Saturday, December 31, 2011

A new year.

I used to get a little gloomy after Christmas. But over the past couple of years, I've realized that the week between Christmas and New Years is one of the most exciting times for me. I always try to imagine what my life might be like next year at this time, and the future seems sparkling with hope and possibilities. :)

At this time of the year, I find myself thinking about the past and the future. I read old journal pages and blog posts and see how I've changed and grown {and the ways I need to change and grow}.

I make resolutions. I'm a list maker, so I wrote out my goals for 2012 a few days ago.

And I tacked them on the wall right at my desk. My reasoning behind this is that I will have to see this paper every single day and so I'll be motivated to follow through. :)

In 2012, what I really want is to focus on becoming content and joyful. {If this sounds familiar, it's because it was also supposed to be my focus for this year. I failed miserably at this year's resolutions.} I have too much stuff and clutter, literally and figuratively. I want to get rid of stuff and stop accumulating more stuff.

Looking back over this year, honestly I feel really materialistic. For me, being materialistic doesn't involve cars or clothes- it involves books and DVDs. I went way overboard with purchasing those this year. I don't need so much stuff! I want to simplify my life and spend the majority of my time on things that really matter.

Hoping that you guys will help hold me accountable, I'm writing my whole list out here. :)

2012 Resolutions

   -Read at least 80 books, preferably 40 new and 40 rereads. But I might have to do 50:30. Because...
   -Read all unread books I own. Looking through my bookcases a few days ago, I realized that I own around 50 books that I have not yet read. That's crazy! I knew I had quite a few unread books, but this is extreme. I would love to read all of those this year.
   -Purchase no more than two books a month. Except for very rare circumstances. Like the library book sale. Or a thrift store find that I will likely never again come across. :) I have to account for such things. At the most, that would put my yearly book purchases at 24, and I guess that between thrift stores, Amazon, etc., I purchased about 75 books this year. Ouch.

I have this adorable reading journal to use this year:

It has all sorts of room to write about books that I read. After every five books is a fun book-related page with lists, reading trees, etc. There are several book lists in the back.

The only bad thing is that there's only room for 48 books. So this one won't last me the entire year.

   -Watch all unseen films I own. A family friend gave me tons of classic films on VHS this year, and I need to watch them all.
   -Cut back on DVD purchases big time. I didn't set an exact number for this. But I have too many movies as it is and don't really need more.

   -Make only clothes that I need and love. More on that here.
   -Plan out garment sewing.  See above. :)
   -Focus on quality, the creative process, and making things better.
   -Finish my quilt. Ahem.

Other Crafting:
   -Make a new project each week. I pretty much do this anyway.
   -Knit a sweater.
   -Learn how to crochet. I've got a couple of library books to go through.

   -Keep track of every single purchase in a notebook. I saw a book by Chronicle Books once that was an illustrated record to what a girl bought during the course of a year. I can't for the life of my find it now. But I thought it was a cool idea and want to do it.
   -Save money. The above should help with this one. :)
   -Learn how to cook. Really, learn all of the homemaking skills I lack. But this one is the most lacking.
   -Keep a homemaking notebook. With recipes, instructions, tips, inspiration, etc.
   -Walk five days a week. Around our farm or property. This is my only health-themed resolution. :) Those are historically the ones I'm worst at keeping.
   -Consistently read my Bible, pray, and journal. The most important resolution! Grow closer to God. Which will probably lead to me writing more here about Him and what He's doing in my life. I've been noticing lately that I don't exactly share too much about that on the blog...
   -Memorize two verses a week. I don't know why, but as a child I didn't memorize a lot of verses like you usually do in Sunday School, etc. Or maybe I did and I've just forgotten them. :) But I found this book I bought years ago about memorizing Scripture, and I've been working through it.

I think that's it. As a side note (I've been working on my terrariums), I'd also like to grow something besides moss in a terrarium. And keep it alive for more than a few days. :) That would be nice. I noticed that I didn't put anything about my Etsy shop either. But I do hope to have a successful year with it, as well.

So...I'm pretty excited about all of this! :) I'll keep you guys posted on how well I'm keeping (or breaking) my resolutions.

As for the last evening of this year, I'll spend it doing some combination of the following: thinking and hoping, drinking hot chocolate, reading The Help, knitting, and/or watching my favorite movie, Pride and Prejudice (2005). But no, I will not be staying up until midnight. I like my sleep. :)

What are your hopes or resolutions for the new year?

Until next time,

Friday, December 30, 2011

Best of 2011: Music

There were only a few new music discoveries this year, but those few were good...

The Avett Brothers

At the end of last year, I had about 5 or 6 of the Avett Brothers' songs. This year I bought like three albums, I think? I love the music these guys make. It is honest and genuine and fun and wild. Besides Frank Sinatra, most of the year was spent listening to the Avett Brothers.

The Civil Wars

Look again. No, that is not Johnny Depp. Although I have this sort of conspiracy theory that it might really be Johnny Depp pretending not to be Johnny Depp. But yes, that is Joy Williams, former CCM artist. Their debut album is amazing. I listened to it on repeat on the drive to and from college during the whole spring semester.

Mumford & Sons

I don't typically listen to popular music. Which is why I honestly felt embarrassed about buying a CD that had a sticker on the front that said "VH1's Artist to Watch" or something like that. Which is why the only song of theirs I owned was "The Cave" for months. Then I finally broke down and bought the CD. I love it to pieces except for one song, Little Lion Man, which has profanity repeated in the chorus. This is sort of a King's Speech deal- the rest of the album is amazing and completely clean, except for this one song. I don't understand. So I just don't sync that song to my iPod and skip over it when I listen to the CD. :)

The Secret Sisters
{I love the vintage hairstyle of the girl on the right and need to try it out. I also love her dress. And the sister on the left is wearing an Elvis pin, so she's my hero.}

I only found The Secret Sisters this month, and I broke my Christmas-music-only rule because I can't stop listening to their CD. The bad news is that it's only 11 songs and not even 30 minutes long...I need more songs! :) I'm into 20s-60s music, but I've never really been into "classic country." This CD might change my mind. It's mostly classic country, with a couple of public domain songs and a couple original ones. Not only do they sound amazing, but listen to this: they recorded the CD with no computers or digital equipment. They recorded things exactly like they would have been done in the 50s. They even used vintage microphones! Is that not the coolest thing ever??

The Secret Sisters get two songs. Because you guys really need to know about them. :)

What musical artists have you discovered this year?

 Until next time,

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Best of 2011: Movies

I only went to see one movie in the theater this year (but I saw that one twice). I only saw two new movies that were released this year! I guess there just wasn't much that appealed to me. Those two were:
Jane Eyre

It didn't come to any local theaters, but I got the DVD the day it was released. And I loved it! You can read my review here.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

The major movie of the year for me. The movie that turned me into an emotional wreck. The last Harry Potter movie ever, and my first (and probably last) midnight showing. My rambling, nerd review is here.

Yes, those were the only two 2011 movies that I've seen. I haven't seen Hugo yet, but I'm 99.99% sure it would be on this list if I had.

But I did discover a few older films this year for the first time (I'm only talking about modern films, because I can't even begin to remember all of the "new" old films I saw this year)...

You've Got Mail

I'm a longtime fan of The Shop Around the Corner and In the Good Old Summertime, but I only saw the modern remake, You've Got Mail, this year for the first time. And now it's one of my favorites.

The King's Speech

This film hasn't been out for too long. You can read my thoughts here.

2011 was the year that I really became obsessed with BBC period dramas and miniseries. :) Here are my favorites that I watched this year:

North and South

 I love this. A few words for you: Best romantic train scene ever. Read more here.

Sense and Sensibility (2008)

I might even love this more than the one with Rose and Professor Snape. :) Read more here.

Lark Rise to Candleford

 This series is amazing. It might be the one big DVD splurge I give in to this year. I wrote about it here.

Bleak House

Besides A Christmas Carol, this was my first introduction to a Charles Dickens story. I got it on DVD for Christmas and I'm so excited to rewatch it (and persuade my parents to watch it). My review is here.

Little Dorrit 

Did I really need another reason to have a crush on Matthew Macfadyen? No. But here it is, anyway. I love this miniseries! I reviewed it here (and there are several more MM pictures there, too...:).

I don't think 2011 had much to offer as far as new releases go, especially compared to last year. But I made up for it by discovering some lovely older films and miniseries.

What were your favorite films of the year? Am I forgetting a good new release? I have the feeling I'm overlooking something...

Until next time,

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best of 2011: Books & In General

It's the time of year where I start reflecting on the previous year and looking forward to the coming one. And where I have this odd desire to write end-of-the-year posts on my blog. :) I'm going to do like last year and break them up into books, films, and music. And then I'll write about my hopes for the new year.

Here is a quick recap of my life in 2011:

-I took my required public speaking class. Not only did I survive it, but I miraculously managed an A! :) I even got to work my interests into my speeches. I talked about my sewing machine, the transition from silent films to talkies, homeschooling, etc.

-I participated in my first sew along. I had so much fun and love the finished product. I also did another sew along. I hope to participate in some more in 2012.

-I turned twenty and realized that I didn't feel quite as grown up as I expected to by this age.

-I spent a couple of days acting like a teen vampire movie star after I had my wisdom teeth out.

-I graduated from college on a dark, stormy night in a speedy ceremony. :)

-I started on my very first quilt. Yes, still working on that one, guys.

-I learned how to knit.

-I had an amazing, successful Christmas season in my Etsy shop!

It was a pretty good year, I think. :) And book wise, it was definitely a good year for me. I didn't exactly complete all of my reading goals for this year, but I'm very happy about what I did complete.

In 2011, I have read 90 books so far, but there's a possibility that it'll hit 91 or 92 before the weekend. That's about thirty more books than I read last year, but still a little short of my Goodreads challenge of 100 books. I'm okay with that. :) I also had a goal of twenty rereads, and I only accomplished 14.

I won't list out every book I read like I did last year, but you can click on the Goodreads link in the above paragraph for a list if you're curious. :)

This year I ventured out a little from my usual reading. I fell in love with memoirs, for one thing. I didn't really read any classics, but I read a lot of good Christian fiction and YA dystopian. And children's literature. I read or reread three series or trilogies: Harry Potter, Little House on the Prairie, and the Hunger Games.

I've been trying in vain to narrow my favorite books, of those I've read this year, down to just a few. Remember that these aren't necessarily books that were released in 2011 (though some were), just ones I read this year.

This year was also the first year that I kept track of all of the books I read, with a brief review and rating, in a little Moleskine notebook. I've got a special reading journal to use next year, which I'm so excited about. :) But more about that later.

Next up: movies!

What were your favorite books that you read or reread this year?

Until next time,

Monday, December 26, 2011

Boxing Day.

Did you guys have a great Christmas? I hope so. :)

I know I did. My family had a nice, relaxed Christmas weekend. Visiting with family, drinking hot chocolate {and discovering that white chocolate chips in mint hot chocolate is amazing}, listening to the last of my Christmas music until next season, watching Christmas in Connecticut again {"Cook your own kidneys!" Thank you, Felix, for such wonderful quotes.}.

I was blessed with a lot of lovely gifts, too. Here are some of my favorites:

-Several pictures books, including a Loch Ness Monster one and an Audrey Hepburn one. :)

-Several vintage brooches for my collection. I picked the umbrella one out at the antique store a few weeks ago, because it immediately reminded me of Mary Poppins.

-Mickey and Minnie salt/pepper shakers! And a Big Ben metal tin that came with "English breakfast tea" inside. I don't drink tea very often, and when I do it's iced sweet tea in true Southern fashion. But I am going to give warm English tea a go, I think...:) Any advice or tips?

-These DVDs. Yes, I'm twenty years old and I asked for The Emperor's New Groove for Christmas. Kronk is my hero.

-This Audrey Hepburn reusable shopping bag type tote. Will definitely come in handy while visiting the library. :)

-This gorgeous Jane Austen treasury that I drooled over at Barnes and Noble a while back.

-A stack of books. Honestly, a tall pile of books. Over the past couple of months we had some very good book finds at thrift stores and I requested quite a few of them for Christmas. :) These are a few that I'm very excited about: Jane Austen's unfinished novels, Crossed, Wildwood, and Julie Andrews' memoir.

I also got this book called "The Hollywood Book of Death." I have to mention it here because my dad cracked up when he saw the title {Mom bought it}. It's a book full of how old movie stars died. There are sections labeled "Accidental" and "Strange Situations" and "Natural Causes" and such. I think it's morbid and funny (the whole concept of it, not the deaths, of course) and I can't wait to read it.

-I have been on a tote bag kick lately, always using one as a bag. This is quite possibly my favorite tote bag ever, and I almost want to buy a couple more to have on hand for when this one gets stained or falls apart.

It's an Out of Print Pride and Prejudice bag, though this one came from Barnes and Noble.

And here are some very bad, blurry pictures I tried to take as we drove through town on Friday night:

{This is a huge Mary and Jesus lighted portrait that used to hang at the old mill. Now it hangs at the Catholic school. Both Mary and Jesus used to have blood red lips. This year their lips were noticeably white. Not skin tone, but white. Mary looks like she just had her teeth bleached. I didn't realize how noticeable it was until I saw this picture on my computer, and I just thought it was funny. :) }

Until next time,

Friday, December 23, 2011

Bible translations.

Okay, so one more post before my little weekend break. :) I need some feedback from you guys, even though this might seem a bit random.

I decided a couple of weeks ago that, after Christmas, I'm going to buy a new Bible. The Bible I'm using now is this one, a NCV teen girls' devotional Bible. I bought it four years ago in January. My sixteen-year-old self mostly picked out that Bible because the cover was pretty {just being honest here :) } and because I had been to several Revolve conferences.

I really enjoyed it when I was younger, but now not so much. I don't even read the little devotional things, because they don't really apply to me anymore. And the NCV translation seems lacking and written too simply. Which makes sense, considering I recently learned that an earlier edition of the NCV was called the International Children's Bible.

I'm ready for a more grown-up Bible, I suppose. :) I want a study Bible that gives me more information about the cultural and historical aspects of the world at the time the words were written. I want a translation that is easier to read than the KJV (though I do also have a copy of that, of course) but that's also very accurate to the original languages.

After a lot of research, I've sort of narrowed things down to two translations and two particular Bibles:

-NIV Archaeological Study Bible
My first real Bible, the one I had before the NCV one, was the NIV teen study Bible. I loved that one to pieces and used it until it fell apart at the spine. I've always liked the NIV translation. But now that I've done some reading, I seem to be hearing that the NIV is not nearly as literal and much more interpretive than other translations.

I think I would love all of the historical information in this particular Bible. That's the sort of thing that really appeals to me (though in some reviews, people have said that it's a little too busy).

-ESV Study Bible
I had never really heard about the ESV translation until I started reading up on different ones. It sounds really interesting- more of a literal translation, similar to the KJV but more readable. I've read samples, and it is word for word the same with the NIV in a lot of parts, but in others, it has more of an old-fashioned KJV feel.

Some people seem to love this translation and others say that it reads awkwardly and that the commentary and such is sometimes biased.

Both of these particular Bibles are 50% off at the Family Christian Bookstore for a couple of weeks after Christmas, so I have until then to make up my mind. :)

But I want to know what you guys think. I've read a lot of completely contradictory reviews online about translations, because a lot of people feel strongly about Bible translations. I know that nobody can say which translation is perfect and right for everyone, but I would like some opinions...

What translation do you use? What do you like or dislike about it? Is there a translation you definitely won't use? Do you use a study Bible? Any other comments?

I appreciate it. :)

Until next time,

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas (and a friend's giveaway).

I haven't been doing much over the past couple of days...watching my favorite Christmas movies, and doing some last-minute crafting. Most of it I can't post about until after Christmas. :)

I've also been wishing desperately that this warm(ish) weather would go away so we would have a chance for a white Christmas. We haven't had sight of even a flurry so far this winter.

I finally finished my second little felt tree:

Listening to my Christmas records.

Dear Mr. Frank, don't worry. I don't blame you that some album cover designer gave you this awful 70s rerelease cover. I still love your Christmas record.

I'm taking a little break until after Christmas. I'll probably be back at the beginning of the week with an after-Christmas post. I'll definitely be back next week with end-of-the-year posts {it is so crazy that it's that time again!} and such. :)

P.S. My sweet friend Alannah at Simply a Preacher's Daughter is hosting a giveaway, and you could win an iPod/cell phone cozy of your choice from my Etsy shop! Be sure to check it out, because it ends the day after Christmas.

I just want to wish all of you guys a super amazing Christmas. Just relax and enjoy spending time with your family. :)

"Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." -Matthew 1:23

And here you go, since this seems to be my Christmas blogging tradition:

Until next time,

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

May your days be merry and bright...

I love Christmas music. :)

Christmas songs are recorded so often, and by so many different artists. But it probably doesn't surprise you that I have definite opinions about which versions I like best. :) Anyway, here is a list of my favorite Christmas songs. And my not-so-favorite ones.

I'll Be Home for Christmas

I'll Be Home for Christmas is my absolute favorite Christmas song. It may seem like a strange choice. But here's my reasoning behind it. First of all, it's just a really gorgeous song. Secondly, I'm a person who doesn't like change. I love traditions, especially at Christmas time. And this song makes me think about families and soldiers (and my grandpas, who both served in the military) and people who can't be with their loved ones, for whatever reason, at Christmas. And it makes me think about how thankful I am that so far, I have always been able to spend Christmas with my family.

Even though it's my favorite Christmas song, I haven't found the perfect version yet. The perfect version should be very slow and sad, and it needs to be a guy singing it. This Frank Sinatra version is the best one I've found so far. It would be perfect without the bells at the beginning and if the background vocals were a little more subtle. :)

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
This is my favorite traditional carol. I don't know why, exactly...I just like it, especially the the first stanza. And I really like how Bing sings it.

White Christmas
This is such a classic, nostalgic song. And I can't possibly choose between these two versions.
Bing Crosby:

Or the Drifters. I just have to say that I adore the Drifters singing White Christmas. :) It always makes me smile and it's one of those songs I could listen to over and over and never get tired of.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
This is probably my second favorite Christmas song. I don't think it's especially popular, which is sad. Because it's a beautiful song. Frank Sinatra sings it best (does that really surprise you? :).

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Lovely song. And nobody can sing it like Judy Garland.

The Christmas Waltz
I only heard this song for the first time last Christmas, on a Frank Sinatra record. His version (this one, not the one with a background choral at the beginning) is my favorite, but I also love the She & Him one.

I Celebrate the Day
I love Relient K's Christmas album, and this is my favorite song on it. It's an original song and not very traditional sounding, but I think it's lovely. And as usual, RK's lyrics are always so insightful that I almost wonder if they've been reading my mind. :)

Christmas Time Is Here
How can you not love this? The vocal and the instrumental versions.

So those are my top Christmas tunes. :) I wrote about Christmas albums that I love last year, and you can read it here. And add Michael Buble and She & Him's new Christmas CDs to that. I may be reviewing them sometime this week.

A couple of other really quirky Christmas songs that I like are: The Grinch Song {stink...stank...stunk!} and I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas {Mom says the hippo would eat me up, but then,Teacher says a hippo is a veg-e-tar-ian}.

Some songs that I used to dislike but now like by these artists: Little Saint Nick (I've never liked the Beach Boys...I like the She & Him version okay, though), My Grown Up Christmas List (I only like Michael Buble singing it), and All I Want for Christmas Is You (only like the Michael Buble version).

And a few Christmas songs that I hate:
-The Christmas Shoes. First of all, it should be illegal to write a Christmas song about a little boy's dying mother. Second of all, I cannot handle kids singing on a recorded songs. Kids singing in real life, at church, whatever, is fine. It's adorable! But kids singing on a song on the radio, etc. sounds cheesy. Thirdly, have I mentioned cheesy, cheesy, cheesy? It's like some horrific Christmas version of Butterfly Kisses. I'd better stop now.

-I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause, by Jackson 5. I've never been a Michael Jackson fan. But his squeaky little voice saying, "Wow! Momma's kissing Santa Clause!" at the beginning of the song and "I really did, guys! I really did! I saw Momma kissing Santa Clause!" at the end is almost enough to make me gag.

-Same Old Lang Syne, by Dan Fogelberg. I don't know what on earth this is, but it is not a Christmas song. The only remote connection it has to Christmas is that it takes place on Christmas Eve. I just really can't stand this song, and I'm shocked (and relieved) that I haven't heard it on the radio this year. :) {I had to Google it to find the title.}

What are your favorite Christmas songs? Which ones do you despise could you do without? :)
Until next time,

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Trees and tinsel.

This is how we decorate for Christmas at my house. :)

Every year, since we were born, my mom has bought me and my brother an ornament. My ornaments vary quite a bit...everything from Pocahontas, Harry Potter, Elvis, and a sewing-themed one. :) This year I picked out the Yeti/abominable snowman creature from the old Rudolph TV special. Apparently his name is Humble Bumble, according to the package. But I've never heard him called that before.

{I love the stories about the Yeti and Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. Yes, I totally believe in them.}

We decorate our house in a really traditional Christmas style. I can't imagine not having a real tree...I love the smell and just the atmosphere that you get from having one in the room. Artificial trees can never compare. :)

This is the real tree in our living room:

And the lit garland on the staircase railing:

Mom used to put up our village houses when I was I set them up on my piano.

Mom's red and gold themed artificial slim tree in our kitchen/dining area.

In my room, though, the decorations become a little...tackier? More vintagey, anyway. :)

Several years ago, my mom bought me a 60s aluminum tree at a great-aunt's yard sale/estate sale. I think she paid $5 for it? Most of my ornaments are from Target, because me and Marmee stocked up last year when they put all of the Christmas stuff on sale, at 50% and 75% off. I got probably 5 or 6 boxes of ornaments for less than $15. My other ornaments are Elvis-themed and collected over the years or handmade.

I took these pictures back at the beginning of November when I put up my tree. This was everything pulled out and ready to be unpacked. And Oliver trying to nosy his way into one of the bags.

Oliver is obsessed with my tree. He hung off of the TV, watching me, in a great impersonation of Snoopy's vulture imitation.

He watched me very closely as I put up and decorated the tree. But his favorite part is when the tree is actually up. Last year, he would climb in about halfway up and sleep on the branches, bending them all out of shape. This year, he has developed a taste for the tinsel on the branches. So we've had to keep him in another part of the house most of the time. When he is allowed in my room, I stand by with a spray bottle of water to get him if he tries to chew on the branches.

Most of the time it doesn't work. I crawl under the tree and drag him out. He's soaking wet and purring with his eyes completely black and mischievous.

I guess I can't blame him...Aluminum trees are seriously pretty and eye-catching. :) As much as I love real Christmas trees, I love mine almost as much. Aluminum trees aren't stiff and awkward like the ones in A Charlie Brown Christmas.

They're actually really shiny and sparkly. And when the heat comes on and blows from the nearby vent, the metallic branches make a lovely tinkly sound, like soft bells.

This is the first year that I haven't put regular lights on it. I have a color wheel, but it tends to only light up the bottom half of the tree. Plus, it can't run very long at a time or it gets too hot. So I had been using blue lights (last year, for example). But this year I decided to skip the lights. Because when they're not on, they look really tacky in the tree.

I didn't realize until this year how beautiful the silver tree is with my bright colored ornaments...and no ugly white cord wrapped around the center. :) Here's an example of the color wheel running:

He can be this adorable one minute, and a crazy, aluminum-munching nut the next.

I've never been a girl who's into really sparkly stuff. Not since I was about 13, anyway. But Christmas decorations are different. The more sparkle, the better. :)

My tree all decorated and perfect that first day. Ornaments and branches have since then been knocked off and rearranged. That's why I took pictures when the tree looked at its best. :) I only have this little corner to crowd it in for now...someday it'll have more space and not looked so cramped!

I really love the bright color scheme in all of the coordinating Target ornaments. Bright blue, green, purple, red, teal, etc. I think it really gives everything a 50s/60s feel. Since I put up my tree, I also bought this matching tree topper when it was on sale.

Besides my tree, I also have a little Charlie Brown love on one of my windows:

And of course there's my peppermint garland and my felt woodland tree.

How do you decorate for Christmas? Feel free to include a link to a blog post, if you've put up pictures! :) Real Christmas tree vs. artificial one? Traditional, modern, or vintage decorating style?

Until next time,