Saturday, May 31, 2014

Weekend Links: Drawing, the BCP, the feast of the Ascension, and more!

Some interesting reading for your weekend, from around the Web:

"Why you should stop taking pictures on your phone – and learn to draw":
So if drawing had value even when it was practised by people with no talent, it was for Ruskin because drawing can teach us to see: to notice properly rather than gaze absentmindedly. In the process of recreating with our own hand what lies before our eyes, we naturally move from a position of observing beauty in a loose way to one where we acquire a deep understanding of its parts.
"The Book of Common Prayer Remains a Force: An Interview with Alan Jacobs":
. . . you really can’t have a higher view of the authority and sufficiency of Scripture than Cranmer did. The Book of Common Prayer adds nothing to Scripture and is not the means of salvation. It was meant just to provide a form of words and actions to guide and direct public worship. It should be remembered that very few Christians, at that point in the mid-sixteenth century, practiced extemporaneous worship. Almost everyone used set forms. Cranmer just wanted the Church of England’s to be in understandable English and to be derived as closely as possible from the Bible.
"A Bachelorette Composer Reveals How He Drums Up Drama and Romance on Reality TV": Yes, it's about The Bachelorette, but I found it interesting to read how the composer for the show purposefully manipulates the viewers' emotions through music. It's one of those things you already know goes on, but it's still fun to peek behind the curtain.

"Ascension Gifts" - I just loved this sermon/essay on Christ's Ascension. Perfect for this week's major feast day!

"The Publishing Timeline": How long it actually takes to get a book from written to published and why.

Have a great weekend!
Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Writer Wednesday

I'm being interviewed over at "Thinking Thoughts" for Emilie Hendryx's Writer Wednesday. Here's a little snippet:
. . . I started seriously writing for publication after I had my first two children. I had the privilege of meeting Robin Jones Gunn – one of my writing heroines – at a book signing when she had time to chat. I asked her about how she wrote while she had young kids at home, and was really inspired. I took her advice to heart, and set to work, well, working.
Please come on over and read the rest!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Recently-tried recipes

I went on a baking spree recently. I just had this urge to open up a ton of bookmarked recipes and sprint through them.

So I did! And boy, did we eat well that night (and for several mornings afterwards).

Here's what I made:

-Lemon-Herb Roasted shrimp - om nom nom nom.  Nom nom. Nom, nommy-nom nom.

Just sayin'.  (But then, I like shrimp.)

-healthy pumpkin spice latte - this one I modified by using dairy milk, rather than almond. It was much darker and earthier than the fluffy Starbucks version, but I really liked it. And she's right: this version could be a meal.

-island spice cookies - oh my goodness, this is what Lofthouse cookies wish they were. Be sure to make the maple icing. (And next time, I might add a little Chinese Five Spice powder to these, just to pack a bit more punch - I like my spice cookies spicy. But they were still scrumptious, just as written.)

-muesli cookies - my husband really liked these, and so did one of my kids. I need to make them again to see if I do too - I was recovering from wisdom tooth removal while these were in play.

-pb granola bars - These were a hit with 4 out of 6 family members - but the people who liked them really liked them. I was one of the few exceptions; the honey taste was just too strong for me. But if you really like the taste of honey, you will devour these. I'm planning on making them again, because they're super-simple, decently healthy, and a great easy breakfast if you make them beforehand.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

P.S.: On a recent post, I asked for breakfast ideas, so I wanted to be sure to note that both the muesli cookies and the pb bars froze really well, and helped me in my quest for easier breakfasts!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Weekend Links: Slushpile Hell, Parenting Fails (or not), and more!

Some weekend links for your reading (and watching) pleasure!

Slushpile Hell - a very, very funny Tumblr, from a literary agent deeply buried in bad queries.

"Parents who fail (and parents who don't)":  Just go read this one.

"equip your kids to “say no” to porn":
Too many parents are still asking the wrong question with regard to children and explicit content. We can no longer ask, “How should I prepare my child for if they see porn?” We must ask, “How should I prepare my child for when they see porn?” External controls are important, but they only shield your child from a handful of instances when porn can make an appearance. Mobile devices are everywhere, and your neighbor’s unsecured wi-fi is easy to find.
"Getting to Yes":
Remember that quote I shared a few weeks ago?
“Vocation is the place where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.” ― Frederick Buechner
I think it’s true.
But the world’s deep need is dangerous . . .

"SDfAoWOP: Agag":
And Saul doesn't get it. What's the big deal? So I didn't do exactly what God said. Who cares. So I didn't kill this man that God commanded me to kill. And it would have been such a waste to slaughter all these sheep. Everyone here thinks God is so good but he's not, thinks Saul.
"Okay, NOW Racism’s Over, Right?":
Although I wouldn’t classify this as one of my actual beliefs, I do recognize in my emotional comportment an attitude that says race is only a problem if you make it a problem. When somebody brings up race and racism, I often catch myself, nearly subliminally, wondering what is motivating them to stir up trouble. Now that’s weird. Because if you put a quiz in front of me asking if I think all is well in the world, if justice rules in general or with regard to race in particular, if equality is something we experience, I would answer with a resounding no, and I think I could also offer a pretty good theological account of why we shouldn’t be surprised to find injustice built into the human condition. But when racial problems come up, there’s that response again from the soulish equivalent of my central nervous system: a feeling that a perfectly fine status quo has been disturbed by somebody who can’t let well enough alone.
"Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome": This is a free novella by John Scalzi that I really enjoyed. (It's a prequel to his next novel, and as an advertising strategy? Worked for me. I totally want to read the book now.) Anyway, enjoy!

"My Foolish, Yet Fool-Proof Tips for Writing a Synopsis!":
In an industry where a lot of skimming is done, a synopsis is essential. And because many of us have to give a summary to higher ups for approval, we need that synopsis. We don’t pore over them, salivating over each luscious description. We just want the most crucial points given in a matter-of-fact way. But fear not. Just because you hate writing a synopsis–I hate it, too–I’ve developed an almost foolproof way to get it done. For this mission, you will need: 5+ episodes of your favorite show ready to be called up on your watching device, a timer, a bag of Peanut M&Ms (optional) and the will to work in short bursts.

And, finally, The Evangelical Outpost kindly reviewed "Let Us Keep the Feast: Holy Week and Easter", and you can read their review here.

Have a wonderful weekend, folks!
Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, May 15, 2014

7 Quick Takes

1. I started Jennifer Fulwiler's (our host's) book, "Something Other Than God" one night, and finished it the next. It is so good. (Review forthcoming.)

2. Kalos Press is still looking for submissions on miscarriage and infertility. The deadline is June 1. I encourage you take a look at the call for submissions, and maybe pass it on, if you know someone who would be a good contributer!

3. My daughter has taken to reading my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook as if it were a novel. This has resulted, in the last few day, in made-from-scratch devil's food cake (with fudge frosting) and homemade blueberry muffins, appearing in my kitchen, as if by magic.

So yes, dear child, I will keep buying you cocoa and butter and sugar. You bake away, you brilliant girl, you.

4. (Seriously, it's fun to watch my eldest adopt a hobby so whole-heartedly. I delight in her delight.)

5. So, here's a question for you: what's your favorite part of U.S. History? I admit to being an Anglophile, and overdosing on British history, but it's time for me to learn a bit more about my own country's past. Where should I start? What stories and settings from the United States really capture your imagination? I'd love to know.

6.  Today I had the rare experience of my cat actually coming to me, and wanting to be scratched and petted and snuggled.

He's the sort of cranky beast that thanks you for your pains by biting you when he's had enough loving - purring all the while of course. He's a bit of a psychopath, but we keep him around because he's so terribly pretty. And he kills bugs. (I admire that in a cat.)

Anyone else have a cranky pet?

(I have to say: my dog makes up for our cat's crankiness. Our dog only wants us to LOVE HER, PLEASE LOVE HER, SHE ONLY WANTS US TO LOVE HER AND WALK HER AND FEED HER AND SCRITCH HER OH, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE!!!!

But that' s dog for you, right?)

7. Is it terrible that I really, really want to watch this?

More Quick Takes can be found here, at Conversion Diary.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Yarnalong: "Knitting Yarns" and a Vijante shawl

Ginny of Small Things says: ~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs. I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading? Take a photo and share it either on your blog or on Flickr. Leave a link below to share your photo with the rest of us! ~

The knitting is my Viajante shawl (Rav link). Yes, I'm still working on it. I'm hoping to be finished by Pentecost, because red is the traditional color of Pentecost, but I've got so far to go.

I've hit my stride recently though, and am really making time. The recycled silk is a little hard to work with, because it's really not plied, and so it constantly wants to be two threads, rather than one single yarn strand. That means I can knit and listen to something, but not knit and watch TV, because I have to watch where the needle goes, even though it's simple stockinette. Oh well! Encourages me to use up those podcasts, right?

The book is "Knitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting". It was a Christmas present and I'm enjoying it (a book about knitting and writing. Of course I like it!). There's a huge variety in the essays: different worldviews, different topics, different takes. But even when I don't agree with the authors, I appreciate the little glances into their worlds. There is a lot of good writing in here - my favorite so far is one by Kaylie Jones about her Portuguese nanny, Judite. It was really touching.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Easter Hope

For the early church, Easter was more than the time of year to remember Christ’s victory over death. It was a time to welcome new people into the body, and a time to remember why, embattled as they were, they had hope. For those of us living post-Constantine, it launches us into the rest of the church year, reminding us of the joy that compels us to worship Him.   
-Lindsay Marshall, Let Us Keep the Feast: Holy Week and Easter

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.) 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Book Notes: "Habitation of Dragons", by J. Keith Miller

"Habitation of Dragons", by J. Keith Miller, is an updated version of a devotional classic, newly reissued by Kalos Press. It has short chapters, largely consisting of a personal reflection by Miller, followed by quotations from literature and Scripture. (Actually, the depth and variety of the quotations was one of my favorite parts; Miller quoted everyone from Jung to Augustine, and the quotations were always very apt to the topic of the reflection.)

It was a funny book to read; because it was so personal, I felt like I was having to decide not just if I liked the book, but if I liked the person. And when I reached the end, I still wasn't sure. I wish I knew more about Miller. He's obviously dynamic, but I got the feeling I might find him exhausting in person. (Which probably says a lot more about me - and my stage in life as a tired mom of four - than about him!)

However, he's so sincere and open. And that won me over. I couldn't dislike someone so open to examining his faults, so clear in his intention to serve Jesus, so devoted to the cause of the gospel. In a way, it was almost too good - because Miller is so honest, the book is uncomfortable at times. I'm not sure anyone could read it and not feel driven to admit his or her own faults; the descriptions Miller gives of the ways he so easily falls from charity into selfishness were just so terribly familiar . . . this book is a bit too much like a mirror.

I didn't agree or resonate with everything he said, though. But I appreciated the constant focus on Jesus and his gospel.

And there were several sections that I loved. There's a chapter called "Commitment to Christ", where Miller explains how a life devoted to one thing primarily ends up ordering all lesser parts towards that one thing. Devotion to Christ can be an organizing principle - much in the same way that a devotion to basketball can be for a professional athlete. I appreciated that word picture so much - I'm still thinking about it, and how it applies to my own life, several days after finishing the book.

And for that, I am very grateful.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This book was a review copy sent by the publisher — common practice in the industry. No payment was accepted in exchange for a review or mention, and the reviewer was in no way obligated to review the book favorably

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Book Notes: "Ruins", by Dan Wells

I think we're all familiar with the trend of YA trilogies that start out strong, and then kind of sputter to an end in the second or third books.

Well, I'll give Dan Wells' Partials trilogy this: it ends stronger than it started.

You can read my reviews of the first two books in the trilogy here and here. I liked them well enough, but I'll be honest: this last one is my favorite. (Probably. I think. I only hesitate because, for some reason, I really enjoyed the description of an abandoned, half-flooded Chicago in the middle of the second book.)

But I knew I liked this one when I found myself wandering around, the first couple of days after I finished it, thinking, "Man, I really want to read something moody and atmospheric and post-apocalyptic . . . why do I want to read something like that?" and then realized, "Oh! it's because I really enjoyed that Dan Wells book."

I wouldn't start with this one, but I would read the trilogy, if you're a fan of YA, sci-fi, and post-apocalyptic. (The first two books are "Partials" and "Fragments".) This third book isn't just a third book so that there'll be a third book; it's a satisfying end to the whole series. And, given how hopeless the genre can be, it's a surprisingly uplifting end to the series, too. I don't want to spoil it, but I do really like the way he concluded the main technological problem of the book. It's an end that could have been downright cheesy if it hadn't felt so natural to the story he'd set up - so full props to him for being able to pull it off.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Ways I make myself write (when I don't feel like writing)

Writers love writing. That's why we become writers. But even people who love writing sometimes find it hard to sit down and write. Why is that?

Sometimes the question is carving out the actual time to write. In that case, time management is the answer. (Here's one resource on the subject I really like.) 

But sometimes you have the time, and just don’t want to do it. Here’s how I make myself start typing anyway.

1) I look to the future. I’ll get up at six, say, and sit myself down in front of the computer. There’s my Word document, but there’s the Internet, looking all tempting. So I’ll look at the clock and I’ll say, “Jess, in an hour, everyone else is going to be awake. So, then, at seven, when the kids start drifting down, what do you want to have done? At seven’o’clock, are you going to wish you had an hour of writing to look back on?” The answer is always yes. I always wish I could look back and see time well-spent. Thinking about
what I want to look back on, rather than what I want to do right now, always helps me see the big picture.

2) I look at it as work. Writing is weird in that, until you get established, you’re not getting paid. You put in the time, but there’s no paycheck. Of course, if you get published, you get your money. Retroactively, it all becomes paid time. But until then, it can feel a lot more like a hobby than a job. So, feeling like it’s a hobby, you feel like it ought to be fun. But often, it’s not.

            You know what it actually feels like? Work. And you know what? Good. It is work. So I give myself permission to think of it as work. Then, weirdly, I’m okay if it feels like work. It takes the pressure off. I don’t have to like it; I just have to do it. It’s work. And I know how to work. So all of the sudden I’m not in a foreign country. I work all day, why should this be any different?

            Reframing it as work makes me really productive.

And then, weirdly, once I've given myself permission to not have fun . . . I start having fun again. Weird, right?    (No, I know, it's not weird at all. Isn't that the way this kind of thing always works?)

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, May 5, 2014

Links: Organizing vs. Decluttering, the Future of Protestantism, and more!

Weekend links - just a bit late. Enjoy!

"The powerful difference between organizing & decluttering":
And then there’s the beautiful aftermath that follows decluttering. You find yourself happy to own less, so if you consciously keep stuff from entering your door again, you start owning this habit. You genuinely don’t want to shop because then you’d have to do something with the new stuff.
"The Future of Protestantism": This video from Biola University is a great discussion - my husband and I watched the live stream earlier in the week, and really enjoyed it.

And this post contains a bunch of great follow-up links.  I'm just really heartened by listening to smart, thoughtful, educated people working through these important issues.

And now, here's a treat - a much shorter treat - that's relevant to our interests: two brilliant profs from my alma mater, discussing the liturgical year: