Monday, November 02, 2015

Come and Gone

Well, October has come and gone! It was quite a blur -- we closed on a house, since we'd rather not pay the exorbitant rent in this area with no equity to show for it! More on that to come, but suffice it to say for now that October was a blur of packing, painting, moving, and settling. That last one is far from done, but it's so good to be in a home of our own. There is color on the walls, and we can put up pictures, curtain rods, and other miscellany with gleeful abandon!

Our little lady also turned 3 in October -- I can hardly believe how quickly she's growing up. Both mentally and physically! Dresses I made not-that-long-ago are now tunics, and she's talking up a storm. Also, she can now sport a pair of French braids. Her hair is quite long, but it's so naturally layered that a single ponytail or braid results in stray wisps covering her face almost immediately. I've never been much good at "doing" hair, so I'll have some learning to do!

As crazy as the past few weeks have been, I'm astonished at how many little blessings have come our way. We had a horrible situation with our rental property (unscrupulous property managers), which was quite stressful. But when I went by the rental to mulch the flower beds (one of the move-out requirements), the yard maintenance company for the community had already done it! We are responsible for our own beds, so that was totally unexpected. The washer and dryer that we no longer needed? Friends of ours who moved the week after we did -- and helped us tremendously when we moved -- needed to replace the 1970's machines that came with their house. The box spring and bed frame that we no longer needed? Another friend who helped us move had been planning to purchase some! It would have been such a pain to try to put those things on Craigslist in the midst of the chaos, so giving them to people who needed them was the perfect solution. Little reminders that God was taking care of us in the midst of a stressful time.

A little industry (and a trip to IKEA!) will speed up the settling-in process. I love our new home, and can't wait to share more about it soon!

Hope you're all having a lovely November so far!

Monday, October 05, 2015

A Jane Austen Christmas: Review and Giveaway!

When a representative from Cider Mill Press approached me a few months ago asking if I'd like to host a review and book giveaway for a new Jane Austen book, my heart skipped a beat! Knowing that many of you share my love for Jane Austen, I didn't hesitate to send an affirmative response. I received my own copy of the book a little while back, and without further ado, will share my observations with you! If you'd like your own copy, have a try at the giveaway (below), or find it at Amazon here!

A Jane Austen Christmas: 
Celebrating the Season of Romance, 
Ribbons, & Mistletoe 

by Carlo DeVito

First off -- not to judge a book by its cover -- but this is a lovely little book! Bound attractively in red and green (you can see it peeking out in the photo), and jacketed festively, it's a well made book that's the perfect size for reading.

It's difficult to classify this book. It includes a bit of biography, a bit of historical info, and even recipes (mostly for festive holiday beverages, some of which are from the Austens themselves). Mr. DeVito tracks the Austens through the years, writing primarily about their Christmas-time activities. Each chapter/part focuses on a different year, starting in 1786.

One of my favorite aspects of the book was the connections between Jane Austen's experiences and the people she knew, and specific passages in her books. The infamous play from Mansfield Park? Jane had a similar experience when her own brothers vied for a young woman's attention during their own theatrics. Mr. Collins shows up, too, and Jane's unfortunate early romance with Tom Lefroy is detailed, as well as her exceedingly brief engagement to Harris Bigg-Wither.

DeVito draws from a variety of sources -- historical accounts, Austen family letters, etc. -- to paint a portrait of Christmas festivities in the Georgian and Regency eras. The bibliography is quite hefty for such a small tome. Including so many sources can result in a very choppy, cobbled narrative, but Mr. DeVito handled it quite well and the result is an easy read. Since I personally know very little about Christmas celebrations from that era of history, I found it quite informative! I also appreciated that he "suggested" how the Austens might have done things based on the traditions of the times, since we don't have exact accounts of all of their holiday activities.

As I mentioned, the book includes several recipes of the time period (mostly for alcoholic beverages, which is a bit of a specialty for the author), and gives some insight into how the Austens ran their kitchen -- Jane and Cassandra were actually quite involved, owing to their family's constrained finances. A Jane Austen Christmas certainly gave me a better sense of the time in which Jane Austen lived, especially the societal climate that influenced her books.

My only caveats with this book are relatively minor -- first, that a handful of grammatical errors were overlooked. None were very glaring, but it does make me wince to see such errors in print! The second, is that there are a few brief thematic elements that make the book suitable for slightly older audiences. There is nothing "very shocking," but I don't think I would have given this to myself at 12 (which is when I first started reading Jane Austen). Then again, I would most certainly be considered a prude by modern standards, so don't think that there is anything racy!

I felt that the book painted a pleasing vignette of Jane Austen's life, detailing some of the experiences that most shaped her development as an author. This is really the perfect book for a chilly afternoon by the fire, with a steaming cup of tea at one's elbow.

And now, for the giveaway! Cider Mill Press has generously offered to give a copy of A Jane Austen Christmas  to a "Thoughts and Thimbles" reader! Let's keep this simple, shall we? No liking, no following -- just leave a comment with your favorite Jane Austen novel, and enter the giveaway by clicking below!

The giveaway is open only to residents of the United States and Canada

The giveaway is now closed! Congratulations Hannah H!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

All opinions expressed in this review are my own -- I did receive a complimentary copy of A Jane Austen Christmas for the purpose of this review. Consider yourself informed! *wink*

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


In the interest of exploring our little corner of Virginia to the fullest, I looked up a local art museum -- ready to cringe at the entrance fee, and wonder how long I'd be able to stay with three small children. Probably not long enough to get my money's worth! 

But no, the museum in question has free admittance. In other words, I can come back as often as I like, and can therefore limit visits to the scope of my extremely patient and perfectly-behaved children motley crew. They even allow non-flash photography in the exhibits. Don't pinch me, please!

In the relatively long time since I've been to an actual art museum, I had forgotten just how powerful it is to see a work of art in person. It helps when the art is housed in a breathtakingly beautiful building: 

It just so happened that I caught the tail end of an Impressionism exhibit; Impressionism just so happens to be my favored artistic style, so "anticipation" doesn't begin to cover it. Up the steps, through the doors, into the gallery. And there, all over the walls, some of the loveliest art by some of my favorite artists. Including several paintings by Childe Hassam and Charles Courtney Curran.

A Breezy Day by Charles Courtney Curran -- this painting was far, far smaller than I realized (maybe about 8" by 10"?), which makes the beautiful detailing even more astounding.

A little detail from the museum -- such a beautiful place!

The painting below was probably my favorite, "A Spray of Goldenrod" by Charles Courtney Curran. The appearance of light and shadow was so lovely -- and unfortunately can't really be captured on camera. 

To stand a few feet away from one of these paintings -- well, it doesn't bear describing. I especially like the oil paintings, because the texture of the paint on the canvas added an extra dimension. That's something you just can't experience on a book page or a computer screen. 

As for the littles... well, I wish I could say that their attention was always this rapt:

They did fairly well, though they were inclined to be a little wild toward the end. I'd love them for them to develop an appreciation for art as early as possible, so our tour consisted of lots of "What color are the shutters on the house? How many people are in the picture? What is that lady thinking about?" Still, we've barely scratched the surface of what the museum has to offer, even though we've visited a few times!

But that's all right. We'll be back.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

To Stay

Well, after thinking for about 6 months that we would be moving to Guam, the Navy changed its mind! Those of you in the military know that such surprises are to be expected (hmm, an expected surprise? That sounds fishy...). It was a bit of a shock, since we were mentally geared up for a tropical adventure. However, now we'll be staying in Virginia for Pablo's next tour. And that, my friends, is something I am quite excited about!

The longer we live here, the more we love it. We'd even talked about coming back to this area in the future. And the reason we're staying (Guam is overflowing with pilots right now, which means Pablo would have gotten fewer flight hours -- and flight hours are *everything*) is good for Pablo, and good for our family. Part of me still regrets that we won't be snorkeling, eating fresh coconut crab, etc.

But really, I think all I miss is the "excitement" of the thing. It was a bit glamorous to think of moving to a tropical paradise in the middle of the Pacific. Really, though, I'm not a tropical island kind of girl, and would far prefer to go to Colonial Williamsburg than suffer through year-round humidity! The advantages of staying started piling up as soon as we found out -- 'cause really, moving three small children and all of our worldly goods half-way around the world is not an appealing idea. Oh passengers on the flights-we-would-have-taken, you have no idea the potential agony you have been spared! *wink* 

Staying here just makes everything easier. And the fact that we've already connected with an incredibly supportive community of friends through church, squadron, and friends-of-new-friends, makes it even better. There are so many things we would have missed on Guam (museums, fresh veggies, seasonal changes, etc.), even though we would have made the best of it. Plus, now I can knit my little heart out, because it will be cold here soon!

There has been so much uncertainty (relatively speaking) in our lives since Pablo joined the military almost three years ago. We've never been able to look more than few months (sometimes days!) ahead, and even some things we thought certain have changed. But really, I feel the Navy has not removed "certainty" from our lives, so much as the illusion of certainty. Pablo's old job seemed steady, predictable, safe. But Proverbs 16:9 says that "the heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps." If anything, our experience in the military has shown us in very obvious ways how dependent we are on God's sovereign plan each and every day. I, for one, am grateful for that revelation, because it's one I tend to forget!

So here we are, to stay.

For now, anyway!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

This Life

As Summer draws to a close, I find it hard to believe we've only lived in Virginia for six months. Six months today, come to think of it! I've (mostly) gotten used to the crazy roads, and (definitely) gotten used to the general convenience of our admittedly "crowded" area. Each weeks yields some new discovery -- be it a museum, cafe, park, what-have-you.   

Definitely my "prettiest" loaf yet. Now that I'm making bread regularly, I've been
going through flour like a mad woman! Bananas and flour are pretty much always
on the grocery list.

The local library was a recent discovery (yes, it took us almost six months to get library cards! The bibliophile in me is a bit ashamed of that). It's absolutely marvelous, and we're making ample use of it. And you can check out your own books. Really, you just scan your card and plop all the books on the Magical Mat of Wonder. Somehow it *knows.* I'm sure I'm just late to the game, but it does make me a bit giddy. 

Nature continues to astound me here. There are Rose of Sharon bushes blooming everywhere just now, and I'm determined to plant one of my own one day. They're so lovely! September has also featured the Praying Mantis, in various sizes. Including this chap, who was hanging out on our table at a favorite downtown bistro:

Did you know there are over 2400 species of mantids? Some have really amazing wing patterns! I'd recommend looking up the orchid mantis -- it's quite remarkable.

In other news, Little Man upgraded to a "big boy bike" with training wheels - $14 on Craigslist, versus the $70-$80 they cost new. It's even "Cars" themed, which he loves. His little red trike is officially Rosa's now. Incidentally, do you have any idea how difficult it is to find a little girl helmet that's NOT covered with Disney princesses?

Before long the leaves will start to change, and who knows -- maybe there will be snow this year! I'm ready for Autumn, but this has probably been the loveliest Summer I've had in years. It's been a good six months, Virginia.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

A Trip Down Memory Lane

A trip to Colonial Williamsburg was virtually inevitable -- it's a longish drive, but much too close to resist! I've been singing its praises to Pablo ever since we got married, so visiting with him was such a treat. To my delight, he approved. But then again, what's not to love?  

Williamsburg feels like such a part of my life -- I've visited there several times since I was little, though my most recent trip was almost nine years ago. Little has changed, though. The same fragrance still wafts out of the shops on Duke of Gloucester Street, probably my favorite fragrance. Something like a mix of soap, beeswax, leather, and spices. 

We only had a few hours on this visit, and since Pablo's brother was visiting from out state we tried to hit up some of the highlights. But now that we have annual passes, more visits will be forthcoming!

The fifes and drums were a big hit with our little ones (well, Laddie was indifferent. But then again, he slept most of the time!).

The gardens, as always, were perfectly lovely -- despite the sweltering temperatures!

An afternoon of sight-seeing was a bit tiring for the smaller members of our group, but it was such a treat to see them experience Williamsburg for the first time. So many things to see! Horses, cannons, carriages, streams, and even the Marquis de Lafayette (who gave a most rousing speech).

 Pablo remarked that Colonial Williamsburg strikes the perfect balance of visitor involvement -- you can enjoy the town on your own, or you can find various tours and activities to participate in. It's engaging without being overwhelming. And really, Colonial Williamsburg has it down pat; they know what they're doing, and they're very good at it.

Bruton Parish Church is a favorite of mine -- my family attended Christmas eve service there once, so again, more memories.

I bypassed the milliner's shop on this visit, since we had limited time (and I was outnumbered by males!), but I couldn't pass a snapshot of this seamstress at the window:

 There's still so much to explore there: museums, trade shops, gardens. I haven't lived this close to Williamsburg since my infancy (at which point I was understandably oblivious to its charms), and goodness me, do I plan to take advantage of it! Though perhaps we'll wait until the weather cools...

Friday, September 11, 2015


For those who lost their lives on this day 14 years ago, 
and those who died trying to save them -- you are remembered.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

The Gallatin Scarf

Here's the finished Gallatin Scarf (the pattern is free!).  

This was a treat of a project, partly because of the pattern, partly because of they yarn -- which was Knit Picks Diadem in Diamond. The Diamond colorway has been discontinued, it seems, but I think Platinum is an equivalent color. I snagged a skein for under $7 almost a year ago, always intending it for a scarf. It's half baby alpaca and half mulberry silk. It feels like heaven.

After a few mishaps (which resulted in more frogging back than I'd like to remember), I got in the groove. It's a simple lace pattern, with a very pleasing result. I did use a finer yarn than the pattern called for (fingering weight instead of worsted), but used the recommended needle size. I like the result, which is a bit airy and perfect for Fall and Spring.

I haven't blocked this, and to tell the truth I'm not inclined to. It would even out the stockinette, though, which would be good -- after the lace portion, I opted for stockinette. Not only was it simpler than keeping track of which row was which, it also seemed more appropriate for my selected yarn.

That choice did result in a bit of stockinette "roll" at the neck, but I think that actually worked out nicely.

Now to wait until temperatures drop low enough to wear it! The weather has already cooled here -- flocks of Canadian geese are appearing overhead, and the morning temperatures are perfectly delightful. It makes me a bit giddy, to be honest! If only the mosquitoes would take a little vacay...

Raveled here.