Saturday, December 29, 2018

Merry Christmas! & The Guest House at Graceland

May you all have enjoyed a wonderful Christmas season, full of the light of Jesus, friends, and family!

So much, oh, so much, has happened. 

The main change being that my sister and I are now officially independent adults, rooming together in charming little apartment right around the corner from work. This change occurred in September. No longer living with my parents. I love them, naturally, but it was far past time to be in a place of my own. And while I might possibly be able to afford living without a roommate, I really didn't want to try. My sister and I are already know we can live together and this way we avoid being lonely and now our sweet parents can enjoy life as emptynesters but still seeing their daughters at least once a week. It's an ideal arrangement.

I visited Memphis in November with a dear, dear friend of mine, mainly as an Elvis tour, but we also stopped in Beale Street where the blues was born and then to the Lorraine Motel in memory of Martin Luther King.

We spent 2 nights in the stunning Guest House at Graceland, a decision I highly recommend to anyone visiting Graceland. The hotel is well-deserving of its high rating and we simply adored the subtle Elvis touches sprinkled through the building.

Stunning carpet patterns.

An example of the artwork on the walls, so shiny and so Elvis.

A fun and ridiculously over-sized purple plush sofa with gold pillows. 

Love the asymmetrical chairs in the lobby.

Complimentary peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were served every night!

What I like to call the reading nook.

A replica staircase from the one in Graceland.

Getting ready to eat at the EP Bar & Grill - DELICIOUS!

Our gorgeous hotel room!

There we go, just a small look into The Guest House at Graceland. When I get around to it, I'll share some photos of our time in Graceland, oh, and also, pictures from our visit to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. 

If you ever get a chance to visit Memphis, do it. The experience is beyond incredible!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

A Little Jane Austen to Combat the Boredom

All of the illustrations in this posting are from the C.E. Brock illustrated copy of Northanger Abbey from 1922. His illustrations are my favorite so far and it's my idyllic dream to own a complete set of Brock illustrated Austen.

Today was an awesome day for boredom.

By awesome, though, I mean that if I hadn't been bored, I would have never gone to chat with Devin which means that Tiffany (his cube mate) wouldn't have shown up at the end of our conversation, so I would have never looked at her space and noticed a coffee mug from The Screwtape Letters on her desk. This coffee mug led to a conversation where I learned The Screwtape Letters is a live stage play of phenomonal impressiveness, according to Tiffany at least.

Then I searched for college courses on CS Lewis where I inevitably found the glorious website of Hillsdale College where entire courses of lectures are placed online, for free, for anyone interested in the topic.

My instinctive first response was to take the CS Lewis course, but then I noticed a course entitled The Young Jane Austen Northanger Abbey.

I was hooked by the word GO.

A part of my brain, probably a bigger part than I'd care to admit, has been bored ever since I graduated college almost 5 years ago. I'm not bored enough to go back to college and be stressed about exams and papers and discussions (at least not yet), but I'm desperate for intellectual literary stimulation that is almost impossible to find in my current job. I miss the stimulation of reading a book, writing down my thoughts about the plot, characters, themes, setting, etc.

I suppose that I could do it on my own, but I don't want to. I like being part of a group, part of a cohesive unit that is studying, reading, and listening to the same text and lectures. I know I won't be participating in online discussion which is part of the excitement of online coursework, but that's okay, I'll live.

Already I've learned that there's an actual genre for the novels that were popular in Jane Austen's day and especially the genre that Catherine Morland reads in Northanger Abbey. Jane Austen herself read both kinds of novels and they're called sentimental novels and gothic novels. The sentimental novels are about young beautiful, virtuous women who never had to strive at being either who face troubles that aren't too weird and eventually live happily ever after with a man as virtuous as themselves. The gothic novel throws in elements of the supernatural and horror (before there was such a thing in literature).

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe referenced in Northanger Abbey is a gothic novel. I've never read it myself, but I have to agree with Professor Murphy that this and other novels of the same ilk were predecessors to our own Stephen King and Dean Koontz. Even though I know I probably should read Udolpho, I probably won't just because the predictability of gothic novels at that time doesn't really appeal to me all that much.

Anyway, I've listened to the first 2 lectures and 2 Q&A sessions with the professor and the president of the college. It was a great way to spend 2 hours of my working day! I fought the temptation to start in on the 3rd lecture because I know that I really need to do the assigned reading which is chapters 1-9 of Northanger Abbey. I've read the novel a few times, but it's been long enough and I love it well enough to want to read it again.

What a great thing to look forward to every week!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Making Regency Era Undergarments

The one thing I didn't think would happen has happened.

I ordered a custom Regency corset from a seller on Etsy back in February of this year. I was supposed to get it this week. I get a message from her yesterday politely backing out of the transaction.

I get why.

She's a new mom and the baby is colicky.

She didn't anticipate motherhood being so time-consuming.

I'm not angry or anything, but WOWEEE.

Here is Plan B, the brassiere on the left.

The unanticipated Plan B that will likely be much more comfortable than the custom Regency Long Stays that I had previously ordered. After all, I'm not a skinny minnie.

The pattern is coming, should be here tomorrow since it's shipping from the city I live in, and then I'll shop for supplies on the way home from work since I already have the list. It'll give me something exciting to do this weekend!

Life has an exciting way of tossing curve balls at one. In this case, it will also result in my saving money. And that is God's intervention.

I'll share the results here, be they successful or unsuccessful.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

A Day in Denver - Visiting the Edgar Degas exhibit at the Denver Art Museum

Degas masterpieces bring to mind my years spent in ballet classes as a child. My grandmother Jeanne, Granje to my sister and me, gave me a gorgeous canvas zipper bag one year, likely to carry my ballet supplies in, and the design is one of Degas' dancers.

I still have this bag, even though it's a tiny bit worse for wear. The zipper had problems for many years and then my sweet mother figured out how to fix it, so I can actually use it again. I think it must be at least 20 years old by now, maybe closer to 25 years old.

So when I heard that a Degas exhibit was coming to Denver, you can imagine my ecstasy!

Caitlin and I bought tickets to the exhibit for today and as our parents headed out of town with their travel trailer for a long weekend, we headed up to Denver to experience some artwork!

I confess, the exhibition is rather small if you're accustomed to large museums. But Denver is not New York City so we're pretty much thankful for any opportunities we have to experience culture. 

The exhibit was charming.

It covered Degas' progression in both style and medium throughout his life. He spent time on portraits and landscapes in his youth, then the nude form (both male and female) before progressing through a period of derby horses and their movements and the lines of their bodies, before finally landing on the nude female form, usually bathing and/or drying themselves.

Ballet dancers were last and Caitlin and I are both in agreement that, for us anyway, his finest representation of the ballet dancer are in his charcoal drawings. They were stunning and I could have stared at them for hours.

Like I said, the exhibit presented a smattering of his work throughout his years.

We learned that he truly did work in a variety of mediums, sometimes blending them into a single piece of art. He also worked in monotypes that produced haunting dark landscapes that I personally had never seen before.

For me, I consider his finest work to have been done in his later years. His early work wasn't iconic enough and you see very little of the later Degas in the portraits and landscapes he created as a younger man.

But that's okay.

It reminded me that we're all going somewhere and who we were before doesn't mean we can't mature and grow into something amazing and different.

Needless to say, Caitlin and I loved the exhibit. She came away with scads of postcards for her collection and I have an enchanting ballet dancer poster to hang in my work cubicle. I know just where I'll put it.

I can mark Degas off my bucket list, although I would love to see even more of his work someday, particularly the ballet dancer paintings in pastels that I love so very much. Now to hope for an opportunity to see Monet's work. I'm quite a fan of the impressionists as you might guess!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Dreaming of a Jane Austen Immersion Weekend!

Photo Credit: BBC's Emma (2009)

I've been in a retrospective mood lately, feasting intellectually on nothing but Jane Austen and C.S. Lewis. Every time that I read Austen, I'm reminded how I wish I could have a Regency immersion experience. Reading Katherine Reay's latest book, The Austen Escape, probably didn't help much since it's all about taking a 2 week Regency immersion vacation in a manor outside of Bath. The book itself, while entertaining, didn't quite follow every plot thread through to fruition, so while I enjoyed it, it won't be a re-read. 

But, like I said, it gave me such an intense longing to just get away and live Austen for a week, or even a weekend. 

The only problem is that most hotels and bed and breakfasts, for some absurd reason, don't host such things.  Pooh on them.

But I did find one lone manor, called The Governor's Place in Hyde Park, that opens itself up regularly for Jane Austen weekends!

My heart skipped a literal beat, or several, at the very idea of getting away for an entire weekend to spend time in Regency garb, take English Country Dance lessons, and simply revel in all things regency and Jane Austen.

Photo Credit: The Governor's House in Hyde Park

True, the pricing is $465 for a single occupant, but you know what? I have a charming, loving sister who would gladly accompany me, and perhaps even a friend who might give it consideration, although Vermont is quite a ways away. If 3 of us shared a room, the charge would only be $395 per person instead of $465, and that's actually saying something. Friday evening through Sunday, PLUS if we decided to stay longer after the weekend, the room would only be at half the nightly rate! 

I know, I'm currently just fantasizing right now, but there's a reason to be gainfully employed and to tuck funds away. One can't spend one's entire life hoarding money like Ebenezer Scrooge without having any intention of really living and experiencing the time that God has given us.

My original thought was to host a Regency Garden Party this summer, and while that may still happen, my horizons are trying to broaden themselves. The last time Caitlin and I went away together, just sisters, we shared a lovely Disney experience. I could see us doing this and cherishing every moment. 

If a certain someone who will remain nameless, but you know who you are, would consider joining us, that would be icing on the proverbial cake! Of course, at this point I haven't even mentioned it to Caitlin. I think she just might go for the idea now that has that full-time job (thank you, Lord!) and will have a decent amount of time off accrued by the time one of the Jane Austen weekends rolled around this year.

Photo Credit: The Governor's House in Hyde Park

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Book Review: Cloaked by Rachel Kovaciny (A Western Retelling of Little Red Riding Hood)

I confess to having read this book a year or so ago and, to my shame, never got around to reviewing it. But I know Rachel is working feverishly on her next book in the series, a retelling of the 12 Dancing Princesses called Dancing and Doughnuts.

Anyway, here we go, jumping into the first review I've written in many, many months.

Cloaked is an endearing jump to a simpler time, when westerns ruled the world. Sadly, Hollywood doesn't really dish out decent westerns anymore, but Rachel has captured the look, the feel, and the characters that used to run rampant through the western towns of America, at least to hear Hollywood tell of it.

This book is precisely what it claims to be, a western retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. You have the innocent heroine, Mary Rose, who is blossoming into a lovely young woman, taking a journey to meet her grandmother living in Wyoming Territory, a woman she's never met.

While on her journey, Mary Rose encounters a man named Mr. Linden who knows her grandmother and is trusted by her, but Mary Rose simply can't shrug off the sensation that Mr. Linden gives her the creeps. Something isn't quite right about him, and she doesn't know why, at least, not yet.

I've always been partial to Little Red Riding Hood, ever since I watched the Faerie Tale Theatre version with Mary Steenburgen as the heroine. But I never really imagined one in a western setting until Rachel began publishing her retellings. There's no magic here and no actual wolf eating granny. Which makes the villain a little more terrifying because he's simply a man yielding to his wicked tendencies.

An entertaining read, Cloaked is diverting for fans of westerns, particularly those who don't mind a little Christian faith tossed into the mix. Light entertainment, the book is an enchanting experience that I now intend to hand off to my mother who is a western aficionado, both in literature and film!

If you want to follow Rachel on her writing adventure, try her FACEBOOK or her WEBSITE.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

3 Reasons why When Calls the Heart needs Pastor Frank

Photo Credit: Hallmark Channel

While I haven't been a Heartie since the very very beginning, I did join in season 2 because one of my very dear friends urged me to try When Calls the Heart. I loved the 1st season, and while I haven't always agreed with every choice made concerning the direction of the show, I've been loyal for the past 4 years, loyal enough that I attended the HFR2 with that same good friend. 

I got to meet Mark Humphrey at the HFR2 and listen to him speak and share his heart about how strongly he connected with the character of Pastor Frank because of circumstances in his own past. I saw a genuine, charismatic man who glowed in the light of When Calls the Heart and let that light shine into the show itself. Hearties like myself relate to Pastor Frank because Mark Humphrey made him so relatable. 

Do you remember this interview Connie Wang held with Mark in 2015 on Parade? 

He describes Pastor Frank as a, "a genuine, honest, good man who has dedicated himself to God's work. He's been through a lot of turmoil in his rough past and found salvation."

Wow. I mean, WOW!

There's something precious about a pastor who found his way to God after running away from Him for so long.

Which begs the question of why? Why has Pastor Frank been written off When Calls the Heart

The writers and producers of When Calls the Heart have always made themselves accessible to the Hearties, which is an amazing gift, first of all. And second of all, bolsters my hope that someone may actually give Pastor Frank fans such as myself a straight answer. From all I've heard, Mark Humphrey is a great guy and was willing to continue with the show. 

What happened and can it be undone?

3 Reasons why When Calls the Heart needs Pastor Frank:

1)  Without a pastor, the church is just a schoolroom. Pastor Frank shepherded the flock in Hope Valley and without him, they have no spiritual leader. That building was intended to be a church and a school, but in the 5th season, it's been just a school. Hope Valley needs Frank to grow the faith of the Hope Valley citizens on a personal level.

2)  There's not enough leading men in When Calls the Heart to begin with and then we lose 2 men in the same season. 

3)  Abigail deserves another happy ending. And Frank is the best man we've met so far who can give her that with gentility, grace, and faith. Especially now that Bill Avery and AJ have such a tangible and fiery "thing" going on (LOVE her btw).

The crux of my opinion really is that I want to see more Christian faith, not less. I'm in the middle of rewatching When Calls the Heart's 1st season, and the Christian faith is abundant, authentic, and loving.

Please, bring Pastor Frank back to Hope Valley. We need him.

Blessings to my fellow Hearties, the cast and crew of our favorite show, Papa Heartie, and those at Hallmark.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

On Daniel Lissing leaving "When Calls the Heart"

photo credit: Hallmark Channel

In the words of Dan Lissing, It's going to be alright."

Grieving the death of Mountie Jack is normal. 

Shedding tears and feeling your heart break is normal.

When Calls the Heart is a unique experience with a unique fanbase because the fans, the cast, and the crew feel like family. So I get it. I loved Mountie Jack too, and Lori Loughlin is right in saying that the only way Jack would leave Elizabeth is through death. 

And because the Hearties and the cast of When Calls the Heart are such an amazing family, I hope that we'll pull together during this transition instead of fracturing. 

This is Dan's decision to leave.

We don't know why other than it's a personal reason. And that's okay too. There's always been a mutual respect between the cast and the Hearties and now, more than any other time, we need to be disciplined enough to see that we, as Hearties, continue extending that respect to everyone involved in the show. 

This isn't anyone's fault and it's not a decision born out of spite and malicious intent. Just as we do for friends and family, we need to extend grace to When Calls the Heart.

I'm not saying we need to stop being disappointed or stop grieving Jack's loss. We all have very genuine reasons for feeling the way we do. But after 5 wonderful years, let's give the show another chance and continue looking forward with hope towards its future.

We will all miss Dan. He was an integral part of Hope Valley and his leaving is a tremendous loss. But let's send him off in true Heartie fashion with all our love and affection so he can look back with nothing but good memories of the Hearties an his time on When Calls the Heart.

As one final note, let us also remember to be kind to one another. Arguing over whether to stay with or leave the show serves no purpose. All it does is divide us in a negative way. If any of us feel called to move on to a different fandom, let us do so with dignity and grace. And for those of us staying, may we enter into an excitement and anticipation for season 6.

Blessings to all the Hearties, the cast, and the crew, and especially to Papa Heartie whose love for the show and the fans has always been so self-evident.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Feeding the Inner Woman in 2018

Aye me, what a long week. 

While I love working for a non-profit, year end can be positively exhausting because that's when the final donations come pouring in. It's terrific that people give because they can use the giving for tax purposes, but still, why wait until the last day of the year? Now we're finishing up year end reconciliation which means processing everything from 2017 that might possibly be left. Still, that should be finished by the 10th and then I pray we can heave sighs of relief for at least a little while. The life of those in data entry.

The apartment hunting is currently on hold for a few months, which might actually mean I'll be buying a condo instead, which would be lovely. I'd prefer to buy rather than rent anyway. At least then your money is going to purchase something. My focus instead is to pour as much of my paycheck as physically possible into my savings account. By the time April rolls around my savings should be back to where I want it.

Do any of you make New Years resolutions?

I only ask because I rarely make them in the form of a physical list or anything. Instead I think of something I've been wanting to accomplish and for whatever reason simply haven't followed through on. It's never something that made it to a list of resolutions, like losing weight or exercising more or cleaning out the refrigerator every two weeks.

Instead it's just usually something that will end up doing my soul good. Or my spirit good, whichever word you prefer.

This year I have two things on this list that will do my inner woman good: read as much of C.S. Lewis' nonfiction as I can and read through the entire Bible (something I am ashamed to say that I have never done).

I'm starting my Lewis reading by actually listening to Focus on the Family's radio presentation of C.S. Lewis at War. For any bibliophiles or anglophiles out there, it stars Jeremy Northam (Mr. Knightley) as Lewis and he does a stupendous job portraying the great author and theologian.

Next I'll read The Problem of Pain, a little book that I anticipate will pack a lot of meat for my tired and careworn spirit. Then I'll just go on from there, maybe posting random thoughts on nourishing spirituality that I might find, or keeping them as little nuggets to myself. We'll see.

As for reading the Bible, I really don't think that needs much introduction. Except to say that I'm using the Charles Swindoll Bible Reading Plan. It starts me off in Genesis (reading several chapters a day) and the Psalms. They're weekly reading plans for 5 days so you have Saturday and Sunday off and I've made it one week so far. I do love reading the Old Testament if simply because these people remind me that God's followers have never been perfect.

May your new year be full of spiritual fruit and contentment. Books, knitting, and cat snuggling will be in my year along with anything the Lord might toss my way. As always, He will be faithful no matter what comes. Blessings!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Thank goodness it's 2018!

I'm one step closer to renting an apartment. Caitlin and I are touring an apartment tomorrow at a complex that really interests us. My sister is a good judge of character and she feels the assistant manager is an honest and forthright woman. I admit that I liked her a lot too. Not that she couldn't turn out to be a Patrick Jane in disguise, but still, the chances of that are really slim.

One potential hiccup to our plans to move right away is my car. It had some, shall we say, issues tonight. It's likely either the battery, battery terminals, or the alternator. None of which are very expensive, but there's always the possibility it's something bigger and therefore has larger charges attached to it. I'm praying for just a simple and easy fix. I'd hate to put off moving because I needed to pour $1,000 into my car unexpectedly.

Car troubles aside, it's been fun to plan a move with my sister. She's already bought 2 filing cabinets to house the family genealogy (she's the history major in the family), and now we're talking dining room suites and end table vs. coffee table for the living room. We already have most of the living room furniture already, thank goodness.

The only real thing I have my heart set on is hanging battery powered candles from the ceiling.

I know, it sounds crazy, but most Harry Potter fans are at least a little bit crazy. It comes with the territory. See, we hosted a Harry Potter dinner party back in May of last year and we hung candles from the ceiling over the dining room table. It was gorgeous, but only temporary. I'd like to have a much more permanent fixture in place. The apartment we're looking at tomorrow is all gung-ho about letting its residents hang stuff on the walls and the ceilings. That's another plus in my book.

It's just the 2nd day of 2018 and already I'm kind of wishing I were 2 more weeks into the new year. By then I'd either be moving into the apartment we're looking at tomorrow or we'd be looking at a different complex. I'd know what's going on with my car and either have it fixed already or in for repairs. My raise would have come into effect at work, and maybe, just maybe, the breakfast smoothies would be starting to have a slimming affect on my waistline.

But alas, no. Instead, I must wait. Why is it that waiting is always so darn hard? And it takes for bloody ever! Oh Lord, help me to cherish each moment as it comes. Every day is a day that I will never live again, ripe with possibilities to do Your good work. Help me to not get so worked up at moving forward that I stop seeing the forest for the trees. Amen.