Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Burial Rites ~ Hannah Kent

After hearing an interview on the radio about this book, I needed to invest in it and find out for myself what all the fuss is about. And there is much fuss. Whether or not it is wholly true, it was said during this interview that Hannah Kent was a student when she wrote Burial Rites as part of achieving her degree, and the MS was so good she was encouraged to write further and incorporate subplots involving the family more. The Christian faith aspect of this book also raised some serious interest...

You can read the back page blurb here.

My favourite character in this book is definitely the condemned, and for all kinds of reasons. As Agnes' story unfolded I found myself at times overwhelmed with compassion, and it was impossible to keep from relating her story to similar stories today. There is little doubt that if she were to undergo the same trial by post-modern standards, her situation would be different.

To my mind, the biggest issue in this book is bias. How do we treat people? How do we accept them based on what they do, did, or have not done? Do we respond to a cry for help (however it may be voiced), or is there no cry at all? It's a very intelligent and intellectual read and I finally find myself falling prey to the 'literary-vs-entertainment' argument. This book is both.

Agnes faces deeper issues that in 1829 received far less understanding. Her situation is precarious, and as injustice begins to surface, hope for her existence dims.

The people of Iceland are steeped in Christian traditions but it seems to be ritualistic rather than relational. It provides an interesting background upon which to set the story. Superstitions and dreams play a huge part in the behaviour and beliefs of these people.
Tóti is the novice assistant reverend charged with redeeming Agnes' soul before her execution, and it quickly becomes apparent that clichés and platitudes are not going to cut it with her. He must approach her differently, and his feelings of inadequacy are easy to connect with. Tóti prays for wisdom with as much earnest as though he were the condemned, such is the burden upon his heart for Agnes.

Finally Tóti makes progress but this comes at a personal cost. Now that Agnes has begun to relate her story to him, he disappears from the radar without explanation. Apart from feeling abandoned, she is left with nothing else but to relate to the family with whom she will spend the remainder of her days. It is in this process that the Jónssons find it within their character to not only listen to her, but warm to her and invite her into their hearts. In disgust, fear, and embarrassment they have staunchly held her beyond arm’s length, and this opening leads to their undoing in a powerful way.

The other characters that fill this unforgiving landscape will have you tearing your hair out with frustration as well as smiling with knowing. Every aspect is powerful and scarcely a word is wasted, right up to the ending where hope is against itself. It will stay with you for a long time, and hopefully it will open your mind to grace more than anything else.

It’s a very powerful, provocative read that should be experienced rather than pontificated about, as you will need to make up your own mind. I did enjoy it and all it made me consider, and I think more than anything that is why this book came about. And for me, Tóti is a fresh example of what people of faith can do and be once they die to themselves and take up their cross to follow the call of God's grace.

It will be interesting to see if more comes from Hannah Kent, as she has made quite a standard for herself to follow. 

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God..." Ephesians 2v8

En effet, c'est par la grâce que vous êtes sauvés, par le moyen de la foi. Et cela ne vient pas de vous, c'est le don de Dieu.

Monday, 26 August 2013

The Outcasts - a review

Recently I have been privileged to read and review several proof copies of books before they hit the shelves and as they are released. I spin a blurb for the booksellers and usually hand the books back. If I count the ones I read worth a mention, I will do so here, and since I am a Christian reading secular works, will absolutely tell you if there is anything unedifying. It also needs to be said that late changes may sometimes be made to these copies, and therefore some reviews may not be wholly accurate...

First up, The Outcasts by Kathleen Kent. You can read the back page blurb here and you should be able to find more on this one as it is released.

The Outcasts is an intriguing read with characters that genuinely surprise with their antics. You do not need to be a die-hard fan of westerns to become engrossed in this book with its unpredictable plot and sub-plots twisting ever so carefully (the unexpected ending gives a final hefty punch). The key characters bring to life the alarming facets of the wild west, and you can put nothing past them. There is nothing kitsch about this one.

This is the first of Kathleen Kent's books I have read and what a wild ride it was. From the outset I had no idea of what to expect, other than the usual bit of gun-slinging and horse rides through dusty terrain. Such is my experience with westerns thus far. The Outcasts gave so much more than that, and I can only describe the trip as exciting. The characters are fleshed out wonderfully and with a real sincerity more authors could take the time to employ.

Nate Cannon is a newly sworn-in Texas policeman, unsullied by the perils and trials of his new line of work. He strikes me as something of an idealist who quickly comes face to face with the harsh realities of the path he has chosen. As he goes in search of a very wanted serial killer he leaves his wife and child to pursue the hunt with new acquaintances Maynard and Dr. Tom. These two have a friendship that surpasses time, and Nate becomes privy to the friendship's intimate workings as the pages turn.

The biggest question of all is why Maynard and Dr. Tom need to track down William McGill, and who is working with him. Nate slowly gleans the information he needs whilst trying to figure out the two men.

Lucinda is on a quest to find both the man she loves and a fabled pirate treasure left buried long ago somewhere in the Middle Bayou. Her escape from Mrs. Landry's bordello has you holding your breath from the start. Though no escapee ever wants to be found out, her departure is made more perilous by an uncontrollable ailment Lucinda does her utmost to hide. Her tactics quickly gain respect and it obvious pretty early on that she is one shrewd woman.

The mystery is whether or not we should feel sorry for her, or if she deserves whatever she gets. I guarantee you'll be changing your mind back and forth as you work through the pages of this gritty and involving read. The heat cranks up when all their paths cross.

It has to be said that there are a few unnecessary pages here, as toward the end there are things described that do not need to be, and could have sufficed with a few choice words. For example, Lucinda realises she has fallen much farther than she ever thought possible and the things she has done and had done to her make her feel pretty awful. I feel it could have been left at this remark (which the author does make), rather than filling paragraphs and pages with descriptions of what these things were. I had the picture well enough and skipped these portions til the story truly kicked back in again.

Seriously, we get the picture and there is no need to paint it. These sections were easy to spot and for me, I find them a removal from the story rather than something that adds to its beauty or richness. The story is already so gritty that there is no need to out-do it with an over the top climax. It was brilliant enough.

As I said, westerns are not usually my choice (because of the clichés) but I did enjoy this one and will reflect on it for some time to come. There is a reality about it that refuses to be ignored, and the characters really do make the pages turn with their relentlessness, selflessness, and greed.

Read with a grain of salt or don't read at all. I'd keep it in my collection if not for those unnecessary parts, because one day my kids will pick up these books and tv already explains quite enough.

"The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time." Genesis 6v5

L'Eternel vit que les hommes commettaient beaucoup de mal sur la terre et que toutes les pensées de leur cœur se portaient constamment et uniquement vers le mal.


Saturday, 24 August 2013

Charlies ~ a recipe

In light of the saddest weekend we've had in a while, last night I created a recipe in memory of a very cool pet. If you don't like coconut, I'm sure you could substitute that ingredient for something else. Our little companion was a two-tone softie. These biscuits turn out very crunchy yet have two colours. The recipe makes about 30-40 depending on how big you roll a ball.

Enjoy. We have been. And of course they are best eaten hot...

Charlies  <--- yes, this is a link

~ two-tone biscuits of white coconut & orange apricot bits!~


125g (4oz) butter

1 cup raw castor sugar

1 egg

2 cups Self-Raising flour

pinch salt

1 cup coconut

125g diced dried apricots bits (&/or diced dried pineapple bits)

extra sugar*


Cream butter and sugar, beat in egg, add sifted flour, salt, coconut and apricot bits.

Roll into balls and press flat between the hands. Dip top side in extra sugar*.

Place onto greased oven trays or on greased baking paper, sugar side up. Allow for spreading. Bake in moderately hot over (190°C) for 10-12min.

Cool on trays or slide onto rack to cool.

Makes about 40.


PS~ we are officially looking for a new fluffy friend but waiting for the right one to come along :)


Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Heart's in for the long haul

We were of the belief we would have her for a long while yet, but on the weekend our adorable orange butterfly lop CB left due to GI Stasis. It's a nasty condition rabbits can get that leaves them limp and lame very quickly - if you don't recognise the warning signs in time. CB was our first bunny, so we didn't know what to look for - and even if we did, the signs were actually so slight that we may not have noticed in time.

It's not nice to nurse a helpless bundle until the very end, especially when you know it could have been prevented... somehow, surely. It's not fun to embrace your grieving child or have her say, I just want her back, when you do, too. It's terrible to have the deep brown eyes of a pet in discomfort looking at you as you try to ease it, but nothing helps.

So, we have hearts to mend and two small baby bunnies to care for that CB left behind. One of them gave me a big licking session this afternoon, and if you know anything about bunnies, this is the biggest compliment and sign of affection a bunny can ever give and an enormous display of their trust. It blessed my grieving heart, and I could hardly wait to tell my eldest Valley about it, since CB technically belonged to her.

I can't get over the sudden nature of this loss, or how much CB's little presence had ingrained itself into our existence so soon. She never made a sound, except to listening ears...

Now she makes no sound at all, except in our hearts, from where she cannot be taken away.

Enjoy every experience as though it were new and fresh. Don't treat it like it will happen again. It may not.

 But as for me, I am poor and needy;
    come quickly to me, O God.
You are my help and my deliverer;
    Lord, do not delay.   Psalm 70v5


Thursday, 15 August 2013

iPad brilliance, iHuman dominance

The technology available at our fingertips is truly an amazing feat. The development of things like touchpad tech has revolutionised, well, pretty much everything. Can you imagine what someone from one hundred years ago would think of our modern life if we were to bring them forward to experience what they could never have dreamed?
I hope not.

Take, for example, the iPad. My little Valleys especially think this invention is pretty clever, but even they can recognise Apple's greatness is limited. You heard it here first many moons ago, I am a self-confessed Luddite and anti-Apple, big-brother conspiracy theorist, so it comes as no surprise I enjoyed my oldest Valley's discovery.

The iPad has a voice-activated feature called Siri (nice name, if I may say so), which my kids employ for their own amusement as the feature (I dare not call it 'she') has some trouble understanding our words. Perhaps we should speak to it in a more southern Californian tone? Who knows. Siri gives the kids a laugh, but this one made me laugh:

Elder Valley Girl: "Are you an iPad?"

Siri: I'm sorry I don't know what that means.

EVG: Are you an iPad?

Siri: No comment. If you like, I can search the web.

EVG: You're an iPad. You should know that!

Siri: If you insist.

Yesss... I wonder what the Edwardians would think of our technology :) I wonder if they would maintain that some things are still better off done by human hands?

Q: What's the funniest glitch you've ever had? - or did your frustration at lack of cooperation win out? ;)

The Lord said, ‘If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.' Genesis 11v6

et il dit: Les voici qui forment un seul peuple et ont tous une même langue, et voilà ce qu'ils ont entrepris! Maintenant, rien ne les retiendra de faire tout ce qu'ils ont projeté.

Monday, 12 August 2013

What to do when a magpie flies into your house

I am trying to find what labels to put this experience under, but there aren't many words to describe it. Messy is one. Maybe I should create a 'messy' label heading.


What to do when a magpie flies into your house (or any other bird of significant size and nature). We have had pet magpies before, but the one that flew in today is not very bright and is 99% wild. My eldest Valley child has been feeding them and they will sit on her arm or feet as she hand feeds them burger mince. About two months ago the birds decided it would be quite a good idea to fly inside and look for her. At that time she was home and the back doors of the house were WIDE open like an invitation.

Last week and today they were not wide open, but just wide enough for our dog to get through. This results in absolute confusion. So what do you do when it happens? Here are some easy to follow steps.

1) Shut every curtain so that the bird does not bang into the glass and poo on the walls and windows as they get confused by why they can't get through this strange, strange barrier that clearly shows the outside world.

2) Do not chase the bird. Wait for it to settle. Less poo to clean up.

3) If you have a hallway door, shut that too (we do not, but it would be handy). If possible, confine the bird to the space nearest the open door. Limit the poo.

4) Lock up the dog so it doesn't scare the magpie and make it panic, which results in poo.

5) If children are around, have them watch the bird and close off all bedroom doors and rooms with carpeted areas. Poo is hard to get off the carpet (and annoying if you're renting and hard to explain to the landlord).

6) Pack away any open food, wedding dresses you're working on, open school books, diaries, fruit bowls, laundry baskets full of clean washing, etc that may get covered in poo, which is invariably black and gritty.

7) Now you may attempt to gently shoo the bird, or catch it quickly because its feet and bum spread poo. The bird will not land on the floor so don't worry about it pooing there. It will regardless as it flies along with all haste. Picture a Gatling gun. The bird however, will not run out of bullets.

8) If catching the bird in a bathroom with a big mirror, forget the mirror and thank the Lord for tiled areas. Approach the frightened and panting bird (that's why its mouth is open - it is not threatening you), ignore the poo in the shower, on top of the shower, in the bath and on the bench where it has been walking, pull up the sleeves of your new cardigan that you probably should take off and raise the old bed sheet in preparation to throw. Ignore all poo on top of the shower rail and wall where it sits and CATCH THE BLOODY BIRD!!!!

9) If you snare the bird by its foot, forget decorum. The magpie will not bite the hand that feeds it. Hold firmly but not tightly as this will alarm the bird and create more poo (it really does contain an endless supply). Bird shows and wildlife documentaries where the bird being captured is caught delicately around the wings to stop it from freaking out and flapping wildly are laden with false advertising. Hold onto the foot beneath the monstrous bed sheet and do not let go (notice how much less it weighs and how much smaller it appears after having first flown in). The magpie will remain calm as long as you're not strangling it. Talk to it gently about how much poo you must now clean up, about investments you will make in the Huggies' Wipes company, and about what a bad idea it was to fly into your house and how you hope it does not now expire because that would be hard to explain. Murmur gently under your breath about having words with your young animal loving child about feeding birds in the actual backyard. Walk to the nearest open door and open your hand. I guarantee you the bird will fly away. You won't have to do that David Attenborough aren't-I-being-kind-to-you-by whooshing-you-up-into-the-air-bird-release-thingy-move. No magpie that is exhausted from letting go a mountain-load of excrement wants that. It's pretence for both of you.

10) Clean up while it's wet. Like soggy Weet-Bix after a highchair breakfast, poo is easier to clean right away rather than an hour later.

11) Recapture your thoughts, tell children that all bird feeding is to occur far, FAR away from the back door, and make a note to self that the bird IS that dumb because she tried again after the first two times and still didn't learn.

12) After cleaning away all poo, release the dog, bring the food back out onto the kitchen bench, bring out the wedding dress you were working on, and clean black wing marks off the ceiling.

Calm will return.

That's what to do when a magpie flies into your house.

Oh, and one other thing... (I just remembered the poo in the bathtub)...

13) Don't leave the door open, not even for the dog. Retrain magpies to eat wild, or if they must eat from you, at a very safe distance from the backdoor.

PS~ How to tell a girl from a boy:
Boys are solid black and white,
Girls are mottled like this one & the one above.
I don't know if girls poo any more than boys.


Tuesday, 6 August 2013

You're the voice

Recently one of our national TV stations aired a story on Aussie designer Alex Perry, and there was also an article in the newspaper to match. Alex Perry has been married for over 25 years. I'd always seen how he knows a women's body better than she does, but this explains it. He's a husband to a wife.

His gift for corseting women within an inch of their lives and
inherently knowing what works is astoundingly effective.

I'd never bagged Perry's abilities, but on reading the article I was proud because he says this:

"...I don't care what people think about me,
people that I don't know, people that have got no relevance in my life, no bearing... I can't tell you how little that matters to me."


Perry explained he was bullied at school for not fitting the profile others decided he should fill. He wasn't sporty, he was fat, he didn't fit in. His statement should be encouraging, because whether he realises it or not, he's taken advice from Jesus when He says, "Don't fear men; fear God who has power over life and death."

I loved the article and have cut it to keep as a reminder to myself that I shouldn't give power to people who have no bearing on my life. That power lies with God Almighty because it is He I will one day stand before and explain myself to, not these others.

The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.
Psalm 119:130


Thursday, 1 August 2013

The gift that keeps on giving...

This year has proven for me to be the most maxed out I think I've ever been. Part of that is due to my natural gifting - a dying trend of yesteryear that so many people still need because it involves quality that there is no app for. My major workload ceased in April (apparently), but it took til June for my eye to stop twitching.

In being able to produce for my clients, I still have to leave room in there for family, and for rest, and for margin. The room for rest is the first to get used up, then the margin, then the family time. On Monday I'd made an agreement with myself in the morning to not take anyone else on until the end of school holidays. By evening, a client had asked for a "Could you just do...".

Hmmm. I told her I'd get back to her when I was in front of my diary. There's always a possibility, right?

This morning I made another internal agreement with myself not to take anyone else on because I want to spend time with the little Valleys while it's school holidays. Again. Someone contacted me for another "Could you just do...". They're only in the neighbourhood for another 48 hours. Of course.

If we didn't need to eat I'd be better at saying no, believe me.

There are times when I tuck my youngest Valley into bed at night and say, "Where have you been? Were you here today? I didn't see you? Where were you?" Naturally I'm joking, but she takes me seriously and looks offended. "I was here!" she all but pleads for me to understand.

Inside, my heart is pleading for her to understand, too. I know she does ;)

As much as I look forward to the day when I can spend that quality time with my kids and others, I'm not waiting for that day to track me down. I find it intentionally.

If ever you don't find me here or hear from me, I'll be one of three places:
1) Having the time of my life with family,
2) Working my butt off, or
3) Resting.

The blessing is enjoying the trip, and winning the war with priorities :)

Never underestimate the beauty of rest.

Q: What can you do to ensure you get more rest and prioritise the things that matter?
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. Genesis 2v2,3

Dieu acheva au septième jour son oeuvre, qu'il avait faite: et il se reposa au septième jour de toute son oeuvre, qu'il avait faite. Dieu bénit le septième jour, et il le sanctifia, parce qu'en ce jour il se reposa de toute son oeuvre qu'il avait créée en la faisant.