~Favorite Reads of 2020 and Reading Ideas for 2021 ~

New year, new books ~ fresh, white dusting of pages. 🙂 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 😉

~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. 😉 }

~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 MilesPoems of Fantasy, Faith, & Fun 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 Levin’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 Tolstoy’s writing and the picture he painted especially of the Russian countryside and domestic beauty. Much of the Russian history, I’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? 🙂

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: 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?

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. 🙂

October finishes:

Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon (*****) – I don’t remember who recommended this to me, but wow. 😳❤ 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. 😃 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. ❤

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. 😉 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 🌿🌿🌿 from “Leaf by Niggle”. I was in a Tolkien mood this autumn. ❤

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

Gratitude & Glories: {2nd week of August}

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This week I’m thankful for…

~Sunday, early morn quiet, coffee, moon and stars, sure and steady, prayer, Bible & books ~ is it a boat or bowl? from a curved leaf conversation with Benjamin ~ rereading prayer journal entries, Jesus’ faithfulness~ 5 year journal, loving it ~ swallows and finches roosting in our ash tree in the evening before dusk, chirping and chattering and then going silent for the night ~ early morning chirping again, greeting the dawn ~ house wren pair ~ fog, sunrise, Queen Anne’s Lace ~ online Zoom picture study of Brueghel’s,  “The Preaching of St. John the Baptist” and discussion after it~

Pieter_Brueghel_The Elder - The Preaching of St. John the Baptish

~cuddling with 1 year old at 1:00 am as he plays with my face and eyelashes, his wide Precious-Moment-like eyes looking at me sweetly ~ explosion of Morning Glories on deck railing, never failing to encourage me, my own private little Anne-Blythe-Idlewild, if you will ~ listening to my sweet 11 yo on library pick up date and snuggling later with her on deck as we watch the stars ~ my husband getting out the telescope and telling me about how he and some children looked at the night sky and sketched some of what the saw ~ impromptu lunch picnic under the Honey Locust of delish chicken, zucchini, and brown rice stir fry ~ decaf cuppa of vanilla hazelnut in the afternoon ~ washing my face with rosemary lavender bar soap, so refreshing ~ looking at old Taproot magazines outdoors for crafting inspiration with my middle and little children ~ Christmas handmade planning beginnings, better start now, or they won’t get done ~ Queen Anne’s lace added to my nature journal ~

 

 

~delicious bits of atmospheric Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase (not one I’d 100% recommend, FYI), happily searching for the elusive type of read I love ~ the glow-y hour of the evening, looking silently at the chickens, baby boy and I ~ a friend recommending this podcast on addiction, sparking a lot of ideas and offering hope ~ pursuing some lovely domestic type books, especially my favorite one for creating inspiration ~ atmospheric soundtracks on Youtube ~ dragging out sewing machines with my middle and littles ~

 

 

~ working on organizing sewing/crafting items ~ little doll aprons ~ Noah passing written driver’s exam ~ school planning, almost done – surely have way too much on list, but will have to run it for awhile to see what needs tweaking ~ writing a long letter to a pen-pal ~ beautiful countryside passing by as I helped my husband move farm equipment around ~reading in car while waiting for boys to finish lawn mowing job, sipping coffee from ball jar ~ baking gingerbread biscuits (we felt in an autumn-ish mood) with Ella, Phoebe, and Ben for tea time and the freezer, used up a can of black treacle I had in cupboard ~ now I have the beautiful tin to find English Ivy to put in! ~ watching Miss Potter with kids that night and bringing out our collection of Beatrix Potter books to ooh and ahh over, the Hill Top photos in the movie bringing back my trip there in 2016, swoon ~

 

 

 ~ swooning over Lore Pemberton’s art, I was given a piece of her work for Mother’s Day this year and it’s just one of my favorite things EVER ~ concert done by the middles and littles for my husband and I, so wonderfully sweet and screechy at the same time 😉 ~ missing my older boys who are camping and oldest daughter who’s working and hanging with friends, but trying to let go and begin embracing different seasons ~ got a wonderful, awful idea about how to incorporate my love of writing and creating into one, can’t wait to get started ~ gorgeous thunderstorm last night ~

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~Exhausting, but GLORIOUS week in the Lord. So, so grateful! ~ How was yours?

“Stand in the ways and see,

And ask for the old paths, where the good way is,

And walk in it.

Then you will find rest for your souls.”

~ Book of Jeremiah

 

Monday Ponderings {December 30th}

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What wonders shall we feel when we shall see Thy full-eyed Love!

Herbert,

p. 31, The Cloud of Witness

{I hope you had a lovely Christmas. Almost time to sweep out the old year and open the door to the new! I’ve enjoyed thinking on this quote from a few weeks ago. I hope to be back soon with my December Reads and my favorite books from 2019!}

 

Monday Ponderings {December 23 aka Christmas Adam}

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The Four Seasons of Mary Azarian, by Lilias Macbean Hart, illustrated by Mary Azarian

Continuing my Advent Monday musings with Azarian and The Cloud of Witness

 

In every gladness, LORD, Thou art

The deeper Joy behind.

 

~George MacDonald

p. 29, The Cloud of Witness

(emphasis mine)

 

{Take Joy home. Considering the words from J. Ingelow in the above photograph and Mr. MacDonald’s from a few days ago. Just perfection for contemplation while gazing at Azarian’s lovely woodcut. Christmas blessings to you all!}

 

Monday Ponderings {December 16th}

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The Four Seasons of Mary Azarian, by Lilias Macbean Hart, illustrated by Mary Azarian

Continuing my Advent Monday musings with Azarian and The Cloud of Witness

 

…Heaven within the reed

Lists for the flute-note; in the folded seed

It sees the bud, and in the Will the Deed…

~D. Greenwell

 

How shall we judge their present, we who have never seen

That which is past forever, and that which might have been?

Measuring by ourselves, unwise indeed we are!

Measuring what we know by what we can hardly see.

~F.R. Havergal

 

Be not proud of well-doing;

for the judgment of God is far different

from the judgement of men, and that

often offendeth, Him which pleaseth them. 

~Thomas A Kempis

 

God judges by a light Which baffles mortal sight;

And the useless – seeing man the crown hath won

In His vast world above, –

A world of broader love, –

God hath some grand employment for His Son.

~Fabor

 

all  partial or full selections above from The Cloud of Witness, p. 20

 

~

Monday Ponderings {December 9th}

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The Four Seasons of Mary Azarian, by Lilias Macbean Hart, illustrated by Mary Azarian

Continuing my Advent Monday musings with Azarian and The Cloud of Witness

 

Earth breaks up, time drops away,

In flows heaven with its new day

Of endless life, when He who trod,

Very Man and very God,

This earth in weakness, shame

and pain,

Dying the death whose signs

remain

Up yonder on the accursed tree, –

Shall come again, no more to be

Of captivity the thrall,

But the one God, All in All,

King of Kings and Lord of lords:

As His servant John received the words,

“I died, and live for evermore.”

 

~ Browning, p. 9

The Cloud of Witness

 

 

 

 

 

Monday Ponderings {Azarian Advent ~ December 2nd}

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The Four Seasons of Mary Azarian, by Lilias Macbean Hart, illustrated by Mary Azarian.

It may be in the evening,

When the work of the day is done,

And you have time to sit in the twilight,

And watch the sinking sun,

While the long bright day dies slowly

Over the sea,

And the hour grows quiet and holy

With thoughts of ME:

While you hear the village children

passing along the street –

Among those thronging footsteps

May come the sound of my feet

Therefore I tell you, Watch!

By the light of the evening star

When the moon is growing dusky

As the clouds afar,

Let the door be on the latch

In your home,

For it may be through the gloaming

I will come.

 

~B.M. , p. 4

The Cloud of Witness

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{Join me this month in quiet contemplation and prayer on our Savior’s coming…}

~

Dimples {One Hundred Bits of Gratitude by Thanksgiving 2019} #9

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Gratitude for today:

81. anticipation over seeing the Nutcracker in a few weeks

82. listening in on The Girl of the Limberlost, fond memories of listening to it years ago
83. dimples on my baby boy’s knuckles
84. learning to accept all the bulges and curves of my body,
silencing hateful self-talk and lies
85. getting out occasionally without nursling dear
86. baby wipes, miraculous invention, good for everything
87. plays organized and performed to youtube music by 10yo, 7 yo, and 5 yo
88. realizing that where I end, You begin – You are always with me, Jesus
89. that my husband is so handy, knows how to do so many things
90. 12 yo hugging me more, may I always receive them with pleasure, being touched out is a real thing
~
What’s on your list?

Here and Now {One Hundred Bits of Gratitude by Thanksgiving 2019} #8

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Happy American Thanksgiving!

71. continually learning to live in the now, instead of always thinking of another season

72. seeing my oldest daughter in her room crocheting and listening to Shakespeare
73. the words to “Come to Jesus” by Fredrick William Faber
74. approaching Advent and the beauty of the season, namely – Jesus, Light of the World
75. Jo and Biddy in Dicken’s Great Expectations
76. dog’s ears flying behind her as she runs like the wind, her body listing to one side
77. noticing a gorgeous giant maple leaf in church parking lot, same leaf brought later unknowingly by 5yo to me
78. back of baby’s knobby, fuzzy head, stick-out ears, and darling soft neck
79. anticipation over Instagram classic book read-along next year
80. son mentioning that he thought he saw a Cedar Waxwing while hunting
(I will try to finish these tomorrow and Saturday! A little behind, but oh, such a blessing!) 
~
What’s on your list today?