Gratitude & Glories {September 2021} Happy Autumn ~

I am wholly willing to be here between the bright silent thousands of stars and the life of the grass pouring out of the ground. ~from “On the Hill Late at Night” by Wendell Berry

Warmest and brightest autumn greetings, dear hearts ~

The colors of autumn are heart-achingly beautiful here and I can’t help but snuggle down into them and my current favorite poetry collection, The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry. This book and the Scriptures of The Holy Bible have been such a comfort and guiding light to me this past month. A month of homeschooling is now finished and I’m able to know what needs tweaking a little.

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The Simple Woman’s Daybook

Looking out my Window…

I sink into goldenness…corn, beans, and other crops waiting to be harvested and the edges of leaves & grasses, deliciously dipped in color. The green is still here, but now more as a frame for the glorious autumnal painted splendor. Just unbelievably beautiful this time of year here in the northern Midwest US.

Continuing with my autumn comfort-type reads sharing! Any type of seasonal memoir is SO wonderful this time of year. I pulled a few off my shelves here!

I’m Thinking… about a lot, but especially the books The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi (honestly, a huge surprise to me!) and Boundaries for Your Soul by Cook & Miller. Both are really helping me work through guilt/anxiety and also figure out some things about myself in a healthier way.

I’m Thankful for… my family pitching in a lot lately as I’ve battled head colds etc this past month. I’ve recently realized how thankful I am for my 2 yo, as he’s teaching me so much, brings so much joy, and is keeping me on my knees. Nature’s bounty and ironically, I’m so thankful for my gratitude journal to remind me of how much good there is even in the darkest days.

HP can be such a comfort read if you enjoy the hero journey story with intriguing characters//The Enchanted April is so subtle, but a wonderful read about four women on a journey figuratively and literally//Over Sea, Under Stone is a Welsh-mythology type good & evil tale that I really enjoy//

One of My Favorite Things… there’s never just ONE! 😉 Vanilla Almond tea, my red & black checked flannel, my thrifted jean jacket, and our public library. Original Irish Spring soap takes me back to my grandma’s bathroom instantly and lately, I’ve loved just being surrounded by its lovely scent.

I’m Wearing... my sweater stash is slowly resurrecting albeit we had a warm spell this last week. It’s been so nice to throw on jeans, a tshirt, and grab a cardigan. I’m bringing out my favorite 3/4 length sleeve sweater that I got last year thrifting, too. It’s blue and pink strip and I love it. So nice to meet old friends again, isn’t it?

Jane of Lantern Hill has such a special place in my heart ~ I read it after the birth of my 5th child and it meant the world to me in ways I can’t explain, in fact, my handle on IG is a nod to this book…Amy of Hearth Ridge//The Magic Apple Tree is another of those seasonal comfort books//The Little White Horse by Goudge is just so lovely and strange in a magical way, it’s time for a reread soon for me//

I’m Creating.. not much currently, a few nature journal entries, penpal letters, and we started our terms handcraft of Faux Stained Glass.

I’m WatchingVictober Booktubers, Hallmark Mysteries -when I can find them on youtube-specifically Hannah Swenson, and Hungarian Rhapsodies #2 performances.

Oh my heart ~ I adore The Blue Castle, asks such a good question, how would you live if you had a short time to left?// The Hearth & Home book is a traditional country cookbook, but the last half is my favorite, thoughts on life and what’s truly important. A great book to pull out as the year wanes//Magician’s Nephew is my favorite of Lewis’ Narnia books and I found this unique cover last summer//

I’m Reading… the sci-fi YA Incarceron and two memoirs I’m really enjoying currently are Pastoral Song: A Farmer’s Journey by James rebanks and The Marches: A Borderland Journey Between England and Scotland by Rory Stewart. I’m slowly rereading Fellowship of the Ring, too, and boy, was it time. We all need a little J.R.R.T!

I’m Listeningthis song popped on my Spotify and it’s not that I love it or anything, but boy, it brought me back to highschool. 🙂 I’ve been gravitating to old favorite instrumental tracks on youtube: Scottish, Moonlight on Sea, and Wind.

Seasons of a Mother’s Heart is my favorite of Mrs. Clarkson’s books, as it rescued me as a young mother//The Lighted Heart -memoir about Elizabeth Yates and her husband’s gradual blindness – so inspiring and heart-wrenching//The Memoir Project by Marion Roach Smith – a hard hitting book on writing from life, I drag this out occasionally for wonderful inspiration//

I’m Hoping… go on a belated anniversary trip with my husband to an art museum, nature trails, and a flea market for Christmas gift shopping.

In the Garden… it’s pretty much morning glories rioting and choking everything, saggy sunflower offerings for the birdie friends, and a few happy zinnias. We so enjoyed the last of the watermelons and I need to clean things out.

Karen Andreola’s lovely stories about a family’s life and homeschool adventures are just the perfect heart-warming type reads for autumn//Spanning Time is another from Elizabeth Yates that I like to dip into//

I’m Learning …to be gentle with the parts of myself I struggle with especially fear/anxiety/guilt. Acknowledging them, but not letting them overwhelm me. Bringing them to Jesus and being ok that they are there, yet not whipping myself over the head with feelings of failure because I can’t rid myself of them completely.

In the Kitchen … we made applesauce and bread now that it’s cooling down a bit. Still doing a lot of stir fries with brown rice, veggies, and a bit of meat. We were able to buy a lot of inexpensive cheese from a bulk Amish store and so we’ve been doing a lot of homemade pizza, too.

To be honest, Sarah Ban Breathnach’s books stray VERY far from my faith beliefs, but I find quotes and a few lovely tidbits in them. I found these inexpensively while thrifting and enjoy the way they are laid our seasonally by months or days//This Beautiful Truth by Sarah Clarkson is one of my favorite books of this year, how our God is ALL good and He’s here WITH us in the darkness and suffering of the world.//

In the Homeschool Room… I’m not going to lie. It’s been exhausting and intense, BUT in a good way. We’ve been getting outdoors on nature walks a lot (in fact, I have a case of poison ivy to prove it! 😦 ), enjoying Liszt music, Vachel Lindsay’s unique, but surprisingly layered poetry, David Copperfield, so, so many interesting discussions about all the books, singing “This Land is Your Land”, and enjoying Rembrandt’s work. It’s an amazing privilege to get to do this life with my children.

Shared Quote…

What is love demanding of me right now? That is all that matters.

Bishop Robert Barron via Instagram

That’s all folks! Thanks for reading, ‘may the stars shine upon the end of your road’ {from Gildor, in Fellowship of the Ring} as you travel through glorious October. ❤ Love, Amy

Monday Ponderings ~ on an Illuminated Conscience {September 20th}

Continuing to share favorite comfort reads ❤ //Susan Branch’s A Fine Romance is just swooooony. A memoir/art/photo journey of her trip to England//Another visit to Stillmeadow through Glady Taber’s eyes//and one of the Anne series, Anne of Ingleside, we get a glimpse of Anne as a mother//

…if we mean to live in the wide world of thought and action, our first care must be to get, by slow degrees, the power of forming just opinions. How are we to get such power? In the first place, we must observe and think for ourselves, not ‘cute’ and clever thoughts about our neighbours’ doings, discovering a low motive here, a sharp practice there: persons who allow themselves in this habit of mind lose the power of interpreting life by the aid of an illuminated conscience. But, if we observe with gentle, large, and humble thoughts, we shall find much to instruct and improve us in the life of every family. We shall see good in the action of statesmen, at home and abroad; wisdom in the attitudes of nations. But most of us have little chance of seeing men and things on a wide scale, and our way to an instructed conscience is to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest. We must read novels, history, poetry, and whatever falls under the head of literature, not for our own ‘culture.’ Some of us begin to dislike the word ‘culture,’ and the idea of a ‘cultivated’ person; any effort which has self as an end is poor and narrow. But there is a better reason for an intimacy with literature as extensive and profound as we can secure. Herein we shall find the reflections of wise men upon the art of living, whether put in the way of record, fable, or precept, and this is the chief art for us all to attain.

Charlotte Mason, Volume 4, p. 70 {emphasis mine}
Winter Cottage is a heart-warming story set during The Great Depression era in Wisconsin//The Midnight Folk is a creepy good/evil tale in which a young boy has an scary adventures to help others – perfect autumn read//Anne’s House of Dreams is more deliciousness from Montgomery about Anne & Gilbert’s early life//

May you have a lovely coffee and time to spill your heart soon. Wishing you all the best this Monday~ Amy

Gratitude & Glories {August 2021} Ramblings & Reflections

{100 Days of Gratitude Journaling} ❤ I’m so enjoying this meditative practice.
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The Simple Woman’s Daybook

Hello Lovely Friends,

Warmest Greetings to September ~I’ve been slowly attempting to just stop with the {home} school prep. At some point, you have to just run with it and tweak as you go, right? I haven’t been reading as much, in sort of a period where I’m just dipping in and out of things and dreaming a bit. Honestly, I’m approaching this year of {home} school with a healthy dose of respect and finding myself on shaky knees of prayer. Summer loveliness hasn’t quite faded away yet, but my heart is turning slowly towards the anticipation of the richness of autumn and all it brings. I’ve been thinking and meditating much on the turning of the seasons, literally, but also more so figuratively. It’s got me pulling books off my shelves that lend to that lingering feeling of change in the air. So many books evoke feelings of excitement and delight as one burrows in or bursts out depending on our seasons or circumstances. I thought it would be fun to intersperse and share some favorites from my home library throughout this post and for the next while as whim and spirit moves.

Gladys Taber’s seasonal memoirs always evoke coziness – it’s forever nice to visit Stillmeadow // Pilgrim’s Inn by Elizabeth Goudge is like a lovely, worn quilt – it’s the 2nd in a trilogy, but I read it by-its-lonesome all the time//Landmarks is a word lovers paradise and MacFarlane is so haunting and descriptive//

Looking out my window...has got me swooning with soft, dreamy purple sun rises and the rich, gold-drenched sunsets. We’ve had some scorching days and some severe thunderstorms, but for the most part, WONDER-filled weather.

I’m thinking…about habits and the idea that how you spend your days is how you spend your life, Annie Dilliard, thankyouverymuch. See below for full quote.

Wind in the Willows ~ does one have to say anything?//Mitten Strings for God by Katrina Kenison ~ a beautiful memoir for those with little children//Rainbow Valley, sigh. Almost anything by L.M. Montgomery has that magical seasonal inside & out journey feel to it. This one is the adventures of Gil and Anne’s six young children//

I’m thankful for… my new art & idea journal and for all my books and for Jesus loving me at my lowest, my family bearing with me, for lovely writing ideas swirling and spinning, themes and threads, and how life-giving journaling has been for me, as of late. My trip to Minnesota to meet up with my health support ladies for prayer and relaxation was a God-send.

One of my favorite things… has been listening to Studio Ghibli instrumental soundtracks – you can find them everywhere, on Youtube, Spotify…just so inspiring, cheerful, and dreamy. We’ve been working on a couple puzzles recently and just got a new one ~ Japanese Tea Garden~ {I can’t find it on Amazon anymore?} that looks lovely to tie into our upcoming Japan focus for geography and some history. I’ve been loving short walks w/my two little guys in the afternoon or picking bouquets together.

Ray Bradbury is one of my favorite authors ~ definitely on the weird side, but these two books, wow. Something Wicked This Way Comes was my 2020 pick for Favorite Fiction of the Year and Dandelion Wine has just a glorious coming of age/seasons of life vibe to it.//At the Back of the North Wind, I actually haven’t finished yet, but I still think about it a couple years after reading a good portion of it~ haunting and mysterious//Streams in the Desert by L.B.Cowman is a devotional that flows through my life at many different points and I love the memories and beauty of it//

I am wearing… casual has been my mainstay for the last couple of weeks, as it has been just a touch cooler – jean, black, or olive green pants, took a break from my beloved skirts. T-shirts with a cardigan or a button-down with my pearl or sand dollar earrings from the Gulf of Mexico have been my go-tos. I’ve been wearing my brown sandals nonstop. I got myself a little back to {home}school gift that I can’t wait to wear! EEEK! 🙂 I mean it had my name on it. 😉

I am creating…my art/idea journal, school plans, and slowly prepping my offerings for our Charlotte Mason community group, gathering handicraft supplies, and chemistry experiment stuff. Whew. I also have a sweet little cross stitch project I began on my trip with my friends that I’m super excited to work on. I have a short children’s story I’m working on for my online writing group next week, poetry knocking at the door of my brain, wanting OUT, and lots of words/themes/visions/ideas to put to pen.

My little reading/writing spot in my room ~ makes me happy//

I am watching…short art journal videos on Youtube, booktubers, and I’ve watched the movie Totoro a few times with my children. It’s so peaceful.

I am reading…as I said before, I’m not really reading anything super specific, more just dipping my toes into lots of things. I’m most excited about the nonfiction, Heaven’s Ditch by Jack Kelly, Toilers of the Sea (possibly?! it’s BIG) by Victor Hugo (honestly, I most drawn to this book because of the delightful woodcut art), and I’m going to keep choosing a few favorite light reads off my shelves for comfort as we begin school. Maybe Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge? or more Wendell Berry poetry which has been SO lifegiving lately. I did recently finish Agatha Christie’s The Secret of the Chimneys and it was a five-star read for me! So humorous and mysterious. Sigh.

Miss Read – English village schoolteacher, sigh//essays by the poet Jane Kenyon, fabulous and thought-provoking//and any of Leif Enger’s three novels I just want to sink into//

I’m listening... as I already mentioned Studio Ghibli and also Salt of the Sound.

I am hoping…to canoe down a local stretch of river soon with my family and also write more about journaling.

Susan Cooper’s spooky series loosely inspired by Welsh-mythology is a favorite reread//another Katrina Kenison, we are not of the same faith tradition, but I still walk away with so many lovely things from her writings//A City of Bells, probably my favorite Elizabeth Goudge, injured soldier visits his grandfather’s little town and takes over an empty bookshop with secrets ~ deliciously good//

In the garden...we’ve pulled out some sunflowers, tomatoes, zinnias, and our watermelons are coming along any day now ~grapes and apples, too.

I am learning…that I go ALOT slower these days~ I can’t read, do, or be as fast as I used to, and you know what, that’s ok. I need to eat well, nap when I can, and get outside. But I also have to work faithfully at my TO-DO list, at times it’s the best thing for me, meaningful work.

Coffee, sunlight, and plants…

In the kitchen… we’ve been making a lot of veggie, meat, and brown rice concoctions of sorts ~ I added black beans to my browned beef, too, the other night to make it stretch and it was delish.

In the homeschool room… eeek. It’s coming, my friends. Easing in next week. I need to stop by the thrift store this weekend to let the children pick out old frames for our handicraft project and we are slowly purging the homeschool/game/craft closet. It’s positively frightening…the closet, that is. Not school starting. 😉

Shared Quote:

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour and that one is what we are doing.

Annie Dillard

Some moments from my day {month}...

My friends and I in Winona, Minnesota ~ we went to an amazing art museum, prayed & cooked together, got out in nature, and talked books to our heart’s content. It was a soul-balm.

What are some books that evoke the change of seasons, literally or figuratively for you? How are you doing? Excited for autumn or holding on just a wee bit longer to summer? 🙂

It was so nice to chat. Until next time, lots of love ~ Amy



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 😉 ), 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.

September Reads

Hello and Happy-Last-Week of October, friends!

I’m trying to catch up and wanted to share what I read last month!

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery (*****) – This was actually at the tail end of August, because I was desperate for something other than the disappointing things I had been reading. It’s definitely predictable, but so cozy. I’ve reread this multiple times and I’m always in love with The Blue Castle by the lake. Swoon. The question about how I would live my life, if I only had a short time to live, always strikes me deeply. I love the friends to love story angle too, instead of all the instant romance stories out there. Have you read this Montgomery? Any other Blue Castle fans out there? If you could have ANY “blue castle” what would it be? I actually think the way Valancy’s is described is pretty close to my own dream.

At Mrs. Lippincote’s by Elizabeth Taylor (not the actress!) (*****) – I’ve wanted to read one of Taylor’s stories ever since I saw Jane Brocket’s recommendation of her in The Gentle Art of Domesticity. Wow. Subtle and uber perceptive look at human personality and character underneath layers of gorgeous domesticity and descriptive settings. The little boy and his mother’s bookish connection was lovely. This definitely had a darker but honest feeling to it. It felt so realistically human by everything not being perfectly happy. No formulaic tropes here. I loved the Bronte influence and thread throughout – at first, I wondered where this was going with the main protagonist, Julia, but then the tension eased for me a bit as I realized there wasn’t really going to be much of a “plot” or a lot of movement. It was more about seeing human nature in the little moments of life. I want to read this again soon and jot down some quotes and I very much hope to read more of her in the future.

The Heroine’s Bookshelf: Life Lessons, from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder by Erin Blackmore (**) – Ugh. I found this book to be full of cheesy puns and Blackmore’s twisting of beloved stories to be super irritating to me. Ha! I was so disappointed. I looooove books about books and this one looked even MORE promising because of her book choices being ones that I love. I did enjoy the peek into the author’s lives and some of the things that Blakemore felt about her favorite stories, but this just wasn’t my cup of tea.

The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books (And Two Not-So-Great Ones) Saved My Life by Andy Miller (****) –

“…my faith in art had never faltered. Culture could come in many forms, high, low or somewhere in-between: Mozart, The Muppet Show, Ian McEwan. Very little of it was truly great and much of it would always be bad, but all of it was necessary to live, to be alive, to frame the endless days and make sense of them.” ♡ Andy Miller ♡

I felt like I could really understand Mr. Miller’s need to read and I could appreciate all that he was searching for in the pockets of time as he read between “real” life. His collection of quotes and thoughts on these books, humanity, writing, life and his sarcasm and humor made this a delicious read, albeit some of the British cultural references fell flat for me just cause I’m American. Ha! I also enjoyed that he is a fellow rereader. Good to know we don’t always have to be reading the “new” thing out there, because there is so many old things to read and revisit. I’ve challenged myself in the past couple of years to read widely and a bit deeper, not always reaching for fluff. Such an interesting and delightful bookish memoir!

Thornyhold by Mary Stewart (***) –

“Cousin Geillis must have seen it, and understood how, along with everything else, it would help to develop the strong sense of property that I had, the two-way need of belonging, and the almost fierce sense of responsibility that went with it. Thornyhold, with all it contained, would be safe with me.” Mary Stewart

Thornyhold was a cozy, domestic type mystery with a witchy spin to it. It kind of reminds me of a Goudge in setting style without dear Goudge’s amazing multiple layers, deepness, and spirituality 😂😏🤷‍♀️. So not like Goudge, maybe. 😋 Very enjoyable!

The Door on Half-Bald Hill by Helena Sorenson (***.5) –
How do we ask the right questions? The Door on Half-Bald Hill took me a bit to get into and wrap my mind around, but slowly it crept it’s way into my heart. In an ancient Celtic world, told from the young Bard, Idris’ perspective, the tension of his desire to encourage his village with a new Story, Vision…or the Word, in the face of a creeping, bitter poison deep in the land is extraordinary high. As the village healer turns dark, mysterious, and closed off and the village Druid desperately clinging to old ways that aren’t speaking to him, Idris increasingly finds the villagers looking to him for answers. This story made me look a bit deeper and ask questions about life, love, and sacrifice. 

The Crystal Cave and The Hollow Hills by Mary Stewart (*****) – After reading Thornyhold by Stewart a friend mentioned her Merlin Trilogy being her best work, so I just devoured the first two. It is AMAZING. If you like Arthur/Merlin legend stories, please check these out. I hope to read the last this winter. I also learned there is a fourth book connected to this trilogy too!

The Holy Bible (*****)- Acts, Romans, and 1 Corinthians

Gratitude & Glories: {3rd & 4th weeks of September}

I am so thankful these past two weeks…

~autumnal mystery & magic in the air here the last few weeks ~ busy weeks, but little bits of margin to also soak it all in ~ rollerskating nights for older children, my husband, and their uncle ~ playing on deck with our dog, Zoey and enjoying the last, fading morning glories ~pork stir fry with brown rice that everyone enjoyed, so satisfying to create a delicious meal ~bittersweet farewell to the barn swallows, they bid their goodbyes, we will wait in hope and anticipation for you next year, our friends! ~

~golden hues around every corner chasing awhile the inner blues ~ deck schooling in the sunshine , laughs with my oldest son that felt so good ~ wild little baby boys to keep me on my toes ~ delicious sausage with cabbage lunches ~ older children helping with younger children’s maths~ our dear homeschooling community group’s first meeting of the year, Excelsior Guild is a bright spot in our school days ~ our dog doing well after a mishap with a horse, such a relief after worrying about her ~ new fresh mornings after bad dreams ~ the hug of a husband, prayers together ~

~long walks hedged in by Staghorn Sumac tinged, dipped in blood red gorgeousness~ hubby singing from his office ~ safe trips to get farm equipment, the relief of him coming home again ~ our favorite stream, the “Withywindle”, the bubbling, happiness of it ~ Gideon’s delight in our neighbor Elaine’s big black cows, all of us having a “mooing” fest with him, to his utter delight ~ baby boy’s overly long blond hair flopping up and down in little wispy tendrils as he’s carried in the Ergo on our outdoor adventures by myself or a big kid ~ popcorn and hot chocolate tradition started back up for Elevensies, our folksong “Country Roads” by John Denver, ringing out regularly now ~ rereading The Little Prince with the children ~

~beautiful tidbits from the Parables on Nature each morning during our meditations over Scripture and poetry ~ deliciously hot sun baking us, cool wind cooling us, as we read together outdoors, basking in the crisp, gorgeous September weather, leaves drifting down around us, and sharp, brilliant blue sky sheltering us ~ Ella and Ben helping me make homemade chicken noodle soup and homemade whole wheat crackers ~ Amos and I curling up to watch “Young at Heart” with Doris Day and Frank Sinatra ~ hubby borrowing juice making thingy 🙂 to make grape juice from our grapes, his joy as he enjoyed glasses of it!~

~kettle merrily on most afternoons, different teas being tried ~ rocking early riser baby blondie sweetheart back to sleep, curled together in blanket ~ lovely devotions and lazy afternoons after school books put away to read ~ started Macbeth with the older children ~ oldest out and about with friends for soccer and ice cream ~ errand dates, just nice to be in silence together, enjoying the rolling hills and changing leaves ~

~laughs after the fact, big boy relieved after finding escaped pigs ~ disasters making for good stories, atv tracks, dog herding type of stories ~ early morning walks down our gravel road, stories, dew drops on pine, and love radiating through the whispering corn cobs ~ sunlight flickering through the rustling of trees, corn, and all things autumn, autumn has a crackling, rattle-y sound to it, does it not? ~ children enjoying pie and ice cream ~ candlelit dinners are back, so relaxing after long days, there’s just something about the Light ~

~bird seed, candles, and new tea purchased ~ beautiful hike with church friends, gorgeous hints of color yet to come, new butterfly and flower sightings ~ picnics, delicious apples, that first juicy bite ~sweet corn stands to pick up dinner ~ little children shucking all the corn on the kitchen floor, messes and mayhem, but the giggles, oh the giggles ~”Little House on the Prairie” episode with dad before bed and 7 Wonders game played ~

~ last day of summer celebrations, donuts and an arboretum together, Ginko and River Birch enchant me ~ rolling down hills, grass in hair, belly laughs, hot sweaty faces ~ little blond urchling truddling through the towering trees ~ started an AMAZING trilogy on Merlin by Mary Stewart, just so lovely to escape to the early days of Britian ~ lovely reading time of The Children’s Crusade by Geoffery Trease and we all crowded around our Holland map and Google images after reading a bit in The Young Traveller’s Holland. Maps and books go so well together, it’s really magical ~ some children remember some lovely tie ins to Hans Brinker and we were excited to talk about that ~ Miranda Mill’s lovely BookTube channel has been something to look forward to with delight ~

~ our second homeschool meeting snuck up on us and was a delight as usual ~ dissections of cow hearts was fascinating (!!!) ~ discussing Prince & the Pauper by Twain with seven teenagers was a highlight ~ the drive to and from our friend’s home was truly gorgeous, the way home the children slept and I was suspended in silence and sunshine as I drove ~ the colors and beauty flashed out at me around every bend, what an amazing gift from God ~ stopping at a farm stand, admiring all the pumpkins, autumn treat for the children ~ mists, a bit of rain, golden corn and soy beans all melding into a real impressionistic painting ~ Earl Grey decaf tea and Anna Karenina evenings, sigh ~ fresh bread hot out of the oven and our “Narnia” meal resurrected, roasted veggies and sausage~

~chiropractors for hubby’s neck, hot coffee after long sleepless nights ~the quarter moon staring at me, welcoming and chilly all in the same glance in a deep night moment at the big, oval window at the top of our staircase, feels literally like a stairway to the stars, I love it so ~ a boy’s narration of The White Stag, so fascinating ~ wet hike around our corn field, secret, enchanting little wood hide-y-holes, mushrooms and flowers ~ a bower of color overhead, color all around bursting forth, autumn truly is for the refreshment of our soul ~ color storing deep inside for the barrenness of the coming cold ~ chicken nachos, tea, and a two boys banding together to make loaves of banana bread ~ finishing a book that was recommended to me in one afternoon, Amy Harmon’s characters in Where the Lost Wander gripping me ~

~ long Saturdays filled with coolness, wild wind, and forts in the barn ~ bubbly lavendar baths for boys ~ hot showers ~ corn shock and pumpkin deck decor ~ copious coffee and more Merlin magic ~ dearest daughter excitedly making Rock Cakes from the Redwall cookbook, checked out from the library, inviting her siblings to tea ~ Peter & the Wolf listened to and gorgeous picture book looked at, rush to finish chores, after which some video games get to be played ~ the sigh and the hush in the afternoon ~

What an wonderful, messy, exhaustingly, beautiful fortnight! Oh good, gracious, Lord, THANK YOU.

How was your last few weeks? I’d love to hear!~

Beauty for you…

The Clothespin

How much better it is

to carry wood to the fire

than to moan about your life.

How much better

to throw the garbage

onto the compost, or to pin the clean

sheet on the line

with a gray-brown wooden clothes pin!

~Jane Kenyson

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

 

July Reads

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{My younger children enjoy Tortuga}

Hello, friends! July was a good month of reading for me! Did you read anything great?

The Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson (*****) – A friend recommended this title and I wasn’t disappointed. Short, gorgeous reflections on sharing nature with children and keeping wonder alive. I highly recommend this one! I’m sad I waited so long as I tried to read her Silent Spring and found it a bit dry. I will be looking for her books about the sea soon.

Heidi’s Alp: One Family’s Search for Storybook Europe by Christina Hardyment (*****) – This was a funny and heartwarming account of an English family and their friend’s trip through six countries in Europe in a camper-van (RV), searching for bits of their favorite stories. Hardyment’s beautiful writing lends magic to every page of this fascinating memoir as we walk along with some of the world’s beloved classics. We especially get to see things through the eyes of Hans Christian Anderson. The author does a wonderful job with the tension between the reality of travel with children and the simultaneous enchantment. I love how the accidental and mundane often beat out the super planned or touristy spots. So true! This is so lovely and inspirational and Hardyment’s extensive knowledge on the history of many fairytales, lore, origins of story, and details of different author’s lives are just the icing on the cake. Highly recommend this one!

Selected Poems of Helen Goodhue Ploeger edited by Phyllis Miller (***) – I received this as a birthday gift from a dear friend and I really enjoyed it. The simple, rhyming poems  revealed the poet’s love of place, especially the desert and her eye for small bits of beauty were lovely. I enjoyed her desert and other nature poems the best. This book also had a beautiful, aged-feeling paper and luxurious cloth cover.

“Night Magic”

There’s magic in the summer night for me

In California deserts

High in the mountain tops

Or down along the peaceful sea.

 

There was a time when nights seemed sad & lonely

And all the gleaming stars

A gentle, patient moon.

Seemed not for hope, but sadness only.

 

Why is it now, that there is only magic 

And musical harmony

In the summer night?

‘Tis I who changed, night is not tragic.

 

~Helen Goodhue Ploeger

 

The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel (****) – This was a fascinating look at libraries throughout history. Manguel looks at them through the lenses of myth, order, space, power, shadow, chance, workshop, mind, island, survival, oblivion, imagination, identity, and home. Aren’t those chapter titles intriguing? This is academic while being conversational. A book really about books by looking at how we store and collect them. Manguel had some very interesting ideas, quotes, and unique ways of looking at why books and libraries are so important to us. He intertwines this with little stories of his own library’s creation in the French countryside. Each chapter opens out with thought provoking quotes, which I loved and jotted a few down. The importance of reading really comes home in that we become a world citizen through the eyes of the world’s books. I recommend this book!

Those who read, those who

tell us what they read,

Those who noisily turn

the pages of their books,

Those who have power over

red and black ink,

and over pictures,

Those are the ones who lead us

guide us, show us the way.

 

~Aztec Codex from 1524

Vatican Archives

 

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard (***) – This Pulitzer-winning title is sort of inexpiable. Lines of extreme beauty mixed with stream-of-conscience nonsense understood possibly by only Dillard herself. This book is a woman’s rambles through the natural world around her home and local creek as she examines deep questions on death, life, faith, humanity, the natural world, and our souls. Her writing takes deep concentration and sometimes it still doesn’t make a lot of sense. It reminds me of a prose sort of Gerald Manley Hopkins. This title literally took me YEARS to finish, but I’m so glad I did, as reflecting back on all the time with this, I feel I was richly rewarded in ideas and beauty. Definitely not a quick read, but I recommend for the beauty seeker who doesn’t want to loose their sense of wonder in the infinitely small miracles of this world. It may be one I might try to reread someday.

The Vine Witch by Luanne G. Smith (**) – I was looking for fiction that has a certain feeling to it and this was recommended to me. Do you ever try to find a story based on the stories you’ve loved the feel of or atmosphere? I really enjoy home-y, cozy type fantasy or regular fiction with elemental magic or at least a nod to the spiritual world. This book follows the story of Elena, a vine witch. The idea that each vineyard has a special witch that is connected to the earth and vines was uniquely and creatively done. This book was well-written and fast paced, good setting and character development. Just way too dark for my tastes, the occultism themes being very heavy. The romance was so stereotypical and too focused on the sexual for me. I liked the story idea in theory, but in the end this wasn’t what I was looking for. I don’t recommend this one.

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes (****) – Last month, I read Romanov by this author of YA fantasy. This one I liked better! It was a fast paced unique retelling of the historical Guy Fawkes Gunpowder plot set in 17th century London. Thomas Fawkes has the stone plague and finds himself expelled from his school. He travels to London to find his long absent, infamous father and gets involved in the plot to blow up the King. I found Brandes use of magical color power very creative and changing the political and religious tensions into color/magic tensions was brilliant. Only one small quibble was that I wasn’t clear on who to root for at times. The White Light was so mysterious it confused me. Overall, I enjoyed this story better than the first I read by this author.

The Holy Bible (*****) – Leviticus, almost finished with Isaiah, and slowly meditating on John.

What a wonderful month of feeding my soul! 🙂 Hope your reading has been fantastic lately! Let me know!

~

May Reads {Part 2}

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As promised, here is the second half of my May finished reads. Whew! Maybe I need to do something other than read? 😉 Here is Part 1 if you missed it and are interested!

The Merlin Conspiracy by Diana Wynne Jones (*****) – I loved this Middle Grade/YA book even though I didn’t understand all of it and I suspect its based on some Welsh mythology that I’m not very familiar with. Totally had a book hangover with this one. Time travel, magic, and heroic children saving the world! Yay! Just perfect! Unbelievably, she had a character named Maxwell Hyde and I have a character named that in my children’s story I’m working on. So I’ll probably change his name, but it was so, so cool that I had a moment of the same creative brain as dear Diana Wynne Jones. This is one I may reread from time to time, so fantastically weird and creative.

Iron-Hearted Violet by Kelly Barnhill (****) – I mentioned reading another of Barnhill’s books here and being a bit disappointed, but still wanting to tackle her backlist. This was a lovely story about a princess and an insidious, ancient evil creeping about the castle. It used mirrors and a flattering tongue of lies to get free of its jail and rule the worlds. With the help of friends and a dragon, Princess Violet overcomes the control this evil god has on her and saves her people. The only part I didn’t love was when Nymbus had control of Violet and I had no one character to really root for, except maybe the dragon. Overall, I loved this story!

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell (*****) – This was a recommendation from Mr. Blackwell and I was highly anticipating it! It didn’t disappoint. The perfect combination of beautifully, unique metaphor and a lovely story. A young girl grows up in a lovely and unconventional childhood with an eccentric bachelor. She was rescued from a ship wreck and begins a lifelong search for her mother, following the cello music that seems to connect them. A band of street children who live on the rooftops of Paris join her search. Lovely!

Papa’s Wife by Thyra Ferre Bjorn (*****) – Just so encouraging! The fictionalized tale of a Swedish minister’s family from the mother’s point of view. A family of 8 children and the inspiring and heartwarming happenings as they immigrate to America. I got this recommendation from Karen Andreola’s book Mother Culture, I believe.

Snow & Rose by Emily Winfield Martin (*****) – I have been wanting to read this one for awhile and I finally did!  Lovely, mysterious retelling and intermingling of well-loved fairy tales. The illustrations are simple and sweet. The home-y-ness is so lovely. The animals, woods, and their home were stuff dreams are made of and the surprise ending was delightful.

Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman (****) – an interesting mash up adventure of a boy named Odd and how he helps Odin, Loki, and Thor get back Asgard from a Frost Giant.

Digital Minialism by Cal Newport (*****) – This was an EXCELLENT book and just what I needed to read at the present. Mr. Newport raises so many questions to ask oneself about the quality of life we want to live and what role social media does or does not play into our answers. Timely and so important!

The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson (*****) – I adored this book! It was full of mystery, nature, and folklore, and the House with the Chicken Legs returns to help them with transportation (from Anderson’s previous story)! The food/home-y-ness, working together with the animals, and the legends tied into Yanka’s story and her map was so well done. The half bear/human element of this story may feel a little strange, but it was interesting and I loved the Lime Tree aspect of the story. I liked that Yanka’s adopted mama made her a lovely skirt stitched with stories on it. There were so many little details to delight and I enjoyed this book immensely.

May was such a fun, light month of reading! ~

 

April Reads

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{early morning favorites: sunrise and The Cloud of Witness devotional}

Hello, Bibliophiles. Happy May 1st! I finished MANY reads this past month and wowsers, my brain is spinning from all the goodness in here. How ’bout you? Did you finish anything noteworthy? I’d really love to hear! The next best thing to reading books is talking about reading books. *wink, wink* I also realized that I read from ALL of my categories in my challenge to myself this year, although the one I’m counting as memoir is more of an autobiography. I really do love those genres of books.

Tree and Leaf: Includes Mythopoeia and The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth by J.R.R. Tolkien (*****) – This was small collection of an essay, a short story, and two poems and it was AMAZING, but unfortunately, I’m not going to succinctly be able to explain why. Ha. These great, learned writers do that to me. Make me all tongue-tied and starry-eyed. My imagination soars up and away and I’m gone. I seriously had a book-hangover from this one. The first essay “On Fairy Stories” was one of the reasons I wanted to read this book, as an artist friend on Instagram had referenced it. It was amazing and just such an encouragement to me as a writer, mother, and really as a Christian, too. I found it so beautiful, I had to reread lines, pause, and go back. I took time to read his extensive footnotes which were all at the end of the essay due to space. The short story, “Leaf by Niggle” was vague, beautiful, and so inspiring. Perhaps a wee bit autobiographical of Tolkien’s life. I didn’t understand it all and perhaps it had a thread of his Catholic faith that was beyond me, but it was all just so lovely. The poems were so fascinating too. I highly recommend this one, especially if you are looking for creative inspiration.

The Joy of Snow by Elizabeth Goudge (****) – I found this autobiography just a beautiful look at Miss Goudge’s life and you could see how so many of the lovely details in her stories came out of experiences and places in her real life. I gobbled this book up in a couple of days. So fascinating! And of course, England comes alive through her eyes.

Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë (*****) This was the March pick for my Instagram Classics read-along and I listened to it while I washed dishes. I finished it a little late, but I really enjoyed the story of Miss Grey’s life as a governess and this was just a sweet and sobering look of the life of the hardships, yet little joys that Agnes found. This was slow, yet interesting. After digging around, I may have already read this one, but had forgotten! Ha. So, I wouldn’t say it’s RIVETING, but I definitely look on it fondly. It was happier than some of the reads we’ve done this year.

Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper (*****) – This is ageless adventure story surrounding three children and their mysterious Uncle Merriman Lyon on the coast of Cornwall. They must decipher a mysterious, ancient map and find a priceless treasure before the Dark does! Doesn’t that sound wonderful? That’s because it IS! I reread this book often. Highly recommend!

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (****) – This was my first Wharton and wow, it was amazingly written. I loved immersing myself in the Golden Age of New York and the wealthy families and intrigues. I found Wharton’s characters so interesting and this was funny and thoughtful at the same time. It was a teeny bit repetitive as Newland Archer agonized over his life, decisions, and keeping up an outward adherence to what was the norm for his class and culture while internally and morally battling his choices. I really want to read more Wharton now.

The Voice of Many Waters: A Sacred Anthology for Today complied by Kay Snodgrass (*****) – This was a beautiful collection of poems that I had found for .25 cents at a thrift store earlier this year. I’m so glad I picked it up and I will be thumbing through it again. I found a couple new-to-me poets also.

From Room to Room by Jane Kenyon (*****) – Poetry has really been feeding me lately and this sparse, gorgeous collection was no exception. Deceptively simple, layers underneath. ❤

The Dalemark Quartet, Volume 1: Cart and Cwidder and Drowned Ammet by Diana Wynne Jones (****) – I needed a new series from Diana and this was fun! 3 stars for the first book – Cart and Cwidder and 5 stars for the second book – Drowned Ammet. Both of these books are set in Dalemark and are loosely related.

The Ravenwood Saga by Morgan L. Busse (****) –  I got this series via Kindle as the first was free with my Prime account. This was well-written, intriguing fantasy about a young woman’s coming into her inherited secret power that she doesn’t fully understand. To her horror and revulsion, all isn’t as it seems. The country is divided into different Houses each with different gifts and House of Ravenwood’s gift has take a sinister twist over the centuries. An outside threat could draw the Houses together in defense of their land or will it drive them apart? My oldest daughter and I enjoyed this series!

Show Me the Way: Daily Lenten Readings by Henri J. M. Nouwen (*****) – This was a BEAUTIFUL look at Jesus and what we can draw from His life example during the Lent and Easter season. I really loved this!

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt (*****) – Beautiful and haunting lines creep up on you in this interesting, ageless story of a fountain of youth. I’d like to reread it at sometime and jot the lines down soon. The story definitely makes you think, but my favorite is Babbitt’s lyrical writing. Just lovely. I grabbed this off my shelf one afternoon when I was looking for something different to read.

The Child from the Sea by Elizabeth Goudge (*****) – Heartbreaking and beautifully written – a darker story from what usually came from Goudge’s pen. She definitely wanted to put a kinder spin on Lucy Walter’s life than history. I found it extremely sad at the end and it made want to hug my babies tighter. I really loved it and gobbled it up in a few days.

A Hundred White Daffodils by Jane Kenyon (*****) – This was a lovely and thoughtful collection of essays by the poet Jane Kenyon. I touched on it a little here, if you’d like to read more. I’m stalking Kenyon’s work currently. Extremely inspiring for fueling creativity!

The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett (*****) – Oh, my goodness. This was so simple, yet so complex. Layers of beauty in this simple, intimate look at the lives, loves, and natural beauty of Maine. Even though this is fictional, it felt living and truly heart-felt. Jewett breathed life into these people and this place. You could really tell she KNEW this region and deeply loved it. This is probably so slow moving to some (not much of a plot), but I found it so very lovely. I think the older version has illustrations, but mine did not, which was a bummer. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND.

James and the Giant Peach by Ronald Dahl (***) – We’ve been trying to read more Dahl here and I grabbed this off the shelf and enjoyed it one afternoon after we had finished school. So creative and I really loved the illustrations. Probably not my favorite of his, but lovely all the same.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (*****) – I struggled with this a bit at first, but then I read some reviews on Goodreads that made me want to hold on and I’m so glad I did. This ended up being a beautiful, reflective read for me. I copied down some passages into my Commonplace Journal also for further reflection. This is a time period I really know nothing about, the United States in 1930’s and we follow a young woman, Janie, as she walks through three different marriages and the tensions of race in a post-Civil War America. Definitely gave me a lot of food for thought and the different characters were done so well in this book.

Lady Catherine’s Necklace by Joan Aiken (****) – I really enjoy Joan Aiken’s fanfic based off of characters and situations from Jane Austen’s novels. This follows mainly Anne de Bourgh and Maria Lucas. Light and fun!

Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather (****) – This is a beautifully written historical fiction story and I was transported to 17th century Quebec in a lovely story full of domesticity, children, faith, and wonder. It was a slower read for me and in fact, I started this in February and finished it today! Ha. I really love Cather’s writing, though, so it was worth it.

The Holy Bible (*****) – I’ve been slowly working through Psalms and finished 2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude, and Revelation.

Wow. I made a dent in my TBR stack this month. Ha. I guess Covid is good for something. 😉 There were SO many  lovely finishes this month, but I’d have to say Tree and Leaf and  The Country of the Pointed Firs were my favorites. How ’bout you?

~

 

March Reads

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{A bit of spring Tasha Tudor Cheer}

How are you all holding up? Our day-to-day life here hasn’t changed all that much, but of course we miss family, friends, and activities. I was in a bit of a reading slump in February due to traveling (seems a lifetime ago!), but I was able to finish a lot of things this past month and I was happy to touch all of my 2020 categories.

Carbonel: The King of the Cats by Barbara Sleigh (*****) – I believe I actually finished this in February but forgot to mention it! I really enjoyed this cute Middle Grade story about a little girl who buys a retiring witch’s broom and cat, resulting in many adventures. It had all the lovely bits a children’s book should have and most older British children’s books do so well…mysterious old houses, lovely market places, delicious food, and home-i-ness. All the relationships in this book were done so well, too…not perfect, but loving. This was just a delight to read. There are at least two more in this series, so if I can get my hands on them, eventually I’d like to read them! 

Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer (**) – I was looking for a light Jane Austen-ish type read and usually Heyer is good for this, but this one was repetitive and the secondary main character was super annoying. I’d recommend staying away from this one. Ha!

Shirt of Flame: A Year with St. Therese of Lisieux by Heather King (****) – This is a memoir of sorts, full of thoughtful insights about the idea of living God’s love out in our everyday moments. This book was written from a Catholic perspective, but as a Protestant, I still was able to glean some challenging and beautiful ideas from King. A good book leading up to Easter.

The Trials of Morrigan Crow (***) and Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow (****) by Jessica Townsend – I found these two Middle Grade books in the Nevermoor Series a lot of fantastical fun. Morrigan Crow has been born under a curse and won’t live to see her eleventh year of life. A mysterious man, Jupiter North turns up, telling her that that is not true, that she has been chosen to participate in a contest to win a place in the elusive Wundrous Society. The first one was a little confusing on the characters and we didn’t get to know them better until the second book. If you can just read for sheer fun, not expecting anything deep, then these might be a light diversion for you.

Echo Among the Stones by Jaime Jo Wright (***) – This is a time-split suspense story following an unsolved murder in a small town post WWII. A creepy dollhouse aids in the solving of the crime, which I thought was intriguing and I was surprised by who committed the murder. Otherwise, I didn’t love the 1940’s story line and in the modern story line, the main protagonist, Aggie, was so hysterical, that I found it hard to like her.

The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad (***) – This has taken me FOREVER to finish and I finally was able to skim through the last bit. This memoir centers around a journalist who spends time living and following the lives of a bookseller and his family living in Kabul. I loved getting to know the various family members and learning more about a part of the world I’m unfamiliar with, however, sometimes it was hard to know how Seierstad was able to be privy to so much of the internal thoughts and feelings of the family. There is definitely a note of sorrow running through this and again I felt a bit torn to whether this was legitimately from the family or an outsider looking into a culture completely unlike her own. It was well written, though, and overall I did enjoy it.

The Youngest Miss Ward by Joan Aiken (*****) – If you love Jane Austen fan fiction, you may enjoy this one! As long as you remember, Aiken is not Austen. This story follows Harriet Ward, the supposed much younger sister of Lady Bertram and Mrs. Norris of Mansfield Park. She is sent away to live with relatives as she’s deemed in the way and an irritation to all in her home, except her dying mother. This has a surprising twist to it and I found it to be pretty deep and well written. Or maybe I’m just a Joan Aiken fan from her children’s books. Perfect, light read!

No Other Kind of World: Poems by Jeff Hardin (*****) – I picked this Tennessean’s poetry up on our trip south in February and wasn’t disappointed. These were beautiful and otherworldly. Highly recommend!

Castle on the Rise by Kristi Cambron (***) – This is a three way time split inspirational historical romance. Cambron does a wonderful job with making you feel like you are in Ireland. I loved the natural and setting descriptions. There is a depth of details to Cambron’s stories and I appreciate that…not as surface-y. I knew nothing about Ireland’s history presented in this story and it was a fascinating look at their 1916 uprising against England.  I think she did a wonderful job with character development, for the most part. The romance in the modern time period felt a bit fast and throughout the book felt a bit meh or cliche-ish, but overall, I enjoyed these three women’s connected history.

A Finder’s Magic by Philippa Pearce (***) – I grabbed this off of my book shelf one afternoon as I really enjoyed Tom’s Midnight Garden, last year. This one was overly simplistic, but I really loved the illustrations by Helen Craig. A boy looses his dog mysteriously and a magical old man comes to help find him.

Emil in the Soup Tureen by Astrid Lindgren (***) – This follows the story of a mischievous little boy, Emil and his adventures and again it’s the illustrations here that REALLY shine. Bjorn Berg’s delightful black & white inked detailed drawings of the farm, nature, and children are just scrumptious. Lindgren is known for her Pippi Longstocking adventures, also.  I may read this one with my younger children as it has some funny moments!

Mill on the Floss by George Eliot (*****) – This was our February classics read along pick over at Instagram and I finished it up on the last day of March. The second half of this book picked up for me and was glad as the beginning slogged a bit. This book follows the lives of Tom and Maggie Tulliver, siblings living in a mill, near the River Floss. Misfortune and intrigue follow them, as their father looses the mill to creditors, and this book had a sad overtone to it. I felt like the main things I walked away with was how parents shape their children in so many ways, how important love and affection are in family relationships, and how a weak will may seem like not that big of a deal in a child, yet can turn out to be our greatest handicaps as adults.  I found the family feeling of responsibility interesting in this story. I found this story so much easier to engage with then Middlemarch.

Holy Bible (*****) – 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, and 1 Peter. I’ve also been reading in Psalms and meditating on the I AM statements in John.

 

My favorites from this month were: Shirt of Flame, The Youngest Miss Ward, Mill on the Floss, and No Other Kind of World: Poems ~ how about you? Did you read, listen to, or watch anything exceptionally great? I’d love to hear!

~

 

Favorite Reads of 2019

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Happiest New Year! Here are my favorite reads from 2019. I’ve categorized them so you can scroll to a genre that interests you, if you only have a few moments.  Otherwise, I welcome you to stay and scroll around for awhile! The above photo shows a couple of things non-book related that I loved reading.  Commonplace Quarterly is a Charlotte Mason book quality magazine which is so encouraging.  The Letters From the Sea Tower is a monthly subscription based handwritten-letter and art piece, and I can’t tell you how much we’ve all loved these letters. The thoughts and ideas in them have enriched our lives. Ourselves by Charlotte Mason Book 2, I was privileged to go through as apart of Nancy’s Living Education Lessons.

My Favorite Book of  2019 

The Cloud of Witness – A Daily Sequence of Great Thoughts from Many Minds following the Christian Seasons (*****)

~2019 was a harder and richer year for me in many ways. I honestly struggle so much emotionally and physically with pregnancy. And yet…there is this precious little person here smiling at me as I type with his little two-bottom tooth grin. Sigh. So darling! This above devotional poured out it’s life-giving water to a parched woman-mama soul over and over again. Even just one small line or word from one of the daily snippets meant the world to me very often. A faith lifeline, really. I highly, highly recommend it. You can purchased it here and I check this helpful calendar and there is an Instagram and Facebook account to keep you current as well. My church tradition doesn’t follow these days/feasts so those are all so useful. I love to know if I’m keeping up with all the others sharing in the beauty and encouragement.

Faith Encouragement

The Holy Bible, OF COURSE. I read and reread the four Gospels many times as well as my favorites Psalms, John, James, and others.

The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith (*****) – This title has been on my shelf and TBR forever!  One of “the Read and Finish things on my shelf books”. I am so glad I did. This is probably will be a favorite forever for me and I hope to make it a yearly reread.  The title of the book is a bit strange and misleading, don’t let that stop you from soaking in lovely book from Whitall Smith. There were a few things, I may quibble with, but overall this was the most challenging and encouraging read for my faith in a very long time. Highly recommend!

Memoir

Picnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard (*****) (HIGHLY RECOMMEND)– This was beautifully written and I love her honesty with struggles about motherhood and as a creative. I loved her perspective as an American married to a Frenchman and learning to live in French culture. She was so interesting and the recipes, bits of life, and gorgeous look at motherhood made this a HIGHLY loved book for me. I would love to attempt some of the French recipes, too, I appreciated them seeming approachable for the average cook. If you need to escape to the French countryside for a bit, pick this one up.

A Trail Through Leaves: The Journal as a Path to Place by Hannah Hinchman (*****) – Just wow. I can’t even explain why and how much I loved this book. This book has an overall sadness or loneliness to it, in some ways. But, I think we all understand that and some of us crave a quietness that is very elusive in our modern culture. This is an amazing small sampling of what a nature journal could be and mean to us as a person. This book requires time, close attention, and contemplation. Just the point the author shows through her intimate and close observation of our natural world.

Letters of a Women Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart (*****) – A friend recommended this to me and I’m so glad! This is hilarious and super inspring. I listened to it on Librivox and was so charmed by her hard-working spirit, love of nature, and resilience. Eye-opening, turn of the century real letters between two women. My children enjoyed listening to some of it as well. Page turner! Just FYI: racial slurs and some scary/intense situations.

General Fiction

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim (*****) – A favorite reread! In the back of my mind, I remembered really enjoying this fictional account of two English women, who on a whim, answer an advert for month in Italy at a medieval castle. They end up inviting two other women to share the costs and space with them. Sigh. This is so lovely in that I think it does a wonderful job in relating the struggles and internal battles women in different circumstances and life stages go through. The beauty of Von Arnim’s descriptions of Italy and the gardens are so soothing and there’s a subtle deepness underlying the story line of these women. I highly recommend this one. I then watched the movie and really, really enjoyed it.

The Solitary Summer by Elizabeth von Arnim (*****) – The hilarious introspection of a wife and mother. Lush descriptions of nature, gardens. Enlightening, insider’s look at a wealthy, upper class woman’s life. I really enjoyed this title. This is technically a sequel to her Elizabeth and Her German Garden, but I don’t think you need to necessarily read them in order.

Virgil Wander by Leif Enger (*****) (HIGHLY RECOMMEND!)

“All this building and talking and flying made me homesick. It wasn’t logical, since I was home, but that’s what I came to perceive – a fulminant ache high in the rib cage, a sense of time’s shortening fuse. After the first accident, it had felt as though my apartment belonged to someone else; after the second, I began to feel as though there was a home I belonged to, and this one, though pleasant and likable, wasn’t it. The previous tenant would’ve rejected such nonsense, but then the previous tenant never had an eccentric foreign house guest, sewing up artworks to hang in the sky, talking to ravens, spinning twilit Arctic stories. My weary old ground was broken and watered, and what sprang up was a generalized longing. I began to feel like a character myself, well-meaning but secondary, a man introduced late in the picture. I wished to spool back and watch earlier scenes, to scout for hints and shadows, clues as to what might be required of a secondary actor when the closing real began.”

~Leif Enger, Virgil Wander

Poetry

Breathing the Water (*****) by Denise Levertov {gorgeous nature poetry}

Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver by Mary Oliver (****) – This was a 450+ page anthology of Oliver’s poetry. I checked it out from the library following her death earlier this year. Oliver is one of my favorite modern poets, A Thousand Mornings, being my favorite collection of hers. Overall, I loved this and really enjoyed revisiting poems I’ve read before over the years as this is a collection from most of her poetry books. Poetry seems to really be feeding my soul during the last bits of winter and into early spring.

Mine the Harvest by Edna St. Vincent Millay (*****) – a collection of beautiful poems! I’m planning out our poets for autumn study and have been reading different poets here and there. I was only slightly familiar with St. Vincent Millay’s work and I’m glad I read this.

A Pentecost of Finches: New and Selected Poems by Robert Siegel (*****) – This took me awhile to really get into and appreciate, but as I read further along, I fell in love with many of these detailed, observant poems. I’m so glad I finally picked this up off of my TBR pile. I found one of my favorites here online.

Children’s Literature

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (*****) –This one did made me cry! The ending was unbelievable, love lost, and the importance of family and friendship. I really enjoyed this classic.

Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce (*****) – Lovely imaginative tale about a clock that strikes thirteen, opening a time portal to a dreamy garden, friendship, and beauty.

The Load of Unicorn by Cynthia Harnett (*****) – This was a fascinating, children’s historical fiction. I’m now obsessed with learning more about watermarking paper before it was used. This lovely story is set in England in the late 1400’s, follows the adventures of a boy who’s apprenticed to a printer, a controversial position for a scrivener’s son. Thieves, pirates on the Thames, the War of the Roses, and a story set in the shadows of the gorgeous Westminster Abbey, this is such a lovely book to bring English history alive. The author illustrates the book with lovely inky sketches full of glorious details, which really adds so much charm. Can’t wait to share this one with my children! I also read The Wool-Pack (*****) by Harnett and JUST as much, if not more charm! Her little sketches and illustrations really make these shine. The story is again at the end of Middle Age England, and this time the son of a wealthy wool merchant uncovers a bunch of thieves stealing and discrediting his father. The subtle lessons, suspense, and the father son relationship were wonderful! (One thing about this title that may need some explaining? is that the 14 yo son is betrothed to a 11 yo! Yikes. However, it’s done in a tasteful way and they are just friends when they meet one another. It was a little creepy to my modern sensibilities, but it was reality of a wealthy young man’s life at that time.)

The Chronicles of Chrestomanci Vol. 1-3 by Diana Wynne Jones (****) – These are tomes because each volume is 2 books. I had so much fun with these and they would be perfect for over the holiday vacation. They are interrelated stories about a powerful enchanter whose title is Chrestomanci. He has nine lives and the current enchanter is Christopher Chant. He is an enigmatic, mysterious personality and he helps in many different children’s lives and situations throughout the books. These are SO fun and escapist fiction with interesting ideas in it. Jones really understands children’s imagination and thoughts. I found that so lovely. My favorite of the books were The Pinhoe Egg and Witch Week. If you are a fan of light fantasy/magic Middle Grade books with subtle British humor, you will enjoy these!

Long Classics

In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden (****) – an online friend mentioned that this was a good read during Lent. I have had it on my shelf forever and am so glad I dove in. I found it fascinating and found a lot to contemplate as I thought over the life of these nuns. This story is focused on a career business woman who gives everything up to enter the Brede convent. The lives of the nuns and the intricacies of their relationships was so interesting. Godden did a wonderful job making each woman really interesting and deep.

Middlemarch by George Eliot (****) – I did it! I finished this massive classic. I read some and listened to the rest on Librivox while waiting on my baby and then during the long nursing sessions. It took me a long time to get into this, but then I really started to appreciate it. The different characters and marriages in and around the town of Middlemarch were very interesting to me. My favorite character (s) was (were) Mr. Garth and possibly Dorothea Brooke. There are many deep, wonderful lines that I’d love to go back through and copy down in my commonplace. My brain was sort of muddled currently, so I’m not doing this book justice, but it was fascinating.

Bleak House by Charles Dickens (*****) – I read along with an Instagram group and I really loved this book. One of my favorite things about this was how places take on a life of their own, how amazingly distinctive Dicken’s characters are, and all of the children in this were fascinating and heart-wrenching. Mr. Bucket was one of my favorite characters, but I still can’t pinpoint why. I will probably have to reread it, someday! Ha. This follows multiple story lines and slowly culminates in them all tied together in some way. It features two main narrators, a young woman Esther Summerson, and a third person narrator, presumably Dickens himself? I can’t even begin to do this A-mazing book justice. Dickens gives us an immersive experience literally bogging us down at times in the foggy, gritty details of London. Highly recommend!

General Non-Fiction 

Home Education by Charlotte Mason (*****) One of my favorite home education and parenting books ever. I reread it again this year!

Reflections: On the Magic of Writing by Diana Wynne Jones (*****) – 6 stars…best book on writing (especially for children) I’ve read, I think. I’m starting right back over. These are speeches and essays by Wynne Jones on writing and I found a kindred spirit in this book.

 

~What richness! I was so blessed by my reading year in 2019! You can always look through my Year in Books category for hours of book browsing, if you so choose. Here are my past years favorite books as well! Ever upward and onward to our 2020 bookstack! 🙂

Favorite Reads of 2018

Favorite Reads of 2017

Favorite Reads of 2016