book review

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy

This book was a really fun read. It is an older historical fiction novel full of comedy, beheadings, secret societies, spies, romance, and of course interesting history – it really covers a lot of bases. I would recommend this book to anyone as it is a fairly light and quick read, but the vocabulary is a bit outdated and the author was fond of really long, uncommon words, so have your phone or a dictionary handy.

The Scarlet Pimpernel is set in the Reign of Terror, and puts a human face on the historical events of the French Revolution and Republican use of the guillotine against the aristocratic classes. The Scarlet Pimpernel is the name of an English James Bond type figure who, along with his band of loyal men, orchestrates the escape of aristocrats out of gated Paris across the channel to England where they will be safe. His symbol is an English star shaped flower, a pimpernel, which he uses to sign his missives. He is an enemy of the Republican government in France, and they start a covert search for him, making the book a race to see who will win.

It is interesting, from a modern American perspective, to see the “good guy” revolutionaries who just wanted a better life cast as really unappealing characters. The book is comical and unexpected and a really great read. I give it 4/5 stars – I definitely want a copy on my shelves and will probably have my children read it when they study the French Revolution as it is a different perspective than the one you usually find. If you’re into living books, this is a book for you!

Rating Scale

1/5 – Awful / would not read again / maybe could not finish.

2/5 – Low quality work / some enjoyment / not worth the time

3/5 – Don’t regret, Don’t love / would add to my shelf if it is a piece of literature

4/5 – Would maybe read again / Definitely would add to my shelf because BOOKS

5/5 – Would definitely read more than once / Must buy / Gives you the happy book love feels.

Childhood, Homeschooling

“Children are Born Persons” and Swim Lessons

Today, at swim lessons, I had an annoying encounter with the swim instructor that reminded me of how much we, as a society, think children aren’t people overall, that their opinions don’t count because they aren’t fully formed yet and need to be molded into an adult. Anyway, I always ask my son if he wants to go underwater before we do dips in the pool – and I wait for a response. Halfway through today, he told me he was all done, so we stopped doing dips for the last couple minutes. After, the instructor told pointed out that as the adults, we shouldn’t phrase commands as questions to our children because it teaches them they have a choice when they aren’t capable of making one yet. He stressed that this piece of well-meant advice was from the education he has been receiving on how to teach small children.  I didn’t say anything, because we see him for 30 minutes once a week – who cares, really? And, a pool full of toddlers is not the place for a debate. Furthermore, what he actually said was true – you shouldn’t phrase commands as a question, it just doesn’t apply in this case, because it wasn’t a command. Inside, I was irritated. Of course he has a choice! He’s demonstrated very clearly that he knows what I’m asking, and has the vocabulary to say more, all done, no more, yes and no quite easily. I think it is much more harmful to teach him that he doesn’t have a choice, when he should – how would you like to be dunked underwater for no reason if you didn’t want to be? If for 4 weeks he refused to go underwater and I felt it was inhibiting his water safety, I might change it to a command instead of a question, but for right now – he is cooperative until he has had enough and I feel that should be respected. Teaching him that his cooperation is rewarded and that his opinion matters seems to me like it will go a lot farther towards promoting good behavior and developing a relationship of trust between us than not taking into account his feelings about what we’re doing in the pool.

“Children are born persons.” This is principle one of Charlotte Mason’s system of education and I have been reading about it lately to prepare for a study group one of my sisters-in-laws is hosting tonight. It seems like a really obvious statement, right? Everyone knows that children are people – but as a society we don’t treat them as people. We talk down to them, simplify our language, tell them what they can and cannot like, and generally feed them mental garbage. Our education system is definitely like this – in school we teach excerpts from good books, we set standards and assume they all have to meet the same mold, we dictate who they should be, how they should behave and what they should know based on their age. We tell them what to think and then are amazed when they reach the higher levels of education and do not know how to think for themselves. After years of completely ignoring the fact that children are capable of really really good thoughts, we expect them to share their thoughts and still think that those thoughts have value. I’ve been irritated by this since I was a child, and I distinctly remember looking up to certain people who treated me with respect even though I was young.

To clarify, I know that children are less mature and have less knowledge and life experience – I don’t recommend we let our children have total freedom. My 19 month old regularly throws temper tantrums, tries to touch hot things, wanders too close to the street, and is pretty willing to run straight into the water even without his life jacket on – he doesn’t know enough not to yet. He IS still a person though who is capable of making some choices, of telling me what he wants, of coming up with new ideas, fun games and contributing positively to life. He is capable of putting his pajamas in the hamper every morning, and while I’m not willing to fight with him over this yet on the rare morning he isn’t excited to do it, I generally expect him to do so. As a part of the family, he needs to know his contributions, even as small as one piece of clothing in the laundry, matter. It doesn’t save me any work, it takes twice as long for him to carry his pajamas to the hamper under my supervision, but he is SO PROUD of himself, because he knows he is being useful, and that is something I want to instill in him. I don’t want to tell him to go play by himself while I clean up after him – that is counterproductive if I want him to be a capable adult someday.

It isn’t just his abilities that matter, though. Charlotte Mason also stresses that children need lots of free play to be allowed to learn about themselves and trust in their capabilities. This is something I believed before I started learning about her principles of educating young people. My son is really good at playing outside, he loves it – “outshide! outshide!” is a refrain you can hear at all hours of the day in our house no matter the weather and I try to foster that. I find though, that if I sit and be boring or try to read, he gets bored pretty quickly and wants interaction. If, on the other hand, I go outside and start weeding the garden, he usually starts out next to me helping and then slowly wanders away to play at whatever game he has invented while pulling weeds up. Recently he discovered you can knock leaves off trees with a stick and the memory of that belly laugh will stay with me forever. Simply by being productive and present I end up fostering independent play and his imagination – it is good motivation to actually get up and weed my garden.

Today’s conversation at the pool, and the reading I’ve been doing on Charlotte Mason’s first principle have just served as a reminder to respect my son, and I am grateful for that, I guess that’s all I’m trying to say.

book review

The Wildling Sisters by Eve Chase

There is something captivating about the word wildling, isn’t there? It’s evocative of freedom and nature and you can almost smell the fresh pine needles on the cool breeze you imagine is carrying you the quiet noises of a dim forest in summer. That feeling is what drew me to pick up this book in an airport recently, and the recommendation by Kate Morton sealed the deal – I couldn’t have stopped my credit card from swiping had I wanted to.

It is a very quick read, reminiscent of the Gothic type stories like Jane Eyre and Kate Morton’s books. It wasn’t of the same caliber as either Bronte’s or Morton’s works, but that is an admittedly high bar by which to measure a book and it certainly was well written, nonetheless. There was just enough creepiness to the characters and background level darkness to keep you avidly reading. It has two story lines taking place in the same location but in different time periods and it is cool to see the result of the previous generations on the later time periods before you find out what truly happened back then. Overall, I would say I am glad it is on my bookshelf and I could see myself re-reading it by the pool or at the beach someday, but I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to add it to a curated collection – unquestionably worth checking out from your local library though!

I give this book 3.5/5 stars because it doesn’t quite meet the need it on your bookshelf requirement, but it also is an engrossing, quality read I would recommend to a friend looking for a quick and fun book.

Rating Scale

1/5 – Awful / would not read again / maybe could not finish.

2/5 – Low quality work / some enjoyment / not worth the time

3/5 – Don’t regret, Don’t love / would add to my shelf if it is a piece of literature

4/5 – Would read again / Definitely would add to my shelf because BOOKS

5/5 – Would definitely read more than once / Must buy / Gives you the happy book love feels.

Childhood, Homeschooling

Toddler Teaching Tools

I’ve been working with my 1.5 year old to help him learn some of his basics lately like ABCs, 123s, shapes, colors, animals and their sounds and body parts. I have gone through a few different teaching tools and games and I thought I would post a review so that other people might have an easier time finding good stuff. He is too little to really sit and learn anything, of course, but everyday I try to find time to play with him in an educational way and incorporate learning without it feeling like pre-school. I’ve listed my favorite 6 toys and the alternatives that didn’t work out so well to hopefully save you a little work 🙂

Continue reading “Toddler Teaching Tools”

book review, Quotes

Stoner by John Williams

5-star-google-reviews-1024x567

Someone introduced this book to me as one of the great books of American literature and I was surprised that I had never heard of it. I added it to the book list and finally got around to reading it recently. It was beautiful in a soul aching, real kind of way and even after reading it, I’m not sure why. The book itself is the story of one simple and totally complex man’s life, but it’s also a story of every man. I cannot tell you how the story of an unremarkable man, written without ornamentation reminds me of a heroic epic, but it does. I’m giving this book 5/5 stars because I can’t stop thinking about it a month after I finished it in a good way and its hauntingly clear and simple language. I think I will end up reading it again in the future – it has the book magic.

William Stoner is the son of two poor farmers when he is introduced to the idea of going to university to learn more about agriculture. His parents send him there at great cost to both them and him, but as he starts his coursework he is arrested by one of his general education requirements: literature. I think any book lover will understand why. So begins a lifelong love affair with books that will take him away from his small life and into an idealized life of scholarship and marriage to a “higher-class” woman, which turns out to be less than ideal. It’s the story of one man’s struggle with American society and false dreams, and his power to carry on and find a measure of unexpected happiness. His life is also a recording of great events in American history and spans both world wars. It manages to completely capture and comment on society during that time period in an unobtrusive way – you almost don’t even realize it until you’re done reading. The best part of this book are the characters, all of which are nearly tangible they’re so well portrayed.

Favorite Quotes:

“Sometimes, immersed in his books, there would come to him the awareness of all that he did not know, and all that he had not read.”

“In his forty-third year William Stoner learned what others, much younger, had learned before him: that the person one loves at first is not the person one loves at last, and that love is not an end but a process through which one person attempts to know another.”

“In the University library he wandered through the stacks, among the thousands of books, inhaling the musty odor of leather, cloth, and drying page as if it were an exotic incense.”

 

Rating Scale

1/5 – Awful / would not read again / maybe could not finish.

2/5 – Low quality work / some enjoyment / not worth the time

3/5 – Don’t regret, Don’t love / would add to my shelf if it is a piece of literature

4/5 – Would read again / Definitely would add to my shelf because BOOKS

5/5 – Would definitely read more than once / Must buy / Gives you the happy book love feels.

book review

Circe by Madeline Miller Book Review

This book has been making the rounds on social media lately because THAT COVER ART! So beautiful – definitely a case of wanting a book because of it’s cover. Amazingly, it was also really good – lived up to its shelf appeal. I may be a bit biased because one of my majors was Ancient History in college and I really love mythology and how it informs everyday life even now in quiet ways. This book took an ancient myth and brought it to life for modern readers, it had none of the stuffiness of Edith Wharton’s wonderful and so very dry collection of mythology most students read. It was fittingly spellbinding, as it is about one of the most well known witches of history.

4-stars

I am giving it four stars only because, despite the fact that it is an excellent read, it lacked that hard to define magic which makes a book irresistible. I would recommend it to anyone, even someone without a strong interest in mythology since the characters are well developed and git is beautifully written, but it didn’t make me want to read it over and over and give it a sacred spot on my bookshelf.

Rating Scale

1/5 – Awful / would not read again / maybe could not finish.

2/5 – Low quality work / some enjoyment / not worth the time

3/5 – Don’t regret, Don’t love / would add to my shelf if it is a piece of literature

4/5 – Would read again / Definitely would add to my shelf because BOOKS

5/5 – Would definitely read more than once / Must buy / Gives you the happy book love feels.

Cooking

Whole Grain Homemade Apple Cinnamon Freezer Waffles for the Littles (and Bigs)

My almost 15 month old loves those frozen toaster waffles, but I don’t love that they’re full of sugar. I set out to make a delicious whole grain version with actual fruit instead of sugar. The result: Real apples, cinnamon and oats – it’s like healthy apple crisp you can pop in the toaster oven and it’s so easy to whip up a batch and store! Bonus: They can easily be made gluten and dairy free for those on special diets.

Ingredients:

2 cups Quick Cooking Oats

3/4 cup milk (can be replaced with non-dairy milk)

3/4 cup water

2 eggs

2 tbsp buckwheat flour (or regular flour – you do you!)

2 apples finely chopped

 

Warm up your waffle iron! Add all the ingredients except the apples to a large bowl to let the oaks soak up the liquids while you prep the apples.

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I like to use my food processor to chop the apples. I chunk them so they fit into my small counter top one. I prefer to leave the skins on because A) it’s easier and B) nutrients. But mostly A. Once the waffles are cooked the skins are soft anyway, so they’re no longer a choking hazard for the littlest littles.

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I add the apples. Mix thoroughly and cook them up. I hand a few fresh warm ones to my baby and let the rest cool. Once they’re a bit firmer I split them into quarters and store them so they’re easy to pull out of the freezer and toast.

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Healthy, delicious snacks for my son – voila! Note: My husband ate two of the waffles from the batch I made in this picture for lunch before they even made it to the freezer.

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Philosophy, Tea and Books

David Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion 3.5/5

3-5-stars-2bmbspe

If you’ve ever grappled with the questions of where the universe comes from, if there is a deity, how does science reconcile itself with faith and the ultimate why of the origin of the universe – this is the book for you. This book is filled with philosophical debate set in conversational form making it much more accessible and less dry than a didactic text. IF you’re interested, grab a dictionary and a large pot of tea and settle in to this relatively short read.

My reaction upon reading the book, copied from my journal:

We (mankind as a whole) have always come up with theories to answer the unending whys of the world. We have nearly always and universally held our theories to be self-evident truths. As technology and the breadth of human understanding grows, these self-evident truths have largely fallen by the wayside as scientific explanations overtake them – why not the idea of an omnipotent GOD? Continue reading “David Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion 3.5/5”

Cooking

Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread

This bread is a great replacement for expensive store-bought cinnamon raisin bread. You can use it for toast, French toast or to make stuffing. It’s so good warmed with a little butter on it. My one year old kisses the oven when he sees it baking – it’s that good!

Continue reading “Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread”

Quotes, Tea and Books

Book Review – Educated by Tara Westover – 4/5

4-stars

This is probably the best memoir I have ever read. There has been a lot of hype about it on Social Media so I was expecting to be let down but instead I couldn’t put it down. It did feel a little invasive reading something so deeply personal whenever I remembered it was real… but it is a memoir after all. Tara writes about her cloistered childhood in the mountains of Idaho with a religious zealot for a father, holistic healer and midwife for a mother and an abusive brother. Not even issued a birth certificate until she was nine, Tara and her siblings were never formally, or even informally, educated and this is the story of her breaking away from her background to earn her PhD – and the sacrifices she made to do it. I loved that whenever relatives remembered stories differently from her memories she made sure to include the alternate versions – something that reflects the ideals she learns as she gains an education. This is a tale made even more gripping by its truthfulness.

Favorite Quote:

“I had come to believe that the ability to evaluate many ideas, many histories, many points of view, was at the heart of what it means to self-create”

Continue reading “Book Review – Educated by Tara Westover – 4/5”