Saturday, July 24, 2010

books I've read lately

The last official post I did on this was back in April. So here's what I've read since then (this includes books from the 15 books in 15 day challenge):

- The Two Towers – Tolkien, J. R. R.

- How to Learn Any Language: Quickly, Easily, Inexpensively, Enjoyably, and On Your Own – Farber, Barry

- The Kitchen Madonna – Godden, Rumer

-The Host – Meyer, Stephanie

-A Vindication of the Rights of Woman – Wollstonecraft, Mary

- Family Worship – Whitney, Donald S.

- Nanny by Chance – Neels, Betty

- Manalive by Chesterton, G. K.

- Learning How to Pray for Our Children

-“What Shall I Say?” A Guide to Letter Writing for Ladies

- Open Heart – Open Home – Mains, Karen Burton

-Living by Fiction – Dillard, Annie

- Carry On, Jeeves – Wodehouse, P. G.

- The World’s Last Night and Other Essays – Lewis, C. S.

- Our Village – Mitford, Mary Russell

- The No-Cry Potty Training Solution – Pantley, Elizabeth

- Reduced Shakespeare: The Attention-Impaired Reader's Guide to the World's Best Playwright – Martin, Reed and Tichenor, Austin

-The Nicomachean Ethics – Aristotle

-Rapture Ready! Adventure in the Parallel World of Christian Pop Culture – Radosh, Daniel

- Fledgling – Lee, Sharon and Miller, Steve

- Out of the Silent Planet – Lewis, C. S.

- The Shape of Mercy – Meissner, Susan

- The British Museum is Falling Down – Lodge, David

- Knight’s Castle – Eager, Edward

-Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and For Those Who Want to Write Like Them – Prose, Francine

-Marrying the Royal Marine – Kelly, Carla

- The Return of the King – Tolkien, J. R. R.

- Winterfair Gifts – Bujold, Lois McMaster

-Chapter After Chapter: Discover the Dedication and Focus You Need to Write the Book of Your Dreams – Sellers, Heather

- Changing Vision (Webshifters #2) – Czerneda, Julie E.

- Love in a Time of Homeschooling: A Mother and Daughter’s Uncommon Year – Brodie, Laura

- Bachelorette #1 – O’Connell, Jennifer

-Princess Academy – Hale, Shannon

- The Problem of Pain – Lewis, C. S.

- Farmer Boy – Wilder, Laura Ingalls

- A Scandalous Marriage – Raleigh, Debbie

-A Chance Encounter – Balogh, Mary

- Feed – Anderson, M. T.

- The Four Loves – Lewis, C. S.

- The Mother Tongue: English & How It Got That Way – Bryson, Bill

- Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal – Rowling, J. K.

- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – Rowling, J. K.

-Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – Rowling, J. K.

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

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

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

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

As you can see, I went on a Harry Potter streak again. I finished the first one in Spanish, realized I really wanted to read the whole series again, and also realized I wanted to finish it in English so it wouldn't take, I don't know, five years? :)  Love those books. Still.

Other particularly notable reads are bolded (I'd bold the Potter books, but I'm already telling you here that they're good, plus, you probably already know that. ;) ).

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Friday, July 23, 2010

my favorite etsy stores

This post is dedicated to my mom, who just discovered Etsy. :)

Here are a list of my favorite Etsy stores, and they are all ones from which I've ordered and been happy, or which are owned by friends of mine, and I've seen their products in person and know they're good businesswomen. I'd love, btw, if you shared some of your favorite Etsy stores in the comments - I always love finding new artists.

Etsy, for those who don't know, is a website where people who make things by hand may sell their wares. So it's like an online mall full of unique, artsy shops. You can also find cool vintage items there.

So, here are my favorites:

-first, my latest find: Just Pure Minerals. They makes mineral makeup, which I've wanted to try for awhile. (I'm not a big makeup person, but sometimes, thanks to hormones, you need the stuff.) This shop lets you, for $2, including shipping, try any four of their colors, and the sample sizes are generous. Plus, when I ordered, they threw in a lip gloss sample too. And all of my samples were very nice and worked well. I think I'm converted.

-next: Hotwired, who's based in New Zealand (gotta love a Kiwi!) and makes nose jewelry. My eye was caught by her Trinity knots, but they looked a little big. However, I got one of these spirals, and one of these tiny twisted gold hoops, and I like both very much.

-This is my go-to store for gifts for loved ones who live out-of-state: Broken Road Farm. She makes baked goods and fudges. Look at her site and try not to drool! She will also include a little card with your gift message on it for free.

-And here is my other go-to store for gifts: SV Soaps. When I ordered a gift from here, she sent me some samples of her soaps to try myself - they smelled delicious and lathered up well, and even though they were sample sizes, I'm still using them up. She also was willing to include a gift message gratis. (Check out her sampler gift set.)

-The items in this store are just pretty: Mary Wibis. I've only bought postcard reproductions of her art, but check out this hand-painted silk scarf. Or this blue jay platter.

-If you want cute, cheap, dangly earrings, you can't go wrong with Thrifty Bunny. I like these teeny pink tulip earrings.

-Duckingham Palace: cute knitted stuff, including dishcloth sets.

-Lullaby Slings: baby slings and mei teis. My kids lived in their slings when they were little.


Here are some shops I haven't bought anything from yet, but that I keep looking at, and will probably order from sometime (maybe when I have have birthday money). Alternately, some of these are shops that I look to for inspiration for my own craft projects. 

-Artyard Studio: the blues this man works with! I love the rich, cobalt-colored ceramic pieces in this shop. And some of them look really affordable.

-Timberstone Turnings. This guy makes lathe-turned hairsticks, inlaid with gemstones. They're beautiful. He often doesn't have much in his shop, because his are mostly custom orders that are bought by the intended recipient as soon as they're listed. But you can see lots of his work if you click on his feedback - almost everyone who's bought one of his sticks has posted an appreciation picture of the stick in use in her hair.

-Mairzy Dozy. I find her hair combs inspirational. She has an eye for what pretty things can be done with beads and flowers!

-ChicAllure. More hair stuff. Pretty, pretty, pretty!

So, where do you like to shop on Etsy?

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Drowning doesn't look like drowning. This was a scary read, but I'm very glad I read it. If you're going to be near the pool or beach with your kids this summer, you'll be glad you read it too.

I haven't used this site, so I don't know if it's legit, but it does look interesting: it's a site like paperbackswap, except it's for kids' clothes.

bearing blog is doing a series on St. Francis de Sales Introduction to the Devout Life. Both the book and the blogs are worth reading. I really, really, really appreciate her thoughts on needing to be "cheerfully interruptible".

A great article from First Things about Hamlet. It's good both as an aid to understanding the theological problem of the play and also good as a review of the new DVD version of the work staring David Tennant and Patrick Stewart. An excerpt:

Revenge, after all, was never a problem for the ancient world, as Homer’s Achilles and Seneca’s plays glaringly demonstrate, nor was suicide ever condemned as such. Consider Shakespeare’s Brutus in his Julius Caesar, who shares many of Hamlet’s traits: he is introspective, takes forever to make up his mind, and bungles the job when he finally decides to act. Yet at the end of the play, he commits suicide with no compunction whatever.

But Hamlet cannot follow that route, because Christianity forbids both suicide and revenge (Rom. 12: 17-21). Brutus might well have had only the vaguest idea of an afterlife. But not so for Hamlet, who knows full well that the Almighty has set “his canon ’gainst self-slaughter.” This idea of the afterlife “puzzles the will” and forces Hamlet to “lose the name of action.”

True enough, says Stephen Greenblatt in Hamlet in Purgatory, but Hamlet lived not just in the time of the Renaissance but also during the Reformation, which raises the issue of which version of the afterlife had been puzzling Hamlet’s will: the Protestant version, with its outright denial of purgatory, or the traditional Catholic one, which included a very elaborate heaven, hell, and purgatory, as we know from Dante.

This link from First Things talks about "dancing a short story" and has five wonderful clips from So You Think You Can Dance as examples of what they're talking about. Beware, the last one might make you cry at the end.

Um, this one might take a bit to explain. My favorite-ever entertainment writer is Linda Holmes. Though I discovered her first via her recaps of Survivor at Television Without Pity (under the pseudonym of "Miss Alli"), she now writes for NPR.  And she just received her own personal shoutout from the Man Your Man Could Smell Like. I just . . . to be frank, I'm just tickled pink on her behalf. Not that I have any right to be or anything, but as a fan of both Ms. Holmes and of Old Spice's brilliant ad campaign, I just love seeing the two come together.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Exercise DVD Reviews: Dance Off the Inches: Hip-Hop Party

This is the second in my series of exercise DVD reviews. Today we have Dance Off the Inches: Hip-Hop Party (instructor: Jennifer Gilardi).
Whew! I'm trying to write these reviews right after I do the DVD in question, so right now I am typing while slightly out of breath!
This DVD is a bit goofy, but it's a real workout. Actually, I take it back: the first two of the three routines are totally goofy; I honestly find the last one just a lot of fun.
There are three routines in this DVD and "old-school" hip-hop one (which is terribly goofy, with butterflys and booty pops and everything), a sort of "sexy" one (again, probably more goofy than sexy) and then a "world" one, that includes some fun Bollywood-style stuff.
All three will get you out of breath and sweating. If you're like me, you really wouldn't want to have anyone watch you do any but the last one, but the last one will make you had a bunch of friends dressed in saris to jump around with.
I do like that Galardi's instruction is solid and her prompts are always there when you need them. It does take a couple times through to be able to dance along in any sort of satisfying way, and there are parts I'm still not good at, but she's a good enough instructor that you can get moving pretty quickly and learn some new moves that will make you feel like you're really dancing and not just messing around. (And the cameraman helpful does NOT constantly cut away from the dancer's feet, as the cameramen of several other dance DVDs I tried did).
Bottom line: this is one of my favorite dance DVDs. In the privacy of my own home.  :) Great for getting in some very solid cardio and for making yourself laugh.
Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

journaling and prayer

I’m thinking about what Dallas Willard said about prayer, and about how it’s conversation with God about matters of mutual concern. And it made me feel better about how I usually pray – which is often in my journal.

I've been journaling regularly since the first day of eighth grade, and often, my best prayer times happen when I'm journaling. Because I don't journal to record events; I journal to figure things out. When I journal, I take what is bothering me, these big knotty problems that I can’t see a way around, and I lay them all out on the table, spreading them out so I can examine all the different bits, and I try to do that consciously in the Lord’s presence, inviting Him in and saying, “what is this? What am I missing? What do I do about this? Help me. Help me see what I’m seeing, help me know what to do, what my approach should be. Give me wisdom. Have mercy on me. Help me.”*

 And that? According to Willard, that is prayer. He said that the heart of prayer is the request. That there are other things a praying person will have in his life, like thanksgiving and praise, but that the heart of prayer is the request. And this, this laying out my problems and trying to look at them with the Lord – that’s prayer.

 I guess I always felt a little badly, because I so often felt like I prayed in my troubles and not in my joys. But now I see: prayer is for the troubles. Thanksgiving and praise is for the joys. It’s okay. It’s like in that song “Sacred” by Caedmon’s Call, where the singer is talking about her children and says, “Teach me to run to You/Like they run to me/For every little thing.” I am God’s child, and running to Him for “every little thing” is kind of what I’m supposed to be doing. That is, given the relationship, it makes sense. This is how children treat their parents.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

*It's become this more and more as I've gotten older. It wasn't all prayer at the beginning and still isn't now, but the further I get in His service, the more it all become that.  


Being saved and being saved

The evangelicals talk about "when you were saved" and the Orthodox talk about "being saved" day by day.

And I'm thinking they're both right. I was thinking over some things in my life, I was looking at the decisions I was making and at the ones I wanted to make (so many things are possible, but only if you decide to do them), and I thought, I think I need to make a decision (again) for Jesus.

Because being saved isn’t just deciding once. I mean, it is. You accept the grace and He accepts you. But that one big decision is really the decision to keep deciding, and deciding in God's favor. Like in marriage, it’s a promise to always turn towards rather than away when the option is offered. And the option will be offered every day. 

Commitment is not static. It is steadfast.

(I would add, of course, that those constant turnings-towards are only made by the grace of God. His Holy Spirit in us is constantly turning our faces to look at Jesus. It's not gritting our teeth and pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. I hope I'm not implying that. Just that we have to keep walking in His direction; we aren't standing still, and we must not go backwards.)

Monday, July 12, 2010

resources for a new (ish) fiction writer

I had the pleasure, recently, of talking about writing with a younger-than-me friend of mine who's at the fun scribbling-pages-and-pages stage of writing. She's sharp as a tack and is seriously considering writing professionally someday. 

I'm not that far ahead of her, but I'm far enough ahead that I've done more research than she has about the professional side of the writing life, and so I wrote her a letter highlighting my favorite resources out there for writers of fiction. After I sent it, it occurred to me that it might be helpful to other folks, so I thought I'd put it on the blog.  

Like I said, I'm not that far along the path, but I'm far enough along that I've had the pleasure of reading words from people who are not just far along the path, but have gone all the way to the end and come back to help others. The following excerpt from my letter is an account of some of those brilliant and generous folks:

To start you off, here are two books I've found really helpful:

Writing the Breakout Novel – Maass, Donald
Save the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need – Snyder, Blake

Maass' book is full of great stuff, meant for novelists. Snyder's book is full of great stuff, meant for screenwriters. However, you'll find them both worth your while.

Online, there are tons of great resources, especially blogs by authors and literary agents. For what it's worth, I tend to find the ones by literary agents a little more helpful. Authors are always (rightly) trying to sell their stuff, whereas the agents who start blogs seem mostly to be trying to 1) improve the quality of the material offered to them and 2) attract great new talent.

Here are a few of my favorite agent blogs; you can find more by following the links on the blogs themselves:

1) Chip MacGregor. He's my favorite. There's a lot of publishing business stuff on there that you don't have to worry about quite yet, but if you read his archives, you'll find real gold. Plus, he's Scottish, Christian and has a great sense of humor.

2) Rachelle Gardner. Again, lots of great stuff if you read through the archives.

3) Janet Reid. She's a literary agent who runs the infamous Query Shark blog, but her personal blog has more good stuff for when you're starting out.

4) Finally, BookEnds. Look for their "must-read" post list in the sidebar.

Next, we have the Snowflake Method website. Randy Ingermanson's a genius, and he offers a great, free e-newsletter you can sign up for.

Last of all, I'd be remiss not to mention the American Christian Fiction Writers. Great group. It does cost to join, and you might want to wait till you're a little closer to querying, but if you poke around on their website, there's some cool stuff.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Friday, July 2, 2010

the wise woman of Tekoa & King David: a theory

Sometimes, when I read the Messianic prophecies in context, I wonder how much context can really have to do with anything, no matter what my college education pounded into my head. Doubtless, in those cases, I just don't have a wide enough view in order to really get the context.

However, this week I read something in the Old Testament that wasn't, I don't think, an actual Messianic prophecy, but that certainly sounds like one out of context. Read this, and see what you think it's talking about:

"For we will surely die and are like water spilled on the ground which cannot be gathered up again. Yet God does not take away life, but plans devices so that the banished one will not be cast out from him."

So poignant. Doesn't that sound like a Messianic prophecy? Yet it's not. It's part of the wise woman of Tekoa's plea to King David to let his banished son Absalom back into Jerusalem. It seems to be, as far as it goes, not about anyone at all, except Absalom and David.

Yet . . . the account says that it was Joab who, as the woman says, "put all these words into the mouth of your maidservant." Joab, longtime servant of King David. Really, a character worth studying in his own right: steadfast, yet tricksy; on the right side, yet with a terrifying hard-hearted streak. But a man who had been with the king for years and years, doubtless soaking up all of the king's words with intelligent attention.

And he "put all these words" into the woman of Tekoa's mouth, in order to convince David of what he thought was best to be done: bringing Absalom back to Jerusalem. Isn't it possible that Joab - being the man he was - was wise enough himself to know that what would best convince David was a bit of David's own theology in a stranger's mouth?

Because the argument is: "God makes strange devices in order to save the hopeless man. You, then, should imitate God in your behavior towards the hopeless Absalom." Or, at least, so I read it.

So, then, from David's mouth (surely Joab had heard some of his sovereigns prophetic psalms) to Joab's to the woman of Tekoa's: this may indeed be an echo of the same theology we find in the Psalms. 

It certainly sounds like it to me. What do you think? Is my theory probable?

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell


I found the bearing blog via Conversion Diary, and she has a really neat bunch of posts on weight loss. This one, written by her husband on his role in it all, is interesting.  This one is also very cool. In it she talks about using the lessons she's learned in fighting gluttony in order to attack other areas of vice in her life. Specifically interesting to many readers of this blog, I'd guess, is that one of the things she's working on is her "reluctance to be interrupted". I think any mom is going to recognize that one.

Speaking of Conversion Diary, Jen's post on what she's learned about life by living awhile on a monastery prayer schedule is definitely worth a read.

Here's 8 Writing Tips from C. S. Lewis

It makes complete sense that it's easy to do this, but I had no idea it was this easy: here are instructions for installing a Spanish Language keyboard on your computer (basically, it's already there, and you just have to turn it on), along with instructions on how to use it (i.e., which key is now for what). 

The fourth season of Mad About You is being released on DVD. Finally! Love this article about why the show was so good.