Gratitude & Glories: Mid~year Reading Favorites, Bookishness, and Other Ramblings

“One can pour something divine into every situation.”

Frank C. Laubach

Hello Dear Hearts,

Happy Saturday to you! I decided to do a little different post this month for my Gratitude & Glories post – combining a multitude of lovely things, The Simple Woman’s Daybook, with the things I’ve read so far this year that are sticking with me like molasses. I may touch on what I’m currently reading and other little rambling tidbits, but I want to stay close to the wonderful words that have been gifted to me through these past few months.

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The Simple Womanโ€™s Daybook

Looking out my window ~ I’ve been basking in the glorious wind-waving landscape and warmth on my face. Part of my enjoyment is the words that whisper right alongside as I contemplate the expansiveness that warm weather brings. It’s truly a seasonal addition to one’s homeplace. My friend Heather lent me the lovely book The Lay of the Land by Dallas Lore Sharp and I’ve been just diving into it in small dips because I don’t want it to end. This is my first by him and it won’t be my last! Do you enjoy naturalist type memoirs? One of my favorite genres. Another book that I’ve had to really focus on, but finding rewarding if I’m patient is Lost in Wonder: Rediscovering the Spiritual Art of Attentiveness by Esther de Waal.

I am Thinking and I am Thankful ~ I’m in love with Hollyhocks and am constantly staring at them and so thankful for them. A little watering and extra TLC in the beginning and the second year they come all friendly-like in their glory. I’ve been thinking a lot about many things, but mostly about stillness and faithfulness and love. I recently finished Kohila: The Shaping of an Indian Nurse by Amy Carmichael. One of the most beautiful, convicting reads for my faith and my mission as a wife, mother, homeschooler, writer, woman, and friend. It’s a bit ramble-ly, but richly rewarding if you put a little fortitude and focus into it. I took pages of quotes into my Commonplace. Along the same vein, I finished Letters by a Modern Mystic by Frank C. Laubach and it was wonderful and unique and so thought-provoking. Living moment by moment, habitually turning one’s thoughts and heart to the Lord. June is my birthday month and I received This Beautiful Truth: How God’s Goodness Break into our Darkness by Sarah Clarkson and I’m only a few chapters in and I am LOVING it. I may purchase a few copies as Christmas gifts for dear women that I love.

One of my Favorite things, what I’m Wearing, and Creating ~ I reread Wendell Berry’s The Mad Farmer Poems this month and man, I love them SO much. I highly recommend them! I’m looking for a copy to purchase soon. They are a favorite. I’ve been loving skirts and dresses and I can’t tell you the satisfaction I get from the wind whipping them about my ankles as I walk barefoot or with my lovely, new sandals to get the post. I inked some words last week on my fiction and I finally organized a whole mess of notes and things for the fiction projects I’m working on. I know deeply that I just need to write and I’ve been reading James Scott Bell’s book Just Write: Creating Unforgettable Fiction and a Rewarding Writing Life and it’s telling me the same thing. I still slowly working on here and there my prereading and nature journal and that is bringing me lots of joy.

I am Watching, Reading, and Listening ~ I watched my two birthday gifts with some of my children, my favorite version of Little Women (I did not care for the new one ๐Ÿ˜ฆ ) and Whispers of the Heart, about creativity. I’m slowly reading Jordan B. Peterson’s book Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life and I like it more than the first, if that’s possible. So thought-provoking! I may not see eye-to-eye on him with everything, but I love how he makes me think. I’m almost half way through Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens and slowly moving forward with my oldest two on Great Expectations. Next up will be David Copperfield. I was so happy to find thrifting a book I’ve been wanting to read called Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford and it opened out so well and interesting. I’ve been loving receiving handwritten magazine from a lovely friend in Tennessee about mothering and life and bookishness. It’s a highlight to my month. I’ve been listening mainly to Japanese Instrumental Music and Native Flutes and they have been so peaceful and lovely, paring so well with the weather and languid days of summer.

I’m Hoping, In the Garden, and I’m Learning ~ I’m hoping to find a delightfully deep and detailed fiction read yet this summer. Any suggestions? I like a bit of romance, domesticity, details, spiritual themes, family, mystery, and nature, and I prefer clean, which takes out a lot of modern titles. I’ve tried quite a few and haven’t found any that I REALLY love yet this year. And I’ve read a lot! Surprisingly, this has been, so far, the year of good non-fiction for me. The garden is producing little surprises here and there and I’m especially excited for the sunflowers and other small things. Days of small things are big, indeed. I was excited to see a Raven recently when my husband and I traveled to a funeral (yes, sort of deliciously creepy, I know) because I haven’t ever identified one near our home. We have American Crows, but not Ravens regularly. I’m still learning to continually reorder my affections back into the proper order of Truth & Love. Habits and rhythms that keep me sane and focused help my scatterbrained self. It’s hard, but so worth it. I’m rereading Bright Line Eating: The Science of Living Happy, Thin, and Free by Susan Pierce Thompson with friends and it’s so interesting and helpful. I’m loving Zechariah and Romans right now in The Holy Bible.

For the eternal substance of a thing never lies in the thing itself, but in the quality of our reaction towards it.

Amy Carmichael

Open Letter to my Saturday Self ~

You can’t sit around thinking. You have to sit around writing.

David Long

Dear Saturday and all my friends,

How are you? Just thought I’d check in and share some heart whispers…

“I’m not sure I can write. The well feels dry. I have nothing to say,” I whine.

“You just have to sit down and start. I feel the same way when starting a sermon sometimes. But once I start, the things I need to say start coming,” he encouraged.

My husband shared this with me recently and it’s one of those things I know, but don’t know. He has been longsuffering as he listens to my lamenting. The official homeschool books have been shut with a slightly dusty bang for a few weeks now, but our learning goes ever on in other ways. My little bit of a green thumb has been poking and prodding in the soil, seeds in and watered, the local lake has had a dip of toes or oar once or twice, and the hammock never lacks for company. Hay fields smell richly fragrant, that warm, freshly baked, right out of the oven smell breathed deeply in, drifting through our open Prius windows as we zip around, errands and farm part pickups with above said hubby. Sigh, ’tis a blessed country life. We’ve gotten piles of treasure from our local library, delicious gems for our hearts and minds, I’ve been enjoying the time to dip into my stacks, curled in the hammock or big, chocolate, fluffy new-to-us arm chair. I especially am loving Letters by a Modern Mystic by Frank C. Laubach, which is challenging my prayer and thought life.

My homeschool planning has begun in earnest, to have a more realistic look as I prayerfully peruse and pick, starting with our home library, books for next autumn. All privileges’ I love to do for the lovely people I’m parenting. I start with massive ideas and book lists and weed it down to a workable plan as the summer burns down to a simmer. I hope to have a rough sketch before I head on a lovely homeschool retreat with my sister next month. I’m finding mornings crucial to my heart aim for each day – to set the day and needs of all who I love at the foot of a Cross, a bath of love flowing over it all. A constant reworking and reordering of a woman’s heart and affections each morning…it’s so easy to feel weight. Weight of our world and my work, as a wife, mother, and follower of The Way. Jesus, The Way, The Truth, and The Life.

My writing has been frozen – not sure why the pause has been pushed, recently, although I’m starting to suspect. My health is so much better now after making changes a year and a half ago, my sleep is a bit better, and I’m getting down time in, with plenty of reading, nature, and inspiration. My suspicion is this: my Baggins self is snuggled down deep into its lazy, second breakfast self and is continuingly stuffing the Tookish voice whispering of tales and adventure to be had at the end of my quill, writing my heart out as I journey alongside all you other pilgrims. Journeying is hard work, but oh, the rewards! How do you find yourself currently? As the summer sun sunkisses our hearts and souls, I know I’m storing that warmth to bring out in February, and I’m trying to kick myself into a gratitude posture. One that shares all the abundance I’ve been given. Because that’s what art is to me, a gift to myself and to others, if I’m willing to put in the heart and ink work. How are your summer starts? In home, garden, heart, or creative digging deep? How is this deeply rich and satisfying season of growth, warmth, and light shining light on your life? I’d love to continue this conversation with YOU. โค Please share what book you’ve loved recently, or project, or ANYTHING below!

2021 Anticipated New Fiction Release Reads

I met Cathy in a Facebook writing group and she was one of the kindest, most encouraging people I’ve met. Just always ready with an encouraging word! I can’t wait to read her debut, The Recorder!
I’ve enjoyed following Emily’s Instagram account and I LOVED reading her recent collection of short stories, The Rivers Lead Home and Other Stories, and I’m looking forward to this King Arthur/Western mashup, These War Torn Hands. I preordered this for Kindle!
I’ve enjoyed Reay’s stories over the years! I love her Jane Austen-ish retellings especially. Dear Mr. Knightly being my favorite. I’m not a HUGE historical romance reader, but I was intrigued by her The London House out this autumn, so I preordered it for Kindle.
I read the first in this series and due to Novik ending it with a HUGE cliffhanger (thanks a lot ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), now I have to read this one. Ha. This is kind of a Hunger Games/Harry Potter for older teen mashup. Pretty violent, but very creative. Hopefully, this will be a good conclusion to the duology ?. I probably will get this from the library.

What books are you anticipating this year? I don’t read very much new, modern fiction releases as I’m pretty picky and just love my older stuff! So I’m crossing my fingers on these. I most nervous about The Last Graduate, hopefully it stays generally clean and has good character development.

Gratitude & Glories: {April & May}

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The Simple Woman’s Daybook

Hello dear friends! I certainly had no idea I’d take TWO months off from this little corner. Having friends over, house guests, a family wedding, graduating my FIRST baby *waaa!, and just trying to finish out our homeschool year strong lent for quiet on the blog front. I’m back, though, and inspired by my friend, Kim, and just refreshed from the first month or so of my summer Instagram break, I feel up to the challenge to share here a bit more. Here is a post to record and share what we’ve been up to this spring!

For April/May 2021

Looking out my window… despite one fluke night of freezing temperatures (where my procrastination on the garden came in handy…*wink,wink*), our weather has been GLORIOUS. Low humidity, 70’s & 80’s, sunshine, blue & white fluffy skies, and enough rain for a brilliant green carpet. Wisconsin is a delightful state, minus February. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I am thinking…ย about a lovely generous gift from an online friend. I was able to attend Art History classes and discussions via Zoom the last four weeks. We finished last night and I really enjoyed them! Check out Rachel Magdalen Drennen’s site here to enjoy her beautiful work and look at her upcoming classes.

I am thankful…ย for the anticipation each night as I lay my head on my pillow for my morning prayer time with coffee, Bible, journal, and books.

One of my favorite things… our “teepee” trellis that we are attempting this year. My oldest son and I made it out of tree branches, beans, morning glories, and cucumber plants. Hopefully, the plants will grow up the strings and branches to create a fun canopy for my children to play in! ๐Ÿ™‚ I keep you updated on it’s progress.

I am wearing… I’ve been wearing gardening clothing for this past week, but I’m so excited to wear my a new black & white striped skirt and soft black t-shirt I picked up thrifting as well as my other skirts (I’m not much of a shorts gal). Also my new copper colored Carhartt overalls which I used some gift money to finally get. I just roll up the bottoms and wear with a fun shirt, different shoes, and earrings.

I am creating…ย I’ve been writing some cards for pen pals, writing faithfully in my gratitude/prayer journal, and I started a new project inspired by Celeste from Joyous Lessons and The CMEC. I was delighted in April to get away with some other Charlotte Mason moms and I got to listen to some of these sessions. Anyway, I was so inspired, I’ve started a combo journal for pre-reading my older children’s school books this summer, quotes, and nature sketches. I’ve already begun and I’m loving it SO much. It makes me a wee bit nervous to see how much reading I’ve set up for myself, but I really think it will help narrations and discussions in the autumn when school starts up. I may share some photos of this journal. I didn’t write ANYTHING on my fiction project in May. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I did get some words down in April, but my goal would be to hit 20,000 words by the end of June. Hold me to it, would you? ๐Ÿ˜‰

I am watching…some Youtube random things. I hope to watch the new Little Women movie soon with my daughters. Have you seen it? Is it good? Anything fantastic you’ve watched recently? I honestly don’t watch a ton, because my gigantic bookstacks call me so loudly!

I am reading… I read a lot in April and May, to my kids and for myself! We loved reading Petook together for Easter and a favorite around Mother’s Day is My Mother is the Most Beautiful Woman in the World. The Enola Holmes Series was a fun Middle Grade read for me, albeit a letter in the last book irritated me so much! HA! I reread Emily Climbs and Jane of Lantern Hill by dear L.M. Montgomery and sigh. LOVE. My favorite non-fiction reads were Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson, and Present Perfect: Finding God in the Now by Greg Boyd. All three are full of lovely ideas and encouragement! I started a Middle Grade Harry Potter-ish series called Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo. So far, the second book has been my favorite! Beneath the Haunting Sea by Joanna Ruth Meyer is a very lovely, creative fantasy for my fellow speculative fiction readers. In the Holy Bible, I’ve worked through the end of Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel. Luke, John, and now into Acts, too. I’m attempting a Charles Dickens Project and I’m hoping to read all 15 of his novels. I’ve only read Bleak House as A Christmas Carol is considered a novella. No time frame, just to keep up constantly till I’m finished. So far I’m reading Great Expectations with my oldest two over the summer, slowly Martin Chuzzlewit, and I have to read David Copperfield for our Charlotte Mason Highschool Literature class I’m facilitating this autumn.

I am listening to… not much! I do listen to BTS kpop HA! when doing dishes occasionally and I’ve loved this song lately to meditate on.

I am hoping…to write more this month. I’m planning weekly word count goals. Just to keep moving forward. I have two writing friends who I check in with on Voxer and I have a monthly Zoom writing group to help. I have quite a few things to do for my daughter’s graduation party in August, so need to keep moving on those plans. I was so inspired by this post by Kourtney here and am thinking of incorporating this with my writing and journaling.

In the garden…ย hoping to go to an Amish greenhouse soon to round out some things I’d like to add. I have some seeds to get in the ground, too. I’m definitely moving slow getting things in, but am excited! ๐Ÿ™‚

I am learning…ย to rest when I need too and not to hide or binge on things when I’m feeling misunderstood, exhausted, or overwhelmed. I tend to overeat, over consume media, or spend money INSTEAD of dealing with things or just getting sleep. I really need to grow in this area.

Wood Anemone – early spring nature adventures!

In the homeschool room…ย we’ve officially closed the books on 2020/2021 Willow Tree Academy! WOOHOO! My first graduate, too! Overall, it was a great year. I’m starting planning already for next because I’m more realistic right after we’ve finished. We have two read alouds to finish this summer and we will be continuing The Chronicles of Narnia reread.

Shared Quote

๏ปฟ

This is the road of self-indulgence, and whenever we have to justify anything we do to ourselves by saying, ‘There’s no harm in it,’ we may be pretty sure we are on the downward grade.

Charlotte Mason, Volume 6, Book 1, p. 194

Some moments from my day {month}...

We made maple syrup this year for the first time!
My oldest son worked so hard! It was a long process, but a lot of fun.

Gratitude & Glories: {February & March 2021}

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The Simple Woman’s Daybook

Happy Good Friday! โค We must endure the darkness to see the light! โค Hold on, Love is making a Way!

For February/March 2021

Looking out my window… February was gray and temperamental. We got a big snowstorm early in the month that dumped 8” on us. Good ‘ole northern midwest. I confess February is a hard month weather wise for me, dreary and dark. Dear March, thank you for rescuing us from February. ๐Ÿ™‚ March brought hints, whispers of loveliness to come…the trilling of Red-Wing Blackbirds, daffodil spears poking up, and crocus smiling up at us. We had some lovely warm days and some shockingly cold ones that make the warm ones all the more sweet. The first day of Spring was another gift of March and we’ll take hope in any way we can get. The end of March brought Robins, too, rain, and deep, delicious, rich loamy smells, and the spring peepers are serenading us from the pond at night. I won a Snow-Drop plant on IG and can’t wait for NEXT spring to see it bloom!

I am thinking…ย about SO much. I’ve been reading massive amounts and watching rather too much Youtube. Ha. I took the last couple of weeks off of Instagram and it’s been lovely to immerse myself in my library book stack and interesting ideas via Youtube. A booktuber that I love over there is Chantel at An Intentional Life and a silly, but interesting one that is a sort of mashup between goofy pop culture and classical music is TwoSetViolin. If you want to stretch your brain, here are a couple of mind-blowing channels: DarkHorsePodcast and Jordan B. Peterson. I don’t love EVERYTHING that comes out of these channels, but if you listen when scrubbing mounds of dishes, you may come out with something to mentally chew on and feed you.

I am thankful…ย for my hubby, who has been working SO hard to get the new-to-us wood burner working properly and breathe a little life into our tired vehicles. He also is sending me on THREE different little getaways this year. One related to my health and two for inspiration related to our Charlotte Mason home educating. So lovely and such a blessing! I’m so thankful for the weather turning, life springing forth, and for the Resurrection. Such an amazing and important part of my faith.

One of my favorite things…early morning quiet time with my coffee, Bible, books, journals, and candlelight. Then after, my littlest comes down and snuggles with me for a bit in my chair. He chatters in his baby language and all’s right with the world for a few minutes. He’s SO snuggly.

I am wearing… black jeans, my powder blue button down, and a 3/4 quarter length striped sweater. It has powder blue, browns, and pinks in it. I got the whole outfit thrifting or on clearance. I also have on my dangling pearl earrings. My hair is terribly in need of a cut, but I’m so lazy to go get one. I have it in a messy bun. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve been still wearing a lot of scarves, because of the cold, but soon I’ll have to pack them away.

I am creating…ย oh boy. I knew this prompt was coming. I only seriously wrote on my story last month TWICE. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Yikes. I didn’t meet my goal of making it to 20,000 words. New month, new opportunity. I have yet to confess to my writing buddies this travesty. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Can I blame Youtube? Ha. Anyway, I’m planning on buckling down and hitting it this month and my reward will be this sticker for my laptop. Isn’t this darling? I want it SO badly. Come on, Amy. Wrestle with the work. Wrangle the words. Sit in the seat.

I am watching…ย well, besides those things above, I found this version of Elizabeth Gaskell’s “North and South“. I still prefer the Richard Armitage version, but this was a pleasant watch.

I am reading… SO much, but I especially enjoyed the medieval-like, fantasy Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (I’ve heard negative things about the second book, so I’m not reading it as I really, REALLY loved this one!), a time-slip, middle-grade, portal story, Fog Magic by Julia L. Sauer, and Okay for Now by Gary P. Schmidt, which was HEART-WRENCHING and beautiful story focused around domestic abuse, Audubon, and Jane Eyre. The Rivers Lead Home by Emily Hayse was a collection of sparse, beautiful short stories about brave spirits in wilderness who battled survival situations. I loved this one, because it made me FEEEEEL. Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell was an amazingly delicious and warm unique adventure for middle graders, centered around a girl raised in Zimbabwe and sent to an English boarding school. I’m not a huge historical fiction reader, but someone recommended Ruta Sepetys to me and I read her Salt to the Sea and it was amazing and heart wrenching. Focused on four different evacuees from war-town parts of Europe in Germany. Wow. When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka was another historical fiction centered around the horrific relocation of Japanese Americans to interment camps during WWII. It was sparse and written in such a way that is displayed the psychological horrors along with the physical deprivations and abuse. I read a lot more in February and March, but those probably were my favorites. I’ve been also reading Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Matthew and dipping into John here and there. I have a few Lenten/Easter devotionals going as well, my favorite being Bread & Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter. As always, I’m just LOVING prayasyougo app each morning to begin my prayer and meditation times.

I am listening to … Josh Garrels, my same ‘ole instrumental stuff, and my daughter twisted my arm to listen to this band ๐Ÿ˜‰ and I guess it’s ok for dishwashing (I wash A LOT of dishes.), ha. Boy, I’m old. Brings back high school. ๐Ÿ˜›

I am hoping… to WRITE. I’m working on ideas for a poem using the atmosphere/vibes/stories of a cemetery for my online local writing group. I’d love to write some more poetry this month, too, as April is National Poetry Month.

In the garden…ย we have BIG plans and need to get moving on them. I need to invest in some black plastic to help with weeds and we are in the process of starting seeds. I dream of all the flowers etc, but need to put in the work! ๐Ÿ™‚ My hollyhock plants are coming back. Nothing yet from all the lovely plants my friend Sandi gave me and my son and I transplanted last year here, but it’s early here. Still very cold earth!

I am learning…ย how to just take things one day at a time. One moment at a time.

In the kitchen…I’ve been VERY uninspired, but got a load of veggies from the grocery today and am planning lots of stirfry concoctions for the next couple of weeks and will serve them over brown rice for the kiddos. Any easy, lovely meals you’ve been enjoying? I’m excited to start grilling more.

In the homeschool room…ย we are plugging along, just trying to faithfully move FORWARD. It’s been very nice outdoors on and off and the younger children have been enjoying that. We’ve resurrected our morning walk when it’s nice and I LOVE THAT. We’ve really been loving the book King Alfred’s English and rereading The Chronicles of Narnia together. I am looking forward to the finish line, though. This has been a challenging year with 6 students and little guy running around.

Shared Quote

Build a little fence of trust

Around today;

Fill the space with loving work

And therein stay.

Look not through the protective rails

Upon tomorrow.

God will help you bear

What comes of joy or sorrow.

Mary Butts ~

Some moments from my day {month}...

Hubby and I visited a shrine on a little getaway together and it was beautiful.

Something Old, Something New… {Saturday, February 27th}

Illustration by Pauline Banes

Something Old ~ Pour yourself a cup of tea or coffee and listen to this delicious, fascinating, and ridiculous interview by one of my favorite authors, Ray Bradbury. Grab a pencil and paper because his ideas on creativity and life are so interesting to think about.

Something New ~ I received this lovely mug from my husband for Valentine’s Day{read: I picked it out and told him ๐Ÿ˜‰ that I wanted it} and it’s making me smile. A bit of a backstory with it. My husband used to work in a field where he had the title of Captain and we happen to have seven children. And of course, I love me some Maria and Captain von Trapp. Perfection! I *adore* many of the items in the A Fine Quotation Etsy Shop, so I highly recommend.

Something Borrowed ~ I am still thinking on and reeling from some beautiful thoughts in this book I borrowed from a friend. I highly recommend it. It really gets you thinking on community in ANY sphere of life, but especially creative endeavors.

Something Blue ~

The moon has been glorious that past few days and this blue, purple sky is giving me all the feels. I think I will listen to Miles a bit today!

And a Sixpence in Her Shoe ~

A golden, faith tidbit for considering as you walk into your weekend:

“Life is a leaf of paper white

Where on each one of us may write

His word or two, and

then comes the night.”

~James Russell Lowell

Gratitude & Glories: {January 2021}

The Simple Woman’s Daybook

For January 2021

Looking out my window… January was extremely cold, grey, yet with brilliant piercing sunshine-y moments. We had beautiful rime ice at the beginning of the month and lots of snow towards the end.

I am thinking… about teaching older children how to cook more! Teaching soup making, bread making, and various treats and sides.

I am thankful… that our extended family was safe from a horrific semi related car crash.

One of my favorite things… hearing my littlest son’s cute voice “meowing”. ๐Ÿ™‚

I am wearing… I’ve been swinging between huge extremes of comfy pants & sweatshirts to nice jeans, shirts, & cardigans. Fluffy socks and my old, trusty slippers

I am creating… my children’s story, which I like to call Silverleaf & Wodwo. I’ve been typing all my handwritten mess into my labtop. I’m trying to get it all in one spot to more easily type and edit. I read a fabulous book about community with creativity and I contacted a couple of friends to share our work together. I need deadlines, so very excited how that is going!

I am watching… for a moment to stop at a quilt store to pick out fabrics for my oldest’ quilt that I promised as part of her Christmas gift. We’ve been perusing Jane Brocket’s The Gentle Art of Quilting and are loving the simplicity of designs, but visual punch from bright fabrics. Really looking forward to making this with her!

I am reading… so many things, but I’m trying to finish The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. If you are looking for a clean, adventurous YA read, I recommend The Seventh City by Emily Hayse, an Alaskan setting and perfect for winter reading. I highly recommend Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Creative Collaboration of the Inklings by Diana Pavlac Glyer, so very inspiring. I also have been enjoying some of Brandon Sanderson’s high fantasy, specifically the Mistborn Series, which was clean for the most part and very creative.

I am listening toTim Janis instrumental, Montana Cello, and “Little Things with Great Love”. Oh, and we all love this!

I am hoping… to continue getting my morning writing habits down, revamp homeschool a bit, we need a fresh breeze this time of year!

In the garden… my oldest son and I have been making plans, but nothing solid yet. Last year, it didn’t warm up enough for what we wanted to do until end of May!

I am learning… that I need to tread gently with myself and my family during this dark, cold time.

In the kitchen… been loving roasted zucchini (yes, from grocery store) with basil, garlic salt, sprinkle of parmesan. Also zoodles made with it!

In the homeschool room… it took us a bit to get back to the smoother days after Christmas, but now it’s better. However, I’m changing things up a bit now to blow in a freshness. We are loving reading through The Magician’s Nephew again together.

Shared Quote

“In front the sun climbs slowly, how slowly, But westward, look the land is bright.”

Arthur Hugh Clough

Some moments from my day{month}…

~Favorite Reads of 2020 and Reading Ideas for 2021 ~

New year, new books ~ fresh, white dusting of pages. ๐Ÿ™‚ Firstly, I want to share my favorites of 2020! I’m not including my short reviews as I reviewed everything I read monthly. These are all 4/5 star reads for me! I have categorized them so you can zoom on through to what may interest you. Secondly, I will lay out a few ideas I have for my reading year in 2021. Here is what I wanted to do with my reading in 2020 and all in all, I did do much I what I had wanted to! I wanted to focus on classics, poetry, middle grade, and non-fiction.

~Classic Favorites of 2020~

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (reread)

One of Ours by Willa Cather

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

The Holy Bible ๐Ÿ˜‰

~Poetry Favorites of 2020~

The Other Kind of World: Poems by Jeff Hardin

In the Salt Marsh by Nancy Willard

Jane Kenyon poetry

~Non-Fiction/Memoir Favorites of 2020~

Show Me the Way: Daily Lenten Readings by Henri J. Nouwen

Fierce Bad Rabbits: The Tales Behind Children’s Picture Books by Clare Pollard

Around the World in 80 Trees by Jonathan Drori

Heidi’s Alp: One Family’s Search for Storybook Europe by Christina Hardyment

Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carlson

Bright Line Eating: The Science of Living Happy, Thin, and Free by Susan Pierce Thompson

~Middle Grade Fiction Favorites of 2020~

The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson

Snow & Rose by Emily Winfield Martin

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury {very strange, but probably my overall favorite book of the year! Strange year, strange favorite. ๐Ÿ˜‰ }

~Adult Fiction Favorites of 2020~

The Country of Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett

The Child from the Sea by Elizabeth Goudge

Crystal Cave and Hollow Hills by Mary Stewart

~Books about Writing/Creativity Favorites of 2020~

War of Art by Steven Pressfield

A Hundred White Daffodils by Jane Kenyon

Tree & Leaf by J.R.R. Tolkien (read this collection twice!)

~Lucy Maud Montgomery Favorites of 2020~

Anne’s House of Dreams (reread)

Anne of Ingleside (reread)

The Blue Castle (reread)

Christmas with Anne

~Reading Ideas for 2021~

I’d love to keep the same categories from last year (Memoir/Non-fiction, Middle Grade, Classics, Poetry) , but in Non-Fiction, I’d like to try to read a few Biographies. I’m very interesting in Lighthouses and Lighthouse Keepers currently, do you know of any good ones in this area? I’m eyeing one about the Stevenson family, but we will see, as that leads into the next part of my challenge. READ MY SHELVES. I’m blessed to have a large home library and want to do a better job reading what I have! It’s SO hard for me not to buy new books or check books out from the library. But I’d love to grow in this area. The next thing I’d love to do which started unconsciously in 2020, is reread or read Lucy Maud Montgomery more. She really was a boon to me, a sweet delight, and I haven’t read all of her extensive list yet. She is after all my favorite author! Also I love rereading all my favorites from her…the Anne books, Emily, and The Blue Castle, Jane of Lantern Hill, so on so forth. So, I declare a Maud Montgomery Category!

A big change that I’m going to make is that I won’t be doing monthly recaps/reviews of what I’m reading here. I may just list them, include them in a different post, or I’m not sure yet. I will do a Yearly Favorites post, though!

Happy New Year of Reading! Any thing you are looking forward to reading this year?

December Reads

Happy New Year, friends! Another year of books, stories, and beauty! Here’s what I read in December. I’ll be back soon to do my big favorites wrap up for the year and my ideas for my 2021 reading!

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (***) – This was a creepy, sobering, dsytopian-ish, sci-fi story that I saw recommended on BookTube. Peter is an English pastor who is chosen to travel light years away to reach out to the alien natives whose former pastor is missing. Earth begins to collapse and Peter and his wife Bea are only thinly connected by a primitive email system. The Book of Strange New Things is the Bible which the alien race seem to love. I’m not sure what to think exactly about this one, but it was a weird look at missionary work through the eyes of the alien race and those not of faith. Also as Earth is collapsing, the work on the planet seems fruitful and like Peter is making headway. I feel there were major underlying themes in this book and I may have missed something. I am still thinking about it. This left me a little uneasy and it wasn’t a fav. The idea and writing were well done, otherwise this is a 2.5 stars for me.

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury (****) – This was something I was waiting on to read in October, but didn’t get it until November and finished in December. This was an amazing look at facing fear, Halloween, life & death, different cultures, and friendship. Very creepy, not for everyone, but just so amazing in it’s own eerie way. We aren’t big on Halloween here, but I love Bradbury’s writing style, soooo….

Mistborn (#1 in a Series) by Brandon Sanderson (***.5) – This was my first Sanderson and I can see why fantasy/sci-fi fans rave about him. I thought his magic system was unique and interesting. I loved the character Saazed, in a mentor-type role, and I found the villian, the Lord Ruler, and his henchmen, the Inquistors fascinating. The main two characters were a little annoying to me, but I will try the other two in the series.

Fierce Bad Rabbits by Clare Pollard (****) – Non-fiction about the history of children’s picture books. I really, really enjoyed this bookish memoir. I especially loved her reflections on memories with her father. I bought this as a Christmas gift!

Alyesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin (***) – This was light, fun modern Muslim-spin retelling of Pride & Prejudice. My daughter and I enjoyed it!

The Last Atlantean by Emily Hayse (***.5) – this was written BEAUTIFULLY. An unique reimagining of the legend of Atlantis. I found the beginning part, a lighthouse on the coast of Maine, to be my favorite of the whole story. Hayse really has a way with descriptions. The middle slowed quite a bit down for me, but I enjoyed the ending and this was very different and creative from what I’ve read recently. I’m going to try more of this author’s work.

In the Salt March by Nancy Willard (*****)- gorgeous, haunting poetry. Highly recommend!

Across the Miles:ย Poems of Fantasy, Faith, & Funย by Annie Douglass Lima (***) – lovely, introspective, traditional rhyming poetry.

When the Heart Sings by Vesper Stamper (*****) – Heart-wrenching, unique look at the death camps of the Holocaust, through the eyes of a teen girl and survivor. Very neat illustrations!

Cinderella’s Dress by Shonna Slayton (****) – I was pleasantly surprised by this retelling. Very unique with Polish royalty and New York City during WWII playing into this. It was very fun and intriguing!

Christmas with Anne by L.M. Montgomery (*****) – a lovely collection of short stories with two from the Anne books and other random heart-warming seasonal stories.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (*****) – I did it. 806 pages. It took me a few months. The last 50 pages were my favorites. This was an amazing book. How our uninformed consciences or out of order affections can lead to terrible consequences or despair. How jealousy and guilt can tear us apart. Marriage. Questions about what is life really about and death. About faith and God. Motherhood’s {how did Tostoy write this so well?} questions and worries. I really felt most of all for Dolly and I loved getting an insider look into Levinโ€™s thoughts, doubts, and life. Levin was my favorite because he came across so human and real. The characters were amazingly drawn here, albeit the names/titles a bit confusing. I loved Tolstoyโ€™s writing and the picture he painted especially of the Russian countryside and domestic beauty. Much of the Russian history, Iโ€™m woefully ignorant about and that was the only thing slightly difficult about this. Otherwise, it was surprisingly readable. This is my first Russian classic and I really enjoyed it. What a way to wrap up a great reading year.

The Holy Bible (*****) – James, 1&2 Peter, 1,2,3 John, Jude, Revelation, and got a good start into Isaiah.

Happy 8th Day of Christmas, friends! What are you reading? ๐Ÿ™‚

A Bit ‘O Joy: Two Poetry Books for your Kind Consideration

What is bringing you joy currently? There are so many things that ring joy to me if I take the time to peel back the layers and peer in the cracks. One joy that has filled me consistently over my adult years has been poetry. Today, I’d like to highlight two poetry books that I’ve really enjoyed.

Across the Miles: Poems of Fantasy, Faith, & Fun by Annie Douglass Lima – I just finished this delightful and sweet collection of poems this week. Annie graciously gifted me the ebook of this lovely traditional rhyming poetry which brings to mind memories of growing up, imagination, the journey of Christian faith, and adds a delicious soaking in her glorious nature poems. I found myself especially drawn to her nature descriptions and delighted in the immersive feelings she gave me in the poems like “Grand”, bringing me back to a trip I took with my husband and new baby to the Grand Canyon, “God’s Metronome”, taking me to the edge of the ocean, and the haunting, lovely “The Bloodstained Moon.” I loved her deep honesty in “Ashes”, in which she shares of how she says goodbye to someone through memories put to flame. I shared a lovely Christmas themed poem, “Two Kings” with my children this week as part of our Advent readings. There are so many others I really enjoyed, “Song of the Star”, “In the Forest”, and “The Campfire” were lovely. My favorite probably though were her lovely ones on writing and especially “Poetry Graveyard.” Where does our writing go when it just dies? Annie made this collection very accessible with her poems grouped topically and also with little descriptions of her inspiration for a poem or defining an obscure poetry form. I found that extremely helpful. I plan on using these lovely poems with my children in our home school. Check out the link to this book and make a connection with Annie below!

NEW poetry book:ย Across the Miles

Connect with Annie: http://anniedouglasslima.blogspot.com/

In the Salt Marsh by Nancy Willard – Ever since I was introduced to Willard through her Anatole stories I was intrigued. My children and I have since read and loved many of her picture books and this was my first of her many poetry collections. Through modern verse, Willard’s metaphors and beauty are subtle and strange at first and she brings things to life through her use of specifics with a twist. However, if you sit a bit with her pieces you began to see and feel truly how many layers you cut sink your heart into. She is AMAZING at looking at the most simple commonplace things in a new way. I highly recommend checking into this short volume and I can’t wait to read more of hers.

How faithfully grass holds the shape of the sea it loves…

That line is from her title poem and it just thrills me…

Have you read anything by Annie Douglass Lima or Nancy Willard? These books would make lovely Christmas gifts! Any poets that you have been loving lately? What is bring you a bit of joy?

November Reads

This is what I finished reading last month! I had a good month of writing on my Middle Grade story and a Christmas flash fiction piece for my local writing group, so didn’t read as much. How ’bout you? Anything great you read in November? ๐Ÿ™‚

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud (*****) – A fast-paced Middle Grade/YA story of a young magician, Nathaniel, and the crazy adventures that happen in London and a parallel universe when he summons an ancient djinn, Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus is an AMAZING character, so real and so interesting. I love that Stroud made the weak side of magic evident. Magic always has a cost. This was such a fun read. There are more to the series, but I’ll see if I get to them, maybe in deep winter.

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (*****+++)- So, so creepy, but an amazing look at growing older, living in the present, life and death, not fearing death, laughing in the face of fear and evil, enjoying life now, not giving place to fear, acknowledging that fear is real, but choosing joy and finding a way to keep laughing through the horrors of life. I absolutely love the boys Jim and Will and their relationship with Will’s dad, Charles Halloway. I love how Charles has an epiphany and how they work together to beat evil. The lessons in humility at the end are sobering. How temptations and lusts can take us over and how WE can become the next form evil if we let them win. Wowsers. This is a beautiful book if you can stomach the strangeness. Possibly my favorite of the year.

The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry (****) – cute satire about a family of four children, ripping on the tropes of orphans, families etc that appear in children’s classic literature. I loved the Nanny in it and felt super bad for the little sister Jane. Very clever!

Hope in the Age of Addition by Chip Dodd (***) – I read this book with my health accountability group and it was sobering and encouraging. Our world is FULL of suffering people, addicts in one form or another, including me. I’ve found so much hope and freedom this year with my sugar/food addiction through Bright Line Eating. This was a supplemental read and I loved discussing it with my friends.

Morningstar by Joan Aiken (***) – I love Joan Aiken’s books for children, so I was intrigued by this adult title that I found while thrifting. I loved the first part of this book about a mysterious, wealthy family that all is not as it seems under the surface. The characters were well-drawn and the narrator Pandora (!) was deep and interesting. It got a bit sordid and depressing for my tastes, but was a sobering look at absent parents.

Journey by Patricia MacLachlan (****) – Another wonderful children’s author that I found on a thrift shelf. This was a lovely, touching story on grief, family, and abandonment using photography as the lens ๐Ÿ˜‰ to see under the outer layer of anger and bitterness of families dealing with loss. It was beautiful written, short, and amazing use of metaphor.

The Holy Bible (*****) – 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and Hebrews

October Reads

Happy Advent Eve, my friends ~ here I am, yet again, behind on my reading log, but that’s ok. It’s real life we live behind the screens, is it not? And we all float through different seasons on the river of living, ebbing and flowing. I do so love reading other’s reading, though, so here I go. ๐Ÿ™‚

October finishes:

Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon (*****) – I don’t remember who recommended this to me, but wow. ๐Ÿ˜ณโค The characters were amazing in this historical fiction of a family’s travels out to the American west in a covered wagon. The mother’s character, Winifred May, was my favorite and her relationship with her daughter, Naomi, was so inspiring! May I be a true confidant to my daughters as she was to Naomi. The five May boys, Warren, Wyatt, Web, Will, and dear little Wolfe really intrigued me and I cared about them. Maybe because I have four boys? The integrity and the depth of John Lowry, Washakie, and Lost Woman was inspiring. This book does have adult sexual themes, violence, and language, just FYI, but the characters live in it’s pages. I really loved this one!

Boggart by Susan Cooper (***) – A Canadian family of four inherits a Scottish castle and inadvertently brings back the resident, mischievous boggart in an antique desk! The boggart wreaks havoc in Toronto and the children must find a way to get the boggart back to his castle. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ A very sweet Middle Grade read I grabbed while thrifting. I really love Susan Cooper’s style of writing.

Hidden Current by Sharon Hinck (***) – I won this on a giveaway on Instagram! Beautiful cover! This is a Christian allegorical fantasy set on a floating world, Meriel. All is not as it seems for young Calara as she attempts to use her dance magic to make her way to the top of the all important, prestigious girl’s Order. The fate of their island world is in these top dancer’s hands, in more ways than one. Calara wants to be apart of the elite more than anything until something happens to shake her to the core. My favorite character was the mentor-like servant, Ginerva. This was fast-paced, clean, unique magic system story and my daughter and I enjoyed it. I just noticed that this won the Christy Award for this year, which is a high honor and it is the first in a trilogy.

One of Ours by Willa Cather (5+ stars) – Cather won the Pulitzer for One of Ours in 1923 and I can see why. This follows the story of an idealistic Nebraskan boy, Claude Wheeler, as he grows up under the critical, stubborn eye of his father and the quiet, timid, introspective ways of his mother on their farm. He searches for meaning and value in the mundane path set before him by others. He struggles with his depth of feelings and deep desires to have something worth while to live for. And along comes WWI…while the horrors of war become very real to Claude and all the American farm boys sent overseas, Claude finds purpose and meaning in the trenches of France. This is a very, very slow read, but wow. Cather’s deep introspection of life through Claude, his mother, and Mahailey, their beloved cook. Her thoughts on life, meaning, and the tension between desires and brute reality are deeply moving and thought-provoking. Cather writes beautifully intertwined nature scenes with her stories. This one may deserve a second read and a multitude of quotes copied out. โค

What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon (***) – Because I loved Where the Lost Wander so much, I decided to try another Harmon title. This was a beautifully written time-travel novel set in the 1920’s of Ireland and their fight for independence. Harmon did a fantastic job getting me intrigued and inspired by a time period and history I know nothing about. Anne Gallagher travels to her grandfather’s favorite place in Ireland to spread his ashes and deal with her grief of his passing. Little does she know how much he hid from her and the adventure she is in for! Her grandfather, Eoin, was my favorite character in this story, in more way the one, and I loved the use of journal entries in this story, as I’m an avid journaler. The only downside to this was the excessive sexual situations which just aren’t my cup of tea. Otherwise, I really, really enjoyed this historical fantasy-ish fiction. I think I will read more of Harmon’s backlist, because these two were so good.

Mortal Sight by Sandra Fernadez Rhodes (***) – A fast-paced dystopian YA novel with intriguing links to John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Cera Marlowe is a 17 yo with disturbing dreams and she has constantly moved all of her life. Her mother is hiding something from her and when she finds out the horror that is connected to these dreams, she feels even more alone. She needs to find answers quickly! I found the Milton connection fascinating and the fantasy powers intriguing. I’m not a huge fan of teenage angst and drama and this did flirt with that a bit, which I shouldn’t be surprised reading a YA book. ๐Ÿ˜‰ However, this was clean, action-filled, and intense, so I enjoyed it for the most part. It’s part of a duology with the second set to come out next spring, I believe.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (5+) – A reread of my favorite of Tolkien’s books. Sigh. Just so nice to visit with Bilbo and Gandalf again.

Tree & Leaf by J.R.R Tolkien (5+) – This is a collection of lovely essays and short stories and poems. I love his thoughts in “On Fairy Stories” and this “There was no sense of rush. He was quieter inside now, and at resting-time he could really rest.” – JRR Tolkien ๐ŸŒฟ๐ŸŒฟ๐ŸŒฟ from “Leaf by Niggle”. I was in a Tolkien mood this autumn. โค

Love Not the World by Watchman Nee (*****) – I found this a challenging and timely look at our loves and how we let the world’s system influence us as Christians. Definitely has some gems, not perfectly clear at times, but I really loved it.

The Holy Bible (*****) – 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians

Please share what you read in October/November! I’ll be next week, hopefully ;), for my November Reading Wrap Up.

The Nativity by Arthur Hughes