Friday, January 30, 2015

The Trials of Motherhood

Well, it’s been one of those weeks. Not even a Not Quite Ordinary Observations post! But, I have to take a few minutes to share this one.

Yesterday we were in the car, and Doug opened the between-seat storage compartment to reveal our stash of M&Ms. You know – the necessary stash for those moments when you just need a little touch of sweet. Okay, so not sweet. Chocolate. Let’s just be honest here.

Anyway…

The options on this occasion were peanut butter (Doug’s preference) or dark chocolate (my preference, although I love the peanut butter too).

I thought I’d be a nice mama (and wife) and give the kids an option instead of just handing out the peanut butter M&Ms that I expected at least two of them to choose.

I was in for a big surprise.

There was no hesitation.

Not even the briefest pause.

“Dark chocolate!” came the immediate response.

My jaw dropped and Doug laughed and laughed. And laughed some more.

Even Steven, my peanut butter-aholic, didn’t hesitate. Not for a second.

Why, oh why, do I encourage my children to try the good stuff? Why do I set myself up to have to share? Why?

I’m now off to hide the rest of my dark chocolate!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Multi-Tasking Rice Cooker

So, last week we received a rice cooker for review.

I love rice cookers. I feel lazy when I say that, because rice is not hard to make. But, the rice cooker really is a handy appliance.

But, this new one is just plain fun. No, I’m not reviewing it here. I’m just going to show you one of the things we did with it last weekend.

This particular model has multiple settings to show some of the other things you can do with the appliance. And, as Alton Brown so wisely points out, there is no room for unitaskers in a kitchen. Any appliance or tool needs to have multiple uses. Why not the rice cooker?

Why not indeed?

Anyway, this particular one claimed to be able to cook a cake. Now, the directions said that a box cake would take 50 minutes, so it doesn’t save time. What, then, might be the advantage? We just HAD to give it a try to find out!

Angie and I mixed up an apple cake. Yeah, a little more dense than the regular cake mix. So, I figured it would take extra time.

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But, we mixed it up, glopped it into the rice cooker, and turned it on for 50 minutes.

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Then I came back and turned it back on, setting my timer for another 25 minutes.

Wait, what happened to the finished product?

Well…I neglected to get a picture before it was consumed. Take my word for it, though. It was not only picture-perfect, it was absolutely delicious. The texture was amazing, complete with a crispy top and bottom. Oh my!

So, what’s the advantage? Well, in the hot summer, this will let off little extra heat. The even heating made for an awesome texture. And, if you use a regular cake recipe rather than one that’s more like a quick bread, you can turn it on and then just let it switch over to warm when it’s done.

Okay, so maybe this does sound a bit like a review. But, it was more just fun. Oh, and yummy!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

We Got To!

How many times do we get excited because we get to serve?

Our plan for yesterday was for the whole family to spend much of the afternoon finishing up some work around the church, little tidying tasks leftover from a work day on Monday. Then we’d finish the evening by prepping the dinner for our association’s executive board meeting, held at our church this time around.

But I woke up feeling like I’d been hit by a bus, lacking the energy to do much of anything that required me being up off the couch.

So, Doug and the kids went up to the church without me.

As the evening meal was ending and the meeting was getting started, I drove up to the church to pick up the kids and bring them home. They started sharing about the afternoon and evening, and they excitedly said, “We got to serve the meal tonight!”

We got to…

They were so excited because they were given the privilege of standing behind the food table and placing food on people’s plates. It was such an honor for them.

This is not a first, but every time it happens, it humbles me. Am I ever even half so happy to serve?

May they always have this heart. May it bleed over into all aspects of life. And may I learn from it, becoming more like Christ because of the Christ-like example I see in my children.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Monday, January 19, 2015

In the great outdoors...partly cloudy after a couple of days of bright sunshine. But also much warmer. Supposed to reach 69°today, which means there will be outside play in the forecast!

Within our four walls…a little more progress on the reorganization. Still need to purge and problem solve a few things in the kitchen to tackle the rest of it.

A heart of thanksgiving...for stuff. Because I get to learn to let go of it. I don’t always like to let go, but it feels good when I do it. I love to see huge piles of giveaway items or even trash, knowing that those piles mark a little more letting go. And letting go of physical things teaches me to let go of things emotionally and mentally as well, trusting God with all of it. Constantly learning.

Also thankful for sunshine and warmer temps yesterday morning when a squirrel decided to give its life in demonstration of the evils of electricity. The little bugger caused two transformers to burst into flames, knocking out power to about 600 customers at 8:00 on Sunday morning. But, the sunshine and warmth allowed us to continue on with church with only minor adjustments. What a blessing!

A heart of prayer...for Doug as he handles some schedule adjustments over the next two weeks (and myself as I also deal with some of them); for our church and the HEDUA team as we work out the practical details of maintaining a passion for service to the Lord and a surrender to His will; for spiritual needs galore.

Random observations...Does anyone else ever overcompensate for the new year? As in saying, “I just can’t believe it’s already 2015?!” then turning around and accidentally writing 2016 on something? No? Just me? Okay.

My silly children...were all a bit sluggish this morning. Hopefully they’ll pep up as the day and week move on! But, considering the amount of food all three have been eating lately, my assumption is that the sluggishness has to do with more growth spurts. *sigh*

Thoughts from the kitchen...no more deep freezer! Yay! No, that is not to say we got rid of it. Goodness, I wouldn’t know what to do without that thing! We bought a floor model upright freezer even before Olivia was born, I think, and it has survived all these years and five moves. It allows us to bulk purchase and has really stretched out grocery budget over the years, very quickly paying for itself many times over.

But, we have really wanted to figure out how to get it out of the kitchen. It’s been plugged into a pretty loaded circuit, and we’ve tripped the breaker on numerous occasions. Saturday proved perfect for working in the garage. We got it back in shape, purged a little more, AND found room for the freezer out there. I’ll have to get used to not being able to just snag something quickly from it (which means I need to keep the fridge freezer much better organized). But, it will be worth it!

 On my bookshelf...still the same books as last week, although I did make great progress on Beyond All Dreams this weekend. In fact, I’m almost done, which is a pretty rotten place to be on a Monday morning. I’d much rather curl up and finish it than be diligent!

Projects...continuing to make progress on the reorganization. Some of the kitchen changes have removed flat surfaces (like the freezer top) where some appliances, their attachments, and our cutting board holder had been stored. That problem solving is my major project for the week.

Sounds of the moment...Steven & Read playing; girlies washing dishes before school (they’re so sweet!)

From Hibbard Academy...Steven gets the day off since Read is here, but the girls and I will be diving in. I got it all planned and then promptly let it slip my mind what we’re doing this week. This, my friends, is why I have planners. Just can’t keep it all straight it my head!

A favorite thing from last week...chatting with an author via e-mail. I love my job!! And chatting with Joanna via Skype about field trips we’d love to take together when they get back to Arkansas. I love my friends!

The planner...Doug has a work day today at church. Otherwise, a normal week – I think.

Because visuals are fun...Angie’s knit project turned into a cape for Jack. I’m not sure he was entirely appreciative.2015-01-17 09.18.08

Saturday, January 17, 2015

To Each His Own

This week, Steven informed me that he had discovered his talent.

You see, Angela writes and illustrates cute picture books.

Olivia writes fantasy fiction.

Apparently Steven was a little disturbed that he had not yet found his niche. He still has a little trouble realizing that Olivia and Angela are three and five years older than he is, and they are just now discovering these talents – he’s got a few years. But, that’s a hard concept for an eight-year-old whose sisters are discovering more grown-up talents, I know.

Anyway…

Steven informed me that his talent lies in building with blocks.

Building things like Andruil, the Twin Towers, and even Elrond. I missed getting to see Elrond made out of blocks, as he was a temporary creation. I wish I had a picture of that one! Apparently, he was a little wobbly and fell down easily.

I love the creativity of my children!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Improvise!

So, what do you do when you have yarn and feel like doing something with it, but you have no tools with which to do something?

You use pencils.

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We were up at church Wednesday night, and Angie needed something to keep her hands busy. Or maybe it was that there was yarn, and she just HAS to do something with yarn.

So, lacking her preferred crochet hook, she grabbed two pencils and turned them into knitting needles.

No, she has no idea what she’s making.

And yes, she has since switched to knitting needles.

I love providing my kids with the tools and resources they need to accomplish something. But, it’s SO much fun to see them problem solve when they don’t have what they need!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Thursday Mornings

Thursday mornings are a little blah. The energy is gone, but there are still two more school/work days.

So, to help lighten at least my mood a bit before heading into school, I figured I’d try to think of funny things from the week.

Like, the kids using stuffies as hat props while we were at the Baptist Building on Tuesday.

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Or Angie’s birthday present to Doug…a comic book entitled “The Doctor Dalek.” Now, for those of you not privileged to know the ins and outs of Doctor Who, the Daleks are an alien race that just so happen to also be the archenemies of our hero the Doctor. But Angie is convinced that there have to be good, sweet Daleks out there somewhere – even if only in her own imagination. So, she writes stories about them. Complete with great illustrations. Love it!

Then there’s Steven’s statement about talents. Angie writes and draws. Olivia writes. Steven? He builds with blocks. He shared all of the cool things he made with blocks last night, all of which had something to do with Lord of the Rings.

Speaking of Olivia’s writing…yesterday I looked over a paragraph she’d written for language arts the day before. It was really good. So, I teasingly asked her what book she copied it from. Later she came back and laughingly said, “I’ll give you $10 if you can find the book I copied from!” Goofy girl. Of course, if I had any doubts before (which I didn’t), they would all have flown away then because she’s hoarding every penny to pay for a ring she has on layaway.

And with those chuckles firmly placed in my head, I’m off to round up the hoodlums precious children to get school started!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Mushroom and Tortellini Soup

Well, from time to time this year, I (Doug) am going to pop over and write a post here at the Hibbard Family. Why?
It is supposed to be the Hibbard Family, not “Ann has to do all the writing.” Even though she’s the one who handles all the cool stuff in the family, I’ll offer the occasional moment or recipe. Just for fun.
Today, we’re going to tackle Monday’s lunch. It was Mushroom and Tortellini Soup with Beef. This is a recipe that started life as “Mushroom and Beef Ravioli Soup.” There have been some modifications across the years.
First, ingredients.
While I know some people pick grocery stores based on political views, we shop based on two factors: price and existence in a 20 mile radius. That gives us a Walmart, a Kroger, and a Mayflower. Typically due to cost, we end up at Walmart.

:
1. A carton (24 oz) of unsalted beef stock.2015-01-12 11.49.15 I’m certain homemade beef stock would ramp up the awesome. I just don’t have the time…or cow bones to make it.
(Yes, it’s fuzzy. It’s not because I’m unwilling to endorse Swanson as a brand. I don’t quite know what I did.)
Also, use stock and not broth if at all possible.
2015-01-12 11.46.482. Cheese-filled tortellini (12 oz pkg, dry). We went with the shelf-stable dry pasta. Again, if you only go to the store every so often, you take what you can get. This is also good with the fresh ravioli in the produce section. Or the fresh tortellini over there as well.
3. Vegetation: I used about half-dozen mushrooms, diced up, and one-half of four bell peppers. I like to use all the colors, just for pretty purposes. I can’t taste a difference, but you might notice one.2015-01-12 11.46.31
4. About a half pound of beef. This is typically a “whatever beef is 2015-01-12 11.46.35cheap this week” meal, or a “whatever is in the freezer but undesignated for future plans.” Cut it into bite size pieces. Thinner gives one taste/texture, thicker another.
(No, I did not cut that meat with the little paring knife that you see. I have a nice, large chef’s knife.)
5. Water. I used 2 cartons of water. Cartons? Yes, I filled the beef stock carton twice and added it in.
Second, tools:
Electric skillet and 5 quart sauce pot.2015-01-12 11.46.392015-01-12 11.46.42




Third, process:
1. Pour the stock and two cartons of water in the sauce pot. Turn it up and get it boiling. I’m on a flat-top electric range, so high power.
2. Turn on the electric skillet to its highest setting. 400 for this one.
3. Slice your beef the way you want it. Salt it and set it aside, get your veggie cutting board, and dice up mushrooms and peppers.
4. Pour a little olive oil in the hot skillet, and then put the beef in quickly. Give it a slight stir fry and get the edges starting to caramelize, and then add the pepper/mushroom mix. Give those a nice mix in, and come back and stir them from time to time to make sure nothing sticks.
5. When it looks like the meat is mostly done, turn the skillet down. I went to 250.
6. By now, hopefully, your stock is boiling. Put the pasta in the boiling stock and let it cook about 5 minutes. (Alternately, you can cook it completely here and then mix later.)
7. After that five minutes, carefully add the stock and pasta into the electric skillet. Let it simmer until the pasta is done, and you’re ready to eat!
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Oh, the bread? Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day is our go-to bread book. That’s a basic white dough from it, rolled out and cooked in our Samsung Smart Oven—which is a handy countertop microwave and convection oven. I put cheddar cheese and garlic salt on it.Then I put it on our Arkansas cutting board.
So, that’s about it. This fed all five of us one meal, and there’s enough soup left for another meal. It’s in the freezer. There was not enough bread.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Monday, January 12, 2015

In the great outdoors...much gloominess today. I am thankful, though, that we did not get the ice forecasted for the wee hours of Sunday morning. While I’d love some snow to brighten up this cold, I’m definitely glad for no ice.

Within our four walls...decluttering is in process, slowly but surely. We love reorganization projects, and we were going to tackle one in one fell swoop on Saturday. But, we are instead doing a little at a time. While it does not provide the great adrenaline rush of one big, full day, I think it might challenge our way of thinking. A little at a time. Here and there. As we have opportunity and ideas. And it gets done. And maybe it will get done more effectively, more efficiently, and more frequently as we progress toward a life of less and less clutter.

A heart of thanksgiving...for the lack of ice, for a well-insulated house, for friends

A heart of prayer...for the growth of our church; for the Choate family as they prayerfully seek direction for the coming months (here’s an update); and for my heart to be soft, allowing the guidance of the Holy Spirit – not my presuppositions – to inform all of my responses, attitudes, and interactions.

Random observations...So, Olivia’s tennis shoes are wearing out, and I told Doug the other day that we needed to get her new ones. Then, it dawned on me that she already had another pair. The pair she’s been wearing were hand-me-downs received not long after we bought her last pair. But the hand-me-downs were WAY cooler because they were all bright and colorful! So, the other pair has been patiently waiting in the closet. Fortunately, her feet seem to have stopped growing, at least for the time being, so the others still fit.

And I rejoiced that we didn’t have to go shoe shopping after all.

Until I looked down at Steven’s foot.

“Is that your toe pressing against the end of your shoe?”

“Yes.”

Sigh. “Why don’t you tell me these things?”

I was surprised the shoe was even containing his foot – that’s how much the toe was pressing into the mesh of the tennis shoe.

So, it’s off to find shoes after all. But, at least it’s only one pair! 

My silly children...HAD to go outside Saturday. They were pinging off the walls. So, since the biting prairie winds had finally died down, I told them to go run around outside and let activity keep them warm.

But, just to show you how warm they did need to stay, this was the thinnest piece of ice they found out in the yard. We are still living in the South, right?

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Thoughts from the kitchen...As we worked on menu planning recently, I was reminded of last year’s favorite soup: Beef, Mushroom, and Tortellini Soup. The original recipe did not have the beef – it had meet-filled tortellini instead. But, we adjusted it a bit, using cheese-filled tortellini and thin beef strips. I really thought I had published the recipe last year, but I guess I never did. Here’s the original: http://www.bhg.com/recipe/mushroom-and-beef-ravioli-soup/

Anyway, I decided it just had to go on this month’s menu plan. Today was the day, and it was oh so good!

Meanwhile, my friend Karlyn told me about a meal planning site she’s trying out: http://www.plantoeat.com/   I can’t wait to give it a try for next month!

On my bookshelf...my current fiction read is Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden.

In the mornings I’m reading 100 Bible Verses Everyone Should Know by Heart by Robert J. Morgan. He has several chapters of introductory material, followed by a list of the 100 verses and a little explanation of why each one is important. A lot of it is ideas and thoughts I know, but I am really enjoying reading his perspective. It’s motivating me on my journey back to active Scripture memory.

I’m also about to start Answering Your Kids’ Toughest Questions by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson as my non-quiet time nonfiction read. One of those review books I forgot about. 

Projects...the little by little reorganization project I mentioned; re-establishing the habit of sorting through and organizing digital pictures at least once a week; knitting a few more dish cloths (knit or crocheted clothes are my favorite kind!) while Doug reads Lord of the Rings to the family; determining what sewing project I want to tackle first this year and establishing at least an hour or two of sewing time each week, even if it’s in very small bursts. 

Sounds of the moment...music playing – everything’s pretty quiet right now as the kids head to the shower.

From Hibbard Academy...anticipation. Excitement. An even greater love for the elementary science textbooks from Dr. Jay Wile. Why? Because this experiment, so delightfully demonstrated by the awesome Mythbusters, is coming up soon for Steven.

It’s still a couple of weeks away, and we have several fun experiments between now and then, but that doesn’t dampen Steven’s excitement at all. Or the girls’ for that matter. They won’t miss this one!

Of course, that’s part of what I love the most about Dr. Wile’s science, whether it’s elementary or high school. The experiments really are fun and pretty easy. The kids have so much fun doing them together!

A favorite thing from last week...On Friday evening as my friend Joanna and I enjoyed a Skype chat, we began discussing the balance between maintaining a schedule and being flexible enough to enjoy some spontaneous fun. Then on Saturday I got a text from my friend Jennifer asking if Steven and I wanted to have some spontaneous fun with her and Read. Think maybe God’s trying to teach me something? So, we went. And we had a great time hanging out with Jennifer and Read.

The planner...Doug has a meeting tomorrow at the Baptist Building, so we’re going to tag along. School/work in a different environment is always fun! Then we’ll run some errands and go eat somewhere fun for Doug’s birthday. Other than that, it’s a pretty normal week.

Because visuals are fun...We’re reading Lord of the Rings as a family. Although Steven has been very aware of the characters for quite some time, he’s a newcomer to the story. It’s been fun watching him incorporate it into his play and even the names of his newest stuffies.

Recently he came in saying, “Look! I have Anduril!” Pretty good-looking sword, in my opinion!2015-01-06 14.13.10

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Thoughts from the Day

I was thinking the other day – a dangerous past-time, I know – and an interesting thought popped into my head.

I haven’t blogged regularly about the daily life of our family in quite a while. Back in 2008, I published 208 posts. Sometimes just to share that a recipe we’d tried worked out or to post about a special blessing. Sweet memories.

Then came last year. 68 posts. Really? That’s sad.

My first thought was work. And, yes, having a “real” job, even a part-time one with no commute, has made a difference. It’s an incredible job, but it also consumes a good portion of my creativity – creativity I used to pour into things like this blog or sewing or playing with pictures.

But I’m realizing there’s another factor.

Looking back at those old posts, I always had something to write because I was always involved in nearly every moment of my kids’ lives. If I did other things, it was because they were napping or playing close to me. Or because I was working on housework since they weren’t really old enough to help at the time.

Now they’re so stinkin’ independent.

Wait…isn’t that what I wanted? Haven’t I been training them to grow in independence? Isn’t that the goal?

Well, yes. But, there’s a price. And the price is that I’m not actively involved in every precious thing they do these days.

That doesn’t automatically mean I’m missing everything. They still come and get me when there’s a pretty sunset. They bring me their fun creations and tell me about their leaf forts in the backyard. I still know about it all. And there are still times I share the fun with them. But I’m not right in the middle of it all the time anymore.

And it’s a good thing. Really it is. It’s the natural progression of growth.

It’s just different. And I haven’t made the adjustment in my blogging.

But now I know what the problem is. Now I can face the problem with full awareness. And that excites me.

This blog is my family diary. And I’m looking forward to seeing what the new style of entries will hold in 2015.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Celebrating Angela!

Let’s see…I think we were up to Angela on the summer birthday recap. So, here goes!

We woke her up by handing her birthday present #1, the cow dress featured in all of her birthday pictures. She promptly tried it on, found a matching headband, and lined up all her cows and her Bubbie (blanket) cape so she could join them for birthday pictures.

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We pulled the birthday banner and gifts out for the traditional picture at the fireplace. (The cow peeking out from among the gifts was an early birthday present, so he had to join the pile!)

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Then I started on her cake. She requested a representation of her other love – books. A brown book on a pink background. Yes, we had to make sure pink was in there! How I love this princess!

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Of course, we can’t have an Angie birthday without quiche!

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After lunch we enjoyed her cake and presents.

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The gifts included her own copy of Click, Clack, Moo (a copy which included other similar farm tales). I love that my eleven-year-old reads books on the level of Lord of the Rings, yet still delights in silly picture books.

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For some reason, Olivia thought it would be fun to enjoy present-opening from under the table. Goofy child!

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Of course, you can’t have a cow birthday without adding new cows to the family, right?

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Doug arranged them all for an updated “family photo.”

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After cake and presents, we fulfilled her other birthday request and headed to the library. That’s where she wanted her birthday pictures taken. Fitting, don’t you think? And, of course, we had to choose a few books while we were there.

All in all, celebrating eleven years of Angela was quite delightful. Of course, there’s not much about this child that isn’t delightful!

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Book Review: The Secret of Pembrooke Park

(I typically only publish my “grown-up” reviews on The Joy of Writing, but I thought it might be fun to share them here as well. So, here goes…)

Over the past year, I have had to drastically decrease the number of books I accept for review. But, I still love to review books, especially when it allows me to discover new authors or pursue books I might not otherwise think to obtain.

In all honesty, though, The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen did SecretofPembrookePark_rd1.inddnot fall  into either of those categories. I should have known to pursue this one. After all, a few years ago I reviewed The Girl in the Gatehouse, an earlier novel by the same author. Later, I read Klassen’s The Apothecary’s Daughter, thoroughly enjoying it as well. I have to wonder why I haven’t snatched up every book of Klassen’s as it has come up for review or shown up free for Kindle – or added her to my list of authors for my husband to keep an eye on. (He’s so good to me!)

Obviously, I went into my reading of The Secret of Pembrooke Park with high expectations. Klassen dives into British life with her usual flair for detail, but she also has quite a skillful knack for providing the perfect amount of mystery, keeping readers uncertain until the perfect moment.

Abigail Foster, heroine of this captivating tale, feels responsible for the sudden financial ruin her family is facing. Simultaneously enduring the rejection of the man she has loved since childhood, Abigail sees little hope in her future. But, an unexpected invitation to move to the mysterious Pembrooke Park rekindles that hope ever so slightly. Rumors of a treasure locked away in a secret room lead her on a search through her new home. But she is not the only one searching.

Why are her new neighbors so tight-lipped? What are they so desperate to hide? Does the treasure even exist? If so, where? And how many of the people around her can be trusted as she searches for clues?

As is the case with any mystery, it is not long before the reader of The Secret of Pembrooke Park will begin to make suppositions about the plot and characters. But Klassen has a way of obscuring the truth in plain sight. And I love every unexpected surprise!

So, would I give a negative? It is so hard to do so, just as it was with The Girl in the Gatehouse. But, I will say this: Some of the references to British society in the early 1800’s are foreign to me. I am clearer on American history during this time frame, and I was occasionally unclear in regards to a few of the societal references that I have not yet discovered in other British society novels I’ve read. Small price to pay, though, especially considering I love to learn new things about history!

As for positives, there is the delight of being able to say, “That is not who I guessed that would be!” But, there is also this: the romances are not all neatly tied up. Heartbreak and tragedy coincide with fulfillment. Some characters do end up alone, as happens in life. I like the unpredictability of that, and the variation it brings from the typical romance novel template.

Ultimately, The Secret of Pembrooke Park not only lived up to my expectations – it exceeded them. And it awakened me to the idea that I am a Julie Klassen fan after all.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Monday, January 5, 2015

In the great outdoors...winter has arrived. I think the ice on the puddles and in the ditches did melt at some point today. They won’t by Wednesday.

Within our four walls...winding down from our first full day back in routine.

A heart of thanksgiving...for this…

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I probably should have tried to get a picture before we got it all dirty!! But, I’m too excited to care – and I’ve been waiting over two weeks to share!

We’ve been praying over our vehicle situation for a while. Nearly twelve years ago, God led us to the van that is now 14 years old and has 230,000 miles on it. We figured He could take care of leading us to the next perfect vehicle.

And He did! We really intended to start looking in the spring. But He had other plans…plans that led us to this 2012 Dodge Durango.

We spent a good portion of our anniversary at the car dealership getting this purchased. Then we surprised our kids. They had no clue we were going to buy a new vehicle. It was SO much fun.!

The next weekend, we went to Judsonia and surprised my family.

This past weekend we went to Monroe and surprised Doug’s parents.

And now we get to share the excitement all around! Here’s to another twelve years and 200,000 miles. (Of course, the van hasn’t given up the ghost yet, so it’s still trucking along with us, too!)

A heart of prayer...for friends needing to sell their house; for a church member recovering from surgery and dealing with perpetual health issues; for dear friends facing many tough decisions and needing much provision.

Random observations...if I type and write 2015 every single time I have to type or write a date, I might get used to it!

My sweet children...have jumped back into routine beautifully. I’m so proud of and thankful for them!

Thoughts from the kitchen...leftovers today. But we did have cookies, too.

On my bookshelf...another review book – Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden. Yeah, they really had to twist my arm to get me to take that one.

I also have a stack of non-fiction to read. I need to put a plan in place for that. Although there are many great non-fiction titles I enjoy, it is a harder genre for me to read. I am much more naturally inclined to both enjoy and learn from stories. But I’m looking forward to making time to read through that non-fiction stack this year. I just have to decide where to start.

Projects...blogging through some of the fun times we had last year. I have a writing schedule in place now, and a real plan. My Scrivener is loaded full of post starters for The Joy of Writing, which means I have to spend less time trying to figure out what to write and can spend more time actually writing for both blogs. 

Sounds of the moment...quiet, as the kids have just turned out their lights. Music is playing while Doug and I finish up some evening writing.

From Hibbard Academy...getting back into the swing of things. I was most excited about getting back to our read-alouds: Witch of Blackbird Pond, Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze, and The Sherwood Ring. They are all such good books!

A favorite thing from Christmas break...family time and downtime.

The planner...pretty routine the rest of this week. That’s a blessing for the first week back from Christmas break!

Because visuals are fun...page one of my blog planning for 2015. I cannot tell you how much it helped me to do this! And how wonderfully helpful it was for Doug to pitch in with ideas as well.

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