~Favorite Reads of 2020 and Reading Ideas for 2021 ~

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

~Classic Favorites of 2020~

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

One of Ours by Willa Cather

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

The Holy Bible πŸ˜‰

~Poetry Favorites of 2020~

The Other Kind of World: Poems by Jeff Hardin

In the Salt Marsh by Nancy Willard

Jane Kenyon poetry

~Non-Fiction/Memoir Favorites of 2020~

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

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

Around the World in 80 Trees by Jonathan Drori

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

Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carlson

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

~Middle Grade Fiction Favorites of 2020~

The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson

Snow & Rose by Emily Winfield Martin

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

~Adult Fiction Favorites of 2020~

The Country of Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett

The Child from the Sea by Elizabeth Goudge

Crystal Cave and Hollow Hills by Mary Stewart

~Books about Writing/Creativity Favorites of 2020~

War of Art by Steven Pressfield

A Hundred White Daffodils by Jane Kenyon

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

~Lucy Maud Montgomery Favorites of 2020~

Anne’s House of Dreams (reread)

Anne of Ingleside (reread)

The Blue Castle (reread)

Christmas with Anne

~Reading Ideas for 2021~

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

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

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

December Reads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEW poetry book:Β Across the Miles

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

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

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

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

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

November Reads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October Reads

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

October finishes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Nativity by Arthur Hughes

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.” β™‘ Andy Miller β™‘

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 πŸ˜‚πŸ˜πŸ€·β€β™€οΈ. So not like Goudge, maybe. πŸ˜‹ 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.Β 

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: {1st & 2nd weeks of October}

Hello, Dear Friends! Forgive me for catching up a wee bit, the days fly by in a beautiful blur and I’m so thankful for them. Here’s what I’ve been so grateful in these autumnal drenched days of October…

:: beautiful trips away :: belated anniversary celebrations :: stern wheel paddle boat chain of lakes tour :: cabin-living :: steak, asparagus, and cheese dinners :: sweet & spicy tea sipping while watching a sappy, but sweet film called “Song of the Heart” ::

How can Love lose doing of its kind Even to the uttermost?

~ E. Arnold, The Cloud of Witness

:: early mornings with coffee and soaring pines at the cabin :: resurrecting writing dreams :: Amy Harmon’s Instagram videos, so lovely, poetry and encouragement :: gorgeous, still, pine-drenched smelling heaven outdoors :: a day shopping thrift and bookstores in big city with hubby, something we rarely do :: Cost Plus World Market, I love just window-shopping there :: Half-Price Book pursuing :: going out for Mexican food with my brother and sister-in-law and their two sweet girlies ::

Happy is he, Of whom (himself among the dead

And silent) this world shall be said:

– That he might have had the

world with him,

But chose to side with suffering Men,

And had the World against him!

~Elizabeth Barret Browning, The Cloud of Witness

:: Anna Karenina and Edith Wharton Ghost Stories :: late breakfasts :: mural admiring in a little town :: small local book store I visit every year :: coffee and stroll on enchanting covered bridge, admiring fiery and gold- drenched leaves next to the river :: an after dinner bonfire and tea :: chuckles at cheesy Nicholas Cage film that I love, “National Treasure” :: huge gathering of Great Egrets in a little wood as we drove, stopping to observe them ::

:: reading new-to-me Susan Cooper, Boggart, on way home :: orchard stop for big boxes of apples to bring the children :: new fresh month, with no mistakes in it :: devotions, Macbeth enjoyment with the kids :: teaching three of the children to make apple pie from scratch :: watching lovely gnome crafting videos on youtube ::

:: drying out my devotional materials after half a cup of coffee got dumped into them – they survived! Yay! :: visiting grandparents and bringing them a homemade apple pie :: getting to plant my mom some daffodils for spring :: ham and mash potatoes dinner well-received by hungry children :: planting 100 white daffodils with my 6 yo in honor of a line from a beautiful Jane Kenyon essay, the anticipation and tangible act of ‘practicing resurrection’ :: hubby and older children to a friend’s graduation party :: reading afternoon, fun book I won on Instagram ::

:: stopped to see and admire a stone angel headstone at a cemetry on our way to church, she is so sweet and represents something intangible to me. I couldn’t read the inscription except the year of 1912 :: a Sunday evening bonfire with hotdogs and smores for the children, singing, and admiring the stars :: wearing my huge, thrifted pink parka, getting a laugh out of the family for my coldness and weird πŸ˜‰ style :: baby boy looking darling in his hat and flannel, he and the Saber-Toothed Tiger cat enjoyed one another ::

But when that which is perfect has come,

then that which is in part will be done away.

~The Holy Bible

:: laughs and improvising as we forgot to get our gas filled with the unseasonably warm temperatures, thinking up meals for cooking on griddles, grills, and in the Instapot was fun, in hindsight πŸ˜‰ :: meeting up with my sister and chatting for hours :: crockpot chicken nachos for the save :: friend’s bonfire for some of our crew, volleyball included :: beautiful morning walk with children, talking about some of the themes in Macbeth :: Charlotte Mason online Zoom class with other moms talking, so refreshing :: late night film with my oldest daughter :: leaf prints by older children for our homeschool community group :: snuggles with baby boy :: You’ve Got Mail w/baby when he felt a bit sick :: gorgeous, warm weather :: library trips with oldest daughter surprising others with ice cream ::

:: older boys and dad on church retreat together :: hearing the news that precious one is ok after a medical scare :: hanging out with friends with my younger four :: continuing on a health journey for 10 months now (!), December will be my 1 year anniversary, so very grateful for the weight loss, better habits, and mental clarity :: gorgeous wind in leaves and sunlight dappled over afternoon :: watching a new version of “The Secret Garden” with my daughters, mom, and sister, enjoying my sister’s delicious chicken tacos together ::

:: butternut and spaghetti squash :: rereading The Hobbit weekends :: rollerskating with friends :: tennis matches for oldest :: rainy, drippy breakfast dates out for hubby and I :: big, fluffy, cream-ish πŸ˜‰ colored sweaters :: hot, tasty decaf late at night :: two glorious hours of working on ACTUAL writing of my children’s story :: pouring over notes and dipping into lovely, inspiration from my stacks :: muted browns and golds shivering in the wind and rain :: glorious swirl of leaves in rearview mirror, I always look back :: going through a shower of leaves under a tree :: a beautiful autumn season to relish in ::

Be steadfast, immovable,

always abounding in the work of the Lord,

knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

~The Holy Bible

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 πŸ™‚ 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

August Reads

Hello, Fellow Bibliophiles! How did your August reading shape up? I tried some modern fiction again this month, folks. That doesn’t bode well for me, usually! HA. πŸ˜‰ Here is what I ended up finishing:

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg (***) – This was an interesting story of a young woman apprenticed to a magician of paper folding. She grows through frustration and disappointment of being “bonded” to what she deems an “old-fashioned” magical craft and Master. Little does she realize that her teacher has a troubled past and it will be up to her to help. This was a super creative idea and I like the magical paper folding. Unfortunately, this was a formulative and stereotypical romance and the action from the antagonist was very gory and violent. Not sure if I could totally follow the main, and very drawn out chase scene. It was creative in one sense, but a bit too confusing and “too much” in another way. I also read another by her called Magic Sweet, Magic Bitter, but it was so strange. It was almost like magical beings marrying humans. It had one neat idea, about baking healing qualities into breads and treats. That’s it, though. πŸ˜‰

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow (**) – 2.5 stars just for the beautiful writing style, but other than that, meh. This reminded me a bit of The Starless Sea by Erin Morganstern, which I didn’t end up liking, but this had a much better shaped story. A young girl has to find her way through her mysterious past following clues through ancient portal doors and a magical book that shows her parents lives. I really, REALLY, disliked all the modern issues dropped into this story. They felt jarring and preachy, the diary entries from her dad really slowed the story down. I was ripped out of a story set around 1900’s? for the author to “preach” at me about current hot button topics. Ugh. No thanks.

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mantel (***) – this was an interesting read about the lives of a brother and sister who got caught up in a Ponzi scheme and the fallout on their lives. This had a lot of layers under the surface. I definitely still love Station Eleven a whole lot more, though.

Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase (***) – I loved the atmosphere and mystery of this story. A woman feels a strange connection to an dilapidated, rambling hall and stumbles on a mystery from her past. Unfortunately, the overt sexual content was a bit much for me, ick. Otherwise, this had the total lovely creepy, whimsical feel that I really enjoy.

The Holy Bible (*****) – finished Numbers, Isaiah and John, now into Jeremiah, Acts, and dipping into Deuteronomy slowly as well.

I read a lot of other things, but this is what I finished. Nothing smashing out of the modern selection this month, I’m afraid. Still searching for the elusive modern read that I LOVE! πŸ˜‰ How ’bout you? Read anything lovely?

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,Β  “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 ~

 

 

Β ~ 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 πŸ˜‰ ~ 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 poemsΒ  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 magicΒ 

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 RomanovΒ 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! πŸ™‚ Hope your reading has been fantastic lately! Let me know!

~

June Reads

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It’s July already. Wow. Here is what I read in June. A busier month for us and after my book hangover from all my fun May reads, it was a bit quieter.

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman (****) – slightly snobby-ish πŸ˜‰ reflections on books and the book life – I especially loved how much her and her parents and sister lived a life of books. I loved her reflections on used books. Big head nod and kinship to the importance of reading in her life and there is a nice list of OTHER books about books in the back, if you can follow that. πŸ˜‰

Romanov by Nadine Brandes (***) – a unique YA retelling of the historical Russian story of the infamous tsar’s abdication and lockdown of the their family mixed with fantastical magic. This was creative and full of lovely details with a good plot. I loved the spell ink/magic aspect of this version. I especially loved the mysterious magician and would have loved more of him. I couldn’t really see in my mind’s eye the characters or settings very well, which frustrated me at times. I felt a teeny bit dissatisfied with ending, but overall, this was solidly entertaining and a page turning story. I would love to try some of this author’s other YA stories.

Kindling by Nevil Shute (***) – This was about a wealthy businessman who life is a lonely, workaholic blur. His marriage is dissolving and his health terrible. He ends up finding himself getting an emergency surgery in a small, economically depressed coastal village. As he recovers, he befriends many of the locals and imagines how he could bring capital to the area to revitalize the place. He starts to care for the people and wants to infuse life into the area. He ends up helping in ways that trickle down, but aren’t entirely legal. He pays heavily in the process, but the act of selflessness restores his peace and health. This has some very outdated/potentially offensive themes and probably is too simplistic in many ways, but there’s no denying that it was inspirational.

Anne of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery (*****) – this was a reread for me. One of my favorites of the whole series. The big Blythe family of children is just a joy and Anne and Gilbert’s marriage is lovely and sweet. The domesticity and nature sentiments are just so beautiful.

The Soul’s Habitation by Grethen Hayward Sousa (****) – strange, very specific and introspective poetry collection. Sousa is a master at unique metaphor and very specific details that still lend to an uncanny universal appeal or meaning to her words. I especially loved any and all poems on aging, contemplating life after death, or on growing older. Some favorites, “Fishing For More Than Bait,” “Bathing Elsa,” “The Taming of Time,” “and others.

Around the World in 80 Trees by Jonathan Drori (****) – I found this a fascinating look at trees around the world. This included extensive beautiful illustrations. I loved the folktales and lore surrounding the trees. Just so interesting. This would be a lovely gift for a nature lover in your life. Highly recommend!

For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay (*****) – a lovely overview of the Charlotte Mason educational philosophy. I’ve reread this gem many times and I just am always so encouraged.

The Holy Bible (*****) – finished Exodus, into Leviticus. Finished Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and am about half way into Isaiah. Also reading through the Gospel of John.

What did you read last month? Anything that jumped out to you? Any July reads you are loving?

~