In Which I Talk More About Books {surprise, surprise} aka My Reading Plan for 2019 ~

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I will eventually get back to writing here, hopefully, at Hearth Ridge Reflections. I miss just talking of our days and the beauty found in the little moments of life.  I will stop just blathering constantly about books and quotes. 😉 Well, maybe not. Ha. Anyway, I decided to make my own bookish challenge for myself this year. In previous years, I’ve enjoyed the Back to Classics challenge, but I decided to take a break from that. I have so many books that I’ve read a little in or have been meaning to get to at some point. I think that I’m finally ready to challenge myself with a book list. I tend to be an “emotional” reader, choosing based on how I feel, so it will be interesting to see how I do with a predetermined list. I gave myself a pretty broad range of things to choose from except I noticed there isn’t any fantasy and not a lot of modern titles. I’m sure I’ll pick some of those up from my shelf or the public library. I list these here just to nudge myself in a couple of ways: 1. read my own shelf. I’m blessed with a nice sized home library after collecting at charity shops, yard sales, used book stores, and online over the years. I have not read all of them. Ha. 2. finish things you begin. If I don’t finish all of these, or if I read other books, that’s just fine, I just want to give these a bit more priority in my 2019 reading time.

  1. Middlemarch by George Elliot
  2. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
  3. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dilliard
  4. Home Education by Charlotte Mason (trying to make this an annual reread)
  5. Hints on Child-Training by  H. Clay Trumbull
  6. Persuasion by Jane Austen (reread)
  7. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (reread)
  8. Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge (reread)
  9. Island Magic by Elizabeth Goudge
  10. Make-Believe by Elizabeth Goudge
  11. Stillmeadow Road by Gladys Taber
  12. Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery
  13. Golden Road by L.M. Montgomery
  14. Gerald Manley Hopkin’s poetry book
  15. Joy of Snow by Elizabeth Goudge
  16. The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith
  17. So Brave, Young, and Handsome by Leif Enger
  18. Virgil Wander by Leif Enger
  19. Springtime in Britian by Edwin Way Teale
  20. On Reading Well by Karen Swallow Prior
  21. The Tapestry by Edith Schaeffer
  22. Larkrise to Candleford Trilogy by Emma Thompson
  23. The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis (reread)
  24. The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris
  25. The Art of Eating omnibus by M.F.K. Fisher
  26. Babette’s Feast and Other Stories by Isak Dinesan
  27. A Walk Around the Lakes by Hunter Davies
  28. Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
  29. Three Squares by Abigail Carroll
  30. Ruth Bell Graham’s Collected Poems

I own all of these books with the exception of Island Magic by Goudge, a poetry book by Hopkin’s, and Virgil Wander by Enger. I will be getting them through the library, as part of my personal challenge is to stop buying personal books for myself for a bit. I still will purchased gifts or books for my children’s education, but for me, I’m pulling on the reins. I’m still going to keep track of what I read here at the end of each month and again, I hope to give these priority. Many of these, I’m well into already, or at least started. I noticed that I have some thicker non-fiction, but a good selection of beautiful, old fiction as well. I also included all five of my favorite authors! Can you guess who they are? 😉 What do you think? Is this doable for this year? What are your reading goals?

Happy 10th Day of Christmas and Happy Reading!

~

 

Favorite Reads of 2018

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Happy 9th Day of Christmas, friends! Below is the list of books that touched me deeply this year. I separated them in categories, so you can skim to something that may interest you! I found this year that books that challenged or shocked me were some of my favorites. I really found myself gravitating toward books that I had an intense emotional response with or a line or thought or idea that has stuck with me throughout the year, but weren’t necessarily pretty or comfortable reads. I read through the New Testament and Psalms a couple of times and a few other books of the Old Testament and really enjoyed the slow, savoring pace. I’ve only included my favorite favorites, if you know what I mean, because I read so many lovely books including home education titles, writing books, and more.

Favorite Book of the Year:

Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (****) – Wow. I hated this book so much I loved it.  I’m not sure why this book so profoundly made an impression on me. I think in some ways it has to do with the fact that I feel SO much compassion for the mother and her girls (not to mention the Congolese) and feel like this is just so preventable. And yet, unfortunately, all to often, some of the elements of this story ring true in organized religion. This fictional story is an achingly beautiful account of The Belgian Congo and a family torn up by Pharisaical religiosity, racism, sexism, and as many other “isms” that Kingslover could think of and fit into this book. This is the first book that made me cry in a long time and I will never forget it. Even though I strongly believe the author made sweeping, prejudiced (ironically, the very thing she eloquently rails about in this book) blanket judgments of things she abhors (or at least seems too based on this novel), there is SO much to appreciate about this and pull away from it. Highly recommend if you can read it with a grain of salt and a willingness to look at yourself, shaking off deeply ingrained things that aren’t right.

Other Hard but Favorites of the Year: 

East of Eden by John Stienbeck (****) – Wow! The writing in this book was amazing and my first Steinbeck. The nature descriptions are wonderful and I enjoyed his rich prose and insightful, detailed observations. It started off very dark and depressing as we are introduced to Cathy, later known as Kate. She is one of most disturbing people I’ve read about in literature in a long time! Towards the end, I feel like I was able to feel a twinge of compassion (maybe) towards her or at least a teeny bit of understanding. As we went along, I started to see some of the “retelling of the Genesis story/Cain and Abel” feeling, as our characters battle the internal good and evil in their lives and with their families. This follows two generations of two families and weaves in and out in a beautiful way as they struggle to survive their parents and as parents, their upbringing, and finding their purpose in life. They battle the question of is our tendency towards good or evil inherited or a choice? The weight of this question is felt heavily in each person’s life.  I felt like I got to know the characters deeply and that many of their questions were universal. I loved Lee, the Cantonese servant, and eventually friend and caretaker to Adam. I loved, loved Samuel, the dreamy, distracted friend of Lee and Adam. I realize this is a crazy, all over the place review, but it’s hard to describe. Beautiful, recommend with caveat that it does have a lot of darkness: prostitution, language, and suicide.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (****) – Fascinating and intriguing look life after an epidemic wipes out most of the world’s population. Sounds depressing, doesn’t it? It isn’t because it’s told through the voice of a troupe of actors who travel around giving Shakespearean plays. Sobering and beautiful, sad yet strangely hopeful, I enjoyed the creative way St. John Mandel wrote this, wrapping up many veins well at the end.

Discovering the Character of God by George MacDonald (*****) -I absolutely love Mr. MacDonald’s belief on who God is as our loving Father. There are a few things that are vague and a few things I may argue and not agree with him on, but overall, I was so encouraged and challenged by this wonderful book. It took me a very long time to read, because I wanted to go slow and it’s not something you can read quickly. This is set up with three part chapters: his poetry, commentary, and a section from his fiction – all tied together with a topic for the chapter.

 The White Witch by Elizabeth Goudge (*****) –  Interesting, dark story about the English Civil War and the wrestling with good and evil in all of our lives. How the love of God and others trumps darkness. Fascinating look at Royalists, Puritans, class divisions, and the Romani peoples. Gardens and herbs are prominent in this book which was beautiful and piqued my interest in it all the more. This took me a LONG time to get into, you have to be very patient with Goudge, but she will reward you many times over, if you hang on.

Books that Built my Faith:

The Wild-Bird Child: A Life of Amy Carmichael by Derick Bingham (*****) –  Amy Carmichael is one of my heroines of the Christian faith, her poetry, writing, and life’s work, encouraging and inspiring me. I really enjoyed this unique look at this Irish missionary.  Mr. Bingham created an unique take on her life, beginning each chapter, with a bit of what was going on in the world at the time. I love the first hand letters, personal stories, and information from diaries that the author had access to while writing this book. I found this much more interesting than A Chance to Die by Elisabeth Elliot.

Peace Like A River by Leif Enger (*****) -this was a reread for me, in anticipation of reading Enger’s two other books soon and I gobbled it up in a few days. I loved this so much and was just drawn again in by the rich characters, story, and beautiful spiritual vein and questions posed throughout. Highly recommend!

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis (*****) – I absolutely loved this book about a bus ride between Heaven and Hell and the conversations between “Ghosts” and “Beings”. I found it just lovely and amusing that George MacDonald was Mr. Lewis’s Being. The theology and thoughts were thought-provoking, challenging, and absolutely beautiful. I also listened to a few episodes in a series of podcast discussions on this book, which I found interesting.

Poetry:

Mountain Breezes by Amy Carmichael (*****) – This took me all year to read. It is a collection of all of Miss Carmichael’s poetry gathered from throughout her other writings. This is one of my favorite books of the year, as I found her simple, sweet poems of nature observations and the character of God to be so challenging and inspiring to my faith. Some of the poetry is very basic, but you hear her heart through it and some lines are just like arrows to your heart. I highly recommend this book.

Billy Collin’s poetry (****) – I read many collections of his poetry and I don’t know if there was one that was my favorite although The Art of Drowning and Picnic, Lightening  I immensely enjoyed. They are written in engaging, yet simple style, but meaningful and hugely layered. I was astonished at the beauty of some of his close, minute observations of daily life. He renders the littlest bits of our lives in a grand universal way, yet he was so approachable. I can’t wait to read more from him! Here is a TED talk by Mr. Collins that I enjoyed.  I thoroughly enjoyed this humorous, down-to-earth poet.

Habitation of Wonder by Abigail Carroll (*****) – I would give this six stars if I could. Just lovely, haunting poetry, exploring the beauty of life, nature, and faith in an approachable, gorgeous, lyrical way. I’m on my third reread of it, it’s not long, it’s so life-giving and wonder-provoking. Carroll is my favorite modern poet and you can visit her here and read some of her words.

On the Lighter Side: 

The Market Square by Miss Read (*****) – Another of my favorite genres is British family-ish type fiction. Miss Read is the master of beautiful settings and lovely characters that you come to love and care about. Sometimes not much happens, but you still keep reading anyway. This title was a bit different from her Thrush Green and Fairacre series in that it was a bit more sad and darker than those. Two friends grow up together and their families are inseparable until a change in the economy forces a wedge. Misunderstandings, class, race, morality, the World Wars, all test the true friendship between these two men as their lives move on. This was slow start for me and it took me awhile to get into it, but once I did, I loved it. So much to think on and consider and I won’t forget this story! I think this might be a series, but I haven’t checked into it yet.

Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery (*****) -This was a reread for me and I loved it more than the first time. Jane lives with her mother and wealthy grandmother in a colorless and harsh environment. She doesn’t know what happened to her father, being led to believe he died. One day,  a letter arrives from him, asking for her to spend the summer with him on Prince Edward Island. Little do they know how much this will change all of their lives. This possibly has a too-sweet ending, but I adore the hope and beauty that this story holds, it’s one of my absolute favorites from Maud. I love how happiness is found in the simple act of loving and serving.  This is in fact why I call myself “Amy of Hearth Ridge”. 😉

Crosstalk by Connie Willis (*****) – SLIGHT SPOILER! The daily workings of a telecommunications company may not sound fascinating, but oh wow, they are when you have Willis writing about them. The new craze is a medical implant supposedly to increase your emotional connection to your partner. Briddley, a young employee, is thrilled and astonished by the attention lavished on her by one of her bosses Trent, and now he wants to get this implant with her! The weird tech department guy won’t stop warning her about the dangers of this procedure, and her big crazy Irish family won’t leave her alone.  Continued review here!

The Anatole Trilogy by Nancy Willard (*****) – These three short fantasy adventure stories follow a young boy and were just wonderful. I was looking for a middle grade read and happen to have book #2 of this series on my shelf. I quickly got the other two and thoroughly enjoyed them, the last being my favorite. I love Willard’s ability to keep things grounded in the reality of a young child’s mind, yet make completely absurd and fantastical things and happenings seem everyday and normal. I loved this little escape and the quests Anatole found himself on with the help of many magical creatures and new friends. You can tell Willard understands young children, which I love so much.

 

 

{For major bookish browsing, check out my Year in Books category!}

Otherwise, you can just go to my past years favorite lists! 🙂 I can’t believe I’ve made these lists for three years now already. Time flies when you’re reading.

Favorites from 2017

Favorites from 2016

~

September Reads

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I was able to finish up quite a few things on my stack this past month, as well as read a few light reads. I tend to grab those types of things when our school year is going, because I’m reading so many rich things with my children. How was your September reading month?

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (*****) – I reread this for my Back to Classic Books, Reread a favorite classic catagory.  This is my first reread of this book in many years. I loved it much more than I remembered liking it before! Being able to hear and read the thoughts and feelings of Fanny was enlightening and so gratifying. The Crawfords made my skin crawl ;), and I found myself thinking about Mrs. Norris, the extreme busy-body and cruel aunt a lot also. I also felt myself grow in compassion for Sir Thomas due to his lump of a wife, Lady Bertram, who cared more for her pug than any person. Her extreme self-centeredness irritated me so much for some reason. The depth of the characters, beauty, and honesty about human nature was refreshing and delightful. I felt like banging Edmund on the head more than once for his blindness about Miss Crawford, but then again, I knew what a stupor one can be in when infatuated by an idea of someone.

The Rosemary Tree by Elizabeth Goudge (*****) – A new Goudge for me and it was just lovely. This story centers around three interconnected groups of people, a vicar and his wife and their troubled relationship, their children and the terrible private school they attend, and the vicar’s Aunt struggling to survive at the big, decrepit family mansion. The characters were deep and well-drawn. The redemption and love woven throughout this story was fantastic. The lovely nature, animals, and Goudge’s treatment of children were just lovely. Another favorite Goudge for me!

The Stillmeadow Album by Gladys Taber (****) – A friend surprised me with this in the post! This was like having Gladys give you a tour of her beloved farm, Stillmeadow. I really enjoyed this, even though the photos were in black & white.

My Own Cape Cod by Gladys Taber (****) – Later in life, Gladys moved to Stillcove, her little cottage in Cape Cod. I found the same charm in sharing a bit of her daily life. I did find myself missing Stillmeadow, though, so this wasn’t my favorite. I think Jill’s (her close friend) death and her older age made this have a bit of a melancholy tone to it as well.

A Change and A Parting: My Story of Amana by Barbara Selzar Yambura (****) – I picked this up at a yard sale this summer for .50 cents. It wasn’t a fast page turner. It was the memoir of a woman growing up in the original Amana colonies. I found it very interesting to learn more about their beliefs and how they lived in a complete communal society. The harshness and absolute rules were astounding to me. The fear surrounding this sort of religious life was intense.

Book Girl: A Journey Through the Treasures and Transforming Power of a Reading Life by Sarah Clarkson (****) – I loved Clarkson’s emphasis on women and the pure treasure reading is for our emotional, physical, and mental well-being. I think what I most took away from this book was more for me as a mother. That the little seeds we are sowing everyday of beauty and good literature are crucial. Even if we don’t see the harvest or we don’t see anything “measurable” EVER, we still keep faithfully sowing into our children and those around us by faith. If you are a bibliophile, the book lists and sentiments may be a bit of a review for you (also there are A LOT of heavy theological books recommended), but keep reading, because there are little gems interspersed throughout that will encourage you and spur you deeper into your shelves, reading community, and sharing all the wonder and beauty found in books.

The Heaven Tree Trilogy by Edith Pargeter (****) – I found the recommendation for this in the above Book Girl! This is a massive three book story about 12th century England and Wales. Tensions are high at the Welsh border and this follows the life of a master carver, his intrigues, loyalties, and love. I love the depth of character and seeing the good and bad sides of both the protagonist and antagonist. They are not one dimensional! This is a beautiful story, a page turner, and I really enjoyed it. This would be a perfect winter read!

The Rain in Portugal by Billy Collins (****) – another collection of poems by this humorous American poet. I enjoyed it!

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (****) – I thought it was a time for a reread of these. I enjoyed this one more this second time around. Without giving too much away, I especially loved the ending when Harry is able to crack Dumbledore’s riddle with the mirror, showing his pure heart and motives.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken (*****) – I loved this imaginative story of English children in a beautiful mansion, scary wolf-filled countryside, and nasty woman who sends the girls to an orphanage. I read this one afternoon after school was done and it was just a perfect escape. I saw there are more in the series and I hope to read those as well.

Greenwitch and The Grey King by Susan Cooper (****) – These are books 3 and 4 in The Dark is Rising Series, which I’ve been rereading. This is an intense, but wonderful series based on English and Welsh legends, and I really enjoy it. Do you notice a pattern here this month? I tend to gravitate toward children’s literature when I need a mental break. There are so many wonderful children’s classics out there and so little time.

The Ringmaster’s Wife by Kristy Cambron (***) – This is the second book I’ve read by this author and over all, I’ve enjoyed her. I was intrigued by the Ringling circus plot and English connection. Overall, a bit of a predictable story.

A Sensible Arrangement by Tracie Peterson – I grabbed this off my local library shelf and it was disappointing to me. I knew what I was getting though ;), but was desperate for a light read. While the story was predictable, the stilted-seeming conversation really bugged me the most. I know I probably seem SO snobbish and I hate to criticize writers, but I have to be honest! I’m pretty sure that Peterson has many fans, but I just need to try to stay away from most inspirational romance from now on.

The Holy Bible (*****) – second half of Psalms, Acts

~

 

 

 

Autumn Equinox on Saturday and other ramblings…

Rain is falling, concentric splatters on the puddles in my driveway. My mind is all-a-swirl as we are finishing up our second week of home education here at Hearth Ridge Farm. Yesterday afternoon, I snuggled down and read the book The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken, and was thoroughly delighted. Just what I needed at the moment. An escape to England, mysterious wolves, big, beautiful houses with hidden passageways, and endearing children to cheer along the way. The beauty of story. It made me think about the piles of scribbles I have laying all about my house, the discarded ideas, the dusty laptop. The brilliant purple morning glories are dripping wet, a fog and wetness hanging around these last few days. I can’t resist admiring the way their beauty and green tendrils sneak in and out, through and under, a lovely vein of happiness through the outside of my deck. How story and beauty keep us moving forward, their beauty splashing against the gray of dishes, discouragement, and ugly despair of our world. The poem, The Chairs That No One Sits In, a gentle, almost silent-sort-of plea for that elusive something that we often forget, that we drown by the incessant Sirens of our day. The cooling down the past couple of days, the the red tinges peeping out, my daughter exclaiming with delight over the leaves “following” our vehicle, the tinkling, crunching noise and movement swirling up around us, so very beautiful. Autumn is our guest arriving Saturday, and I’m warming up to its cool promise of sweaters and more afternoon teas. I was delighted as I drove through the changing countryside on Tuesday, listening to two kindred-spirit creatives talk on mystery, writing, and just general lovely bookishness. I notice another flower friend, my poor geranium is still hanging on, by the way, a mystery and delight to me, because it is long overdue for a re-potting and often gets neglected. Again, that splash of something that cuts through the piles and dust and smells of life. Reality doesn’t change, but I can make one step forward, parting the waters, one more song to carry me on my way, one more beautiful image, word, and thought that brings me and those around me hope.

~

British Educator, Miss Charlotte Mason {English Memories}

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{St. Mary’s, Ambleside, Cumbria, England and my sister}

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Charlotte Mason, a British educational reformer. As I’m in the throes of planning our new learning year, and just reading and researching, I got to thinking how very grateful I am to have found her philosophy. The impact her teachings has profoundly changed me and my life in all areas. It’s been two YEARS now, since I made my wonderful trip to see where she lived and worked, and I’ve yet to share how much it touched me. She has complimented and enhanced my faith in so many small ways and I was trying to put my finger on the why. I think that it has to do with the emphasis on people and relationship. Children are born persons, after all. Mothers and fathers are persons, too. I’m just barely grasping a small fraction of the importance of this and how Jesus really loved and cared for people.

{inside of St. Mary’s – and my dear mother}

I’ve been rereading favorite posts on Nancy and Karen’s blogs, as well as dipping into Karen’s book A Charlotte Mason Companion (a yearly summer reread!)and Charlotte’s own books, specifically Home Education, as I’m in a book group reading this together. What richness! This gift of a feast of ideas, which culminates in a love of God and others. Sigh. It’s not easy though, its not quick, there are no formulas, it really is a gentle sowing of the seed and trusting by faith, that richness is going to spring forth.

I so enjoyed strolling through some of the places Miss Mason lived and worked, visiting her grave. It was easy to see why the Lake District made such an impression on her, just the beauty and freedom of spirit, must have dove-tailed into her thoughts on the realness of this life and education. Life found in the little corners of the every day moments. Life found in the hard moments and good moments of family and friendships, and the lives we touch through beautiful books, art, and music.

{Archives of student work at the Armitt Museum and other items- a treasure trove of inspiration!}

Life is a balance between duty and pleasure, why not blend them both, with the cultivation of habits and careful attention, yet an openness and beauty of being unique people with unique gifts and bents, dipping our toes into many interesting pools of life?

{Ambleside Bridge House}

I guess I’ve been just trying to refresh my heart again about the deep emphasis on relationship. All of life really is a careful, thoughtful stitching pieces of our human relationships, our relationship with God, and all of the world around us. A delightful building of the quilt of life. Its hard, but it’s beautiful. It’s not hurried, it’s a slow flowing and filtering through each day, moment by moment. It really is revolutionary and counter-cultural. Charlotte Mason’s thoughts continue to help me in a small way with understanding the essence of relationship. When things are out of sync here, after reflection and prayer, it is usually that I have a rift in one of my many relationships.  I’m prayerfully considering again, a time of refreshing and reordering of my affections. On God and on people. Truly, the things that matter.

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{Scale Howe – Miss Mason’s teacher training school – now part of the University of Cumbria}

My sister and I were so touched by this quote in one of the students notebooks at the Armitt Museum. I still think about it often ~

 

The Heavens are calling you and whirl around you,

Displaying to you their eternal beauties;

Yet still your eye is looking at the ground.

~ Dante

Why indeed am I still ‘looking at the ground’ when there is so much more? A beautiful quote to meditate on and consider as I realign myself and refocus on what it means to have this privilege and a responsibility to be alive. I am so grateful.

~

Gather Round {May 19th}

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{I truly wish we could all ‘gather round’ and chat about life, relationships, education, books, and our passions. Please grab a mug of steaming coffee or pour yourself a cup of tea, and get comfortable. I enjoy being a ‘fly on the wall’ so to speak, reading about people’s lives, plans, or just what’s generally happening. I’d like to share that occasionally (every, fortnight, or so) here under this title. I’m not sure how it will play out, but I’d like to give it a go. I will post headings so that if you only have a few moments, you can scroll right to what interests you. I love conversations, don’t be shy, please chime in.}

I skipped the May 5th Gather Round, but it couldn’t be helped.  Check out previous editions if you are interested in catching up round here.

Domesticity ~ Yesterday was my husband’s birthday and I had a lot of fun cooking meat and potatoes in different forms! Ha. It’s true. He loves plain, farm fare. The children helped me set the table nicely and we got a lot of farm/yard work done, as it was a gorgeous day. My seedlings are actually doing well. Just need to weed a bit more and transplant them out doors. I probably need some wood chips to help me keep the weeds down. I’m hoping to go to a nearby Amish greenhouse for a few flowers for my deck and maybe a couple perennials to plant, crossing fingers that one day Hearth Ridge will have a bower of flowers. I’m especially keen to plant peonies and lilacs. They might take a few years to really show up or bloom, but that’s alright. The anticipation will be worth it.

Education ~  We are continuing on for a few more weeks, working on finishing up our Civil War studies. We’ve been reading a few wonderful, thoughtful books together about Prudence Crandall, Abe Lincoln, and others.  My oldest has read Gone With the Wind and is finishing up Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  She also has read about Ulysses Grant and Robert E. Lee. It’s been a fascinating term, history wise. We will be getting into the World Wars in the autumn.  We have quite a few loose ends to tie up before we break for the summer.

Writing ~ I’m working on a poem about time and another essay piece I plan on submitting soon to a online journal. I’m hoping another poem I wrote will be included in a collection of local stories and poetry. I’m slowly moving forward on my fiction piece. I am basically character building and world building, muddling through the first draft with no clue what I’m doing. BUT I’m having fun, even though it’s extremely hard to craft. I was digging around online and found a lovely writer’s blog that I am inspired by deeply. I especially have been enjoying her essays on the Creative Process. Her photographs and collections of illustrations are beautiful. One thing that I find, is that I don’t write as much for here currently because all my brain power is turned to my other projects. I still LOVE writing here, my little home, so there’s that tension. However, all of life is a tension and a dance, right?

Reading ~ I’ve been mainly enjoying The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris and Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer by Jane Brocket. I have a huge stack of books that are essays about writing, writing fantasy, and writing for children, as well as nature lore and travelogue memoir types. I’m always way too ambitious with my reading piles. As long as I just determine not to let it me stress out, and weed it occasionally, that’s fine.

Sillies & Sundries ~  I found a fantastic lecture by author Susan Cooper that I very much enjoyed and wanted to pass it along to all of you. Brew a cup of tea and be prepared to be inspired, it’s about an hour long. Is anyone tuning into the Royal wedding today? I might peek onto social media, but for the most part, hope to read, grab a coffee with a friend, and garden with my daughter.

Cheerio, lovelies.

~

Happy Birthday, dear Elizabeth Goudge!

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Can I introduce you to a dear friend of mine? Elizabeth Goudge. A gorgeous writer who has touched me profoundly. She is in my top five favorite authors.  Someone who you cannot read quickly, you must simmer and savor. Today I celebrate her birthday and like to think of her with a glimpse of the English countryside outside her window, pen scratching the paper, sipping tea, creating unforgettable stories for us to enjoy. They are sweeping, deep, with many layers, and you can reread them over and over and take away something entirely new each time. My favorites are A City of Bells, A Dean’s Watch, and A Pilgrim’s Inn (formally, Herb of Grace, which I like better). Have you read any of her books? Join me today in remembering Miss Goudge! Many happy returns!

~

Gather Round {April 7th}

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{I truly wish we could all ‘gather round’ and chat about life, relationships, parenting, education, books, and our passions. Please grab a mug of steaming coffee or pour yourself a cup of tea, and get comfortable. I enjoy being a ‘fly on the wall’ so to speak, reading about people’s lives, plans, or just what’s generally happening. I’d like to share that occasionally (every, fortnight, or so) here under this title. I’m not sure how it will play out, but I’d like to give it a go. I will post headings so that if you only have a few moments, you can scroll right to what interests you. I love conversations, don’t be shy, please chime in.}

Domesticity ~ We home educate our children and so that means our home is pretty much a mess most of the time, because we are always here.  You should have seen the look on the electric guy’s face today when he saw all the shoes tossed about on our porch. Poor soul was confused about the sheer number, I’m sure. We are in our last and third term of the learning year, and the winter/early spring is particularly a trying time. We have pretty good systems in place, but whew, The Piles (insert scary music). My husband kindly purchased me a red Kitchen Aid mixer (squee!) and it’s been an extremely bad thing. We are baking entirely TOO much. Ha. I have a seed catalog here that I’d love to make a small order from, but my brain is trying to reconcile with the snow outside our window. I’ve been wading through clothing and trying to sort it all out, why does a eight year-old girl need seven jumpers in her drawer?

Education ~ I’m barely hanging on through this last term. It has nothing to do with what we are reading or doing. I love all of that, truly. It’s just the mental weariness of me “on” all the time. All parents, regardless of whether you’re home educating or not, understand this, I think. My INFP-self is rearing its ugly head. Dear Lord, can it be summer, please? Doctor Who, will you please bring the Tardis and who, whoo, eee who me away? Can I decamp and head to a remote cabin alone for an extended holiday? Anyone? However, having done home educating for numerous years, I know that I always feel this way at this time of year, and I always live through it. A couple things we’ve been especially keen on have been, Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, Abraham Lincoln by Enid LaMonte Meadowcroft, and D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths.  I’ve been thrilled by Amy Carmichael’s poetry, Edward R. Sill’s “Opportunity”, and John Masefield’s “Sea Fever”. Poetry is my jam. I’ve been excitedly looking at resources for The Odyssey and drooling over all the beautiful books on my shelves to choose from for our autumn term.

Writing ~ I found a few lovely looking online places that I’m thinking through ideas for submitting essays or poems. I’m very disorganized and am brainstorming to keep moving forward and growing. I love the creative nonfiction/memoir genre and want to grow as a poet as well. I know next to nothing about structure and the formal bits of poetry and need to just sit down, really study and practice. I’m a nervous and S-L-O-W as molasses fiction writer, but I’d love to have a rough draft done on my current idea by the end of this year. Oh my goodness. That freaks me out. Fiction has meant so much to me over the course of my relatively short life (I’m not THAT old yet, at least I tell myself that, as I pull out gray hairs), so I have a high respect for it and don’t know if I can ever really do it justice. However, I want to try. I write things that bless, encourage, and inspire ME and share them only in the hope that they just might do the same for even one other person.

Reading ~ What are you currently reading that you love? I have so many on my TBR stack, as usual, it’s toppling over. I’m never going to change, though, so I just embrace it, as long as I don’t let it stress me out. The truth is, I don’t have to read any of them, except The Holy Bible and poetry, because those things help me to breathe and not hurt people. At the moment, I’m quite fond of Betty Crocker’s Kitchen Garden with charming illustrations by Tasha Tudor. It is just so peaceful and lovely. As long as I don’t think about weeds, watering, sweaty, back-breaking labor, and my black-ish thumb.

Sillies & Sundries ~ I joined Twitter and am blindly fumbling my away around there like an idiot. I’m not even quite sure how to properly post a blog link on there. It’s been fun and whoa, there is a lot of nasty, mean-spirited rubbish on there. Yikes. I started walking in the middle of March which with all the reading, writing, and Kitchen Aid moments, is a good thing. Then a family wedding hit and the weather turned for the worst. I’m just waiting for the new snow to melt and things to warm up again. Excuses. I love doing the washing up while listening to podcasts. I’ve been listening to a lot of English shows and one Scottish show on writing. They are very fascinating and I wonder if you noticed my cheesy American attempt at using their lovely lilting turns of phrase and speech in this post. I’m such an unabashed Anglophile.

Cheerio, lovelies.

~

The Dean’s Watch by Elizabeth Goudge, Pied Piper by Nevil Shute, and More Favorites from my 2017 Reading Year ~

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Reading is a vast ocean of beauty, ugliness, and everything in-between. Ideas swish and swirl, changing the shape of our hearts, giving us compassion and understanding, softening our rocky edges. We are continually filled and emptied as we read. A humility, a refreshment, and a cleansing.

I had a wonderful year of reading, I’m so grateful for the beauty of being at home with my children, all reading together, and the time I’m given to share with many great minds through the pages of books. I tried my best to narrow my list down to those that I really stood out to me and that I’m still thinking about, forgive me for so many. I didn’t include The Holy Bible, books read with my children, Charlotte Mason educational volumes, and so many others, you can look under Year in Books, if you enjoy digging through book lists as much as I do.  I broke it into categories so you can skim to those you might be interested in.

Favorite Book of the Year:

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“Could mere loving be a life’s work?”

I cannot tell you how much I loved this book…how much the “simple” act of loving, of reaching out beyond ourselves has far reaching consequences. A timely and beautiful challenge to me as a wife, mother, and friend. This book moved me to tears and Goudge’s characters mean SO much to me, her sense of place is WONDERFUL…I was transported to this cathedral town. The nature descriptions were vivid and gorgeous. Sigh.

Writing/Author Memoir:

Dreams and Wishes: Essays on Writing for Children by Susan Cooper  – Although the author and I have very different worldviews, I found this book enchanting, inspiring, and laced with a bit of magic. I know, I know…weird description for a book of essays. However, Cooper did a fantastic job just speaking to that elusive “something” in story that catches us deep in our core and takes us on a figurative journey. Continued here.

Spanning Time: A Diary Keeper Becomes a Writer by Elizabeth Yates – I found this book of Elizabeth Yates diary entries spanning her life absolutely fascinating. I’m still thinking about it, but it covered so much history and just reading from a young girl growing to woman through the early 1900’s in Buffalo,NY, WWI, the delicate and challenging part of being of a wealthy, upper class family, and the privileges yet heavy expectations on her. Continued here.

Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity by Ray Bradbury –  I’ve read 7 or 8 books on writing or author memoirs this year, instead of writing, imagine that. Ha. Sad truth. This was just about my favorite. Just so beautifully encouraging and so very inspiring. Bradbury is hard to explain, just sort of explosive, I think is my word for him. I have commonplace quotes to think over, and I’m totally in love with his love of words. Long live logophiles.

Memoir:

Landmarks by Robert MacFarlane – This is such a hard book to describe. I loved it! About sense of place, about people who’ve connected with their immediate surroundings and specific far-off places, and the history of place words. Continued here. 

Rising Ground: Search for the Spirit of Place by Philip Marsden – I felt like the author and I were on a hike through all of Cornwall and south western part of Great Britain, chatting about the importance of home, of the religious significance of man-made rock formations, and the land, all connecting with the people who lived and died here. Continued here.

A Gathering of Larks: Letters to Saint Francis from a Modern-Day Pilgrim by Abigail Carroll (poetry-memoir mix) – I found this delightful poet in an anthology, and I’m so glad I did. I’ve been searching out her works and this is a lovely juxtaposition of the life of Saint Francis with Carroll’s modern life. I love the introduction she gives us to St. Francis and I love her jarring, beautiful, simple poetry. Visit her here.

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The Exact Same Moon: Fifty Acres and a Family by Jeanne Marie Laskas – I just loved, loved this! The author’s conversations with herself and stream of consciousness type writing. It was all so real. I could picture myself saying and thinking some of the exact same things. The beginning is a bit slow, but then the beautiful last half as she goes through IVF and adopting from China. Wow. One of my favorite memoirs in a long time. 

O Come Ye Back to Ireland: Our First Year in County Clare by Niall Williams and Christine Breen  – This was a beautiful memoir of two New Yorkers, of Irish descent, deciding to pull up roots and move to Christine’s family cottage in West Ireland. The language and writing of this memoir was so beautiful and of course, the descriptions of Ireland are enough to swoon over. Continued here. 

Education & Parenting:

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (YA fiction, but falls under this heading for me as it was about dyslexia) – I absolutely loved this book, I cried at times. This follows the life of Ally, a sixth-grader, who has dyslexia, and doesn’t know it. The author clearly shares some of her own life experiences through the thoughts and feelings of this young girl who believes she is stupid. It shares how one person valuing another as a person can change the course of their whole life.

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Charlotte Mason and The Great Recognition edited by Nicole Handfield – I so enjoyed this collection of essays that further helped illuminate and illustrate Charlotte Mason’s Great Recognition. I especially enjoyed the color prints of the fresco and Ruskin’s thoughts on them in such a nice convenient form.

Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World by Ben Hewitt – Firstly, Hewitt is a beautiful writer. Secondly, even though I’m not an unschooler, I took away a lot of beauty, inspiration, and new ways to think about learning at home with our children. I really enjoyed this memoir!

Fiction:

Pied Piper by Nevil Shute – This beautiful story follows John Howard, a grieving 70 year old man, who escapes to a fishing vacation in France, after the death of his son in the RAF. It’s summer 1940 and he craves quiet, avoiding all the talk of war and death in England. Little does he know what he is headed for! This was a BEAUTIFUL, heart-wrenching tale that blessed the socks off of me. It was written in a plain, straight-forward style, and yet I was right there with Mr.Howard through every step of this extraordinary journey. The love and grace shown by him and others was an example to me of God’s unconditional love. I loved the children in this book and Mr. Howard’s treating them as people. My second favorite book of the year!

A Far Country  by Nevil Shute – Beautiful!  I really enjoy Mr. Shute!

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury – his book follows the story of 12 yo Douglas’ summer vacation in a small town during the late 1920’s. This book is so strangely weird and deeply beautifully, bordering on creepy at times. Bradbury does a wonderful job looking at life through the eyes of this extraordinary boy’s imagination and spin on things. The language and turns of phrase are unforgettable. I believe some of this might be inspired by Bradbury’s own childhood. I’m looking forward to reading more from him.

The Major of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy – Wow. Hardy is definitely not cheery reading, but somehow you forgive him because of beauty of his writing. I love the title, it means more than what’s on the surface, of course. Mr. Henchard is a character you find yourself alternating between frustration, dislike and pity. Continued here

Buried Giant by  Kazuo Ishiguro – The beginning was slow, so it took me a bit to get into it. For me this story asked more questions then it answered about memories, age, time, and love. It was a subtle, surprisingly powerful read for me. Continued here.

Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery – I adored this title. (It ended up being my favorite of the trilogy.) Even though I’m an avid L.M. Montgomery fan, this is the first time I’m going through this series. Oh my. This is the second in the series and we continue following Emily as she grows into a young woman and beautiful writer. Continued here.

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Gentian Hill by Elizabeth Goudge – English history, legends, sweet romance, mystery, deeply flawed, yet lovely characters, a quiet stone chapel, a lovely working farm, and a gorgeous, idyllic coastal English village make for another charming, beautiful, deeply moving story. Continued here. 

Difficult Books that I’m Glad I Read:

The Gray House by Mariam Petrosyan – Wow! This book was the longest I read this year. It was crazy, upside down, and inside out, but totally tugged at my heart strings. I came to care about many of the characters living in the Gray House even the hard-to-love ones. Continued here.

Silence by Shusaku Endo – I’m STILL thinking about this title.  I don’t think I totally understood it for some reason. 

 

Children’s Classics I Read to Myself:

Dobry by Monica Shannon – I found this book while dipping into a favorite book of mine on reading with children called Bequest of Wings by Annis Duff. Mrs. Duff was mentioning great children’s books with food in them! I was intrigued and picked this one up as it won the Newberry. I found this book absolutely sweet and interesting about a peasant boy in Bulgaria who lives with his mother and grandfather. Continued here.

The Midnight Folk by John Masefield – I found this title because I wanted to read a children’s classic for myself over Christmas. I was reading reviews on The Box of Delights and found out this was the first one in the series. I’m so glad I did! What an enchanting, magical British children’s story. Continued here.

Alright, regrettably, one has to stop SOMEWHERE. Ha. There are many others I read this year that I thoroughly enjoyed, including many rereads of favorites, but I think these are the ones that I keep thinking about.  If you made it this far through my list, bravo! A couple of goals I have for the new year are to read these 12 books on this list, read more modern books, especially memoir, and work on quality choices and finishing things. How ’bout you? What was your favorite read from 2017 and what do you want to read more of next year?

And if this isn’t enough reading goodness for you, here is a lovely bookish place to visit.

Here’s to a new year of great books!

~

 

 

 

December Reads

 

Happy Fourth Day of Christmas! We are getting snow currently, a beautiful curtain of white, and my feeders are full and hopping with feathered friends. We are finishing up some last minute gifts for our final Christmas gatherings of the year coming up this weekend, sipping hot drinks, and watching Narnia movies. Sigh. I thought I would share what I finished reading in December a few days early so I can work on one of my beloved posts, my favorite books of the year.

1. Many a Green Isle by Agnes Sligh Turnbull (*****) – I just loved the main character so much. Gavin McAllister is an English professor at a small town college and has a beautiful home with his wife and four children. Life is going smoothly, maybe too smoothly. A series of serious and life-altering events happen, shaking him to the core and challenging his old-fashioned values. This is set in small town America before the Vietnam War, the relationships between the characters are deep, meaningful, and beautiful. I came to care about these people and couldn’t put this book down. I found this book so refreshing in it’s tackling of hard issues with love and grace. Perhaps a bit too idyllic or sweet for some, I LOVED this look at a strong man who cares for his family and his neighbors with all of his being. Internally and privately, he deals with his thoughts, frustrations, and own faults, yet makes choices based on love. There are definitely some bows tied neatly in this story, and maybe some convenient answers, but my heart said, “YES” to the beauty of character throughout. Now to live this way myself. I also read The King’s Orchard by Turnbull way back in January and loved it so much, you can read my review here.

2. The Wood’s Edge by Lori Benton (***) I found this Christian fiction title interesting and well-written. It was, however, a predictable look at early American revolutionary times in New England.

3. The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay (****) – 3.5 stars. I loved the pace of this book (calm and meandering) and it’s Austen-drenched dialogue – the mental illness seemed a little far-fetched and the romance had some cheesy-ness . I loved the engineering aspect and the protagonist’s relationship with her father. Overall, a fun read if you like fan fiction-ish stuff.

4. Spanning Time: A Diary Keeper Becomes a Writer by Elizabeth Yates (*****) – I found this book of Elizabeth Yates diary entries spanning her life absolutely fascinating. I’m still thinking about it, but it covered so much history and just reading from a young girl growing to woman through the early 1900’s in Buffalo, NY, then WWI, the delicate and challenging part of being of a wealthy, upper class family, and the privileges yet heavy expectations on her. This follows her determination and grit to go out on her own when the pressure was super heavy from her family and naysayers not to follow her dream of writing. It goes on sharing about her long and sort of strange relationship with her future husband, Bill. Her loneliness at times and her love of animals helping assuage some of that loneliness. Her extensive travels and meeting so many interesting people. Her long standing friendship and working partnership with illustrator Nora Unwin was so heart-warming and fascinating. Her love of England and her experience of living there with Bill up until WWII. Bill’s blindness enters at the end, which can be read about more in depth in another of her fascinating books called The Lighted Heart. I found her search for her faith interesting and at times sad. Her persistence and dogged determination as she kept on writing and submitting through every rejection. I highly recommended this collection of diary entries!

5. The Midnight Folk by John Masefied (*****) – I found this title because I wanted to read a children’s classic for myself over Christmas. I was reading reviews on The Box of Delights and found out this was the first one in the series. I’m so glad I did! What an enchanting, magical British children’s story. This story follows the little boy Kay searching for a lost treasure rumored to be about and all the magical creatures that appear at night also in search of the treasure. This has a way about it that actually might make it a *wee* bit hard to read aloud, one has to pay close attention, but those that do are richly rewarded by lovely details. I can’t wait to read the second soon.

6. Dobry by Monica Shannon (*****) – I found this book while dipping into a favorite book of mine on reading with children called Bequest of Wings by Annis Duff. Mrs. Duff was mentioning great children’s books with food in them! I was intrigued and picked this one up as it won the Newberry. I found this book absolutely sweet and interesting about a peasant boy in Bulgaria who lives with his mother and grandfather. They bake and farm for a living, yet Dobry has an artist’s eye and a bent for noticing beauty in the ordinary. This book is very slow moving (which I loved, but some might dislike), following the agricultural seasons, traditions, a mix of religious, folk lore, and beliefs drive the whole community. There is very little plot to this book, just a general look at their day to day lives, and a gradual realization the Dobry is meant to be an artist. I loved it. Very unique, sparse-like illustrations.

7. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (****) 3.5 stars – This is a modern title that I picked up after a lot of buzz.  Longer review here.

8. Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity by Ray Bradbury (*****) – I’ve read 7 or 8 books on writing or author memoirs this year and this was just about my favorite. Just so beautifully encouraging and so very inspiring. Bradbury is hard to explain, just sort of explosive is my word for him, I have commonplace quotes to think over, and I’m totally in love with his love of words.

9. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien (*****) This was a reread for me and I loved it more if possible. I found so many beautiful quotes and poems to put down in my commonplace. So many things can be applied to this journey of life and battle between good and evil. I’m especially drawn this time to Aragorn’s character and also, as always, Gandalf. I also paid very close attention to the map of Middle Earth and am starting to get more of a picture in my mind of these unforgettable character’s travels.

The Holy Bible (*****) –  Mark, Luke, and John, and some of Psalms

If you want to look through my monthly books posts, take a peek at my Year in Books! I will be back soon with my Best of 2017!

~

 

 

Happy Birthday, Jane Austen!

Ten Pound Jane Austen

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Dear Jane, thank you for your humor, your sarcasm,  grandeur, and most of all, the hope your stories convey. I’m so thankful for your beautiful characters that walk through so many relate-able situations.  All of us, in small ways, deal with the feelings, choices, and consequences that these unforgettable people learn through, they really transcend the ages. (If anyone wants to send me one of these new Jane Austen £10 note, I wouldn’t be adverse to that kind gesture.)

~