Wednesday, December 17, 2014

  As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley

Oh, my,  this Flavia DeLuce is a smart kid.  Flavia is now twelve years old and is sent from her home in England to Canada to boarding school.  The reasons are a big mystery that I don’t think are ever really addressed.  We only know Flavia’s mother and aunt were students at this same school and we are teased with the mystery of a secret. As a former student, her mother is revered.

  Flavia is horribly homesick and stuck in a place she thinks does not understand her talents.  Coupled with the confounding secret 
(she knows she is being tested but she is told not to trust anyone) she decides, as usual, to take things into her own hands.

And she must.  Because the first night in her new surroundings, in a lonely bedroom, she is attacked by a fellow student and a body falls out of the chimney onto her floor.  The story takes off from there.  You can’t help but go along for the ride.

Flavia is told the school is haunted, three students recently and suddenly disappeared, as soon as she seems to befriend someone she is left alone again, the school matron runs hot and cold with her, sometimes giving Flavia a punishment that only benefits Flavia, and other times acting as if she would wipe her shoes with her, the school doctor and his wife are portrayed as rather sleazy, not to be trusted.   

I found the large cast of characters, some not even physically there, a little confusing, but in the end as Flavia figures out who the body belongs to and how it got inside her chimney and who put it there I found myself thinking, “ohhhh yeah, ok, I see where that went.”  Obviously Flavia is a lot smarter than I am. 

Anyone and everyone will benefit from Flavia’s company but wow, if you have a pre-teen reader in your household, you will be well advised to introduce Flavia into their life.  This isn’t a book you’ll find in the children’s section at the bookstore, but there isn’t anything in it that I wouldn’t share with a preteen/teenager.  There is murder, of course, but tell me what they watch on TV or see on YouTube is wholesome.  Flavia is a smart, innovative, savvy young lady and anyone will learn from her as she deduces these mysteries.   What a role model!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


And you thought I wasn't working on anything quilty!
 This quilt was three years in the making, and in that time it's been to three retreats with all best intentions of being worked on diligently and I finally got far enough last October to see that if I put nose to the needle I could actually finish it. It suffered the indignity of being folded into a drawer as I worked on many other projects in those three years, always on the back burner but still nagging at me. I love putting the last stitch in a quilt and then unfurling it for PH to see.  Last night I kept a progress report going..."One more foot!"  "Yes, I want some ice cream but I have about 6 inches to go!"  "One more inch!"  "DONE!  Where's that ice cream?"

My mom embroidered the flowers I used for the centers of the Ohio star blocks. Each center is a different flower. She loved to embroider and I kept her busy with lots of projects while she still had the eyesight and brain power to do them.  We all have tablecloths, pillow cases and table runners she made and of course now think of her when we use them. 

 I made chocolate teddy bears yesterday.  I thought I should put in the effort of some Christmas cookies since the kidlets are all coming this weekend for our Christmas. I haven't made these in a few years and who doesn't like chocolate?  See their little red hearts? 
I picked out the red sprinkles to make their hearts. I made eyes with toothpick pokes and that's it for decorations.  Simple and yummy.  This weekend they'll all be on sugar overdrive so a simple chocolate teddy might be just the thing.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Lives in Ruins

Lives in Ruins by Marilyn Johnson

Many, many years ago I fancied I would become an archaeologist. Ever since I could remember I have wanted to know who discovered, who was the first to figure out, who knew?  Who discovered this particular plant, if pounded and pounded and pounded and mixed with urine would produce something that could be woven into cloth?  How did they know which plants were medicinal and which were poison? Who figured out each mammal’s brain is big enough to tan their own hide?  I figured that was archaeology.  Digging for answers.

Lives in Ruins takes us on a very, very readable modern day journey to meet the archaeologists of today.  We follow the author as she chases some of them down in very remote sites. Her tenacity is rewarded with digging seasons as an amateur and shares with us a first hand look at what the archaeologists endure to find the answers.  The jobs are scarce, pay is paltry, the working conditions sometimes dangerous, usually hot, always dirty, hours are long.  They persevere in the face of laws, property rights, lack of funding.  Why? Why do they do it? Because they must.  It’s in their DNA to do this work for us. To search amidst the dirt and rocks for some sign of life before. Their passion is our benefit.  

The author raises the point of contemporary archaeology.  The five minutes ago.  The room you just left.  The meal you just ate.  I remember when my daughter was a child telling her history was what she did yesterday.  It isn’t just the names of generals and the dates of battles.  It was the doll she played with and the food she ate. As soon as the moment is passed, it’s history. Today she is the director of a museum.

I loved reading this book late into the night, imagining the truth behind Indiana Jones.  If you are in the least interested in archaeology or know someone who is entertaining thoughts of taking this path, your money will be well spent with this book.