Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Some of My Frugal Ideas

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." ~Albert Einstein

Terri at Breathing Grace asked "What are some of your best frugal ideas?" I wrote so much and then I decided not to blog on her blog.

As you probably know, many of my frugal ideas are far off the conventional path.


We turned off the TV! We have been without a TV service for a year saving $720! Wow! We do watch DVDs now and then, but we buy about the same amount as we did before. I get my news and weather reports through the radio or online. We are thinking of getting Netflix...eventually. I do watch new episodes of just a few shows online now and then.

Thermostat settings at 81° in the summer maybe 79° on really humid nights and 67° on the winter days going down to 62° at night. I love snuggling under lots of blankets! We try to have cut wood available and use our fireplace in the winter also.

I cook and bake more in the winter to serve two functions, prepare extra foods to be frozen and to warm the house. Only just warming prepared foods in the summer keeps the house cooler, plus we cook outside on the grill more. Of course, there is some added expense in having two freezers, but it is still a savings.


First of all, food is one thing where we believe we should not base our buying decisions on its cost. We could eat far cheaper, but we are committed to limiting chemicals and genetically engineered products in our diet so we eat mostly organic, natural foods. We believe it has kept us healthier. However, organic foods are more expensive generally. I would far rather, and have, cut our expenses in other areas and spend more on our food. It is our daily "medicine" to avoid the need of medicine.

When I find a good deal, I buy in bulk: Whole Foods has a killer deal on Santa Cruz organic lemonades right now, 99¢ each BUT if I buy a case of 12, I receive another 10% off; I have about 10 cases right now. Last year, Big Lots had a organic tea in a half gallon size for just $2.50 which is nearly the cost of the single size at regular price, so I hit every Big Lots around until they all were out. Most people do not know that Big Lots has organic foods from time to time. Sam's Club carries huge containers (twice the size as the largest I see in most stores) of Taylor Farms organic spring mix and spinach for about $4 which is cheap, cheap, cheap and I get one nearly every week as I eat lots of salad. I buy Breyer's ice cream on sale at Kroger when they have a buy ten deal; I have a big freezer (actually two) and my daughter has learned that we can get one whole container for cost of one ice cream cone. I know it is not organic but we only have a small scoop as our desert once in awhile and so ten of these can last for months!

I try to use coupons but it is limited, because we eat more raw foods, less processed, and mostly organics so coupons are few, but I do get really good deals now and then. I once bought 50 bags of organic frozen vegetables for something like 19¢ per bag between the sale price, coupons, and my writing discount. (I write health related articles for a local health food store and get a 20% discount on my purchases there.) This month my best deal was tuna: regularly $3.39 for albacore, the sale price was $1.99 with a 50¢ off coupon and an additional 20% off discount for a total of $1.19 per can. Yellowfin, regularly $2.99, was just 80¢ per can, which is cheaper than canned cat food the same size!

I watch the expiration dates on organic dairy products at the nearest Kroger because when they get within three days, they mark them as a Manager's Special at half price, which is usually as good as a price I can get with a sale price, coupon, and my discount altogether, and that is extremely rare. I often get sour cream (for my ranch dressing), cheeses, cottage cheese, and butter at half price that way. I have to say here that butters are not all the same, particularly in baking. I like Woodstock Farms for most cooking and as a table butter. Organic Valley is a nice table butter, a bit softer and better taste for spreading on bread. However, for baking the best one is Horizon. The tests are my pie crusts and Christmas snowball cookies, they just hold their shape better and do not darken as much as the other butters. I recently got 25 Horizon organic salted butter for $2.99 and put them in the freezer to be use when needed and that should last me through my Christmas baking.

On the Fridays I drive to the 4-H horse farm to do chores, which is about halfway to another farm where I pick up my raw milk. When the milk is low, I go on to a farm to purchase eight gallons of raw milk and put them in the freezer when we get home. There are always coolers in my van...always!

Decided to bake my own sourdough breads, biscuits, and pies long ago. We were using a great deal of yogurt, granola, mayonnaise, and ranch dressing, so I now make them myself as well. Because I make granola, I buy rolled oats in by the bulk bag when on sale and keep it in the freezer. Same with flours. (Organic grains are prone to have bugs more than those treated with pesticides, but freezing kills them.)

This past year we began growing some of our own food and, instead of pouring remaining pickle juice down the drain from the pickles we used up, I will cut some of pickle size cucumbers from our garden and plop them into it this week.

We are raising rabbits. My husband hunts in deer season. Next year I am seriously considering beekeeping.

Fun Stuff:

We see a free or $1 movie nearly every week during the summer.

Sometimes I "splurge" on our errand day after a good piano lesson and share a shake with my daughter from Steak-N-Shake during their Happy Hour when drinks and shakes are half price.

Although we rarely eat out, I collect restaurant coupons to have on hand just in case.


I use vinegar, baking soda, and food grade hydrogen peroxide for most of my cleaning. About once or twice a year I treat my wood furniture with furniture oil or wax.


I have only one errand day for piano lessons, grocery shopping, and other errands each week. The one thing that is costly is our Thursday. Piano lessons are 30 miles away, not that I could not find someone closer at this point, because originally she started so young no one near by would take her, but I save money in other areas so that I can continue to support the Princess' piano teacher, who was my friend before the child was born. The two health food stores are about halfway so it works out well. I just load everything in coolers so they will keep well until we get home. Otherwise, I rarely use the van, our used minivan, more than three times a week in the summer (because we add free movies) and twice a week the rest of the year for errand day and 4-H activities.


I buy almost all the clothes for my daughter at seasonal consignment sales, really high priced fancy dresses, even flower girl dresses, that she likes and are perfect for her piano recitals between $8 to $15 dollars usually, and I resell the clothes she has outgrown at such sales also, sometimes for more than I bought them! In fact, I have two coming up for which I need to list my items soon.

I buy many of my clothes from Goodwill and my husband's at Kohl's when we get a 30% off deal. We get his jeans at Sam's Club for something around $12 each.


I buy used years in advance when I can. Sometimes I discover some finds at consignment sales or at Goodwill.

This week I was blessed that a good friend of mine is parting with about 75 Landmark history books for an extremely good price, because she did not sell them at her yard sale. She will have to ship them and I have to get the money together to send to her!

Other Things:

I cut the Princess' hair using the Feye method and it worked well. I then did my own! Although we only were getting professional haircuts twice a year, it is still a savings.

Here are some other posts on the subject of being frugal.

~ My Lord, I thank you for making ways to save money obvious to me. Some things have simplified our lives and other have complicated our lives. Through it all, we have changed our expectations and I pray that I am teaching my daughter well. ~

Monday, July 25, 2011

Home Churching

Church isn’t where you meet. Church isn’t a building. Church is what you do. Church is who you are. Church is the human outworking of the person of Jesus Christ. Let’s not go to Church, let’s be the Church. ~Bridget Willard

Friday night my husband came home late from a church board meeting and he said "You got your wish."

"Hm, I have sooooo many wishes. Which one would this be?"

(I was secretly hoping he had arranged for the Princess to stay with a church member while he and I go out for sushi alone, as we discussed recently, which would be our first dinner date without the child since she was born over ten years ago, but no....)

Do you remember this post I wrote just about a year ago in the middle of the 40-day fast for my church: What If... (Of course, if you are new reader, you probably do not, so the link is there if you are inclined to go back in time.) Well, I felt very strongly (almost in an obsessed, supernatural sense so it seemed to me) about this subject then, but I did not think it would be largely accepted.

Even though we have a house that is solely used for our church, we are going to convert to something more like a home church style service. This concept is going to be presented to the entire church and ask to be given a four week trial to determine if it will work well. I believe the plans are to have a meal after the morning service, which will be wonderful for developing friendships within the membership and encouraging fellowship with visitors. There just always seems to be more visitors when we have food. We will not have an evening service, however we hope to keep the adult Sunday School class. I am not sure if the children will have a separate Sunday School class or not at this point.

We have several members, of the few we have, that travel often, including my husband, which makes it very difficult for them to be involved during the week and it limits their time with family to weekends much of the time, plus they tend to be tired on the weekends. We are a friendly church group, but it is difficult for us to do any real outreach, so we have not grown...not yet. I still feel as I did last year that God has His timing for everything. I honestly do not know how the church makes the bills each month with the few members we have with a large mortgage, but we have been able to do so, although many of us are giving more than typical 10% tithe.

I have been in varying states of amazement about how much has changed in the past year since the 40-day fast with all the people in our church. Some changes were steady and slow. Some seemed suspended in time before shifting to fast forward. Some are still waiting for the fullness of their blessing, but can see it coming.

My husband and I may have been the only ones desiring a family/home church style service and it may not work or only work for a season, but I appreciate the willingness to attempt a differing format that is more family oriented.

~ Thank you, my Lord, for remembering prayers we have forgotten or given up on. You are truly the One and Only Amazing God! ~

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Kittens with Mittens

A kitten is the most irresistible comedian in the world. Its wide-open eyes gleam with wonder and mirth. It darts madly at nothing at all, and then, as though suddenly checked in the pursuit, prances sideways on its hind legs with ridiculous agility and zeal. ~Agnes Repplier

I have been wanting barn cats for about a year, because in June the squirrels attack my peach tree without regard to our ownership of it. I was hoping that the neighborhood cats would do as there are plenty around, but...well, there is a story behind this one.

The squirrel attacks are well calculated and strategic. I will be washing up at the kitchen sink and see one squirrel run from large trees in our neighbor's yard, through the chain link fence, and up the peach tree. After procuring his prize, it will run down the peach tree with the unripe peach in his mouth to take it back to my neighbor's yard to eat it undisturbed. Some get spooked and run into the fence with a peach too big to fit through the fencing, which can be funny. Some are wasteful, taking only a bite or two and then dropping that one to go for another. Others get rather cheeky, eating a peach right on top of the fence in plain sight or on my back deck! While one is running one way, another squirrel runs the other way so that there is back and forth traffic most of day, unless there is something to stop them.

This did not use to happen when a neighbor's cat, who used to come visiting with his mother as a kitten when we first moved here almost thirteen years ago, decided to adopt us as his primary family and visit his mother and sister two houses down whenever he liked. We called him Smoke with Mama Cat and Patch being the other two, but their real owners called them Dusty, Nyla, and Callie, respectively. They all ate at both places, but it was clear Smoke had claimed our place as his territory. At that time we had a dog who had been trained not to pester cats and was dog aggressive, which meant that any dog that dared even looked at our yard was in serious trouble. This made a lovely safe haven for the cats, once they realized they could boss around this 75 pound German Shepherd and he would chase away every dog.

This also worked so well for the peach tree that it once broke under the weight of the peaches that had not been thinned out by those rascal squirrels and a few of the unwise were brought to our steps by the triumphant Smoke. It was then that I realized that my daughter had a true curiosity about the exposed parts of animals even while the cat was continuing his meal that overrode the ick-factor for her, much like her mother and father, I suppose—that is all I am going to say on that note for those of you who are more squeamish.

Smoke loved that child and from the time the Princess could walk, he began follow her more than he would me. I was a little jealous having been his favorite previously, but they did look so adorable together.

Smoke died when the Princess was four...I cannot believe is has been six years! Patch, although not as people friendly and rarely letting us pet her, staked her claim on Smoke's vacated territory. I was happy to have see her on the back deck asking for her morning milk each day, sometimes her mother came also. This, of course, served us well as the wily squirrels continued eying the tree from afar.

Sasha, our first German Shepherd, died just over three years ago. We did not have a dog for nearly nine months. The cats noticed, but the neighborhood dogs still made a very wide berth around our property.

Then we brought home Hanah and everything changed. Hanah is very dog-friendly and chases EVERYTHING else. Included in everything are squirrels, which would be fine if she was perimeter trained as Sasha was, and, most unfortunately, cats too. Mama Cat and Patch kept their distance, but still came for the morning milk. I thought I had opened the window just enough to feed the cats and for them to get acquainted with the new dog. I had just turned and in a blink Hanah had jumped through that small opening and was off getting acquainted her own way, which was to chase the cats all over the deck in a fenzy. Thankfully the gate was closed so they could escape the deck and more thankfully Hanah did not jump over the rails as the cats had done. I just did not think she would be so agile and I forgot that she is smaller than the one we had before by 30 pounds. After that episode the cats decided that the morning raw milk was not worth the risk and stop coming completely. In fact, they run away every time they see any of us. This from cats who used to lie at my front door when they were hurt. I have missed them.

As I mentioned in a recent post, Hanah was a hyper active dog because she had been a working dog. My inside cat Jamie did not think much of her either, but then he is about fourteen years old and has outlived two dogs and another cat. He believes the house and everything in it belongs to him, but he gave Hanah some time to realize this by keeping his distance. She would still chase him, but after Jamie stood his ground a few times and her being told by me to leave the cat alone, she has settled some and does not chase him much more than any of our other dogs did in play.

With Hanah calmer and all the neighborhood cats avoiding our yard, we had the stage finally set for my plan. I wanted a bonded pair of kittens, hopefully two males. I was not too particular about the gender though, when I found out about a cheap service that does spaying and neutering with the goal of encouraging people to get feral cats fixed in our county, but the cats do not have to be feral to qualify. I had been praying about this, but every time we had an opportunity to get cats, it just did not work for one reason or another...until recently. I was getting my raw milk at the farm I usually go a few weeks ago and there were a bunch of kittens. I happened to see the farm owner and asked if he would be willing to part with two when they were old enough. He said they were nearly there, just a week or two, and to give him a call. I did call about a week later, but being a farmer, he just was busy and did not get back to me.

About a week later we were coming back from Cave Spring, not the Fishing Rodeo, but about a week before it...uh oh! I just realized as I was going to link to that post as I remember writing it but for some reason I guess it did not get posted, so I have not yet told you about our relaxing Monday off which was a comp day for my husband, our picnic lunch taking along our dog Hanah who so wanted to dive into the creek and enjoy lapping up the cold water, our stopping in the town's square for some exquisite key lime fudge and the ice cream cones on our way out. Ah, was a lovely day, but getting back to the subject. On the way home, we would be just a mile south of the farm and why don't we stop and see if they have any kittens left?

It is rare to see the farmer out near the store, but again there he was and he immediately apologized for not calling me. Yes, they had some kittens left, but they were staying cool under a trailer and the Princess and I had to practically crawl under it to get them. I did not see the gray one I hoped to get—I just have a thing for gray cats—but I never had tuxedos before and really wanted them. With another little prayer, I picked two. At the time, I thought they were from the same litter and one was just the runt, but I have been out to the farm since for milk and noticed that there were two or three mama cats that seemed related to each other and who were not too picky about which kittens could nurse. So it seems that one might have been from a later litter and perhaps should not yet have been taken from the mama. However, they are very playful with each other and are thriving. They even have hunted to nurse on Hanah when I could get her to lie down and not step on them! The kittens seem forgiving of her awkward, rough treatment and probably will not easily run off.

They have been a delight in the mornings when I take them out of their pen in the garage to play outside while I garden and care for the rabbits. We did not know their genders when we got them, being young and mostly black so we gave them names so it would not matter. I am pretty sure of their genders now...I think (but then I was wrong about one of the rabbits, which my daughter will not let me forget).

Midnight is the smaller, a female with soft, long hair and a black face yet lots and lots of white whiskers. Her front paws have just a touch of white on her toes and her back right white sock has a long black spot on the back of it. Don't let that small size and sweet face fool you though! She is the wilder of the two and sneak attacks are her game. Hidden from under the leaves of my cucumber or zucchini plants, she awaits for just the right moment to make her moves. She is always looking to pounce or climb on something and its size does not matter at all. She will climb up my pants on up to my shoulder just to bite on my braid. She is spunky.

Sharii (sha REE) is one of my made up names; I have so very many. He is the larger with a white blaze on the face and had short silky hair. He is more people oriented, although that seems to be mostly towards me. He will climb up on me also but will often sit on my shoulder while I am bent over gardening or he will climb over the gate into the rabbitry just because I am there. He has had to be saved out of the peach tree a time or two and the first time he would not leave my side until I placed them back into the pen. He is more of lover, readily purring very loudly when held, and happy to just lay on my lap...until Midnight decides his tail is too much of a temptation.

God always has such wonderful timing and I love that He does give me the things for which I prayed, even to two sweet barn cats who will not be scared off by our dog and will keep mice and squirrels out of their territory.

~ My Lord, You always amaze me in how You give just what I need even when I am not completely sure what I need. Thank you for the delight this kittens have been and will be. Please make them very good hunters, always loving, and tolerant of our dog. ~

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Just a Bit of Advice for Homeschooling Novices

So what is the difference between home schooling and home educating? You are home schooling if your children’s learning is centered around what your state, neighbor, or cousin says that they should be learning. Home educating, on the other hand, is taking the initiative to prepare a home that is rich in learning opportunities. ~Deb Deffinbaugh

I have never really liked the term "homeschooling" because it does make me think of school at home. I much prefer home education. However, "homeschooling" is a widely acknowledged term and I do use because of that.

I was reading Getting Ready…posted by Terri at Breathing Grace and remembering those same feelings when I began homeschooling... formally. Having read homeschool message boards and talked to homeschool families, I have noticed a pattern in homeschooling parents that can be described in stages, particularly when starting with young children.

First there is the homeschool fever. This affliction begins the moment a parent thinks that homeschooling is a "good idea." Excitement mounts as many books are read about learning styles, approaches, and methods. One becomes even more convinced and determined when talking with other homeschool parents and seeing their children! Eventually, the parent will gravitate to a particular approach and/or curriculum. Some might think this is the planning stage, but in reality the planning stage never ends until homeschooling ends. You will be planning for many years...planning and planning.

The homeschooling parent usually has been casually homeschooling since birth, but at some point will become more formal, at least in her mind. This is the onset of the rookie homechooling parent syndrome, with high expectations intermingled with excitement and "what if" fears. It usually takes a couple of years (or a couple of children) to wear down and realize that the shift in formality was of her own making and not really that necessary.

By the time you have become comfortable with homeschooling, you realize that is not exactly what you thought it would be. You are not doing it the way you thought you would...well, you are somewhat, but you changed some things to accommodate the child's tastes and skills as well as your lifestyle and finances. At this point, you might feel that you are not covering as much as you originally planned and yet you are pleased with how it is going. This is when you are really not homeschooling, this is when your child is learning, because you have adapted to make your approach work better. The best education a child can get is found in his desire to learn.

I like the classical approach favoring journaling and living books. I remember all the plans I had when we first started and how I read through many homeschool message boards where veterans would say to be more relaxed to newcomers with young children. Well, that was just crazy talk to me then. I thought at the time that the more we covered when she was younger, the more she would learn.

Well, she did learn to read early, but that was mostly because she desired it. I also ended up breaking my own rules on workbooks when it became obvious that she really liked anything to do with geography, but did not like writing as much because she was just five years old at the time. I thought the workbook would be a compromise to help her write short answers about something she loved where the complex spelling words would be readily available. It worked.

A year or so later, while I was concerned about her spelling and handwriting, she began journaling with drawings about everything on her own: movies we saw, books she read, Sunday School lesson, just anything! I found myself thinking things like: She cannot be journaling! She is not ready. I am not ready for her to be journaling. Isn't this what I wanted though? So what is my problem? I began to understand that my problem was that although I had trained and prepared her to journal, I was not controlling it; these were not assignments I placed on her and I felt that I should have been controlling the content and time spent. It was then that I realized, God was the One who put this desire in her and even though I did not think she was ready for it, He knew otherwise: she was. It was bit unnerving trying to come to terms with home education was not about me.

I had prayed about specific things for my daughter and God was answering those prayers. I realized then whatever I failed to teach her that she needed in God's plan, He would provide it. I have also learned that teaching some things early is helpful, but some things are also mastered faster and more efficiently when a child is older. My daughter was ahead in everything but math...and I used to tutor math, so it isn't like I don't know how to reach a child in math, but that does not mean that every child will enjoy it. I did not pray about math specifically (maybe because I thought I had it covered?), but I do now.

So, my best advice for homeschooling parents starting out is this: God has a plan for your children and He will provide what is needed for them by way of education, experiences, social interaction, and so on, especially if you are praying for them and trusting His guidance. Praying and hearing God are far more important than deciding on the approach or curriculum for educating the child He placed in your care.

~ My Lord, I am thankful for the homeschool break we took and I am getting excited about homeschooling again, making a few changes and making it work better for both of us. Thank you for Your guidance. ~

Friday, July 8, 2011

I May Need One More Week

I am thankful for a lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutters that need fixing because it means I have a home.... I am thankful for the piles of laundry and ironing because it means my loved ones are nearby.
~Nancie J. Carmody

Having two weeks off from homeschooling has been wonderful, but I did not get many things done I wished to do during that time. I admit that I might have relaxed more than I meant to do, especially the first week, but then I could not do as meant to do this week either. My weekend was going along fine until Sunday when I woke up with an all-too-familiar pain in my back. I had one of those used-to-be-common-but-now-uncommon flare-ups and without any reason. Thankfully, my husband was there to help me out of bed.

Just a few weeks ago I was simply amazed how well I was doing without any back pain at all. I fall in a horse barn onto bricks. I do serious gardening for weeks, even tackle weeds by hand with tap roots that go to Australia. (I just had to say that to tease my Aussie friend.) I moved 100 pounds of compost about two weeks ago. I lift 30 to 50 pound bags of feed for horses, rabbits, and our dog, at least one of these each week. Nothing. I go to bed one night after doing some light cleaning that day and...BAM! I cannot move with out shrieking the next morning. I was a bit better today on Monday because I found that fasting does give it a jump start in calming down the muscle spasm and I did that Sunday, but I was still restricted in what I can do without pain for a few days.

Just when I thought I was doing well with my recovery and expecting to be fully functional with just a bit of a nag left on Wednesday, my typical fasting day, I received something in the mail: It was simply an invitation to my uncle's 80th birthday party at the end of the month. There is nothing I would like to do more than to go, but there are complications. They are the kind of complications caused by unresolved issues between family members and it upset me. I love my aunt and uncle and all my cousins too much to attend and possibly cause tension. I went to my aunt and uncle's 50th wedding anniversary nine years ago and I do not want my presence to again be the cause of difficulties and heartaches for any of them.

Frustration set in as I tried to again think of how I could amend the situation so that I could go without it causing a stir, but the one person who holds the key has not talked to me in over 30 years and, to be honest, I still do not know why there is any animosity other than I took up some space in my aunt's and uncle's home and hearts, and have continued my relationship because I love and respect and genuinely enjoy them both. I so wish my cousin could and would forgive me if only for her own sake and well being. I have found that holding grudges, for whatever reason, is spiritually unhealthy and I am sad for her. I would willing bear the blame of whatever it is, if it would help her heal. Please pray for her.

I have realized, through the years, that much of my back flare-ups seem to be related to emotional upsets. Well, having something that emotionally stresses me as I am just getting over the flare-up is obviously just enough to make it worse—much worse!— again. Thursday morning I was in more pain, but I thought it would get better as I moved around, like it usually does, seemingly ignorant that I had been upset the evening before. As I was leaving for our typical errands, I was worsening and I wished I had cancelled the Princess' piano lesson. However, in the evening, I began to feel better, when I usually feel worse. This, of course was after some time in prayer and phone conversations with my husband and the Princess' godmother.

Making the final decision to not plan to attend the birthday party was both heartbreaking and releasing of the responsibility I place on myself to try to amend this relationship in which I have no control. I may try writing to her once again, since she is the one who sent the invitation and RSVP card, asking if she feels my presence at the party would cause her any aggravation, which would distress her parents and other family members.

As for today, I am feeling well enough again. How much of my house did I clean from ceiling to floor so far? I am ashamed to say just the two bathrooms...two sparkling bathrooms! I started on my bedroom before the flare-up and have not gotten back to it. The flare-ups really did me in and messed up this week so I really do need at least one more week to do some of the things I hoped to do this last week...but if I take much more than that, I may never want to start back again and the Princess may be lost forever in her make-believe worlds!

~ My Lord, please help the situation in family; let there be forgiveness and healing. Thank you for Your healing and help me to make the most of my good health with housecleaning in the next week. ~

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Book Review: The Hawk and the Dove

Love has no defenses. You only know it's love when it hurts. ~Father Peregrine in The Hawk and the Dove Trilogy

I have just finished The Hawk and the Dove Trilogy...tearfully and I am still weeping as I write this. I am ashamed to say took me twelve weeks to read the entire trilogy because of other things more pressing in my life. Having read Penelope's blog, Kindred of the Quiet Way, for some months, I can say that her stories of the monastery brotherhood have that same delicate precision in cutting to expose one's heart and sincerely test one's faith in God as I hoped and yet I still was surprised at how graciously this deed was done.

In the first two books, the monastic stories were being recounted from a mother to her child of their ancestor, who lived as one of the brothers. I have to hand it to Penelope in that she chose to write about a Benedictine abbey and how she did it. Being a woman, I honestly did not think I could relate to the setting, but there I was, right there amongst avowed men. Perhaps, these books served their purpose in drawing me in with the female element. Each chapter was a story complete in itself, which may account why I could put the book down for some days after finishing a chapter.

The third book, however, was written with more fluidity. I am not sure if I just like the style of the third better or if it was because of how the first two were written that I enjoyed the difference in the third more, but it was the third book that gripped me so that I could barely part from it. Still, without reading the first two, it certainly would have had less impact because it is in those that the reader becomes acquainted so well with the characters.

Penelope's writing is very well balanced. Well-worded descriptions of the settings and characters paint the imagination quite well, yet are more sparse when unnecessary to the occasion. It is the true-to-life humanity of her characters that will forever haunt me: the humility of Father Peregrine, the servitude of Brother Tom as his personal assistant, and their friendship, in particular.

I did not refer to any reviews of the book before I read it and I will not be giving any spoilers here, because I think the surprise of heart-wrenching and heart-warming events should be experienced in that unique intimacy between a reader and a book...and, yes, I do recommend reading this one very highly.

~ My Lord, please bless Penelope Wilcock and her amazing gift of writing, which she has chosen to use to honor You. ~