review: Cheyenne Tunic

This shirt was such a long time making. The biggest hiccup in the whole process was the loss of my sewing machine for a month due to it being in service. I finally rescued it and with great joy was able to finally finish it. I do think in the end, making it so slowly was actually for my benefit. I figured out some mistakes along the way that I’m not sure I would have totally realized until too late if I hadn’t been forced to sew this shirt in so many small spaces of time.

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The Cheyenne Tunic pattern is by Hey June. I’ve made her Lane Raglan many times and love it so much. I was anxious to see how this tunic would come together.
I used one of the Hipster Grizzly Plaid flannels by Kaufman. I love the feel of this flannel and it hangs really well for this shirt. It did end up being a little bit harder to work with than I had thought, primarily due to the thickness. It’s not a super thin flannel and perhaps I might have done better if I would have made a muslin or even made this shirt first in a thinner cotton versus starting with the flannel.

Overall this is a very well written pattern. I ended up following the sew-along off her blog and it helped answer some questions that I had with the actual pattern directions.

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One mistake I did make was putting these arms tabs on the outside instead of the inside. I realized after I posted the picture on instagram (doih!) that these darn things come up from the inside and hook onto a button on the outside. Even though I had already completed the sleeves etc, I was able to take them off and restitch them on the inside. I did decide to only include one pocket on the front instead of the written two.

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I have never done plackets and cuffs before and I was super nervous about it. I’m still thinking that I did my cuffs backwards, but who will notice right? I did end up having to follow her directions on the sew-along and I watched a couple of other videos to help with sewing these together. I had a really hard time visualizing how they were supposed to work. But, yeah!, they all came together.

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I feel like the placket on the front went in pretty well and I ended up finding some buttons at JoAnns thankfully. Fit wise it’s a mix. The actual bodice fits me perfectly. The neckline is great and the shoulders are pretty square also. I’ve always got issues with sleeves and the sleeves area  little long on me. When I make another one, I’ll probably size down the sleeves actually and for sure make them shorter. I did end up shortening the cuffs a little bit when I was sewing, but I’d almost prefer them to be a little thinner than they are.

Book Review: on fear and waiting

On first glance you might not think these books have much in common. I didn’t plan on reading them at the same time and while I was reading them the connection between the two didn’t really occur to me either. But as I was laying down last night for bed (because don’t all great thoughts hit you right when you are about to go to sleep?) I realized how much they did have in common.

Shiloh is a fictional story written by Helena Sorensen. It is part of a trilogy and without spoiling too much, it is in many ways a creation story.  As in the true Creation story, evil enters in and in the land of Shiloh that evil takes the form of the Shadow. The land is cast in darkness and it is the hope of the people that shines out into the darkness. As their hope fades or grows, the light that shines out from them fades and grows. A cast of characters rises up against (and falls into) the Shadow and this is their story.

Still Waiting is true story, I’d almost call it a memoir in many ways, about one woman’s struggle to maintain hope in the midst of a continually difficult condition. Ann Swindell correlates her story with the story of the bleeding woman from the Gospels. It is a book that describes waiting and is filled with reminders of where our hope should lie.

Throughout the story of Shiloh, the characters wake up daily in a world shrouded with darkness. This darkness is all they have ever known and they have the choice to believe and continue to hope in the stories that they’ve been told through generations or give into the darkness and live with it until their time is done. I love that it’s not an easy story. We don’t live in an easy world and this parallel world is no different. We give into the darkness and we let our light of hope dim and even at times we let that light be completely smothered. This story of the land of Shiloh was tender because of the darkness that I found myself in a few seasons ago. Like Amos in the story, it was easier to give into the Shadow and ignore all the pain. But in the end, I knew I couldn’t keep drinking the water of darkness, but I had to find my way out into the light. I’ve rarely read a story where the ending sticks so clearly in my mind. The quartet of characters has a choice, to give into the fear literally racing at them or face the absolute unknown. Both options were incredibly frightening – yet one led to life and one led to death. The longer you live in a place of shadow the more we are faced with this same option. To remain in darkness is scary and crushing. But to step out away from the darkness is full of fear also. Ultimately, restoration only comes when we move out of the darkness.

This is where hope and waiting come in. In Still Waiting, Ann relates her struggle with a psychological condition that is enhanced by anxiety and fear. She can’t control it, yet she can control her hope in restoration. Each chapter is focused on an aspect of waiting – how waiting breaks us, weakens us, claims our identity, makes us angry, brings us shame, feels like suffering and is risky, yet in the end waiting is filled with grace. Waiting teaches us hope. In our weakness, in our darkest moments in the shadows, we can learn that our “weakness is a bridge to Jesus.”

One of the overarching themes in Shiloh was the idea of Identity. It is only in remembering who they are, who they belong to and who created them that they are able to reignite the light within them and free themselves and others from the darkness. Amos cries out to his sister that she has to remember and yet he struggles to identify what she should remember. Their lives had been fraught with so many memories that were so crushing;  yet even in sorrow there is hope living there. He reminds her of her gifts and he reaches out to her. It’s only in the remembering and the reaching out that the light begins to break through. The same goes for us as we struggle with hope and waiting. Ann reminds us that God has claimed us, he has renamed us and he is in the process of restoring us. It may not be a restoration that we want or in the time that we want, but it is still a promise that He keeps. We might eve be freed from one shadow only to be eclipsed by an even stronger one. That is where we have to decide whether we will give into the anger that will surely rise up or give into obedience and believe the promises.

Simoen and Amos are truly dark and light in the story of Shiloh. One gives into anger and the other obedience. Both of them have to figure out how to put one foot in front of the other and both of them are needy. It is out of our need that Jesus comes for us and that the Light reaches them. But on the opposite side, it is out of that need that the darkness comes too. We cannot respond in obedience without knowing who we are and believing in the hope. And oh the risk. Ann reminds us through her story of that risk.

“Our desires and our dreams so often dissolve before us. Life is hard. Our hearts grow weary. Hoping feels too tender, too raw. Waiting for the fullness of our promised restoration threatens to usurp our hope.”

So it’s a question of where our hope lies. If it’s in us and our ability to push through or just ignore the darkness, we will fail. But be warned, we will fail when our hope is centered in Christ too.  The difference is where we fall. When I am grounded in the promises of the light; I will be injured, sorrow will come and I may continue to sit in this place of waiting for restoration. The difference is I am sitting in the light.

 

**note: I received the book still waiting from the author in compensation for a review.**

Reading: February 2017

One of my goals this year is to journal more regularly regarding what I’ve been reading. Here are my notes from February.

Currently

The Nightingale by K. Hannah
I have heard this book talked about so much and I finally reserved it from the library last week. It’s a WWII book (one of so many in the last few years) and I am about half way through it as I type this. While I’m truly compelled by the story I have to admit I’m honestly not liking the characters very much. The two man characters are sisters who are at odds with each other, amplified by their differing responses to the war and the occupation of France by the Nazis. The narration goes back and forth between the two and I’ve rarely read a book where honestly I’m sort of annoyed with both of them. I’m not sure what it is. I keep hoping that redemption will come in the end.

War Horse by M. Morpurgo
My daughter and I are listening to this on Overdrive and so far it’s honestly been pretty depressing! It’s a strange book in that the narrator is the horse. The time period is World War One, which we’ve constantly had to talk about as we’ve moved into studying about WWII with our school work. We have about 5 chapters left and finally I feel like there might be a happy ending – which for most of the book I didn’t think was going to happen. The audio book is narrated by John Keating who is phenomenal with his accents and voices.

Love Walked Among Us by P. Miller
I started this one as my spriritual focus this month. I love Paul Miller and his writing style and this one does not disappoint. It is the first book he wrote so it does feel a little bit like reading backwards because his other two books I’ve read were newer. I’ve just gotten a few chapters in and I’m trying to read and journal my way through it so I’m not reading so quickly.

The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic by J. Trafton
This is our bedtime read aloud between my daughter and I and it’s another book I had heard so much about. Trafton is one of the Rabbit Room writers I read so much about and this also was a book club pick for the younger group in our book club; they raved about it. It’s total fantasy and so far it’s been pretty cute and somewhat funny. The characters are pretty farcical so as an adult reading it you kind of roll your eyes a little bit, but my daughter likes it so far and it is a great read aloud.

Still Waiting by Ann Swindoll
I’m actually on the book launch tour for this book so I received a copy in compensation for my review. I’m about half way through it and it’s taken the place of my morning reading right now and I’m honestly still trying to figure out what to say about it!

Finished

Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul by H. Anderson
I really loved this book. While I do feel like I read it slowly, I wish that I had read it even slower and journaled more as I was reading. She approaches the study of humility and pride through nature and I feel like for me it was the most refreshing (if reading about how sinfully prideful we are) book I’ve read in a while. She weaved stories of her life, but ultimately I felt more like it was truly a study of what humility really is and isn’t. I highly recommend it.

The Signature of All Things by E. Gilbert
I started out listening to this on audio and gave up because I knew I would never finish it in time. But I was already invested in the story so I reserved the actual book from the library. I have to say I like this book much more actually reading it than listening to it. There are some parts that honestly made me uncomfortable and I was happy to be able to just skip over them versus having to figure out how to fast forward the audio. It was a very compelling story and Gilbert is excellent at her character development. It’s a sweeping story that covers gobs of time, but she does such a great job of linking it all together. I will say that Alma’s time in Tahiti was just weird; just plain weird. It kind of reminded me a little bit of Life of Pi and the whole weird island thing. But over all it was a good read.

Emma by J. Austen
I finally finished it an ah! this is totally one of my favorite books. I swear it’s one that I would totally challenge myself to read maybe once ever year or so. There is so much that I miss in the language that I know I would pick up more if I reread it. I love Emma though and when she and Mr. Knightly finally realize they love each other in the end…goodness. I’m excited to attend a lecture at the University of Tennessee about Emma during their AustenFest in early April. Check out more details about the festival here.

The Curated Closet
I’m not sure that this actually qualifies as reading, but I did finally get my hands on this book. It was on my original list of books I wanted to read this year and I was on the waiting list forever at the library. The book is basically all about how to create a wardrobe; not necessarily a capsule wardrobe per se, but sort of. There was a lot in there that really didn’t interest me and much I had already gone through with Colette’s Wardrobe Architect series. There were a few pages of questions to ask yourself when purchasing or figuring out what to purchase that I felt like were really helpful. It’s a super book to get from the library and look through if you are like me and trying to figure out what to wear as I creep further into my forties and my style and life changes.

What’s Next?

I started to read Shiloh by Helena Sorenson (another Rabbit Room recommended book), but put it down to finish Signature and then I got wrapped up in the Nightingale. I’m sure I’ll pick it back up again. I really need to pick up Hillbilly Elegy again and I’m hoping to finally finish reading On Being a Writer in March also.  I want to finish Upstream by Mary Oliver, but I had to return it to the library because someone had reserved it. I’m back in the queue to get it again hopefully soon.

Pattern Review: Syrah Maxi Skirt

My main sewing machine has been in the shop for going on three weeks so I haven’t even tried to finish the Cheyenne Tunic I was working on. I had a couple of knit projects laying around so I figured I would tackle those since they are primarily sewn on my serger.

First up was the Syrah Skirt by baste and gather. I’ve wanted to sew a maxi skirt for a while and this skirt pattern seemed to be perfect. There are many different options for lengths and seams. I also had nearly 3 yards of this random knit that I had purchased like a million years ago to “practice” on. This pattern uses a ton of fabric and in the end I’m SO glad that I made a practice skirt first.

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First I will say that this knit is not high quality. It’s from Joanns, but it’s probably going on 6 years old and really doesn’t have a nice hand to it. I do like that it’s a bit heavier and so I opted to make a version without the inner lining.

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I know that this is a fairly straightforward sort of garment to make, but there were a few directions along the way that I feel like she could have offered a more detailed explanation. This is a great pattern style to make if you are new to knits and if I were new to sewing I’d be a little frustrated and lost. Probably my biggest frustration was the waistband. There are two different options for the waistband, but she only shows one version (the more complicated ruched one) in the directions and then it’s implied that you do the same with the other version. But the pattern pieces are completely different looking so if you were new to this whole sewing thing (or not paying attention like me) you could easily sew the wrong sides.

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I sewed a size medium and while the length and fullness of the skirt are fine (and kind of fun!) the waistband was HUGE! I had to take it in at least 3-4 inches from the pattern piece. And even still it’s not quite as snug as I’d like it.

Overall, it’s a good pattern and would be good for beginners. That said, I would sew slowly or use some crappy knit to sew your first one just to get the fit right.

Reading: January 2017

One of my goals this year is to journal more regularly regarding what I’ve been reading. Here are my notes from January.

Currently

Emma
I’m trying desperately to finish Emma. I love Emma and it’s probably one of my favorite PBS Masterpiece shows. I’m loving the book too, but I’m choosing terribly bad times to read it – like right before bed. I end up falling asleep after only 2 pages; which to be fair contains a lot of text, but still. The more I read Emma, the more I realize I’m so much like her. I’m so quick to make assumptions, the self-talk that Emma goes through regarding her frustrations with people around her is so similar to me…her self talk regarding Mrs. Elton, for example, absolutely cracks me up.

Upstream by Mary Oliver
I lucked into this book at the library last week and quickly snatched it up. I wasn’t sure what to expect with it, but I had seen it around the web-o-sphere so much that I felt I needed to read it. I knew it was a collection of essays, but honestly I feel like it’s more a stream of consciousness from a poet. I love the descriptions that she gives and it’s a book I do think I’d like to have on my shelf. I’ll write more about it when I’m finished reading it I think.  My favorite quote so far has been:
The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work. who felt their own creative power restive and uprising and gave it neither power nor time. from p.30

Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson
This has been a great book. I’ve only got a few chapters left and overall I’ve really enjoyed her approach to writing. It is a book about humility (and pride), but it’s written in such a way that it’s truly convicting – yet hopeful at the same time. More on this when I’m finished with it too.

On Being a Writer by Kroeker & Craig
I’m on the fence about this book. I’ve liked it and I’ve participated in some of the exercises in it, but I’m not sure that it was what I thought it would be. I am about half way done and I was very gung-ho with it when I first started, but now my desire to read it has kind of waned. Honestly now I just want to cross it off my list.

The Signature of All Things by E. Gilbert
This one I’m listening to on audio. I’ve loved it for the first hour; the story and characters have been so interesting. But as I listened to it yesterday I became a little nervous about where she’s heading with these characters. There were some parts of the book that I wouldn’t want to read, let alone listen to. So I’m a little bummed out and wondering if I should keep listening or not? It’s hard to abandon a book when you’ve invested an hour of listening time versus just a few chapters of reading.

The Headless Cupid by Z. K. Snyder
Ms. Snyder was one of the first authors I read and then proceeded to read all of her books as soon as possible when I was in upper elementary school. She’s been one I’ve been eager to share with my daughter based on my own memories and love of her stories. It has been an interesting read. I didn’t remember all the witches, magic and occult stuff in it and I’ve had a hard time trying to figure out if we should keep reading it or not. I know that in the end it is a ghost story/mystery and the witches part of it really isn’t the focus. It’s definitely led us to have lots of conversations about magic etc that I don’t think we ever had while reading Harry Potter.

Finished

Heidi
We read this for my daughter’s book club and it was the sweetest book. You do have to be careful which version you read. Ours was the original version by Joanna Spyri and was a copy from Veritas. It was such a great story about waiting for God and resting in his timing from the perspective of a little girl. Such a sweet mother-daughter read.

Secrets of Wishtide by Kate Saunders
I’m not sure about this one. I gave it 3 stars on goodreads. It was a fine mystery story and there were moments where it went along quite well, but overall it sort of dragged. It wasn’t a book where I wanted to read it during the day so it clearly remained my “just before bed” book.

Revenge in a Cold River by Anne Perry
I’ve long been a huge Anne Perry fan and honestly I think it’s more because I’m invested in her characters more than anything. Her older books are wonderful reads if you love a good Victorian mystery. The last few I’ve read of hers haven’t been quite as compelling. I do wonder how long she can keep going after having written so many books about the same groups of characters? This one was one of her better ones about William Monk, but it was really just a story focused on him. I love his wife and really missed the the interaction and just her story too.

What’s Next?

I don’t know! I have a few I grabbed at the library last week – one from my master list and then a Wally Lamb book I hadn’t read before (love him). But I am making myself finish Emma before I pick up another fiction book. I’m really wanting to read The Nightingale because I keep hearing it recommended so I think that’s where I’ll head next. After Humble Roots – I’m not sure what I’ll focus on for my spiritual reading.

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