Sunday, April 29, 2007

Two Inches of Ivory

I just finished reading Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. As with all of Austen's novels, I loved it. Miss Austen, to me, is the premier author of 'chick-lit'. I have a tendency to read heavy tomes full of useful information, but every now and again I need to let my brain rest by reading a novel. I try to limit my novel reading because I get too engrossed in the good ones and can't seem to put them down. This can lead to sleepless nights and/or unfinished chores - not a good example to the little hobbits!

One phrase that I come across several times in reference to Miss Austen is her speaking of writing on two inches of ivory. I could never figure out what this meant, and thought perhaps it was some saying from a hundred years ago that had gone out of use. Not satisfied with this supposing, I decided to do a google search and see if I could come up with a clear answer. I was delighted to find the following write up on another site:

Culture Corner:Jane Austen's Laptop Word-Processor

On Wednesday I paid a visit to Jane Austen's house at nearby Chawton in Hampshire. Unfortunately she wasn't in but a nice lady in the front parlour selling souvenirs allowed us to look around on payment of £2 each. It was very strange looking over this modest little cottage where Miss Austen spent the last years of her short life, and where she completely revised and finally agreed to have published the most-read and best-loved novel in the English language.

One of the many items on display that belonged to Miss Austen caused me considerable astonishment. My mother-in-law died ten years ago and among the odds and ends in her writing box, that had belonged to her grandmother, was what we, including my mother-in-law, had aways assumed to be a fan. A somewhat clumsy fan because it consists of a swatch of ten thin rectangular ivory panels held together with a single rivet. Each panel measures approximately five-inches long by two-inches wide.

It isn't a fan, it's a late 18th-/early 19th-century word-processor. Paper was expensive, therefore those who used a good deal of it first composed their paragraphs on these wafer-thin ivory panels before making fair copies on paper. Pencil could be erased with one's fingertip, ink erased with a damp cloth. The order of paragraphs or sentences could be changed depending on which panels were exposed from the main swatch. Other advantages were portability -- it could be carried in a pocket and used on one's lap because the wafers were sufficiently rigid to make a desk unnecessary.

The fan explains a paragraph in one of Jane Austen's letters to her sister, Cassandra, which has always puzzled me, in which she refers to `The little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work ...'

Out of curiousity I composed this entire post on the fan using a pencil. The efficiency of the device is remarkable. Each of the above paragraphs is written on an individual wafer. The post actually started with the second paragraph with the opening:
`An item on display in Jane Austen's house at Chawton caused me considerable astonishment ...'
I moved it from first to second place simply by switching the wafers around. Longer paragraphs were continued on the reverse. I've taken to carrying the `fan' with me and jotting notes on it. Although it's 200 years old, I think it'll last out my lifetime. If it inspires me to write a tenth as well as Jane Austen I shall be well pleased. -- James Follett

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Good and Garlicky...a book review by Mama

Have you ever had something that you like so much that you just
want to tell others about it? This book is one of those things for me. "Good and Garlicky, Thick and Hearty, Soul-Satisfying, More-Than-Minestrone, Italian Soup Cookbook" by Joe Famularo is my undisputed, all time favorite cookbook.
Mr. Famularo is an Italian-American who grew up eating many of these soups lovingly prepared by his mother, father, and various friends and relatives. Throughout the book you will find that many recipes begin with a little background story about how Mr. Famularo first came to know and love the recipe to follow.
Most cookbooks sound good, but the majority of the recipes fall flat. I haven't had one soup failure yet. I did try one recipe that was yummy, but more trouble than it was worth (Chicken Soup with Custard Diamonds). Other than that the other recipes have become family favorites. So much so that Monday is now officially soup night in the Shire. Our three family favorites are Rosy Minestrone from Rome, Sicilian Soup with Sausage, and Chicken Soup with Vegetables and Parmesan. They've all entered into the Monday night rotation each month. On the fourth Monday I try to try out a new recipe or end up making Chicken Tortilla soup which is also a family favorite.
If you're a soup lover like we are, I highly recommend this book.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"The Way Home: Beyond Feminism, Back to Reality" by Mary Pride

This has to be the best book on basic Christian living I have ever read. It was written over twenty years ago, yet, aside from some outdated statistics, it is still spot on for today's Christian adult. I always hate it when I see a book review that says something to the effect of "this book is a must-read for every person who breathes oxygen on the planet", but I really feel that way about this book.

There are huge problems in our nation because there are huge problems in our homes and churches. Not only has the pagan world bought the lies of feminism hook, line and sinker, but the church has as well. As the church of God has conformed to the lifestyle of pagan America it has maligned the name of God, lost its way and forfeited its power to change society. We are to be in this world, not of it. Now people who call themselves Christians live their lives no differently than the lost and then wonder why the church no longer has any effect on society. It's because, "If we are no better than they are, why should they think God's standard is any higher than theirs"?

There needs to be a revival among God's people to repent of our selfishness, pride and arrogance, and turn back to living the way God ordained us to live. Mrs. Pride's book is an excellent tool for pointing sincere Christians back to the narrow path. If I could afford to purchase these in bulk I would, and I would give one to every Christian man and woman I know.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Reluctant Reader

Sometimes I wonder if Eowyn is genuinely reading the books that I assign, or if she just skims over the words without taking in their meanings. Of all my children, Eowyn is the one who doesn't like to read. This is my fault. She was not ready to read in the first grade which brought a considerable amount of consternation from all my relatives who were already certain I was ruining the little hobbits by educating them at home. Her lack of readiness to read only brought more stress to an already stressful situation wherein I felt I had to prove myself to others, especially since our first year of homeschooling was her first grade year. I panicked; I pushed. It was not always pretty. At times I even thought she was refusing to read out of rebellion. That was when it got ugly. I actually yelled at her for not reading. Screeched is probably the better word. My eyes are welling with tears as I write this.
Sometimes when your children are small, you don't realize just how small they are. You expect too much from them too soon. They want to please you, but at times find it impossible. That was the case with Eowyn. When this happens, when the expectations are unattainable, your child loses hope. She knows she can't please you by doing the thing you have demanded, so she becomes a little withdrawn from you. I wish I had known then what I know now. I wish I had realized just how small she was. I see it now. I see it in little Pippin who is in first grade this year. I look at him and stand astounded that I could have ever yelled at Eowyn when she was his age. I didn't realize how small she was.
I have apologized profusely over the years, but the damage is done. She is now a reluctant reader. She shies away from school readings and wouldn't read aloud for all the tea in China. There is always hope though. She has forgiven me for being a crazy, looney mom when we first started homeschooling. She didn't for several years, but seeing me patiently working with Pippin who is also not a quick reader has softened her heart. She sees that I'm sincere in my apologies by my actions with her little brother. Just today she came to me laughing and said she had read too much of the book I had given her today. It is "White Fang" by Jack London. She likes it. She got caught up in reading it and before she knew it she had read more pages than were assigned for the day. Hearing that she is enjoying a book is music to my ears. However, having her laugh with me about is is divine.
Don't forget just how small they are. Little hearts can break quickly and mend slowly.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"Lieutenant Hornblower" by C.S. Forester

"Mom, this book is so lame. I can't even tell you what's happening in it," says Arwen.
"What page are you on?" says I.
"Page 28, and I don't even know what it's about," replies she. "It's one of those books where hardly anyone ever speaks. The author is mostly just describing things. And, when people do speak pretty much all they ever say is, "Aye, aye, matey!" in her best pirate voice, "and things like that. I hate books where no one ever speaks."
(( shy, but chatty when you get to know her, daughter hates books where the people don't speak much and the author waxes poetic over the descriptions of everything he can think to describe. That would explain her extreme dislike of Sir Walter Scott.))
"Try just one more chapter," says I. "Then, if you still can't stand it, you may put it aside."
Case closed. We shall move on to "The Scarlett Pimpernel"; perhaps that will not be so lame.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Term 2

Term two is in full swing. We have finally finished week 18 of this school year which means we are halfway done. We should, according to the schedule, be about eight weeks further than we are, but no matter. The weather is fair, the garden is in, and we are happily enjoying our days. We can always work through the summer when the weather in the Shire is too hot and humid to stir from the hobbit hole. Honestly, we've been moving more and more toward a year round schooling schedule since moving to one of the southern states from the midwest a few years ago. In the midwest even autumn and spring had dreary, inclement weather that kept us indoors, but here in the south autumn and spring are glorious!

Gone are the days when I fretted over finishing every jot and tittle of our books no later than the end of May. The early years of home schooling are always the hardest; when you are filled with hopes, expectations (your's, and those of other people), fears and uncertainties. I liken it to the awkward teen years. Youth was grand, but I wouldn't be a teen again for all the world. Give me wisdom over youth any day! Home schooling is now a way of life, not something that we do between the hours of 8 and 3, Monday through Friday, September through May.

Or, there are the new home schooling moms who have diligently read all the "how to home school" books, and come into it thinking they are experts before they've even taught a day. I'm guilty of being bewildered and fearful of ruining our little hobbits our first year. Then, reading everything I could get my hands on over the following summer, and starting the second year feeling like I was the Heloise of home education. I soon realized that children aren't as easy to turn as the pages of a book. Actually, I'm using the adverb soon somewhat loosely here. I spent quite a bit of time banging my head against the wall wondering why the little hobbits weren't responding to my fabulous plans/method/schedule like I had expected. After all, the books said...

Anyway, God is good. He has loved me, and held my hand through it all. It would have been easier if I hadn't kept trying to tug in a different direction though.