Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Granny's First Baby Quilt

Portia had some of the precious aqua blue alphabet fabric left over from the bedskirt she made for our expected grandson's crib. After we made a couple of pillows for her window seat there was still a lot left over so I made this quilt for him using it and the some polka dot and orange fabric she is using as accent fabrics.

I haven't made a quilt in--oh I forget how many--years. So I wondered how much I would remember about the process. Woo-hoo! A lot more than I thought I would, that's for sure. It's not a perfect quilt but came out pretty well.

Can't wait to wrap that little baby in it....

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Book Review: The Wolves of Andover

The Wolves of Andover is the prequel to The Heretic's Daughter, which is a novel about the Salem witch trials in colonial Massachusetts, written by a descendant of Martha Carrier, one of the women executed for witchcraft. As a descendant myself of one of those women (Mary Ann Averill), I was interested in these novels and since both had good reviews, decided to start with the prequel and read them in sequence.

Well, that may have been a mistake. The Wolves of Andover did not fully capture my interest or imagination. I appreciated the historically accurate descriptions of the difficult living conditions of the day, but ultimately did not find the protagonist, Martha Carrier, a sympathetic or engaging character. If the author depicts her accurately, then perhaps others in the community felt the same way, thus setting the stage for the accusation of witchcraft and her execution that comes in The Heretic's Daughter. But since I haven't read that book, I don't know how she is depicted in that book.

Spoiler Alert: Martha falls in love with a mysterious farmhand who turns out to have had a pivotal role in the execution of King Charles I during the English Civil War and is being sought by assassins in the pay of his son, Charles II. The chapter that fully discloses this part of the story is set in italic print, which I found annoying, hard to read, and unnecessary. I didn't find the love story very convincing, either.

The Wolves of Andover is not a bad novel--parts of it are well-written and evocative of its time and place.  On the whole, I would give it an average rating. I don't plan to read The Heretic's Daughter any time soon, but if you are interested in these novels I recommend you read that one first because it has more positive reviews.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday Five: Books!

I haven't played the RevGals Friday Five in quite a while, but today's meme is about books, so here goes:
1. What books have you recently read? Tell us your opinion of them.

I just finished Ron Chernow's Washington, A Life. That one is over 900 pages long, but I read it on my IPad. It is well worth the time (a month) I put into it, too. My full review is here.

2. What books are awaiting your available time to be read?

Unprotected Texts by Jennifer Wright Kunst and The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson by Jerome Charyn are two books I have received as advance copies from publishers and committed to review as part of book blog tours in February. Right now I'm working on Unprotected Texts because that is scheduled February 1.

I just got the latest Matthew Shardlake mystery, Heartstone, and can't wait to get to it but must discipline myself to finish these other two first.

3. Have any books been recently recommended?

The two books mentioned above that I received from publishers for review.

4. What genre of books are your favorite, along with some titles and/or authors you like best?

For me, as a history buff, the most enjoyable recreational reading is historical fiction or medieval mysteries. My favorite series is the Matthew Shardlake mysteries set during the reign of Henry VIII. Fabulous! They should be read in order, so start with Dissolution which deals with the dissolution of the monastaries under Henry VIII.

5. What have you read lately that you have a strong urge to recommend? (or to condemn?)

Let's stick to the postive! Elizabeth's Women by Tracy Borman is a fascinating study of Queen Elizabeth I and her female relationships--a facet of her life usually neglected by historians.  America's Prophet by Bruce Feiler is an intriguing study of the influence of Moses on American history and culture.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Diva in the News

Our own Diva was pictured in the Houston Chronicle this morning singing an aria from Dead Man Walking, the opera that will open shortly at Houston Grand Opera. Yes, this is an adaptation of the book which was also made into a movie. You can see Sister Helen Prejean in the picture looking on!

Presbytery of New Covenant's Executive Presbyter, Rev. Mike Cole, was among the group of local religious leaders gathered in opposition to the death penalty at this event.

Catherine says she is in "mezzo heaven" because she has the opportunity to work with international star Frederica von Stade  in what will be her last performance before retirement.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Book Review: Washington: A Life

It's taken me a month to finish reading Ron Chernow's highly acclaimed (and rightfully so) new biography of George Washington. This effort has definitely cut into my blogging.

The hard copy of the book is over 900 pages long, but I read it via IBooks on my IPad, which made it much easier to handle a work of this size and scope. In the process I learned how to highlight, bookmark and make footnotes digitally, and became quite comfortable with those techniques. Hooray for IBooks!

Chernow set out to explore every facet of Washington's complex character and brilliantly succeeds in bringing the reader to appreciate both the greatness and the shortcomings of the man recognized as the "Father of our country". I did not realize the vast collection of documents, letters and other papers that were available to historians because Washington was acutely aware of his future place in history and carefully saved virtually every scrap of paper that documented his life and career. His influence on the creation of our country, government, the capital and even our way of life is so pervasive that only a monumental biography like this one can begin to uncover it.

This biography is so extensive and well-documented that it is hard to know how to write a review in the relatively short format of a blog. There are so many things I learned in the course of reading it that I would love to share, but in the interest of keeping my readers with me, I am going to focus in this review on Washington the slaveholder and Washington the man of faith.

It seems fitting to reflect on the slavery issue as I am writing this review on January 16, now a national holiday celebrating the birth of a descendant of slaves, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Washington held two types of "slave property"--those he owned outright and those that were "dower slaves". Although Washington owned outright about 100 slaves at his death, most of the slaves he held were dower slaves. These Dower slaves were given to Martha as gifts when she married her first husband. Under the law of the day, dower slaves would pass to Martha's children by her first marriage and therefore George had no legal authority to free them.

Over the course of his life Washington became more and more convinced that slavery must end or else ultimately would be the destruction of the republic. He decided he would not purchase slaves nor would he sell them away from their families. The resulting growth in the slave population on his Mount Vernon plantation and other properties came to be one of the causes of economic strain in the latter part of his life. 

Chernow recounts that 47 slaves were documented as runaways from the Washingtons. George Washington did attempt to reclaim them, despite his stated aversion to slavery. 

A memorable incident recounted by Chernow involves the case of the slave Oney  "Ona" Judge. Ona, Martha's personal maid, was the mulatto daughter of a slave and an indentured servant at Mount Vernon. She fled from the President's residence in Philadelphia to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, after learning that Martha Washington had promised her as a wedding gift to her  temperamental granddaughter, Eliza Custis, upon their return to Virginia.

President Washington advertised a reward for her capture and return and furtively attempted to arrange her kidnap from the free state of New Hampshire. Ona later wrote that the Washingtons never taught her to read or write or gave her any "moral education." When Washington's stated ideals about slavery conflicted with his financial interest his ideals were ignored and his actions hypocritical.

In the last year of his life Washington secretly wrote a new will giving the slaves he owned outright to his wife Martha, but providing that upon her death, they would have their freedom.   An unforseen consequence was that his widow became fearful for her safety because the other slaves knew that they would be free upon her death, so she freed the remainder of these slaves the following year.

Chernow points out that Washington was the only one of the Founding Fathers who actually freed his slaves, albeit posthumously.

There has been a lot of sentimentalization about Washington's faith by later generations. Washington was a regular in his attendance of an Anglican church in Virginia, but his statements about faith seem formal and stilted to the modern reader. This does not mean he did not have it, but rather that his ways of expressing it are very different from what is viewed as "authentic" today. 

Washington did believe in religious toleration and carefully attended worship at churches in other denominations to set an example for others.

I highly recommend Washington: A Life. It is well worth the effort I put into reading it. I'm buying a hard copy for El Jefe, who still isn't onboard with digital books.

(Also posted today at QG's Book Reviews.)

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Bump Shot

Averill posted a "bump shot" on her blog today, showing her progress at 32+ weeks. 

Doesn't she look fabulous? Not that I'm biased or anything.

The nursery is looking good and we are getting very excited Chez QG!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

More Blackberry Blues

The Wall Street Journal, whose readers have GOT to be the most technology addicted in the world, ran an article this morning for every spouse, child or friend who has been dissed by a Blackberry: Your Blackberry Or Your Wife.

El Jefe has heard me sing the Blackberry Blues on many occasions, accompanied by the backup duo of Portia and Babs. We even have a picture of our late nephew Patrick commandeering El Jefe's Blackberry just before Portia's wedding ceremony!

This past Christmas Eve El Jefe deliberately left the BB at home while we went to church. Along comes a driving thunderstorm during the service so he ran out to fetch the car with one of the church's umbrellas only to realize he couldn't call us to let us know where to come to meet him for pickup. No good deed goes unpunished.
A technology fast sounds very appealing. But my chances of getting you-know-who to participate are slim. and. none.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Maverick With a Mission

Steve Saint (yes, his real name) is a missionary who developed this flying car, called the Maverick,  to help natives in remote regions of the Amazon access health care in fulfillment of a promise he made to the Huaronai tribe in Ecuador that killed his missionary father and four other missionaries in 1956. 

The tragedy was recounted in Elizabeth's Elliott's book Through Gates of Splendor and also made into a movie. Steve Saint wrote his own book about his father, The End of the Spear, which was also made into a movie.

The video is about 6 minutes long and doesn't discuss the purpose of the flying car until close to the end. It's well worth watching. Christianity Today had a lengthy article about Spear and his flying car here. For more information, you can check out the Maverick's website.

The FAA has certified the Maverick as airworthy, and surely God will bless the mission Saint developed it for.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Beatrice Blogs: Tilda Update

Matilda "Tilda"

Beatrice here. QG and El Jefe figured out that I am technically Tilda's Aunt Bea.

Lately I've been feeling more like Tilda's Great-Aunt Bea.

I mean, that pup is full of energy! She rushes in the house in the morning when Portia drops her off before going to work and wants to wrestle and pin me to the ground. Not very dignified for a young lady dog of my age!

So when I jump on a chair or couch to get away from her, she barks! Then QG comes and scolds her and takes her away to give me a bit of peace and quiet.

I am taking her in hand--er, paw. She is learning to do business very promptly outside and to walk on a leash. I've shown her all the best places to look for rabbits or little mice in the yard. She has a good nose and runs pretty fast, but not as fast as me.

Although I really hate the crate, I find it amusing to get in there before Tilda does. Just to show her that I can.

I'm kind of relieved when she goes home, but then I find myself looking for her in the morning. I still miss Olivia, but I think Tilda will be a good dog, too!

Yours for contented canine companionship,

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Who Is The Foundation For A Better Life?

Anybody else out there wondering who is behind the Foundation for a Better Life? 

They seem to have stepped up their advertising significantly during the college bowl season. I think I've seen two or three of their ads during every bowl game we've watched. I started noticing because we have had the tv on much more than usual lately because El Jefe is an avid college football fan.

Some of them are memorable--like the one about the girl with Down's Syndrome who was elected homecoming queen at her high school (a true story, I remember reading about it because it happened at a Texas high school). Some are heart-wrenching--like the video shown to the tune of "You Can Let Go Now Daddy". And several that I have seen are meh--like the one that seems like the old Coke commercial "I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony." It's called We Shall Be Free.

That costs a LOT of money. Made me start wondering where the funding is coming from. The website for the organization is I went through it but can't find any information about the funding, so I went to Wikipedia and found that it is solely funded by Philip Anschutz, who is identified as an  the 34th "richest person" in the US and a member of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Wikipedia reports that he donated more than 23 million dollars to the Foundation for a Better Life and the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.

He is also a major supporter of the filming of C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia and owns a large entertainment company.

Just thought you'd like to know, in case you were wondering, like me!