Thursday, July 4, 2013

Book Review: Quiet by Susan Cain

I first heard about Quiet on NPR, and as soon as I heard the byline ("The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking"), I knew this was a book I needed to read. I don't want to make this into a sob story or anything, but I remember feeling like there was something wrong with me as a teen and young adult because when it came to meeting new people or going to a big party, I would rather stay home...with a book. Even today, I'll take a book over most social gatherings.
Then, when I took the Myers-Briggs personality test in college, I realized this was because I'm an introvert.
Still, I don't think I ever really felt comfortable in my introversion. The world seems to be an extrovert's place, where you need to speak quickly and loudly to be heard, and where those who put themselves forward most audibly get furthest. And I knew that wasn't me.
So, when I heard about this book that explored how introverts' brains work, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how they can and should contribute their ideas to society...well, I had to read it.

At the beginning, Susan Cain clearly defines the difference between introversion and extroversion (which should be viewed as a continuum, I learned). At the most basic level, it boils down to the level of stimulation they prefer: most extroverts prefer the greater stimulation that comes with interacting with new people and tackling great obstacles or adventures; most introverts prefer the smaller stimulation that comes with quiet conversation with a close friend or listening to music or pursuing a hobby (like reading a book!). 
Susan Cain uses a wealth of statistics, psychological research, historical and current data, and information about our past and current economic and political figures to prove her point: that America does value extroverts as the ideal type, but that introverts, while quiet, have an important place. Indeed, she posits that if introverts continue to undervalue themselves, they will rob the world today and in the future of their ideas. For while it is the extroverts who often sell great ideas and make sure they are available to the public, Cain persuades the reader that it is introverts who often come up with these ideas in the first place. She proves her point with name upon name upon name of figures in ancient and recent history, as well as modern times. (Guess which of these were introverts: Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, W.B. Yeats, Chopin, J.M. Barrie, Dr. Seuss, Charles Schultz, J.K. Rowling, Steven Spielberg) (all of them!)
It is not just the world of ideas that Cain covers in this book, though. She also discusses the nature of introversion, the role of temperament and family, and how to live and work with both extroverts and introverts.
It was an affirming read and an engaging one. It made me think hard about who I am and what I should do with my gifts and talents, and it affirmed that there is nothing wrong with preferring to spend an evening reading quietly with my family than at a loud party.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


For Father's Day this year, Clint said he wanted to visit the local bird sanctuary. He built me a window feeder for Mother's Day, and we've all enjoyed watching birds and noting their greatly varied personalities. It was a muggy day, but the skies were clear, and we headed out after church and lunch.

Jared came prepared. I don't think he knew exactly what a bird sanctuary was because when we got out of the car, he asked, "Where are all the other people with THEIR birds?" Good question.

We did find several spots like this, where turtles (maybe snapping turtles?) had either hatched someone's lunch.

Jonah's eagle eyes spotted this placid leopard frog.

The trails were well maintained, but infested with mosquitoes. In fact, we saw (or felt) many, many more of these winged folk than we did birds. However, we took a scenic route out to visit my parents and saw lots of birds along the way, which the boys cheerfully pointed out from the comfort of the air-conditioned, mosquito-free back seat.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Graduation Tea Party

Lauren has always loved simple things, beautiful things, and when she mentioned wanting a tea party for her graduation open house, I jumped at the idea. We set out to design a comfortable, low-key open house that would allow us time to mingle with our guests and not feel like we had to constantly rush around refilling bowls and platters. We wanted simple food and simple decorations. These are some pictures from the day. The weather was perfect--sunny and not too warm--and we had a lovely time.

We set up the food in stations. So, there was a savory table with finger sandwiches, a selection of cheeses, and pickles and olives.

Lauren and her grandma, and of course, Jared had to jump in...

We hung balloons from the tree in front of the house and set out blankets on the lawn for seating. I thought about renting tables and chairs, but I decided to do this instead. Jared placed card games and photo albums on each blanket.

We wanted to use fresh, whole fruit instead of cutting it all up into a fruit salad. There wasn't much left! This table was a big hit.

We had three drinks: iced black tea with berries, water with slices of lemons and limes, and Clint's homemade sweetened mint tea from mint grown on our property. His tea is so refreshing and yummy! We ran out of that!

This is the sweets table before anyone arrived. The long, thin wafer cookies were a huge hit. Everything else was homemade: pizelles, molasses cookies, shortbread cookies flavored with lime, miniature chocolate chip cookies, and pecan balls.

On the invitations, we invited guests to dress up, and several of them did! It was fun to see who took the extra effort...and it made for lovely pictures.

About two hours after the last guests left, we had cleaned up and the guys found a comfy spot for a nap. It was a lovely day for a very lovely girl.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Tutorial: Embroidered Pendant

I started playing around with embroidery this winter after falling in love with this book. After some practice, I stumbled across a shop on Etsy that sells embroidered initial pendants. They were expensive, though, and I thought I could probably make one of my own. I ordered three pendant blanks here at this shop, and then I began sketching some designs.

After considering my sketches, I settled on the little badger with a flower. Who doesn't love sweet badgers, especially when they're wearing aprons? 

The next step was deciding on a color scheme. Now, I know badgers are supposed to be black and grey, but I didn't have any black DMC thread at the time, and I couldn't take the time to run to the store. I wanted to get started right away! So, this little badger was going to be brown with a honey colored stripe down her nose. I was pretty sure she wouldn't mind.

Then I traced my design to the fabric and began to stitch. I used white Kona cotton, a very soft, densely woven fabric, for this project.

After I had finished embroidering my design, I traced the shape of the pendant backing on my fabric, cut the shape, allowing an extra 1/4" all the way around to fold the edges under, and ran a long basting stitch around the design, following the marks I had traced for the shape of the pendant.         

Then, I gathered positioned a small piece of white flannel directly behind my embroidered design, placed the backing piece on top of that, and then drew up my basting stitches. After that, I placed the entire piece inside the pendant frame, put the back piece in place, and bent the metal edges down to hold it in place in the back.

This is the finished pendant. It turned out pretty well, but I do think I'd like her better if she were black. And maybe if her nose weren't so bulbous. Still, it was a good first attempt. I like the pendants I ordered well enough, but I do wonder if the embroidered initial pendants I first fell in love with on Etsy use pendant blanks that are of a better quality. These are good, but not great. They were only three dollars, though, and if I consider the cost of my other materials--very minimal--it was a pretty inexpensive project.