Smile for the Joy of Others

Smile for the Joy of Others

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Reading "Dixie"

This last month's book club choice was Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'easter by Lisa Patton.  It is the first book in a 3 book series called Dixie.  I enjoyed the 1st so much that I read all 3 book in the series. 

I can't begin to write a review for all 3 books.  I've never claimed to be a professional reviewer and trying to summarize 3 books, is a bit overwhelming for me.  Instead, I'll leave a 4 star rating for the whole series.  The 2nd book is a 3 star for me but the 1st and 3rd books started and ended the series well. 

Being from the South, I enjoyed some of the references to Memphis and Ole Miss.  However, I would like to add that not all Southern Belles act and live as some of the ones depicted in the series.  Leelee and her friends can seem a bit superficial as their need to impress their peers and with worry of what others think of them.  While it's true that some live like this, not all of us do. 

For the most part, this was a clean read even though it was secular. There are few curse words and references to drunkenness.  I was quite impressed that Leelee saved her sexual relationship with her boyfriend until she was married. The author makes a specific reference to this. 

This series is a light-hearted, fun, quirky adventure that both the Southern Belle and Yankee would enjoy if you are looking to read such books.  I wouldn't consider this series to be a work of literature so there isn't deep analytical elements to seek out.  It's just fun and entertaining. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Cinnamon Bun Cake

This past Saturday, Brother C, the Daddy, and Pappaw went fishing in a nearby lake about 45 minutes away.  Brother C lives for the days he can fish.  Brother B on the other hand doesn't have much interest in fishing.  So, he and I decided it was as good a time as any to try a new recipe. 

Let me introduce you to the newest cake added to our recipes. Cinnamon Bun Cake, it's, oh so very rich but worth it...add in a glass of milk and it's melt in your mouth heavenly!

3 c flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 c sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 c milk
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 c butter, melted

1 c butter, softened
1 c brown sugar
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp cinnamon

2 c icing sugar
5 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare a 9 x 13 baking pan (buttered).

Mix all of the base ingredients together, with the exception of the butter.  Add the melted butter last, and then pour into your prepared pan,

Mix all of the topping ingredients together in a separate bowl.  Mix well.  Drop by teaspoonful over the base, as evenly as you can over the entire base.  Take a butter knife and swirl the topping into the base.  Pop into the oven and bake for 28-30 minutes.

While the cake is baking, prepare the glaze and set aside.

Remove from oven and glaze the cake while still warm.

***I cannot take credit for creating the recipe.  I found it on Pinterest so the source is unknown to me.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Mobile Library

If you've read the past few posts, then you have noticed they have been about reading and books.  It's obvious I'm an avid reader.  And as an avid reader, I love nothing more than to pass on books to other readers or help influence others to become readers.  Reading is a passion of mine and I am firm believer that those who read, enjoy a lifetime of learning. 

Homeschooling has allowed me to encourage our boys to enjoy reading more than they did when they attended traditional school.  Our boys are required to read 30 minutes a day from a book of their choice.  I also read to them.  The books I read are usually books I want to use as discussion topics or they are books suggested as part of the unit we are learning. 

Because of my love for reading, I have built my own library.  I currently own hundreds of books I keep stashed in our hope.  I know, some would call it hoarding but I'm confident enough to call it building a library. I have built my library from books bought at thrift stores or online used book sites.  I rarely buy books brand new.  I've also acquired many books from friends and family who clean out and pass their unwanted books on to me.  It's not uncommon for me to inadvertently end up with more than 1 copy of a book or I've bought a book that after reading or try to read, I do not want it as part of my library. 

So I found myself with these 'leftover' books without the ability to throw them away.  And as I mentioned above, I love nothing more than pass them on. 

I had read about the "Little Free Library" movement and wanted start my own version of it for our neighborhood.  After looking around our home for something to put my leftover books in, I spotted one of my many wooden crates.  I filled it with most of the leftover books, including Christian fiction, secular fiction, non fiction, young adult and children's fiction.  I created a flyer to place in my crate explaining the concept.  I took my little mobile library to the neighborhood's park and left it and then picked up later that evening.

I then posted on our neighborhood's Facebook group page what I had done along with a picture of my crate of books.  There was such a positive reaction to my idea that within the day, I had been recruited to partition the neighborhood's Advisory Council to place "Little Libraries" throughout the neighborhood. 

Now I am working with 2 other residents to write and present the Little Free Library idea at one of the upcoming Advisory Committee meetings.  The proposal is to have at least 2 for children and one for adults.  Having a Little Free Library box will be better suited than my crate as it's weather proof and a permanent fixture.  However, they do cost money and will have to be monitored because of the potential for vandalism and obvious inappropriate material left in the box.  We've already had one our residents volunteer to purchase one of the libraries. 

I'm excited about this opportunity and if the Advisory Committee doesn't approve, well, then I will just keep taking my little crate of books to different locations of our neighborhood with the hopes of encouraging others to read. 

I hope to have a future blog post with positive news regarding our proposal but until then, the link below will take you to the Little Library movement website for more info:

Little Free Library

Sunday, August 7, 2016

A Cry from Egypt

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This rating is based on my boys' liking. I read this as a read-aloud for our history/Bible homeschooling curriculum.

This book gives great insight into the life of the Israelites during their time as Egyptian slaves. It helps children and adults have a more realistic idea of how life was and how the plagues effected them and the Egyptians.

I highly recommend this book to those who want to help their children better understand the Bible.

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Tipsy Magnolias

Last year I ventured into something that is out of my comfort zone in regards to organizing and meeting people.  I'm an introvert with social anxiety so meeting new people is hard for me; organizing something that requires my leadership over a group of people is not typical of me.  But my enjoyment of reading and lack of close friends and family who do not share this same enthusiasm inspired me to start a book club for our neighborhood.  Our neighborhood has 2 club houses that can be used by LC residents.  We met at one of the club houses for the few months but scheduling around other neighborhood activities got to be difficult and non LC residents could not participate. 

After discussing with a few other members, we decided to change the location to a restaurant located in our neighborhood.  There were 3 consistent members, Diane, Lissa and me.  We each had friends who wanted to join so meeting at the Mermaid CafĂ© allowed for non LC residents to join. 

We currently have 5 members.  I'm the youngest but thoroughly enjoy the conversation and fellowship with the other members.  We have chosen some great books, most of which you have seen posted on this blog. 

One of the members, Lissa, jokingly started calling us The Tipsy Magnolias because we all bring our own quirks to the group.  (No...we aren't tipsy from too much drinking...though I'm the only teetotaler, all other members are too classy to make this into a drinking celebration).  So The Tipsy Magnolias inadvertently became the "unofficial" name of our group.

We meet the 1st Tuesday of the month. We do actually discuss the book along with updating each other about our life.  The fellowship and food are always a treat for me as this is the only 'adult' activity I'm involved in outside of church. 

In December, I'll list 2016's choice of books but for now, I'll list the few we read for 2015.  We only met a few months last year because I started the group in September.

Gone Girl
All the Light We Cannot See
The Life of Pi

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Recent Reading Adventures

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this book considering that I had randomly chose it to read. I had no substantial reason for choosing it.

The storyline includes some heavy topics. One of the characters is raped and the reader is exposed to her struggle as a result of this traumatic experience. To add to her struggle, it takes place during an era when women didn't report nor talk about rape. The reader sees how such a traumatic experience effects her life including her relationships.

The story's chapters vacillate from mother and daughter with each giving their own life's point of view. In reading the story, it's obvious that if truth had been revealed, relationships could have been much more pleasant and life for them wouldn't have been as heartbreaking.

Moms and daughters alike will appreciate the relationship between Babs and Laney as much of their struggle is what mom wants vs what daughter wants. Laney grew up in a time when feminism was growing and her mother Babs tried her best to keep morally and culturally to the time she grew up when women's lives were at home happily married. And their desires in life clashed. Mix this clashing with deep rooted trauma and the storyline did not disappoint.

For those who prefer clean books, this book does have a rape scene and some sexuality in it. I personally think some of the sexuality could have been less detailed but it didn't interfere with my enjoyment of the overall story. * * * *

This genre is not my typical go to for reading so I'm basing my rating on my experience with this genre. I rated this using different measures than I would other genres and types of writing styles. The 4 star rating is based on measures compared to other books written in similar fashion as this one in the same genre. Another words, I didn't rate this compared to a Pulitzer Prize winning book.

This book was predictable as most contemporary, Christian chic-lit is but even so, it's an enjoyable read. I chose this to read as a relaxing, easy read since my previous books contained heavier more emotional issues and plots. It's a fun book with a quirky plot of Gretchen taking on her first house flipping project with a handsome carpenter at her side. And you probably already know the rest of the story. * * * *

The setting of this book takes place in a fictional town on the Mississippi coast. The story spans across a few days leading up to and through hurricane Katrina. The characters are a struggling poverty stricken African American family. The reader is exposed to the issues this family faces including poverty, joblessness, alcoholism, death and also the cultural issues that plague poverty stricken families. These issues include teen pregnancy, dog fighting, stealing, lack of education, hunger and the lack of parental involvement. One of the most saddening and infuriating issues the author brings to story is older boys taking sexual advantages of younger girls. The girl in this story innocently allows herself to be used believing she is truly being loved but not old enough to know the difference. It's heartbreaking to know this happens more than not in poor communities.

This book contains strong language though I don't believe the author used these words just to fill space and sell the the book. I believe she used them to accurately portray the conversations the characters would have used had it been real.

This book was different than what I usually read. The author's style of writing was bit hard to follow at times but it is written well.

From this book, I gained insight to some of the cultural issues that plague the poverty stricken African American community. This was both saddening and hard to understand but does give the reader a more empathetic POV into these families...and for that I am grateful to have read this book.  * * * *

* * * *
This is a historical fiction with the protagonists being Italian immigrants in the early 1900s before WW I. I enjoyed being exposed to this part of American culture through the lives of Italian immigrants. It's a clean, secular book. There isn't much action in the way of unexpected twists so it can be slow read, not to be mistaken as boring but rather slow and easy.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Preparing for our upcoming School Year!

It seems I've become MIA but not really.  There just hasn't been that much to blog about. 

I just finished ordering our curriculum for this coming year's school. We are using the same as last year.  It is nice to have found something that we will stick with for right now.  As our boys graduate to higher grades, I will have to adjust but right now, we comfortable with what we are using.

Language Arts....Christian Light Education
Math...Christian Light Education
Reading...Christian Light Education
Penmanship (cursive)....Christian Light Eduation
Science...Apologia Zoology 3: Land Animals
Writing: Institute for Excellence in Writing
Bible/History: Biblioplan with Mystery of History

And, of course, they will be reading from books at least 30 minutes a day.

We are trying a different scheduling approach this upcoming year.  We will school for 6 weeks with a week off.  This will allow a much needed break and give us goals to reach.  We are also adding some co-op classes.  I've signed them up for a PE class that will meet once a week for an hour and a half at a local fitness club. They will also be involved with homeschool club called Generation Joshua.  This group focuses on civics and government.  I'm excited about this and hope to have more details of our experience in future blog posts. 

Until then, we are taking it easy and look forward to our upcoming school year.