Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to my blog readers out there.  Thanks for reading this year.

I hope each of you has a chance to celebrate Jesus' birth with friends and family, to give thanks for the challenges and blessings of 2011, to rest and refresh, and to look forward to another year serving Christ in 2012.

I'll be back in a few weeks.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Some pre-schooler books

A number of recent trips to the library have turned up some treasures in the pre-school book department.  

Firstly, a new offering from the great team of Giles Andreae and David Wojtowycz, Mad About Minibeasts.  We love their previous books, including Rumble in the Jungle and Commotion in the Ocean.

Mad About Minibeasts opens up the world of insects to young children in their usual rhyming, colourful way.

Another new one this year is Too Hot to Hug!   Rupert finds a golden egg, from which hatches a baby fire dragon.  At first, Crumpet is crumpety warm, he dries the washing and keeps the family snug.  But as he grows bigger and the weather gets warmer, Crumpet gets too hot to hug and starts causing problems.

A very cute story, with gorgeous expressive illustrations.
The Pencil is written by Allan Ahlberg (of Peepo fame). This very clever book starts with a solitary pencil, who begins to draw and create a boy, a dog, a cat, and then all the things they want and ask for.  Colour arrives when the pencil draws a paintbrush to help him.  Peace is threatened when everyone gets too demanding and he draws a rubber which only makes things worse. 

This is a funny, clever book and the kids loved the ideas behind it.

Friday, December 9, 2011

At Home

At Home, Bill Bryson
  • Why are salt and pepper are the two spices on our dinner tables, rather than for example, chilli and cinnamon?
  • Why are there 3 odd buttons on the sleeves of men's jackets?
  • How were bodies disposed of prior to pleasant lawn cemeteries and crematoriums?
  • Why do you pay for 'room and board'? What is the board?
Ever wondered how the things we take for granted today came about? So did Bill Bryson and his newest offering answers these and many other questions. Using his own home as a springboard (a 150 year old rectory in rural England) Bryson has researched the history of the home. As he works through each room in the house, we are treated to the history of how it came to be, how society changed around it and how life and ways of living have changed over the last few centuries. Full of his usual wit and storytelling skills, Bryson imparts a fantastic amount of information, all the while making it readable and entertaining.

I have long been a fan of Bryson, especially enjoying Down Under and A Short History of Nearly Everything. This one does not disappoint.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Warden

The Warden, Anthony Trollope

Another Trollope has made it onto my reading list! Anthony Trollope (1815-1882) wrote the Chronicles of Barsetshire, a series depicting ecclesiastical life in England in the 1800s. This one, The Warden is the first in the series.

You might wonder how easy it is to read a book written in 1855. The book I read was wonderfully edited by Geoffrey Harvey and is well annotated to explain the references that Trollope uses, mostly ecclesiastical, political or literary comments on his day. It takes more work than a modern writer because you have to think about the language a little more, which means you read it more slowly. However I think it’s easier to read than a Jane Austen.

It is witty, clever, and very insightful. His comments on the clergy, marriage, politicians and the power of the news are just as entertaining today as they would have been to his original readers.

The Warden is Rev. Harding, the caretaker of a small poorhouse, designed by a will to take care of older men at the end of their days. As part of the position, he draws a very comfortable salary. As a local reformer (and courtier of his daughter) of the church rallies against him, decrying the church’s abuse of position and power, he is left is a moral quandary of whether or not he is entitled to the income and how to proceed as a result. At the same time, he is bullied by his archdeacon (also his son-in-law), who strongly believes all privilege of the church of England is the right of its clergymen.

Here is a taste for you.

His comments on newspapers and their editors (Tom Towers is the editor and the Jupiter is the main paper of the day):
“[Tom Towers] loved to sit silent in a corner of his club and listen to the loud chatterings of politicians, and to think how they were all in his power – how he could smite the loudest of them, were it worth his while to raise his pen for such a purpose… Ministers courted him, though perhaps they knew not his name; bishops feared him; judges doubted their own verdicts unless he confirmed them; and generals, in their councils of war, did not consider more deeply what the enemy would do, that what the Jupiter would say… It is possible that Tom Towers considered himself the most important man in Europe; and so he walked on from day to day, studiously striving to look a man, but knowing within his breast that he was a God.” (p168)
Describing the archdeacon:
The archdeacon took up his shining new clerical hat, and put on his black clerical gloves, and looked, heavy, respectable, decorous, and opulent, a decided clergyman of the church of England, every inch of him. (p210-11)

I’m not going to read all 6 novels straight away, but will take them in small doses when I feel like thinking a bit more through my fiction reading.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

'Tis the season

A dear friend told me that my Christmas post sounded tired, or in her words "you are obviously so over it!".   She had a point.  My husband told me the same thing when he read my draft of our family Christmas letter, he said it sounded 'down'.  

I feel I have misrepresented my feelings about Christmas.  I really enjoy Christmas.  I think what I find hard is all the things that Christmas brings with it - end of year concerts, thank you cards, final meetings and dinners.

Having read Jenny's post earlier in the week though, I realised I can chill out more.  I don't have to do anything more for the year - no speaking engagements, important meetings, posts to write, etc.  I have organised presents already, mainly using online ordering (what joy!).  There are still 2 weeks till the kids are on holidays, so I have time to get things done and then time to enjoy with them when holidays start.

As we set up the tree yesterday and started advent today, I am thrilled that about 5 years ago I was not only excited about Christmas, but had time to put into it: hence the advent material, the embroidered Christmas stockings, the tree skirt, etc.  Now, I cannot begin to imagine where I found the time or energy!

Now that it is all set up, it's time to enjoy it.  So this year, when all the busyness of Christmas threatens to cloud over the reason for the season, I might just take myself off to the lounge room, turn on all the sparkly lights on the tree, and give thanks to God for the blessing of Christmas, where Christ came as a baby to save us all from our sins.