Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Bride For Keeps.

I had one major reason for wanting to read this book: the marriage of convenience aspect of the plot. I seem to have a thing for stories where the marriage comes before the romance. I feel strange admitting that, because it's not like I'd ever want to be in that situation in real life. :) I just find stories like that endearing. I blame it on too many childhood readings of Sarah, Plain and Tall (mail-order bride!) and an obsession with the Hallmark adaptation of Love Comes Softly as a teenager.

I was also intrigued by the fact that Everett, the main male character in the story, had been jilted by three previous mail-order brides. Poor guy! Add to that a female character who was running from something and a pretty cover, and I couldn't help but want to read A Bride For Keeps, by Melissa Jagears.

I have to admit that it took me a while to get into this book. The first couple of chapters are a bit slow, and I haven't had a lot of reading time either. But when I got drawn into the story, I could hardly put it down.

This is a strictly romance-based plot. Unlike most of the other Christian historical fiction I've read, there aren't any thrilling action scenes or awful villains (though there is a really slimy and abusive neighbor). And that was kind of nice for a change: just a good, character-driven romance. This whole book revolves around Everett and Julia trying to move beyond hurtful things in their past and seeing whether they can actually make this marriage of convenience grow into something else. The romance is very drawn out and slow-burning. A couple of times I just wanted to shake these two for taking so long to realize things. :)

Everett was a great character. He had been rejected so many times that I couldn't help but root for him! :) But I loved how kind and caring he was once he finally let his guard down. I loved how he was willing to keep his promise to Julia, though it was obviously a struggle for him (the poor guy was smitten). Julia was likable, and it was endearing how hard she worked on the farm. I could definitely relate to the fact that she was a people-pleaser.

The only problem I had with this story was the abruptness of certain things towards the end. Even though the romance is very slow, it seemed like Julia changed her mind a little too quickly. And the book became sort of preachy. It wasn't overbearing, but the first 3/4 of the book was so unpreachy that the change seemed pretty drastic. {Speaking of the ending, I was afraid that Julia's past would come back to haunt her at some point towards the end of the story...I mean, I thought Theodore or her father would show up. That would have been so cliché, so I'm incredibly glad the author didn't go in that direction!}

Overall, I really enjoyed A Bride For Keeps. It's not quite on my list of absolute favorites for this genre, but it was such a sweet romance. I felt so invested in these characters and I wanted them to get their happily ever after. Did they? You'll just have to read the book to find out...

Although Everett Cline can hardly keep up with the demands of his homestead, he won't humiliate himself by looking for a helpmate ever again--not after being jilted by three mail-order brides. When a well-meaning neighbor goes behind his back to bring yet another mail-order bride to town, he has good reason to doubt it will work, especially after getting a glimpse at the woman in question. She's the prettiest woman he's ever seen, and it's just not possible she's there to marry a simple homesteader like him.

Julia Lockwood has never been anything more than a pretty pawn for her father or a business acquisition for her former fiance. Having finally worked up the courage to leave her life in Massachusetts, she's determined to find a place where people will value her for more than her looks. Having run out of all other options, Julia resorts to a mail-order marriage in far-away Kansas.

Everett is skeptical a cultured woman like Julia could be happy in a life on the plains, while Julia, deeply wounded by a past relationship, is skittish at the idea of marriage at all. When, despite their hesitations, they agree to a marriage in name only, neither one is prepared for the feelings that soon arise to complicate their arrangement. Can two people accustomed to keeping their distance let the barricades around their hearts down long enough to fall in love? -Summary from Goodreads

*Note: I received this book for free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.*

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Maple leaves socks.

It seems like I haven't had any finished knitting or otherwise crafty projects to show you guys in the longest time. I have been working on some things, but they haven't been quick projects. :)
My evening knitting time has been non-existent over the past month or so because I've spent that time cross stitching on my autumn sampler. But I can't stand to not be knitting something, so I've started taking my knitting with me on car trips. We live about 30 minutes away from town, so whenever I ride along to run errands or whatever, I knit. It's shocking how much knitting can be done while riding or waiting in the car! :)
These fall socks were knit almost entirely in the car over a few weeks.

The yarn is Felici Self-Striping from Knit Picks, in the maple leaves colorway. The colors are kind of tacky, but they're so wonderfully fall-like at the same time. :) I attempted to match the stripes, but as you can see, things somehow got off by about half an inch around the heel. Self-striping yarn is so much fun, though...they seem to go by quicker.

I used the same basic pattern that I've used for my previous three pairs of socks (one, two, and three): Silver's Sock Class. I did make a couple of tiny changes, though. Instead of doing the whole leg section in ribbing, I only did two inches of ribbing at the top. I just really love how smooth and consistent stockinette looks, and plus I still get noticeable ladders in ribbing at the points where my DPNs meet. Also, instead of 2x2 ribbing, I did 1x1. And I went down a needle size. All of my previous socks were knit on 3's, but they're kind of slouchy so I went down to a size 2 to see if these socks fit me better.

I love these socks. I love handknit socks in general. :) I have some really pretty sock yarn that I'm excited about knitting up, but that probably won't happen until the beginning of 2014 because I really need to start working on Christmas gifts now.

As usual, for more info check out my Ravelry project page here.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

To the mountains.

Just some pictures from last Tuesday, when we took our annual day trip to the mountains. We've gone since I was a toddler...I think we've only missed one or two falls in my whole life. These places are so familiar and nostalgic to me. There's something so comforting about visiting a place that never seems to change!

{Pictured: Lovers' Leap, Nancy's Fudge, our picnic lunch at Rocky Knob, and Mabry Mill}

Monday, October 28, 2013

Just a Closer Walk With Thee {Music Monday 17}

If I ever make it to an Avett Brothers concert (it's on my bucket list), I seriously hope they sing this song. It gives me chills and theirs is my favorite version heartfelt and it sounds perfect with their voices. I wish they would record it at some point so I didn't have to go to YouTube every time I want to hear it! :)

P.S. For a more humorous take on the song, check out this video. It makes me smile every time.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Project 360: Week 43

{294} I fell behind on my autumn sampler, so now I'm trying to finish it up.

{295} Mabry Mill.

{296} Coming home Wednesday night after meeting my niece for the first time. :)

{297} It cracks me up how it looks like Stella is frowning at her dad...

{298} She is such a sweet little doll.

{299} A blurry outtake from the folk life festival. I still think it looks kind of neat.

{300} Sunset through the trees.

Stella Grace.

The blog has been quiet for most of this week, and for the very best sort of reason. My niece was born on October 23rd! We spent most of Wednesday at the hospital, waiting not very patiently to meet her. :) Stella Grace was born at 8:41 that night, and she weighed 7 lbs 8 ounces.

Basically, she is the sweetest and most adorable baby ever. Oh my goodness...she is so lovely.

We got to visit and hold her the night she was born, but these photos are from Thursday evening. Two things: me and Stella were unintentionally matching (purple stripes and navy), and she's already frowning in family photos. :)

And these are from the day she came home. Cody and Rachel stopped at our house to let my grandparents see her for the first time.

These just melt my heart! She looks like a perfect little doll. (That's the hat I made her, and no, as sweet as it is, Stella didn't cross her feet like that. Mom just couldn't help herself. :)

I've only been an aunt for a few days now, but I don't think I'll have any trouble adjusting to this. :) I love this little girl so much and I can't wait to watch her grow up (not too fast, though!). Thanks so much to all of you who prayed for my sister-in-law any during her pregnancy...everything went smoothly these past months and she had a good delivery {says the aunt, who didn't actually birth the child. :) Rachel may beg to differ about how easy it was, but anyway, she and Cody are both great parents already. Though I'm still waiting for the day when my brother has to change his first diaper by himself...I want to witness that occasion.}.

I'll try my best not to bombard you guys with baby pictures over the coming weeks and months, but I make no promises. Stella is just too cute. :)

Monday, October 21, 2013

You're The Top {Music Monday 16}

I really love music from the 30s through the late 50s/early 60s. But it seems like with oldies music, I mostly gravitate towards male vocalists (Sinatra!). Among my favorite female voices of that era, though, Ella Fitzgerald is definitely at the top (no pun intended :). I think she just has the loveliest voice, and she can sing all sorts of styles.

The other day in Sam's Club I heard her version of Sleigh Ride coming from a CD kiosk. My thought pattern was: 1) Elf! I love that movie. 2) She can really sing. 3) It is too early for Christmas music, even for me. :) {I try to make it at least halfway through November!} So here's one of my favorite non-Christmas songs sang by Ella Fitzgerald. It's so much fun.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Project 360: Week 42

{287} A strange and slightly creepy mushroom that sprang up in our front yard.

{288} My first mug of hot chocolate of the fall! And yes, that is a mug and not a bowl. I don't play around when it comes to chocolate, you guys. {I got two of these large mugs on clearance from Target last year...they're from that quirky Curiosity Shoppe line. My other one features Mount Rushmore.} Also, here's a peek at the new pajama pants I just made. I love that crafty-themed flannel! It has hot glue guns, paintbrushes, yarn, pincushions, needles and thread, thimbles, scissors, buttons, etc. I don't think I'll be doing an actual blog post about these. They're just pajamas...basically the easiest "garment" you can sew. :)

{289} Speaking of sewing, my crafty corner is in complete disarray this week because we're painting it! And the color doesn't really look anything like it does in this picture.

{290} Once again, I forgot to take a photo this week. What is wrong with me??

{291} Wispy clouds and airplanes in the evening sky.

{292} Dear Doctor and Rose, I can't believe that the Doomsday episode still makes me cry. Thanks a lot.

{293} Our silly chickens love old leftovers.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Upcoming films I'm excited about (and other things).

This hasn't really been a big movie year for me as far as new releases go. As far as I can remember, I've only seen one movie in theaters so far in 2013: Monsters University (which I loved!). But there are several releases coming up between now and the end of the year that I'm really excited about. Here they are, in order of release (I think)...

1. The Book Thief. I read the book several years ago and really loved it. I'm definitely due a reread before I see the movie! The Book Thief is a really incredible, haunting WWII story and the style of the book is very unique (the narrator is Death). The movie trailer seems surprisingly lighter than I expected, so I'm curious to see how closely they stick to the book.

2. Catching Fire. I didn't love this book like I did the Hunger Games, but it's much better than the last book, in my opinion. I like that there will be more political stuff happening amongst the districts in this film, and that all of the tension that was building up in the first film will really break loose here. :) The Hunger Games film was one of the best book-to-film adaptations I've ever seen, so I'm hoping they keep up those standards here.

3. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. While I think three Hobbit films was totally unnecessary, I'm not complaining about getting to go see it at the theaters two more times than I anticipated! :) I missed the LOTR films in theaters (I went through that phase a few years later), so I love that I'm getting another chance of sorts. I really enjoyed the first part.

4. Saving Mr. Banks. The only non book-adaptation on my list! :) But it is sort of bookish in a sense. First of all, isn't that photo great? Second of all, you can't just stick a moustache on Tom Hanks and pretend he looks like Walt Disney, but that doesn't lessen my excitement for this film one bit. :) Anyway, this movie sounds so awesome. I love all things Disney and learning about Disney history. I love the Mary Poppins books and how book-Mary Poppins is so cross and conceited and completely unlike Disney-Mary Poppins (I do love the musical, too, by the way). Mix all of that with Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, and some gorgeous 60s clothing, and this is pretty much a movie that was made for me. I can't wait to see it.

And just a few other little random movie sort of things....

There is hopefully going to be another Narnia movie! The Narnia books are my favorite books ever, so I am beyond thrilled with this news, especially since it seemed like it would never happen. I feel like the three Narnia movies kind of went steadily downhill in a way. The first one was perfect, the second one was really good, but by the third one they were straying too far from the books and trying a little too hard to make something besides a Narnia film. (I still enjoy them all, though.) I'm really hoping that The Silver Chair will actually be made and that it'll be lovely and successful enough for them to finish out the series in films. By the way, The Silver Chair is probably my favorite book in the series, so I can't wait to see it adapted!

Also, the creators of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries have a new adaptation that just started earlier this month: Emma Approved. I'm loving it so far. I love the story of Emma, anyway, and though some people find her annoying, I've always rather liked her. And can we all just recognize that Mr. Knightley and Harriet Smith are also spot on? (And that Mr. Knightley is really good-looking? Come on, you know you were thinking it, too.)

And if you're into these new web adaptations of classic literature, or if you're just a Jane Eyre fan, you should definitely check out this web series. It is a lot lesser known than the Austen adaptations, but it so awesome. I think Jane Eyre would be a really difficult story to adapt to modern settings, but they are doing an incredible job so far. I highly recommend it. And please give it a try beyond the first few episodes...I didn't like them very much but things get better quickly!

What films are you looking forward to? Are you watching Emma Approved or the Autobiography of Jane Eyre?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Salvation Song {Music Monday 15}

I only just found out yesterday (in the weekly Target newspaper ad) that the Avett Brothers have a new album releasing tomorrow! I guess I wasn't expecting another so soon since The Carpenter came out only last year.

Anyway, here's one of my favorite Avett Brothers songs in celebration of their new album (it's not from their new one, though). I know I've mentioned before that these guys make some of my favorite music...they're so real and genuine. I really, really love this line: "And if I'm walking through the rain and I hear you call my name, I will break into a run without a pause." So lovely. This is an acoustic version of Salvation Song.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Project 360: Week 41

{280} I have missed fall sunsets so much! They seem so much more colorful somehow.

{281} I wonder how many pictures of zinnias I've taken this year. :)

{282} Spying on this deer from my back window.

{283} I switched all of my sweaters and knitted items to a different drawer that I can get to easier. I can't wait until it's cool enough to wear them all! Not at once, of course. :)

{284} Some of the flower seeds we planted in the garden this spring just now decided to bloom.

{285} No photo this day. Yes, 10 months into my one year project and I forgot to take a photo. Oh, well.

{286} Nearly halfway through with Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl and really enjoying it so far!