Monday, April 30, 2012

Mondays are for Grace

"A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry,
And see a fine picture everyday of his life,
In order that wordly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful
Which God has implanted in the human soul."

--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Friday, April 27, 2012

Strawberry Rhubarb Time of Year

Strawberry-rhubarb is definitely one of my favorite flavor combinations. My rhubarb patch on the side of my house grows stronger each year and I decided last week it was time to make something with it. This crumble (which I made gluten-free) was so easy and so delicious.


3 cups frozen strawberries (I just covered the bottom of my 9x13 with whole strawberries)
3-4 cups chopped rhubarb
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. instant tapioca granules (those not gluten free can use regular flour)
juice of 1 lemon

1 1/4 cups gluten free flour (I used 1 cup brown rice and 1/4 cup white rice)
8 Tbsp. butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar

Mix together the filling ingredients in a 9x13 baking dish. Combine the flour and sugar for the topping and cut in the butter, mixing with your fingers until crumbs form. Sprinkle over filling.

Bake at 350F for around 1 hour until the filling is bubbling visibly at the center of the dish.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Words and Wool

 The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy is the first in an endearing series that the kids and I have come to adore. It is a modern story, set in New England, but I feel it could have taken place in the 1940's if it weren't for computers and cell phones. These books are all about normal children having good, old-fashioned fun in the outdoors, with their siblings, and involving the neighbors. After reading this book we were hooked.

 The Penderwicks on Gardam Street continues the story of the Penderwick children with the adventures involved in helping their widowed father begin to date again. Once again the children and I were glued to the story (we've listened to all of these on audio tape).

 The Penderwicks at Point Mouette is currently the last in the series and perhaps my favorite so far -- surely because it takes place on the coast of Maine in the summertime. There is plenty of adventure and even a mystery solved at the end. I can't wait until the author writes another book!

As for the "wool" in this post, here is my latest finished knitting project: a vest for Laura.

I used Pickles' Plain Vest and some yarn I had in my stash. The bright colors work well on Laura. I can't wait to show you what I've knitted for her birthday!!! And I still have to sew a little apron for her. Only two more days to go!

I am participating in Ginny's Yarn Along over on her blog Small Things. Hop on over and check out all the other great reads and lovely knitting.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Mondays are for Grace

"Mondays are for grace. Be kind to yourself. What goes up (on the weekend) must come down (on Monday)." -- Sally Clarkson

I love these words by Sally Clarkson. Why is it that showing grace, especially to oneself, is so difficult? I think I need to read these words every single Monday. More accurately, I need to learn to live them daily.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Christina's Birthday

Tradition dictates that we celebrate Christina's birthday with a picnic at the Indianapolis Museum of Art gardens.

No one ever wants to change this tradition! We love it too much. Thursday we were blessed with beautiful, sunny weather.

The mock orange and lilacs were in full bloom.

John and Laura are learning to be buddy cousins.

And we all have fun taking pictures of them.

There were presents -- randomly all dressed in pink!

And a cake: gluten free champagne with lemon curd and whipped cream and lots of beautiful pineapple flowers and blackberries.

This provided the perfect opportunity for trying out my recent melamine teacup purchase.

Here is the happy, and beautiful, birthday girl!

It was delightful to have Alecia, Christina's sister-in-law join us too!

Grandma even got a bit of sketching with the children included.

I think we ate too much cake.....

One more April birthday ahead -- Laura turns 2 this coming Friday!

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Downton Abbey Reading List

I can't even remember how I first heard about Downton Abbey but since the first episode I have watched with delight as this amazing piece of historical fiction has unfolded. I've been captivated by the setting, the beautiful costumes and color palettes. I was not content to wait for the next season without knowing more. Thus began my forage into the world of life 100 years ago.

I've listed a beginning reading list for those interested in reading more about Downton Abbey and the time period. I know there is much more out there, one has only to look at bibliographies at the back of many of these books to know the learning could go on forever. Please leave a comment with any other books you have enjoyed related to this subject.

NOTE: Read these books at your own risk! I am not issuing a blanket endorsement of the contents of these books.

The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes is a gorgeous book with lots of photos from the Downton Abbey set and filming. If you want to read something, and not delve into the time period too deeply, this is a great book to choose.

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle
by The Countess of Carnarvon tells the real story of Highclere Castle, which is where Downton Abbey is filmed. It reads like a biography, with a number of pictures scattered throughout. Lady Almina brought her wealth into her marriage, just like Lady Grantham, and Almina turned Highclere into a hospital during WWI, just like in the movie. If you are interested in the true history of this historical fiction drama, you need to read this book.

I have not yet read The Real Life Downton Abbey: How Life Was Really Lived in Stately Homes a Century Ago by Jacky Hyams, but the book purports to tell what life was really like for servants during the Edwardian period. It's on my hold list at the library and I can't wait to peruse it!

I just started Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired "Upstairs, Downstairs" and "Downton Abbey"
by Margaret Powell who was in service in the 1920's and writes candidly about her experiences. The book begins slightly autobiographically with Powell's childhood and I have yet to reach her actual in-service memoirs but it appears she has many anecdotes to share.

Julian Fellowes is the mastermind behind Downton Abbey. It was his brainchild and he has written the screen play as well as produced the series. I was introduced to Fellowes for the first time while watching the adorable Scottish series Monarch of the Glen: Complete Collection. Fellowes plays the annoying, slightly daft, country gentleman who lives next door. It's been hard for me to trade that image of him in for the brilliant writer this man really is. I've gone on a Fellowes kick, reading and watching everything I can get my hands on. This man has a handle on the British aristocracy. He knows what he is writing about. I could not put down his book Snobs. This was a modern day Downton Abbey, set in the 1990's in London and the countryside.

Now that I have finished Snobs, I have jumped right into Fellowes second novel, Past Imperfect: A Novel. It promises to be just as good, focusing this time on the debutantes during the 1960's. I hope Fellowes doesn't let me down!

Every few days I read a week in the life of Diary Of A Provincial Lady (Provincial Lady Series)by E. M. Delafield. It is a quaint, 1930's version of Pioneer Woman. It's a glimpse into the middle class of the era.

When I first voiced my interest in finding more books from this time period my friend suggested the bibliography in the back of The Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just Before the Storm. This book tells the story of Britain in 1911, in all its glory and depravity. The bibliography is extensive and very helpful for finding more about this era. The book itself will give you an idea of the moral climate of the period.

Life Below Stairs by Alison Maloney gives another handling of the life of servants during this era. I am reading a book of the same title by Frank E. Huggett which covers Life Below Stairs during the Victorian times.

The American Heiress: A Novel by Daisy Goodwin is a novel telling the story of an American woman who travels to Britain and marries a titled man there. It's meant to tell the type of story that Lady Grantham had, which was not uncommon. I've really just started it and have no idea if I will end up reading all of it. We shall see how it goes.......

The Dressmaker: A Novel by Kate Alcott is historical fiction set on the Titanic. Downton Abbey opens with news of the sinking of the Titanic, so this epic event really begins the whole Downton Abbey story. I have not yet read this book but it comes with high praise from Tatiana de Rosnay who wrote the popular Sarah's Key.

I realized that one of my favorite authors was probably just beginning her career during the Downton Abbey era. Dorothy Emily Stevenson has written many books set in Britain during the 1930's - 1950's I would say. Her books are sweet little stories, what I would call "cup of tea reading". I have enjoyed every one that I have read. Her books are out of print but can still be found randomly online or in used bookstores. They are worth reading.

Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch is a modern book, about a modern Queen but it is not altogether removed from Downton Abbey. In fact, in the midst of this book, while reading about Lady Almina Carnarvon, I discovered that one of the Queen's most trusted horse trainers and friends happened to be the 6th (?) Early of Carnarvon and the Queen actually named one of her best horses "Highclere" after Highclere Castle where Downton was filmed. This book is lengthy, and follows the Queen blow by blow through her life and reign. I am enjoying it, and it is appropriate reading for the Queen's diamond jubilee.

Edwardian Life and Leisure by Ronald Pearsall is another book I have waiting on my shelf to give me another facet of what life was like 100 years ago.

The Golden Age of the Country House by Christopher Sykes is filled with photo after photo of life during the Edwardian times at the great Country Houses. One's imagination fills in the blanks and story after story can be made up from the pictures and accompanying notes.

The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden is a beautiful reproduction of a year's diary collection of sayings, nature notes, and personal events.

To Marry an English Lord by Gail MacColl and Carol Wallace is, apparently, a book that heavily inspired Julian Fellowes in the writing of Downton Abbey.

The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook: From Lady Mary's Crab Canapes to Mrs. Patmore's Christmas Pudding - More Than 150 Recipes from Upstairs and Downstairs by Emily Baines is the first cookbook I have seen dedicated to the series. I was disappointed in the complete lack of photos or illustrations and did feel as if this was hastily put together to benefit from the hype of the series. However, it would give one a start on finding period recipes and inspiration if you were going to host a Downton Abbey themed dinner or tea.

If you would like some ideas on traditional, simple, and festive foods for hosting a British tea party, hop on over to MagCloud and download a free PDF copy of my own recipe booklet London Summer.

An Edwardian Childhood by Jane Pettigrew gives one a good idea of life as the child of middle class to upper class parents. There is talk of nannies, daily routine, parents, school, diet, sickness, toys, and holidays.

Thinking along cultural lines, the Edwardian period and the years following are coming out of the Arts and Crafts Movement in the art world and beginning to move into the Modern Art era.

The composers of the time include: Ravel, Elgar, Mahler, Debussy, Strauss, Sibelius.

I wanted to find out what was happening in church history during this time period. A short synopsis can be found on Wikipedia: Early 20th Century Christian History on Wikipedia. Perhaps some of you are familiar with Amy Carmichael who was a British single woman called to serve in India. A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael is a moving story and one I read as a teenager. It may be time to read it again.

Gladys Aylward is another single woman missionary around this time.

One of the very best tv series we have watched in recent years has been Edwardian Farm on YouTube. I can't say enough about how much we enjoyed this. If you want to know what life was like for the working farmer, you will learn much, all in the context of beautiful countryside and lots of historical research. Our kids loved this series!

And if you watch Edwardian Farm you'll want to watch Victorian Farm too.

And, in case you need a few more books to add to your list, you might want to check out these other Downton Abbey booklists:

And that's all for now! Be sure to let me know what books you have been enjoying on this subject!

By the way, I am joining in with Ginny over at Small Things for her Yarn/Read Along. Check out all the other reading recommendations her readers are sending in (not Downton Abbey specific).

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