Sunday, August 31, 2008

Still Knitting...

I can't remember the last time I posted about knitting, but I do still knit. While I was on vacation, I did get to stop a couple places, though it was disappointing that my favorite store in Bellingham, Marilyn's Yarns, closed. The ferry that we took to the Peninsula disembarks in Port Townsend, which is a charming Victorian sea port. The commercial district is geared towards tourists and the hillsides are peppered with authentic Victorian homes, many of which have been featured on various HGTV television shows. North of the town is Fort Worden where An Officer and A Gentleman was filmed. And my step Dad Andy, who is deceased, was there ready to ship out to the Pacific when Pearl Harbor was bombed. Another Hollywood connection is that all the boats for The Pirates of the Caribbean were designed there. My goal was none of these things. My goal was wool! :o)

This is the building where the object of my desires was located.

And charmingly, it was located in an 118 year old building.

I loved the old brick walls.

The shop was a little small and at first I worried it was a bit too yuppy and therefore would also be too pricey and worse yet, too snobby. However, the lady who worked there was really nice and even would my skein for me and wrapped it in a piece of lavender tissue paper!

Here is the object of my affections - Socks That Rock medium weight in the colorway Gypsum. I really liked that ceramic sheep. It was hollow. In my opinion it should have been a piggy bank to save your change for stash enhancement! lol

When I was in Sequim, I purchased this Romney roving. In reality it is a little bit rosier than this photo shows. 8 oz for ?? Not sure what I will do with it yet.

Near my Mom's there is a little store called Lynda's that carries quilting fabrics and supplies and knitting. She had these two lovely skeins which are perfect for a shrug pattern I have for the girls. I also bought some blue "Pacapeds" sock yarn which I can't locate at the moment to photograph. (The bum knee has kept me from unpacking much.)

I also went to a store in Lynden, a Dutch tourist and farming community near my parents. This store was unique in that it was combined with a store that sold previously owned quality clothing and accessories. The yarns and supplies were also from peoples' stashes, estates or closeouts. This is lovely heathered Country Classics Yarn for Sox in Blue Jean. It's destined to become hiking socks for me!

And this is what I started with the Socks That Rock pictured above. I tried a couple other things first that I didn't like and I was not sure about this first, but it's growing on me and helps me keep my hands busy when I am elevating and icing my leg!

The pattern is Art Yarns' Diamond Modular Scarf designed by Iris Schreier.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Speaking Of Reading

I was visiting The Scrabble Queen, catching up on her blog when I saw this interesting post about The National Endowment of the Arts The Big Read Program. Normally I don't give either NEA the time of day but I was interested to see how this reading list has changed over time. Some of the entries were questionable to me as far as being classified as literature - they seemed more like pop lit than destined to be classics. And for that matter some of the classics listed or modern literature, I wouldn't waste my brain energy on reading. The older I get, the more I believe in the "Garbage In, Garbage Out" theory. Some people think it's just because of my black and white views or that I am a prude. It's not that I think that certain things are a "sin" to read (some might cause the reader to want to sin, so that could be a consideration in choosing what you read), but that they honestly have little profit. Why not use what little extra time I have reading something profitable or at least entertaining without putting corrupted thoughts into my brain?

So, I was thinking about what I read and have been thinking for awhile about literature since I am adapting the Charlotte Mason method for home schooling. This method uses "living books" and literature as well as hands on time out of doors. So one question I would like to propose, is what children's literature do you recommend reading to my children and having available for them to read?

I also wondered what you all are reading now. I always have a few things going on at once. I can never be monogamous with my reading list or my knitting projects! lol Have you ever read anything that surprised you? One thing I read that surprised me was The Historian, which is a long novel centered around Vlad Dracula. The novel is NOT occult centered but approaches the myth from an historical research view, which I loved. My brain was engaged for the whole read, which was simultaneously relaxing and suspenseful.

What books have you read over and over and over and can't wait to read again? For me it's the Bible and I would probably add the Anne of Green Gables series and The Chronicles of Narnia, but I can't think of any adult literature that has had that same impact. For fiction I have enjoyed Bodie Thoene's series that takes place in WWI and II. And in non fiction, I love the writings of Corrie ten Boom.

*Look at the list and bold those we have read.
*Italicize those we intend to read.
*Underline the books we LOVE . (I can't underline, so they are in purple)

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
5 1 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnet
t74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flauber
t86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Faith On Friday - The Shack

Before vacation, I began a blog post series "Faith on Fridays" and often discussed what I had been learning while reading through the Bible in 90 Days with Hubby. We thought we could continue to do so while on vacation but it was too difficult to find an hour a day to read while taking care of children, visiting with family and friends and driving. Generally, I fell asleep exhausted after the kids went to bed. Today I wish to resume and will share about something else I read and how it effected me.

One of my peculiar traits is that I rarely enjoy reading something that "everyone" is reading and carry a natural cynicism towards anything or anyone claiming to be "it", "THE" or "LIFE CHANGING". So, when I read such proclamations about The Shack, I was turned off. Later my Mom mentioned that she was given the book by someone at church, so I looked at the the reviews. While many are 5 star reviews, many 1 star reviews brought up good points. I emailed my Mom the concerns, not to prevent her from reading but to ask her if she found them to be true. Our conversation at the end of her reading concluded that it would prove a good read but not earth shattering or life changing from my perspective. No further thought was given to the book.

Then, when my cousins came from North Carolina to surprise our family, Brenda brought all of us ladies the book to read. I have not had opportunity to ask her opinion yet, but am thankful for the gift. When Hubby and I left on our honeymoon, it was stuffed into the bag of knitting and magazines for a "just in case". Little did I know that my knee injury would keep me from hiking. While I lie in bed looking longingly at the surf crashing in, I picked up the book and began to read. Initially, I found the style a little forced, but as the author broke into the story it began to relax and unfold, drawing the reader further in. Before I knew it, I was done and passing the book on to Hubby. I value not only his opinion but his judgement as well and looked forward to discussing the book with him.

Hesitantly I decided to review this book here since it quite controversial. Since I was prepared to dislike or be indifferent to the book, but did found value in it, I felt I might give it a review that fell somewhere in between the polar reviews offered on Amazon. Since this is already quite long, I won't go through all the story line of this book, but let you read that at the above links if you are not familiar with it.

Do I recommend the book? With hesitation, yes. In my opinion it would depend on the reader. If the reader was knowledgeable of Scripture and not easily swayed by opinions or popular ideas, it is a good read. There are several points that cause thoughtful contemplation and the story prompted me to review my progress of healing in my journey and walk with the Lord. On the other hand, if the reader is not grounded, there are portions that I felt could be misconstrued and lead a person down the wrong path. The premise purports to lead a person away from the pitfalls of established religion towards a personal relationship with God. A personal relationship with God The Father, God The Son AND God The Holy Spirit, is the most important purpose in any one's life. But, the book does fall into danger of swinging the pendulum too far the other direction - a malady running rampant in the American Church that runs so far away from legalism and tradition that it forgets that God is Almighty and Holy. My conclusion is that The Shack is best read as thought provoking literature and not as theology.

Firstly, the cons -

The book takes liberty at interpreting the personhood of God to the point of occasionally being flippant or too casual in an attempt to be personal. Like much of modern Christian literature there is an over emphasis on God's love without the balance of His judgement and righteousness. One's own personal sin and need for Redemption is not clearly discussed or outlined. Emotionally, the Shack opens a can of unanswerable worms, begins to answer some of those questions but then just as the reader is hoping for some nugget to hold on to, the revelation falls short. The greatest shortcoming in the book, is drawing a person in without taking the opportunity to clearly show the reader how to begin the marvelous journey of a personal relationship with God or leading them to Scripture where they could discover it on their own.

On the other hand, I find it refreshing that an author is not afraid to broach the subject of grief. Personally I feel that many Americans have prolonged grief because they are forced to bury their loss and "get on with life". This story presents an abbreviated view, but gives some of the major points of the grief process and shows how some of them can be approached. Ultimately only God heals. He never forces us, but gently leads us to each new step as we are ready. It was a little difficult to read this book while I was separated from my own children. It is scary to think that something so terrifying can happen in a heart beat. But for the person who experiences this - where do they go? I wonder how many people have picked this book up to see if there were answers to their own personal tortures and questions of God? Perhaps this book will serve as the first step of healing for those who are not ready to approach a pastor, attend church or Bible study or embrace God overtly.

There are no answers for some things in life. Perhaps that is why the book was not earth shattering for me. From an young age I was presented with these unanswerable questions. Early on I had to decide whether or not to believe in God or blame God. Perhaps my age helped me bridge the chasm of painful questions to choose belief. Today my belief is not a blind faith, but one that has in retrospect searched out the answers and found that even when there is no answer - everything that I know about God says that He is not the author of confusion, pain, suffering and death. No, indeed He is the Victor! All these things He has conquered as Jesus Christ. If you are struggling with these kinds of questions, you may find some solace in the process that Mac, the main character, experiences. Grief and unanswered questions do not come only with violent death or natural death, but with many disappointments, changes and unexpected hurdles in life's course. There is a selfishness and cowardice in blaming God - when one steps outside of that grim shadow, healing and life emerge.

One tendency for those of us who have and/or are grieving any loss or life difficulty, is that we tend to grow in spurts intermingled with "holding patterns". During those holding times, I find it is all I can do to keep it together. Funny though... I am trying to hold it all together on my own. I am like a small child trying on Daddy's shoes - it doesn't fit, it's cumbersome, awkward and sometimes dangerous. Occasionally we all need prodding to get over the bump, to be honest with God and allow Him to carry us, hold us together and heal us. There is NO pain that God cannot heal! There is NO hurdle that He cannot help you face!

These hurdles don't have to be big things. Anything that keeps us from being REAL with God and growing in our relationships. ALL Children of God need to evaluate their relationship with Him on an ongoing button. Hit the spiritual "refresh" key. Where do you stand? Are you happy where you are? Is your heart right? Do you need to forgive someone? Do you need to ask forgiveness? Do you need to find a way to be real with Him and get out of the process of going through the motions? Does God seem far, far away? Do you believe in Him, but feel emotionally numb? I think all these things are tools of the enemy to keep us from growing deeper in our faith. God's grace is deep and wide - larger than we could ever fathom. His Grace covers me when I am spiritually confused, misled and lazy. But because I am His Child of Grace, I desire to show my love by pleasing Him, growing closer to Him, getting "un-stuck" when hurdles trip me and in general by knowing Him more and more each day. This is not a list of do good activities. This is not a formula for quiet time. He simply waits patiently for us to respond to Him. That I think is the point I got from the book: Have I had a really good talk with my Abba Daddy lately? Or have I let my personal activities, reading list and attempts at good works, get in my way?

So, whether you are cynical as I, or loved the book, I believe there is benefit in the personal introspection that it inspires. As the summer ends and brings about a season of change, it is a good time for all of us to slow down from our busy activities and travels and evaluate our relationship with God, clean out the cobwebs and deepen our faith. If you have read the book, I would like to hear your thoughts. One last note, for those who have concern after reading the reviews. The author does not say that God is a black woman or that the rest of the Godhead are human. He merely presents the idea that God appears in this manner to Mac, because this is beneficial for Mac in sorting out his pain.

Phew! That was LONG!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Family Dinner

I'm trying to start catching up on posts. This lovely day occurred Sunday, August 3rd. Here J in aqua, A in pink and D sit at the kiddy table waiting of Aunties and Uncle to arrive and Cousin W. We planned a family dinner while I was here so that I could see everyone. While Grandma Hopkins was alive, she was the "reigning matriarch" of our family, every bit as regal as England's Queen Mum. Family dinners occurred at least twice a year - Thanksgiving and Mother's Day and generally at her home. Thanksgivings have just not been the same without her! But when did this happen? It used to be Cousin W, Cousin M and me at the kiddy table! :o)

First, Uncle Doodlebug drove in with his lovely wife, Auntie M, Mom's middle sister and Auntie G, Mom's oldest sister. Auntie G made these pickles which were quite the hit. Some even threatened violence to obtain more than their fair share! We wondered when Cousin W would arrive.

Here is A, getting acquainted with the family.

Poor J with her black eye from running into Grandma's counter top corner.

And Mr. D. hanging out waiting for the action to start.

Here is Auntie G. wearing one of her shirts from Africa. She has traveled all around the world, photographing, sketching and painting as she went. For many years she taught oil painting through the Boeing Art Club and other venues in the Seattle area. She has been instrumental in teaching me composition and other photography skills.

Well, Sneaky Cousin W finally arrived, but not in her pretty blue Dodge pick up but in a big black rental car driven by her brother, my cousin M and accompanied by M's lovely wife, my cousin B! WOW! What a shock! They came all the way from North Carolina and they really blessed my socks off!

The only sad note of the day was that Hubby was not there. :o( He was still in CA teaching school.

Here we are... all the Hopkins Girls... My Mom and her sisters, we cousins and my daughters, the next generation.

B, M and W being silly.

Auntie M's family.

My family can be stinkers about having their picture taken. I suppose it could be the "paparazzi effect" that happens whenever we all gather together. So, I just take pics anyway. Here B is hamming for the camera since most table pics show us with forks mid air or mouths mid chew anyway! lol

D wanted to show cousin M his Lego magazines. He gets very excited when anyone wants to discuss Legos.

Cousin W... the sneaky girl! :o)

Auntie G and Mom, laughing til they cried over something... hmm... can't remember what now!

Rhubarb is taken seriously in Auntie M's family. Here B gathers while Jack cuts.

Every job needs at least two supervisors, right?!

J, A and D go off exploring with their "bee-knock-lee-urs".

Then there was the attempt to get the three sisters together. L to R they are in age order. My Mom is the baby. What was the big secret Auntie M?

Here Auntie M is trying to maintain composure.

Whatever the peanut gallery was saying must have been funny. She's losing it! lol

Go ahead, let it out! Laugh!

Okay, back to business, G, M and R.

M and B

Saying good bye to Uncle Doodlebug, Auntie M and Auntie G.

Then it was time to say good bye to Cousin B.

Okay, one more hug! :o)

What one does, we all need to do!

I love this picture of B with A, J and D. It was too crowded for J, so she hopped out after this was taken. Something was mentioned about taking the kids home with them. And J thought that they were going to take A and D. J clouded over, "I don't want them to take them!" We assured her that our family was not going to be split apart!

Mom and Cousin M.

Goodbye! Good bye means "God Be With Ye" in old English. It's quite fitting. The time was all too short and the gift of your presence was awesome! Thank you!!!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Hurricane Ridge Part Two

If it seems like you have seen some of these things before, you have! Hubby and I went to these places on our honeymoon trip last week and we are having even more fun sharing them with our kiddos. Strange I know... but we love being a family, even with all the idiosyncrasies, whining, sticky hands and eternally long potty stops (you just try to get two 5 year olds and a 6 year old to the potty and their hands washed in a timely manner! lol). The kids enjoy exploring out doors and have their moments of being bored or whiny, but are really having a lot of fun.

I'm learning some new things digitally in processing my images and trying to learn Nikon Raw format conversions in PS Elements 6. I'm doing it all on my own and hit or miss. Anyone have any advice? It looks great in the Raw converter then some of them when they come up on the screen here are horrible and look over worked and over pixelated! Yuck! Also, I am doing super low resolution images (and have been for awhile) because I post so many pictures. The files need to be small for readers to download and so that I can fit many images on. If there is anyone photo/blog/computer savvy out there who can help me, I'd be much obliged.

Anyway, today we headed back up to Hurricane Ridge which was much nicer without the road crews working and all the fog. It was like a whole different place than last week.

Some of the flowers that had been there before were now gone, but others had bloomed in their stead. I love how God plants!


The Olympic Mountains are incredibly beautiful and the panoramic views at Hurricane Ridge are especially awesome!

Before taking too many pictures we had lunch of home made bagels and snacks. A, J, D and Hubby. I'm on the bench opposite with my bum leg elevated!

I took about 7 GB of photos, shooting mainly in Nikon Raw format, so about 1000 photos. I'm still learning my camera and settings. (slow learner!) This is Mount Olympus.

Hubby, J, A and D went exploring for awhile as I rested my leg on another bench and offered to take pictures of couples and groups who were at the same view point. I always appreciate when people do that for me, so I offer to do for them.

J and A laughing in the wind, they don't call it Hurricane Ridge for nothing!

Mom with A and J. This photo was taken by a really nice teenage boy who I had a great photo conversation with. It was so refreshing to talk to a young person who didn't have a bad attitude and who could articulate. He enjoyed checking out my lens, which he wants to buy for his Nikon D200. We discussed the D300 and D700... on that want list... you know the one... the one that is just a far, far, far away dream! lol

It's fairly common to see deer at Hurricane Ridge. But, today, we saw a LOT - we lost count, but at least 20. It was really fun. Some were close enough to touch...but I didn't. I also don't follow and harass them. They come right up by you. They seemed to love the foliage of the pearly everlasting. Many of the does sought it out. While I was taking pictures of does on one side, Hubby and the kids watched a buck and a doe on the other.

D had some binoculars from Grandma and Grandpa and he enjoyed using them to watch a doe and fawn on the ridge, down hill from us.

This is one of those pictures that turned out kind of pixellated looking and funny. But it is such a rare thing that we actually got all five of us in one shot semi normal. :o) J, A, Hubby, Me and D.

The Olympic National Park is a magical place!