President calls terrorist attack on a Jewish Deli a random act of violence

And the Muslim shrink in the military who went on a murderous rampage on an American military base while yelling Allu Akbar was just random workplace violence.


Now consider what our president said about the events at the Hyper Cacher market in Paris on January 9 in a new interview “It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.”

“[V]icious zealots… randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli”?  That’s the way the way the president of the United States describes a dedicated jihadist murdering four Jews in a kosher marketin one of the oldest and largest Jewish neighborhoods in Paris, the day after other jihadists shot up the Charlie Hebdooffices, killing even more people? No Jews, no jihadist, just more “random” violence, as if Ahmedy Coulibaly, the man who murdered the four Jews and had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, just stumbled into a kosher deli by accident with a submachine gun while on the way to Cafe de Flore for a cognac.

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Angry Progressive Atheist Kills 3 Muslims in Parking Dispute

An angry atheist killed three rising star young Muslims- is it a hate crime? What aren’t we hearing more about it in the news? What would the coverage be like if he’d been a Muslim and they’d been anything but Muslim. All interesting questions I’ve seen around the internet.


It is being covered in the news, but I think we all know it’s not getting nearly the hysterical press it would get if the killer had been Muslim or Christian. I mean, look at the previous over crazed political killings when the press only imagined (or outright made up) that the killer was a Tea Party sympathizer, a Christian, or somehow right wing, and how they went dark when it turned out the killer was actually leftwing (the shooter in Gabby Giffords case, for instance).

The man who intended to go on a killing spree but only managed to wound a brave security guard at Family Research Council had been volunteering at a community center for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.  In most news stories, they didn’t mention that, and they didn’t even name the Family Research Council- it was just ‘a Christian lobbying group.’

Chris Matthews blamed Palin for the shooting of Gabby Gifford, only the shooter turned out to be a fan of such literature as “The Communist Manifesto” and “Mein Kampf”.

Here is how predictable the press is- with the first story I saw, which quoted several Muslims understandably grieved over the loss of three of their young people (who by all accounts were lovely, lovely people), saying that the lack of press coverage was because the victims were Muslim.  I do understand why they would think that.  But my immediate thought was, “no way.  The press would eat that story up if the shooter was a Tea Party member.  He’s got to be a Progressive, one of their own, and that’s why this doesn’t strike them as newsworthy.”

Oh, bingo.

Here are some of the things the thuggish murderer “Liked” on his Facebook page:

A review of the Facebook page of the man charged in these murders, Craig Hicks, shows a consistent theme of anti-religion and progressive causes. Included in his many Facebook “likes” are the Huffington Post, Rachel Maddow, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Freedom from Religion Foundation, Bill Nye “The Science Guy,” Neil deGrasse Tyson, gay marriage groups, and a host of anti-conservative/Tea Party pages.

I’d love to boast about my prescience, but really, it’s not rocket science.  The mainstream press is not clever, they are deeply biased and that makes them predictable.



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Breakfast: Salmon Quesedillas

Recipe and directions for the quesedillas and the mango salsa here.
salmon quesedilla platter salmon quesedilla with mango salsa 2 salmon quesedilla with mango salsa 2015-02-11 09.03.44

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Roasted Broccoli

roasted broccoliThis is ridiculously easy.  The dark spots are on purpose, not a mistake.  Yummy, yummy flavour.  It adds a slightly nutty sweetness to the broccoli.



All I did- cut up the broccoli, put it in a pie pan.  Drizzled it with grapeseed oil (I wanted sesame oil, but I’m out).  Sprinkled it generously with black sesame seeds.

Roasted at 375 for about 20 minutes (on the second bracket from the top).  My husband and I loved it. He wanted the leftovers in his lunch the next day.

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Fifty Shades of Ugh

I don’t want to talk about it because I think it’s obviously wrong, and that it ought to be obviously wrong should be, well, obvious, to all Christians.  The less details I know about it, the happier I will be.  Also, whenever I accidentally brush across a Christian defending it, I feel like I’ve stepped in dog droppings where there should have been sweet-smelling violets and lilies of the valley and it makes me sad, disappointed, and queasy.
But I pretty much agree with everything here.
Only more so.
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Kids are adorable. And also very, very gross.

Reminds me of the rules my mama never told me I’d need to make posts I have here.

10. All the Other Gross Things. We were at a friend’s house the other day, and I walked into the kitchen and found my kid’s wadded up, dirty socks on the kitchen counter.MY KID’S DIRTY SOCKS. ON THE KITCHEN COUNTER. AT OUR FRIEND’S HOUSE. Not my youngest kid, either—one of my older-than-a-decade-and-really-should-know-better children. I don’t even know what to do with that.

Picture a kid from a super nice family with super stellar parents peeing on his brother’s toothbrush. Yeah, that happened.

Our 5-year-old pretty much licked his way through Disney World last year. We had to tell him to take his mouth off of every blessed handrail in the park. I’m not even a germaphobe, and it made me throw up in my mouth a little bit.

So. Many. Gross. Things.

I think the original author perhaps undervalues effective discipline (which is more, oh, so much more, than ‘talking’ to them), or maybe she doesn’t at all, she’s just being funny.  But that’s just a pre-emptive comment to avoid similar observations.  The over-all point stands- parenting is hard work and kids are not perfect (neither are their parents).  
Often when you think you are witnessing bad parenting, you are witnessing a freakish bad moment in a child’s life, or you are witnessing parenting in process, or you are witnessing a child who takes longer to learn- they just aren’t clones, and they are their own selves.  Children are born persons.  You don’t make them so.  You can help them be more civilized and less gross persons, and good luck with that.   It takes time. 
Oh, the comments. This one isn’t intended to be funny, but it’s cracking me up, ” Actually tantrums are almost always because a child is tired, hungry, or unable to communicate something. With both my children whenever those three needs were met there were never tantrums…. - 
Tantrums almost aways because… followed by ‘both my children.’
Piker.  I’m not making fun of having ‘only’ two children.  Nothing wrong with that.  But there is something ridiculous about setting yourself up as an expert on parenting no matter how many kids you have because kids, as I have said so often here, are just not clones.  
And let’s face it, two kids is not a significant sample base.   Neither is seven. I can say that with my seven, for six of them, making sure they were rested, nourished, and could communicate and they would probably not have a tantrum was really quite true (most of the time). For one of them, not  so much.  She was extremely passionate and no matter how well fed, well rested, and verbose she was, she could not handle disappointment well at all, and it resulted in screaming fits.  
Unable to communicate? You want to know how well that one could communicate?  Sent to a nap or a time-out on my bed, on more than one occasion she opened my window and screamed to the neighborhood that she was being kidnapped by a wicked witch who wouldn’t let her out.  Fortunately, we lived in a rough neighborhood and nobody cared (I kid- we lived on a busy street and the only person who could here us was our nearest neighbor who knew my daughter and also was a little deaf).
A different child once dramatically stood up in her seat on the airplane and shook her finger at me, screaming, “Hey, I am the kid, you are the mom, and you will do what I tell you to do!!”  I think she communicated pretty well, don’t you?  She was 3.  She had, in fact, been 3 about as many weeks.  She’d had sleep and she wasn’t hungry, she was bored and angry about it.
You can do a lot of things to reduce tantrums.  You can be more consistent, you can use stronger sorts of discipline than conversations (eyeroll).  But it takes time, and the other person- the child- has a personality.  Those who cannot handle disappointment well and have passionate, dramatic natures will throw tantrums because screaming is how they handle the crushing disappointments of life- like being given the green spoon instead of the blue, or finding out that your sandwich was cut into rectangles when you wanted, with all your heart, to have it cut into triangles, or discovering, with anguished grief, that the book you picked off the shelf has a picture of a knight and a picture of a dragon, but not a picture of the knight slaying the dragon.
I have watched grandchildren who are well rested, well fed, and quite articulate fall to pieces- millions of screaming, howling little pieces, because their banana broke. 
Take heart, and remember Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are human children reared and properly socialized in a couple of years.  They are born persons, not robots.
let us not grow weary
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Free Kindle Downloads, Tasty Reads


I found this depressing, but you’re supposed to. It’s also funny if you like biting satire (I do).

Reader Review: Sinclair Lewis’ 1922 novel/expose highlights the shallowness and greed of middle class American business–to the delight of European audiences already disenchanted with America’s rise to world greatness. The first 75-80 pages make for slow reading as they chronicle 24 hours in the life of George F. Babbitt of Zenith–a fictitious, Eastern city. A professional realtor and natural born hustler, this budding orator bullies his subordinates, plays the good old boy with his pals at the Athletic Club, and is kindly tolerated by his wife, but neither respected nor obeyed by his two older children. The joys of his life are his ten-year-old daughter and his college buddy, Paul. A slave to cigars and alcohol, this would-be tycoon is haunted at night by a secret, recurring dream about a fairy girl/woman who adores him. Although cognizant of the allures of various women in his office and social world, he has managed to steer a stolid moral course throughout his marriage.

Despite his questionable business practices and private lusts this protagonist proves not entirely unsympathetic; his problems, as well as his temptations, are real and demanding. His failures and moral stumbling do not endear readers to his cause, but serve to make him less than despicable. Unsuccessful in his pathetic bids to climb socially, Babbitt (whom the author always refers to by his surname) gradually begins to break free of his marital cage–to the shock of his colleagues, neighbors and family. He experiments with affairs, espouses radical social and political crusades, and argues with the old boys who have long relied on him. No longer ssatisfied with his fantasy visions, he revels in social, political and marital debauchery, viewing
himself with pride as a man struggling to be himself at last. He yearns to make his own decisions and be true to himself alone, instead of living up (or down) to everyone else’s expectations.

Another free Kindle Sinclair Lewis title at Amazon: The Job An American Novel

Main Street

Free Air

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Also by Sinclair Lewis, but 2.99 for the Kindle version:Arrowsmith

REader Review: This book won the 1926 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. Lewis also won the 1930 Nobel Prize in Literature. It is the story of Martin Arrowsmith, a medical researcher who, while attending a mid-western medical school, is influenced by an aged bacteriologist. Arrowsmith marries a nurse, who will encourage his career in research, and tries his hand at private practice. However, he fails in that endeavor. After a number of positions he joins a research institute in New York where he discovers a new microorganism but is “scooped.” He travels to the West Indies to try his “bacteriophage” on an epidemic. After his wife and colleague die, he starts administering the serum indiscriminately, destroying the results of his experiment. He returns to New York and marries a rich widow. However, social life interferes with his research and his search for truth. He quits the Institute and establishes a lab in Vermont with Terry Wickett, an uncouth but conscientious chemist. The model for Terry Wickett was Dr. John Howard Northrup (1891-1987), who will later win the 1946 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Apparently, the model for Martin Arrowsmith was provided by the microbiologist and writer Paul de Kruif, whose book “Microbe Hunters” became very popular. The novel also contrasts the idealism of the research scientist, who unfortunately looses touch with those that care for him, and the apparent avarice of the medical profession.
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By Zane Grey
The Man of the Forest

Reader Review: I first read this book when I was 12, and absolutely loved it. I was already a horse-riding maniac and adored the physical description of the West as Grey knew it. I thought the love story was also wonderful, there was suspense, and Grey, to me, was an amazing storyteller. I proceeded to read every one of his books, at the rate of about 2 per week. I have since re-read several of my faves, and decades later, this still ranks as one of the best. Unlike the other readers, I highly recommend it for a drowsy Saturday. And I love the price! Free, for my Kindle!

cowboyMe: I read my way through all the Zane Grey books at my library when I was in sixth grade or so. They were all there, in creamy hardbacks, with a sticker showing a crimson silhouette of a cowboy on a bucking bronco to indicate they were westerns. I introduced them to my older girls at about the same age, and they hated them. They said they were formula fiction with predictable plots, cookie cutter characters, and purple prose. I have to admit to all these defects, and yet, I still have a fond place in my heart for them, long after my love affair with westerns has died and gone cold.
One gift he definitely has is the ability to describe the terrain with both accuracy and romance. Perhaps it helped that I lived in the desert when I was reading Zane Grey novels

Here are some other Zane Grey titles free at Amazon (there are many, many more, you should look them up by Author if this interests you):

Riders of the Purple Sage His most famous, and still, i think, the best-selling western ever. Mormons hate it, understandably. I read it and wanted to name my first son Lassiter. What can I say? I think I was 11.

Reader Review: Her father’s death has left Jane Withersteen in possession of the richest land holding in the Cottonwoods, a Mormon village on the 1871 Utah frontier. Most importantly, Amber Spring runs through her property and so she controls the water supply that makes possible the rolling fields of purple sage. But now the Mormon church wants to gain contol of the spring by forcing an unwilling Jane to marry Elder Tull. They’ve been steadily increasing the pressure on her and as the novel opens, Tull and his henchmen have come to arrest Venters, the Gentile foreman on her ranch. Outnumbered and outgunned, Jane prays for deliverance. Just as Tull is about to whip Venters, a rider in black appears–Lassiter, the scourge of the Mormons.
Lassiter is an archetype of the mythic Western hero. In him we see the origins of both Shane and Ethan Edwards (from The Searchers, Amos in the novel)–a lone gunmen fighting for Justice, he has descended upon Mormon Utah with a vengeance, obsessively searching for the sister who was kidnapped by a Mormon proselytizer.
Jane takes him on as a ranch hand, but makes him swear to forsake violence. Inevitably (as in High Noon), events force her to release him from his oath.
Despite an extremely harsh view of Mormons, this is one of the truly great Westerns; a must read.

The Rainbow Trailsequel to his most famous book, Riders of the Purple Sage. And just in case anybody is paying attention and wondering, I didn’t name any of our children Lassiter.

The Call of the Canyon, set in a post WW1 world, social commentary on the plight of the returning vets, womanhood, family, working westerners vs elite easterners with lily-white hands, and descriptions of Arizona’s gorgeous Oak Creek Canyon (i’ve been there) that are spot on. Excerpt:

“The very forest-fringed earth seemed to have opened into a deep abyss, ribbed by red rock walls and choked by steep mats of green timber. The chasm was a V-shaped split and so deep that looking downward sent at once a chill and a shudder over Carley. At that point it appeared narrow and ended in a box. In the other direction, it widened and deepened, and stretched farther on between tremendous walls of red, and split its winding floor of green with glimpses of a gleaming creek, bowlder-strewn and ridged by white rapids. A low mellow roar of rushing waters floated up to Carley’s ears. What a wild, lonely, terrible place! Could Glenn possibly live down there in that ragged rent in the earth? It frightened her—the sheer sudden plunge of it from the heights. Far down the gorge a purple light shone on the forested floor. And on the moment the sun burst through the clouds and sent a golden blaze down into the depths, transforming them incalculably. The great cliffs turned gold, the creek changed to glancing silver, the green of trees vividly freshened, and in the clefts rays of sunlight burned into the blue shadows. Carley had never gazed upon a scene like this.
[…]The murmur of falling water sounded closer. Presently Carley saw that the road turned at the notch in the canyon, and crossed a clear swift stream. Here were huge mossy boulders, and red walls covered by lichens, and the air appeared dim and moist, and full of mellow, hollow roar. Beyond this crossing the road descended the west side of the canyon, drawing away and higher from the creek. Huge trees, the like of which Carley had never seen, began to stand majestically up out of the gorge, dwarfing the maples and white-spotted sycamores. The driver called these great trees yellow pines.
At last the road led down from the steep slope to the floor of the canyon. What from far above had appeared only a green timber-choked cleft proved from close relation to be a wide winding valley, tip and down, densely forested for the most part, yet having open glades and bisected from wall to wall by the creek. Every quarter of a mile or so the road crossed the stream; and at these fords Carley again held on desperately and gazed out dubiously, for the creek was deep, swift, and full of bowlders. Neither driver nor horses appeared to mind obstacles. Carley was splashed and jolted not inconsiderably. They passed through groves of oak trees, from which the creek manifestly derived its name; and under gleaming walls, cold, wet, gloomy, and silent; and between lines of solemn wide-spreading pines. Carley saw deep, still green pools eddying under huge massed jumble of cliffs, and stretches of white water, and then, high above the treetops, a wild line of canyon rim, cold against the sky.”

Tales of lonely trails
Travel writing as this title is nonfiction.

Reader Review; TALES OF LONELY TRAILS, by Zane Grey (1922, and republished in 1986 and 1988) is a most important nonfiction collection of Grey’s own first person accounts about his numerous adventures in the wild outdoors of the American West. They are not only his accurate descriptions of several distinctive and very diverse geographical locations, but also these accounts demonstrate his writer’s methodology of later incorporating such descriptions of real geographical places into later works of fiction. The first of five articles is entitled “Nonezoshe”, the Indian name for the Rainbow Bridge, once almost inaccessible, but now a National Monument which can be seen today by boat along the manmade Lake Powel on the Colorado River. Grey visited it in March 1913; Teddy Roosevelt in August of that same year. Both, as two of the few non-Indians who at that time had seen the now famous stone arch, wrote about their adventures in getting there by an arduous, dangerous overland route in which some pack animals slipped to their deaths over what Grey named as the “Glass Mountains”. Grey’s descriptions and his Navajo guide as a prototype were adapted to fit into his later stories such as THE RAINBOW TRAIL (1915), the sequel to his famous RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE (1912), and again in, perhaps, his best novel, THE VANISHING AMERICAN (1925).

The Last Trail

Reader Review; I initially thought this was going to be a fictional shoot ‘em up story of the Old West. Turns out it was more of a historical, fictional, romance shoot ‘em up. The historical context was educational and appears to have been based on real characters who inhabited Fort Henry in the late 1700s. At that time the fort was in a very remote part of the country, and even though the Revolutionary War was taking place “in the east”, the Fort and its inhabitants were living lives independent of the struggle against the redcoats. The author at times lapses into an overly detailed horticultural description of the trees and bushes which gets a little tedious, but this is more than compensated for by his accurate, pulse-quickening descriptions of the bordermen and their hand-to-hand struggles with the redmen and the outlaws. For a good historical description of Fort Henry, I recommend a review of: […](Looks like Amazon won’t allow a URL in reviews – sorry! But check out the historical description of Fort Henry on the West Virginia historical web site)
All in all a very engaging book with very minor flaws.

If you have a horse girl, she should read this one.

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Maria Chapdelaine
by a French Canadian author

Reader Review; Set at turn of the (19th/20th) century, this coming-of-age tale has a unique twist that fascinated me in its accurate detail and its desire to capture the lyricism and even sometimes the syntax of the original story in French. Maria Chapdelaine, a young girl living in the very far northern reaches of untamed Quebec, has three suitors, each offering her a completely different future. In just a few months she and her family taste the sometimes sweet but mostly bitter fruit of the harsh life these pioneers faced farming in the northern wilderness as she grapples with making her choice between those competing paths for her future.

I was raised in Minnesota and faced some of the same challenges in the story, albeit in a much milder form. The real aprehensive fear but also the unique experiences of accommodating -30 degree winters while living and working outdoors, the knowledge that jobs were hard to come by and those available were extremely hard work with little apparent future promise, and the loneliness that can come from being far from the soft crowded civilized life most of us take for granted.

I was moved by this story and, knowing a little of the future historic currents that dominated the lives of 20th century farm folks wresting a livelihood in the very inhospitable north, I thought a lot about Maria and how her story must have finally ended long after she left behind the life interval described in the book. I guess that makes it a pretty good read and definately worth the time involved.

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This Freedom

A rather heartbreaking story of the cost of the social and moral freedoms that followed WW1. The author begins by acknowledging the flaws and burdens of the former system, and concludes with breaking your heart. One of the things I found interesting is the delicate touch the writer had with conveying really quite dreadful things, and the sly slight of hand which has you shaking your head and clucking your tongue over all that was wrong before, and then draws you up as you realize that the new era is chucking babies out with the bathwater.

Here’s an excerpt:
“Rosalie’s mother laughed also then, but had a sudden wetness in her eyes. She put her arms about Rosalie and pressed her to her bosom and cried, “Oh, my poor darling!” and explained the tremendous mystery. Wife and husband, Rosalie’s mother explained, were the names used by other people for her father and her mother. A man and a woman loved one another very, very dearly (“as I loved your dear father”) and then they lived together in a dear house of their own and then God gave them dear little children of their own to live with them, said Rosalie’s mother.
This thoroughly satisfied Rosalie and completely entranced her, especially about the presentation of the dear little children. She would have supposed that naturally it thoroughly satisfied Anna and Harold and Flora and the others; and the point of interest rests here, that Rosalie’s mother also believed that this explanation of marriage and procreation completely satisfied Anna at sixteen and Harold in the Bank at eighteen. She never gave them any other explanation of the phenomenon of birth; and it is to be supposed that, just as she instructed them that God sent the dear little children, so she believed that God, at the right time, in some mysterious way, communicated the matter to them in greater detail. Years and years afterwards, Flora told Rosalie that when Rosalie was born all the children were sent away to stay with a neighbour and not allowed to return till Rosalie’s mother, downstairs, was able to show them the dear little sister that God had surprisingly delivered at the house, as it were in a parcel.
One is given pain by a state of affairs so monstrous; but one suffers that pain proudly because one belongs, proudly, to a day in which nothing but stark truth may go from mother to child, not even fairy stories, not even Bible stories. Rosalie’s mother is gone and her kind is no more, and in the graces and the manners of this day’s generation one perceives, proudly, the inestimable benefits of the passing of her kind. Lamentable specimen of her kind, she had no interests other than her home and her husband and her children and the pleasures and the treasures and the friends of her husband and her children. She belonged to that dark age when duty towards others was the guiding principle of moral life; she came only to the threshold of this enlightened age in which duty to oneself is known to be the paramount and first and last consideration of life as it should be lived.”

Here’s another:
“Rosalie’s mother did everything in the house and she was always doing something in the house—for somebody else. She never rested and she was always worried. Her brows were always wrinkled with the feverish concentration of one anxiously doing one thing while anxiously thinking of another thing waiting to be done. She had a driven and a hunted look.
Now Rosalie’s father had a driving and a hunting look.
Rosalie’s father in his youth threw away everything. Rosalie’s mother throughout the whole of her life gave away everything. Rosalie’s father was a tragic figure dwelling in a house of bondage; but he was at least a tragic king, ruling his house and venting his griefs upon his house. Rosalie’s mother was a tragic figure and she was a tragic slave in the house of bondage. The life of Rosalie’s father was a tragedy, but a tragedy in some measure relieved because he knew it was a tragedy and could wave his arms and shout and smash things and hurl beefsteaks through the air because of the tragedy of it. But the life of Rosalie’s mother was an infinitely deeper tragedy because she never knew or suspected that it was a tragedy.
Still, that is so often the difference between the tragedy of a woman and the tragedy of a man.”

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The Breaking Point
by Mary Roberts Rinehart

Excerpt: “Heaven and earth,” sang the tenor, Mr. Henry Wallace, owner of the Wallace garage. His larynx, which gave him somewhat the effect of having swallowed a crab-apple and got it only part way down, protruded above his low collar.
“Heaven and earth,” sang the bass, Mr. Edwin Goodno, of the meat market and the Boy Scouts. “Heaven and earth, are full—” His chin, large and fleshy, buried itself deep; his eyes were glued on the music sheet in his hand.
“Are full, are full, are full,” sang the soprano, Clare Rossiter, of the yellow colonial house on the Ridgely Road. She sang with her eyes turned up, and as she reached G flat she lifted herself on her toes. “Of the majesty, of Thy glory.”
“Ready,” barked the choir master. “Full now, and all together.”
The choir room in the parish house resounded to the twenty voices of the choir. The choir master at the piano kept time with his head. Earnest and intent, they filled the building with the Festival Te Deum of Dudley Buck, Opus 63, No. 1.
Elizabeth Wheeler liked choir practice. She liked the way in which, after the different parts had been run through, the voices finally blended into harmony and beauty. She liked the small sense of achievement it gave her, and of being a part, on Sundays, of the service. She liked the feeling, when she put on the black cassock and white surplice and the small round velvet cap of having placed in her locker the things of this world, such as a rose-colored hat and a blue georgette frock, and of being stripped, as it were, for aspirations.

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A Hopeful Heart (Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel Book 1)

Reader Review; I appreciated the unusual resolution the author used to the main problem in this story. I haven’t read an Amish fiction book where things were resolved in that particular manner (of course that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist), and I appreciated the change. She also doesn’t portray the Amish as the practically perfect people that a lot of the Amish fiction seems to. We all have our problems, don’t we? Although many of them were kind and gentle, they were human and things around her were not perfect. I did feel that Trey and Hannah fell in love way to quickly and easily, given the circumstances in both their lives. I don’t believe they would act on such feelings alone so quickly, but other than the speed of their developing romance, if you like Amish fiction you are sure to enjoy this story of hope. I received this book from Booksneeze and Zondervan for the purpose of an honest review. My opinion is my own. Thank you Zondervan.

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Tombstones and Banana Trees: A True Story of Revolutionary Forgiveness

Based on some reviews, there is physical abuse, murder, and incest in this story that may be hard to read. The author’s Christianity seems to be robustly Ugandan and Charismatic.

Reader Review:

I always enjoy reading true stories that have an inspirational conclusion. “Tombstones and Banana Trees” really delivered. Medad Birungi grew up in great poverty and tremendous rejection. His father, an abusive alcoholic avenged himself by public humiliating and then disowning his entire family in the village square with only the clothes they were wearing. After promising to take them along with his four other families to a new, more fertile region of Uganda. It is a very dark situation; the now fatherless family struggles for food and shelter in a community that is composed primarily of relatives of his father, whom for the most part despise this abandoned family based on the untrue rumors spread about them by their father; one thinks of the story of Job as they face numerous perils. Amazingly, the family’s persistence slowly brings about triumph but when a beloved sister meets a tragic end Medad’s despair deepens.
The wounding is deep causing Medad to continue to struggle with self-esteem and a deep rage that brings about his own alcohol abuse, gang involvement and other destructive behaviors. One day while at school, a Christian choir gives a performance that touches him so profoundly, that he has his own Damascus Road experience. Like Saul becoming Paul, Medad experiences transformation. He is encouraged by a stranger to go and make confession to those whom he hates. Medad gives a very candid account of some of these encounters that transform many of those who had or were openly seeking to do him harm.

He also relates the things that had to change within his own life such as renouncing the occult and other unholy bonding. The book goes on to relate how each one of us must forgive or we can not be forgiven by our Heavenly Father.

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The Antelope in the Living Room: The Real Story of Two People Sharing One Life

From the Back Cover
Marriage . . . you gotta laugh.

They say that marriage is a lot like insanity, in that they both require commitment. I so get that.

When you’re in those first giddy stages of dating, you have no idea what life is going to throw your way. You’re just two bright-eyed kids full of optimism, convinced you’re going to be the happiest married couple ever.

Y’all. Trust me. Saying, “I do” is easy. It’s the next fifty years or so that can get a little tricky.

There are days you feel like you’ve never loved each other more. But there are also days filled with disappointment and silence that never seem to end because you just can’t seem to find the words to make it right.

Marriage can be the biggest blessing and the most significant challenge two people ever take on. It’s the joy of knowing there’s someone to share in your sorrows and triumphs, and the challenge of living with someone who thinks it’s a good idea to hang a giant antelope head on your living room wall.

And yet we are in this thing together. For the rest of our lives. Not just for better or for worse, but for better AND for worse.

That’s what this book is about. The times that brought us together and the times we were falling apart. The days we wouldn’t trade for anything in the world, and that time he hung an antelope on my wall.

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One Night in Tehran: A Titus Ray Thriller

This book has 53 five star reviews, a couple four star, and nothing lower.

Blurb; In Tehran, while hiding out from the Iranian secret police, CIA intelligence officer, Titus Ray, finds shelter with a group of Iranian Christians. Compelled by their unwavering faith, the battle-hardened, covert agent becomes a believer shortly before they smuggle him out of Iran to freedom in Turkey.

Back in the States and forced to go on medical leave, he discovers a Hezbollah hit man has targeted him for assassination. Now, while trying to figure out what it means to be a follower of Christ, he must decide if the Iranian couple he meets in Oklahoma has ties to the man who’s trying to kill him, and if Nikki Saxon, a beautiful local detective, can be trusted with his secrets.

Trained in lies, he learns the truth
Will it help him escape his past?
Can it change his future?

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Above links are affiliate links.

Reader Reviews and blurbs are not mine, they are taken from Amazon’s pages.

Books are free at the time I pasted the links here, but this can change.

Enjoy, and remember:


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Project for Today

does this toy inspire the imaginationWe have a play area downstairs in the living room. I’ve been meaning to go through it, organize it better, and get rid of lots of the toys. Now that (strangled sob) Shasta and the Equuschick have moved their four darlings to Nebraska, I no longer have grandbabies playing there several times a week (cue anguished wail), so it was time.

This project went a lot more smoothly than the upstairs toy cupboard job went last week.

I didn’t get an after picture because my phone battery died before I was done.  I didn’t get a good before picture, because I forgot.  Halfway through, there was this:

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I took a picture of the mitten, because I found it in the toybox, and I needed to send a picture to the mothers of our grandchildren to ask whose it was.  But you can see that horrible pile of blocks, wooden trains, and other odds and ends in the background.

2015-02-09 19.33.14The wicker basket is bigger than it appears in the picture.  It’s now holding just lincoln logs and I’m giving them to the HG and her lovelies.

I threw away one grocery back full of garbage- junk, broken toys, torn books, and toys that are missing too many pieces to be worth keeping.

I reduced my blocks, which filled three large, and I do mean LARGE baskets down to one milkcrate, and one small basket of special little German castle blocks just for children who are big enough to play nicely with them.

I filled a picnic basket with other toys to give away (because I’m also getting rid of that picnic basket although that hurts because I’ve had it for 25 years.  We bought it in the Philippines).

I found two or three toys that belong to the Nebraska Grandbabies, and we already had a coat that belongs to one of them and has to be mailed, so that took care of a few more things.

At the moment, I have this green shelving arrangement that has 9 cubbies in it, and a few hours ago it was crammed full of books and toys- stuffed to overflowing with them, in fact, and it’s got three empty cubbies, 3 1/2 only half full, and a couple of full ones.

Here were my guidelines for getting rid of things:

Does it have too many parts?

Is it missing too many pieces?

Am I sick and tired of picking up these pieces? (the ring toys are going, all three of them.)

Do we already have enough of these? (I’ve cut the matchbox car collection by half, I cut the blocks by probably 70%.  I’ll soon be turning my cold and ruthless eyes to the dress up clothes).

Can it be used more than one way? (I kept one or two baby toys all the grandbabies have loved even though they can’t be used other ways – a jack-in-the-box, and an electronic toy with animals and a farmer).

Is it plastic or wood? (I kept a couple plastic things, but most of the things I kept are cloth or wood- or paper).

Can I clean this? Stuffed animals have also been brought down to a more manageable number.  Also, I wash stuffed animals in the washer.  I figure it’s the law of the jungle, survival of the fittest and all that- those that make it, we keep.  Other toys get washed in the dishwasher.  A toy has to be pretty special if I can’t put it through one of those appliances and have it survive.  Exception made for blocks and musical toys.

Does anybody ever actually play with this, or am I just being sentimental?


I’m not saying that once I asked myself those questions I always made the rational choice.  Sometimes I answered, “No, nobody plays with this.  Yes, I am just being sentimental.  And I’m gonna continue that. So, there.”

Once or twice I made the decision to be sentimental somewhere else- I have a small basket of special little toys that I use for decoration, for instance.

The thing is, having an idea of what my standards ought to be for keeping a toy, as well as well as a goal for where I wanted to be with volume (I wanted only enough blocks for the milk-crate, for instance) means I made more progress than I would have otherwise.

Bonus Tip: For those toys with missing parts that you want to collect so you have them all before you can pass it on, or you want to store on a high shelf and only get out under supervision- gather the parts you do have and store them away from little hands. It can be a box in your closet, a bag hanging on your door, whatever, just have one designated place for things like this. I have deep window ledges, so mine are in my room on a window sill behind a curtain. Over the next little while, as you find a missing part when you clean under the couch cushions, stumble on a secret toy stash behind the couch or bookcase (one of my grandsons likes to do this), find them under a seat in the car, or realize they were used for bathtub toys, whatever- put the parts together in the same place. Eventually, you may find them all, or you can decide it’s not worth keeping, but you are less likely to end up throwing it away and then finding the rest of it the day after the trash went out, nor do you have to rummage through the toys digging out extraneous rings to ring stackers you no longer own, or puzzle pieces to puzzles you threw out last month.

vintage cleaning the nursery


The living room toy area

The living room toy area

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Science of how things work, air pressure (pt 3)

air pressure medicine dropper 2 I’ve shared a couple other ideas of activities the kids can do at home to help them understand and make some observations of their own about air pressure. My goal here is not to give them a scripted science lesson that you can check off on a box for your state’s curriculum requirements. The idea is to give a little bit of an explanation for what air is, to let them do some activities so they can see some of the things they are learning about air in action, and then to work out for themselves some answers to some questions that will help them understand “Oh, that’s why that happens!” around the house.

air pressure medicine dropper(click to enlarge, and this should print to fit two American index cards).

I find it helpful to think about air like water- if we lived under water, like a fish, and we opened a can and it instantly filled with water, we wouldn’t say, “Oh, the can sucked the water in.” We would say that the water rushed in to fill the empty space in the can. When a submarine gets a hole in the side and fills with water, we don’t picture that as something sucking the water in, but as the water rushing in to fill a space newly opened to it.

From a vintage science book:

“We live in a sea of air, and the air is pressing all around us, but it does not press equally all the time and everywhere. This is because the weight of the air changes with that we have  winds. Naturally, if the air is pressing harder in one place than in another, the lower air will be pushed sidewise in the areas of high pressure and will rush to the areas where there is less pressure. And air rushing from one place to another is called wind.”

Thinking about what you now understand about air pressure, you can come up with answers to other questions.  How do squirt guns work?  How about spray bottles and pumps? What makes water faucets work?

What is inside tires? How does that work? Why? Try putting a washer, or a small toy car, on top of a flat balloon. Then blow up the balloon. Try sitting on a chair and then sit on one of those exercise balls or a bouncy toy (like this).  These are examples of compressed air.  Why would we want that in our tires?

When I am in the back of the house, I can tell when somebody has walked in the front door even if I don’t hear them- the foam tiles in my ceiling shift ever so slightly, as the air pressure in the house equalizes.

When I put a straw in a can with a carbonated drink, the straw often rises.  Why?

What are some other examples you and the kids can think of?  What are some ways you could use what you know about air pressure?

Here’s one that I think would make a fun art project- put a few drops of food colouring in the water and blow towards your art paper.  But my suggestion for the early years is to spend less time talking about Bernoulli, and not too much time talking at the children at all- do, observe, think, discuss together.  Later, they can fill in the web of knowledge with more knowledge, because the more you know, the more you can know.

When the children are younger (especially 9 or so and below)- as much as possible what they learn about science should be learned by doing, observing, thinking.  Much of the important doing happens in playing, and there should be a lot of real play with real things- mud, trees, rocks, sand, water, leaves, seashells, grass and more. Around five or six, generally speaking, add some regular practice with more focused doing, like the activities suggested herehere, here, and also here.

Supercharged Science has some great ideas for science discoveries your kids can make at home.

The activities here are fun and interesting.

Resist the urge to turn this into a worksheet, a unit study, or the basis for memorizing terms like velocity, atmosphere, or people like Bernoulli, at least before your kids are in the fourth grade or more.

Think of it as a continuation of the experiments they began as infants when they dropped objects on the ground to watch them fall (and watch you pick them up), and when as toddlers they used bathtime to learn something of the properties of water without ever knowing anything about the terms ‘properties of water’ or liquid, or surface tension or bouyancy.

Take this (from a biography of Rev. Dawes, 19th century Rector and school master) for your goal:  “to teach them to observe for themselves the objects of common daily life, and to inspire them with an intelligent and thoughtful curiosity.”

Charlotte Mason Education in the younger years.

Charlotte Mason Education in the younger years.



More in this series at The Common Room Blog

Air Pressure, and Charlotte Mason Science in the early years

Air Pressure: Lawn Mowers and Straws

Air Pressure, suction cups, juice cans, and water glasses upside down

Air pressure: eye droppers, canning jars, sea of air, more

syringes, squirt guns, turkey basters

Show that an empty bottle is not truly empty

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The Ideal young Man, cont.

Killing Time Ideals for Young PeopleThe ideal young man of 1902 completely abstains from liquor (because of the pervasive influence of the Temperance Movement): “How worse than foolish is that young man who would run the awful risk of unfitting himself for future usefulness by intoxicants of any kind! In his report to the United States Labor Bureau, the Hon. Carroll D. Wright says that nearly all railroads refuse to employ for important positions men who drink. This is the best explanation why so many men do not work up to higher positions. Of the employers of skilled labor, seventy five per cent demand total abstinence on the part of those they employ. Of the employers of unskilled labor, fifty per cent demand total abstinence.”

This was kind of funny, not the least because you can hear so many people saying the same thing today:

“A Brooklyn young lady, in answering the questions above, said that an ideal young man was as hard to describe as he was to get, and she had tried both.”

Poor girl.

For this, I am not sure which of the paintings of Apelles he refers to- there aren’t many existing.  Or perhaps it’s just a story told by Pliny, but at any rate, it’s a truth I have found as well when looking for that perfect older woman to teach me.  She’s not to be found, but there are women from whom I can learn kindness, and others from whom I can learn organizational tips, and others from whom I can learn budget management, and others who have songs to share, stories to tell, various character traits of which they are models.

“Apelles’s great painting that enraptured the world was a composite. It represented a perfect woman. But he hunted all over Greece for the model, finding here a nose, there a limb, there the eyes, and there a forehead, etc. etc. So the ideal young man is a composite to day, but tomorrow this composite becomes a unit in a living reality.”

about time:

“Man is the one great fact in the world and all ages have been looking for a perfect model. Every true young man is seized with a divine discontent, a royal unrest with present attainments. Every hour is an added opportunity to work out the ideal. He who would purposely kill time is a murderer and should be avoided, for time is one of the essential elements from which springs character. Give Czolgosz an hour of time and he will plan the murder of a President McKinley. Give McKinley an hour and he will deliver a message that will strengthen the moral fiber of our national character.”

Ideals for Young People, By Marion Edwin Harlan, Christian Publishing Company, 1902

One of many things I find interesting about reading this book (and other older books), is how clearly it illustrates C. S. Lewis’ point about the importance of reading older books, not because they were wiser, but because the errors of their own age stand out as though highlighted, while the wisdom of the previous time is often something missing in our generation.  We have wisdom of our own, of course, things we emphasize that they missed, or had forgotten, or just didn’t see a need to stress.  But it is far harder to spot the errors of our age, the insidious ones that we all absorbed in the cradle and accept without comment- when you don’t know, you don’t know that you don’t know.

Other posts quoting from this book:
First part is here.

Second part


Fourth (this one)

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