Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Top 10 Reads

I thought I'd end the year with a list of my top 10 reads from the past 12 months.

#1. Best Inspirational Read: Praying Backwards by Bryan Chapell

This was my all-time favorite book of the year. The basic premis of this book is that our prayers must be focused on God's will and the bigger picture of God's Kingdom and bringing our will into line with that. I was particularly encouraged by the material on suffering and how God uses difficult times to accomplish His will. Chapell is a very gifted writer, able to communicate deep theological truths in easy-to-read language that leaves you wanting to underline something in nearly every paragraph.

Runners Up: The Grand Weaver by Ravi Zacharias
Walking from East to West by Ravi Zacharias
Knocking on Heaven's Door by David Crump

#2. Best Historical Fiction: The Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir

Alison Weir is a highly respected historian and a very gifted writer. This is her first novel (she's written numerous non-fiction works), and it is terrific. The book tells the story of Lady Jane Grey who was queen of England for 9 days after the death of Henry VIII's son. Jane was a pawn in the hands of her greedy, power-hungry relatives. In the midst of it all, she grew to be a woman of outstanding character and piety. This is a sad book, but if you are familiar with the history, you already know that and can look beyond the sadness to enjoy this animated glimpse into history.

#3. Best Non-Fiction: A Shepherd's Watch by David Kennard

I was delighted to stumble upon this book, and it's sequel: The Dogs of Windcutter Down. The beautiful pictures, the candid stories of life as a shepherd in the English countryside, and the love of nature that flows through the pages make this book hard to put down. A Shepherd's Watch goes through a whole year in the life of a shepherd and gives vivid descriptions of what is involved in the day-to-day work on a farm.

#4. Best Adventure: The Spy Wore Red by Aline, Countess of Romanones

In this book, Aline tells the story of how she was recruited during World War II to work for what eventually became the CIA. She was sent to Spain where she entered the top society and worked in espionage to help win the war against the Nazis. The book is so fast-paced and interesting that one would think it was fiction, but it is a true-life story! There are two sequels: The Spy Went Dancing and The Spy Wore Silk

#5. Best Novel: Persuasion by Jane Austen

Jane Austen's writing is classic, and it is hard to compete. I know I can turn to her books when I want something good, entertaining, beautiful, and romantic. I'm dying to see the movie "Becoming Jane" which is supposed to be about Jane Austen's life. And, I hear one of the TV stations is about to air some new renditions of several of Austen's novels.

Runner Up: A Good Year by Peter Mayle

#6. Best "Home-Help" Book: Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss

By Home-Help I mean something in the category of helps for mothers/wives/parents/couples, etc. :) Stepping Heavenward is written as a fictional diary and traces the life of a young girl in the mid-1800's as she grows through her teenage years and then marriage and into middle age. Although written nearly 150 years ago, this book is filled with such practical wisdom on being a wife and mother -- I ended up underlining page after page.

Runner Up: Each for the Other by Bryan Chapell

#7. Best Biography: Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature by Linda Lear

After seeing "Miss Potter" I wanted to get the straight scoop on Beatrix Potter's life. This new biography on Potter gave me all the information I wanted. It traces Beatrix' life through childhood, the loss of her fiance and then her later years as a major landowner in the Lake Country. I had no idea how much of a farmer she became with significant property and large holdings of sheep. She worked very hard to help preserve the beauty of the English countryside and the fell farms.

Runner Up: Marie Antoinette by: Antonia Fraser

#8. Best Cookery Book: The Pantry: Its History and Modern Uses by Catherine Pond

This is not really a cookery book, but it is close to that category. The pantry is filled with beautiful photographs tracing the history of the American pantry from colonial to modern times. It also gives practical ideas on decorating and organizing your own pantry.

#9. Best Travel Book: A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

"The year began with lunch." This opening sentence couldn't have appealed to me more. I knew the book was going to be good. Mayle tells about one of his first years in Provence in a book that goes through each month in the year. His writing is light, humorous, entertaining, and filled with lots of delicious descriptions of food and countryside.

Runners Up: Toujours Provence by Peter Mayle

Mediterranean Summer by: David Shalleck

#10. Best Picture Book: French Country Hideaways by: Casey Blondes

I love beautiful picture books that are well-laid out and inspiring. This book is filled with 5-6 page vignettes of some of France's most delightful grand homes that are also Bed and Breakfasts. It is a delightful book!

Pictures thanks to

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Secrets Revealed

Now that Christmas is over, I can show you what the children and I were busy creating for presents! We decided to try and "make" as many presents as we could, rather than just buy them. Since I had more time on my hands than usual this year, it was feasible to try.

Several in the family needed new tea cozies. That happens to be one of my specialties. I decided to modify them a bit this time around and added some embroidery to the one for mom.

Here it is finished. I thought it looked like something from LL Bean. Many thanks to Jess for all her inspiration this fall.

Christina wanted a tea cozy out of a sweater she had knitted in the past. We were both pleased with the results.

Rachel has been admiring the American Girl Doll "Kirsten" so I tried to create a few outfits that would look the part:

Auntie C came to the rescue at the last minute and volunteered to knit a sweater to complete this outfit:
Andrew painted ornaments into which we fitted pictures of the children. He gave these out to each member of the extended family.

Rachel was very busy. She made sets of greeting cards for every lady in the family and embroidered handkerchiefs for the men. Here she is, hard at work:

My sister surprised Emily and I with beautiful purses she had knitted, felted, and decorated with knitted and felted flowers. We were very impressed!

And here is my own try at felted flowers (from felted wool sweaters). They were fun to make and I can't wait for the next opportunity to decorate something!

I really did enjoy getting the chance to do something with my hands. I hope in the coming year that I will continue on with more embroidery, a few more tea cozies, and perhaps a few other things I have not yet tried.

Friday, December 28, 2007

A Foodie's Christmas

Here are some foodie pictures from our Christmas week:
Grandma baked sugar cookies with Rachel. "Cookie-cutter cookies" as I usually call them, are a tradition. They were the only kind of cookies (other than shortbread) that we made growing up. This year my mom got the job and Rachel helped.

James enjoying a cup of Christmas tea
Another happy partaker of Christmas tea
Rachel and James were called in to help make the mince pies. James got the job of filling the pies with mincemeat.
Rachel rolled out the pastry and cut the pie shapes
The finished product -- delicious!
Our traditional Christmas morning bread
My sister made an incredible Christmas brunch of creamed eggs on toast with sausage and bacon, fruit salad and these delectable-looking pastries
Christmas tea-time treats
The mince pies make an appearance
Christina cooked a huge ham which was very tasty
Christmas dinner itself We never did get a picture of the desserts which included fruit cake, chocolate chestnut cake (gluten free), apple pie and cookies. We were actually too tired and too full to really eat dessert and so some just nibbled. Perhaps that's why no pictures were taken.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas in Color

We had a lovely Christmas as a family and extended family. Christmas seems ages ago now, a happy memory before the storm of the stomach flu hit not only our house, but the whole extended family!

We enjoyed breakfast here at home before heading to Christina and JK's for the day. The theme of the kids' presents this year was "dress up clothes". Here are the first outfits of the day:

Rachel received a bunch of new clothes for her doll. Here is Rachel in her Christmas finery -- she spent the rest of the day dressed up in new outfits.

A happy Daddy
James enjoys the Christmas bread
The boys got cowboy outfits to dress up in -- they LOVED them! Jamsie-Pie, looking very adorable as a cowboy
Grandma enjoys the present-opening
Our lovely hosts
My new bag, which I'm very excited about!
Rachel is thoroughly enjoying her new ballerina outift

Christina made us two beautiful meals. Here is a picture of the evening meal:

Grandpa enjoys reading to David
Grandma helps David with his new toys
Lovely decorations
The parents :)
Grandma and Auntie Em