Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Holiday Photos 4

The main indoor domed complex has extensive fishpools and streams.......

Part of the walk from our accomodation to the main sports area involved walking down past the cascades, enclosed in woodland.

This is Cley Hill, an Iron Age hillfort very close to where we stayed.

And another view !

Not a very good photo, but it shows the outdoor slides and rapids attached to the pool at night, with trees lit by artificial lights. The pool complex is open till 10pm.

This is a typical small villa. There was a number 666........

DD4 wanted a picture of these toy soldiers outside the sweet shop :-)
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Holiday Photos 3 - Monkey Business At Longleat Safari Park

We were on the safari bus, but for the people who drove through the monkey enclosure in their own cars,  they really did risk expensive damage to their vehicles.......

The rhino were magnificent !

This is Anne the 57 year old elephant, who was rescued from abusive carers at a circus and is now living a very happy life, pampered by the staff at Longleat. She is now well enough to play leisurely games of football :-)

The lions just casually walk across the road whenever they feel like it. It is amazing to be this close to such lethal creatures.

It's hard to get decent pictures of the wolves, as they tend to congregate in the isolated parts of their enclosure.

The otters are delightful.

The meerkats have an extensive outside run, but free access to their indoor quarters, where they can snuggle up under special overhead heaters before darting back outside again.

The porcupines were not going to pose for us, sadly !

The  bat keeper allowed me to shoot a photo - without flash, but using subdued green light instead - of his precious fruitbats, which lived in almost total darkness.

                                    We just  missed the parrot show, but were able to photograph them.
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Holiday Photos 2. Longleat House

This is magnificent Longleat House, seen from the main approach drive. I am profoundly thankful I don't have to clean the 365 windows.......

One of the wall paintings in the Orangery, now a cafe .

.....where we had hot drinks so big you needed to use both handles to pick them up !

There was a wonderful, atmospheric and dimly-lit Hall of Mirrors, where you had to find various Arthurian themed objects to get to the centre...... great fun, but difficult to take photographs. This was the Round Table .

I've tried to capture the mirrors and the Green Man carvings.

There is a truly enormous Adventure Park for the youngsters, with separate areas for differently aged children. DD3, at nearly 14 and taller than I am, was still just inside the height restriction for the older areas of the castle. I wish they made one just for adults.........

The aerial walkways were great.

And for some reason, flying proudly over the Castle, was the Welsh Flag - Y Ddraig Coch {The Red Dragon} even though we were actually in Wiltshire, England !
It made us smile to see a reminder of home  :-)

Wildlife park animal photos to follow !
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Monday, February 27, 2012

Book Review - Hiding In Plain Sight

Hiding in Plain Sight
by  Amy Wallace

Published by Harvest House Publishers

Pub Date: April 01, 2012

Ashley Walters is a police officer who moved to Montezuma, a small town with a Mennonite community. Her encounter with a traumatised young Mennonite boy, Bradley Yoder, whom she finds breaking and entering a grocery store, is the start of a journey which sees her settling ever deeper into the life of the small town. She finds herself becoming more and more enmeshed in a web of mystery which surrounds the town’s proposed new development and the epidemic of attacks on Mennonite families in the area.

The strong plot was well-handled, but I really could not find the love interest character - Patrick - to be very likeable, and I think that perhaps the strong Christian emphasis might have been even more effective if it hadn’t been quite so emphatically stressed. I would certainly enjoy seeing Ashley return in future books.
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The Research Virtuoso

 Toronto Public Library

Annick Press, 2012

Attractively illustrated and clearly laid out, this is a great study guide. It teaches the basics of research for preparing a presentation or essay on any topic. Nothing is assumed or taken for granted; it is a common-sense, step by step guide which tells you exactly what you need to know clearly and succinctly, with plenty of humour. In many ways, the rise of the Internet has made a plethora of information and misinformation available to the unsuspecting reader/researcher, and this books shows the reader how to weigh up and assess the merits of information gained from libraries, archives and the internet.

Bloom's taxonomy of learning is used as the base and there are check lists for the reader to use to make sure all important areas have been covered when preparing an essay. How to use a library effectively, as well as efficient methods of

taking notes, organising and writing material and the advantages of saving materials in the "cloud" for easy access and retrieval are discussed as well as keeping focused to avoid getting sidetracked and swamped . The importance of avoiding infringing copyright and plagiarism are covered, and this useful book teaches a truly essential life skill. It is suitable for young people and adults alike, and I found it helpful and informative.

Highly recommended.
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Book Review - Fleas, Flies, and Friars

Fleas, Flies and Friars

Children's Poetry From The Middle Ages

by Nicholas Orme

Published by Cornell University Press, 2011.

As children's verses and nursery rhymes have been primarily passed down by the oral route, this is a part of literature which has hitherto not been extensively written about. I found this to be an absolutely fascinating look at children in late mediaeval life and how these ideas and rhymes persisted; despite having a degree in medieval studies myself, many of these poems were quite unknown to me and were an absolute delight.

An enormous variety of verse is included in this slim but charming volume: poems composed by adults for or about children as well as children's own rhymes of abuse, charms, riddles and tongue-twisters. There are references to books of advice about behaviour and morals and the even rarer advice poems for girls. It was nice to see St Nicholas and the Holy Innocents so well represented in the section on religion and I particularly enjoyed the school days helps for learning Latin.
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Book Review - Necropolis

Necropolis by Anthony Horowitz

This is the fourth story in "The Power Of Five" series, and although I had not read any of the other books, this one is so well-crafted that it is perfectly possible to jump straight in to folowing the the life of Scarlett, the last of the Five Child Guardians who, when they are finally united, are the only force which can hold back the relentless and overwhelming evil of the Old Ones determined to take over the world once more.

A supernatural fantasy/thriller book set firmly and squarely in modern day society, we follow Scarlett's relatively normal life in affluent suburban London, then on a school trip where she opens a Church door which unexpectedly acts as a portal which transports her to a dilapidated monastery in the Ukraine. Here she meets evil face to horrifying face, finds out that she is the last of the Five to be discovered in this generation and realises that her life is never, ever going to be normal again.

The series is aimed at teenaged readers and my thirteen year old daughter has read the other books and enjoyed them. She has been patiently waiting for me to finish this one so she can read it, but I would be wary of giving this book to a younger reader unless you are confident that h/she is fairly mature and of a strong disposition, as some of the situations are both quite violent and graphically described. There are quite a few deaths of minor characters which made me wince, and I'm used to reading Andy McNab and Chris Ryan.....

The bulk of the book's fast-paced action takes part in Hong Kong, and I was absolutely spell-bound from the first page to the last. It is definitely one of the very best thrillers I have read in a long time. Very highly recommended, and I am now reading the first book in the series, "Raven's Gate", to see what I have been missing !

Many thanks to the staff at The Book People for sending me a review copy !
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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Forgiveness Sunday

Dear friends and readers, as today is Eastern Orthodox Forgiveness Sunday, the day before our Great Lent starts,  may I ask forgiveness of each and every one of you if I have said or done anything to cause you offence or distress in any way......
God grant us all a blessed and spiritually profitable Lent !

Kontakion in the sixth Tone for this day:

Master, Teacher of wisdom,

Bestower of virtue,

You teach the thoughtless and protect the poor:

Strengthen and enlighten my heart.

Word of the Father,

Let me not restrain my mouth from crying to you:

Have mercy on me, a transgressor,

O merciful Lord!
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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Holiday Photos 1

The views from our patio one misty day !

Feeding the grey squirrels. I know they look quite reddish, but they really were  grey squirrels, not our native red squirrels, but cute nevertheless.

More to follow !
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People-Watching On Holiday

People-watching is a never-ending source of amusement to me, I must admit, and I had ample opportunity to do just that when we went away for a few days to the Center Parc village near Longleat, Wiltshire. The complex occupies some 400 acres of ancient mixed woodland which originally was part of the vast estate of the Marquess of Bath at Longleat, and although there are 964 villas of varying sizes and luxury, the site is so well laid out that it never seems crowded. Our particular patch of heaven was well off the beaten track, and we try to stay at the same villa each year if possible, as we have had deer outside the front door last year, and every year we have fun feeding the squirrels, wildfowl and birds.

But I digress :-)

We spent a day at Longleat itself, and decided to go on the tour bus around the wildlife park, a journey of about 90 minutes or so. We were just in time to catch the bus, and we climbed to the top deck for a better vantage point. I was half inclined to regard this as a bit of a mistake after a few minutes, as it became apparent that we did not have travelling companions who shared our interest in wildlife. It did, however, afford me a vastly entertaining session of people-watching !
 There were three couples and a related male, and a scad of small children, who were very sweet and seemed to enjoy seeing lions, tigers, cheetahs, wolves,elephants, monkeys, giraffes, deer, rhinos, ostriches and a whole host of other interesting species of non-indigenous species. The adults did not seem to enjoy it in the slightest, and took virtually no interest or notice in the animals - or their children - and spent all their time talking so loudly that it was almost impossible to hear the fascinating commentary by the tour guide.

Our DD3 & 4 were appalled by the adults' bad manners, and more than a little disgruntled as they wanted to actually listen to the commentary, not an endless saga of loudly voiced comments and hysterical braying laughter about subjects as apparently fascinating as which store's credit card gave the best deals, which brand of Welsh cakes was best, how much wine they'd had to drink over the weekend, what various friends were doing and a step by step update about their friends' Facebook postings, checked constantly on very expensive smartphones.

What absolutely cracked me up was at the very end of the tour, when the bus was drawing to a halt, one of the mothers said very sternly to her offspring in a stage whisper, clearly audible to the rest of the bus, "Make sure you mind your manners and say 'thank you' to the driver!"

Collapse of stout party. Need I say more ?
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Friday, February 17, 2012

Book Review - Walking In The Dust Of Rabbi Jesus

Walking In The Dust Of Rabbi Jesus.
How the Jewish Words of Jesus Can Change Your Life

 Published by Zondervan, March 2012

I re- read some portions of this book several times before I started writing this review, carefully absorbing and digesting many of the concepts. The title refers to the tradition of a Rabbi's disciples walking so closely tho the Rabbi in order not to miss a word of his teachings that they would be covered in the dust raised by the Rabbi's footsteps, which is a beautiful mental picture.

First century Israel was a very different place from our twenty first century technologically-savvy western world, yet the message of Jesus is just as important to both, and it is far too easy to overlook the true radicality and depth of some of Jesus' teachings purely because we do not have much awareness of the political, historical, social and religious controverseies that were being debated and discussed at that time. This book addresses that deficit, and makes us more aware of what life was like in Jesus' world, and how his teachings resounded with his hearers, the early church, and began to change the world.

 I particularly enjoyed the many opportunities taken to explain what traditional Jewish teaching on various topics was, and how Jesus' teachings are totally saturated with Talmudic teaching and insights. By acknowledging and exploring the Jewishness of Jesus, Tverberg opens our eyes to  the riches of Jewish traditional understanding of the scriptures and of Jewish teaching relating to moral issues which also provide valuable illumination on the teachings of Christ.

The linguistic issues I found of great interest, and these highlight the problems of using translations of the bible which can rarely convey the full depth of meaning of the original texts. I had no idea that Biblical Hebrew had so few words compared to English, nor that each Hebrew word could hold so many meanings as a result.

This is a throughly enjoyable, easily read book and I hope that Lois Tverberg will continue to produce more books exploring these ideas.  Thoughtful comments at the end of each chapter for pondering and discussing make this book a valuable one for discussion or study groups as well as for the individual reader.

You can read a sample of the book here.

Many thanks to Zondervan for sending me a review digital copy of this book via NetGalley !
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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Books And Family

I haven't forgotten that I am woefully overdue with producing a proper "Recently Read" digest, honestly :-)

I have been fortunate enough to have quite a few digital ebooks allotted to me to review as well as a mountain of "real" books from recent hauls at charity shops, and as I am largely occupied in looking after Mum, my reading time is generally when all the chores have been done and Mum is sleeping.

Many of my digital books for review are via NetGalley and if you already review books on your blogs, it is worth checking them out to see if the books they have are in genres you might enjoy. Many of the digital books are in time-limited format, rather like borrowing ebooks from your local library, but it is rather nice to read books that you can't yet buy for another six months !  I would not choose to request a book that I know I will definitely not enjoy. No horror fiction for me  :-)

Mum has had another chest infection, and she seems to be slowly making some headway now with the benefit of  heavy-duty antibiotic tablets after giving us a very anxious forty eight hours......

We also had news today that an elderly friend died peacefully last night after a severe but short  illness. To the devoted servant of God, Gwyn - Memory Eternal !
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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Book Review - Following Your Heart

Following Your Heart by Jerry Eicher

Harvest House Publishers, May 2012

Having read several Amish romance fiction books recently, it was refreshing to find that there are some written - and very well written, I hasten to add - by a male author, Jerry Eicher. This was book two in the "Fields of Home"  series, and as I had not read the first book, it did take me a little while to mentally catch up with the events of the first story, but the characters were very well-drawn with a nicely paced narrative flow.

Teresa is a single mother with a young baby, who has been befriended by an Amish girl named Susan when Susan was living away from her community. Teresa is now happily living with Susan and her family on their farm. Teresa really wants to settle permanently into this close-knit and deeply Christian community and raise her son Samuel in a godly manner from his earliest infancy. She meets with opposition from the Amish hierarchy, who decree that she will only be allowed baptism - and hence full membership into the community- if she marries. A confirmed bachelor named Yost Byler offers for her hand, and she accepts, but there is another suitor who would like to lay claim. Will she be able to be baptised or is the situation and her tenuous position in the Amish community all set to unravel ?
 Susan also has to face her own dilemma about whether she should forgive her somewhat arrogant, conceited and interfering two-timing former boyfriend Thomas, who is convinced that Susan still both loves and wants him. Susan is torn between what she feels is pressure from her family and friends to settle down and marry Thomas, and her own  hankerings towards living back in the Englisch world again.

It was a very enjoyable read indeed, and I enjoyed seeing so much of Amish life from a refreshingly male perspective. I definitely look forward to reading more books from Jerry Eicher in the future.
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Book Review - The World In Your Lunchbox

The World In Your Lunchbox by Claire Eamer
Published by Annick Press, February 2012

This is a great book which will capture the attention of almost any child or even adult. Full of delightfully quirky  and funny colour cartoon illustrations by the talented Sa Boothroyd, it takes the reader on a whistle-stop tour through the background of some of our most commonly eaten foods.
Divided into seven chapters, and featuring a different lunchbox meal in each, the book is crammed full of funny and fascinating facts.
Did you know about the Bishop who ate his boots to avoid starving to death when on a perilous journey in Canada in 1909? I certainly didn't, and I learnt something new on virtually every page I read. Even staple foods like ham and tomato sandwiches have an interesting  background, and I had no idea that you can even get stripy tomatoes......

Hot dogs, pizza, macaroni cheese and other favourite foods get the same treatment and as a result, history, science and food technology are all neatly combined in this super book. Highly recommended for the young and young at heart alike.
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Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Saturday's Snow

It snowed sporadically for about two hours on Saturday, but was soon washed away by rain. Nice whilst it lasted, though !


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Book Review - The Sewer Demon

 The Sewer Demon
by Caroline Lawrence
Published by Orion Children's Books, 2012

My daughters and I are huge fans of Caroline Lawrence's wonderful series, The Roman Mysteries, and I was delighted  to  read her latest book - The Sewer Demon - which is pitched at a slightly younger audience.

Threptus is a young beggar boy from the Roman port of Ostia who has become "apprenticed" to a self-proclaimed soothsayer named Floridius, who works on the shady side of legal trading. What starts off as a simple shopping trip leads Threptus through a frightening journey into the sewers and the chance to solve a mystery involving a suspected demon in the sewer of a Roman lady's house. It is crammed full of fascinating information about life in Roman times, especially  toilets and the dreaded sponge stick, and  will appeal to children  aged 7+, or to  even younger confident  readers.
Mild peril, fast-paced adventure, oodles of lavatorial humour and bravery permeate the whole book, and it is destined to become a firm favourite for any child with an interest in history, the Romans or who just wants a really, really fun book to read.

I thoroughly enjoyed it even if I am 48 :-)
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Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Book Review - A Life Of Joy

A Life of Joy by Amy Clipston.
Published 2012 by Zondervan

Lindsay Bedford has settled in well with her aunt’s family in the Amish community after losing her parents in a car crash. Her older sister Jessica has chosen to stay in the “ English” world with her Godmother and pursue her dreams of higher education and developing a successful career, and can neither truly understand or accept that Lindsay is very happy working with her relatives in the bakery.

Although they live apart, there is a constant undercurrent of tension on this topic, added to which Lindsay is reaching an age where she has to make some important and life-changing decisions about whether she should accept baptism into the Amish faith at the same time as her friends and relatives. Jessica, meanwhile, is torn between wanting to maintain her relationship with her Mennonite boyfriend Jake, and pursuing her career dreams.

Uncertain of where God is leading her, Lindsay chooses to delay baptism for the time being and ends up being faced with even more decisions than she envisaged when she goes back to all the opportunities and temptations of the English world to care for her sister’s Godmother who has had a serious accident and needs help.

What will each girl decide to do ?

It was possible to easily pick up the threads of the previous plots  without having read the preceding books, and it has certainly whetted my appetite to “go back” and read the earlier books.

Added bonuses are the wonderful recipes, helpful Amish – English glossary and extended family tree so the reader can easily identify which member of the family is married to whom, very necessary when a series is set in a community where extended families are the norm and the series is entering its fourth book!

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and hope that there will be more stories about the Kauffman/Bedford family.

You can read a sample of the book here.
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Friday, February 03, 2012

Playing The Waiting Game 2

After lunch, DH phoned the company and politley asked why our new washing machine hadn't arrived, only to be told the delivery van had broken down and our "new" delivery slot was between 5pm and 6pm.
Fair enough.

I walked to school to collect DD4, only to arrive at school and receive a phone call to say that our machine would be delivered within 15 minutes ....so it was  a good thing DH had stayed at home in the warm and could let them in. By the time I got home, the washing machine was plumbed in and ready to use. It is much more complicated than the old one, but we managed to decipher the rather incoherent manual, and our first wash is in progress as I type.....   :-)
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Playing The Waiting Game

Our washing machine finally gave up the ghost last Sunday, after 7 years and 51 weeks of hard work and faithful service. We ordered a new one online, and were delighted to be told it could be delivered today.

Last night we had a text message to say it would arrive sometime between 9 am and 1pm, so we disconnected the old appliance, moved stuff out of the kitchen and generally made room for the new one to be delivered and unpacked in the kitchen.

DH walked DD4 to school this morning so I could be here when the new machine was delivered and installed.

It is now 1.03pm and no sign of the delivery, no phone calls, no text messages to say they would be delayed or anything. I am just glad that one of us hadn't had to take a day off work to be hanging round waiting for it to arrive :-)
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Thursday, February 02, 2012

Book Review - Treasured Amish & Mennonite Recipes

I am struggling to find words to do justice to Treasured Amish & Mennonite Recipes .
This new paperback was published in October 2011, and as its subtitle says, it contains "627 Delicious, Down-to-Earth Recipes from Authentic Country Kitchens".

What the subtitle doesn't tell you is that it is full of delightful colour photographs of Amish and Mennonite areas, buggies and the occasional shots of people, and that the subject divider pages are illustrated with quilt square piece illustrations, which makes flicking to each chapter a delight in itself.

 This lovely  book is incredibly comprehensive, cramming 627 recipes into its 336 pages and ranging from traditional Amish foods to more modern dishes such as Vietnamese Spring Rolls, covering hearty and filling casseroles, using dandelions to make drinks, cheesemaking, breadmaking, making your own pickles, jams and preserves, soap- making and a special chapter on traditional remedies. There are some wonderful pot-luck sized recipes too, most notably one for 20 gallons of Borscht which starts off with 50lbs of meat and bones ! The purist might balk at things such as using tinned soups and processed cheese as convenient bases for some recipes, but the most are cooked "from scratch".

I loved reviewing the time-limited ebook from the publisher so much that I have bought my very own paperback copy from Amazon.co.uk.....
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Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Photo Day 31

 Photo Day 31 - You. Again.

Well, here is my shadow as I was taking this photo !
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