Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Word Verifications Revisited

Lots of spam comments are landing in my Inbox since I abandoned the word verification process, so I am really glad I kept the comments on moderation!

Most of the spam seems to be related to encouraging me to  purchase large quantities of cigarettes, which I find really rather ironic as I have never smoked in my life and don't intend to start, having watched my father die of lung cancer and my mother from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease as a direct result of her smoking habit.........
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Book Review: Potatoes On Rooftops

Potatoes On Rooftops
By  Hadley Dyer
Published by Annick Press, September 2012

Annick Press produce some amazing books for children, and I always try to keep an eye out for their latest titles.

This one, Potatoes On Rooftops, is a vibrant, attractive book which aims to encourage urban youngsters to have a go at producing their own food, no matter where in the world or how unlikely their environment might initially seem for this endeavour.

Hadley Dyer has managed to produce a book which is attractive, inspiring and chock full of information aimed squarely at children.  Presented in easily assimilable “soundbites”,  each double page spread will make children think  about where they live, what they eat and how they can adapt and improvise to “grow their own”. Children are perfectly capable of taking on board sometimes complex concepts such as  food miles and the importance of sourcing things locally to keep both costs and the impact on environmental resources to a minimum, and getting children used to this way of doing things will undoubtedly pay dividends to communities in future years. History is thrown in too, describing how during both World Wars, people were encouraged to grow their own and “Dig For Victory” to make the best use of scarce resources.

Vegetables can be grown in bottles, boots and buckets as well as in plant pots on windowsills, balconies of flats, in the gardens of houses, and even – in the case of one group of enterprising children in Tokyo – in an underground bank vault, which they turned into a hydroponic greenhouse! Poultry can be kept on rooftops as well as in gardens, and in many cities, chickens are legally considered pets. Consequently, it is acceptable to use them to produce eggs, but in most parts of the developed world, they cannot be killed for food purposes.

A huge amount of information is crammed into the book, including how cities can actually be environmentally friendly, and how to reduce global warming by “cooling down” cities. Water harvesting  and usage is described, and the social impact of food producing is considered, along with using schools to teach young people to grow their own food.

This is a timely and quite remarkable book, of interest and value no matter where in the world the young readers  – and their parents and teachers -  may live.

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Book Review: A Hobbit Devotional

The Hobbit Devotional
- Bilbo Baggins And The Bible
By Ed Strauss
Published by Barbour, 1st September, 2012

Being a Tolkien fan, and currently reading The Hobbit to my youngest daughter each bedtime, I have to say that this book is a joy. From the gorgeous cover picture, title font  and thoughtful introduction, right through the 60 chapters of the text to the useful glossary of Hobbit related words and a timeline of how long the events in the story took to unfold, each page was a pleasure to read.

Each chapter starts with a quotation from the story, followed by Strauss’ insightful , deceptively simplistic but actually quite profound commentary, summed up by  the Scripture quotation which expresses the intent of the story and the devotion.  No particular age range has been noted by the publisher, but I definitely believe my 11 year old daughter would enjoy and benefit from this book as much as I did myself.

Tolkien’s own background as a committed and devout Roman Catholic underpinned all his writings, so I am only surprised that it has taken so long for someone to produce such a great little devotional guide to The Hobbit.  I do hope that in due course,  Ed Strauss will produce one for The Lord of The Rings too.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Book Review - Angels On The Night Shift

                                                                 Angels On The Night Shift
                                                               By Robert D  Lesslie
                                                             Harvest House, October 1st, 2012
I generally enjoy non-fiction books about the lives of medical professionals,  but this book, which is part of a series,  is very much in a league of its own.  It drew me in  - and had me hooked - on the very first page, to my delight.
The book opens in the ER, with the arrival of a patient with chest pain, and soon we are drawn into a mystery – why were empty vials of the drug Vistaril in the room when they should not have been?  In the rush to deal with this patient’s critical medical condition, the issue of the drug is temporarily overlooked and life in the busy department continues.  The medical problems of the patients are dealt with in fascinating detail in clear, plain English, easily accessible and understandable to the lay reader.  How diagnoses are arrived at is rather like the deductive processes in a detective novel, and it is quite fascinating to see how this works, and how it can run into problems. Birth, death, accidents and the diagnosis of life-changing and life-threatening diseases are common occurrences in a busy hospital, and all affect the lives of the patients and their families, who often need as much care and support as the patients themselves.
Dr Lesslie, a doctor with thirty years of ER experience,  introduces  the team of medics , nurses and technicians who staff his close-knit and well-run department;  the staff  function well as a team, appreciate their individual and collective strengths, look out for each other and know they can rely on each other, but gradually the feel of the ER department changes.  When a member of staff makes uncharacteristic mistakes and things start to go wrong , blame is unfairly apportioned by senior management  and soon everyone is on edge and unhappy.  Will the truth be unearthed, or will there be a massive miscarriage of justice, with a dangerous person on the loose in the department, posing a danger to patients and staff alike…….
The pressures and stresses the staff  face every day are clearly portrayed as is the deep Christian faith of many of them which underpins their strength, as is also true of many of the patients and their families.
Fast-paced, fascinating, well-written and absorbing, giving us glimpses of heartbreak, tragedy and stress ,  I thoroughly enjoyed this  and will be certainly looking out for any other books written by this medical author.

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Word Verifications

I didn't realise that so many of you were having difficulties with the word verifications that Blogger is asking you to complete when leaving comments here.

 I have disabled the word verifications but will be putting all comments on moderation to avoid the blog being spammed by automatically produced adverts for property, health products and items of a less than salubrious nature from a variety of countries across the globe :-)

Your comments *will* appear, but it may take a few hours for me to receive the email notifications and manually "publish" the comments.

I too have had problems with Bloggers's bizarre verifications in the last week - on one site, I attempted to leave a comment and was informed *eight* times that I had entered the wretched codes incorrectly, even though I carefully checked each entry.
I gave up in the end :-(

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

After The Rain, Some Sun !

An unkempt but magnificent hedge alongside a paddock...

And in close-up :-)

A glimpse through a gap in the hedge.
The water is not a stream, just water-sodden paddock !

I just liked the shape of the tree!

Seagulls on the pond, hoping to steal bread from the ducks......

Autumn foliage. I have no idea what the tree is, to produce such ephemera.

I believe this to be a Rowan, complete with a great display of berries.

And this tree, almost bare of leaves now.

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Sometimes You Just Have to Smile

Last week, it rained so hard and for so many days that DD4 turned to me, and asked in genuine enquiry and with some degree of anxiety, if I was absolutely certain that there would never again be a flood like Noah experienced.

 Considering  that we were having flash flood warnings on an almost daily basis due to inches of rain falling in a very few hours, it was understandable for her to be concerned when I was wearing first stout shoes, then hiking boots and ultimately wellingtons to wade through the increasingly deep  lakes in the school yard each day to pick her up........ reassurance was given and the rain did eventually stop.

The weekend weather was fine, but we have had very heavy rainfall today, and one particularly heavy shower simply had to time itself for when I came out of the supermarket laden with shopping after my Latin class. I decided to catch the bus home, rather than walk :-)

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The Winner....

...of the book give-away for "Walking In The Dust Of Rabbi Jesus" is Mary R.

Many thanks to those of you who entered by email (as Mary did) or by leaving comments on the blog; I wish you could all have won !

There will be another give- away next week, courtesy of the Potamitis family in Greece :-)
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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Book Review - I Love My Slow Cooker



I “ Love" My Slow Cooker
by  Beverley LeBlanc
Published by Duncan Baird Publishers, London, 2012
(There is also a US edition)


This cookbook has so many wonderful and unusual  recipes for a slow cooker devotee !  One thing I hated about my first slow cooker recipe book was that so many of the dishes all tasted similar as they had the same tomato base and herbs.

That is definitely not the case with this well-illustrated book, which advises you to consider increasing the amounts of herbs and spices used when compared to cooking a conventional casserole, and lots of different “bases” are used, not just the ubiquitous tomato …..

 Divided into sections, it covers  Soups & Sauces, Meat & Poultry,  Fish & Shellfish, Vegetarian dishes and Desserts. The recipes span the globe, with China, India, Vietnam, the Middle-East , Italy, Greece, Spain and France all well represented, as well as many classic American recipes , so there truly is something for all budgets and palates. The vegetarian recipes are unusual, including Pumpkin and Dolcelatte Rice, Lentil Dahl and Vegetable Tagine.

Smoky and Spicy Black Bean Soup is definitely on my list of favourites as the autumn is moving towards winter, and I confidently anticipate that my slow cooker is going to be a permanent resident on my worktop this year, thanks to Beverley LeBlanc’s book !




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Josiah For President - A Review

Josiah For President
By Martha Bolton
Published by Zondervan, October 2012
This is most definitely not your typical Amish novel :-)

When a disgruntled American Congressman decides to abandon his entry for the Presidential elections, he little expects to have an accident when driving on his way home and meet an Amishman who changes his life in a multitude of ways.

Mark Stedman's encounter with Josiah Stoltzfus makes him re-assess his attitudes and priorities to the point where he feels what America really needs is someone like Josiah at the helm. When, with Mark's help, Josiah wins the Presidential election despite all the usual back-stabbing campaigns and attempts to discredit him, America suddenly has a President who acts according to his conscience and in accordance with the mandates of Scripture.

This is a clever premise, and provides much information both about the Amish and about how the American electoral system works. Both Josiah, Mark and their wives are engaging and believable characters. The main rival candidate, Harley Philips, is a little exaggerated but still an interestingly devious character and I *so* enjoyed disliking him!

It is an amusing book, which caused me to laugh out loud on several occasions,  although there is a very sad but perhaps inevitable twist in the tale towards the end.
 I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and had been "champing at the bit", waiting for the postman to deliver my copy to me.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2012

One Of Those Days

Today really has been one of those days.

When I went shopping for a birthday card for our youngest child, as I was browsing through the "Daughter" section in the card shop, it hit me like a hammer blow that never again will I have a card with "Daughter" on it from my Mum, who always spent a lot of time browsing for the perfect cards for all her family members.

Neither will I ever have a card with "Sister" on it from my brother.

Despite having my husband and my daughters, I feel alone and more than a little bereft. The three year anniversary of my brother's death has been very hard, with grief re-awakened with a vengeance after Mum's death earlier this year........

For those of you who are blessed to still have parents and siblings alive, be thankful. It hurts so very much when they have departed this life :-(

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Book Review - Does This Church Make Me Look Fat?

Does This Church Make Me Look Fat?
By Rhoda Janzen
Published  by Grand Central Publishing,  Oct 1st, 2012
Having read Rhoda Janzen’s first book of memoirs, Mennonite In  A Little Black Dress, and enjoyed it, I was keen to read what happened next in her somewhat roller-coaster life.  Returning to her Mennonite roots and family after a divorce, she met an unusual man named Mitch, with whom a tentative relationship springs up.  At the time, I wondered what happened next, and with this book, we get to find out.
Mitch turns out to be a committed Christian whose life was totally  transformed when he found Christ, and as Rhoda ‘s relationship with him grows deeper, so does her own relationship with Christ and she becomes involved in his church, which is  Pentecostal and something of a culture shock to a former childhood Mennonite.
This book is funny, raw, brutally honest and heartbreakingly sad in equal measure. When Rhoda is diagnosed with a life-threatening and highly invasive form of cancer, she wonders if she should call off her relationship, but Mitch is solid as a rock and together they continue their journey. Despite everything, God provides, and Rhoda learns to integrate her faith into her academic life.
 I’ve enjoyed this enough to want to read it right through all over again, and the relationship between Rhoda and Mitch is truly inspirational. By the end of the book, we get to find out the real names of Mitch and his family, but yu’ll have to read it to find out J

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Friday, October 05, 2012

Book Review - Susanna's Christmas Wish

Susanna’s  Christmas Wish
By Jerry S. Eicher
Published by  Harvest House, 2012


A short but very sweet novella in which we meet the Amish newly-weds Susanna and Herman Wagler and their families.  Susanna was jilted by Matthew Yoder before she married Herman, and occasional doubts plague her as to whether they each love the other as much as they think and hope they do.  When Matthew unexpectedly reappears in their community, all of Herman’s worst fears appear to be coming true.

An innocent remark about spending Christmas with Susanna’s family sparks an intense disagreement between the young couple, and the reader discovers that Herman’s family follows a very old custom of adhering to the Old Calendar date for Christmas, which means that he expects them to postpone their celebrations  till the 6th of January along with the rest of his family………..

As a good Amish fraa, Susanna is committed to acknowledging her husband’s headship of their family, but struggles to come to terms with feeling she has to abandon her own family’s customs and traditions. This threatens to cause a rift between the young couple, especially as Herman’s domineering and interfering mother appears to dislike Susanna and places pressure on him to conform to their family’s “purer” celebration of the Lord’s birth.  Susanna prays for the grace to fully accept her role as a wife and conform to her husband’s expectations in this situation with a cheerful and loving heart, as well as resisting her old feelings for Matthew.

Will the young couple be able to resolve their differences of opinion and reach a compromise acceptable to all parties? Do they love each other enough to truly forsake all others, including their families, if necessary?

One of the things I particularly like about Jerry Eicher’s writing is his ability to focus in on the things which can make or break a relationship and write about them tenderly, compassionately and honestly and with faith.

 A thoroughly enjoyable read !
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Thursday, October 04, 2012

Book Review - Pets At The White House

Pets At The White House
by Jennifer B. Pickens
Published by Fife & Drum Press, 2012

 As a Brit living across the Pond, this book was a revelation and a thoroughly enjoyable, beautifully illustrated read about the presidential pets of the last fifty years.

 I had no idea of the pets kept at the White House by presidents in more distant history, notably the two grizzly bear cubs kept by Thomas Jefferson, and I only recall having seen very occasional press photos of pets kept by more recent presidents being shown in newspapers in Britain, so it was great fun to read about the varied pets owned by First Families. Illustrated with candid photographs, it provides an intimate and affectionate look at life in the White House from a pet's point of view. Great fun!

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Book Review - Life With Lily

Life with Lily
By Mary Ann Kinsinger & Suzanne Woods Fisher
Published by Revell, 2012

I read this utterly magical little book right through in one sitting, unwilling to put it down till the very end. Ostensibly aimed at young children, I can confidently say this book has infinitely greater appeal to all age groups; I have read chunks of this out loud to my daughters who are aged from 26 to 10, and without exception, they have all loved it too.

Lily, our truly delightful but very human little heroine, is five years old when the book opens though she turns seven towards the end of the book. She lives with her Amish parents and younger brother Joseph as part of a tight-knit community in Pleasant Hill, New York State . Everything is looked at primarily from Lily's point of view and the book opens with the arrival of the newest member of their family. Soon they have a barn raising at their home, and acquire new livestock, with the accompanying celebrations.

Lily's life, though geographically circumscribed, is *anything* but boring. There are always interesting things to see and do, people to meet and situations to deal with. Despite her young age, she helps out with everyday household tasks in the home and garden of Singing Tree Farm, and keeps a watchful eye on her younger brother and her very new baby brother. Things are not all they seem at Lily's home, and the family nearly falls into danger at one point, quite literally. There are run-ins with an English neighbour which take a little while to resolve peacably and amicably, and which frighten poor Lily. The extended family has to deal with disability, severe illness and great anxiety, and Lily is aware of what is going on, though at a level which is appropriate for her age and understanding.

When Lily starts school, her adventures continue there. Although the Amish are generally peaceable, honest and kind, Lily has to learn to interact peaceably with an unpleasant Amish girl who frequently manages to get poor Lily into trouble and causes her distress. Lily is a thoughtful, clever and resourceful child who finds a way to deal with the difficult Mandy Mast.

This book ends with Lily's family eventually making the decision to move to a larger Amish community in Pennsylvania, but I am sure that Lily will continue to have adventures wherever she goes!

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Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Book Giveaway!

Thanks to the immense kindness of Lois Tverberg and her publishers Zondervan,  I am delighted to announce that I have a brand new copy of her book "Walking In The Dust Of Rabbi Jesus" to give away :-)

I reviewed this fascinating book here ; if you would like to enter the giveaway competition, either leave a comment on this post, or email me:  orthodoxmum at gmail dot com  before 9am GMT on Monday 15th October 2012. I will ship the book anywhere in the world to the winner !
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I'm Back !!

We are now safely back in our own home and are slowly - oh so slowly - getting the house into some semblance of order and tidiness.

We are using the opportunity to throughly declutter the entire house, and I am amazed and appalled at how much stuff we have collectively accumulated over the last four years. In the last two days, we have shredded six large refuse sacks full of old documents and demolished the piano that was sitting in our kitchen, as well as having sorted and tidied up two rooms. We are making progress, even if it is at a glacial speed..........

We have had a new bathroom fitted at Mum's old house, and that too has been a mammoth undertaking which ran into lots of hiccups and went way over budget and timescale. It is looking good, though, and we are glad we had it done. Whether we choose to move into Mum's house and sell our current house or vice-versa, that bathroom seriously needed to be updated and made functional for a family.

DD1, Mrs DoomHamster, is still waiting for her visa to live and work in the USA so she can rejoin her husband. Prayers for this to be resolved quickly would be very much appreciated indeed ! DD2 is looking for a new job, so we are praying about that too, and for our very dear elderly friend John, who is very nearly 90 - he is having health issues and is waiting for the local NHS to get round to seeing him and treating him.

Other than that, life continues as normal. Or as normal as it ever is :-)
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