Friday, January 31, 2014

St. Francis De Sales on What to do when you think you've failed

Or when you think you've sinned:
. . . when we cannot discern whether we have done our duty well in some matter and are in doubt about whether we have offended God, we must then humble ourselves, ask God to forgive us, request more light for another time, and then forget all about what has happened and get back to our ordinary business. A curious and anxious search to determine whether we have acted well comes undoubtedly from the self-love that makes us want to know whether we are brave - just at that point when the pure love of God tells us: "Whether you were truant or coward, humble yourself, lean upon the mercy of God, always ask for pardon, and with a renewed confession of fidelity, go back to the pursuit of your perfection."
-St. Francis de Sales, from Thy Will Be Done, Letters to Persons in the World
What good instruction! I'm so grateful for the wisdom of those who've gone before us.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Thursday, January 30, 2014

How I lost NaNoWriMo . . . and still won

You’re really not supposed to decide you’re going to do NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) at the last possible minute.

You’re really not supposed to sign up past the last possible minute.

But that’s exactly what I did. Last year, on the first of November, caught up in the excitement of all my friends’ posts on Facebook, I decided, “What the heck! I’m doing it!” and I signed up to write a novel in a month.

Not so crazy
Like I said: this isn’t the recommended procedure. Most people going into NaNo knowing months ahead of time that they’re going to do it. They have time to plot and research and scheme.

But I wasn’t totally crazy: I had an idea, I had a story structure I thought might work – I was even borrowing from the master who borrowed from the masters: if Shakespeare could steal his plots from Italian writers, surely I could steal mine from Shakespeare!

I was taking my favorite play – Twelfth Night – and adding a little magic to grease the rough edges (i.e., to make Orsino not quite such a goober). No need to plot, right? I could just jump into it.

It all seemed like a great idea.

No, actually, still totally crazy
And I actually got some stuff I liked. The fantasy parts were gorgeous. I loved them. It was better than I’d expected, and I felt like I’d finally found a way to do justice to a story I’ve loved for a long time.

But I stalled. Not because I can’t write a novel – at this point, I’ve written at least six of them. And not because I can’t write fiction that fast – I’ve actually written it faster than the NaNoWriMo timeline calls for.

It was because I was ignoring who I actually was: I’m a planner. I don’t do things on a whim.

Oh, occasionally, I’ll just give something a whirl, and that can be fun . . . but my normal mode of operation is to spend some time thinking things through before I make any kind of commitment.

And now I know that there’s a reason for that: it’s because that’s how I work best. Planning ahead plays to my strengths, and it makes up for my weaknesses. Planning lets me dream. Planning lets me tweak. Planning lets the whole project gain depth and nuance and weight. It’s like brewing beer or aging whiskey: time equals taste.

And planning takes away my fear, leaving me ready for the work. Planning lets my anxieties rise, get dealt with, and melt away . . . all before the initial work begins. Then, when I start, I start confidently . . . and that confidence carries me all the way through the thousands of words that stand between me and the end.

Not a waste of time
But I’m still glad I gave NaNo a go on the spur of the moment.

Why? Because I didn’t know all of this about myself until I tried.* All that stuff I wrote above about my strengths and weaknesses when it comes to novel-writing? It’s something I didn’t understand that well until I tried to do things differently. Doing things differently let me learn something about myself, and that makes it a win for me.

(In fact, it even makes me think that I ought to stay open to doing things differently in the future - who knows what else I might learn?)

Plus . . . following that instinct to join NaNo got thousands of good words out of me – words that are the perfect start to brainstorming, planning, and plotting the novel that I WILL write . . . that fantastical take on Twelfth Night, the one where Orsino has a reason to fall in love with Viola, and Olivia has a reason to marry Sebastian – even after she knows who he is.

I’m looking forward to it.**

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

*Okay, that's not quite true. I totally knew I was a planner. I just didn't realize how deeply that part of my personality affected my novel-writing style!

**Of course, that novel will have to take its place in line - I'm already at the editing stage with one novel, the writing stage with another, and the plotting stage with a third! < --See, that list? More proof of my planning personality. :D

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Yarnalong: "Dreams of the Golden Age"

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?
The knitting: I'm knitting a new pair of socks, this time using Cascade Yarns Heritage Paints. I've used this yarn once before, and the socks I made from it then have worn really well. I also love how deep and clear the colors are! This is fast becoming my go-to sock yarn.

The book: I'm reading "Dreams of the Golden Age", by Carrie Vaughn. It's the sequel to "After the Golden Age", which I loved. (You can read my review here.) The first book was about the daughter of superheroes, and what her life was like. Imagine if your dad was Superman and your mom was Wonderwoman and you had no powers at all. That was the first book.

This second one might be even better. The daughter from the first book is now all grown up, and has children of her own. And one of them, Anna, has discovered that she has super-powers - just like her grandparents did. And she's hiding that fact from her mom, and trying to figure out what to do.

But what I love is that the point-of-view switches between the mother and the daughter. The mother isn't as ignorant of what's going on with her kid as her daughter thinks she is. And maybe it's just because I'm a mother now, but watching the plot unfold between the forty-something mom and the teenage kid is just fascinating. Neither of them is stupid or mean or petty, but each of them is struggling with the burdens particular to their age and stage of life. That makes them feel very real, and makes me really invested in the story.

And there are SUPER-POWERS. :D  Totally my kind of book.  

I'm only about halfway through, so I can't promise it ends well, but at the moment I'm just having a blast reading it.

What are you reading and knitting?

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Updates to the blog

This post is mostly for folks who (like me) read most of their blogs through an RSS feed-reader (like AOL Reader or Bloglovin') and so rarely actually visit the actual blog site itself.

I've made a few changes to my blog in the past month or so, and wanted to highlight them for you. First, my blog has more than one page now. Aside from the homepage that you land on when you click through to my site, I have:

-an About Me page. This has a slightly longer bio, as well as contact information, should you want it.

-I have a My Books page, too. This is exactly what it sounds like: information about my books. :)

-I have a Blogroll page. This lists (by category) various blogs and websites and podcasts I enjoy. I hope you'll find some good reading there!

-I have a page that tells you where else to find me online. This includes links to articles and interviews I've done elsewhere on the web, as well as links to my Ravelry and Goodreads profiles.

-There is now a Posts by Category page. These are divided into four major categories:
     -Faith. This includes church year posts, devotional thoughts, etc.
     -Family. This includes posts on mothering, marriage, and parenting.
     -Homemaking. This is where you'll find things like recipes and housekeeping posts.
     -Stories. This is where you'll find my book reviews, TV & movie reviews, writing posts, etc.
All of these categories have clickable sub-categories, so it should be pretty easy to specifically find whatever it is you're looking for.

-a Church Year Resources page. A few of the linked-to posts here are mine, but most of them are posts from around the web that I've found informative, inspiring, or helpful in my quest to celebrate the church year at home. I hope you'll find them useful, too!

All of these pages are accessible through labeled tabs at the top of my blog.

Other changes
Aside from adding the above pages, I've made a few more tweaks:

-I updated my template. It has a wider textbox and a more pleasing background. I know I find it more pleasing to the eye than that old, cramped design!

-I joined the Amazon affiliate program. You've probably noted that on some of my posts (mostly my book reviews), I've posted Amazon links. Most of you probably know how the Amazon affiliate program works, but in case you don't, here's the quick version: if you click through to Amazon from my blog, and buy something there (whether it's something I recommend or not), I get paid a small percentage of your purchase price. Also, it's anonymous. I can see what people buy, but have no idea who bought it.
I happily use Amazon all the time myself, which is why I felt okay joining their program. Click through their links if you want to, don't if you don't - I just hope you read and enjoy my posts! :)

-I joined Bible Gateway's Blogger Grid.  Bible Gateway's another site I've used for a long time - it's been my go-to for years, for those times when I've wanted to look up Bible passages online - so I was happy when they asked me to join their blog network! I'm also looking forward to clicking around their site and investigating the other bloggers on the network - the quality of the bloggers I recognize make me suspect that the ones I don't are probably pretty good!

I think that's it. I've been kind of sprucing things up for a while now, so I might have forgotten to list one of the changes. But, overall, I hope I've made this an easier-to-use, more welcoming place. Take a look around, and let me know what you think!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, January 27, 2014

3 Great Ways to Use Winter Squash

Along with healthy greens, the other thing I'm always getting in my CSA basket is winter squash. Here are a few good ways to use it:

1) Stuff it. All that yummy stuff in the middle and you'll scarcely notice the healthy vegetable around the edge.

2) Bake with it. For butternut squash: puree it and use it in place of canned pumpkin. Roasting squash is as easy as halving it, scooping out the seeds, placing it upside down on a greased baking sheet, and roasting it at about 400 degrees for about 40 minutes (give or take, depending on the size of the squash). Once it's roasted, you can puree it, and then you've basically got yourself a homemade can of Libby's packed pumpkin. You can use the butternut puree as a replacement in pumpkin pie, pumpkin bars, or pumpkin cookies.

3) Use it as a base for soup. Again, you can use it in place of canned pumpkin. My favorite squash soup involves beans, lime, coconut milk, and sage.

And that is the sum total of my creativity. What do you do with your winter squashes?

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Weekend Link Round-up: Crabby moms, Mars, and more!

"Crabby mommy syndrome": Now this is an interesting take on a familiar feeling:
Try as we might to put them blame elsewhere, crabby mommy syndrome has its root in sin. Those things that make us cranky usually point straight at our disordered attachments. Those attachments are one of four things (many thanks to St. Thomas Aquinas for nailing it all down so astutely): power, pleasure, wealth or honor.
"Incredible photographs from the surface of Mars": these are so cool. I look at these, and can almost feel like I'm standing there, looking out over an alien horizon.

"New Christy & Todd Books": so excited to hear this! I loved these books as a teenager, and the adult me is looking forward to reading about these characters all grown up!

"Climbing to Great Heights Above Rio": an amazing photo essay of workman repairing damage to the giant Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Celebrating the Church Year: the Conversion of St. Paul (January 25)

-something to ponder:
O lord, thou hast searched me, and known me.
Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising . . .
Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.
   -Psalm 139:1-2a, 5-6
-something to pray:
Most gracious God, who didst fill thine Apostle Saint Paul with love for all the churches: Grant, we pray, that our fellowship may foster love and unity amongst thy people; through Jesus Christ our Lord.*
-something to listen to: lovely, powerful Pauline theology set to good music:

For more ideas on celebrating the church year, pick up a copy of "Let Us Keep the Feast: Living the Church Year at Home". 

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

*Prayer is from the Revised Anglican Missal.

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

Friday, January 24, 2014

6 Great Ways to Use All those Healthy Greens

I never get a CSA basket but it's full of greens. Kale, chard, spinach, arugula, bok choy, tat soi . . . so many greens.

It's taken a while to learn what to do with them, but I now have a few go-to recipes. Here they are:

1) Quiche. This is almost always my first choice. It's easy, and I almost always have the ingredients I need - it's pretty much eggs+milk+cheese, and then throw in any extras you want - including cooked greens. Here's a basic recipe for crustless quiche.  And you can always throw in some cooked sausage, bacon, or ham.  Serve that up with some rolls, and you've got dinner.

2) Scrambled eggs & greens. If you're not even up for assembling a quiche, scrambled eggs with greens is even simpler. Chop and sautee whatever greens you happen to have, and then pour eggs over it and scramble that baby. Add some seasonings - I like adding soy sauce, garlic-chile sauce, sesame oil, and a hint of sugar. (Sugar cuts the bitterness of the greens.) YUM.

3) Soup.  Take egg drop soup, and add in some finely chopped greens. Or your go for your basic beans-and-greens soup. Either will serve you up a bowl of health with a bit of savor and spice.

4) Toasted. This is especially good with kale. I won't lie - it's not quite a bag of potato chips - but there is a satisfying salty crunch.

5) Curries. Your basic curry has a strong enough flavor that it can handle just about any vegetable you want to throw in. Extra tip: throw your greens into the rice or pasta you'll be serving under the curry, instead of into the curry itself. Then the veggies can just cook along with the starch. Super-easy.

6) Chopped salads. Lots of young greens (think baby spinach, arugula) can be easily incorporated into green salads. But even the hearty greens (think kale) can be made into salads if you treat them right. Cut them into bite-sized or smaller pieces, and massage them with oil, vinegar, and salt. This breaks them down a bit and they're super-yummy, especially if you add some extras, like tahini or dried cranberries or walnuts.

What's your favorite ways to use up all those healthy greens?
Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Book Notes: "Pen on Fire", by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett

I just finished this (quite enjoyed it, too!), and while I'd like to go back and take a closer look at some of the exercises, I first wanted to jot down a couple of quotations from it that I particularly liked:

Good first lines hook the reader. They also hook the writer.

So true! Get a first line intriguing enough, and you can't help but write the rest.

And I appreciated this, an excerpt from an interview with Jodi Picoult:

When I write, I never feel particularly creative. Instead, I see a succession of scenes in my head that, apparently, it's my job to translate into words so that everyone else can see them, too.

That's exactly how it feels to me, but I've never heard it put so well.

"Pen on Fire" was a nice surprise I happened upon during the holiday season. It was interesting but still easy-going, and exactly what I was in the mood for.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

St. Francis de Sales on our sanctification

photo credit: Betsy Barber
But the divine goodness has not called you to the state in which you find yourself without strengthening you for all this. It is for Him to perfect His work. True, it takes quite a while, because the matter requires it; but patience.
In short, for the honor of God, acquiesce entirely in His will, and by no means believe that you can better serve Him otherwise; for He is never well served save when He is served as He wills.
-St. Francis de Sales, from Thy Will Be Done: Letters to Persons in the World

The part of this quotation that stood out to me was that little "because the matter requires it".

And what is the "matter"? Our sanctification. Making us like him. Teaching and caring for us, his sons and daughters in the world.

Because the matter requires it. I can well believe my sanctification requires time! But what really struck me about this was the implication of God's care for us. He loves us. He will take the time that's needed to perfect his work in us.

Because the matter requires it. And he finds the matter important enough to take the time for.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

On Finding Your Voice - in Writing and in Life

Any beginning writer looking for writing advice is going to find article after article that command her to “find your voice”.

But what is my voice? asks that poor bewildered beginner.

And she’ll read further, and be told, “Your voice is just you. It’s what’s authentic about your writing.”

But if it’s just me, and I’m already me, then why do I have to go about looking for it? she wonders.

And then she’s told that voice is really hard to find, it’s hard to get your voice to come across to the readers, it’s almost impossible for anyone but the experienced to do it – in sum, she’s told, “You really have no idea how hard it is for you to just be yourself. You really don’t.”

And she thinks, Yeah. Right. Fat lot of help you are.

And goes on to easier things, more concrete things, things like learning what weasel words are and how to trim the passive voice out of her manuscripts and What Not To Do in query letters.

All good things. But after she’s worked and worked, and learned and learned, and practiced and practiced, she comes back to that voice thing.

And do you know what? They were all right.

Because voice is just being authentic. But the reason what they were saying made no sense is that voice is more than just being authentic.

Voice is being authentic and communicating. Being authentic and communicating at the same time.
And that means becoming skilled at communicating.

And that's where we hit the problem: communication is something you can learn, something you can be skilled at - but like any skill, when you practice it, when you begin the process of mastering it - you get really, really awkward for a while.

That awkwardness shows up in your writing
It shows up in your life.

And that's when people get frustrated.
And they stop.
They stop talking, they stop writing.
They give up on authenticity.

It's easier to hide.

Because when you're not communicating, at least you're not communicating badly.
At least you're not getting it WRONG.

But you have to get past that awkward point.
Maturity is awesome, but it demands adolescence.
You can't become an adult without being a teenager first – an awkward, gawky, pimply teenager whose nose is too big for her face.

That's why your "voice" didn’t sound right. That's why you didn’t sound real.
Even though you're trying to say what you think. Even though you were trying to say exactly how you felt.
And even though you were trying to say it well.
Because nobody's good at something when she starts.
She gets good with practice.

You need to be sincere.
But you need the skill, too, or all the sincerity in the world won't be enough. It won't come across.

So learn the skills. Read the books. Do the exercises.
And write, and write, and write, and write.
The grace will come with practice.

And if you keep yourself honest,
then once you’re good at communicating . . .
the authenticity will be there, too.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, January 20, 2014

Weekend Links!

"California drought: What's causing it?": Apparently it's a "Ridiculously Resilient Ridge". Pray for rain for us, folks. You really do want us to keep growing food out here.

"The Dark-Tinted, Truth-Filled Reading List We Owe Our Kids":
Faithful artists should provide sabbaths, not escapes. We should be crafting periods of rest and inspiration that will feed, fuel, and empower readers to engage more deeply in reality as faithful men and women. To step out of the shelter when the time comes.
"In the Name of Love":
There’s little doubt that “do what you love” (DWYL) is now the unofficial work mantra for our time. The problem with DWYL, however, is that it leads not to salvation but to the devaluation of actual work—and more importantly, the dehumanization of the vast majority of laborers.
"Mortifying the Fear of Academic Books":
It takes a fresh look at theology and an intentional shift in your reading style to tackle thick tomes. For the shift to be effective, you'll need to put your favorite novels on Mars and your academic, theological books on Venus. They're not the same thing, though their similar appearance tries to tell you otherwise.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Celebrating the Church Year: the Confession of St. Peter (January 18)

-something to ponder:
He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
   -Matthew 16:15-16.
-something to pray:
Grant, almighty God, that all who confess the Name of thy Son Jesus Christ may live always in his fellowship, and be guided beyond the terrors of evil and death even unto the home thou hast prpared for us, there to dwell in eternal light; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.*

-something to eat: fish, of course!

-something to listen to: Michael Card's "Walking on Water" - a great, cheery song from Peter's perspective. I love the refrain:
Jesus, you can see me
You know right where I am
Only you can save me
For I'm a sinful man.
I know that doesn't sound cheery, just reading it, but with the music, it is. And the music makes you realize just how cheerful a prospect it is not to be able to - and not to have to - rely on yourself.

And, of course, for more great ideas on celebrating the church year, pick up a copy of "Let Us Keep the Feast: Living the Church Year at Home".  

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

*Prayer is from the Revised Anglican Missal.

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

Friday, January 17, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Recipe Edition . . . again

I would be such a boring cook without the internet! Here's some amazing stuff I've made recently:

1) -Chai Banana Bread - This doesn't have a strong chai flavor, but the spices do add a nice bit of warmth to the bread. I made it without the cream cheese icing, and it was perfect for breakfast.

2) -Cinnamon Sugar Doughnut Muffins - Now, on this one, you do want to make the topping. The crunchy, buttery cinnamon-sugar topping is brilliant. And the muffins are almost as good cold as they were warm, which I find impressive.

3) -Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Soup - spicy and delicious. Be sure to serve it with some of the extras - especially the tortilla chips.

4) -Baked Cheddar Chicken Chimichangas - Brushing these with a butter/olive oil mix before baking makes them flaky and wonderful. Not nearly as hard as they sound, and absolutely delicious piping hot. (Not bad cold, either!)

5) -Baked Chicken Nachos - this was much more casserole-y than I expected, but it turned out really well.

6) -Creamy Baked Chicken Curry - oh my goodness: creamy curry sauce is such a wonderful idea. This was great.

7) And . . . that's it. So, for #7, would you tell me what yummy thing you've made recently?

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Book Notes: "Steelheart" by Brandon Sanderson

Steelheart” is the latest YA offering from Brandon Sanderson. I loved Sanderson’s “Legion”* and “The Emperor’s Soul”, so I was excited to read this one.

In the world of “Steelheart”, superheroes have appeared, only they’re anything but heroic. Instead, they’re greedy and violent and they oppress ordinary citizens. David, our young protagonist, watched as his father was killed by one particular Epic (as these superhuman are called), and he’s dedicated his life to getting revenge.

Overall, I liked “Steelheart”. It didn’t quite rise to the level of Sanderson’s other work for me, but that might partly be due to the fact that I’m not the target audience, seeing as how I’m well out of my teens. The set-up felt a bit slow, but it really sped up at about the mid-point, and I enjoyed the last third of the book very much, racing through it to see how it was all going to turn out.

One of the interesting things about this book is that I enjoyed the adult characters far more than the younger characters. And I’m not sure this was a problem with Sanderson’s writing, in any sense. A lot of the character-related bits of the plot revolved around David’s inexperience and sort of one-sided view of the world (revenge is all he’s shaped himself around), and so it made sense that the adults around him, who’d already had a chance to grow and change in a way he hadn’t, were more layered and interesting. In fact, they served as excellent foils.

I’m also curious to see whether this series turns out to be sci-fi or whether it’s actually fantasy. I don’t think Sanderson’s shown his hand yet in that regard, and that intrigues me.

I would recommend this to anyone looking for a fast, fun trip through a well-imagined near-future world. I had fun trying to guess how it was all going to turn out, and was delighted to find out at the end that I’d guessed wrong, and that the author had thought out a much cooler ending than the one that had occurred to me.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

*You can read my review of "Legion" here.

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

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


From Ginny's blog "Small Things": 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?

This week's knitting is pretty simple: I'm just making some new dishcloths. Simple, but satisfying - and satisfying both to knit and to use. I love this pattern (and it's free!). It makes a dishcloth with a great, nubby texture that scrubs well.

The book is part of my self-education effort - I realized, after buying myself about 10 books on writing this Christmas (yay giftcards!), that I'm trying to give myself a crash course in my chosen profession. I've handed myself a reading list, given myself assignments, and I'm taking notes like mad.

You can take the girl out of college, but you can't take the college out of the girl! :D I have always been, and will always be, a gigantic nerd. I love school. And apparently, if I'm not in a class, I'll just invent one for myself.

Anyone else out there like that? I know I have friends who've self-educated themselves on gardening, on fitness, on nutrition . . . what's your thing?

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

My favorite knitting & crochet projects from 2013

I failed at my crafting goal of learning colorwork in 2013 (new goal: learn colorwork in 2014!), but I did succeed in creating some finished objects I'm really proud of! Here are my favorite projects of 2014:

1) My husband's kilt socks. This was a looooong project, but it turned out so well! Pattern is Kilravock, free over at Knitty.

2) This lace scarf. It's the fanciest knitted lace I've attempted so far and only confirmed what I already suspected: I really like knitting lace. I'm hoping to tackle a few more complicated lace patterns in 2014! Pattern is Florence, free on Ravelry.

3) This enormous crocheted lace tablecloth. This one confirmed my suspicion that I love doilies. Yes, I'm secretly 83. But, seriously! There's such lovely symmetry in these old patterns. They deserve a resurgence in popularity. Pattern is "Large Pineapple Doily", free here.

4) This warm afghan. The fun part of this was figuring out how to take the multiplicity of thrifted laceweight yarns in my stash and work them into a unified whole. I'm really happy with the gradient I achieved, and I love having this piece in my living room. The "Ripple Afghan" pattern is available for free, here, though I will note that I modified it by holding a variety of weights of yarns together, and swapping them out in a pattern I worked out myself.

5) My new favorite cardigan. I've been getting a lot of wear out of this. This pattern's available for purchase here at Interweave, but I got it by buying an old copy of the magazine it originally appeared in. I love laceweight sweaters!

6) A second Color Affection. This is such a great pattern (Ravelry link). I'm actually scheduled to make a third this year, this time for my mom! The pattern's not free, but I found it worth the price, especially since I've used it twice already!

If you're a crafter, what were your favorite patterns and projects in this last year? Any of the ones I linked to look like something you want to try?

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, January 13, 2014

Looking for a Bible-reading plan?

January is the time for reflection and resolutions, and for many of us (including me), studying the Bible is a big part of our plans for the new year.

But it can be a daunting task. So I’ve collected a list of resources for reading through the Bible. I hope one of them might turn out to be just what you’re looking for!

Traditional Plans:
-The Lectionary: You can find the Revised Common Lectionary in the back of th Book of Common Prayer.  It is an old and reliable system for reading scripture. It’s not comprehensive, but it will take you through a good deal of the Bible, and in a way that’s sensitive to the liturgical seasons. (I like having a hard copy, but the BCP is also available online here, for free.)

-The St. James Devotional: This subscription service is what I use personally. It takes you through the New Testament every year, the Old Testament every two years, and the Psalms a lot. It includes weekly collects and a simplified form of morning and evening prayer. It also includes commentary on the selections. Written by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, this alone are worth the (small) cost of admission.

Cyber Plans:
-The One Year Bible onlineThis site lets you customize your start date and gives you a plan for reading through the whole Bible in a year. Very cool!

Something a Little Different:
-Professor Grant Horner's Bible-Reading System: This one is intense. But it looks like it would be a great way to (relatively) quickly increase your knowledge of the text and its contents.

-The Quiet Time Bible Guide - This one takes you through the New Testament and the Psalms. If you're new to reading through the Bible, this might be a gentler way into the practice for your first time through.

-Reading God's Story: a Chronological Daily Bible - reading the Bible chronologically can open up a lot of its meaning. 

For the Kids:
-Highlights from the New Testament: The idea behind this free list is to get you reading the actual text of the Bible to your children, but in slightly smaller, selective, digestible pieces. This is what my husband and I are planning to use this year during our after-dinner devotions.

-Highlights from the Old Testament: Same as the above, except it takes you through the Old Testament.

May God bless you as you dive ever deeper into His word!
Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Weekend Links - wine, vaccines, and more!

Interesting reading from around the Web:

"We made a sommelier taste all the Trader Joe's Two-Buck Chuck":
Here's the thing, though: some of it's actually pretty damn good, and could easily be sold as Nine-to-Eleven-Buck Chuck without anyone being the wiser.
So we brought in two devoted tasters to blindly drink eight different types of Charles Shaw Blend, hit us with detailed notes, and determine 1) which bottles are totally palatable and even enjoyable, and 2) which should be avoided as if they were made by Chuck Woolery, who, it turns out, makes terrible wine.
"Growing Up Unvaccinated":
Pain, discomfort, the inability to breathe or to eat or to swallow, fever and nightmares, itching all over your body so much that you can’t stand lying on bed sheets, losing so much weight you can’t walk properly, diarrhea that leaves you lying prostrate on the bathroom floor, the unpaid time off work for parents (and if you’re self employed that means NO INCOME), the quarantine, missing school, missing parties, the worry, the sleepless nights, the sweat, the tears and the blood, the midnight visits to A and E, sitting in a doctor’s waiting room on your own because no one will sit near you because they’re rightfully scared of those spots all over your kid’s face.
Those of you who have avoided childhood illnesses without vaccines are lucky. You couldn’t do it without us pro-vaxxers. Once the vaccination rates begin dropping, the less herd immunity will be able to protect your children. The more people you convert to your anti-vax stance, the quicker that luck will run out.

"Celebrating Epiphany": I love Ann's ideas for month-long celebration! Very creative and family-friendly.

"The God of the Coming Year":
And Osteen’s books be damned, you may have the worst year of days you have ever seen.
"Resolve to Resolve":
In the place where hope meets grace, there is God. God is where resolutions become effective. God is where change happens. Grace is the answer to the naysayers, those voices both within and without who say that you cannot start afresh. Grace is the breath of fresh air in April when the resolutions of the new year and even the Lenten promises look like one big heap of failed attempts at perfection. Grace reminds us that His power is made perfect in our weakness and the true growth in holiness is in the soul’s earnest effort. Grace is sufficient. Sufficient? It’s abundant.
"Rainbow Rowell and the World with No Rules":
. . . YA novels should be written for teen readers, not adults who just want the teenagers in the books to hurry up and grow up. I’m not advocating for the teens in this book to grow up already and have their worldview and ethics all figured out. I just want them to have something, preferably Christianity, but something, to push against, to wrestle with, and possibly to grow into. 
"The Invisible Anglicanism of CS Lewis":
It is striking that as much as Lewis spoke about mere Christianity, when asked to speak about his own spiritual life he constantly returned to his roots in Anglicanism. Lewis might have written about a broad Christian orthodoxy, but the spiritual experience that enabled him to do so was much narrower. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

New Year's Resolution #6: Take Care of the House (and get out of the house!)

This one's totally boring, but it's foundational to a pleasant day-to-day life.

New Year’s Resolution #6: Take Care of the House:
1) Keep doing the budget, as we have been. Meet savings goals. We’ve been using the budget printables from Dave Ramsey’s website.

2) Keep up on to-do list. I have a housework to-do list that works well for me (I should blog about it sometime!), so I just want to keep up on it.

3) Continue my very slow (but successful!) decluttering project. This is another thing I want to blog about. But basically, I’m slowly decluttering our house, one room at a time, and it’s really making it easier to keep things picked up and neat. I want to keep going on this one.

4) Keep menu planning. It works!

What about you?
Talk about your domestic goals in the comments, or link to your post about your goals. I’ll add any links to the body of this post, so they’re easier for others to see and visit.

Bonus Resolution #7: Miscellaneous:
I resolve to be miscellaneous!

No, not really. This is just my catch-all for the extra stuff. 

And really, I only have one this year. I suppose this could fit under “loving my husband” or “loving my kids” or “loving myself”, because really, it’s a family goal.

So here it is:

1) I think that, once a month, I want to make sure our family goes OUT somewhere. Somewhere other than our regular haunts. There are so many cool places around Southern California that I want to take my kids to, but it’s not going to happen unless I plan it. I want to make a list with Adam, and just see if we can check off 10-12 of the this year. Here are a few, off the top of my head:

- The La Brea tar pits
-the Getty
-the Santa Barbara mission
-strawberry picking in San Juan Capistrano
-Balboa Park
-Apple Valley (apple-picking! Hot springs!)
-Amboy Crater (Mojave)
-the tide pools down in southern OC
-the waterfall hike in Malibu (I totally don't know the name of this; I've just heard about it from friends)
-Joshua Tree
-Mitchell Caverns (Mojave)
-Morro Bay (and San Luis Rey! And Montana de Oro!)
-and oh-so-many nifty trails in the mountains around Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Barbara, etc.

We do a good job making sure the kids get out of the city – Camping Is Our Hobby – but there are all these extra little day trips that I want to try. 

Frankly, I have no idea how this resolution will go, but I want to at least give it a good effort. It just sounds fun.