December Reads {and my Back to Classics Challenge 2018 Wrap-Up}

IMG_20160617_113128_719

Happy New Year’s Eve, friends! Here’s what I finished up in December (I tried to get titles done that I’d been reading awhile, since I had a bit more time over our holiday) and about my Back to Classics 2018 Challenge!

Golden Apples of the Sun by Ray Bradbury (****) – I finished up this book for the category of  A Classic with a Color in the Title for my Back to Classics Challenge. This book was so very weird, beautiful, unmatched,  with a magical use of words, sentences, almost a prose poetry! A slow read for me, because I had to process each story or wade through the themes. Time, age, technology, natural resources, space, family, and so much more. I got bogged down a bit in his school-boy fascination with the space race and rockets which came through strongly in many of the stories. I’m too young? or something to appreciate that particular fascination maybe. The stories on the surface seem so far fetched, yet underneath there are beautiful layers to peel back and think on. I really love Bradbury!

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (****) – 3.5 stars -I barely finished this as my 7th title of the 12 for my Back to Classics Challenge. It fulfilled the category of A Classic in Translation. I have mixed feelings on this one. I really liked it for it’s creepy, psychological feel, the atmosphere of it, but I feel a bit confused on some of the “supernatural” seeming elements of the story after finding out more about who the Opera Ghost was at the end. I’d love to see this on stage someday, though. My older daughter and I have been talking about it a lot as I slowly read it and then she gobbled it up and really liked it. Maybe it was me? Maybe it was how slowly I read it?

Poems, 1965-1975 by Seamus Heaney (***) – This is a collection of four of his poetry books and the first three were enjoyable, but I was so bogged down and confused in the last book, North. The language, metaphors, etc, were all “Greek” to me, for some reason. Ha. Not sure what happened, but I like to be able to take SOMETHING away, even if I don’t understand completely and I was having a hard time doing that.

Night Birds on Nantucket by Joan Aiken (****) – The third book in The Wolves Chronicles and it was so strange and enchanting. Dido Twite, a brave little girl, who we are introduced to in the earlier two books, finds herself stranded on a whaling ship and falls into some crazy adventures, including stopping a plot to shoot a cannon ball from Nantucket to London! Ha. Very humorous, imaginative, and fun!

Humility: An Unlikely Biography of America’s Greatest Virtue by David J. Bobb (***) – I started this as a read for a home educating retreat this past fall and found it interesting. I especially loved the chapters on Abigail Adams and Frederick Douglas. This was a little slow moving for me, but I’m glad I finished it.

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

Peace Like A River by Leif Enger (*****) – another reread for me, as I plan on reading Enger’s other two titles next year. I loved this so much and was just drawn in by the rich characters, story, and beautiful spiritual vein throughout. Highly recommend!

The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball (****) – This memoir I saw recommended somewhere and I gobbled it up in ONE day on our Christmas holidays. Kristin travels to the country to interview a farmer and basically ends up never leaving. Very gorgeous writing, inspiring, and truly shows the amount of work farmers do. The nitty-gritty, bloody, filthy details of truly growing your own food and living off the land isn’t sugar-coated. I suspect the author and I differ on our views of love and marriage, but I found this very real and somehow touching. It definitely was inspiring.

Home Education by Charlotte Mason (*****) – I’ve been through this first volume a few times over the past years home educating my children. I so enjoyed going through it with my book group and gleaned again so many beautiful things.

A Time for Remembering: The Story of Ruth Bell Graham by Patricia Cornwell (****) – I really enjoy Mrs. Graham’s poetry and found that I had this biography of her life on my shelf. It was so interesting to read about her life as a child in China, where her parents served as medical missionaries and growing up to marry Billy Graham. I mostly, though, appreciate her as a mother, homemaker, writer, and appreciator of the small details of life. So interesting!

Journey Into Christmas and Other Stories by Bess Streeter Aldrich (****) – I love Aldrich’s richly layered stories, A White Bird Flying, Lantern in Her Hand, etc. and so I was thrilled to see this selection of Christmas stories by her. Some are taken from her novels, some are just stand alone short stories and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Full of precious nostalgia, beautiful sentiments, and her word-smith beauty is just lovely. The stories may be a bit extra sweet, but it was a perfect read for December. I even read a bit to my children and they loved it.

Pilgrim’s Inn by Elizabeth Goudge (*****) – This took me all year to reread for maybe the 5th time? Yes, I love this book so much. I walk away with new lines and thoughts of beauty every time. This is the second book in a trilogy, but I’ve only read one and three once, this one is so lovely, and has the power to stand alone. I talk a bit more about it here and chat about Goudge, also, who is one of my top favorite authors.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (****) – This tome I actually finished in November, but forgot to mention it! I think this book starts making the HP series better…the first few books are good, but the last few shine. They become darker and more complex, but so do the interesting things they address. This was an entertaining read for my days of illness in November.

{Whew! So that wraps up a wonderful year of reading! I have one more bookish post I’m working on related to my 2018 reading and that’s my favorites from the year.  I can’t wait to share it with you soon. I also have made my own personal challenge for next years reading and my daughter is joining me. Can’t wait to talk about it more! How was your year? Do you have a favorite list? Please share you list or a link to yours! I’d love to read it!}

~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday Ponderings {Christmas Eve}

823a798a87a5430e06a29355c4b10623

O Thou,

Whose stillness drowns

earth’s total noise –

its grating sounds:

progress,

traffic,

voice;

flutterings

of my frustration,

mutterings,

agitation;

the screaming silences

without,

within;

the din

of questions clamoring

for their “why?”

and “how?”

now!

the rumblings

of man’s discontent,

erupting hate,

violence;

war’s distant thunder

rolling near,

and everywhere

the cries

of fear

that paralyzes

as it grips….

and near at hand

a faucet drips.

O Thou,

Whose stillness drowns

earth’s total noise,

only in Thee

is stillness found

And I

rejoice.

 

~Ruth Bell Graham

Sitting by my Laughing Fire , p. 66

 

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 1606 – 1669, Simeon’s Song of Praise

 

~

Monday Ponderings {December 17th}

Elsa Beskow -sled, children, tree

A child’s wisdom include incredible curiosity, which denotes his essential humility. While adults sometimes hesitate to say “I don’t know” for fear they will be thought ignorant or stupid, a little child has no such silly inhibitions. Without a false sense of shame he pours forth his questions -“Why?” “What for?” “When?” “Where?” “Why?” Before their minds become biased by adults, children are open-minded, welcoming all truth concerning the world around them…Children know how to derive happiness from little things. They delight in little sparks of gladness and do not demand that every hour be flooded with unremitting pleasantness. This is wisdom of a high order, and the lesson is one of the best gifts children offer the world.

~Harold Kohn, Small Wonders, p.76-77

*Painting by Elsa Beskow and all rights reserved to artist.

~

 

“…for it was living itself that she enjoyed…” : Autumn and Elizabeth Goudge

_mg_6877

I’ve been contemplating seasonal literature flavors once again. Autumn is like a delicious seven-layer salad.  Or rather a hot, steaming, crusty potpie. A collage of flavors, colors, smokey smells, and damp bits, trees, the land returning to dirt. Just dig your spoon deep down into the squishy goodness, drawing up something tasty and different each time.  As I think on this passing favored season, I can’t help but begin to think of another of my personal beloved authors, Elizabeth Goudge. The autumn richness flutters, floating its way down through Goudge’s words, her flawed, hurting characters, and her sense of place. Nothing like the autumn season reminds us so much of the necessity of home and hearth. A place to gather round and draw in, the place you can return to often and walk away filled afresh and anew. Miss Goudge often wrote deeply of a central place, or thing that permeates and influences, that almost-out-of-reach-intangible something throughout her narratives. These often become like a beloved character in and of themselves. Her stories stray a bit, at times, leading you down strange, yet lovely mystical paths, and you may find a neatly stitched up ending occasionally, however I guarantee you will always walk away with something. A little wisp of beauty, a puff of smokey delight, a thought to dream on. Just like anticipating the first leaf to burst forth into it’s glorious splendor, you have to snuggle down with patience, soaking in each word, each line, and chapter. It’s a coming harvest that will surprise and fill the deep hunger of soul. Your breath sucks in, a beautiful, colorful surprise around the corner, inky scribbles on the page, an autumn gift of jewels for the taking. And of course, one of the secrets of autumn, is the deep, internal things happening underneath the surface. The hint, the promise of something green, some growth, and most importantly, hope. Wouldn’t you like to lick that spoon, taste a bit of this loveliness?

…He (John Adair) liked a constant supply of hot water, a refrigerator, an elevator, an electric toaster, a telephone beside his bed, central heating and electric fires, and anything whatever that reduced the time spent upon the practical side of living to a minimum and left him free to paint.
But Sally [his daughter] did not want to be set free for anything, for it was living itself that she enjoyed. She liked lighting a real fire of logs and fir cones, and toasting bread on an old-fashioned toaster. And she liked the lovely curve of an old staircase and the fun of running up and down it. And she vastly preferred writing a letter and walking with it to the post to using the telephone and hearing with horror her voice committing itself to things she would never have dreamed of doing if she’d had the time to think. “It’s my stupid brain,” she said to herself. “I like the leisurely things, and taking my time about them. That’s partly why I like children so much, I think. They’re never in a hurry to get on to something else.” 
― Elizabeth Goudge, Pilgrim’s Inn 

(emphasis mine)

 

P.S. – {I kindly suggest starting with The Dean’s Watch, A City of Bells, or Pilgrim’s Inn}

 

Monday Ponderings {November 26th}

_mg_6604

“Nobody can know the full consequences of their actions and history is full of small acts that changed the world in surprising ways.” ~Rebecca Solnit

{Originally, I saw this on Myth & Moor blog and I’m thinking on it this week. It can be applied to so many areas of our lives. The antithesis of the whole idea of “go big, or go home.” I love the quiet, humility of this and how we all have an opportunity to love on others without having it to be something seen by the public eye. Yes, it’s harder and usually unappreciated, but that’s alright. It still matters. Remembering the beginning of the verse, Zechariah 4:10, not to despise the day of small things.}

~

 

A Blessed Thanksgiving to You and Yours {One Hundred Bits of Gratitude by Thanksgiving} #9-10

_MG_5750

MY heart in chiming gladness o’er and o’er

Sings on “GOD’S everlasting love! What 

would’st Thou more?”

Yes, one thing more! To know it ours indeed,

To add the conscious joy of full possession! –

O tender grace that stoops to every need!

This everlasting love hath found expression

In loving-kindness which hath gently drawn

The heart that else astray too willingly had gone…

We thirst for GOD, our treasure is above;

Earth has no gift our one desire to meet,

And that desire is pledge of His own love.

~F.R. Havergal

The Cloud of Witness, p. 109

 

81. children using leftover pie dough for little cinnamon sugar creations

82. my husband snuggled on couch, wrapped in sleeping bag, children all around him, and sitting on his lap

83. all of us talking to the turkey like he is part of our family. He was taking a cold water bath and we kept poking him and conversing with him! Ha.

84. Kitchen Aid mixture is such a good friend at holiday time

85. lovely brunch conversation and my little children licking their fingers from the cinnamon rolls

86. a child seeing that I was cooking bacon and hollering for joy, “BACON!”

87. temperamental can opener working

88. talking books with oldest and pursing Goodreads and the local library online site

89. bed sheets flapping in the cold, crisp wind – they are going to smell so fresh

90.  one daughter helping me cook bacon and scrambled eggs, another mixing  OJ, and my son placing the cinnamon rolls on pan – those moments when cooking together is so fun

91. my fluffy mauve sweater

92. new light bulbs put in, the kitchen is a brand new space! Ha.

93. fabric purchased and waiting to be washed for a Christmas project. Crossing my fingers that I can finish something

94. a new refined to-do list for the next few weeks – not too bad

95. a Christmas gift arrived for my 9 yo daughter that I know she is going to LOVE and I’m pleased with it.

96. new, fresh day after a few rough ones, Tylenol and hot, delicious coffee helping me to get going

97. my 4 yo laughing at a funny part in the book The Napping House, his giggle is so darling

98. the sizzle of the turkey and the juicy, slicing of apples

99. the Narnia movie soundtrack

100. the way the children’s art flutters on our art line in the house, heat blowing up and in, warming the heart of our home

~

So many tangible and intangible blessings all year round! ❤ Thanks for joining me this month, noticing our blessings ~

 

On the Eve {One Hundred Bits of Gratitude by Thanksgiving} #7-8

20170822_121439

{Gulf of St. Lawrence/Atlantic, summer 2017, from near the East Point Lighthouse, P.E.I, Canada. This photo has a special meaning to me and I love it so much.}

61. the joyfulness in my children, so refreshing

62. anticipation of my family’s happiness over the big dinner planned for tomorrow

63. overhearing the walkie talkie conversations between my children and husband as they hunt –

64. new Elsa Beskow calendar for the new year

65. good price on bulk red potatoes and onions

66. seeing my sister and BIL’s new apartment, the blessing of them cooking a great meal for me, and spending time just chatting

67. someone at church kindly filling in for me in Sunday School

68. an invitation to a lovely couple’s home after church last Sunday, delicious home-cooked meal, a cooking break for me. The gentleman was an accomplished carpenter and my little children were so delighted by the beautiful wooden toys and marble run he built.

69. a little copper tea kettle I found thrifting that has brought so much delight to us through it’s beautiful sparkle and hours of pretend play

70. my 11 yo’s languages and codes that he’s been creating. He is so inspired by Tolkien’s Elvish

71. new pen pals from Oregon for two of my children

72.  our dependable vehicles. My trusty Dodge Caravan gets me where I need to go and my husband’s Prius is wonderful for long commutes.

73. the Amish old-fashioned corn-shocks dotting the landscape

74. new book of Christmas stories to enjoy in December with some hot apple cinnamon tea

75. a sale on some shoes that I love! They are like a burnt orange (not my usual color choice), but they came and they fit perfectly and I love them

76. Pioneer Woman’s Pie Crust recipe. It’s my favorite and gets well used doing holidays and birthday seasons.

77. My SIL’s cranberry sauce recipe. She just blends up cranberries, a little sugar or honey, and an orange. Seriously, addicting stuff

78. My littlest son, who plays with pieces of cardboard, the broom, and an old bouquet of artificial flowers for hours. This kid is so unique, funny, and amazing.

79. sharing Thanksgiving poetry from anthologies with the family

80. the fast and furious snowflake shower today. Just so beautiful. The most beautiful part was seeing my 9yo out in it, just enjoying it, walking through it, and bending to look. She told me she was having a hard time seeing the snowflake patterns. I’m so grateful she wants to see them. Sigh

 

~

Snowy {One Hundred Bits of Gratitude by Thanksgiving} #6

IMG_5617

{a gorgeous restored church on Prince Edward Island, Canada}

 

51. lamp-lit dinner of buttery pancakes shared with two children who were at home with me last night. We listened to soft music as the flame flickered. So peaceful!

52. the sound of potatoes being grated. Juicy and a pleasant scraping. Hash browns for my husband! Opening deer hunting and an empty fridge had me scrambling to find some things for hungry bellies. The hunters seem to appreciate the few eggs, random turkey sausage (found deep in freezer),  and hastily-made hash browns.

53. the sizzle of oil and smell of crispy potato.

54. the soft, top outline of snow on some forgotten laundry on line.

55. slowly attempting to paint the constellation Orion in my nature journal. It looks primitive, but I’m glad to capture the moments I’ve spent gazing at this imposing fellow in the sky.

56. fascinating essay here and quotes here on Myth & Moor, probably one of my favorite blogs. I suspect that the author and I are kindred spirits, hopefully, we could be friends even though we may differ in many of our core beliefs.

57.  reading The Little Engine That Could over and over to my littlest as he just discovered it on our library shelf. I never realized until now that it’s sort of a retelling of the Good Samaritan.

58. Black-Capped Chickadees and a Male Cardinal at my feeders! We don’t have a lot of trees and I’ve really missed the variety of birds that we had at our former home.

59. pretty Christmas wrapping paper that I ordered. I usually wrap all my gifts in one print, the monochromatic scheme looks so pretty under the tree and frankly, it’s just easier.

60. I got a few things scribbled last night in my journal. Some writing actually down in ink and not floating around in my stuffed, spilling-over brain! I’ve really struggled with making the time, because it feels like I need so much mental space, of which I have zero right now. I’m finding I’m going to have to fit it in the margins of life or it won’t happen at all. How wonderful it is to just get down one page of words captured for just a little while.

~

 

Sick Days {One Hundred Bits of Gratitude by Thanksgiving} #5

_mg_7204

We’ve been under a cold and upper respiratory fog that just will not go away. Thankfully, we seem to be slowly coming out the other side of the tunnel and I know there are things I was grateful for even in the midst of hard daily life circumstances.

41. extra soft Kleenex, big three pack, that my husband picked up for us

42. daughter who served me hot tea on a tray with a card and light candle, so cheerful and an unexpected blessing

43. fluffy duvet covers to snuggle under

44. the brilliant star-filled sky out of our big window in the upstairs hall. I’ve been up a lot with children, my own coughing, and I kept noticing it as I passed by.

45. I made a simple meal of meatballs and mash potatoes and my family was in raptures. Hallelujah for happy stomachs!

46. thick, soft socks

47. children who helped out with cooking while I was really sick

48. glorious orange sunrise this morning, shining through a purple and pale blue haze, so beautiful

49. sunlight has been rare lately, so when it visits, the shafts throughout the house are lifegiving

50. sharing the reading of our books together, cuddling under quilts, listening to music and watching Victorian Farm episode on Youtube. Flexibility to keep going when sick at a comfortable speed.

~

 

 

First Snow {One Hundred Bits of Gratitude by Thanksgiving} #4

_mg_4056

We awoke to a thick, delicious, white frosting spread across the land. We are delighted and are celebrating by baking something to go with our hot drinks and books today.

31. my daughter’s little whispy bits of hair blowing in the warm, wood-pellet stove air

32. banana and walnut go together so very well, do they not?

33. a lovely time with four mothers, a passel of children, books, beauty, and delightful conversations

34. impromptu date with my middle two, listening to their dreams, ideas, and having lots of laughs together

35. first holiday party of the season tomorrow, a chance to listen and encourage, and wash a few dishes 😉

36. little hands peeling mandarins, fresh, sweet citrus-y smell

37. wood smoke curling out of all the Amish schools, yards full of little carts, recesses of little, black-clad children running around. Crowds of them walking along the roadside, brightly colored lunch coolers banging against their legs

38. anticipating the 200 bulbs the little children and I planted last month. Spring will be glorious thanks to those little gems tucked away

39. tea with honey. I’m a coffee person, but in autumn and winter, “lashings of tea” is the way to go!

40. The only Christmas-y thing I’ve began early is Bing Crosby. Swoon, so cheerful and comforting

~