Tuesday, December 15, 2015

what do I buy them for Christmas? a list of ideas

I've been enjoying all the Christmas gift list ideas out there, so I decided to contribute one of my own!

But before I do, here's some other ones to take a look at:
-one from Alicia Brummeler, mostly books
-one full of "little kitchen luxuries"
-one from Liturgy of Life, full of fair-trade-friendly ideas
-one from Anne Kennedy, full of pretty things

Now here's mine - divided by subject. I hope it gives you some good ideas if you are -- as I am -- still finishing up (i.e., starting) your Christmas shopping!

Books for Kids:

-"There Is a Bird on Your Head!" - this one's perfectly lovely - but really, any Mo Willems will delight - especially any of the Elephant & Piggie books.
- Minecraft books: for the obsessed kid. ("The Quest for the Diamond Sword" was a big hit around here)
Zita the Spacegirl" - great little graphic novel. This one was enjoyed both by the readers and by the kids who still needed to be read to.
-"The Seven Silly Eaters" - I love reading this one aloud; the poetry is so good. And I love the pictures even more: the family pictured is so wonderful and believable.
- "The Rithmatist" - an exciting tale for the older reader.
- "Dauntless" - Christian YA. This one was a big hit with my eleven-year-old daughter this year.
- "365 Pies and Tarts" - putting this in with "books for children" because that same eleven-year-old will not let her copy out of her sight. If you've got a budding baker, she'll enjoy the challenging variety in a book like this.

Books for Grown-ups, Fiction:

- "Dear Mr. Knightley" - your basic, lovely, curl-up-and-get-lost-in-a-good-story book. For your mother? sister?
- "Landline" - an off-beat romance between (whodathunkit?) a husband and wife.
- "Sylvester" - a constant reread of mine. Amazing dialogue, settings, set-up - and oh! the characters! I just adore this book.
- "The Martian" - even people who don't like sci-fi liked this sci-fi. Fascinating survival tale.
- “The Thief" - YA, but so tricksy and twisty and satisfying it just isn't fair to leave it to the kids.
- "Beauty" - a classic fairy tale retelling that is also too-often relegated to the children-only section. 

Books for Grown-ups, Non-fiction:

- "Mudhouse Sabbath" - Jewish customs through a convert's eyes. An easy, enjoyable read, with some depth.
- "Universal Principles of Design" - for the loved one who is always building and making things 
- "Pocket Ref" - useful, cool, AND the perfect gift for that guy on your list who is just so hard to buy for.
- "Handyman-in-Your-Pocket" - Ditto.
- "The Forest for the Trees" - thoughtful and useful gift for the writer in your life.
- "Sibley Guide to Birds" - I'm sure you know which hobbyist on your list wants this, right?


- Sculpey - I am a huge fan of buying art supplies for Christmas, and Sculpey is hours of fun.
- Playdough - and this is for the kids who aren't quite ready for Sculpey.
- Melissa and Doug coloring pad - we've gone through several of these - they're great!
- new markers! - ask any kid: your very own set of brand-new markers is always a treat.
- scratch art kit - another fun art idea
-LEGO - of course. What home is complete without it? And so many choices!
- Razor scooter - I love mine, the kids love theirs, our family can go out on adventures together riding them - great product. (Don't forget a helmet!)


- "Christmas Star: Carols for the Christmas Season"- John Rutter and the Cambridge Singers, beautiful music for the season.
- "A Year with Frog and Toad" - this is a musical based on the beloved books (I know!) - very fun, and made the kids laugh.
- "Slugs, Bugs, and Lullabies" - this is the secret weapon I regularly employ to get the kids in a good mood on the way to school in the morning. "Tractor, Tractor" makes 'em laugh every time (you've got to get halfway through the song to start hearing the joke).
-"A Slugs and Bugs Christmas" - and this one might be even better.


- King of Tokyo - great for playing with the kids (fun for adults, too) - good if you want a gift for an entire family.
- Flashpoint - also good for kids
- Love Letter - "really fun" says my eleven-year-old.
-Hanabi - for the grown-up gamer

Hope this all helps as you check off your list!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through these links, I'll receive a small percentage of the purchase price - for my own shopping! :) (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Monday, December 14, 2015

Advent Project Devotional: "Law and Fire"

I'm honored to have a devotional up at The Advent Project today, writing about the Lord's first coming, and his second:

Judgment is a terrible prospect to us—and it should be, for we are desperately wicked—and yet, over and over again in scripture, we find the people of the Lord begging for judgment. Rise up, oh judge of the earth . . . The people of the Lord ache at the injustice in the world, and they know their Lord, the righteous Lord, is the only one who can set it right again.

Please head over to Biola University's CCA website to read the rest. The devotional over there includes, along with my words, a sonnet by Malcolm Guite, the scripture for the day, a beautiful painting by Julio Reyes, music by Paul Robert Wilbur, and the traditional O Antiphon prayer for the day.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

P.S. The fact that we're into the days of the O Antiphons means that Christmas is getting very close indeed!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Book Notes: "Shadows of Self", by Brandon Sanderson

"Shadows of Self", by Brandon Sanderson, continues the adventures of Lord Waxillium, begun in "Alloy of Law" (which I reviewed here).

The first book, "Alloy of Law", could be described as "old-fashioned (magical) Western lawman hits back at big-city crime".  It's largely focused on Our Hero, Lord Wax, the lawman-become-aristocrat. This sequel, on the other hand, is fun precisely because the sidekicks get a lot more play in the story - without the hero himself ever losing the determined purpose that keeps the plot ticking along.

My favorite character of this story was one of the sidekicks in particular: Wayne.  (And yes, Sanderson admitted that "Wax and Wayne" was meant as a pun.  In addition to that groaner, I invite you to look for the - TOTALLY JUSTIFIED BY THE PLOT - tinfoil hats worn by some of the townsfolk to protect their brains from interference. Sanderson really commits to his puns and jokes; it's great.)

Wayne, the sticky-fingered sidekick, has such a fun, sideways view of the world. He makes strange-yet-sensible observations all throughout the book. He's that guy whose comments always make you say, "What?!? . . . oh, um, yeah. I guess that's true." It was always fun to come across another scene about him.

All of the sidekick plots eventually take a back seat to the main story, which finds Lord Wax trying to discover who is causing all the riots and upheaval all over the city, and why. And the answer is one of Sanderson's signature surprises: he's so good at giving you that of course moment - the surprising-yet-inevitable conclusion that makes his books so satisfying at the end.

So, I'm not going to spoil that part. But I will recommend the book: it's an enjoyable read that doesn't disappoint. Looking forward to the next installment!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Friday, December 4, 2015

Movie Notes: "Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow"

"Edge of Tomorrow" is a sci-fi film good enough I recommended it to my father. (My father, you understand, is the person who introduced me to the genre in the first place, and fostered my love for it. I only recommend the good stuff to him.)

This movie is sort of like the invasion at Normandy in WWII, crossed with the movie "Groundhog Day", and featuring aliens and robotic armor.

Our hero, played by Tom Cruise, starts out as anything but heroic: he's a cowardly advertising exec who, when aliens invaded Earth, signed up with the Army before he could be drafted in order to secure a comfy post as a recruiter. Day in and day out, he convinces poor sots to join up and be shot at by the enemy he himself is terrified to face.

But one day, he angers the wrong general, and finds himself broken back to private, and dumped in the barracks of the soldiers who are about to be dumped on a European beach and ordered to make it past the enemy ranks.

He flails, he panics, he flails . . . and he dies.

And then wakes up back at the beginning of the same day, broken back to private and dumped in the same barracks.

It happens again, and again.

I don't want to go much further into detail, in fear of spoiling the fun, but rest assured that there's a real character arc for our hero: as he lives the same day again and again, he becomes a better man and then, more than that, he becomes a hero. And he's helped on that way by a woman who is already more of a hero than perhaps he can ever be: Emily Blunt's character, who is tough in a way that is - given her backstory - utterly believable.

I really enjoyed this one. It's an action movie, yes, but it also has so many funny moments, and lots of great character interactions. Not for kids, due to violence and some language, but I imagine I'd be comfortable watching it with older teenagers. Recommended.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains an Amazon affiliate link; if you purchase something from this link, I will receive a small percentage of the purchase price.  (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Advent as an Anglican: the things for which I am grateful

I believe that Advent is a fruitful season for any Christian.

But I've been thinking in particular this year of how I am grateful for it as an Anglican.

Anglicanism is (among other things) a product of the Reformation. And so our focus during Advent is, as it is in other seasons, on the Scripture.

And how do we find those Scriptures?  Through our lectionary. Through our daily readings. The collects are suffused with them. The hymns? You can't get away from the prophets and the gospel and the epistles when you sing the hymns.

I am glad to be in a season that reminds me always of the Lord's goodness. That reminds me how He once came, and made us new, and how He will come again and make all things new.

Thanks be to God.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Yarnalong: "Alpaca Baby Shawl" and "The Game of Kings"

I'm linking up with Ginny, over at Small Things, who says, "Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading . . . 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 "The Alpaca Baby Shawl", by Marie Grace Smith, in Knitpicks Imagination. The colorway is "Giant Peach".

This one is special, because it's for my only sister's first baby girl. Oh, I can't tell you how I'm looking forward to meeting this dear little one!  She's already got such a personality - she is SUCH a baby for dancing and kicking in her mother's belly. :D  I love her, and I love praying for her as I make this lacy baby blanket.

The reading:
I've started reading "The Game of Kings", by Dorothy Dunnett, encouraged by folks who compared her historical fiction to Patrick O'Brien's, whose work I've enjoyed in the past.

Much like O'Brien's work, this book gave me the feeling of having dived into cold water way over my head.  But (also like O'Brien's work), I haven't been able to put it down. Scotland, intrigue, and a silver-tongued anti-hero . . . I think I'm in this one till the end.

What have you been making and reading this week?

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains an Amazon affiliate link; if you purchase a book from this link, I receive a small percentage of the purchase price.  (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

"Not Alone: A Literary Companion for Those Confronted with Infertility and Miscarriage"

It sounds weird to say that I'm very excited about this book release precisely because this book is not a cheerful book.

It's not. It's about infertility and miscarriage, and it's not a cheerful book.

But I hope very much that it's a good one.

I didn't contribute a chapter to this book. Instead, I had the honor of editing it.

And it was indeed an honor. The people who share their stories here are generous, honest, and brave. They're generous with their lives, willing to share their own stories in order to help others. They're honest about what actually happened, and don't shy away from the parts of their experiences that are hard or ugly. And they're brave enough to be open about what it's actually like to lose a beloved child before birth, or to never be able to conceive that very-loved child in the first place.

It's these contributors who make me excited about this book release. Because they are amazing people and their work is worth reading.

The hope behind this book is that those who are in the middle of their own encounter with these hard things will find companions here. Those who can walk alongside, who can say, "I know" and really mean it, and who can sit and stay and weep with and understand.

These stories testify to the fact that both miscarriage and infertility can be lonely experiences. We hope this book makes them a little less so.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell