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Friday, December 12, 2014

Closing the Year

No images just words in this post. And hopefully it will be a short post since I am at the library with a time limit imposed on my internet use. 

How has the year gone? Overall, it has been good. The 30 Days of Thanks posts list things that I was thankful for in just November. There were so many more throughout the year. Just one is the many books I was able to read, and keep, for free (well, they required my time to post reviews).

This year has apparently been Lee's year. She got a job, her driver's license, registered to vote, graduated- early actually, and wrote a novel {well, it's technically unfinished but she completed over 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo- and it's a pretty good book to boot!}. Because of some hoops we were not willing to jump through for her to take classes at the community college if she were still a high school student, she officially graduated September 21; her 18th birthday. She would not have been able to take any courses until summer 2015 if she had not graduated 'early'. As it is, she is registered for 4 classes starting January. 

The rest of us have all been good as well. There haven't been any wonderfully exciting occurrences for us but that is alright. Oh! We were able to get a piano. That was exciting.

School-wise went well for finishing up last year. Fox has done quite well with his work this year but we have some things to work on still. Lee is officially graduated but she has work left to finish- college classes or not! 

I am still working on my Masters courses and at the rate I am going, will finish this time next year. 

And that really is about it. 

For the coming year, what to expect here on the blog? I don't know. There will be undoubtedly more book reviews because Blogging for Books has an awesome selection for reviewers. Bethany House usually has some good ones as well. 

I hope to get a post or two in here about how school is going for Fox's 10th and 11th grade but I make no promises. He will hopefully be taking a couple college classes Fall 2015 through PSEO. We will see how that goes.

And that, my friends, will most likely be the last post for 2014. 

Have a wonderful rest of the month and a safe start of 2015.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Book Review: Sketch! {Blogging for Books}


Sketch! The non-artist guide to inspiration, technique, and drawing daily life by France Belleville-Van Stone
ISBN: 978-0-385-34609-2
Paperback, 144 pages

Publisher: Watson-Guptill
Retail: $18.99

About the book:
An inspirational manual for integrating sketching into daily life for artists and non-artists alike.
Urban sketching--the process of sketching on the go as a regular practice--is a hot trend in the drawing world. In this aspirational guide, French artist France Belleville-Van Stone offers motivation to move beyond the comfort zone, as well as instruction on turning rough sketches into finished work. By sharing her own creative process, which includes sketching by hand and digitally, Belleville-Van Stone emboldens readers to craft a method of their own and devote more time to art, even if it's just 10 minutes a day. Sketch will inspire artists both established and aspiring to rethink their daily practice, sketch for the pure joy of it, and document their lives and the world around them.

About the author: FRANCE BELLEVILLE-VAN STONE is a self-taught French artist who loved cars and drawing as a child. As an adult, she studied English instead of going to art school, and became a public school teacher. She has been living and teaching full-time in the U.S. since late 2004.

My thoughts:
Initially this was a book I chose because of the subtitle: "The non-artist guide..." I am an artist because I draw already. I had drawing classes in elementary, middle, high school and college. But my kids, who I consider artists as well because they draw all the time, have not had formal drawing. This book I thought would be helpful for giving them techniques and tips for drawing. 

Admittedly, I was a little disappointed when I actually got the book. My disappointed stemmed from the author's natural talent, which I took to mean that this was not really a book for non-artists since the author was undoubtedly a true artist. Yes, yes; it was a foolish assumption. Perhaps fueled partially from envy of how well the author does draw. She didn't have much in the way of formal training and yet she does so well, naturally. The illustrations in the book are all very well done. Many look as if they were painstakingly drawn, when I am guessing from my reading, that they really didn't take a lot of effort on her part. That's one of the beauties of having natural talent. Even so, she does make the good point that drawing daily will make it a habit. 
The tips in the book are helpful. She goes through the different tools of the trade and one thing I like here is that she doesn't necessarily promote the fancy-schmancy items, but rather her tried and true tools. My daughter loves to draw with a .07 lead mechanical pencil that we bought at a local drug mart. And she does well with it. I prefer to use a General's drawing pencil and different soft pencils when I draw. My son uses whatever is handy. This book's author is fine with that and encourages that to be part of the way to really draw.
There are other mentions of course in the book that are helpful but uh, I sort of skimmed over the section on papers because like my pencils, I prefer Strathmore paper and have only ventured a few times away from it. Perhaps I will look again at what she suggests in this section but I again like the way she advocates using what you have and what you like. 
Finally that end of the book is an alphabetical prompts, A-Z, for drawing. I especially liked this portion of the book and feel that this will be the part I use the most, with the others ready for referencing. 
Overall, I do like this book and it's a good addition to our arts section of our home library. 

***Disclaimer: I received this book free from Blogging for Books program for the purpose of this review. No compensation was given. All opinions stated are my own. See Disclosure/Policies.***

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Book Review: Keepers of the Covenant {Bethany House Publishers}

Cover Art
Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin
ISBN: 9780764208997
Paperback, 480 pages
Publisher: Bethany House
Retail: $15.99

About the book: In their darkest hour, where would hope be found?
In on life-changing moment, the lives of the exiles in Babylon are thrown into despair when a decree from the king's palace calls for the annihilation of every Jewish man, woman, and child throughout the empire in less than one year.

Ezra, a quiet but brilliant scholar, soon finds himself called upon to become the leader of his people. Forced to rally an army when all his training has been in the Torah, he struggles to bring hope in a time of utter despair, when dreams of the future- of family and love- seem impossible.

In Keepers of the Covenant, acclaimed novelist Lynn Austin weaves together the struggles and stories of both Jews and Gentiles, creating a tapestry of faith and doubt, love and loss. Here, the Old Testament comes to life, demonstrating the everlasting hope displayed in God's unwavering love for His people.

About the author: Lynn Austin has sold more than one million copies of her books worldwide. She is an eight-time Christy Award winner for her historical novels, as well as a popular speaker at retreats and convention. Lynn and her husband have raised three children and live in Michigan. Learn more at www.lynnaustin.org

My thoughts:
Another great novel by Austin. I purposely waited to read this until I had the time available to do nothing else. When I start a novel by Austin, it is the only thing I want to do!

Austin develops the characters of her stories in such a way that the reader comes to know them. They might not be able to pick them out if they were given a picture in real-life, but nonetheless, they can tell their personalities. The reader begins to become friends, or enemies, with these characters because they are presented so well. 

I especially appreciate Austin's ability to create scenes in the story. She doesn't dwell overly much on the details but one can get a sense of what it is like in the scene. Also, because she has chosen to write from history, she weaves her fiction into what we know from the Bible. Reading through this particular novel, although the Scriptures are all in New International Version translation, I can recall reading it in the Bible. It brings it more to life. These were real events! Austin's inclusion of other characters that are not mentioned in the Bible does not detract at all from the story; it only builds it more and makes it feel real.

I have only one complaint that I don't know if I had never noticed in her other books or are simply not present in the others. Some times the words she uses do not fit the time or circumstance. They are words that are overused {imho} in Christian circles today but they would not have been used in the past, in the part of the world that she writes about. Surprisingly, it doesn't make the writing jagged or halting, but it was just a little thing I caught this time.

So far I have not read an Austin novel I didn't like. This is no exception. Very good book.
Read an excerpt- you'll get hooked! Click here.

***Disclaimer: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own. See Disclosure/Policies.

30 Days of Thanks {Days 27-30}

I didn't forget to be thankful each day- there's something everyday- but I didn't get to the library before now. Better late than never!

Days 27-30
Many, many blessings. 
For a good church.
Public library computers.
There are only 20 some James Bond movies (lol we did a marathon over Thanksgiving 'weekend' {picking up where we left off last year} and I'm a little done with James Bond! Now my kids want to find the books...).
Reading "Consider This" and gaining much from Karen's explanations of how CM and a classical education are aligned.
That my kids have such great imaginations.
NaNoWriMo is over (my dd has been participating this year; she's finished her book which I think is pretty good!). 
Coffee- morning, noon, and night cheesy grin
Heart of giving of others (I'm thankful for my own desire to give as well but so thankful that it isn't up to me, if you know what I mean).

And now onto the Christmas season! Our decorations are up and the tree is decked out with ornaments from the years. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

30 Days of Thanks {Days 23-26}

Days 23-26 for that which I am thankful:

Time spent with family.
Board games and trivia.
Lots of good food for the Thanksgiving 'weekend'.
A stocked pantry.
That the school semester is just about over and done with.
Online shopping.
Coupons to help with said online shopping.
An absolutely wonderful husband.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

30 Days of Thanks {Days 17-22}

This November is just flying by! Here it is already a few days before Thanksgiving. Here are some things I am giving thanks for, days 17-22:

Piano- I know I put it last post but I am very thankful for it. It is so nice to hear my kids playing it. They work together to play new pieces, and while they practice for their piano lessons. It may be one thing that they do not 'fight' while doing together! How could I not be thankful for that?! 

Book discussions- on the Ambleside Online forum there is a discussion on Charlotte Mason's volume 2, Parents and Children, that I am enjoying participating with others on the forum. I appreciate the perspectives offered.

Food- much food. I take it for granted that we are able to buy and try so many different kinds of food. My son really likes to make things (mostly sweets), and I enjoy cooking new dishes. It is something to be thankful for that we have the means to be able to buy and cook good food.

Smart phone- I have put off getting on for so long. But now that I have one, I am grateful for it. There isn't a lot that I need it for but it is nice to have to be able to check the internet when there is free wi-fi, since we don't have internet at home any longer. It is also nice that I can put convenient apps on it. It is definitely not a necessity but it is nice to have.

Safe travels- on Thursday night I decided to go to a mom's night out 30+ minutes away from my house. The weather said there would be snow flurries through the time I would be gone. Well, it was right- for my house. In a matter of minutes the weather outside went from little flurries to a white-out. When I left I wasn't sure I'd make it home, honestly. Thought I might have to call my hubby to come bail me and the car out of the snow! I could not see the edges of the road! Anyway- I got home safely, albeit almost 30 minutes longer than it should have taken. 

Staycations- this Thanksgiving we are not going anywhere. It will just be the four of us at home, enjoying each other's company. I'm very much looking forward to it.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

30 Days of Thanks {Days 11-16}

One thing I am thankful for is that no one is actually waiting for me to post these thankful posts! My internet is scarce so it's always days in between posts. 

Here are days 11-16:

PIANO! We picked it up yesterday. 

Thankful- so extremely so- that dh was able to help us move it. We had hoped there would have been a group of younger guys to help move it, as dh has a bad back. It wasn't in the cards so he insisted we do it ourselves. My two kiddos, myself and dh. We did it! We are more awesome than we thought ;) lol {Dh is very sore, though so if any reading this feel inclined to include him in your prayers, it would be very much appreciated.}

Library! I haven't been able to actually check in the forum but for a peek here and there for too long. 

My dh, who is absolutely wonderful. Just love him to pieces. 

Vacation for dh coming soon, when our small family will spend the holidays together making memories.

Good sermons at church that connect and are directly from the Word of God.

Hee hee...for some reason I'm feeling all giddy with thanksgiving. Smiles as I type because I'm just in a good mood. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

30 Days of Thanks {Days 8-10}

Days 8-10:
Thankful (again) for the library, even when I have to wait to use the computers smile
For the beautiful day today. I took two walks: One in the morning with my kids, and one later with just my son. Wonderful to be able to do that- being well enough to do the walks and the weather so nice to boot!
For leaves that still litter the ground, with their many colors. And tiny pine cones.
For sewing little rabbit dolls, just because they are so cute.
Book discussions to get more insight into what is being read.
Did I mention such a beautiful day? Yes, I know I did. So very thankful for the gorgeous day!
We have a thankful tree at church and so many of the little tags that have been added are from the young ones at church. Thankful that they have a thankful heart- so many say they are thankful for family and family members.
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