Friday, June 27, 2014

A List of Lists of Links

So, I love posting lists of links on the weekends. But the truth is, there are a lot of people out there who do it better than me, and I am their unabashed fans*. Here are a few lists that I love:

-Like Mother, Like Daugther - this Catholic mom-and-girls site posts a list of links called "bits & pieces" every weekend. Lots of stuff on religion, parenting, and homemaking. - Challies is the best. He posts links every morning. His daily "A La Carte" entries are mostly on topics of Christian interest.

-Mere Comments - Touchstone magazine's blog posts their "Mere Links" one weekday mornings. These, like Challies' links, are on topics of Christian interest, but with a more ecumenical flavor.

-Everyday Theology - more Christianity-related links, posted most days.

- The Fug Girls - Now we get to the slightly silly. But this hilarious website (I love their coverage of the fashion of royalty) posts a list of (usually) fashion-related links every Friday.

-College Fashion - this fashion site hosts "haute links" just before the weekend, and I like their links mostly for the interesting DIY links.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

*okay, I am slightly abashed: but only by some of the items that sometimes show up on some of these lists. It should be noted that I like these websites' links posts, but I don't necessarily agree with the perspective of every site, or every link they link. I just think there's enough good reading there that they're worth looking at. Or, at least, fun to look at.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Recently-tried Recipes

I've found out recently, that I can get rid of a lot of the plodding feel of cooking dinner again (it's the again (and again, and again) part that gets difficult) by regularly throwing new recipes into the mix. Here are a few I've tried - and liked - recently.

"Almost Famous: Ikea's Swedish Meatballs": These were creamy and wonderful. Though I had to both make the meatballs and the sauce from scratch, it still didn't feel like a fussy meal. The meatballs came together easily, and the sauce was just a basic white sauce, with a few extra touches. And the results? Deeee-licious.

"Grilled Turkey, Apple, and Cheddar Sandwiches": After hearing the ingredients, our kids opted for regular ol' grilled cheese. Which is probably a good thing, because the mango chutney I bought for this recipe turned out to be pretty spicy (it had a lot of ginger in it).

I loved these. So did my husband. He said, "they're good. Despite the parsley".

And I said, "They're good. Despite the ginger."

So there you go: these sandwiches were good enough to overcome not one, but two mild dislikes on the part of the eaters. We're totally planning on making them again. They were excellent.

If you've tried any new recipes recently that were a hit with your families, I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, June 23, 2014

self-motivation for writers

A conversation I overheard myself having with . . . myself:

"Hey, if you write another 300 words, you can have some 10 jellybeans."

"What do you think I am? A five-year-old?"

"Hey, do you want the jellybeans or not?"

". . . Fine."


Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Weekend links!

Just a few this weekend, but I hope you enjoy them!

"10 Lessons from 10 Years of Public Schooling":
The third lesson is this: You do not send your children to public school—you send your family. What I mean is that public schooling requires the participation of the parents which, in our experience, is something the school values just as much as we do. 

This video is funny and informative:

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Book Notes: "Words of Radiance", by Brandon Sanderson

"Words of Radiance", the second book in the Stormlight Archive, by Brandon Sanderson, was great. It was even better than the first one (which I loved; see my review here).

In this book, a character I disliked in the first one becomes someone I truly sympathize with, , which is an impressive feat of writing.

What occasionally dragged in the first, just flies in the second.

The world is deeper and even better than in the beginning.

I really just loved it. What else can I say? I really just loved it. Well over a thousand pages, but it went much, much too quickly.

Write faster, Brandon!**

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

**I kid, I kid. (Well, as a fellow writer, I kid. As a reader? . . . um . . .)

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

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Yarnalong: "Say Goodbye to Survival Mode" and the "Everything Nice Hoodie"

Oooh, which do I start with first? The book or the knitting? They're both so lovely . . .

Okay, let's start with the book.

I've been a fan of Crystal Paine's site, Money-Saving Mom, for a long time now. I even had the privilege of guest-posting there once.

So, when she came out with a book with the inviting title of "Say Goodbye to Survival Mode", I had to pick it up. And you know what? It's good.

If you've ever heard the Internet meme "how do I adult?", well, this book is the answer to that question. This book is all about "how to adult".

It's the sort of book you want to pick up when life leaves you flailing, and unsure of what to do next. Probably most of us could predict what sort of tips are going to be in this book. That doesn't matter. What makes this book nice is that all of those orderly, comforting principles are all put in their orderly, comfortable place by a woman who's clearly learned them all through hard experience.

It's the sort of book that you want to read through when you're wondering, for the millionth time, "How do I do this again?"

I'm liking it.

Now, onto the knitting.

We're planning on going camping this summer. And last summer, I took up my first real, true, handknit sweater to the mountains with us. And it was wonderful. It was so warm.

But, it was a v-neck, and so it left my neck cold.

So, as summer's approaching again, I've found myself wanting a new sweater. Once that buttons all the way up to my chin.

And I found this beauty. It buttons all the way up! And it has a hood. And it has extra-long cuffs with a thumbhole in them, so that you can pull the cuffs down over your hands and they become fingerless gloves!

This pattern is so, so cool. I can't wait to finish it and try it on.

Other yarnalong posts can be found here, over at Ginny's place.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Monday, June 9, 2014

Book Notes: "Outliers", by Malcom Gladwell

All I really knew about this book was the "10,000 hours of practice" idea. It's a great observation, and I figured that since I'd read about it, and understood it, I didn't need to bother to read the book.

But when talking to my sister about how we both look at our separate careers, she said, "It's all about that stuff I learned in Outliers." She told me a lot of her success was due to practicing principles she'd learned about in this book. And when I told her my impression of the book that I hadn't read - that it was all about the 10,00 hours of practice thing - she said, "You should really read it. There's a lot more to it than that."

So I did. I did read Outliers.

More precisely, I gobbled up Outliers. It went as fast as a good suspense novel, it was so fascinating.

It talks about how our ideas about success are wrong.

Well, no. They're partly right. We think success is all about hard work, and that's true. As far as it goes.

The problem is, it doesn't go far enough.  Success does come to hard workers. If the opportunity comes to you at the time when you are poised to jump on it - poised to take that wave at the curl - then you'll have success. Having those "10,000 hours" under your belt will ensure you're ready to jump when the opportunity comes.

But the opportunity has to come.

The most fascinating part of Outliers is how the opportunity comes. And how we're set up for the opportunities.

My absolute favorite part of the book were the bits about our cultural programming. I don't want to recount it all here, because I'm afraid I won't do justice to it, but Gladwell does a great job of showing how our cultures both limit us and make us excel. I loved reading all his stories about different countries and how their traditions prepare people for different kinds of opportunities.

And I guess, in the end, that's what I really loved about this book: I loved the stories. This book is non-fiction, but the truth is, it was full of ripping good yarns. It gave me a lot to think about, sure, but it also just pulled me along because of the winsome nature of its narration. I truly enjoyed it.

Highly recommended.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Saturday, June 7, 2014

"Let Us Keep the Feast: Pentecost & Ordinary Time"

The Pentecost chapter is great, but I have to put in a good word for the second half of this book: Ann Dominguez did an amazing job writing about Ordinary Time. Her description of how to live for the Lord during the long, green season - our normal, everyday sort of days - just might be my favorite part of this whole book.

Weekend Links: Pentecost Crafts, the Schwa, and more!

Some good reading for your weekend:

"Pentecost Crafts, Songs, Activities, And More!": some fun ideas for celebrating this week's feast with kids.

"The Reason for the Divorce*": I can't spoil this one by quoting any of it. It would give it away. But, rest assured: this one is funny, not sad (and doesn't really have anything to do with divorce).

"The Schwa Is the Laziest Sound in All of Human Speech":
Some languages are syllable-timed, like Spanish, where each syllable is roughly the same length, giving the impression of a steady "machine-gun" rhythm. English is a stress-timed language, meaning that the rhythmic impression is based on the regular timing of stress peaks, not syllables. If you want to speed up in Spanish, you shorten the length of all the syllables. If you want to speed up in English, you close the distance between stressed syllables. How? By greatly reducing the unstressed syllables. What vowel do unstressed syllables tend to get? Schwa.
"The Biggest News at BEA?":
Just got back from a week in New York, seeing all the books and publishers and figuring out what direction the industry is moving. There was a great spirit at Book Expo this year — none of the angst and worry that has dogged the show the past few years. They tried something new this time at the Javits Center — opened up the floor to the public on Saturday, sold tickets at $20 a pop, publicized a ton of author signings, and watched 10,000 people buy their way into the show. (For the record, it was apparently all teen girls, looking to get their YA and romance novels signed, or to catch a glimpse of a celebrity like Cary Elwes signing copies of his latest tome.) But the biggest topic of conversation? The dispute between Amazon and Hachette. No question. 
"What if Your Child is Gay?":
Every child, whether gay or straight, is oriented toward sin, and so are you. If your child or grandchild says he or she is gay, you shouldn’t act shocked, as though you are surprised your child might be tempted toward sin . . .

Thursday, June 5, 2014

want to get ready for Advent and Christmas?

For some reason, right now Amazon is selling the Advent & Christmas paperback of "Let Us Keep the Feast" for a great price: $1.55!

So, if you wanted to grab yourself a copy, now's the time!

(And if you really, really want to plan ahead, you can snatch up some extra copies to give away as gifts. This little book, plus a batch of homemade cookies? Perfect little Christmas gift for a teacher or neighbor!)

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Easter Symbols

In the spring, pagan religions of Western Europe and the Middle East held fertility festivals to celebrate new life. Early Christians borrowed symbols from those festivals (eggs, bunnies, etc.) as a way to transform what were typically celebrations of base desire and show a greater life was possible. If fertility was worthy of feasting and partying, how much more so eternal life?  
-Lindsay Marshall, Let Us Keep the Feast: Holy Week and Easter
The Easter season is almost over, but our rejoicing in Christ's resurrection is eternal!  Thanks be to God!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Faithful to the Work

photo credit: Betsy Barber
I had the pleasure recently of meeting with a staff member of my university's alumni office. She and I talked together for about an hour, about what I'd done since graduation, and about the possibility of me interacting with some of the current students who hope to become writers.

It was a lot of fun, and I love the idea of being able to give back to the institution that I feel gave me so much.

But one of the most interesting questions she asked me was about how my writing and my devotional life fit together. Or, more to the point, how I kept my sense of self-worth centered in God's love, instead of in the success or failure of my writing work.

What was so interesting to me was that I actually had an answer. I didn't know I had an answer until I  heard it coming out of my mouth.

I said, "It's about being faithful to the work, not to the outcome."

And even as I type that, I think it must be something I heard somewhere else, from someone much wiser than I am.*

Because it feels so true, and so right.

You can't guarantee success. You can't decide that something is going to work. You can't will things into existence.

You have no "Fiat ME."

Only God can do that. Deus volt works.  ME volt doesn't.  (Yes, yes. Excuse my terrible fake Latin.)

But you can choose - in the moment, through God's grace - to say "yes" to the work. You can choose to say "yes" to his invitation to do with all your might what he has given you to do.

By his grace, you can choose to be faithful.

And that's plenty to hope for, right there.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

*And now, I'm thinking it's something I first heard from Mother Teresa. IIRC, she said, "We are not called to be successful. We are only called to be faithful."  See? I knew it wasn't me!  :)

Monday, June 2, 2014

"The Sticky Little Ball . . . and 9 more tips for successfully learning a language (almost) all on your own"

Hi folks! Today I'm delighted to have a guest post from a globe-trotting friend who's written a little book I thought y'all might be interested in. He wants to keep his identity for a surprise at the end, so I won't introduce him here, but instead just say: read on! This is good stuff. :)  -Jessica

When it comes to things you and your kids can do to sharpen your minds, open new worlds, pimp your resumes, make travel more fun, be hilarious when you least want to be, and meet a whole new set of friends, hardly anything beats learning another language.

However, let’s face it: for most people, learning another language isn’t the exhilarating adventure it’s cracked up to be. What most people learn from trying to learn another language is that they can’t learn another language, which isn’t exactly the objective. I hate that about language classes and courses.

“I can’t learn another language,” you say.

“How do you know?” I ask.

“Because I tried it and I couldn’t do it,” you say.

AAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHH,” I mutter at the top of my muttery voice.

The thing is, most language learning courses promise too much too soon, so when you fail to meet your heady expectations, you decide you can’t do it. Think diets that promise you’ll lose 10 pounds a week for a year until you are nothing but a shadow with a big smile. Or exercise equipment that promises you a bronze 6-pack in three weeks if only you will do this one little thing. Those are marketing lies, but they manage to create expectations that make you feel like an abject failure when you can’t meet them. I will resist yelling ‘aarrgghh’ again.

I’ve learned several languages fluently. I’ve taught other people to learn languages fluently. My wife Tammy learned to speak Spanish on her own so well that she became a nationally certified healthcare interpreter for the hospital where she worked, without ever taking a class. I’ve worked with many people who are learning other languages, and many who have taken my classes in English and Spanish.

The thing is, the spirit is willing but the tactics are weak. Most language learning happens outside a classroom, but no one thinks to tell you what kinds of things are most helpful when you have snatches of time to work on it during your day.

So I wrote a Kindle book just for you: “The Sticky LittleBall …and 9 more tips for how to learn a language (almost) all on your own.” It’s a short, easy read, but the tips I give you pack a punch and will escort you all the way from beginner to advanced.

Whether you want to learn a language or you want to inspire your kids to do it, The Sticky Little Ball is a resource you can revisit often. It walks you through motivation, planning, listening, reading, packing a sticky little ball, rewarding yourself, interacting and more. It shows you how hot fudge sundaes and temporary tattoos are an integral part of language learning. It offers you a way to see the Scriptures in a whole new light through bilingual Bible reading.

Most of all, I hope it inspires you to sally forth again, eager to discover new worlds one palabra at a time. Bon voyage, y vaya con Dios.

Ron Snell lives and works in Costa Rica, where he teaches English to Costa Ricans, teaches Spanish to gringos, and guides real estate clients to properties that are beautiful in any language. Currently one of his great blessings is that he’s Jessica Snell’s father-in-law. Didn’t see that one coming, did you?

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