Monday, August 26, 2013

Jane Eyre Synchro-Read Starts Today!

Good Morning Dear Readers!

It's Jane Eyre Day!

I am so pumped. I've been looking forward to this one for quite a while.

So here's how the Synchro-Read will work:

1. Go to my Classical Quest Facebook Page and click "like" if you haven't already.

2. Grab an unabridged copy of Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte.

3. Read as much as you are reasonably able to each day. Remember, I have five young children so this is not a high pressure thing! Most people can easily keep up with my pace.

4. I will try to post a status update for each chapter read. (If you haven't seen something in over 24 hours it probably means there is a stomach virus in my house.)

5. Feel free to read ahead. I promise I won't be mad at you! In fact, I encourage you to read ahead if you can.

6. Interact with me and other readers under the status update for each chapter. Write about how the chapter makes you feel. Share you favorite passages. Ask questions. You are even allowed to complain! Don't worry about being articulate. Just be yourself. Your thoughts matter.

7. If you come across an interesting article on the web about Jane Eyre, feel free to post it directly on the timeline.

8. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Dancing "The Charleston"

the road home

Dear Readers,

While driving home this evening, I rolled down the windows and tuned in to our local radio station for some Saturday evening big band and swing jazz music.

It was good.

There is something about big band in late summer. Crickets chirping between songs, curtains flapping in the breeze .  . .  I'm seventeen again and back home at my parents' farmhouse. It's a Sunday evening.

in Mom's parlor

I know it is a Sunday evening because I still have on my dress. (I always wore dresses to church then.) It's my favorite dress -- black with tiny lavender flowers all over it. I love how it flows when I dance "The Charleston." Such a goofy dance! But so fun! I giggle as I move forward then backward across the hardwood floor.

in Mom's parlor

My cousin is visiting. She is laughing at me too. I take her hands and show her the steps. She catches on quickly and before long, we are dancing together. As she moves forward, I go backward, then vice versa.

Watch George Bailey and his sweetheart Mary dance "The Charleston" in this famous scene from "It's a Wonderful Life":

George Bailey: "We must be good!"

Oh. I love it! 

I love how George and Mary laugh at their own ridiculousness. I love how they keep on dancing even after they fall into the pool!

Haven't we all been there?

I must be good!  . . . KERSPLASH! 

No matter how ridiculous we may seem, it is a soft, happy, childlike spirit that will keep us afloat.

Blessings to you, friends!

With Love,


P.S. I'm looking forward to starting Jane Eyre with you tomorrow, the 26th of August.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Summer Play: Ocarinas, Cards, Cup-Clapping, and Fried Chicken

Dear Friends, 

Today I'd like to share with you some really important things I learned how to do this summer.

Make an ocarina with my hands. 

I think ocarinas are neat. I especially like the ones that look and sound like birds. I own two: one sounds like an owl, the other sounds like a mourning dove.  My oldest son and I enjoyed learning how to create an ocarina with our hands via the You Tube video below. (We have some room for improvement. The kid in the video is amazing.)

I received this one as a gift. It was purchased from Ten Thousand Villages.

I bought this one in Eger, Hungary. It sounds just like a mourning dove. We like to "talk" to real doves with them.

Play "Slap Jack."

I don't recall playing this card game as a kid, but it was the perfect game to play with my 4yr old and 6yr old on vacation. I bought a special "Slap Jack" deck. Normally it is played with a standard deck of cards.

Sing while cup clapping.

My 9yr. old daughter and I had a blast learning to use cups in sync as rhythm instruments.

Watch the adorable Lennon and Maisy do it --

And here is Anna Kendrick singing the song my daughter and I learned --"Cup Song"--

It is so fun! I seriously can't be left alone with a cup and a flat surface. It's addictive!

Here is the chant to help you learn it:


If you haven't had enough yet, here is the same song in a music video. It starts with one lone cook rolling out biscuits and before long all of the customers in this restaurant are cup-clapping.

Make my grandmother's fried chicken.

Well, I hope I have learned how. While on vacation with her last week, I watched closely as she made it for dinner -- twice!  I bought the ingredients tonight and I plan to make it tomorrow.

Your turn! Have you tried anything fun and new this summer?

P.S. Don't forget: I'm starting Jane Eyre on August 26th. Grab an unabridged copy and plan to join me!

With Love,


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Be Kind! A Few Thoughts about Oliver Twist

Hello Dear Readers,

It's been a full summer for my little clan and now we are all gearing up for fall. This week I'll be doing my back-to-school shopping.

I finally finished Oliver Twist! Woo-hoo!

I believe it took me longer to read than any novel on the list so far. With the exception of maybe Anna Karenina.

But don't let that scare you away from it if you haven't read it already. It wasn't the book; it was me. During my illness last month, I couldn't read much at all. I read the last 3/4 of it while on vacation with my family last week. 

Dickens managed to mingle a lot of humor into a dark subject. He is not as blatantly preachy as Harriet Beecher Stowe in Uncle Tom's Cabin, but he get's his sermon in and it's an essential one: BE KIND!

If I had one complaint it would be that I expected more of Oliver in Oliver Twist. He was like this dear little angel that just floated through adversity. His circumstances changed but he did not change much at all. 

I'm sitting here pondering this a bit . . . I realize he got angry and flew into Noah Claypool and ran away, but even that was righteous anger.

I suppose I prefer a main character who becomes transformed.

You may remember I was reading the novel list in chronological order according to publication dates. I had skipped a few titles at one point and I've now gone back to read the earlier novels I missed before. From this vantage point, I can see how characterization has evolved into something more sophisticated today. Dickens' characters are memorable, but they play out their roles in a way that is somewhat predictable. Have you read Oliver Twist? If so, did you get this sense?

Then again, this was one of the first novels on the WEM list in which the plotline was not a surprise for me. I've seen film versions of OT since I was a kid.

The chapter, "The Flight of Sikes" made me think of Crime and Punishment and underscored my impression that Dostoevsky was beyond compare. I noticed in one of the footnotes to Anna Karenina that Tolstoy read Dickens, so maybe Dostoevsky read him too -- who knows? 

My favorite characters are Mr. & Mrs. Bumble. Absolutely hilarious. I relished every scene in which they showed up. They deserve their own novel. 

OK, one more complaint: Why does Fagin have to be the Jew? He isn't portrayed as an evil person who happens to be Jewish. He is Fagin: the Jew! the Devil! The constant reminders that he is Jewish made me cringe. I thought it paradoxical that while Dickens preaches BE KIND, his intolerance is showing. Ugh. 

So that's about it for now. It's late. I've started running again! I hope to get up early for that tomorrow. 

Have you had a good summer? I hope you enjoy what is left of it! Blessings!

With Love,

P.S. Jane Eyre is up next!