In lieu of trying to belong to any number of societies: Chesterton, Sherlock Holmes, the Inklings, and so on: I propose and establish one of my own. Don your intelligence cap at the door; dust off your logic and imagination; did you bring your inspiration and encouragement? We are shapers, my friends; lit lamps; light-bringers. Bring quotes*; poetry should be uplifting and thoughtful, or witty and clever, (or both). Humor is encouraged; laughter is invited back. Pull up a chair. Anyone for tea?



A Child's Christmas in Wales

I found it on youtube, and watched it again while trimming a tree. One of my favorites...

Advent light

1 John 1:1-5  That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
I saw Jupiter last night, blazing from its velvet of sky.
I'm not nearly as good with constellations as I hope someday to be. I only know a few--the Bears, Polaris, Cassiopeia, Leo... often I can pick out Orion. I was riding home from Ben's basketball game last night through dark countryside, thinking and listening to the radio. When it's night outside one forgets to watch out windows, but when I did I was rewarded by a star so bright it almost took shape in that blanket of sky. 'That's got to be a planet' I said. And Will obligingly pulled out his phone and found his constellation app for me. I spent the remainder of the drive pointing it around and exclaiming at what I saw.

Sure enough, I had found Jupiter in the Eastern sky, right alongside the Twins, Castor and Pollux. Over to the right, just as I had expected, was Orion. From there, I couldn't see many other stars from my window, but I still waved the phone about, seeing what was out there in space, whether I could see them or not. When I pointed it at Will, I was told that (way beyond him in space) was the constellation of Neptune; above my head was a Pegasus, and over a little I found Perseus. These made me grin, and I told Will that it was a lot more fun looking at constellations when I knew a little mythology. I know what all the names are now! (Thanks Rick Riordan, for getting me interested!)

The Season Begins

I rolled out of bed at a reasonably early hour on Monday, stumbled out of my red and white pajamas and into my festive plaid for the day; blinked through a bit of Bible reading, and stuck my laptop (now playing Christmas music) into Ben's room to wake him up. Then I headed downstairs to the kitchen. The coffee was made already, so I started tea and bacon, and moved on to pancakes and whipped cream. It was a scrumptious way to start the morning, let me tell you. Ben was under the weather with a cold (which is why there are no pictures of him) but he was soon downstairs wearing his own red plaid (his elf-hat came out later).
we don't actually have any snow just now, but if it wants to fall, that's fine by me!
(Because flame-retardant icicles is a revolutionary concept)

Twice-baked potatoes -- a particularly delectable tradition that Ben and I started several years ago. We stuffed ourselves with this rare treat after carrying down countless boxes and bins and setting up the tree. Then we set about with lights and glittering balls, tinsel hanging off our ears and Psych's Christmas episodes on in the background (Ben and I like to add our own traditions to the mix). He and I enjoyed a happy jumble of Bing Crosby, Shawn Spencer, Michael BublĂ© (of course!), Perry Como, Diana Krall,The Chipmunk song, etc. We would have added the Christmas episodes of NCIS if we had them. We like a little cop-show with our Christmas cheer. ;)
One must have ginger-spice cake of course
 I made this while Nigella's Christmas Kitchen played, and Ben was away at basketball practice. I put more decorations on the tree while it baked. It was dark and rich and treacle-y. Perfect for this chilly weather.
our German twirling nativity
 ~tree is in the diningroom this year

meatballs and pasta; roast acorn squash, beets, and carrots

At Random


Wodehouse Wednesday

"It was one of those days you sometimes get latish in the autumn when the sun beams, the birds toot, and there is a bracing tang in the air that sends the blood beetling briskly through the veins.”
~ P.G. Wodehouse

  ' "That is the mystery which we have to solve. This Honest Patch Perkins, as he called himself, must have borrowed you car . . . with or without your permission."
   "Incredible, m'lord"
   "Thank you, Jeeves. Incredible! How would I know any Honest Patch Perkins?"
   "You don't?"
   "Never heard of him in my life. Never laid eyes on him. What does he look like?"
   "He is tall . . . about your height . . . and wears a ginger mustache and a black patch over his left eye."
   "No, dash it, that's not possible . . . Oh, I see what you mean. A black patch over his left eye and a ginger mustache on the upper lip. I thought for a moment . . ."
   "And a checked coat and a crimson tie with blue horseshoes on it."
   "Good heavens! he must look the most ghastly outsider. Eh, Jeeves?"
   "Certainly far from soigne, m'lord."
   "Very far from soigne. Oh, by the way, Jeeves, that reminds me. Bertie Wooster told me that you once made some such remark to him, and it gave him the idea for a ballad to be entitled, 'Way down upon the soigne river'. Did anything ever come of it, do you know?"
   "I fancy not, m'lord."
"Bertie wouldn't have been equal to whacking it out, I suppose. But one can see a song hit there, handled by the right person." ' 
---The Return of Jeeves, P.G. Wodehouse

The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens - G.K.C.

"Every day I discover more and more beautiful things. It's enough to drive one mad. I have such a desire to do everything, my head is bursting with it." --Claude Monet

I've been experimenting with art these days, in different forms and mediums. I've never been much of a hand at drawing, haven't tried painting much; if I'm in any sort of hurry my pictures look like a three-year-old's. But I wondered what I could do if I took my time and just enjoyed myself; setting a leisurely pace, trying things out to see what I could do, and having fun with it. And I decided to inspire my first attempts by my love of stars, and add appropriate quotes.

I didn't actually plan this all out in advance. My idea for this theme came while in the process of embroidering this. I had such fun I thought I'd share them.

This next is my favorite art-form. I'm not even sure what you call it... layered paper art, I suppose. I've been making these as long as I can remember; inspired first, I think, by the show Little Bill, and the child's picture book Feast for 10. But I had never tried to mimic any famous works. As you can see this is a rough representation of Van Gogh's magnificent 'Starry Night', with Sarah Williams' "I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night".
Here's my try at sketching for under watercolor.
And here's my watercolor. 'Second to the right and straight on till morning' -James M. Barrie


The last few books I've finished
"If you cannot read all your books at any rate handle, or as it were, fondle them--peer into  them, let them fall open where they will, read from the first sentence that arrests the eye, set them back on the shelves with your own hands, arrange them on your own plan so that you at least know where they are. Let them be your friends; let the at any rate be your acquaintances." --Winston Churchill

"Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination and the journey. They are home." --Anna Quindlen
my current stack--Prince Caspian is, of course, a re-read
I've been fascinated by first lines as of late. The beginning words of a book open the door to a whole world, as yet unknown. Some are commonplace enough. Some excite every fiber in you. And once you are attached to a book, the most menial of phrases can vibrate with intensity or make you laugh with delight. Sometimes, the first line catches my eye right away, but often it is only afterward that I go back and appreciate the opening phrases, and with the knowledge of the book in my mind, each word has more meaning. So I pulled a bunch of books off my shelf a few nights ago, and out of the piles on my floor, to read their forgotten first lines. Each one brings a smile for me, and I decided to share some of my favorites here. Perhaps these lines will make you want to read the books in full. I hope so! They have afforded me much enjoyment. At any rate, I hope they bring a smile.

"Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much."
--Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J. K. Rowling

"'It may be only blackmail,' said the man in the taxi hopefully."
--The Tiger in the Smoke, Margery Allingham

"Anyway, I said savagely to myself as I tried to lift a large and very clumsy suitcase down from the baggage rack, anyway, it is my father's old home, and I've always liked antiques, and I suppose an ancestral house is always more interesting than--'Oh, drat it! Ouch!'"
--The Sherwood Ring, Elizabeth Marie Pope

"The Friday before winter break, my mom packed me an overnight bag and a few deadly weapons and took me to a new boarding school."
--The Titan's Curse, Rick Riordan

Peppermints and Parliaments

~a repost, particularly in honor of the C.S. Lewis Conference that I was only able to attend in spirit. Link to rebroadcasts here.

Following is a bit of verse, dedicated to our beloved Jack and all true Narnians.  Each stanza "fits" one of the books.  Just tickles it, really.  But I hope it reminds you a bit, of the glory of Narnia.... 

You launched a ship to tread the dawn
And Narnians became my friends
Eastward sailed and we arrived
Where morning never ends

Peppermints and parliaments
Arching bridges to the skies
Quest to find the truth and smother
All enchanted lies

 A desert race began with only
Fishingnets and runaways
Now to serve the king we're running
Aslan has our gaze

Garden meetings, feathered rides
What's the apple of our eye?
Growing now a tree's protection
Did you see Him cry?

Fresh fried fish, some tainted sweets
Aslan's on the move, they said.
This our traitor's only hope
He can save the dead

Dancing stars and bowing trees
Our king has blown the horn
Help delayed but trusting that
We never fight alone

A desperate, final battlefield
But through the darkened stable-door
A land more yours than you could know
Is home forevermore

by Olivia original work, note blog copyright
Nonny, Nonny...


And birds fly south and birds fly south
Oh blessed season that marks my year to year
Beloved autumn, that starts my life anew and stops my mouth,
Renews my mind, my loves, my listening ear

My deepest, oldest thought, that blazoned longing comes again
Here into the melancholy of the hour I fall and find I'm home
The feelings I can't get to are torn apart at summer's end,
Rearranged into a watercolor of azure and honeycomb.

Each autumn, like the very vapor of this life, sits
Fleeting on the keen knife-edge of time
The sweetness of these days, or half of it
At least, is hidden in a shell of brevity, sublime

'Though summer's light and free, I love my tethers
That tie me to the world beyond this world
The Oldest Story murmurs through this weather
The light beyond the picture has been swirled

The creatures hide their nuts and burrow slowly
As crisp and frosty hours take their hold
Some fall asleep... but I awaken fully
This season, like the standing corn, is gold.

original poetry by Olivia

Neverland of books

“A library is many things. It's a place to go, to get in out of the rain. It's a place to go if you want to sit and think. But particularly it is a place where books live, and where you can get in touch with other people, and other thoughts, through books. If you want to find out about something, the information is in the reference books---the dictionaries, the encyclopedias, the atlases. If you like to be told a story, the library is the place to go. Books hold most of the secrets of the world, most of the thoughts that men and women have had. And when you are reading a book, you and the author are alone together---just the two of you. A library is a good place to go when you feel unhappy, for there, in a book, you may find encouragement and comfort. A library is a good place to go when you feel bewildered or undecided, for there, in a book, you may have your question answered. Books are good company, in sad times and happy times, for books are people---people who have managed to stay alive by hiding between the covers of a book.” --E.B. White

I have a small library of my own. Our house is a library to hundreds, probably thousands of books. Personal books, books chosen with care, books kept over the years or received as gifts; books carefully saved for; stacks from dollar-a-bag-sales; but each kept for a reason. Some are new, but most of them are old. I wouldn't know how to live without being surrounded by books. Books are my life. And libraries are the extension of that. A place that, like my home, is filled to brimming with books; an open door to knowledge, imagination, and comfort.

Public libraries are to me, a boon and a privilege (my eternal gratitude, Benjamin Franklin). How many people have been introduced to a wealth of knowledge in those aisles of books? Introduced to stories they would never have known, been able to read stacks of books that they needn't buy... able to acquire wide-spread literacy and a vast array of knowledge from books one might never own.

I'm glad to be part of the organism of a library, even though it's a very small part. I clean the library, you see, which I find a very peaceful and satisfying job: contributing to the order, restfulness, and helpfulness of a library. I go about my job surrounded by books, and feel in some way that my work is for the books themselves. I am left alone with books for hours, and it doesn't matter that I can't be reading them just then; like the best of friends, they keep me company, they wait, they are satisfied with silence.

You know the feeling of those particular friends with whom you needn't speak? Perhaps there are many other people about, or perhaps you are alone together, but either way you feel no inclination to conversation. But you will be reminded of something that makes you smile, and you have only to look over at your friend to know that they are thinking the same. You share in silence a series of private jokes and appreciate your shared views on your surroundings. Books can do that. Even without opening the covers of the books, I can feel the camaraderie in the crowds of people I know and love from those pages. There are hundreds of shared moments, and secret codes and private jokes that I share with those characters. In a library I am in good company; there are so many characters in a library—quite a diverse lot—and I don't know them all. In fact I see many that I hope to meet one day, like the man at the edge of the crowd, or the girl looking out the window. And for those characters that I very much wish to keep at a distance, there is generally a good-natured army with which I am already acquainted, to keep them at bay.

So yes, the company of books makes my work seem enjoyable, and anything but lonely. The thing is of course, that it makes me want to return to the library when it is actually open, to peruse at my leisure, and lose myself in a new book. There is also a great sense of security in having a key... the thought that, if all else fails, I can let myself into the library. That ultimate safe-haven. A consoling fortress. I'll be able to just sit there with the books and breathe.

Books are magic. All the thoughts and histories of the ages held between those worn bindings. The outpouring of an author's heart and soul, years after they are gone. Ink on paper, combining those same twenty-six letters into timeless phrases and lasting stories; characters with history, vigour, and poetic souls. How many times has there been a priceless connection between a reader and the book I hold in my hand? Books (like the TARDIS, and the stable on the hill) are bigger on the inside. They hold forests and cities, sprawling countryside, and grey high-rises; fantastical castles rising in mist, elves and dwarves and lost boys of Neverland; books can make you laugh out loud without expecting to; they can make you cry and pray; strengthen your heart and inspire you.

It was only recently that I actually read Peter Pan, and I enjoyed it so thoroughly that I rather think I appreciated it more than I might have years ago. But no matter. I shall read it to my children when they are young and when they are old. It is brilliant nonsense; it captures imagination somehow, and how children (and people like me) see the world. It gives one categories.

My Neverland began, like so many others, as that childish island of make-believe and indians and stories read to me—before I had ever heard of Peter Pan, or really begun to read anything at all. And entirely unaware of the fact that Wendy had 'played mother' before me, I gravely cared for dozens of imaginary children, and had all sorts of nonsensical adventures. But as I grew, I read more and more; so instead of disappearing, my Neverland just grew as I did, and now contains all those many places: the thymey downs of Narnia, and the cliffs of Exmoor; the misty expanse of Middle Earth, the riverbank, platform 9 3/4.... there's the beast's castle, and a merrel in the rafters of a great hall; miles of open sea, dotted with sails...

And with the mind of a writer, stories pour forth from the oddest corners and scraps of knowledge or snippets of personality. My mind teems with stories. The smallest thing will set me off, and there before me unrolls stories, ideas, thoughts and dreams, characters, and miles of road; rain drumming on castle walls; the moon rising over a London flat. They grow in my mind; there are countless places for me to visit now. Some I deserted long ago, and they stand empty; some were set so thoroughly in motion that there is life still, when I return after long absence. Some I have forgotten entirely. But it is my very own Neverland, and no other would look quite the same. It has helped to make me, just as I have busily built it.

Celebrating the royal birth!

It's a boy!
update: His Royal Highness, Prince George of Cambridge

Happy Birthday little one!

Just a bit of afternoon

It had been a while since the last time I lay on sun-parched grass and sun-baked earth, soaking in the extraordinary vastness of the sky, with its shreds of careless cloud raked into magical patterns. Gazing through those clouds into the misty azure beyond, I tried to imagine layer upon layer of atmosphere above me, and the incredible depth. And then, as if to make a little joke of me, there flew across my plane of vision, a bird--probably an eagle or a vulture--flying so high above me that it looked like a speck of pepper; and it was still so far beneath the clouds...

I miss the country for this very reason: the perspective of immensity--miles of line-fence, square mile upon mile of shimmering crop-fields dotted sometimes with great round bales; overhung by that broad and ancient sky. It's only over the prairie that I see that expanse so markedly. These days I cherish any chance I get to just lay and watch the sky, or listen to the wind through fluttering leaves.

The Stark games have been a great opportunity for sunshine and a bit of country air. Most of the games are in the country, but home games are the best. Last week there was practice at Stark before the game. I drove Ben, and played catch with him a bit to warm up his arm. And then I just lay there in the good clean dirt and grass and air. That great blazing sun and summer breeze was just what I wanted, and it was certainly conducive to writing.

I watched the American flag rippling between the light-poles on the opposite side of the field. Corn and soy fields stretched to the horizon, broken up by groves and farmyards. The corn is beginning to tassel. Killdeer were flying about, squawking; other nameless, distant birds flitted about, adding to the general peace.

I've begun rereading A New Song again. It's such a very summery volume, and I'm in the mood for Mitford again. Jan Karon has such a way with words; turning the ordinary into something lovely. There are several books that I associate vividly with the hot summer sun. A New Song is one of the them. Linnets and Valerians is another. It's amazing how strong some associations can be. There are other books that immediately put a song in my head, a song without correlation except that I listened to it while I read those words for the first time...

Summer Ball

Playoff win 7-12-13
 having fun beforehand


under the lights
Oh yeah, Stark! 14-5
and another game tonight!