Tag Archives: learning

Under the Heavens

Yesterday at breakfast, Megan and I started discussing some of the different college courses we had taken during our years of studies. Old college days have been in thought since this weekend marked Marcia’s college graduation. Our “baby sister” now a college graduate! ūüôā

In the course of our breakfast chat, Megan and I discussed our science classes. I had taken Environmental Science (being a Business major, this was the easiest to comprehend–bonus, the shortest labs!) and Megan had taken a course from her college that was equivalent in study to my Environmental class. We both concluded that the study of rocks was not our keen interest. We ventured to other areas of nature…the oceans and heavens, and it made me think back to the last summer I lived at home (San Luis Valley), before permanently moving to Denver that Fall to finish school and work.

IMG_4951 Cosmos.

To cap off my Gen-Eds, I took several online courses from Red Rocks Community College. Besides my Humanities curriculum and online discussions, my next favorite that summer was Astronomy. Being in the science department, this also meant labs. But I didn’t mind the labs. From my parents backyard, on clear evenings with little or no moon, the heavens sparkled!! I could spend hours gazing at the stars, trying to find constellations in my Dad’s telescope or drawing the phases of the moon. One couldn’t do that living in Denver.

Growing up, we sisters would take blankets out on clear summer evenings and lay out on the grass. We would talk about life–funny stories, the little insignificantly seeming things that back then got on our nerves, fears or dreams–and stare up at the sky. I remember feeling so small…one can’t even see the whole expanse of the sky without turning your head. I know the ocean is deep, unmeasurable, but the heavens are unfathomable.

il_570xN.592181820_c2f2 Northern Lights Show.

Once in junior high, I was getting ready for bed. On summer evenings, it was typical of us to leave our windows open as to get a cool breeze and hear the outside voices of nature (my poeticness version of saying, “Hear the cows chewing the grassy fields and mooing distress-fully.”) I was closing the curtains half-way when I noticed the sky was glowing red. My first thought, “Jesus is returning!” and went into an excited panic moment. Then realized it was not, but couldn’t put my finger on what I was seeing. Still in an excited panic state, I ran downstairs (yes, I literally used to run down the stairs), and yelled, “The sky is red!!” My Chicken Little moment. Dad looked out the study-room window, but the corner of the roof blocked his view of the red, making my Chicken Little situation all the more realistic. But I persisted that he go outside. When we did, the sky was aglow! Northern Lights…right out my bedroom window. Unfathomable.

He who made the Pleiades and Orion,
    and turns deep darkness into the morning
    and darkens the day into night,
who calls for the waters of the sea
    and pours them out on the surface of the earth,
the Lord is his name.

Amos 5:8, ESV

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My Own Book Club

When my sister helped me set my Word Press account, she introduced me to the Widgets that I could apply to my page. Not wanting to overcrowd my page, I just kept to a simple format, but did apply one that linked to Goodreads. Before starting my blog, I had never heard of Goodreads. I have always loved to read, but never thought of recording my books started, finished or¬†under the “want to read” category–let alone write reviews about¬†the book¬†when I did finish.¬†I just did so in my mind. I didn’t consider books as a social activity.

At least not until this year. As I started to read more good books, I started to discuss them. Most of the time it was with Mom, as friends for me were still in Colorado. During the same week as my blood clot surgery, the ladies Bible study that I had signed up to attend had started. Missing only a few times, I got to know these women and respected their godly wisdom as I was the youngest in the group. Today, two of these ladies are now good friends. Age shows no boundaries in friendship. As Spring turned into Summer, I also started to get to know a few people in town. My friends were now more than just acquaintances. I still Skype, email, text and write letters to my dear friends in Colorado and wherever else they may reside, but having friends in the current area has been a joy.

I bring up friends (and I¬†include¬†family members in this too), because like myself, many are avid readers, love the library,¬†and don’t mind if I bring up a few good book title recommendations.¬†I decided books¬†run in my blood line. ūüôā Now,¬†I can’t tell you why I started this year to see books as social activity, but when it first started, I found that when I shared what I considered to be a good read,¬†I enjoyed¬†being able to remember what¬†I read. Sounds funny, I¬†know. But I was never good at reading¬†to remember (unless it is an exceptional read.) This¬†is¬†why I preferred final papers over final tests in school.

Now that the year is nearing its end, I am glad that I have a Goodreads account. I looked back at the books I read this year–some I liked, others not so much; some I bought, some I borrowed, some I gave away when¬†I finished; some I¬†checked out from the library, some I read in¬†a coffee shop, some I¬†finished in the car on a road trip. There are still many to enjoy, which is the point of this blog post: I will now share my year-long secret with you. Actually, it is not really a secret, but it is sort of silly so¬†I never told anyone.

In¬†March, I noticed on Goodreads that there were different polls and¬†book recommendations on the side margins.¬†I noticed one in particular–a reading challenge: how many books are you going¬†to read this year?¬†I didn’t think much on it, thought it would be fun and set my challenge: my 2013 reading challenge. 40 books.¬†I thought that was a¬†good number…not¬†too low, yet not high where I felt¬†it unreachable.¬†I was so serious about it when I first started,¬†then forgot about it all together and hardly¬†read at all during the summer. Something about students returning to campus, the thought of classes and learning and hours of studies in coffee shops got my mind refocused on enjoying book or two. On Monday I was writing a book review on Goodreads and¬†finally checked my¬†number for the challenge, as I¬†was clueless¬†of how many more books I needed in order to make my goal. According to the stats, I have read 39 books…one more to go to reach my challenge. ūüôā

The book challenge was never my motive for reading, but it encouraged me to keep reading (at the times when I remembered I even had a goal to reach.) Would I set another challenge for next year? I have thought about it. If I did, I would challenge myself to read a few more than 40–but would keep my number a secret. ūüėȬ†But I don’t think numbers are important. It is not about how much I read, but how well I read–what I discover in the text, decipher in my thoughts,¬†and share with others. That is what I consider a good read.

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Biltmore Estate (Written)

Elizabeth, as they drove along, watched for the first appearance of Pemberley Woods with some perturbation; and when at length they turned in at the lodge, her spirits were in a high flutter.

The park was very large, and continued great variety of ground. They entered it in one of its lowest points, and drove for some time through a beautiful wood stretching over a wide extent.

Elizabeth’s mind was too full for conversation, but she saw and admired¬†every remarkable spot and point of view. They gradually ascended for a half a mile, and then found themselves at the top of a considerable eminence, where the wood ceased, and the eye was instantly caught by the Pemberley House[.]

It was a large, handsome stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills[.] Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. They were all of them warm in their admiration; and at the moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something! (1)

Although I wish we were visiting England…Asheville, NC is second best choice for this quote. The scene from the novel¬†Pride and Prejudice came alive in my mind as we drove into the Biltmore Village and into the Estate entrance. Having just read this chapter the night before, I could not help but mention something aloud to everyone in the car. The drive through the wooden area to the house…though still winter brush (and occasional bamboo trees) was still beautiful. You could also picture Disney’s Beauty and the Beast as the opening scene where the Beast is still a prince–the wooded area with the castle in the background. It was something like that. ūüôā

We parked and rode the shuttle the rest of the way into the estate. (Side note–it represents excellent tourism when you are the last car to leave the parking lot, LOL.) As you entered through the gate, you see the house and being the first time for all of us, I was just amazed! I literally felt like I was in a different country (France was what I felt.) Now, I am a big fan of architecture, so the first thing I start looking at is the details of the walls of the house and the structure. We have visited the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. and there were a few similarities of style that I noticed.

We could not take long at first to soak it all in, because I had to go in and meet my interpreter. I was fortunate that she had already been to the house before and was excited to sign for the tours again (no matter how long!) We were set to go on the Butler’s Tour first, before the regular “walk through on your¬†own” house tour that had a tape you listened to and a map with some extra details. We had a few minutes to spare, so we saw the rooms where they showed the process of how the house¬†has and is being restored to maintain the history there. It was pretty fascinating, because they showed these pieces of rare artwork and how specialists use different cleaning processes and glues to put back together broken artifacts. You could never tell that anything was wrong with it at first glance! Also, they talked about the draperies and silk chairs/wallpaper. That style of rug weaving with silk is almost outdated! They talked about how they are having a¬†shop in France–that specializes in this technique–help them in this area of preservation. Because George Vanderbilt loved to travel and loved the arts, much of his collections are from overseas countries which makes the process a “world event”–or so I say. ūüôā

The Butler’s Tour was a “behind the scenes” of how the servants of the house did their duties. I found this so fascinating! I know the BBC show, Downton Abbey, is a view much from the servants point so I had a little glimpse already of how the process goes, but was still blown away at what details and professionalism that had to take place! The house is about 4 acres itself with another 8,000 acres of land otherwise. The Vanderbilt’s had more, but after George’s death, his wife–Edith–sold part of the land to the U.S. Government for a national forestry. Anyway, the house has 250 rooms and I believe 43 bathrooms. Considering the house was built in 1895-1898…43 bathrooms for that time period was A LOT!!! They had their own electricity. We saw where the coal was dumped from the main outdoors to the lower level…then saw the big furnaces. They had their own water–which they could fill up a 70,000¬†gallon swimming pool that was in the basement! There was a gym¬†(the gym had a¬†shower no¬†less!)¬†that had a hallway attached with private dressing rooms so the servants could bring down the guests clothes so they could change there. I read on a sign¬†that Mr. Vanderbilt could change his outfit as many as eight times a day for the different occasions! Best part of the basement was the bowling alley. ūüėÄ The servants would have to run and replace the pins after the ball strikes, LOL. Classic.

There was so much detail already in the house, but the Butler’s Tour was really¬†extrodinary to get even more behind the scenes! The house even had different colored walls for different meanings. The brown hall was the servant’s hall. Then as you went around closer to the bedroom entrances from the back…Mrs. Vanderbilt’s hall was a rose color.¬†The bigger picture of the house made better sense when we did the regular tour…because then¬†we knew that the doors in the bedrooms went out in the servants halls. There was also another room where the china for dinner was kept. The meals would come up from the kitchen (which was on the basement level of the house) through a dumb waiter¬†to the room. The meals were then placed on the china that¬†had been picked by the Vanderbilt’s for the evening or event happening and¬†made presentable. Then they were taken into the dining hall. The room had china up to the ceiling in cupboards! They had ladders even! Can you imagine?? That would not be¬†a job for me. ūüėÄ I thought the kitchen set ups were genius. There were three parts in separate rooms: regular food, meat, and pastry. They had a freezer and storage for their milks and cheeses. They have¬†a dairy farm there on the property so they got their milk from their own cows. Also, much of their fresh produce was from their own land/gardens.

On the house tour, there was so much to see. It was like a huge museum! ūüėÄ My favorite rooms were the banquet hall, the library, Mrs. Vanderbilt’s bedroom, and the Louis XV room. The banquet hall was designed to look like¬†a throne room from the 1500’s. It had tapestries, a massive pipe¬†organ in the loft, a triple fireplace at the other end of the room, swords hanging for display and flags, and¬†a huge oak table. The library was AMAZING! Mr. Vanderbilt loved reading, traveling, the arts. He owned 23,000 books. It literally goes to the ceiling of books! Another Beauty and the Beast moment here! Funny part is that after the books were used, they had to be compressed to fit back on the shelves. On the ceiling of the library is the painting, The Chariot of Aurora, which they took down by segments from the ceiling of the Pisani Palace in Venice. You can only tell in a few spots where the segments were cut and put back together. It was astounding. I don’t know with all George’s traveling, generous hosting and charitable events, recreational activities and family when he had time to get in that much reading but I applaud his endeavours and library!¬†ūüėÄ

Mrs. Vanderbilt’s bedroom was one of my favorites due to the colors.¬†It¬†had¬†gold walls and mostly¬†gold everywhere–the ceiling had painted textures if pale purple and a minty green color. There were¬†the silk pattern of the chairs and bed–these were part of the fabrics that France helped restore. If I were running a home magazine, I would look at this room for simplicity (even though it was super elegant designs obviously)..but the colors and the oval shape of the room…the windows. I think it would give good inspiration for ideas anyway. ūüôā And lastly, the Louis XV bedroom. It is where Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt’s daughter, Cornelia, was born. Cornelia also gave birth to her two sons there! For a baby’s room, it had quite the furnishings. My favorite part were these stairs that go down to the window…like¬†a little “sunroom” where one could sit with the baby and look out the window.

I will close with the Vanderbilt’s love of travel. We discussed it at dinner tonight, but I mentioned that¬†I found it amazing that George and Edith made relations with people as they traveled. They just did not have a love for all this historical artwork without also getting to know people of importance. For example, I do not remember who, but someone who¬†George knew personally¬†(and knew his love for art, etc) helped him get Napoleon’s¬†chess set. Yes! Isn’t that great! ūüôā We got to see it too! Also, George was very fascinated with Japan. I read there that he and his cousin spent a while over in Japan touring and getting art work. He had an ancient¬†samurai warrior armor and swords. I also saw the invitation where the Emperor of Japan invited Mr. Vanderbilt personally to his birthday celebration while he was still in Japan. What an honor. The Vanderbilt’s were also very charitable people. They helped fund¬†a school library, a church, and other needs for education. They shared their love for learning and the arts.

This history just fascinated me. We spent 10 hours at the Biltmore Estate. Let’s say the next day, my left ankle was swollen and I was incredibly sore from all the stairs, but it was worth it!!! ūüėÄ I decided I would like to visit in every season: we got “winter”…but I have heard Christmas is spectacular!! The tree is in the banquet hall–that ceiling is 70 feet tall!!! It would be so beautiful to see the gardens and do the outdoor activities in the spring/summer and then the tree colors and harvest in the fall. Whenever I get back, I am sure I will always see something new and exciting! I recommend a trip to Asheville, NC if you¬†are ever¬†at loss for a vacation idea.¬†I can think of nothing better than ending spring break in this way. ūüėÄ

Pictures in the next post…

References:

(1) Austen, Jane. Illustrated by Hugh Thomson. Pride and Prejudice.¬†Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc. 2005. Pages 301-302. (Have you ever noticed on classic novels¬†that after the recent publication date, it says something to this extent: “This Dover edition [is] an unabridged republication of the work origionally published in 1894 by George Allen, Ruskin House, 156 Caring Cross Road, London.” Brilliant!)

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A pleasant day, indeed!

Today was refreshing. Got to do some laundry, organize my paper clutter of bills and things to do (while getting things done in the process) and I even got to go to the town’s public library. ūüėÄ It was the first time that I stepped foot in there and I thought it was a very studious library! It is not very large, but it presents an adventurous atmosphere of learning, especially for children. I even got a county library card and can’t wait to put it to good use–guess I need to finish the books I have already started!

I am a funny person when it comes to reading books. I think it reflects my personality. I read at least two books at a time; right now I am reading three. Might seem silly, but unless it is absolutely captivating (such as Safely Home by Randy Alcorn or I Still Believe by Jeremy Camp), then I like to switch off and on with books–reading a few chapters a day out of one book and switch to another book the next day. I see this pattern in the way that I go about completing projects or “to do” lists. Some people might say my jumping from one subject or task to another is the same as being distracted. Possibly so, but I like to think of it as following a train of thought, so to speak. Even when I talk in a conversation, the subject at hand will remind me of something else, so I say what I am thinking and then return back to the original conversation. Of course, if I think too fast–I forget my train of thought and then say, “Where was I going with this?” ūüėĬ†Relating back to books–see how I am following my train of thoughts, ;)–reading ignites a path for learning. My brain loves learning! However, I am about as picky with my book preferences as I am with my vegetables. I am getting better; as I grow older, I see that my preferences are starting to broaden in what I enjoy reading and even what veggies I eat. ūüôā

What kinds of books do you like to read? There are so many aspects of literature: fiction, autobiographies, biographies, history, philosophy, theology, sports, science fiction, ¬†poetry, drama, folktales and myths. fantasy…the list goes on and on!! Thomas Jefferson had a personal library of over 200 books! We saw part of his collection in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.! I own 2 bookshelves and try to keep my books organized, but somehow I never put them back in the same spot. Jefferson had his library completely organized in relating to what subject the book was about and even had the sections labeled. For example, “Mathematics”, “Philosophy”, “Science” and “Theology” are a few of what I remember he had labeled. There were so many subjects presented! Jefferson once told John Adams in a letter,

“I cannot live without books; but fewer will suffice where amusement, and not use, is the only future object.”

Cappon, Lester J. ed. The Adams-Jefferson Letters. Chapel Hill NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1959. Monticello, Home of Thomas Jefferson, 1988. Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc. March 30, 2012 <http://www.monticello.org/site/jefferson/i-cannot-live-without-books-quotation&gt;.

[*A really fascinating website! We visited Monticello when I was in junior high. Very rare piece of history and another favorite is George Washington’s Mount Vernon!]

If you have not noticed by now, history is one of my favorite subjects! If you want statistics, I would say that probably eight out of every ten books that I own is about history. I find any period of history an enjoyment to learn more about and study! (Which is another thing that I am excited for in using my library card: documentaries! :D) I also enjoy biographies, classic works of theology or philosophy and of course, any other books considered to be “timeless classics.” Right now a few classics on my list to read are Utopia¬†by Sir Thomas More, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Moby Dick by Herman Melville and The Arabian Nights: tales from a thousand and one nights by Sir Richard Burton. A few of my favorites already read are A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Confessions by St. Augustine of Hippo.

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, but this year I told myself that I would like to see more time spent reading. After I got out of the hospital from the blood clot, I had to sit a lot with my feet up. I read A TON! I finished three books and started a few more! It was so relaxing!

Even Muffy was relaxed! ūüėÄ I find now that my physical body is back to a more normal status, my time is now back to a “busy body” schedule. I miss sitting for hours reading, but at the same time I am very thankful that I don’t have to sit for hours and can get out to enjoy the warm weather–hard to balance between the two. I could read outside I guess. ūüôā Speaking of the outdoors, I must go. It is a lovely evening and I get to spend it with my Dad. More to come…

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