Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Knowledge Seekers Delight

This week I thought I would write a little about a couple of great programs for any knowledge seekers out there. I discovered MOOC's (Massive Open Online Courses) this past summer and I have really enjoyed participating in them. I use two different sites to take classes, and I like them both.

Future Learn offers classes from European universities:

Coursera offers classes from American universities:

They offer classes in any and everything you can think of, from the arts to the sciences to math, human interest, health, and history. They also offer classes in hobbies/interests. My favorites are literature, history, and writing, but I also enjoyed a forensics class about how to identify a body. I took one about historical fiction literature and several authors gave guest lectures to watch, I enjoyed those very much. They were very open and informative about their writing processes, gave good tips to aspiring writers, and I found some new books to read. Another class I took was how to identify some of the constellations in the night sky, I thought it was a lot of fun and enjoy being able to pick some of them out when I look up into the sky.

When taking a MOOC you watch lectures by university professors, and interact with other people from all over the world interested in learning about the same subject you are interested in. You can sit right in your own home and work on them when you have the time, and at your own pace. The best part about them though, is they are FREE!! That's right, free! You just go to the site, create an account, start browsing classes, and Wah are ready to learn anything you wish, magic!
If you are some one who loves to soak up new things, and consider yourself a knowledge seeker...check them out!!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks...Review

Years of Wonders

Geraldine Brooks

Copyright 2001

This novel had a lot to say about human nature, and Geraldine Brooks did a good job saying it. It was set in a small, simple village in England in 1666-67 full of hard working, God fearing people of around 300 in numbers. When the Plague suddenly hits their village, first showing up on the tailor that boards at the main character, Anna's house, the town's people are scared. The story of how the minister of the town, Mr. Mompellion, is able to talk it's people into signing an oath not to leave but to band together, quarantine themselves, until the Plague leaves them, and how they handle the consequences there after is the central story. Most villages that were hit with the Plague at this time would see their inhabitants run far and wide to get away from it's Plague seeds. Every family save one stayed in this village, helping each other, but also turning on one another, as one by one their friends and neighbors started coming down with the deadly disease.
     The rhythm of this novel ebbed and flowed for me. Sometimes there was suspense, even horror, but other times it was dull and I had to push myself to keep reading. As it was focused on an entire village there were a lot of names and characters introduced, I found I had a hard time keeping up with who they all were, or really having any feeling for them as I never got to know them. The main premises of the story is based on a real village from the same time period that did the very same thing. The author imagined what it must have been like to go through the fear and loss they were subjected to. I thought she did a good job, I liked Anna, the story is told through her eyes. I could see how all the things she wrote about people, and how even the best people can turn ugly when faced with death, could happen.
     I would recommend this book for anyone who enjoys historical fiction, marveling at what humans could be capable of doing to one another, and doesn't mind some slow spots. At 300 pages in length it is a short easy read. Geraldine Brooks is one of the authors I saw lecture for a class I took, she was my favorite of the five. She also has other fiction books I plan to try in future, and some nonfiction books about her time as a war correspondent in the Middle East that I look forward to reading. If you are interested in reading a novel of the Plague, pick this one up!



Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Secret Garden

In 1936 Douglas Chandor and his wife Ina Kuteman started a garden on their private estate in Weatherford, Texas. Douglas was a successful portrait artist, painting U.S. Presidents and Queen Elizabeth among many others. He designed and planted most of the garden himself, as well as did a lot of the stone and brick work. He added many intricate details, had sculptures and pieces brought in from  far away lands, and incorporated both English and Chinese motifs throughout the garden.

Mr. Chandor worked on it until his death in 1953. It, and their gorgeous home are now open to the public to tour. To say they are beautiful is an understatement. The garden is magical, every little detail brings forth bursts of imagination and wonder. The history and it's location hidden back in an historic neighborhood make it feel very secret, like a treasure buried for the lucky humans whom chance to find it.
Wild Thing One and I decided to visit the secret garden this week, it was our third visit since discovering it several years ago. The artist's spirit and love for his wife are still very much alive in every nook and cranny of the property. We find ourselves in awe as we bask in the peace and tranquility of a living wonderland.
The Bowling of our favorite features.
Through the magic keyhole (actually called "Moon Gate").
Door to Neverland
What's in here?
Perfect little nook to stop and read awhile. Can you spot the door the garden fairies use?
WT One and I had a lovely, memorable day in the warm Texas weather enjoying nature's gifts, painted into the earth by the hands of an artist from the past for us to enjoy in the present. We can't wait to go back!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright...Review


The Dollhouse Murders

Betty Ren Wright

Copyright 1983

The Dollhouse Murders was one of my VERY favorite books when I was a child, Betty Ren Wright did a terrific job of writing a spooky tale for kids that still gave me chills as an adult. I picked it up a few weeks ago and decided I was going to read it again as a lot of the details had become fuzzy. It did not disappoint.
     Amy is a 12yo girl who just wants to hang out with her friends. Her sister, Louann, has Downs Syndrome and is always embarrassing her, Amy is tired of having to watch after her. So, she walks to her great grandparents house to get away for awhile and visit her aunt who is staying there cleaning it out. The old house is out in the country and has an attic full of junk her aunt is slowly combing through. When Amy goes into the attic she finds a beautiful dollhouse that is an exact replica of her great grandparents house. Every last detail is the same, the furniture, the dishes, the d├ęcor, even the dolls. The dolls are tiny and intricate,  there is a man, woman, teenage girl, and small boy. Her aunt tells her that she and Amy's father moved in with their grandparents when they were young, after their parents were killed in an accident. Aunt Clare was 15 and Amy's father had been 1yo. Her grandmother had made her the dollhouse, painstakingly recreating every detail. Amy falls desperately in love with the dollhouse, and Aunt Clare invites her to stay with her for a few days to get a break from Louann. Amy jumps at the chance, but then strange things start to happen in the dollhouse, the dolls start to move places when no one was there to move them, it is open when Amy knows she shut it, lights come on inside and she hears noises from it at odd times. Amy researches her great grandparents death at the library and finds out they were murdered many years before when her father was 5yo, he was found by the police asleep in a closet. Who murdered them? How are the dolls in the dollhouse moving? What are they trying to tell Amy with their movements? These, and more, are questions Amy has to figure out the answers to throughout the book.
     I still have my original copy of this book with my name written inside. The eldest wild thing read it when she was younger and loved it also. It is 149 pages and simple to read, but so creepy you can't put it down. I found myself wishing it were an adult book as I read it this time so there would be more to read, but it is definitely a great read for kids. It wasn't too gruesome or scary, it was just right for the age group it targets. I would recommend this little gem to anyone who likes a good spooky page turner!


Thursday, March 3, 2016

Little Free Library

At different times over the past several years, as I was perusing the internet or social media, I would see pictures or read posts about a "Little Free Library". What?! Little. Free. Library. Those are all such wonderful words! They always looked so cute and inviting too! What a great concept. Different people were spotting them in all different kinds of places across the U.S. I wanted to see one! I hadn't though, I kept thinking someday I was going to find one, or one was going to find me.
      Then, completely unexpected, as the fam and I were walking around in a random neighborhood in Denver to kill a little time before our flight home one appeared! Eeeeeeeeeeeek! Wild thing one and I were SO excited!! It just popped out at us. It was adorable and we were so excited for our wish of running across one to have finally come true. I looked them up after our random siting, for I never had before because I wanted it to be a surprise when we saw one. You can look up a map of where they are, but I like magical surprises. It really is a fun concept, if I lived in a bigger neighborhood I would love to have one myself.

One of the people interviewed on Humans of New York was a cute little 93yo lady and she said, "If you force yourself to go outside, something wonderful always happens!" I couldn't agree more!!!

Read Outside!