Thursday, December 31, 2009

my bookshelf 2009

here are the books i read in 2009. i have highlighted in red my favorites of the year. those with a (+) are books i enjoyed and would recommend; with a (-) were disappointing.

(*) The Help by kathryn stockett ~ this was a fabulous way to end my year of books. i loved this book! what a fresh and interesting look at race relations in the south during the volatile years of the emerging civil rights era. tragic and sad and yet with glimpses of love and respect. her characters were real, memorable, and brave.

(+) Three Cups of Tea by greg mortenson ~ great story of perseverance. i loved the message of respect and relationship building. this story would be a true winner in my list if mortenson had an element of Christian faith to his mission instead of bowing to allah in order to gain entrance into a closed culture.

(+) Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by barabara kingsolver ~ enjoyable book about eating fresh and locally grown food. now i am itching to plan and plant my spring garden!

(+) Crazy Love by francis chan ~ very thought provoking and challenging.

(*) The Book Thief by markus zusak ~ this author has an incredible way with words. he has crafted a very unique story told from a surprising view point.

(*) The Patriot by pearl s. buck ~ for some reason i am just taken with pearl s. buck! it is not that i have a fascination with asian culture, because really, i don't. i just love the way she tells a story and draws the reader into the lives of her characters. this historical fiction is set in china during the communist revolution and contrasts old ideas with new; china with japan. a very interesting read.

(+) Seventh Day by bodie thoene ~ some in this series are better than others, but over all, i recommend the "a.d. chronicles" and its insight into the culture and biblical figures during the time of Christ.

(*) Girl in Hyacinth Blue by susan vreeland ~ an interesting collection of short stories which work backward in time all tied together by a beautiful masterpiece.

(-) A Bridge for Passing by pearl s. buck ~ a nonfiction account of the author's grief after the loss of her husband. i did not enjoy it as i enjoy her fiction.

(*) Agnes Grey by anne bronte ~ i love those bronte girls. :o)

(-) Letter from Peking by pearl s. buck ~ one of the few titles from buck that is not set in china. this particular book did not touch me the way her others have.

(+) Straight Up by lisa samson ~ i have enjoyed every one of lisa samson's books!

(+)Tiger Lily by lisa samson

(+) Sixth Covenant by bodie thoene

(+) Fifth Seal by bodie thoene

(-) The Other Boleyn Girl by philippa gregory ~ i was not impressed with the morals of the royals. this was a little too trashy for my taste.

(-) A Respectable Trade by philippa gregory

(*) The Church Ladies by lisa samson ~ i reread this favorite of lisa samson's and enjoyed it just as much the second time around.

(-) Where You Once Belonged by kent haruf ~ i like the author's style and really enjoyed his other books Plainsong and Eventide, but this story was not as good, in my opinion, and i hated the ending.

(*) Home by marilynne robinson ~ robinson has such a gentle and thoughtful way of examining relationships. the plot is rather slow, but the character development is excellent.

i have also been perusing some interesting cookbooks this year! i find they make good reading as well as good eating. Nourishing Traditions by sally fallon and Hearth and Home by karey swan are two books which have been shaping my views on food and healthy eating.

happy reading everyone. feel free to pop in with a comment and give me your recommendations for my 2010 bookshelf!

everyday gift: my bookshelf

Thursday, December 24, 2009

a shepherd's Christmas

you know your husband loves you when he will give up his saturday to drive an hour and a half to pick up your Christmas gift... a ram! this is our new shetland. isn't he a beauty? his fleece is very nice, actually a pearly taupe color if you were to look beneath the lighter tips. he is very tame and hopefully, will give our ewes a springtime of new lambs.

since i have become a shepherd, i have fresh outlook on the Christmas story. so after church on Christmas eve, i had an inspired idea. we'll all go out to the barn and read the story of Jesus' birth by lantern light with the sheep. i imagine the sweet smell of hay, the warm glow of the lantern light, and the gentle presence of our woolly little sheep. i had it partially right. the kids and hubby go along with my plan even though it is pouring rain, cold, and windy. we can't find the camping lanterns so we use our largest flashlights. the wind is blowing out of the south right into the 3 sided shelter of the shed.

yes, the shed smells of the sweet hay... and other things. the animal shelter is not quite as cozy and romantic as i imagined it would be on a Christmas eve. the animals look at us as if to say, "what in the world are you doing here now?" the wind blows damp and cold and the kids say, "hurry! read the story!" they are anxious to get back into the house, next to the fire with a mug of hot cocoa. so by flashlight i read the familiar story in luke,

"...and she gave birth to her first born, a son.
She wrapped him cloths and placed him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn. ..."

i was feeling a little bit disappointed. it was not exactly the lovely Christmas memory maker i had hoped for... but then i realized, that must have been what mary and joseph felt as well, thinking, "was this the way Messiah should enter the world?" and all of Israel looking for a regal king of military might to come and rescue them from rome instead of the gentle savior who grew up to die in our place; to rescue us from the ultimate enemy: sin.

we have made the manger of luke chapter 2 a little too comfortable. the truth is, animal sheds are drafty and smelly, filled with more than sweet smelling hay. it reminds me a little bit of my own heart... where you'll find more than just sweet smelling love, and yet Jesus humbles himself to dwell there as well.

Jesus humbled himself and set aside his deity to become human with all that goes with it.

"Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to grasped,
but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death - even death on a cross."
Philippians 2:6-8

the miracle of Christmas ~ God become man ~ for my sake.

oh, my soul. kinda makes my ridiculous pride so... so... well... ridiculous.

forgive me, Lord Jesus. make me humble like you.

perhaps our Christmas eve outing was, in fact, very appropriate after all.

A very Merry Christmas to all of you!

everyday gift: the Christmas manger

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

hand spun christmas

a basket of handspun skeins by members of the guild

B and i belong to the local weaving and spinning guild. i joined several years ago when we began raising sheep. these women have been such a wealth of knowledge, teaching me to spin and reintroducing me to weaving. B is a jr. member and is eager to learn to spin as well. i am so tickled that i have a daughter who shares so many interests with me.

(these pictures were taken on the day we helped decorate a room in the historic home where the guild meets. this mansion is kept open to the community for meetings and events. and at Christmas time the halls are decked for an open house. it is a lovely setting for our meetings.)

B learned to make these adorable little yarn doll at a swedish festival
and she has gone into production!
this one is made with my hand spun wool.

a miniature skein of hand spun shetland wool to decorate the tree

everyday gift: hand spun ornaments

Monday, December 21, 2009



1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

cream butter in with an electric mixer and add the sugar, baking soda, and cream of tartar. beat in egg and vanilla until combined. mix in flour. cover dough and chill about 1 hour.

combine cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl. shape dough into 1-inch balls, roll in sugar-cinnamon mixture to coat. place 2" apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

bake at 375* for 10 minutes. transfer to a wire rack to cool.

everyday gift: baking Christmas cookies with B

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


when it comes to decorating i'm a "natural" or mark might say i am a little bit "off the beaten path", to put it nicely! but i don't care. i love my branch window covering with its little nest.

everyday gift: a bit of the woods brought into my kitchen

wintery view

one of the things i love about living in the country
is the view from my window.
i love to watch the seasons change as God changes
the colors on his pallet
and paints everything new.

everyday gift: admiring the snow from the warmth of my home

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

a peek into B's room

cotton clouds over dancing green meadows
and dreams of horses decorate B's room

B loved sponge painting the clouds on her wall

everyday gift: a room of her own

Sunday, November 29, 2009

giving thanks

i just don't know where to start when i consider all that i have to be thankful for. God is so good. and i am very mindful of the fact that it is easy for me to be thankful when i have a beautiful new home and do not worry about paying for the groceries, while others have lost jobs or are struggling in other ways. but i am even more thankful for the intangibles. these are things that can never be taken be taken from me, my salvation, God's love for me, an eternity in heaven when this life is through, my love for my family... it is for these things that i give thanks more than all else.

november was busy, but i will end this month with a few pictures: our anniversary, caleb and mark's birthdays, and thanksgiving, of course.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life,
neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future,
nor any powers, neither height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God
that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:35

Let them give thanks to the Lord for
his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for men,
for he satisfies the thirsty
and fills the hungry with good things.
Psalm 107:8-9

anniversary roses to celebrate 16 wonderful years together
thank you, mark. for an adventure filled life, i love you!

i am thankful for C, born on a snowy day
a few days after thanksgiving,
14 years ago!
B looks on as C opens a gift from her:
chocolate nesquick, his favorite!

look! a smile from mark!

a thanksgiving toast

mark carving the turkey

the kids are so blessed to be able to enjoy a thanksgiving with their grandparents.

a crazy game of 4-sided chess! i love the fun of a good game.
i am so thankful for family times like this.

everyday gift: a holiday to reflect on our many blessings

Saturday, November 28, 2009

the least of these

it was cold, raining, and already dark at six o'clock on a sunday evening, the kind of night you want to stay home curled up under a blanket reading a book. but monday was coming faster than i wanted it to and my kids would be looking for something in their lunch boxes, so i had to go to the grocery store. i literally had to drag myself out the door. i made my way quickly through the grocery store aisles, filling my cart with all of the necessities, plus nonessentials that we don't think twice about buying. i hurried to a checkout line with only 1 person who looked almost finished, a young mom whose kids were bickering. i smiled to myself remembering when my own were that young and sitting in the grocery cart. i remembered how stressful it can be to have young ones along while shopping. the mom scolded the kids, then turned to the cashier apologizing for something, while trying to get through to someone on her cellphone. there was more going on here than i first realized. the cashier turned her "open" light off and recommended that i change lanes as they had run into a problem. so i moved to the next lane and began unloading my groceries. i could tell now that the girl in the other lane could not pay for her groceries and her cellphone was not getting any reception inside the store. she asked the cashier if she would hold her order while she stepped outside to call. my heart was breaking for her! i thought i should just swipe my debit card for her! ...but i didn't. we walked out into the rain almost at the same time. from the parking lot, as i loaded my bags of food into my van, i could see her standing in the drizzle, having an emotional conversation on her phone. and i began to pray for her asking the Lord to send her some help. i felt a nudge to do something, but what? surely she would not welcome a stranger at this difficult moment. what would i say? i drove away with her in my rear view mirror, praying.

i could not get her off of my mind. why didn't i help her? i was praying that someone would come along, but i think I was meant to be the answer to her prayers somehow. regret washed over me and i vowed that the next time i wouldn't walk away. the next often do i run into a situation like that? i mean, it's not like people are knocking on my door asking for help...

and then last sunday, my pastor preached a message on matthew 25:40, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." as i listened to the message about extending ourselves outside of our comfortable circles and sharing the love of God with others through practical means, it brought that experience back to mind again. the Lord was really speaking to my heart. i have been so completely blessed and i need to share it. i prayed that God would bring another opportunity to me and that i would have the courage to follow through with boldness...but it's not like people are knocking on my door...

later that same afternoon i was in the house relaxing while the kids were playing outside enjoying the sunny day. S came in with a serious look on his face, "mom. someone needs you outside." oh? did B get hurt? "no. but someone needs you!" i walked outside to find a 14 year old girl, out of breath, asking for a ride. it seems she had a fight with her boyfriend and he dumped her out of the truck, a ways from town. she ran. "i know i'm just a stranger to you, but do you think you could help me?" i gave her a glass of water and got my car keys. during the ride which was further than i expected, she spilled her sad story. i was able to share how God had helped me in times of trouble and that He would help her, too. i told her she was beautiful and valued by God who loved her and created her for a purpose. when we arrived at her sister's house, i gave her a new testament and asked if i could pray for her. she looked a little taken aback, but allowed me to pray for her safety and future. and then she was gone.

yes, God had brought someone knocking on my door asking for help! it seems unbelievable. i wonder if i did the right thing for her, not knowing if everything she told me was true or not. i pray that i took her to a safe place and that the words i shared would come back to her again and again. i pray that the Living Word that i placed in her hands would open her eyes to the Truth. but i will have to leave all of that up to the Lord. all i know is that i asked God for an opportunity to show His love and He answered that prayer.

everyday gift: a second chance

Monday, November 2, 2009

ready to spin

well, i finally came to the realization that the 18 raw fleeces stored in the garage were just too much for me to handle. the slow process of washing and carding such a large amount of wool was overwhelming. and then we had to move it somewhere when we sold the house. so i took a little trip to High Prairie Fibers and enlisted abi to process my wool. i cannot tell you what a relief it was to have that job taken care of. last week i went back to pick up the processed wool, it is now in clean fluffy strips of roving, ready to spin, and there is A LOT of it! almost 40 pounds worth of roving! several of the fleeces i took in ended up being of inferior quality, not worth keeping. sadly, bathsheba's black fleece was among these. but the rest came out beautifully. i will be spinning all winter long!

B and i love to visit abi's little farm/mill. in addition to their sheep and wool processing, they take in and care for abandoned, homeless, or sick exotic birds. they have an entire building devoted to these birds. B came away with a large flight feather from a blue and gold macaw, it is a prized possession!

a rainbow of wool
dark brown wool from a jacob sheep (?), gray jacob, shalom's gray (cheviot/shetland cross), hosanna's silvery gray (shetland), jubilee's oatmeal (shetland), snowflake's yellowish white (cheviot), roxie's bright white (cheviot).

sweet hosanna's wool on the spinning wheel

everyday gift: wool in a rainbow of natural colors, waiting to be spun

Friday, October 30, 2009

soccer highlights

some might think we are obsessed. others might say we are crazy. but we cannot deny that we are a SOCCER family throughout the fall and spring seasons. with three players, two of which are on travel teams, it is quite a juggling match to get them all to practices and games, on the right field, at the right time, with a clean uniform. (actually, there has been the occasional incident when we are late, can't find a jersey, and must pull it out of the dirty laundry! shhh. don't tell!) tomorrow will be the last games of the fall season and it will be a relief to our schedules. but even with the craziness, i must say that soccer has been great for our kids. i love to see them running and exercising (thank you, Lord, for strong healthy bodies!). i love the lessons in teamwork, cooperation, and sportsmanship learned. i love the discipline and commitment they are developing. and i love cheering on the sidelines!

oh, by the way, coach just called. he wants to practice indoors for the winter and he reserved a spot for us in the winter league, indoors. we've got to keep in shape, ya know...

so much for a relief in the schedule! ;o)

C plays for the U14 travel team.
it has been so fun to watch him improve his skills
over the years he has been playing.

even with his cast on, S could play soccer,
as long as we wrapped it in protective foam.
it really didn't slow him down much!

B is No. 2 for the "lavender lightning"
all those years of playing against her brothers in the front yard
has made her a pretty tough player!
(i have more pic's of B, but i can't find them on the computer! )

everyday gift: surviving enjoying the soccer season

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

autumn view

this is the view from the deck of our new house. we have moved in (but are not quite settled yet, in case you have wondered where i have been!) the field in the background is our corn which the farmer has not been able to harvest due to the wet weather. if things don't dry out soon, the crop could be lost. however the "crop" of mud surrounding our house seems to be doing just fine! yikes. i am still hoping that we can seed some grass before winter.

although the summer went way too quickly, i do love the change of seasons, and autumn is one of my favorites. i hope you are enjoying the crisp evenings with some hot apple cider! i have a taste for pumpkin... maybe, i should bake some pumpkin scones today...

everyday gift: the colors of autumn

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

more about gourds

a few weekends ago we spent a lovely time at the gourd fest. who knew gourds could be so interesting that you could celebrate them so? well, if you have been reading my blog lately you know that B has become quite taken with gourds. she has her own gourd garden with birdhouse gourds ready to harvest soon. so when we heard about a local gourd festival, we knew we couldn't miss it!

B following her dad's instructions to have her picture taken with the biggest gourd she could find.

unbelievable variety!

a sweet kiss.

B and grandy share a common interest in gourds, so this was a special time for them.

B with grandy and grammy

the uncommon gourd was my favorite vendor booth.

incredible works of art. i especially liked the ones that mixed basketry and weaving with the gourds. i love artwork that uses natural beauty in the design. you can see more of this artist's work at her website.

dried gourds. we bought a few to play with over the winter while B's gourds dry in the barn. i think it will be fun for B and grandy to have a special project to work on together.

decorating gourd shakers

gourd bowling!

wonderful gourd arbors

the girls had fun walking through the gourd arbors

grandy with B, identifying gourds with the guide

across the fence was a beautiful view of the countryside with a train rumbling by.
i love the sound of a train whistle.

everyday gift: enjoying the gourd fest with grammy and grandy


i knew you could do it!

everyday gift: learning to fly

Sunday, September 27, 2009

we're getting closer!

"Unless the Lord builds the house,
its builders labor in vain"
Psalm 127:1

mark laying the oak floor in the dining room with C as his assistant.

this picture is a wonderful testimony to God's faithfulness. about one month ago mark was having severe back pain. he feared the worst and started consulting with doctors and investigating surgery as a possible solution to his bulging disk. with much work yet to be done on the house, mark was worried that he would be unable to accomplish his part in the home building. hiring out his share of the work would put us over budget.

as you can see, he is doing much better. after visiting his chiropractor, doing some therapeutic stretches, wearing a supportive back brace, and giving it over to the Lord through prayer he is doing very well. thankfully, he has been able to finish framing the basement, hang all the doors, and lay the oak flooring. he is now ready to set the kitchen cabinets and install the trim.

B helping to lay out the floor planks
(we've got everyone doing jobs!)

"If a man will not work, he shall not eat" 2 Thes. 3:10

S painting the kitchen

painting the living room

the kitchen is ready for cabinets! we are getting so close!

everyday gifts: oak plank floors and God's healing hand