Monday, October 31, 2011

Links: All Saints, All Souls, Reformation Day, and more!

Here's your terrifying link for the day: "The Dark Side of Dubai". Seriously, folks. It sounds like something out of a dystopian sci-fi: gleaming, Disneyland-like outer surfaces, and an underside of slavery, abuse, and torture, all wrapped up in an artificially propped-up environment surrounded by an arid, hostile desert that's trying to consume buildings and people alike. All absolutely true and in existence at this very moment. *shiver* (ETA: I should have noted that this article is a couple of years old. Still, there's a ton in there I hadn't read anywhere else, and I still think it's worth the read.)

In older, better news: Happy Reformation Day, my friends!

Tomorrow is All Saints' Day (celebrated here with candy) and Wednesday is All Souls, upon which, apparently, we all ought to eat doughnuts. I can get down with that tradition.

And here's an easy idea for celebrating All Saints with your kids, if you're feeling crafty.

Back to the bad news (well, sort of, if the-wages-of-sin-is-death is news), apparently they're finding that porn use is causing erectile dysfunction in otherwise healthy men. (I don't even want to think of the amount of spam I'm gonna get for linking to this). The article is really interesting though, because apparently it's a physiological problem with the reward cycle in the brain. I just have to say: I don't think that defeating your body's ability to react to dopamine is going to make your life better. Yeah. Probably not.

Now, as a palate-cleanser, here's Mumford and Sons singing "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing":

a problem with word count

I just did a quick calculation, and realized that my current book is likely to be about 115,000 words when finished (current word count, divided by number of chapters written so far, times projected number of chapters).

That's pretty long for the genre.

But then I realized: hey! At least when it comes time to edit, I'll have plenty of leeway to be ruthless with the delete key!

"Always look on the bright side of life . . . do-do, do-do-do-do-do-deeeeeee . . ."

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Sunday, October 30, 2011

How (Not) to Knit

Even my non-knitting husband cracked up watching this:

Knitted Finished Object: newborn hat

Posted today because the baby it's intended for is now officially a finished object too! (I.e., I have a new nephew!)

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

a prayer for bill-paying day

Two things I asked of You,
Do not refuse me before I die:
Keep deception and lies far from me, 
Give me neither poverty nor riches;
Feed me with the food that is my portion, 
That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the LORD?” 
Or that I not be in want and steal, 
And profane the name of my God. - Proverbs 30:7-9

Grateful to have enough,
Jessica Snell

p.s. If anyone else is pondering money and the sufficiency or insufficiency thereof, may I recommend this post by Simcha Fisher? It sure helped me today.
p.p.s. I should note: we're fine. We're even blessed. (Really, truly, tangibly.) We're just a family of six living on one income in a high COL area and today it was throwing me for a loop, and I needed to go back to this passage of scripture in order to get my head on straight. I'm so grateful to have the Bible! God is good, all the time.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Oh my. How did I miss this for so long? I read this article over at Shrinking Violet Promotions and thought, Hmm, I should check this goodreads thing out.

Wow. It's like Ravelry, but for books.

So . . . if you're a regular reader of this blog who's also on goodreads, come friend me! I just spent a few hours entering most of the books I've read the past few years and, well, someone should appreciate the effort, right? ;)

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Links! Butterfly effect, maternal guilt, a Christmas blog carnival, and more!

You remember the "butterfly effect" in chaos theory that was made famous by Jurassic Park? Here's a real-life case involving the Japanese tsunami and a turbine plant out in the boonies in Pennsylvania. I think I actually laughed out loud when I got to the "IT WILL BE TRUE for this test floor" bit.

I laughed even harder and longer when I read Simcha Fisher's "Maternal Guilt Cheat Sheet". A sampling:


You accidentally let slip a comment which implies that not every moment of childrearing is a profound and ecstatic dance of bliss, a sentiment which will undoubtably set the pro-life movement back forty years and do irreparable harm to your children’s souls, causing the boys to become pimps and the girls to become bitter, tank top-wearing Riot Grrrls who listen to Terry Gross and tattoo “I [heart] the culture of death” on their lower backs.


Remind yourself that, in order for your words to do any harm, your kids would actually have to be listening to you. Whew!

Anyone else notice that zombies are showing up a lot in popular culture these days? I'd actually been wondering why that was, and this is the first article I've seen that offers a plausible theory. (Warning: slightly gory picture at the top of article - easy to scroll past, but don't open it while little kids are reading over your shoulder.) I do wonder, though, if even though some of it is about the economy, as the writer suggests, if more of it doesn't have to do with our culture having no coherent idea of what the afterlife is like. (Suggestion to culture: convert to Christianity! En masse!)

Facing down the editing of the first book I intend to query, I've been trying to give myself a crash course in grammar. My education in English grammar could charitably be called eclectic and I really wanted a more complete - and functional - understanding of the topic. And look! Here's a free online class in grammar! I think I've found what I need, and I'm passing on the link just in case someone else out there is realizing that not only is she an English nerd, she's an ignorant English nerd. (No? Just me?)

Kerry is thinking of organizing a Nativity blog festival (for Advent and Christmas and Epiphany) and wants to know if anyone's interested. Go tell her you are so we can do it! I'm sleepy enough right now that I think my contribution will be, "Let's all be quiet with our eyes closed and spend the holy season praying quietly," but surely someone has a better idea and if the blog carnival goes forward I'll just be able to happily copy those of you with more energy. :)

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Sunday, October 23, 2011

the perfect isn't the enemy of the good

Since Lent, I’ve been avoiding looking at that section of John that I started memorizing because I knew that I couldn’t do the chapter a week I wished that I could. Avoiding tasks I know I won't be able to accomplish as beautifully as I wish I could has long been a failing of mine.

But God's been teaching me that doing what I ought to do - even if I'm afraid I can't do it well - is right. I'm learning to find my peace in obedience, and not in success.

Memorizing scripture isn't the most important area I'm learning this in, but it's not unimportant either. Even though I can't do as much as I like, it's better to do just a verse a week – or even just read it once a week! – rather than to do nothing at all. The fact that I have not the speed I wish for is no excuse for not moving at all. It is better to do something rather than nothing.

And it’s not that “the perfect is the enemy of the good”. The perfect is the perfect and thank God for that. It’s that the good is better than the nonexistent. And that perfection won’t be reached without effort and that we have to walk before we can run. (Now there’s a truism that actually holds.)

And haven’t I seen that in my writing this year? In fact, I wonder if that’s where I actually, practically (perhaps without actually realizing it) learned this lesson first. I cannot write a novel nearly as fast as I think I should be able to write a novel. But I can write a novel. And I don’t even have to concede that I’m wrong about how fast I should be able to do it. I should be able to write a novel in six months, research and plotting time included. That might well be the perfect (we’ll have to see - I'm getting faster).

But it is better to write a novel slowly than not to write one at all. And it’s only by practice that I’ll get faster. So I’ll keep going. One slogging hour at a time. And be grateful.

Turning towards our tasks instead of away, in the knowledge that God takes our inadequate offerings and makes up the lack: this way lies peace. It's pride to think that we can be perfect on our own. Our job is obedience.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Links! children and prayer, forgiveness among the stars, and more!

The noted humorist, Anne Kennedy, gives an oh-so-true description of attempting to pray with young children. (And yes, the attempt is still more than worth it.)

Why I Am Catholic writes about Robert Downey Jr. asking Hollywood to forgive Mel Gibson.

Jen over at Conversion Diary wrote The Ultimate Burnout Survival Guide. It's really good.

This study on the effect of steroids on preemies (they're given to speed lung development) is a little sad, but I still say it's better to have the babies here and alive, even if the means were sort of hard on them. I hope that medical treatment overcomes this, but I'm still really glad my girls were able to breathe when they were born.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Daybook for October 18, 2011

outside my window . . . slowly dwindling light, all golden, the western sky still too bright to look at.

I am listening to . . . the WEBS podcast.

I am wearing . . . a sleeveless cotton shirt, and a floaty cotton skirt, both in blues. Very calming, pretty, and comfy.

I am so grateful for . . . feeling the freedom to pursue my writing career. After speed-writing Adam's birthday present, I feel a new energy and, to be frank, ability, to really tackle my current work-in-progress, and even my current work-in-editing. I think in those crazy two weeks, where I pushed myself harder than I've ever pushed myself before, I finally really learned the work of writing.

And as Miles Vorkosigan points out, the reward for a job well done is . . . another job. Work is good.

I'm pondering . . . writing, and what I want to do. Contemporary romance? Historical romance? Sci fi? I thought the question was, "which?" but I think I was wrong about the question, because the answer seems to be simply, "More."

I am reading . . . still finishing up False Colours and In Memorium.

I am creating . . . a scarf out of recycled cashmere. I'm at the boring, "repeat stitch pattern till it measures X inches" part. But then it all explodes into lace, so that'll be fun.

I am thankful for . . . an amazing afternoon spent with my mom and Cynthia Ruchti this past Sunday. Still pondering all we talked about.

around the house . . . I recently cleaned out the pantry, the deep freeze, and the fridge. But I'm getting itchy to do some more decluttering upstairs, and get this place really, truly organized.

I can't help but think that simplified housekeeping will only help with all my writing goals. I'm not adverse to working hard when it comes to the house, but I'm increasingly desirous of also working smart.

from the kitchen . . . my friend Emily's carne asada recipe. It's on the stove right now. Folks, I am so hungry right now. Just waiting for the twins to wake up and we will EAT.

real education in our home . . . lots of books. I'm reading Redwall with the eldest, and going through The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading with Gamgee (who's picking it up so fast) and lots of picture books with all four. Also working on having more regular family devotions after dinner.

the church year in our home . . . I have Michaelmas coloring pages printed out that I haven't yet remembered to give to the kids to color. How sad is that? But the kids are getting excited about All Saint's Day, and I am too.

the week ahead. . . the weekend is jam-packed with extra church stuff. Hoping to live the week in a calm and measured manner so that we end up at the weekend with energy for aforementioned extra church stuff.

picture thought . . . My sister and I at her son's first birthday this past weekend:
Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Versailles scarf - crocheted finished object

This is the Versailles scarf pattern, crocheted in Knit Picks Shadow Tonal lace yarn, in the colorway Summer Blooms:

So pretty! It looked lacy and pretty while I was making it too, but I blocked it last night, and I was amazed at how much that opened up the stitch pattern. It feels light as a feather now, despite no change in weight. It moved beautifully in the breeze while I was photographing it.

Here it is all folded up; you can see the colors better in this picture:

Not my colors, but very lovely colors all the same. It's a gift for a friend, and I'm looking forward to giving it to her!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Movie Review: Cary Fukunaga's "Jane Eyre"

This is a film I meant to see in theater, but just missed, and having watched it now on DVD, I'm even sorrier I didn't get to see it on the big screen, because it's one of the most visually stunning films I've ever watched.
Cary Fukunaga's "Jane Eyre" stars Michael Fassbender as Rochester and Mia Wasikowska as the titular Jane, and if the visuals are the best part of this movie, the acting is the second best part. Fassbender is utterly convincing as the compelling, brilliant, and sometimes cruel master of Thornfield Hall, and Wasikowska manages to play Jane as both reserved and strong, while also conveying her inexperience. And all this without making Jane the least bit boring; instead Jane comes across as intelligent and interesting - interesting precisely because of how interested she is in the world and people around her.
Despite these strengths - and they're huge strengths that I think make the movie worth a viewing despite what I'm going to say next - the movie suffers when it comes to the script. As with any adaptation, what the scriptwriters leave out matters almost more than what they leave (or add) in. While I didn't notice anything in the movie that departed greatly from Brontë's words, I noticed a lot that wasn't there.
Most especially, I missed Jane's faith. In this movie, you're left with the impression that the story is all about Jane's self-respect. And that's true as far as it goes. But it's the basis for Jane's self-respect that is missing. In the book, it's very clear that the reason Jane sees herself as a worthy match for Rochester is that she, like he, is a creature of God. It's her value as a created being who abides by God's law that bears her up in the worst of her struggles.
I found it very telling that in the scene when Rochester is pleading with Jane to stay (a scene that the actors hit out of the park, btw), Jane's impassioned speech about the purpose of law is missing:
Still indomitable was the reply: "I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself. I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad - as I am now. Laws and principles are not for times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth? They have a worth - so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane - quite insane, with my veins running fire, and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs. Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations are all I have at this hour to stand by; there I plant my foot."
It's as if the screenwriters were looking at the book with a magnifying glass and found all of the passion and self-determination, but missed the larger frame surrounding it. Which made it feel, in the end, disappointingly empty.

But still so very pretty. And there were several scenes that I feel like I understand better after watching them acted by Fassbender and Wasikowska - I think having their interpretations of the characters in my head during my next read-through will add to my enjoyment of the book. So I would still recommend it to fans of the book, with the caveat that it'll feel a little bit like you've had a lovely dessert that tasted great but left you a bit empty, rather than filling up on the glorious, full, five-course feast you might have been expecting.
Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Yarnalong: False Colours & DPN Knitting

Yarnalong is hosted over at small things - check it out!

And here is what I'm knitting and reading this week:

The book is "False Colours" by Georgette Heyer. Now, I'm not saying her heroes are Fred and George Weasley, but if you thought your reading life needed a few more witty, red-headed twins in it after you finished Harry Potter, this is the book to go to. It's a mistaken identity plot, of sorts, with one of the twins taking his brother's place for what he thinks will be a one-time event, and all of the trouble (and romance!) that follows. I'm enjoying it vastly.

The knitting is the "Basic Newborn Hat in 3ply" and it's step 4 in my self-imposed Jess-learns-to-knit-socks class. I'm vastly enjoying this too, because as fiendish as working with four needles looks, it's actually just really fun. Lovely, rhythmic work - though I'm realizing that anything knit on size 1 needles is worth its weight in gold, 'cause, well, that's a LOT of stitches in that there hat. 100 stitches per round. No kidding.

But so fun! I love how clever it looks - how clever it is really. Whoever thought up knitting in the round on what's basically toothpicks was absolutely brilliant.

More yarn-y, literary fun over here!

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Monday, October 3, 2011

I'm knitting!

I am learning to knit. Not because I'm tired of crocheting, but just because, as there are some things you can do with crochet that you can't do with knitting, there are some things you can do with knitting that you can't do with crochet.

Specifically: socks. I want to learn to knit socks.

(Yes, there are crochet patterns for socks but, frankly, they're mostly terrible. A few are okay, but none I've ever seen look good.)

So I spent a few hours on Ravelry one evening, and planned myself out a mini knitting course that starts with the very, very basics and works up to knitting socks.

My knitting experience was very small: I learned the knit stitch as a child and made a square or two. A few years ago, I tried it again and couldn't figure out how to purl. That's it.

So, here's the plan, and my progress thus far.

1) Relearn how to cast-on and knit; learn to purl.

To do this, I went to Knitting Help and used their videos to learn these three things. I'm knitting continental, as I'd heard it was both faster and more natural to crocheters, and wow! what a difference there is in terms of ease between continental knitting and the English knitting I learned as a child. Love it!

And I couldn't figure out the purl stitch with just a book, and couldn't do it with just the video, but when I looked at the video AND had my trusty old needlework encyclopedia open beside me at the same time, I was able to figure it out.

2) Learn how to knit ribbing (i.e., a pattern of knit two, purl two that's used in lots of patterns because it's super-stretchy). This was tricky, because every time I switched between the knit stitch and the purl stitch, I ended up with extra loops on my needles. But eventually I figured out that I was bringing the yarn around the needle instead of between the needles, and I achieved this slightly-wonky ribbing:

But, hey! it's real ribbing! Super-stretchy and everything.

3) I was ready to start a first project, and I wanted to make: A) something I'd actually use, B) something that let me practice ribbing and C) something that'd let me practice short rows. So I cast on for a Calorimetry.

And I finished it in two days!

From the side, you can see that it's basically a large knit headband, but from the front it looks like a hat:

It's actually a really nifty thing because if you've got long hair, you don't have to mess it up the way you do when you shove it under a hat. You can just stretch the Calorimetry over your hair and button it at the nape of your neck. Lovely!

4) Next I'm planning on knitting a very basic newborn hat, in order to learn how to knit in the round on double-pointed needles.

5) Finally, a sock! Albeit a teeny-tiny, Christmas-ornament-sized sock. But it should let me practice all the different parts of sock construction (heel, gussets, etc.) in miniature before committing to a full-sized sock.

6) Finally, a real sock! This is actually a sock class, with super-specific, detailed instructions on each step of the pattern. This is absolutely the level of detail I'm going to need, I think, if I've any chance of getting a wearable sock out of this.

So, that's my new project! I'm loving it so far. It's so much fun to learn something new, especially something that's related to something I'm already so familiar with (i.e., crochet). Knitting is a whole new thing, of course, but it really feels like I'm just expanding my options in the yarn-y world I already enjoy so much.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell