Friday, May 8, 2015

Seven Actually Quick Takes

1. Birthday Trifecta Week is over. Three birthdays, three parades, three cakes, three birthday dinners.


My feast was the best. Patrick grilled salmon (and Italian sausages because he has that thing about fish) AND he grilled avocados for this Grilled Avocado and Tomato Salad recipe from John Besh. Grilled avocado is a brand new wonderful thing that we are going to eat a lot of this summer.

2.

Edmund won't finish a book because he "doesn't like it."  I told him I finish every book I start.  His response, "You're a geek."  I said to give it to page 100, then decide.

Patrick said, "You're right."  I said, "I know.  You can't tell until page 100 if it's worth it or not."

Patrick said, "No, he's right.  You are a geek."

I get no respect.

3.  Jill adores Polly.  Worships her. And speaks to her in this weirdly deep voice, "Heh behbeh."

Heh Heh beh beh.  Heh Chubs.


Speaking of Polly, she walks. She only takes steps if no one is looking or paying attention to her. She's a baby ninja.

4. Things are gorgeous here.


Breathtaking.

Pulchritudinous.

5.

Last weekend, Lucy changed up our exterior home decor with a spot of paint. Don't you love it? I sure do.

6.

Check out our entry way now! Look at all of those hooks just waiting to be overloaded with jackets and bags.

7. Today is Prom!!!


Today is also the four hour European history test from noon to four so send up a prayer that we can get her hairs done by 11:30am. I fired up my hot rollers for a test drive last night and she's been scouring Pinterest.


Unfortunately, my Irish-dance-wig-putting-on skills are not helping me at all.

Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum.

Have a pulchritudinous weekend! 


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

WWRW: The Good, the Bad, and the May Link-Up

Did you miss me on A Seeking Heart with Allison Gingras this past Monday?

No worries. You can still listen to us discuss turkey bacon, tiaras, and technology by clicking here.

I've read lots of fiction for kids this past month, and quite honestly, not much of it is worth recommending.

This is what you do want to read:


Popular: How a Geek in Pearls Discovered the Secret to Confidence by Maya Van Wagenen.

Maya discovers a vintage book on popularity written in the 1950s and puts each chapter to the test in her 8th grade year at a public middle school in Brownsville, Texas. This book is NON-fiction. An actual 8th grader did things like wear a girdle, put vaseline on her eyelids, and sport a hat and gloves.

Maya is terrific writer, especially because at this time she is only fifteen. I hear that her book might be made into a movie. The chutzpah she had to do what she did...I have to say I really admire her.

Brownsville middle school is not a G rated place. Pregnant seventh graders, drug-sniffing dogs, in-school lock-downs are routine. This book is definitely not for the faint of heart.

Does Maya become popular? It's hard to say. The conclusions she comes to in her year-long experiment are incredibly insightful and can be applied to all ages. Maya is one "swell" kid.


It's no secret that we are bigtime John Flanagan fans over here. I recently re-read the first of the Brotherband Chronicles, The Outcasts. I remember being underwhelmed the first time around but now that I own an autographed copy of Book 5 (squee!) I began again.

Now I remember! I was frustrated that a plot twist in the last chapter or two chops off the story in media res.


This time however I was able to dive right into The Invaders: Brotherband Chronicles, Book 2. Hal and his seafaring friends are still on a long term quest, but I feel more settled now that Book 2 ended on a more positive note.I even got Book 3 from the library, because I must follow this until the end.

For all of you die-hard Ranger's Apprentice fans, Hal and Thorn are like Will and Halt. But with boats. Lots of boats and no horses.

Now for the rest or What Not to Read. I'm not going to bother making Amazon links for these, because they're just not worth my time or yours.


Masterminds by Gordon Korman. Meh. Kids in a seemingly perfect town learn that they are clones in a social experiment (The Truman Show?), and that their "parents" have lied to them their entire lives.

Very angst. Many hurts. Much unhappy with the grown-ups.

Also, the book is one big set-up for a series so the ending is really just the beginning and you know how I get irritated by that. Of all the books that I'm down on, this one is the least objectionable. I was annoyed by it, that's all.


Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson is about a girl, her quirky family, and the hotel they run in NYC. Could be fun and cute except that on page 1 we learn that it's Scarlett's fifteenth birthday. In the next few chapters, she falls in love with her college age brother's friend. Can you say statutory rape? Also her brother, the 19 or 20 something one is getting involved with one of the guests. A guest who is easily in her 50s. Hello Mrs. Robinson. Ew. I didn't finish it.


The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley is about a girl with a clubfoot in England at the start of World War II. She is abused by her single mother, escapes the apartment she has been confined to her entire life, and gets relocated with other evacuees (including her brother) in rural Kent. In Kent, she finds acceptance and love in the home of her host.

Two problems.

First of all, I have read this book before. Different title. Boy child abused by his single mother, evacuated to rural England, rehabilitated by his host. It was called Goodnight Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian. Both books are terribly tragic. The abuse story-lines are hard to stomach.

Secondly, in The War That Saved My Life, the woman who takes in the disabled girl and her brother is quite clearly a lesbian. She has suffered depression since the death of her lover. Taking in and caring for two evacuated, underfed, and disadvantaged children pulls her out of self-absorption and despondency.


Girls Like Us by Gail Giles. I want to like this book. The story of two special-ed high school graduates getting a home together and starting their adult lives is touching.

Let me just mention a few of the troubling topics.

Gang rape.

That's probably enough but there's more.

More rape.
And violence.
And abuse.

It was very painful to read.

Yes, the two mentally disabled young women become friends and find support and get their lives in order. But in a kids' book?!

Ok. I can't end on that note so let me direct your attention to my Instagram feed.


La, la, la, la, la...happy happy joy joy! That's Jill reading Perfect Square by Michael Hall.

Looking for picture books? I read far too many to review so I take pictures of the good ones and use the hashtag #housewifespicepicturebooks.

The collection grows every day. Jill is insatiable and my library has no limit on check-outs. Take a gander at the bounty of beautiful books that are actually appropriate for children!

*deep cleansing breaths*

That's better.

Now link up your book reports! I mean book reviews. Here's hoping your reads have been more peace filled than mine. This link up will be open til around May 30th. Perfect for the procrastinating reader.



Friday, April 24, 2015

7 Random Takes

1. New News

Want to hear me on the radio again?


I'll be discussing important things like the uncanny similarity between Lucius Malfoy and Thranduil the Elven King,


and whether or not my husband can pull off the blonde wig look again this Halloween


and where we can find him a giant moose to ride.


But seriously, I'm going to chat books and other things with Allison Gingras on A Seeking Heart on May 4th. Be sure to download the Real Life Radio App to your Android or Apple device so you can hear our folksy chat.


I imagine it's going to be like SNL Coffee Talk or the SNL NPR bits.

Or more likely she will be all suave and sophisticated and I will be like this:



2. Ever tried to comment on this blog and it didn't work out? Please try again today. I'm trying something new. I really really want to hear from you.

Mom, please give it another shot. :) Or just call me.

3. Old News

The 100th Anniversary of Gallipoli is tomorrow.


Don't know what Gallipoli is or how to pronounce it? Neither did I, but my high school freshman, Lucy, filled me in.

I'm not that savvy with my history dates. I just happen to follow @kensingtonroyal on Instagram and they are gearing up for a big memorial. Mostly I just follow because I like to see Princess Kate's clothing choices.

Looking for a good movie about the invasion at Gallipoli? So am I. The Mel Gibson one on Amazon Instant Video is not it unfortunately. The beginning is slow but okay, the end is tragic but okay. The middle has porn and prostitutes. Not okay.


Perhaps Russell Crowe's The Water Diviner, in theaters this weekend, will prove better.

True confession. Aside from the asassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, everything I know about WWI, I learned from Rilla of Ingleside, War Horse, and Richard Peck's A Year Down Yonder (and Gallipoli the movie and the boardgame Stratego).

It ain't much.

Hit me with all of your good First World War aka The Great War literature recommendations by loading up my brand new open to all readers combox. Danke!

4. Movie Rec

We all greatly enjoyed The Conspirator available on Amazon Prime or on Netflix.


It's all about the trial of Mary Surrat who was allegedly one of John Wilkes Booth's conspirators in the Lincoln assassination, and who also happened to be Catholic. (Lots of esses in the word "assassination.")


Several famous actors star in The Conspirator, including Rory Gilmore, Kevin Kline, Princess Buttercup, and Mr. Tumnus.

This movie is fine for the whole family as long as the whole family is fine with watching Lincoln and Booth get shot in the head(s?) and footage of the other murder attempts.

5. Book Rec

The Conspirator pairs well with the audio book we are still listening too. Chasing Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson. (Yes, I know I mentioned this book here, but I hadn't actually listened to it yet.) The author draws upon every detail in the attempt on Secretary of State Seward's life and the plot to assassinate Vice President Andrew Johnson.


Did you know that Booth and his cohorts planned to murder three of the top political leaders of the nation in one night? Not just Lincoln? Well, I sure didn't.

6. Girl Talk

Susan is gearing up for her "season." Prom is coming up and her graduation gala is later in May. No caps and gowns at her all girls' academy. Graduates wear long white dresses with elbow length white gloves.


Her gala dress is actually a wedding dress from ModCloth. I bought it last summer, but they still have a few one in stock. I absolutely love it. I wish you could see the back because BUTTONS!

We got her prom dress from an online shop called Promgirl of all places.  We rejected other prom dress websites because of poor return policies. Promgirl has a great return policy and an enormous selection.


Too bad her #promposal isn't up on YouTube. Several senior boys (from the brother school) made an adorable and hilarious music video to Uptown Funk to invite their dates.

Remember that scene in the Sound of Music where the family is at the music concert singing So Long, Farewell and they do this?


They did that. Too cute.

7. Bizniz

May 6th is the May WWRW Link Up date, but I keep the party doors open all month. Have a book review post from April? It's not too late to join the April WWRW party!

Linking up with Kelly's Clean Hair at This Ain't the Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

WWRW: #housewifespicereads and Self-Help Books

Another possible title for this post is Lazy Blogger Links Up with Her Own Link-Up.


I'm a big Laura Vanderkam fan.  Like Malcolm Gladwell, her non-fiction prose is readable by my fiction-loving mind. Her book All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know About Wealth is a keeper. I bought it. I rarely buy books. 

Okay. That's not quite true. I only buy the best books.

All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know About Wealth explains how the happiest people are not the wealthiest. Far from it. The happiest people are the people who live within their means. Shoot. Now you don't need to read the book. But you should! I found it very inspiring!



For example, did you know that willpower is a muscle in your brain?

Did you know that it's easier to exercise a muscle, any muscle, including willpower, earlier in the day?

It's more difficult to exercise willpower later in the day because we get tired. That's why people blow their diets or blow off exercising or procrastinate more later in the day.

But wait!

If something is a habit, you don't use your willpower muscle to do it.

Vanderkam uses the example of brushing one's teeth.

Hopefully, teens and adults have made a habit of brushing teeth before bed. We don't have to talk ourselves into it. It takes zero willpower.

At some point, an action repeated regularly becomes a habit.

I'm not exactly certain when that transformation occurs because my three year old still must be cajoled into brushing her teeth. And wiping for that matter. And washing her hands after wiping.

TMI? My apologies.

I'm not quite through with What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: And Two Other Short Guides to Achieving More at Work and at Home buxt I'm insprired to make better use of my early morning hours. Perhaps even to *gasp* blog more!

#housewifespicepicturebooks
Because my blogging time is severely restricted what with running the insane asylum in tandem with running St. Jude's School for Kids Who Wanna Read Good, I've started using Instagram more.

Taking my cue from some other book-loving bloggers, I've started taking pictures of books and using the #housewifespicepicturebooks hashtag for kiddie lit and #housewifespicereads for everything else.

Don't run and search those hashtags this minute because you will find less than four posts. My hope is that my collection will grow over time. Someday you may find yourself in the library and wonder "What did Jessica recommend for toddlers?" Then you can search the #housewifespicepicturebooks hashtag and see lots of good book ideas.


I 'grammed a picture of Trim Healthy Mama by Serene Allison and Pearl Barrett.  This book is nearly 600 pages. Jam packed with nutritional information, scientific and medical studies, and recipes, the former Christian music artist sisters promote a healthy way of living that boils down to one recommendation.

Eat healthy fats (in moderation). Eat good carbs (in moderation). But don't eat them together.

They have lots of other recommendations too such as cutting out sugar and refined wheat, waiting three hours between your fatty meals and your carby meals.

I know giving up sugar aids weight loss. I joined Whole Parenting Family's Nell for a No Sugar for 30 Days Facebook group. Not only did I start waking up on my own, but I lost four pounds without even trying.

Trim Healthy Mama has a whole chapter devoted to hormones and why birth control pills are bad for you.

I've been reading and re-reading the same chapters over and over again, because I'm having difficulty remembering what all of the acronyms stand for. However, I'm test-driving their plan and trying some recipes.

Serene and Pearl have large families, are Christians, and homeschool. I appreciate getting advice from someone who understands my lifestyle as they do. Their distinct personalities come through when you read how Serene soaks all of her nuts and grains before eating, whereas Pearl advocates the use of "Franken" foods like fat free Redi-Whip.

I'm linking this post up with the April WWRW Link Up.  It's still alive, it's still open for now. Come May 6th, I'll have a brand new sparkly link-up all ready for you.  Until then check out all the wonderful reviews of what other bloggers are reading.



Tuesday, March 31, 2015

WWRW: April Link Up and Saint Books for Kids


The Life of Saint Benedict by John McKenzie and Mark Brown is told in full page watercolor pictures. The text explains what is shown in each painting. Brother McKenzie did an excellent job making the story of St. Benedict's life accessible to children.

This book is lengthy, however. Not your typical "sit down let's read a story." I used it to supplement Edmund's history studies this month and it meshed nicely with the spread of monasticism/early middle ages unit we are currently working on.

I'm so glad I read this book with Edmund and was able to share my memories of visiting Subiaco and Montecassino, as well as the World War II Battle of Montecassino and subsequent re-building. I think it makes history more real if you can make it a little personal.

I was provided this book in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own.


The Queen & the Cross: The Story of Saint Helen and The Saint Who Fought the Dragon by Cornelia Mary Bilinsky fit the tiny niche of books that interest both my three year old and my twelve year old.


These faithful re-tellings of the lives of St. Helen and St. George are brief but accurate. Both are lovely additions to any collection of saints picture books.


We've had all of the Fr. Lovasik Book of Saints books for many years.


The illustrations are...shall we say...very stylized? The 12 part series is also lacking many of our more recently canonized saints.


I was delighted to find the Pauline Press Little Book of Saints in six volumes at a nearby shrine giftshop. Jill was thrilled that Book 1 has her patron saint, St. Bakhita as well as Sts. Faustina and Juan Diego.


Other newcomers include Blessed Damien of Molokai, St. Paul Miki, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Blessed Miguel Pro, St. Katharine Drexel, St. Gianna Molla, St. Marguerite d'Youville, and St. Edith Stein, all represented in later volumes, as well as even more newer saints and blesseds that I'm unfamiliar with. Of course all of the "regulars" that you would expect are covered as well.

Would you prefer this St. Madeleine?
Or this one?
The illustrations are in the newer Pauline Press books are fresh, simple yet charming, colored drawings. None of the romantic steaminess of the vintage Lovasik series.

Amazon does not carry the six volumes of Little Book of Saints, but you can buy them online here.


You can link up your April book reviews Here!

Friday, March 27, 2015

7QT: Car Trip Tricks and DIY Renovations

1. First things first. Someone is making me this Banana Split Icebox Cake for my birthday. Or Mother's Day. Or both. Even though they're only 3 days apart.

No Image of Banana Split Cake Until I Take a Photo Myself. Copyrights etc.
Or maybe Easter. Meg, can I make this for Easter?

My mother used to make this, way back when. It was heavenly.

2. Heads Up!


The April What We're Reading Wednesday link-up will go live this Wednesday on April 1st. No joke.

I'm going to be road-tripping it to D.C. with my brood and I look forward to reading your posts all the way there.

3.
 Remember when the older gentleman behind me at mass told me I have a blessing and a challenge?
While we are on this 12 hour journey, I have shoved a few tricks up my proverbial sleeves to entertain my *ahem* challenge.


Wikki Stix Rainbow Pak like play-doh, but cleaner, and good for mid-air use, or for making letters on a piece of cardboard.


Little Cuties Activity Tin. Magnets. Cutie pets. Lots of teeny tiny pieces to keep little hands occupied.


Magnetic MightyMind. Jill loves Mighty Mind. Plus, the box says it "makes kids smarter!" My set is not magnetic, but I can retrofit it with MightyMind Magnetic Design Tray & Tile Magnets.


24 Creative Plastic Stencils from Highlights and a sketchbook.


Crayola Color Wonder Travel Tote No mess. Nuff said.

You could call these my five favorites, so I'm linking up with Jenna @ Call Her Happy.

4. You know there will be some movie watching in the car.

To see my Holy Week movie picks, go here and here.

5. But I myself am a bookish person and so I have stocked up on audio books of a historical nature.


Ben Hur (Radio Theatre) abridged and performed by Focus on the Family's Radio Theater because Holy Week.

The rest of my choices are all U.S.A./D.C. related.


Betsy Ross: The American Flag and Life in a Young America by Ryan Randolph. It's only an hour. I think even Jill can handle that.



Hana's Suitcase - A True Story by Karen Levine because the Holocaust Museum is on my to-do list.


Lincoln: A Photobiography by Russell Freedman - which we've already started listening too. You'd think you'd need to see the photos, but you don't. In any case, I have the book too for reference.


The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery by Steve Sheinkin - see my review here.


Chasing Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson because Ford's Theater is in D.C.


Did you know that Laura Hillenbrand edited her epic story of Louie Zamperini? Unbroken (The Young Adult Adaptation): An Olympian's Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive is abridged for younger, sensitive readers (such as myself ;)).

I found these comments from an Amazon reviewer encouraging:
As a middle school librarian, I wanted to share this unbelievable, inspirational tale, but the more graphic & violent scenes in the adult version were disturbing and overwhelming.
Laura Hillenbrand has taken out some of those more graphically violent parts of her adult version, but still communicated the depravity and inhumane treatment of Allied POW's by the Japanese.
Edmund is especially excited about Unbroken (The Young Adult Adaptation): An Olympian's Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive because he and Peter saw the movie.

6. Challenger Jill will play games on my phone too. Thank you Jesus.


She uses cheap-o noise blocker AUVIO® Kid's Headphones that have been surprisingly durable.


I won't deny that she plays Disney Princess Palace Pets and the free Princess Maker Dress Up game, but mostly she plays Starfall.


She's done Starfall ABCs so much, she knows all the letters and sounds. She also loves Starfall Learn To ReadStarfall Numbers and Starfall FREE which is nursery rhymes and fairy tales, seasons, shapes,colors, etc.


I did pay $35 for unlimited access to all of the Starfall content. It has been worth every peaceful penny.

7. Lots of beautiful changes around here.


Remember this hideous china cabinet?


Peter made it beautiful with leftover wall paint and new hardware and we had the room painted. Lighter and brighter, baby!


Then, I made some DIY Pottery Barn-esque white cotton drapes using twin flat sheets, curtain ring with clips and and extra-long special-order oil-rubbed bronze curtain rod.


We hung the rod high and wide so that when the curtains are open, not on square inch of sunlight is blocked. Also, it makes the room look huge. Cathedral like.  Not bad for an afternoon's work.


I have read about people transforming their front hall closets. With eight, sometimes nine people in the house, not counting guests, my coat closet is at capacity.


I convinced Patrick to build me this (even though he said it's my worst idea ever), upon which we will hang many hooks.  Squee!

Linking up with Kelly for 7 Quick Takes.

Have a blessed Easter with much candy!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Seven Actually Quick Takes

1. Birthday Trifecta Week is over. Three birthdays, three parades, three cakes, three birthday dinners.


My feast was the best. Patrick grilled salmon (and Italian sausages because he has that thing about fish) AND he grilled avocados for this Grilled Avocado and Tomato Salad recipe from John Besh. Grilled avocado is a brand new wonderful thing that we are going to eat a lot of this summer.

2.

Edmund won't finish a book because he "doesn't like it."  I told him I finish every book I start.  His response, "You're a geek."  I said to give it to page 100, then decide.

Patrick said, "You're right."  I said, "I know.  You can't tell until page 100 if it's worth it or not."

Patrick said, "No, he's right.  You are a geek."

I get no respect.

3.  Jill adores Polly.  Worships her. And speaks to her in this weirdly deep voice, "Heh behbeh."

Heh Heh beh beh.  Heh Chubs.


Speaking of Polly, she walks. She only takes steps if no one is looking or paying attention to her. She's a baby ninja.

4. Things are gorgeous here.


Breathtaking.

Pulchritudinous.

5.

Last weekend, Lucy changed up our exterior home decor with a spot of paint. Don't you love it? I sure do.

6.

Check out our entry way now! Look at all of those hooks just waiting to be overloaded with jackets and bags.

7. Today is Prom!!!


Today is also the four hour European history test from noon to four so send up a prayer that we can get her hairs done by 11:30am. I fired up my hot rollers for a test drive last night and she's been scouring Pinterest.


Unfortunately, my Irish-dance-wig-putting-on skills are not helping me at all.

Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum.

Have a pulchritudinous weekend! 


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

WWRW: The Good, the Bad, and the May Link-Up

Did you miss me on A Seeking Heart with Allison Gingras this past Monday?

No worries. You can still listen to us discuss turkey bacon, tiaras, and technology by clicking here.

I've read lots of fiction for kids this past month, and quite honestly, not much of it is worth recommending.

This is what you do want to read:


Popular: How a Geek in Pearls Discovered the Secret to Confidence by Maya Van Wagenen.

Maya discovers a vintage book on popularity written in the 1950s and puts each chapter to the test in her 8th grade year at a public middle school in Brownsville, Texas. This book is NON-fiction. An actual 8th grader did things like wear a girdle, put vaseline on her eyelids, and sport a hat and gloves.

Maya is terrific writer, especially because at this time she is only fifteen. I hear that her book might be made into a movie. The chutzpah she had to do what she did...I have to say I really admire her.

Brownsville middle school is not a G rated place. Pregnant seventh graders, drug-sniffing dogs, in-school lock-downs are routine. This book is definitely not for the faint of heart.

Does Maya become popular? It's hard to say. The conclusions she comes to in her year-long experiment are incredibly insightful and can be applied to all ages. Maya is one "swell" kid.


It's no secret that we are bigtime John Flanagan fans over here. I recently re-read the first of the Brotherband Chronicles, The Outcasts. I remember being underwhelmed the first time around but now that I own an autographed copy of Book 5 (squee!) I began again.

Now I remember! I was frustrated that a plot twist in the last chapter or two chops off the story in media res.


This time however I was able to dive right into The Invaders: Brotherband Chronicles, Book 2. Hal and his seafaring friends are still on a long term quest, but I feel more settled now that Book 2 ended on a more positive note.I even got Book 3 from the library, because I must follow this until the end.

For all of you die-hard Ranger's Apprentice fans, Hal and Thorn are like Will and Halt. But with boats. Lots of boats and no horses.

Now for the rest or What Not to Read. I'm not going to bother making Amazon links for these, because they're just not worth my time or yours.


Masterminds by Gordon Korman. Meh. Kids in a seemingly perfect town learn that they are clones in a social experiment (The Truman Show?), and that their "parents" have lied to them their entire lives.

Very angst. Many hurts. Much unhappy with the grown-ups.

Also, the book is one big set-up for a series so the ending is really just the beginning and you know how I get irritated by that. Of all the books that I'm down on, this one is the least objectionable. I was annoyed by it, that's all.


Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson is about a girl, her quirky family, and the hotel they run in NYC. Could be fun and cute except that on page 1 we learn that it's Scarlett's fifteenth birthday. In the next few chapters, she falls in love with her college age brother's friend. Can you say statutory rape? Also her brother, the 19 or 20 something one is getting involved with one of the guests. A guest who is easily in her 50s. Hello Mrs. Robinson. Ew. I didn't finish it.


The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley is about a girl with a clubfoot in England at the start of World War II. She is abused by her single mother, escapes the apartment she has been confined to her entire life, and gets relocated with other evacuees (including her brother) in rural Kent. In Kent, she finds acceptance and love in the home of her host.

Two problems.

First of all, I have read this book before. Different title. Boy child abused by his single mother, evacuated to rural England, rehabilitated by his host. It was called Goodnight Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian. Both books are terribly tragic. The abuse story-lines are hard to stomach.

Secondly, in The War That Saved My Life, the woman who takes in the disabled girl and her brother is quite clearly a lesbian. She has suffered depression since the death of her lover. Taking in and caring for two evacuated, underfed, and disadvantaged children pulls her out of self-absorption and despondency.


Girls Like Us by Gail Giles. I want to like this book. The story of two special-ed high school graduates getting a home together and starting their adult lives is touching.

Let me just mention a few of the troubling topics.

Gang rape.

That's probably enough but there's more.

More rape.
And violence.
And abuse.

It was very painful to read.

Yes, the two mentally disabled young women become friends and find support and get their lives in order. But in a kids' book?!

Ok. I can't end on that note so let me direct your attention to my Instagram feed.


La, la, la, la, la...happy happy joy joy! That's Jill reading Perfect Square by Michael Hall.

Looking for picture books? I read far too many to review so I take pictures of the good ones and use the hashtag #housewifespicepicturebooks.

The collection grows every day. Jill is insatiable and my library has no limit on check-outs. Take a gander at the bounty of beautiful books that are actually appropriate for children!

*deep cleansing breaths*

That's better.

Now link up your book reports! I mean book reviews. Here's hoping your reads have been more peace filled than mine. This link up will be open til around May 30th. Perfect for the procrastinating reader.



Friday, April 24, 2015

7 Random Takes

1. New News

Want to hear me on the radio again?


I'll be discussing important things like the uncanny similarity between Lucius Malfoy and Thranduil the Elven King,


and whether or not my husband can pull off the blonde wig look again this Halloween


and where we can find him a giant moose to ride.


But seriously, I'm going to chat books and other things with Allison Gingras on A Seeking Heart on May 4th. Be sure to download the Real Life Radio App to your Android or Apple device so you can hear our folksy chat.


I imagine it's going to be like SNL Coffee Talk or the SNL NPR bits.

Or more likely she will be all suave and sophisticated and I will be like this:



2. Ever tried to comment on this blog and it didn't work out? Please try again today. I'm trying something new. I really really want to hear from you.

Mom, please give it another shot. :) Or just call me.

3. Old News

The 100th Anniversary of Gallipoli is tomorrow.


Don't know what Gallipoli is or how to pronounce it? Neither did I, but my high school freshman, Lucy, filled me in.

I'm not that savvy with my history dates. I just happen to follow @kensingtonroyal on Instagram and they are gearing up for a big memorial. Mostly I just follow because I like to see Princess Kate's clothing choices.

Looking for a good movie about the invasion at Gallipoli? So am I. The Mel Gibson one on Amazon Instant Video is not it unfortunately. The beginning is slow but okay, the end is tragic but okay. The middle has porn and prostitutes. Not okay.


Perhaps Russell Crowe's The Water Diviner, in theaters this weekend, will prove better.

True confession. Aside from the asassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, everything I know about WWI, I learned from Rilla of Ingleside, War Horse, and Richard Peck's A Year Down Yonder (and Gallipoli the movie and the boardgame Stratego).

It ain't much.

Hit me with all of your good First World War aka The Great War literature recommendations by loading up my brand new open to all readers combox. Danke!

4. Movie Rec

We all greatly enjoyed The Conspirator available on Amazon Prime or on Netflix.


It's all about the trial of Mary Surrat who was allegedly one of John Wilkes Booth's conspirators in the Lincoln assassination, and who also happened to be Catholic. (Lots of esses in the word "assassination.")


Several famous actors star in The Conspirator, including Rory Gilmore, Kevin Kline, Princess Buttercup, and Mr. Tumnus.

This movie is fine for the whole family as long as the whole family is fine with watching Lincoln and Booth get shot in the head(s?) and footage of the other murder attempts.

5. Book Rec

The Conspirator pairs well with the audio book we are still listening too. Chasing Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson. (Yes, I know I mentioned this book here, but I hadn't actually listened to it yet.) The author draws upon every detail in the attempt on Secretary of State Seward's life and the plot to assassinate Vice President Andrew Johnson.


Did you know that Booth and his cohorts planned to murder three of the top political leaders of the nation in one night? Not just Lincoln? Well, I sure didn't.

6. Girl Talk

Susan is gearing up for her "season." Prom is coming up and her graduation gala is later in May. No caps and gowns at her all girls' academy. Graduates wear long white dresses with elbow length white gloves.


Her gala dress is actually a wedding dress from ModCloth. I bought it last summer, but they still have a few one in stock. I absolutely love it. I wish you could see the back because BUTTONS!

We got her prom dress from an online shop called Promgirl of all places.  We rejected other prom dress websites because of poor return policies. Promgirl has a great return policy and an enormous selection.


Too bad her #promposal isn't up on YouTube. Several senior boys (from the brother school) made an adorable and hilarious music video to Uptown Funk to invite their dates.

Remember that scene in the Sound of Music where the family is at the music concert singing So Long, Farewell and they do this?


They did that. Too cute.

7. Bizniz

May 6th is the May WWRW Link Up date, but I keep the party doors open all month. Have a book review post from April? It's not too late to join the April WWRW party!

Linking up with Kelly's Clean Hair at This Ain't the Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

WWRW: #housewifespicereads and Self-Help Books

Another possible title for this post is Lazy Blogger Links Up with Her Own Link-Up.


I'm a big Laura Vanderkam fan.  Like Malcolm Gladwell, her non-fiction prose is readable by my fiction-loving mind. Her book All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know About Wealth is a keeper. I bought it. I rarely buy books. 

Okay. That's not quite true. I only buy the best books.

All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know About Wealth explains how the happiest people are not the wealthiest. Far from it. The happiest people are the people who live within their means. Shoot. Now you don't need to read the book. But you should! I found it very inspiring!



For example, did you know that willpower is a muscle in your brain?

Did you know that it's easier to exercise a muscle, any muscle, including willpower, earlier in the day?

It's more difficult to exercise willpower later in the day because we get tired. That's why people blow their diets or blow off exercising or procrastinate more later in the day.

But wait!

If something is a habit, you don't use your willpower muscle to do it.

Vanderkam uses the example of brushing one's teeth.

Hopefully, teens and adults have made a habit of brushing teeth before bed. We don't have to talk ourselves into it. It takes zero willpower.

At some point, an action repeated regularly becomes a habit.

I'm not exactly certain when that transformation occurs because my three year old still must be cajoled into brushing her teeth. And wiping for that matter. And washing her hands after wiping.

TMI? My apologies.

I'm not quite through with What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: And Two Other Short Guides to Achieving More at Work and at Home buxt I'm insprired to make better use of my early morning hours. Perhaps even to *gasp* blog more!

#housewifespicepicturebooks
Because my blogging time is severely restricted what with running the insane asylum in tandem with running St. Jude's School for Kids Who Wanna Read Good, I've started using Instagram more.

Taking my cue from some other book-loving bloggers, I've started taking pictures of books and using the #housewifespicepicturebooks hashtag for kiddie lit and #housewifespicereads for everything else.

Don't run and search those hashtags this minute because you will find less than four posts. My hope is that my collection will grow over time. Someday you may find yourself in the library and wonder "What did Jessica recommend for toddlers?" Then you can search the #housewifespicepicturebooks hashtag and see lots of good book ideas.


I 'grammed a picture of Trim Healthy Mama by Serene Allison and Pearl Barrett.  This book is nearly 600 pages. Jam packed with nutritional information, scientific and medical studies, and recipes, the former Christian music artist sisters promote a healthy way of living that boils down to one recommendation.

Eat healthy fats (in moderation). Eat good carbs (in moderation). But don't eat them together.

They have lots of other recommendations too such as cutting out sugar and refined wheat, waiting three hours between your fatty meals and your carby meals.

I know giving up sugar aids weight loss. I joined Whole Parenting Family's Nell for a No Sugar for 30 Days Facebook group. Not only did I start waking up on my own, but I lost four pounds without even trying.

Trim Healthy Mama has a whole chapter devoted to hormones and why birth control pills are bad for you.

I've been reading and re-reading the same chapters over and over again, because I'm having difficulty remembering what all of the acronyms stand for. However, I'm test-driving their plan and trying some recipes.

Serene and Pearl have large families, are Christians, and homeschool. I appreciate getting advice from someone who understands my lifestyle as they do. Their distinct personalities come through when you read how Serene soaks all of her nuts and grains before eating, whereas Pearl advocates the use of "Franken" foods like fat free Redi-Whip.

I'm linking this post up with the April WWRW Link Up.  It's still alive, it's still open for now. Come May 6th, I'll have a brand new sparkly link-up all ready for you.  Until then check out all the wonderful reviews of what other bloggers are reading.



Tuesday, March 31, 2015

WWRW: April Link Up and Saint Books for Kids


The Life of Saint Benedict by John McKenzie and Mark Brown is told in full page watercolor pictures. The text explains what is shown in each painting. Brother McKenzie did an excellent job making the story of St. Benedict's life accessible to children.

This book is lengthy, however. Not your typical "sit down let's read a story." I used it to supplement Edmund's history studies this month and it meshed nicely with the spread of monasticism/early middle ages unit we are currently working on.

I'm so glad I read this book with Edmund and was able to share my memories of visiting Subiaco and Montecassino, as well as the World War II Battle of Montecassino and subsequent re-building. I think it makes history more real if you can make it a little personal.

I was provided this book in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own.


The Queen & the Cross: The Story of Saint Helen and The Saint Who Fought the Dragon by Cornelia Mary Bilinsky fit the tiny niche of books that interest both my three year old and my twelve year old.


These faithful re-tellings of the lives of St. Helen and St. George are brief but accurate. Both are lovely additions to any collection of saints picture books.


We've had all of the Fr. Lovasik Book of Saints books for many years.


The illustrations are...shall we say...very stylized? The 12 part series is also lacking many of our more recently canonized saints.


I was delighted to find the Pauline Press Little Book of Saints in six volumes at a nearby shrine giftshop. Jill was thrilled that Book 1 has her patron saint, St. Bakhita as well as Sts. Faustina and Juan Diego.


Other newcomers include Blessed Damien of Molokai, St. Paul Miki, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Blessed Miguel Pro, St. Katharine Drexel, St. Gianna Molla, St. Marguerite d'Youville, and St. Edith Stein, all represented in later volumes, as well as even more newer saints and blesseds that I'm unfamiliar with. Of course all of the "regulars" that you would expect are covered as well.

Would you prefer this St. Madeleine?
Or this one?
The illustrations are in the newer Pauline Press books are fresh, simple yet charming, colored drawings. None of the romantic steaminess of the vintage Lovasik series.

Amazon does not carry the six volumes of Little Book of Saints, but you can buy them online here.


You can link up your April book reviews Here!

Friday, March 27, 2015

7QT: Car Trip Tricks and DIY Renovations

1. First things first. Someone is making me this Banana Split Icebox Cake for my birthday. Or Mother's Day. Or both. Even though they're only 3 days apart.

No Image of Banana Split Cake Until I Take a Photo Myself. Copyrights etc.
Or maybe Easter. Meg, can I make this for Easter?

My mother used to make this, way back when. It was heavenly.

2. Heads Up!


The April What We're Reading Wednesday link-up will go live this Wednesday on April 1st. No joke.

I'm going to be road-tripping it to D.C. with my brood and I look forward to reading your posts all the way there.

3.
 Remember when the older gentleman behind me at mass told me I have a blessing and a challenge?
While we are on this 12 hour journey, I have shoved a few tricks up my proverbial sleeves to entertain my *ahem* challenge.


Wikki Stix Rainbow Pak like play-doh, but cleaner, and good for mid-air use, or for making letters on a piece of cardboard.


Little Cuties Activity Tin. Magnets. Cutie pets. Lots of teeny tiny pieces to keep little hands occupied.


Magnetic MightyMind. Jill loves Mighty Mind. Plus, the box says it "makes kids smarter!" My set is not magnetic, but I can retrofit it with MightyMind Magnetic Design Tray & Tile Magnets.


24 Creative Plastic Stencils from Highlights and a sketchbook.


Crayola Color Wonder Travel Tote No mess. Nuff said.

You could call these my five favorites, so I'm linking up with Jenna @ Call Her Happy.

4. You know there will be some movie watching in the car.

To see my Holy Week movie picks, go here and here.

5. But I myself am a bookish person and so I have stocked up on audio books of a historical nature.


Ben Hur (Radio Theatre) abridged and performed by Focus on the Family's Radio Theater because Holy Week.

The rest of my choices are all U.S.A./D.C. related.


Betsy Ross: The American Flag and Life in a Young America by Ryan Randolph. It's only an hour. I think even Jill can handle that.



Hana's Suitcase - A True Story by Karen Levine because the Holocaust Museum is on my to-do list.


Lincoln: A Photobiography by Russell Freedman - which we've already started listening too. You'd think you'd need to see the photos, but you don't. In any case, I have the book too for reference.


The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery by Steve Sheinkin - see my review here.


Chasing Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson because Ford's Theater is in D.C.


Did you know that Laura Hillenbrand edited her epic story of Louie Zamperini? Unbroken (The Young Adult Adaptation): An Olympian's Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive is abridged for younger, sensitive readers (such as myself ;)).

I found these comments from an Amazon reviewer encouraging:
As a middle school librarian, I wanted to share this unbelievable, inspirational tale, but the more graphic & violent scenes in the adult version were disturbing and overwhelming.
Laura Hillenbrand has taken out some of those more graphically violent parts of her adult version, but still communicated the depravity and inhumane treatment of Allied POW's by the Japanese.
Edmund is especially excited about Unbroken (The Young Adult Adaptation): An Olympian's Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive because he and Peter saw the movie.

6. Challenger Jill will play games on my phone too. Thank you Jesus.


She uses cheap-o noise blocker AUVIO® Kid's Headphones that have been surprisingly durable.


I won't deny that she plays Disney Princess Palace Pets and the free Princess Maker Dress Up game, but mostly she plays Starfall.


She's done Starfall ABCs so much, she knows all the letters and sounds. She also loves Starfall Learn To ReadStarfall Numbers and Starfall FREE which is nursery rhymes and fairy tales, seasons, shapes,colors, etc.


I did pay $35 for unlimited access to all of the Starfall content. It has been worth every peaceful penny.

7. Lots of beautiful changes around here.


Remember this hideous china cabinet?


Peter made it beautiful with leftover wall paint and new hardware and we had the room painted. Lighter and brighter, baby!


Then, I made some DIY Pottery Barn-esque white cotton drapes using twin flat sheets, curtain ring with clips and and extra-long special-order oil-rubbed bronze curtain rod.


We hung the rod high and wide so that when the curtains are open, not on square inch of sunlight is blocked. Also, it makes the room look huge. Cathedral like.  Not bad for an afternoon's work.


I have read about people transforming their front hall closets. With eight, sometimes nine people in the house, not counting guests, my coat closet is at capacity.


I convinced Patrick to build me this (even though he said it's my worst idea ever), upon which we will hang many hooks.  Squee!

Linking up with Kelly for 7 Quick Takes.

Have a blessed Easter with much candy!