Thursday, January 28, 2010

CSA basket this week and menu planning

(The water bottles in the back are part of our earthquake supplies. We don't actually regularly drink bottled water.)

I missed posting about our basket last time it came; sorry!  But here's what we got yesterday:

-baby garlic <-- This is great! It looks like green onions, but tastes like garlic, just milder. Last time we got it, we used it on eggs. Super-yummy.




-lettuce: red, romaine, and iceberg


-beets + beet greens



-avocado (to Adam's joy)

-tatsoi (I know, I'd never heard of it either)

-celery, with lots of leaves









And what are we going to make of it? Well, as usual, the fruit is going to be snacks, as are the radishes, the beets and the carrots, and possibly some of the celery.

Then, we're having:

-mongolian beef (baby garlic & garlic) (and I use ground beef for this, and serve over brown rice)

-taco salad (uses cilantro, lettuce, avocado, tomato)

-chef salad (uses lettuce, parsley, tomato, carrots and celery)

-pasta with sausage and swiss chard (I'm going to stick the chard, the beet greens and the tatsoi in here - we have company the night we're having this, so I'm going to make a big batch)

-Vietnamese Fried Rice from the More With Less cookbook (Uses lettuce, parsley, and whatever else needs to be used up - this is a great use-what-you-have recipe. You can toss any extra veggies or meat you happen to have in here.)

-pork with celery, Greek Style from the Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines (uses LOTS of celery with leaves)

I just realized I made no provision for the potatoes. But potatoes always come in handy, and if nothing else, we'll roast them and have potato oven fries and cheese for lunch some time.

Anyone found any good recipes recently? particularly for greens? I'm still having trouble figuring out what to do with all these greens. And lettuce (hence all the main dish salads this time around).

I'm sure eating all those leaves is good for us. Alllllllll those leaves.

peace of Christ to you, 

Jessica Snell

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

update on the push-ups and pull-ups challenge

I blogged here about how my husband and I were taking on the 100 push-ups and 20 pull-ups challenges.
And since now is just about the time that such resolutions begin to fade, I thought I'd report in.
Are we still doing it? Yep.
On the pull-ups: well, I can do one now! I can almost do two. I completed Week -2 and Week -1, but the truth is, I'm not ready for Week 1 itself yet. So, instead, I am just doing my max five times in a row every other night (throwing some slow, negative pull-ups in there as well) and will keep doing that until I can do 3 pull-ups in a row, and then I'll start Week 1. I'm hoping I'll be ready for Week 1 in ten days or so.
On the push-ups: I'm on Week 4! I just did Week 4, Day one last night. Ouch, ouch, ouch. On round 5 last night I only did 18 push-ups (instead of the 25 I was supposed to hit), so I'm going to repeat Week 4, Day 1. When I can complete that, I'll go on to Week 4, Day 2. I'm hoping I can get it on the next try - I was so close!
I felt badly about not hitting that 25 max on the fifth round (it's only the second time in the whole program I haven't made it all the way through all five rounds), but then my husband counted up for me that - all said and done - I'd just done 90 push-ups in the last ten minutes. That made me feel better.

I'm excited because at the end of Week 4, whenever I get there, I get to do another test-to-exhaustion, and I'm looking forward to seeing how much I've improved since I started.

And the last question: is it worth it? Well, so far, I think it is. It surely does hurt to do that many push-ups in a row. But during the 23+ hours a day I'm not doing push-ups, I feel really good. My arms and shoulders have a lot more shape, and I feel stronger. It's doing lots of good for my tummy region too, and let me tell you, after four kids, that's a great good thing! Push-ups really are an amazing all-body exercise. And you combine them pull-ups? Wow. They're just killer.

I'm beginning to have a new goal: some day, I want to do this kind of burpees:

(Um, probably not that many though. I know my limits. I think.) (Oh, and, warning: there is a small bit of profanity at the very end of that video.)
So, have I inspired anyone else to give this a try? It really is amazing to push yourself and see change happen.
For me, doing this physical challenge, and seeing tangible results, is having a strange effect . . . it's reminding me that the same principle is true in less tangible things: in my writing, and in my devotional life, in particular. If I push myself as far as I can go, I do hit a wall. And that can feel like failure. But the truth is, by pushing myself all the way until I hit that wall, the next time I try, I can go further.
peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Links: juggling, chastity, showers and more!

My husband (who's probably craft-i-er than me) has a new how-to up on Instructables, on how to make weighted juggling balls that won't take up too much space in your backpack. So if you've got someone on your gift list who likes juggling (or wants to learn), this is the tutorial for you. Send along some nifty octohedral juggling balls so that he has something fun to do on his lunch break.

(The guys at my husband's work do all sorts of things on their lunch breaks: juggling, practicing handstands, putting together role-playing games, practicing martial arts, playing cribbage . . . they've even been known to break out the didgeridoos.)

Also, if you want to learn to juggle, Adam also has a nifty little Instructable on your basic three-ball cascade.

I found this article on how movie-dubbing works to be really interesting, especially as we're occasionally listening to the Spanish track instead of the English on our DVD's these days.

This woman's defense of saving sex till after marriage is worth reading. I liked this part especially:

I believe that having sex permanently alters your relationship with someone: makes you connected to them forever in a really transformative way. Once again, this is something that our culture doesn’t really believe but I think that it is true nonetheless and that we can see the effects, acknowledged or not. Therefore having that relationship with more than one living person would be highly problematic.

A post on how to shower? Yes. Seriously. I loved this. And the rest of the blog is one of those ones where you want to go back and read the entire archives (which I'm currently doing). Thanks to Ann for the link!

The Rev.'s Matt and Anne Kennedy are writing about their past year, and the mercies God has shown them. It's compelling stuff, and if you're interested at all in matters Episcopal and Anglican - or if you just want to read about the cost and the blessings of following Jesus - you'll want to read their account.

peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

on dressing identical twins identically

My two youngest daughters are identical (or, monozygotic) twins. They look an awful lot alike.

(And for the record: yes, I can tell them apart, but, yes, sometimes I mistake one for the other. Not often though.)

(Unless you count mistaking them from behind. That does happen more often. Their backs are much more identical than their faces!)

So, do I dress them identically? Sometimes.

The strongest current thought on identical twins – the advice you read in every book about parenting twins (all of which seem to be mainly concerned with fraternals, and only deign to give a paragraph or two to identicals) – seems to be to make sure, sure, sure they know that they are separate people. Make sure everyone knows they are separate people.

To which I think, well, of course they’re separate people. I’ve noticed. You’d have to be blind, deaf and dumb not to. But they’re also twins, and isn’t that allowed to be part of their identity too?

Like many things in life, my guess is that for them, handling their identities is going to be a sort of dynamic balance: I am myself, and that’s most important. But one of my important characteristics is that I have, from before birth, also been intimately related to her. Which makes me no less myself. In fact, it makes me more.

I recently read a book on identical twins (so good to finally find one!), written by an identical twin, that made me think the above is really true.

So do I dress them identically? The answer is: sometimes. Usually, they’re dressed differently, because they are, apart from being twins, younger sisters. Which means that they get their older sister’s hand-me-downs, and there aren’t a lot of matching outfits in there. 

But they’re also given matching outfits fairly frequently, and they look awfully cute in them.

And I figure that as soon as they care about what they’re wearing (probably in a year or so), I’ll let them choose for themselves whether or not they want to match. For now, I’ll dress them in matching outfits sometimes, and sometimes not (today’s a not).

The other thing about matching outfits is that (and I’ve noticed this is true of kids wearing school uniforms as well), sometimes they look more individually distinct when their clothes matches than when they don’t. When there’s no distinction made by clothing – let alone by coloring or height – what really makes the person individual stands out more strongly.  You can’t go by the easy things when everyone’s in uniform, you have to look deeper.

 And in some ways, though it’s been harder to get to know my twins (especially because of the exhaustion effect of twinfancy), I feel like I’m getting to know them at a deeper level than that at which I first got to know my singletons. I can’t know them just by their age or their gender or their developmental stage, because they match in all these things. I just have to get to know each one as herself.

And that’s kind of cool.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Sunday, January 24, 2010

praying before shopping - and more

Okay, I just wrote a whole post about how much I like thrift store shopping, but then I read this post about shopping and it is so much better than what I had to say. Please, go read what this wise woman has to say.

peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

treasure hunting at the thrift store

Today I got to go to the thrift store just with Gamgee, all sturdy and boyish in his camo hoodie.   Adam stayed home (bless him) working on his own project (weighted juggling balls – he wanted juggling balls that were compact but still had heft), and taking care of the girls.

            I love going to thrift stores. I’ve being doing it for years now, and I’m getting better and better at buying things we’ll actually use and love, instead of things I’ll look at and say, “why did I get that again?”

            It’s a treasure hunt, every time. And I always go with an idea in my head of what I want to keep an eye out for. Some are perennial: we always keep an eye out for Legos.

            Also, there are some themes that are perennial: things that are green or blue, especially if combined with white, will always catch my eye. Also anything botanical. Our household items tend to be blue, green, white or wooden, and if they’re decorated, it’s with leaves and flowers, with a definite preference for the edible or the aromatic.

            I like having a big general theme, because then I can move things around from place to place, and they always fit in and look peaceful. (Do other people do this? I think they must. Do you?) 

            I’ve learned – after much trial and error – to adopt a similar stance towards my wardrobe. Again, the base colors are blue and green, with white as my go-to neutral for tops and black for bottoms. I will go for true reds and certain shades of rose, but I try not to do too much of that, because they’re harder to match, and I just don’t want to wear them as often as I want to wear green and blue.

            I generally buy natural fibers, though I appreciate what a small percentage of spandex will do for the fit of a shirt or pair of pants. I’ve learned that if I buy clothes that aren’t mostly cotton or mostly linen or mostly silk, I just won’t wear them, because in SoCal weather, they’re just amazingly uncomfortable.

            I’ve learned too, through years of thrift store shopping, that though it’s fun to experiment, there’s a lot to be said for finding a couple of brands that just always fit well, and wear well. I keep my eyes open for Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor Loft. I’ve had good luck with St. John’s Bay shirts (the ones made from India cotton – so light! so pretty!). I discovered Lucky dungarees, and don’t want to ever go back as long as I can keep finding them at thrift store prices (can’t imagine swallowing the price tag of getting them new!). Banana Republic and Gap tend to fit well too.

            I know some people don’t like thrift store shopping because it takes so long, but I think having an idea of what you’re looking for cuts down a lot on the time. (Not that I couldn’t spend hours. I’m just saying, if you didn’t want to . . .)

            Today though, Gamgee and I spent almost an hour looking at the books. Mostly at the kids’ books. We bought a copy of How Things Work, and an old Arch Bible story book, and a book about knights, and one about the human body, and a prayers and poems book and – because Gamgee was there – one about dinosaurs and trains (yes, in the same book – someone knows little boys well).

            I also found a silver tray (I’ve been wanting a tray for awhile – I didn’t have a one) and a beautiful dark blue and orange silk linen (we also have a minor theme in our home of the international – mostly presents from well-traveled friends and family – and this silk looked very Thai to me). I’m not sure what it was meant for: it could be a shawl or a table cloth or a curtain valance. But it was very cheap (probably because it wasn’t actually labeled as silk – the label was gone) and I don’t think I’ll have trouble finding a place for it. It might end up on the apothecary chest which is currently (I’m not sure why) sporting a (green and blue) yoga mat for a covering.

            I also did find a pair of jeans, and a pair of shorts and a skirt. And I’m all out of Christmas money now. But it was a lot of fun.

            And it was very fun to spend a couple of hours with just my son. It was fun watching clerks and other shoppers talk to him and comment on how cute he was. Usually his little sisters get all of that attention from strangers, and it was fun watching Gamgee be the charmer for a change.

            Because he really is one. He charms me every day.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Pick Your Line and Follow Jesus

Two of the things that inspired me the most this past year weren’t lessons I learned by reading good books or by watching stories brilliantly conveyed on the silver screen. They were a couple of sentences from my brother and my sister.

They were uttered in two different settings: one on my brother’s blog, and one by my sister as we talked about the Episcopal Church. But when I put them together, I found something that’s no less than a life manifesto.

My sister, when speaking of church, and all the disaster that was going on around us, shrugged and said, “Yeah, well, that’s what happens when you don’t follow Jesus.” Simple and devastating. (My sister, btw, combines candor and compassion in one rare personality. She’ll be the first to tell you the hard truths, but also the first to help you out of any hole you’ve dug yourself into.)

My brother, on the other hand, reminded me of something my dad taught us when we were learning to do downhill mountain-biking back when we were teenagers: “pick your line and follow it; the bike can take you over more than you think it can.” (This was the kind of downhilling where you’d ride a ski-lift up to the top of a mountain in the summer, and then ride your bike, exhilaratingly fast, all the way back down, taking fire roads and singletrack in criss-cross through the forest and over the granite ridges.)

What he meant was that when you’re downhilling, you need to look where you want to go (not where you don’t) and then let the bike’s momentum do the work. You have to trust to the line you’ve picked and to the speed you’ve picked up. Your momentum will carry you over roots and rocks and bumps, if you just choose well and then let yourself go.

Both of those things resonated in my mind for a long time. They’re resonating still. Together, what I get is that I need to look where I’m going – at Jesus – and then I just need to go.

peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Toyota recall

I feel like I'm posting nothing but recall notices, but this one is a doozy: Toyota is recalling a bunch of its vehicles, because some of then have a faulty accelerator pedal. Yeah, the last thing you want is for your car to keep going forward when you don't want it to! (Our Sienna is thankfully not on the list, but I've already passed this on to at least one person who does have a car on the list, so if you have a Toyota, please do check the link.)

In more exciting news, I got to show the kids what hail looks like tonight! Yep, here in sunny L.A., we had hail! Little, not-even-pea-sized hail, but enough to scoop into my hands and take inside to show the children. It was exciting.

peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Links! Austen, English and Amish Vampires

Bethany writes about how the Keira Knightly version of Pride and Prejudice differed from the book, taking Austen's plot and infusing it with the Romantic sentiments of Bronte. Interesting (and, I think, correct!) assessment.
James writes about bachelor cooking. He writes:
The main goal of the bachelor cook is to get filling food on the table quickly and in a way that elevates him above the mere ramen-and-t-bell-forever caveman . . . 
His list of the basic dishes that can be achieved with a few varieties of canned food plus - of course - cheese is hilarious and (from what I remember of the time when my husband and I were dating) quite true-to-life.

Oooh. I like this description of what good English is. It reminds me of Coleridge's description of Donne's poetry:
Donne, whose muse on dromedary trots
Wreathes iron pokers into true-love knots.
Although I think Coleridge was talking about the metaphysical nature of Donne's poetry, his description can stand as a picture of what the English language looks like at its best: knotty and strong, like an unbreakable plank of pine.
Oooh, and I might like even better the article MMV links to, this one that explains the heritage of English (Latin and Anglo-Saxon), and how to use it well. Try this paragraph on for size:
How do those Latin words do their strangling and suffocating? In general they are long, pompous nouns that end in -ion—like implementation and maximization and communication (five syllables long!)—or that end in -ent—like development and fulfillment. Those nouns express a vague concept or an abstract idea, not a specific action that we can picture—somebody doing something. Here’s a typical sentence: “Prior to the implementation of the financial enhancement.” That means “Before we fixed our money problems.”
His point is well-taken, although I think the true strength of English comes from judiciously combining those Latin and Saxon words, breeding a vigorous hybrid in your speech.
The linked article also has descriptions of the strengths of several other languages, which I found interesting.
Melissa Wiley's description of the Shakespeare Club her children take part in is so winsome - I especially love their reaction to Banquo's ghost!

Tim Challies says:
I think I have done it. I’ve come up with the ultimate idea for the ultimate Christian novel. This novel seamlessly blends today’s most popular genres into one beautiful, compelling, cohesive whole. I thought you would want to know all about it. So I give to you…
Cassidy: Amish Vampiress of the Tribulation

That’s right. It’s an Amish novel; it’s a vampire novel; it’s an end-times novel. It’s the best of all worlds.

But you have to go over to his blog to read the (made-up) back-cover copy. It's an awesome send-up of current literary trends.
peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Tylenol, Motrin, etc. recall

There's a recall on some kinds of Tylenol and Motrin. Also Benadryl and a few others. You can check out which kinds here. 

Apparently nothing life-threatening, but some batches have been causing nausea and vomiting and such. Worth knowing!

peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Friday, January 15, 2010

"3 Chunks"

Randy Ingermanson is a very smart guy*, and if you're a novelist, I recommend subscribing to his free newsletter.

In one of his recent ones, he opines that to be a successful writer, writing needs to be one of the "three big chunks" of your life. That is, if you could name the top three activities to which you devote time, one of them needs to be writing. (ETA: "chunks of time" would be more accurate that "chunks of life" which implies a scale of quality rather than of quantity, which is what I'm talking about.)

I've been wondering ever since then if I could honestly say that writing is one of mine. If I list my top three this way:




I come out just fine. But if I'm more honest and list them this way:




then writing comes in fourth.  Hmmmmm . . . 

And that's if I stick "reading" in with "writing", on the theory that all my reading is helping me to become a better writer. Otherwise, I think "reading" would beat out "writing", time-wise.

(Makes me think I should make sure my reading  is more goal-oriented than it currently is. Right now it's rather impulse-directed.)

It makes me wonder if I need to adjust things, live with it, or just hope that he's wrong. (He's probably not.)

Currently, I'm trying to be happy with the amount I get in, and to keep at it, knowing that even if I'm not going as fast as I'd like, every early-morning session of writing gets me closer to my goal. Contentment with godliness being great gain, and all.

So, what would your top three be? And are you happy with it? When it comes to motherhood, I think that we might not get to choose our top two - and sometimes not even our top three - ourselves. But if the time we have left after we've done what we ought is our own, I think it makes sense to invest it well, even if it seems too small to bother with. Even a few minutes here and there add up over the years. (Can you tell I'm preaching to myself?)

Anyone out there thought of your days this way before?

peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

*He invented the Snowflake Method that was so helpful to me in plotting my current novel.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Craig Ferguson on the "deification of youth"

The more I see of Ferguson, the more I like him. Here's one bit:

"It's AGAINST the LAWS of the UNIVERSE!"  and love his aside about ancient Greece.

"But you know what? that's NOT what you want to be." No kidding.

Anyone else becoming a fan?

peace of Christ to you,


p.s. If you want to see some really funny stuff, search the youtubes for his interviews with Ewan McGregor - some of it gets a little vulgar, but the intros and the plane stuff and the Scotland stuff are hilarious.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Bible memorization this year

I haven't attempted any large memorization projects for a long time, so I have little idea how quickly I'll be able to memorize Bible passages this year.  

But I have come up with a list of passages that I want to memorize, and a tentative order. The idea is going to be to start at the beginning, and just see how far I get this year. I don't think I'll get to all of them, but who knows?

Here it is:

-Deuteronomy 7:17-26 - This one particularly moved me when I was reading through the Old Testament last year. It's about the Israelites, of course, but you could easily take it as a description of spiritual growth in an individual Christian as well.

-Romans 12 - My grandfather read this chapter of the Bible every morning, as a sort of rule of life. I think I would do well to follow his example in taking its words to heart.

-Psalm 119: 25-32 (Daleth) - This could well be my life passage. And if it is that important, I ought to know it by heart.

-Psalms of Ascent, especially 120-128 - These just because I love them. I have several of them half-memorized already.

-Proverbs 31  (not just the excellent wife part, but the oracle of King Lemuel's mother as well)  

-Ephesians - My favorite of the epistles, unless it's the one below.

-James - My favorite of the epistles, unless it's the one above.

-Isaiah 53-55 - This starts with the description of the Suffering Servant, and progresses to the "Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters . . ."

-John 1-4; 14-17; 21 - the first four chapters is to solidify some memorization work I did long ago. 14-17 is Jesus' long discourse before his death, on the Holy Spirit and the Church and so many other amazing things. 21 is the scene on the beach with John and Peter, and I put it on the list just because I love it.

Is anyone else planning on doing some memorization this year? And if so, what are you doing?

peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Links: abortion, exercise, raw food diets, children and music

"You Shouldn't Have Been Born, Caleb Jones" is a powerful article written by a young man with cystic fibrosis. It's his perspective on prenatal testing and the subsequent offering of abortions to mothers who have children diagnosed with conditions like his. He points out:

With prenatal testing, nearly ninety percent fewer souls are brought into the world with Down’s syndrome today, but none of them were cured.

". . . but none of them were cured." Wow. That's powerful. And as a mother who was - oh so subtly, a mere "you do want to continue this pregnancy, don't you?" - offered abortion for two of her children, children dearer than my own life, this article really resonates with me. I encourage you to take a look at it.

Anne Kennedy writes about having lots of kids. As always, it's a good read. An excerpt:

Whereas with one child, you don't really have to say anything out loud or formalize anything, its just you and the kid, what could possibly go wrong (heh), but with FIVE children one needs institutions to keep oneself afloat. These institutions further allow one to impress the world.

Not that I have any desire to go raw, but I've really been enjoying the blog Living Healthy in the Real World, because the author, Sagan, keeps trying such interesting things! She's just started a one-month experiment in eating raw, and I'm looking forward to reading how it goes. (She also isn't convinced it's a wonderful idea, but doesn't want to knock it till she's tried it - I'm curious to see how it goes!)

Good gravy. Not that I ever like thinking too hard about prison, but this workout sounds amazing. I'd try the descending burpees right now, except that I'm pretty burned out with the push-ups and pull-ups.

If you, like me, are still contemplating your New Year's Revisions, try this post about "making time". Best part is at the very end: "Ruthlessly trim your virtual itinerary."

Finally, this made me smile. There's some objectionable language in the post, but it explains the context for the video. Some folks were stuck at an airport, and everyone was in a bad mood, when a young man started tuning up his guitar, and got everyone singing. If you need something to make you smile, this is it.

peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Friday, January 8, 2010

7 Quick Takes

1. I think it's cool that my big kids' current favorite read-aloud is Attack of the Deranged Killer Mutant Monster Snow Goons.   I'm not really sure it matters that they and I snicker at different parts.

2. I went to the Huntington yesterday with Emily. It was awesomely fun, and makes me want to think up more field trips.

3. My husband wants to know what we're planning on doing for Lent. I was surprised, because it seems a little early, but he made a good point: it'd be nice to think about it for awhile rather than scrambling to come up with a good plan on Ash Wednesday Eve.

4. This will be the first year in six years that I won't have been pregnant or nursing during Lent. I'm realizing that I could actually do real fasting. I'm not sure whether I'm excited or intimidated.

5. Is it a good thing to blog about fasting? On the one hand, blogging about celebrating the liturgical year has been really helpful, and I've gotten lots of great ideas from comments and from reading all y'all's lovely blogs. On the other hand, we're not supposed to run around saying "I'm fasting!" What do you think?

6. I just bought the first season of Dr. Who (the ninth Doctor) with some birthday money. I'm so excited to watch it again. I haven't been so excited about a TV show since I was a teenager watching Star Trek for the first time. This show is so, so good. Starts a bit clunky, but becomes absolutely jaw-dropping by the end. (Wow, I just went to Amazon to find that link, and it's gone up in price just since I bought it!)

7. I blogged about Twilight awhile back, and I have a recommendation for anyone who wants to see the movie because it's a cultural phenomenon, but doesn't want to see the movie because, well, it's Twilight.  Buy the Riff Trax

If you've every seen Mystery Science Theater (and if you haven't, well, start with Cave Dwellers), it's some of the same guys who've gotten together and made audio tracks of themselves making fun of various bad movies. You play the Riff Trax MP3 on your computer while you watch the movie on your TV. It's hilarious. It takes something like Twilight from painful because of all the free-floating teenage angst to painful because your belly hurts so much from laughing so hard. A sample:

(Not a paid endorsement or anything. I was just introduced to Riff Trax by my brother and husband and couldn't stop laughing, so I thought I'd pass it on. Riff Trax also got me through the so-completely-terrible-it's-not-even-funny Star Trek 5.)

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.

peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Books I'm in the middle of

Okay, after yesterday's list of books I completed in 2009, I feel like I should admit to my weakness: at any given time, I have a huge list of uncompleted books. I told my mom this last week, and she looked baffled. Apparently most people read one book at a time. 

I don't. I start a book, then I drop it if something more compelling comes along, then I get back to it eventually. And I read different books differently. I'll usually have a book for each room of the house. Say, a poetry book in the downstairs bathroom, and a history book in the upstairs (to read while flossing!) and one in the dining room (something that's easy to look up from, so I can help the kids with their meals) and then a couple in the living room (something relaxing or, alternately, a tome that needs undivided attention while it's being read).

So, here is the list of books I'm in the middle of right now (ones that I actually intend to either finish, or to at least give a good hearty skim to):

-The Count of Monte Cristo - Halfway through this one, reading it with my husband. But we abandoned it for . . .

-Memories of the Future, by Wil Wheaton - about halfway through this one too. It's hilarious, but life got busy over Christmas, and we wanted something on audio, rather than something we had to take turns reading out loud. So we abandoned the always-entertaining Wil for an audio version of . . .

-The Lord of the Rings - We're in the halls of Moria, and making excellent time. (Though I'm wincing at what's about to happen at the bridge of Khazad-dum . . .)

-For the Children’s Sake - almost done with this one. Which is good, because I  need to return it to the very kind lady who loaned it to me.

-The Circle of Seasons - I like what I've read so far.

-El Dorado - Sir Percy! I love Sir Percy! I think I'm getting close to the end on this one.

-Our Village - this one is lovely, but it's so slow-paced (in a good, Sunday-afternoon sort of way) that I have trouble picking it up on a busy weekday

-There Shines Forth Christ - I'm reading this one a few poems at a time. The images are striking and often beautiful.

-The English Village - a research book I'm slowly plowing through.

-Behind the Scenes: Domestic Arrangements in Historic Houses - I've actually read great chunks of this, but never read it cover-to-cover, so I'm working on doing this. This book is GREAT. Best book on day-to-day life in the great houses of England out there. It's extremely detailed and utterly fascinating.

-Home Comforts - I don't know if I'll actually read this cover-to-cover, but I want to read a lot more of it than I have. Ultimate housekeeping handbook, and if nothing else, check it out from the library just for the introductory essay.

-The Divine Conspiracy, by Dallas Willard - Always good, sometimes daunting.

-Finding God’s Will for You - Another book by St. Francis de Sales. I picked it up after I finished Introduction to the Devotional Life.  This one is, so far, just as good, and a very appropriate read for the new year, I think.

-County Maps and Histories: Berkshire - more book research.

-On Writing by Stephen King - a birthday present, and a very apt one, because - though I don't want to read King's fiction - I've been fascinated by him for awhile. His articles here and there on craft are always spot-on, so I've been wanting to read this non-fiction, full-length treatment of the writing life for quite some time.

Okay, there you go! My book-reading fault of distraction on full display. 

I admit: I am pondering a New Year's resolution about finishing up these books in 2010. Maybe saying I have to finish one of the ones I'm in the middle of in between each new one I start up?

peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Books Read in 2009: lots of sci-fi and romance, a bit about food and two amazing testimonies to Christ's love

Here’s a list of the books I finished in 2009; I count 65 total. These are books I read in their entirety; there are more I read large chunks of (like The Well-Trained Mind) that I’m not counting for this list. (Lots of health books, homeschooling books and history books skimmed.)

 Best new finds in terms of authors were Shannon Hale, Julie Czerneda and Susanne Collins.  I hope to read more of all three in the near future.

 Never Silent and Introduction to the Devotional Life were both amazing, and worthwhile reading for anyone.

 Sayers, Kelly, Bujold, Lee&Miller, Loveless, Gunn and Rowling were old friends that I’ll visit with many more times, I trust.

 No Lewis this year. That’s weird.

 I’d like to add “the Bible” to this list, but I count things in the year I finish them, so that’ll go on 2010’s list (I’ve got the epistles of John, Jude and Revelation still to go).

 Hmmm. Wonder if I can break 100 next year?  J

 Without further ado, the list, separated into non-fiction and fiction (I've bolded those that were particularly excellent, or that I particularly enjoyed):


Are Women Human? – Sayers, Dorothy

3 Fat Chicks on a Diet – Barnett, Suzanne, Jennifer and Amy

Writing the Breakout Novel – Maass, Donald

The Big Skinny – Lay, Carol (skimmed recipes at end)

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement – Joyce, Kathryn

Never Silent: How Third World Missionaries Are Now Bringing the Gospel to the US – Barnum, Thaddeus

The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite – Kessler, David A.

The Midwife – Worth, Jennifer *not entirely sure if this was fiction or memoir, or a combination of the two*

Save the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need – Snyder, Blake

Introduction to the Devotional Life – de Sales, St. Francis

The No S Diet – Engels, Reinhard and Kallen, Ben

Under the Table: Saucy Tales from Culinary School – Darling, Katherine

Too Many Cooks: Kitchen Adventures with 1 Mom, 4 Kids, and 102 Recipes – Franklin, Emily

In Defense of Food – Pollan, Michael




Engaging Father Christmas – Gunn, Robin Jones

Marrying the Captain – Kelly, Carla

Agent of Change – Lee, Sharon and Miller, Steve

Carpe Diem – Lee, Sharon and Miller, Steve

Conflict of Honors – Lee, Sharon and Miller, Steve

Plan B – Lee, Sharon and Miller, Steve

The Uncommon Reader – Bennett, Alan

The Sharing Knife: Horizon – Bujold, Lois McMaster

The Children of Men – James, P. D.

Betsy, Tacy – Lovelace, Maud Hart

I Dare – Lee, Sharon and Miller, Steve

Quo Vadis – Sienkiewicz, Henryk

The Partner – Grisham, John

The Riddle of the Reluctant Rake – Veryan, Patricia

Local Custom, Lee, Sharon and Miller, Steve

Quiver – Spinner, Stephanie

The Moon’s Shadow – Asaro, Catherine

The Last Queen – Gortner, C. W.

The Lady of the Lake – Scott, Sir Walter

Lord Valentine’s Castle – Silverberg, Robert

The Surgeon’s Lady – Kelly, Carla

The Other Queen – Gregory, Philippa

Handle With Care – Picoult, Jodi

Hood – Lawhead, Stephen

On a Whim – Gunn, Robin Jones

The Grand Hotel – Kelly, Carla et al

A Thousand Words For Stranger – Czerneda, Julie E.

Survival – Czerneda, Julie E.

Little House in the Big Woods – Wilder, Laura Ingalls

The Hunger Games – Collins, Suzanne

Ties of Power – Czerneda, Julie E.

To Trade the Stars – Czerneda, Julie E.

Migration – Czerneda, Julie E.

The Actor and the Housewife – Hale, Shannon

Regeneration – Czerneda, Julie E.

Only Uni –Tang, Camy

Twilight – Meyer, Stephanie

Catching Fire – Collins, Suzanne

Betsy-Tacy and Tib – Lovelace, Maud Hart

Harmony – Bentley, C. F.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – Rowling, J.K.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – Rowling, J. K.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Rowling, J. K.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Rowling, J. K.

 Eclipse – Meyer, Stephanie

New Moon – Meyer, Stephanie

Stand-In Groom – Dacus, Kaye

Breaking Dawn – Meyer, Stephanie

Austenland – Hale, Shannon

What Angels Fear – Harris, C. S.

The Diamond Age: or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer – Stephenson, Neal

This is the first year I've ever kept track of every book I've read, and it's interesting to see what my reading habits really are.  I knew I liked fiction better than non-fiction, but I didn't know the gap was so extreme. On the other hand, I read a lot online and in magazines, and most of that is non-fiction.

Also, I read too many books about food.

Anyone else ever been surprised when they've kept track of something like this?

peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Monday, January 4, 2010


Gamgee (holding out his cup of orange juice to his sister): Here, drink this. It's the blood of life.

Bess (jealous she didn't think of this imaginative game first): Hey! Why can't I be the priest?

Adam: That's a deeply theological question.

Me (silently, to myself): Hee, hee, hee . . .

Now that I think about it, though, I'm not sure how I ought to feel about my kids play-acting the sacrament. On the one hand, I'm glad it's sinking into their heads and hearts. On the other hand, many of their games end in shrieking or tussling, and I could see this one heading the same way. But I let them play wedding when they want to, and that's a solemn event (I realize it's not quite on the same level though). Anyone have any house policies on this?

peace of Christ to you,


p.s. The cool thing about they way their playing is the "priest" is calling each communicant by name. "Come here, Lucy . . ." I think it's sweet (I mean that adjective seriously) that their view of communion is so personal.

celebrating Epiphany with children

Just wanted to point folks over to Kerry's place, where she's outlined a simple way to celebrate Epiphany as a family. I'm hoping to try most of it tomorrow.

peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Sunday, January 3, 2010

from A Mother's Rule of Life

This stood out as I was skimming it today:
So we must make the effort to do what we ought, so that our children will do what they ought. And it is an effort. I've often wondered if this isn't what Scripture is talking about when it says mothers are saved through their children!  - Holly Pierlot

All these little copycats certainly are an aid to spiritual formation, I'll say that much.
peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

A Denver Day in Los Angeles

Today on the way to church it was so that I could see all of the mountains surrounding the city. I love days like this! We have so many mountains around the L. A. Basin, and they're so beautiful, especially when they're capped by snow like they were today. Days when the air is clear enough to see them it feels like we live in Colorado, with the Rockies springing up just outside the city limits.
And here, for your Sunday enjoyment, is a wonderful Kipling poem I first read here. I especially like the last line.
WHEN Earth’s last picture is painted, and the tubes are twisted and dried,
When the oldest colours have faded, and the youngest critic has died,
We shall rest, and, faith, we shall need it –lie down for an aeon or two,
Till the Master of All Good Workmen shall set us to work anew!

And those that were good shall be happy: they shall sit in a golden chair;
They shall splash at a ten-league canvas with brushes of comets’ hair;
They shall find real saints to draw from –Magdalene, Peter, and Paul;
They shall work for an age at a sitting and never be tired at all!

And only the Master shall praise us, and only the Master shall blame;
And no one shall work for money, and no one shall work for fame;
But each for the joy of the working, and each in his separate star,
Shall draw the Thing as he sees It for the God of Things as They Are!

–Rudyard Kipling, L’Envoi from The Seven Seas, 1897.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, January 1, 2010


Happy ninth day of Christmas, folks!

I love New Year’s resolutions. They work for me. Even when I don’t completely follow them, they always make a positive impact, either by getting me further towards a goal, or by showing me what methods of reaching that goal don’t work for me.

 Like last year, I’m giving myself till Epiphany to figure out exactly what my New Year’s resolutions will be. Trying to solidify my intentions for the year during the week after Christmas never works – it’s always too full of celebrating the season! And I want to take the time to properly think and pray through my ideas for resolutions before I decide on them.

 (btw, this is a long, rambling post - I'm posting it because I've enjoyed so much the past few days looking at other folks' resolution posts, and thought others might enjoy looking at mine. But if this isn't your sort of thing, feel free to skip it.)

Last Year

I was looking at last year’s resolutions to see how I did. I did lose the weight from the twins' pregnancy, and I’ve almost finished reading all the way through the Bible (I’m about 10 days behind on the scheduled readings, so I should finish it this week). I wanted to do more regular devotions with the kids, and that happened because we started homeschooling, and Bible reading and Bible verse memorization is part of the curriculum (funny how that one worked out – not how I expected, but it’s good!). 

 At the beginning of last year, I also wanted to make some housekeeping resolutions, but couldn’t figure out a good way to do it, and so didn’t make any. But that worked itself out too, because we started doing our Saturday morning chores, and though the house isn’t perfect, it’s much more reliably clean that it was before.

 I did not end up praying the hours. I’m thinking about trying again, but am not certain that’s how I want to do devotions.

 Doing Devotions vs. Being Devoted

“Do devotions” by the way, is a phrase that’s been rolling around in my mind for about a month. That’s how it was phrased in the churches of my childhood (“make sure you do your daily devotions”), and I’ve been thinking about rephrasing it as “be devoted”. That's what's really meant, I think. Why, after all, would a Christian regularly pray and read the Bible? Because he is devoted to his Lord, and the prayer and listening (reading the Bible is, after all, the practice of listening to the Lord) come out of that devotion. What I think of as “doing my devotions” is really the fruit of being devoted.

The fruit and the food, actually, because praying and listening also increase devotion, I think, if done sincerely. Because after we pray and listen, we then obey, and that makes us more wholly devoted, makes more of our selves available to be  devoted.

The thing is, though praying the hours is still attractive (both the idea of praying the Anglican rosary, and the idea of doing morning and evening prayer), I’m not sure it’s what I’m supposed to resolve this year.

Devotionally, I think what’s going to be more important for me is to memorize Scripture and to journal about what I’m memorizing. However, I would like to more often have times in my life where I do read Morning Prayer, do sing the hymns, do pray the Anglican rosary. I want, when I am remembering my devotedness (how’s that for rephrasing?), to remember also those good, old, tried-and-true methods for expressing it. Too often, I think, “I love Jesus,” without thinking of sitting and taking the time to praise Him or to meditate on His mercies. And those devotional practices of prayer and singing would be profitable to me, I think, and honoring to Him.

(Also reverberating through my head as I think of these things is a line from a song I learned in childhood: “read your Bible/pray everyday/and you’ll grow, grow, grow”. True that!)


Then, there is writing . . . last year this time, Lucy and Anna (our twins) were still waking at night to nurse (a lot!) and I planned on waking early to write once they were sleeping through the night. I’ve done this with limited success for the past six months: I’ve managed to get an average of about 3-4 solid hours a week in on the book, and right now it’s standing at about 35,000 words (out of a likely 75,000). Given the year we’ve had, I’m pretty pleased with this.  But in the new year, I’d like to regularly be doing an hour every weekday morning.

And the truth is, I want it to be more like ten. I want writing to be what I think of doing in the evenings, what I think of doing when the twins are napping. I want it to become something I turn to easily and often, my default behavior. And there would be the dedicated hours of writing in the morning, those would be strictly for the novel, but at other times I want to be journaling, I want to be taking down those small ideas here or there of a funny conversation or a poignant moment, making a file of them for reference for later stories, I want to be thinking in type about what I’ve been reading, I just want to be always writing, writing, writing, so that I get good at it, so that I gain a facility at it, greater than the one I already have.

 But, the resolution? An hour a day on weekdays, working on the novel. Yes? No? This one I need to think about a bit more, because I don’t feel happy about it yet.


Then, there is improving my Spanish. Learning Spanish, I’m not sure is a New Year’s resolution. I’ve been thinking of it more as something I want to be a lot better at by the time I’m thirty (about eleven months from now!). I’m listening to more Spanish music and learning the lyrics, and working on practicing it more with the children. I’ve gotten a couple of Spanish novels out of the library, to read with dictionary in hand, and I’m still researching to find a curriculum for myself that will let me systematically solidify what I know and learn what I don’t. I would like to be fluent in a few years - it’s scary to admit that, because it’s such a huge goal, but at least I’m not starting from scratch (I passed the AP test in high school, and I’m finding I retained more than I had the right to hope I did!).  And I really, really want my children to be bilingual. My sister (who is bilingual, and teaches Spanish for a living) has been a huge help in getting us started, and I want to go further this year, building on the foundation we already have.


Then, there is housekeeping . . . here, I would like to be more efficient? I would like to clear and declutter . . . soon, we’ll be able to get rid of all the baby stuff. Soon, we’ll be able to have more things lower, because hopefully this year the twins will learn what not to touch or they will be old enough to play with the things they couldn’t before. So, this year might be a year of changing things around in this house so that it’s a house for kids and not a house for babies. Not sure if this is resolution-material, or just something to be aware of and work on . . . .


And the kids . . . I half-listened to a conversation my mom was having with her best friend, talking about how she used to, every six months, think and pray over each of us kids, and think about what we needed and how we needed to grow . . . or something like that. I didn’t actually hear all of the conversation, but it made me curious, and I’d like to ask her about this and see if it’s something I want to do with the kids. Intentional parenting. Not that we aren’t already being intentional in our parenting – we are – but this sounded like it might be a good tool to be moreso. So, I’d like to ask her about this next time I see her.

I also want to think about making a resolution to become less passionate when caring for my children. "Passionless" in the way the Christian fathers meant it: in being controlled by the Holy Spirit and not by my own wants and desires. It's amazing how little toddler tempers can trigger my own temper! Anne Kennedy wrote recently about doing things slooooowly with her kids, and that's close to what I'm thinking about . . . parenting with less haste and pride and anger, and with more love and reason and kindness. This is something I want to deliberately work on.


And homeschooling . . . not sure this is resolution-material either, but I do want to think about what I’m doing for this second semester – how to make it better, how to get to things we haven’t managed to get to yet, at least not in the depth I’d like to get to them (esp. science and music and the church year), how to do some things better (especially Spanish).


I'm pretty happy with my current routine (though I've dropped it for the past week while celebrating Christmas - adding a little vacation to my holiday!). I might want to make some specific resolutions just to add some spice to things. But doing the 30 Day Shred regularly, and adding in other fun DVD workouts when I get the chance, + more or less following the No S Diet seems to be pretty sustainable. I'm also doing fun stuff like the 100 push-up and 20 pull-up challenges. But I might want to specifically resolve to a certain number of workouts just to hold myself accountable . . . gonna think more about this one too!

Btw, something cool? I’m starting to dream in Spanish sometimes.

So . . . I'll update when I figure out what I'm doing on all these things. But I have to admit: a great deal of the fun is in the pondering.

peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

p.s. For more on why I think resolutions are cool, see last year's post called A Sinner's New Year.