Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. - II Timothy 2:15


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Monday, December 23, 2013

Chosen

I thought perhaps I wouldn't have time {or inspiration} this year for a pre-Christmas post, but now with both in hand, I'll give it a go and hope it gives you something to think about as you prepare for Christmas Eve.

I Choose You
When everyone around you sees an ordinary life
Fit for nothing more than common dreams
I can see the stars of Heaven shining in your eyes
Soon the world will hear the angels sing

Mary, I know it's hard to understand
You hold the light of the world in your hands

I choose you to bring the world a Savior
I choose you to bring the world a King
I choose you to be the arms of love that hold the answer
For the world to see my promises come true
I choose you

I know there are many questions weighing on your mind
What is becoming of your life?
Oh, just remember I have called you to leave your fears behind
To walk by faith and not by sight

Mary, I know it's all a mystery
My hand is leading if you'll only believe

I choose you to bring the world a Savior
I choose you to bring the world a King
I choose you to be the arms of love that hold the answer
For the world to see my promises come true
I choose you

And he shall be called Emmanuel
Wonderful, Prince of Peace

I choose you to bring the world a Savior
I choose you to bring the world a King

I choose you to be the arms of love that hold the answer
For the world to see my promises come true
I choose you

I choose, I choose you
For the world to see my promises come true
For the world to see my love come shining, I

I choose you...

Every year, this song is sung during the last Advent service at my church. Every year I love it, but only this year did I realize that the words are not reserved solely for Mary, or Mary's circumstances, or Mary's calling by God. 

In fact - aside from the physical acts of carrying the baby for nine months, giving birth and raising him when he was a child - what God asked of Mary is identical to what He asks of me, you, and every Christian on earth. In the words of the song, it was like a puzzle coming together in my head.

When everyone around you sees an ordinary life
Fit for nothing more than common dreams
I can see the stars of Heaven shining in your eyes
Soon the world will hear the angels sing.
Mary, I know it's hard to understand
You hold the light of the world in your hands.

I've often wondered the same thing: what can an ordinary, not exceptionally bold, constantly sinning human like me do for a God who created the universe and holds it spinning in His hand? It is hard to understand that we are called by God - not because we desired Him, but because He desired us - and He has given us the Light of the World. To hold in our hands for all to see.

I choose you to bring the world a Savior
I choose you to bring the world a King
I choose you to be the arms of love that hold the answer
For the world to see my promises come true
I choose you...

I know there are many questions weighing on your mind
What is becoming of your life?
Oh, just remember I have called you to leave your fears behind
To walk by faith and not by sight

Mary, I know it's all a mystery
My hand is leading if you'll only believe

The angel Gabriel came to Mary and said "Greetings, you who are highly favored; the Lord is with you!" 
Highly favored.
Those words are not solely for Mary either. She was chosen to carry the Son of God for nine months, to bear the scorn of those who refused to believe the truth, to give birth in the cold with only Joseph to help - a man with absolutely no experience in any of the areas she most needed. Yet we, as undeserving but perhaps not as humble or willing, are also chosen to bring the Savior to a confused and desperate world.
 
To bring a King to those who have lost control of their lives. 

To be the arms of His love, reaching out with the only answer that will heal and make whole. 

To prove that the words God has spoken will not return to Him empty.

And we're confused and questioning too. Why this? Why that? What is happening to the life I had under control, organized and planned out?

Why me?

Because we are not chosen to keep this great light to ourselves.We are chosen to believe in something so much bigger than ourselves. To believe it with such tenacity and abandon that we'll do the seemingly illogical and walk forward in faith, not seeing, but only believing, that He who began this good work in us will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  

And in those words is our greatest hope: that we have not been called in vain. That the God who chose us for reasons we don't understand will also use us in ways we cannot imagine. 

Merry Christmas! 

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

What It Means: Christmas Edition!

So despite the fact that I was apparently jealous of Rudolph's nose without being aware of it and my body taking matters into its own hands and contracting a cold to satisfy this envious need, I promised a post this week and a post you all shall have! {While I glug mint tea and force myself to wean off the Kleenex and eat spoonfuls of honey and cinnamon in an all out effort to shake this thing before the weekend hits...}

I am at war against these mutant germs.

But we can speak of cheerfuller things! {Like my shock that "cheerfuller" is not spellchecked by blogger, but "spellchecked" is??}

Ah well.

So with a snowstorm {our first real one of the year} hitting during church on Sunday and the news reports of 60, 40 and 15 car accidents on the freeways nearby forcing us to cancel our weekly Ultimate Frisbee get-together, the eleven of us were all at home for the day with a bare Christmas tree standing in the corner. After watching the Green Bay Packers win their first game in 5 weeks {!!} we hauled the Christmas decorations from the attic and set to work.

This all sounds quaint and joyful and Christmas-cardish, I know, but the very cozy and festive can quickly become arguments and chaos when 9 people of various ages {and stations on the proverbial totem pole} are involved. In this house, Christmas decorating means:

...complete dismantling and stowage of most everyday knick-knacks {whether we remembered owning them or not} to make way for the overload of Christmas knick-knacks...


....string after string of burnt out lights that no one wants to mess with and we forgot to replace at Home Depot's after-Christmas sale last year...

...ceremonial smashing {accidental, of course} of at least three ornaments. I think it may have been more this year, due to The Incident....

...ceremonial loss {unintentionally, of course} of at least two tempers...

...Christmas music playing in the background {in an attempt to be festive and traditional} that no one is listening to...

...segmented garland because Thing 5 and Thing 6 decided to play tug-of-war with it...

...3/4's of the ornaments placed on the front of the tree...

...honorary arrangement of our traditional clay and pewter creches...


<----- {including a charming tour of our collection of Royal Diaries and Heroes of the Faith books...}






...tinsel draped over lampshades and wrapped around several Things pretending to be the Ghost of Christmas Present {Ebeneeeezer Scroooogeee...Come in and know me better, man!}...

...trauma over the fact that we're using LED bulbs on the tree this year {partly due to missing the after Christmas sale last year}...

...snowman ornaments dangling over the table in an attempt to disguise the fact that we have one of the ugliest light fixtures designed by man...


 ...numerous jokes and laughter at the expense of the contents of the ornament tins as we remember old favorites and reevaluate the chucky-chuckies {our pet name for the ornaments that nobody knows why we still have but manage to get packed away after Christmas each year} before hanging them on the tree...

An old family favorite. Who doesn't want a
biological impossibility hanging on their
Christmas tree??
Chucky-Chucky.
Aside from that, we're not sure what it's supposed to be...
...Things 6-9 feeling free to jump on the furniture because no one really cares at this point what they're doing so long as it's not breaking more ornaments or falling into the tree...

...nearly packing away the ceramic handbell Mom painted in grade school...

{I don't think I'm allowed to post pictures of that}

...Rudolph, Randy and Rhonda gracing the top of the bookshelf once again...


...the empty stable on top of the rolltop desk...

Radewahn family tradition: each piece of the
nativity is hidden by Dad {generally in places
they'll be discovered if we do our chores}
and as Christmas approaches, the stable fills with
magi, shepherds, animals, and, of course,
Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus. We came
very close one year to celebrating Christmas
with an empty manger when Jesus went missing
for longer than expected.
...leaving it all lit and behind as we exit as one to the basement... 

The tree in all its controversially LED'd, ornamented and garlanded glory
And that is my post for the week! Take it with my sincere hopes that this post has made you feel warm and fuzzy and smug about your own traditional, peaceful and orderly decorating experiences. 

Until next time!
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Friday, December 6, 2013

St. Nick's Fuzzy Socks

Hello! If you didn't know {or care} that today is officially St. Nicholas day, I am the charming elf who either did or did not inform you of this news {depending on how you feel about this sort of unnecessary holiday}.

Normally {as in never, ever, ever} I have not celebrated St. Nick's day or honestly cared that it's come and gone each year {we still get mail, so I'm not complaining}.

But when St. Nick's day means red, sparkly {sparkly, people!!} fuzzy socks, then I am definitely all in.

   {Photography: Elizabeth Radewahn. The model is wearing socks by airplus.}

This particular pair was given to me by one of the secretaries at my office and they are super snuggly and infused with aloe and vitamin E {yeah, not sure what that's doing, but hey, the more the merrier!}.

I don't know who the genius was who decided to start infusing socks with vitamins and minerals, but since we seem to be handing it out to just anyone these days, I would say they deserve the Nobel Prize. And a great big thank you from fuzzy sock wearers everywhere.

Happy St. Nicks!

Ciao Bella! 
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P.S. The fun doesn't stop here! Look below: another new post! 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

NaNo Spoilers!

Well, I got 15,000 words. I'd throw confetti, but it's been more than a week since I actually finished and I'd have to vacuum it up, so I'll just have a little celebration here to share with you:

Yeehaw!

There. We can finally move on with our lives. You can finish reading this post, I can plan my next one, and we can pick up where we left off as if I haven't missed a whole entire month of posting {please?}.

So...

I always feel awkward sharing excerpts of my NaNo success because I feel that, out of context, what I'd share would be horribly out of context.

And I don't know why my computer keeps freezing up mid-sentence, but it's really weird to type away madly and then have all the words tumble out onto the page a few seconds later.

What were we talking about?

My tea is gone.

:{

Without further ado, and despite the fact that you will have to take the following with a shaker of salt, here are a few samples of my NaNo endeavors to prove that I did not take a month off of posting because I was completely lacking in inspiration, circumstances and topics to gab about.

On to my title-less novel!

To my chagrin, the Morrells were not waiting for me, which meant that after he had instructed the driver in the proper transferal of my trunks from the carriage to the depot, Edwin found a seat for me near the office and proceeded to keep me company as we waited. I promptly annoyed him by fretting that they would miss the train.
“They’re Americans, Jocelyn,” he reminded me impatiently. “Did you expect them to be prompt?”
I tightened my hold on my handbag. “That’s an awfully rude thing to say about your own cousins,” I observed, craning my neck to look down the road.
“Only in the eyes of the law,” Edwin said darkly. “Thankfully we’re spared the social connections out of pity for our unfortunate association.”
I rolled my eyes. Edwin, who had been pacing two steps in one direction and two steps back, turned suddenly on his heel and commandeered my attention. “There’s still time to change your mind, Jocelyn,” he said. “Do give this mad plan another thought before you rush headlong into it.”

“I’m quite decided, thank you,” I returned, primly. “Would you mind standing to the side? You’re obstructing my view of the road.” 



The bell above the door of Mr. Pembrook’s offices jangled its announcement of our arrival as Nathanael, Sallie and I fit ourselves into the small waiting space. It rang again as Nathanael realized that the short train of Sallie’s skirt had not quite made a complete entrance with her and applied himself to the rescue with matter-of-fact good breeding.
Mr. Pembrook, looking much older than when I had last laid eyes on him, came out to greet us.
“Lady Jocelyn,” he said, shaking his head with a smile as he recognized me. “My, what a lovely young woman has grown out of the girl who used to come with her grandfather to eat my peppermints.”
I laughed, remembering how he’d always had a paper sack of the candies for me on those long visits.
“Mr. Pembrook, it’s so lovely to see you again.” I held out my hand and he shook it warmly.
  “And who have you brought with you today?” he asked, looking beyond me to Sallie and Nathanael.
I introduced my friends and he invited us into his office. We ranged around his desk and I told him our business.
“A copy of your grandfather’s will?” he repeated, mildly surprised.
“Yes, I–” I caught myself, realizing that I hadn’t thought of an excuse as to under what circumstances I would need such a thing. “I would like to look into some legal matters.”
If that wouldn’t raise his suspicion I didn’t know what would. Now that I thought of it, there wasn’t a very logical reason why I would ever need to look at the will.



I gave up trying to suppress my feelings and turned to look out the window as the London I knew faded and slowly turned into a nondescript and tumbledown imitation of architecture. I stared at the wreck and ruin, wondering how human beings could be allowed to live in such quarters, and tried to imagine my brother growing up on these streets. Surely he wasn’t like the ragged little urchins who turned to watch us go by, wiping their running noses on dirty sleeves or the huddled figures hunched against the smoke-blackened walls of a burned out tenement. I realized now what Nathanael had meant when he told me not to get my hopes too high. If this was where Will was raised, he would probably view me as an insult to–
Outside, the driver gave a sudden shout and the carriage swerved to the right, spilling us all to the side. I caught at the bar and righted myself in time to see a ragtag boy leap nimbly out of the horses’ path, laughing in a devil-may-care fashion and tossing his head to whip the shaggy, matted hair out of his eyes.
I turned to Nathanael, wide-eyed. “Is that some sort of game?” I asked. “He did it on purpose!”
Nathanael scanned the roadway and shrugged. “It might be best not to look out the window,” he said, reaching over and drawing the shade. “They don’t take well to strangers – especially our kind of strangers.”
I settled back in the muted darkness and contented myself in counting the dips and bumps in the road as we moved closer and closer to the river. I didn’t have a very keen sense of geography, but not even the seals on the doors could shut out the smell of rotting fish and refuse that lapped against the banks of the Thames. I was contemplating whether or not I had put enough scent on my handkerchief for this undertaking when we came to an abrupt halt and rocked back against an especially large rut. For a brief moment, I thought we had hit one of the daredevils cavorting in our path, but Nathanael nodded and reached for the door latch.
“Here we are,” he announced, getting out and looking around him. “Josie,” he pitched his voice lower, “stay close to me.”


The door was opened by a grim looking woman in an old-fashioned calling cap. The severity of her expression was not in keeping with the sunbeam ruffles that framed her face and the whole effect came off rather like a corpse at a wedding.
“May I help you?” Her tone did not signify that she would in any way be gratified to offer us assistance, but rather a resigned acceptance of the fact that we would not be gotten rid of unless she did.
“Yes, thank you.” Paul, who had accompanied us in the stead of Mr. Morrell – Nathanael believing that he would be more help after witnessing his father’s display of his brand of assistance – spoke first. “We would like to see the manager of this establishment, if you would be so kind as to announce us.”
“He’s in his office,” the crypt spoke, as if we ought to have known and should be ashamed of ourselves for needing to ask.
Paul smiled smoothly – the sort he wore when he was about to deliver the final blow to his opponent’s case. “Then would you be so kind as to show us the way?”
Her mouth turned down dourly.
“Might I ask the nature of your business? Mr. Larrimore hasn’t the time for social calls.”
I caught Nathanael’s eye and saw his conspiratorial smile.
“This isn’t,” Paul responded. “And if you wouldn’t mind, I believe our business will keep until we see him.”
I didn’t think it possible for her mouth to tighten any further, but she defied my disbelief and managed it without any apparent discomfort.
“Come this way.”
She turned and Nathanael caught the door before it closed in our faces. My hopes that Bethnal Green was run in keeping with the admonishment on the plaque beneath its name did not enter the building with me as I followed Paul inside.
Once inside, I realized that perhaps the woman had not come by her dourness naturally. As I took in the sagging floors and peeling walls and discolored ceilings I could see how a certain stiffening of the soul might be expected. It was cold too. The sharpness of the air bit into my skin, cutting through the layers with ease.
“Charming, isn’t it?” Nathanael whispered in my ear as he caught up.
“I don’t see how he could become too attached,” I whispered back. “The garden shed at Gilchrest seems more welcoming.”
“And your aunt and cousins better company,” he grinned, nodding surreptitiously at the ramrod back of our guide.
Paul turned his head and gave us a reproving look, but his eyes didn’t scold. I was afraid if I didn’t joke and tease I would burst apart with suppressed anxiety. 

I promise that this is all my original work and, even though you can't copy it, you enjoyed it. :D

And now I must take my leave until next week. I promise I will post again next week.

Tood-a-loo!

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Is it...Is it a SIGHTING?

Hello blog friends!

Woah, what a week it has been. Actually, I take that back. It's been a pretty bumpy ride since November 1st. Not that any of you can tell by the absence of the Nano ticker on the sideboard of my blog due to the absence of any activity whatsoever on this blog (for which I do truly apologize) that I am not - I repeat - AM NOT participating this year.

Twas a sad, sad day on October 31st (judge if you want - I will freely admit that I just looked at the calendar to make sure October and not November has 31 days...). I hadn't even noticed the date and was absolutely intending to go through November in a halfway normal fashion this year (as opposed to last year in which I holed myself up like a hermit and wore out my brain, fingers, keyboard and anything else I once had that might help. Oh, and sanity. Yeah, probably that too... Still haven't found it all either, for that matter.). I didn't have an inspiration or (like last year) even a first line that was promising enough to build on and brought along enough adrenaline and excitement to set up housekeeping.

And then out of the clear blue, the first line came and I panicked.

I looked at the calendar and something inside me screamed "TOMORROW IS NOVEMBER FIRST!! WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO??"

"Umm...I'm not really sure," I replied. Last year I prepared for Nano weeks in advance. I had chocolate, tea, character outlines, plot points...I had signed up and familiarized myself with the website. I had alerted my family of my soon-to-be-reclusive lifestyle. I was pumped and nervous. I was Suzy-on-top-of-it. Could I dive in like this: fifteen hour's notice, nothing prepared, no one notified, armed with only a first line and a hazy idea of where to go?

For a wild, delirious half hour, I thought I could.

I sought wisdom - accidentally texting my cynical older brother instead of my Nano-veteran friend - and got mixed replies.

Yes! Nano is all about crazy and stupid!  Go for it! 

Do you want to enjoy November?? You can't put your life on hold like that again! 

Perhaps I should have given that response more thought before I sent it...

Don't listen to the devil on your shoulder! 

With a sigh, I gave up my Nano dream.

Thankfully, after several hours of brainstorming, I found that my "inspiration" for the year fit very nicely into one of the novels I hope to finish sometime in the near millennium.

So yes, I bitter-sweetly see the Facebook posts of wordcounts and Nano obsessions, but I wish all of you the best of luck and bountiful words as you pursue the number 50,000.

I will be chasing 15,000 on a novel I'm supposed to be finishing and trying to avoid the ever-mounting premonition that I'm destroying it by inches.
 
May all the forces that produce literature (whether good, bad or mediocre) be with you.

Till next time!

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Box Tops for Education and Other Guilt Trips

Is there anything in the world more deserving of mixed emotions than Box Tops for Education?

I know it's a great program (not firsthand since they don't give money to homeschoolers) and I'm sure lots of good schools have benefited from the 10 cent contribution they get for each pink and blue rectangle sent in, but I get a sinking feeling every time I pick up a box (or bag or can) and see it staring me in the face.

My inner gripe immediately throws a fit: "What have you done?? Don't you know you have to cut that out??"

 It screams because it knows I will.

I have to.

Heaven forbid that a school be deprived of 10 worthy cents because I'm too lazy to walk across the kitchen for the scissors.

And of course I must use scissors.

Those infernal things must be carefully snipped along the dotted line because if I try any other means of detaching them from their packaging they rip down the middle and not only do I have to go for the scissors anyway, I must get the tape as well.

And they're unavoidable. Box Tops for Education is taking over the grocery industry like blowing up New York has taken over the movie industry. They're on everything. Tissue boxes, biscuit cans, Chex mix, soup. I remember watching my mom cut those labels off a Campbell's tomato soup can with a knife.

The biscuit cans were a brilliant idea. Not only are they cylindrical (making it impossible to get a pair of scissors inside) they're made out of thick, foil-lined cardboard that cuts like plate glass.

And the tissue boxes? So convenient for everyone who has a scissors sitting around in the...umm...bathroom. Yeah...Because that's where I keep mine. And nail scissors don't count. They aren't strong enough to go through cardboard.

All this for the satisfaction and pride of pitching it on the pile in the desk drawer and forgetting to take it anywhere to do anyone any good.

Yet I still feel a twinge of guilt when I chuck one into the trash.

Why do I do this to myself??

It's the same feeling I get when I return a cd without listening to the entire thing even though I didn't care for it in the first place.

When I force myself to finish a book I'm not enjoying just because I'll feel like a quitter if I don't.

 When I pour out bottled water because it's so much more nutritious than what comes from the tap.

When I use a tissue for only one blow.

When I print off a sheaf of papers in error and don't shove them in the scrap drawer.

When I throw away a piece of candy instead of forcing myself to finish it.

When I discard the slivers of soap in the shower that might have sudsed one more washcloth.

There are things in life, I think, that one must learn to let go.

But then there's this...

What persuasive argumentation...

*sigh*

I'll go get my scissors.

Till next time!

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Friday, October 11, 2013

12 Cups of Tea


I am so excited!! After sighing over The Republic of Tea's overwhelming assortment of divine teas for way too long, I found the sampler page and went to town. This is so fun! You can choose either the 12 bag assortment (6.95) or the 24 bag assortment (13.90). There are other sampler options, but these two are the most affordable options for budgeted tea-junkies like me. =D

I chose the 12 bag box and dove in. I was initially disappointed because you can't choose from EVERY flavor they have, but once I scrolled through the sampler selections a few times, I had no difficulty filling my box!

Here are my selections (and yes, I am going to fill you in on my personal commentary. Beware!)

#1 - Earl Greyer
I have no idea what makes this Earl Grey greyer than your traditional grey, but that is not for me to question. All I know is that I LOVE Earl Grey tea. It's my morning tea because it's caffeinated and wakes me up. I usually brew it overnight until the oils come to the top (not because I prefer the oils but because I'm usually in bed by the time it's done brewing) and then stir in milk and honey. I've tried a lot of Earl Greys (my favorite being Ahmad's loose leaf brand, but Twinings is delicious too) and am really excited to see how the Earl Greyer compares.

#2 - Hibiscus with Coconut
This is the first of the 3 Hibiscus sisters. I've never had coconut in my tea, so this should be interesting.

#3 - Hibiscus with Pineapple/Lychee
 This is a lychee:
I have no idea what it tastes like by itself, or if you're supposed to eat the middle thing, the white stuff (the pink stuff looks inedible) or all of it, but it looks really cool. The pineapple is what really caught my interest, though. Pineapple Hibiscus tea...with bonus lychees!

#4 - Hibiscus with Key Lime
I am in the hopes that this will really, really taste like lime.

#5 - Blackberry Sage
This was the bag I was most excited about. Sage seems so...dusty. I'm curious to see how they make it taste good with blackberries in tea!

#6 - British Breakfast
I'm a black-tea junkie but I haven't yet found a good English tea that I love (except for the kind I had at a ladies tea years and years ago and didn't get the brand - one of my greatest regrets). We shall see what The Republic of Tea can do. It's tea time, chaps!

#7 - Twenty Herbs
20, huh? Let's take a gander at the ingredients: Rooibos (not sure what that is, but I've seen it in a lot of teas), allspice leaves (I know allspice - generic name, isn't it?), cinnamon (check), black limon (I'm thinking that's not a typo for "lemon"...), peppermint (hmm...hope it doesn't overpower everything else), wintergreen (this might taste like gum!), birchbark (what kind of flavor will that add??), hibiscus (ooh, red!), lemon balm (why add the balm?), allspice berries (ok, we've got leaves and berries. Isn't that sort of cheating?), chamomile (hopefully the other 19 herbs will overpower it), carob (wait, chocolate?), vanilla extract (good, good), lemon grass (lemon grows grass? Who knew!?), anise seeds (oh great. Licorice. They have to sneak that into everything.), sweet blackberry leaves (as opposed to sour blackberry leaves?), chicory (I've heard of that but am not sure what it tastes like), rose petals (haha, good luck tasting those), eleuthero (sounds like a Greek god), linden flowers (Der Lindenbaum: a famous poem by Wilhelm Muller. Here is an English translation.) 
This is going to be one very interesting cup of tea. I can tell already.

#8 - Coconut Cocoa
The Republic of Tea's chocolate mate tea is one of my favorites. I'm assuming this is the same thing but with coconut. What can be better??

#9 - Strawberry Chocolate
Another flavor I'm dying to try. I see they've snuck Rooibos into this too. I'm thinking I ought to educate myself. Since you're already here, you might as well be educated too. From Wikipeidia: Rooibos is a broom-like member of the legume family of plants growing in South Africa's fynbos... And then again, they do say that ignorance is bliss...

#10 - Cranberry Blood Orange
I have high hopes for this one. I don't know why, but I do. 

#11 - Honey Ginseng
I am not sure how they get honey into tea before you put it in yourself, but I'll be cautious when opening this overwrap...

#12 - Ginger Peach Green
I've had the black version - in large quantities :-/ - so I'm curious to see if the green tastes any different. Maybe it'll be better!

Well, now that I have actually photographed all of these for you and cropped them and edited them and found them all in my hard drive...

I can finally drink one!!!

Till next time!
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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Ten Minutes A Day?


Ten minutes a DAY??

This is my reaction to my flute teacher on Wednesday. Apparently not picking up my flute at all between lessons is not the way to fame, fortune and glory - or getting a certain selection ready to play in church sometime in late 2017.

I stare at her and laugh but she doesn't back down.

Ten minutes a day, she says. That's it. That's all I ask.

Sure it is... I hasten to point out my problems with this new plan.

I'm too busy to pick up my flute every single day of the week. I don't know if she realizes this or not. She does (why does she have to??) - and shares personal stories. Ok...not all of us can be Superwoman. Besides, playing flute is her life. Career. Passion. Main source of income. I have clearly proven to be of a different mindset and lifestyle. My life is not a commitment to blow through a silver pipe with holes in it.

Obviously.

I offer to promise to practice three days a week - for more than ten minutes. She doesn't take me up on it. Consistency, not sporadic expenditure of time (just my luck), is evidently the key to successful playing.

She says she hates cleaning but forces herself to do ten minutes every day no matter how she feels. She says to set a small goal for each day and then feel free when your time is up to either walk away feeling satisfied or to challenge yourself to go one better.

Grudgingly, I promise to give it a shot. I already know what this is going to turn into.

Yesterday I pulled my flute out and then remembered three other things I had to do. Immediately. I left it on the table and took care of all three - accompanied by several well-timed rabbit trails - before finally putting the thing together and blowing into it.

I think I practiced for half an hour.   

Ten minutes?

My teacher is SO getting the better end of this deal...

I'm going to go kill my metronome.

Til next time!

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Friday, September 20, 2013

Period Drama Review: Berkeley Square

Just so you know, this is your lucky day! (That is, if you love period dramas and are looking for something new and if you have not already seen the one I am about to review. Hmm, that's a lot of provisos...) With all the writing I've been so faithfully doing, I've also been working for you. Previewing period dramas. Extensively. Relentlessly. Tirelessly.

This is a sacrifice, you know.


I stumbled upon Berkeley Square between watching Cranford and Return to Cranford. I approached warily, of course, because it had not been recommended by anyone and I had no idea what it might contain. There are only 10 episodes, which is a great disappointment. BBC decided not to continue the series so the end result is a lot of loose ends and a definite lead-on to another season.

Alas and alack, that is where one's imagination must kick in!

Here is my blow-by-blow dissertation on the subject. I'll try to be as concise as possible.

The general plot is set in England in 1902 and follows the lives of three young women: Mattie Wickham, Hannah Randall and Lydia Weston.

Mattie is a girl from the East End who has fought her way to a good position as a nanny in the ritzy Berkeley Square neighborhood. She's very straight-laced, sensible and no-nonsense, but opens cautiously to the idea of romance.

Hannah Randall is a ruined girl - having had a baby with the son of her former employer. Her story is the most interesting due to the fact that a baby with no father back then pretty much destroyed your chance at making a life anywhere your reputation could touch you. Many of the plot twists revolve around her because of this.

Lydia Weston is a farm girl, hired to assist the aging nanny in one of the most affluent homes in Berkeley Square. She's very naive, but good-hearted and eager to learn. This often leads her to romantic trouble, as she has no experience with men and starting out with London men is never a good idea.

The homes these three girls are hired into are as interesting as the girls themselves - each one displaying a different sort of dysfunction.

Mattie works for the St. Johns - not members of the titled class. Mr. St. John is a kind and loving man (heartachingly so) whose wife does not love him. She is discontent and often seen in the company of a certain Captain Mason. Mattie cares for the three children, Thomas, Harriet and baby Imogen. Harriet immediately adores her and Imogen is pretty much a prop to be wheeled about in the pram. Thomas, however, is a tougher nut to crack and has incredibly inconsistent loyalties.

Hannah - after several desperate scrambles - is hired by the Hutchinsons, who soon travel overseas, leaving their two children - Bertie and Charlie - in the overstrict and often unscrupulous charge of the head Nanny Simmons (with whom Hannah has severe personality and disciplinary clashes), and pretty much fade out of the series. However, to take the job, Hannah is forced to leave her baby in the care of a woman she briefly lodges with in East London.

Lydia's home is probably the most interesting of the series. Lord Lamson-Scribener lost his first wife (with whom he had a son, Hugh) and has now married an American woman, with whom he as another son, Ivo. (I kid you not, the baby's name is Ivo. And the way Lydia says it is really quite funny.) Constance, the American wife, is typically outspoken and opinionated but she has a good heart and is incredibly sensible and sensitive when it comes to the affairs of her family. Lord George is very funny and kind-hearted.

The plot covers many interesting twists such as Hannah's efforts to hide her child; Mattie's encounters with the new footman, Ned Jones; Lydia's tastes of the city and the pleasant and unpleasant things it has to offer; the raising of children in the early 1900s; society shifts; the drastic differences between the gentry and the servants; the hierarchies of the staff in the home; the outbreaks of disease in the fester of the East End; baby farming (that was interesting); the repercussions of unwed pregnancies in that age and so forth.

The costumes and sets were excellent and the attention to detail was very evident. I thought it was incredibly well done except that some of the child actors were a little stiff. The upside to that is that there are three incredibly adorable babies. =D

On the whole, I found Berkeley Square to be entirely absorbing and surprisingly clean. Below is a detailed list of everything I recall that might cause consternation to the viewer.

In the whole 10 episodes there is only a handful of profanity. The 'a' word is used perhaps twice. The 'd' word is trotted out once or twice as well. Two different women are referred to with an unsavory term by the same man. There are perhaps one or two more, but the script tends to shy away from them in general.

There are three bedroom scenes - two between unmarried couples. They are handled very delicately, everyone is covered or clothed and nothing is shown. They are brief and the only thing that happens is conversation.

Hugh Lamson-Scribener attempts to kiss Lydia after barging, uninvited, into the nursery. She rejects his attention decisively and no one condones his behavior. It causes appropriate outrage and Hugh suffers the consequences of his actions.

Two men are briefly seen shirtless during a fistfight.  

Captain Mason is a shameless flirt and womanizer. Much like Mr. Wickham in Pride & Prejudice.

Despite these things, I would highly recommend this series. It's suspenseful, interesting, only a little cliche, as clean as most period dramas, historical, not sickeningly romantic (on the most part), and pretty down-to-earth.

Besides, I would hate to see all my hard work and research go to waste. =D

And, as a bonus, every single episode can be viewed FOR FREE on Youtube. I'll link the first part of the first episode here.

Happy watching!

Till next time,
Libs


(P.S. Maribeth and Lisa DO NOT watch this together. I am bringing it with me next time I come.)

Monday, September 9, 2013

19th Century Remedies for 19th Century Headaches

Getting bit by the writing bug after 3+ months of lackadaisical pretending is a lot harder than it sounds.

I'm having issues with one-dimensional characters who give me the silent treatment because they're a. not the only hero in the book or b. tired of crying all the time. I am to be reminded often and sternly that my heroine does actually have some dignity that I haven't given her myself. (Well, if I didn't give it to her then where did she get it?)

*sigh*

It seemed, as Mr. Bennett says, "a hopeless business" until several things came to my rescue in the nick of time.

Here are my new and improved {and completely indispensable} writing buddies PLUS a sneak peek at the headquarters of my writing life. =)

#1 - Tea Tray
Vastly superior to the single cup, the tea tray eliminates the need to break up inspiration {if such inspiration exists}
 by running upstairs for numerous and time-consuming refills. Plus, it's very cozy and convenient to have such a large quantity nearby. Especially if it's Republic of Tea's Ginger-Peach tea.


 #2 - Period Dramas
Nothing helps stimulate 19th century inspiration like 19th century chick flicks!


#3 - Anne of Green Gables soundtrack

In case Cranford proves too distracting...=)


#4 - Candles
My absolute favorite candle: White Barn French Baguette. It smells DIVINE. 


 #5 - Headquarters!
 By splitting screens, I can watch Cranford on one side and write on the other. Ingenious arrangement to distract myself from bickering characters and tangled plot-lines.

But it helps.

Especially at 1 or 2 in the morning.

Till next time!
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Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Hand of God

In my lifetime I have had only one memorable near-death experience {just so you know: never, NEVER use all-metal pliers to remove a broken lightbulb from a lamp that is still plugged in}

Now I have two.

I was driving with a friend to Minnesota for Labor Day weekend. One of my best friends is living there currently and we'd snatched the only days we had open between work and college and family vacations to make the most of it.

We were about halfway there. Traffic wasn't bad - there were too many cars on the road to cruise and we discovered that the cruise control on my car didn't work anyway - and we were following a string of cars at 70-some miles per hour.

Up ahead we noticed that a lot of cars were swerving in and out. We naturally wondered why but since there was basically no shoulder between the road and the ditch, I wasn't too keen on driving out on it unless I knew why. {Mind you, this all happened much faster than it sounds}.

Suddenly the car in front of us swerved out at the last minute and we saw what was causing the disturbance.

A blown semi tire was lying in the middle of our lane.

I didn't have time to get out of the way and we were going to fast to stop. I don't think my foot even hit the brake as we drove straight into it. My friend shouted not to swerve right because we would hit the tank truck next to us so I did the only thing I could and wrenched the wheel to the left.

We went skidding somewhere; I have no idea what direction. A cloud of dust - just like it does in movies - kicked up and surrounded us. We couldn't see a thing. All I remember is screaming my friend's name and her screaming mine with an incredible sense of helplessness. My only conscious thought at the moment was "so this is the end". I didn't define "end" because it could have been anything. The end of our trip. The end of my car {my sister totaled her car two months ago in a freak accident. I wasn't expecting anything less.}. The end of our lives hadn't really yet been realized when the car suddenly stopped moving and the dust began to settle.

For half a second we just sat there and then I realized the car was still in drive and that we were moving forward. I slammed it into park and stared out the windshield at the oncoming traffic.

And then the miracles began to reveal themselves.

Miracle #1. We were both alive. We breathlessly asked each other over and over "are you ok?" "are YOU ok?" until we realized that we were both saying the same thing and neither of us was answering the question.

Miracle #2. The man in the tank truck we could have hit had pulled over on the other side of the road and when I rolled down my window he called over to see if we were ok. When I said we were he told us we were lucky because we'd done a complete 360 and hadn't hit or been hit by anything.

Miracle #3. We were parked neatly and safely on the side of the highway, granted we were turned the wrong way, but there was enough room for me to open my door and get out without getting hit.

Miracle #4. The ditch we landed in was very shallow and we'd easily be able to drive out if the car was still driveable.

Miracle #5. Once we'd spent some time thanking God that we were alive, my friend got out of the passenger side and checked the tires and the car. Everything was intact and there wasn't a scratch on it. I handed her the keys and said she could drive now.

Miracle #6. A State Trooper arrived on the scene and removed the tire before anyone else hit it and spun off the road to hit us. He then held back traffic in one lane of the highway while a friendly semi driver stopped traffic in the other.

Miracle #7. We drove out of the ditch and twenty minutes later were back on the road as if nothing had happened.

I don't know how anyone can say that God is not real or that He doesn't care. I have seen His hand and it was covering me.

Till next time!
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Monday, August 19, 2013

10 Reasons Why I Don't Actively Promote Coffeeshops



1. I feel like a fish out of water the minute I walk in the door and realize I can't see because the lights are so dim. (Does drastically reducing your sight somehow enhance the taste experience?)

2. The signs are always written in chalk in some sort of flourishy cursive which looks folksy but is actually impossible to read. Cute, but I already need a dictionary.

3. I'm limited in my size options because I don't know how to pronounce the names they give their cups.

4. They ask if I want shots as if that's something perfectly normal (No thanks. I'm not that fond of needles...)

5. The only thing affordable on the menu is the regular coffee, which tastes like they brewed a teaspoon of water in an entire sack of grounds. I have yet to discover the correct poundage of sugar required to make this drinkable.

6. I'm either working the pitcher of half-and-half wrong or it's perpetually two drips from empty whenever I need it.

7. I can't justify spending half my hourly rate on a cup of tea I could make at home with 5 cents worth of ingredients.

8. I freeze when asked if I want to add anything to my drink because, first of all, I have no idea what they have in those four hundred bottles on the counter or how they might taste mixed with my order and secondly, I don't know how many squirts would actually enhance the general flavor experience. ( I have learned, however, that three squirts do not.)

9. The menu is always behind the counter so I have to awkwardly stand in front of all the incredibly friendly baristas as I take twenty minutes to decide that I'll have the same thing I had the last time I came.

10. I'm not nearly passionate enough about coffee to endure the above 9 reasons on any sort of regular basis or educate myself on  the basics of coffeeshop lingo.

This is my confession.

Till next time!
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Monday, August 12, 2013

The Adam and Eve Syndrome


Today I ate a plum and stapled backlogged pages into my journal.

Why do you need to know this?

I have absolutely no idea.

The plum was delicious. The stapling was victorious.

Do any of you journal? If so, you may understand my pain.

I never, ever, ever want to look in my journal again and see that the last date was more than two weeks ago - after the most eventful two weeks of my life

Well, not quite.

You see, I read a book on journaling a few months ago and it turned my style upside-down.

The author's biggest challenge (to me, that is) was being "bare naked honest".

Sounds a little...revealing, don't you think?

I tried it.

Aside from the fact that it now takes me at least twice as long to record everything, every time I want to write anything I also must go into the back yard and remember where I buried it last. And recall the 20 digit passcode on the wrought iron security box once I dig 50 feet down to retrieve it.

  In the words of Shakespeare (loosely located) "you jest".

And I do.

There are too many wee pitchers around my house to fall into 50-foot holes.

But in all seriousness, though it has been difficult and awkward and downright frightening (and I will admit that I have chickened out on a regular basis), it's done me a lot of good and made my journal inestimably more interesting to read.

It's also encouraged me to be more honest with God.

I don't know what it is about the human mind that thinks we can hide things from God by not telling Him directly (perhaps this came from Adam and Eve? Because it worked so well for them...), but I've always shied away from voicing things aloud or even in prayer to Him because they're such deep secrets or such cherished hopes or such awful deeds.

News flash: Psalm 139:2 "You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar."

I can't hide a blessed thing from Him anyway.

In light of this, I've been challenged to be candid with God. He knows it all already, but it's a trust thing. He doesn't want to know my secrets because He's omniscient, He wants to know my secrets because I trust Him enough to voice them to Him. And, since I'm not telling Him anything new, He's not going to be surprised or horrified or shocked by what I say. What matters to Him is that I trust Him enough to entrust whatever it is to Him.

The friend who I don't hesitate to trust - that's what God wants to be.

Until next time!
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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Swing of Things

Hello all!

Now that the craziness of VBS (and the prep that goes with it) is over and I officially have the blues because of it, it's time to get back into the swing of things and pick up my life from the counter where I temporarily put it on hold.

Now if I could only remember what counter that was...

A few things that have happened while I was gone:

- I officially left my teen years behind me and turned 20 on July 17.

- I got a box of Mike and Ikes

- I started wearing makeup (house rule: makeup when you're twenty)

Hardest to tackle after nearly an entire month and a half off is writing. I thought I had a serious case of writer's block at first. Now I think that's folderol.

I'm just rusty.

Odd thing I didn't realize about writing: characters can lose their voices if you don't pay them attention. Now I get the fun job of rediscovering them. I'm putting myself on a write-as-much-as-possible regime to shake off the cramps I've garnered from my laziness.

And I'm going to blog again.

Won't that be fun?

Till next time!
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(P.S. And I want that swing in the picture. Can you even
imagine how awesome that would be?!)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Book Review: The Singer of All Songs



Quickies
3 out of 5
Recommended for: I really have no idea
Categories: YA/Fantasy/Easy reads/Reader friendly

Synopsis
Calwyn has lived all her life behind the high ice-wall that guards the sisters of Antaris from the world of Tremaris. The sisters practice ice chantment -- one of the Nine Powers of chantment, a form of magic worked through music. But when Calwyn finds an Outlander man fallen, wounded, through the wall, she is drawn to him ... and drawn into a wondrous, dangerous adventure that takes her outside the wall and to the limits of her own powers, as she, the Outlander Darrow, and others unite to defeat the sorcerer Samis, who seeks to claim all Nine Powers and become the Singer of All Songs. (Amazon)

Review
I wish to state first and foremost that I am not and never have been a reader of fantasy. I've read The Chronicles of Narnia and fairy tales. I do not really enjoy fantasy. I do not like to write fantasy. In general, I spurn nearly the entire fantasy genre as unredeemable mind-candy. Thus I have no idea why I bought these two books when I found them for next-to-nothing at Goodwill.

Gradually they moved from the cardboard box of extra book storage to the top bookshelf (mainly because they are hardcovers and look better than a typical paperback). I intended to read them someday and that was where it stayed.
I brought this one camping with me and thought I'd give it a try. After reading the first few pages, I was unsure of whether or not I wanted to continue. There was a lot of mumbo-jumbo about a goddess and I felt that the reading level was rather low. However, I continued and was pleasantly surprised by the end.

Plot
My experience with fantasy is so limited that I can't say for sure whether or not the idea of a chanter is original or not. Basically, a chanter is a gifted human who, either through songs or the pitch of their voice, can do unusual and unnatural things such as create ice, call up wind, cut through walls, heal, stop or start motions in inanimate objects and so forth. Most chanters only have and only ever will have one power or chantment, as they're called in the book, so the idea of become a singer of all the songs is rather preposterous.

The book in general moves along at a good clip. It doesn't drag long over unnecessary details or contain much filler. It's simply written without much fuss made over a period-correct dialect. Aside from the discussions on chantment, the characters speak pretty ordinary English. The chapter endings are generally uncreative and abrupt, but since it's not lagging over useless plot lines, this doesn't really matter.
All in all, I was interested enough not to want to put it down for a long period of time and never ran across much of a reason to do so, since it's a very age-appropriate book. There's nothing at all suggestive or immodest about it. There's really only a promise of romance, which makes you more eager to read the next book and find out whether or not it buds.

The ending was my greatest peeve. It was rushed pell-mell and didn't make much sense. I found it so convoluted that I began to skim just to get it over with. Too much is revealed that should have been carefully distributed throughout the book and there are too many things happening at once with everyone practicing their different chantments that it makes it difficult to tell what is really going on. I would call it amateur for being so jumbled and then ending in such a disappointingly anticlimactic way.

Characters
Calwyn - Heroine and ice chanter
Calwyn is a very well-balanced heroine. She's not a damsel in distress but she's no Joan of Arc either. She's a very real girl who loses her temper and battles her fears and insecurities and is often confused by her surroundings and feelings. She doesn't always have the answer and doesn't always try to find it. She's endearingly human despite the hints of her less-than-ordinary destiny.

Darrow - Hero and ironcrafter
Darrow is a delightfully taciturn and puzzling character. He doesn't have much to say and what he does say is usually either mysteriously vague or dark and dire. It's the fact that he does very little explaining of himself that makes him such a fascinating person. I, however, find it difficult to believe the claim that he is near thirty years old.

Mica, Trout and Tonno - Girl, Boy, Man: the rest of the band
Mica is pretty awesome. I love her unquenchable spirit and never-flagging determination. Whenever the truth needs to be stated, she's there ahead of everyone.
Trout is odd yet amusing. He was the first character that really made me smile by saying something funny. His unique and critical outlook on life and his circumstances are typically the high humor points of the story.
Tonno is rather washed out for being such a predominant character. He's not a chanter, slightly too ordinary and very forgettable.

Conclusion
If this book was not part of a trilogy, I would have been very disappointed. However, the allure of a developing romance between two gifted individuals, Darrow's obviously hidden past, Calwyn's developing capacities and the quest for the union of Tremaris all make this a solid but probably the least interesting step into a promising direction.  

Till next time!
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