22 Favorite Reads from 2022

2022 was SUCH a great reading year for me! I learned more about what I really love, what encourages me, inspires, and challenges. I’m hoping to bring my insights into my 2023 reading and have an thoughtful and nourishing year. In no particular order here are my favorites in small snippets!

1. High Rising by Angela Thirkell ~ English humor, a widowed author and her young son embroiled in village life.

2. Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson ~ orphan Maia travels to live with distant relatives on the Amazon. Brazil, found family, nature, and a wonderful governess, Miss Minton!

3. Family Sabbatical by Carol Ryrie Brink ~ Professor Ridgeway is heading to France with his authoress wife and three children. In the same vein as the first book, they have heartwarming family adventures.

4. All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot ~ a lovely, humorous memoir on a Yorkshire Dale veterinarian’s adventures.

5. The Summer Book by Tove Jansson ~ a quiet, introspective look at the relationship of a grandmother & granddaughter and the natural world.A gentle look at youth and aging.

6. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith ~ a coming-of-age story with an eccentric, surprisingly human bunch of characters. A peek at a writer’s soul in Cassandra.

7. All Manner of Things by Susie Finkbeiner ~ gentle historical fiction set around Vietnam War and one family’s love and lessons in a small Midwest town.

8. Skellig by David Almond ~ grief, fear, and new beginnings through the eyes of a young boy as he befriends an angelic being.

9. Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace ~ a coming-of-age story with a deep theme of sacrifice and selflessness. Young girl changes the lives of those around her in a meaningful way, gifting herself beauty in the process.

10. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens ~ lovely, deep characters ! So many favorites, Mrs. Boffin, Mr. Wilfer, and Bella – John Harmon was so interesting. The antagonist, Bradley Headstone reminds me of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. May be my current favorite Dickens!

11. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn ~ sobering look at one day in a Soviet work camp. I read this in January and STILL think about it!

12. Wives & Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell {reread} ~ such a lovely, introspective look at a widower doctor and his daughter and the surrounding village. Mr. Gibson’s remarriage brings about change and growth.

13. The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge {reread} ~ a second chance for a single older woman as she inherits her aunts cottage and memories in the countryside.

14. Martha’s Vineyard: Isle of Dreams by Susan Branch {reread} ~ Susan’s thoughts and dreams as she begins again after a hard divorce. Domestic and creative, so inspiring!

15. Christy by Catherine Marshall {reread} ~ a young girl travels to teach in the Smokey Mountains, growing in faith and love. The strong female friendships in this story touched me deeply. This was probably my favorite of the year.

16. The Magic Summer by Noel Streitfeild ~ four children have to stay in remote Scotland with their great aunt. They learn resourcefulness and cooperation toward each other.

17. The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery {reread} ~ lovely second chance of life story. There is SO much to love about this. Parts are a little far fetched, but Valancy’s story is so inspiring!

18. The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange ~ Henrietta’s care and concern for her ill mother and her baby sister are so inspiring. I love that nature and books help in this slightly scary tale of courage.

19. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen {reread} ~ I found the antagonists in this book to be SUCH amazing character studies. Mrs. Norris in particular, her sly, manipulative ways, so disturbing. This book is a lesson in what NOT to be.

20. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell ~ Murder, selfishness, growth, classism, forgiveness, redemption, and so much more made this an amazing read. So many great characters, Job & Margaret Leigh, Jem Wilson, and the Sturgis couple…Alice & Will…all stand out to me!

21. The Christmas Hirelings by Mary Elizabeth Braddon {audio book – performed by Richard Armitage} ~ this was a charming, heartfelt story about a selfish grandfather estranged from his daughter and grandchildren. It hit me just at the right moment and Armitage was an AMAZING reader.

22. Aggressively Happy by Joy Marie Clarkson ~ a lovely Christian nonfiction that touched me deeply. About knowing you are loved by God and living content in whatever season you find yourself.

Have you read any of these? What were your favorite reads of last year? 😍♥️🌿📚

Favorite Reads {4th Quarter 2022} 🐈❄️☕️🫖📚📬

Currently, dipping into a lot of Christian non-fiction…

Hello, friends! Hope this bookish update finds you well. We’ve had a bout of illness in our family, but thankfully, we’ve been able to cuddle up and hunker down a bit. I had a great 2022 4th reading quarter, starting in October with a readalong on Booktube called Victober. It’s focusing on reading Victorian literature and I so enjoyed the relationship between the father and daughter and the internal workings of the Church of England in The Warden by Anthony Trollope. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell was a lovely group of characters trying to make their way as mill workers and masters in the harsh industrial climate of north England. A murder and false accusations bring the class tensions to the forefront. Gaskell is quickly becoming a favorite author! I extended my Victorian reading into November where I read Man & Wife by Wilkie Collins, a sensationalist novel with murder and bittersweet moments. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the characters and story as I haven’t finished any other Collins book.

Poetry ♥️

November brought a fantasy duo-logy with hints of the 12 Dancing Princesses, sparkling intrigue, Arabian nights, pirates, and fairyland. I wasn’t sure I would like Wildwood Dancing and Cybele’s Secret by Juliet Marillier, but I really did! Being pulled away into these worlds was fascinating and I loved the character growth. These were intense, but YA so not as dark as her adult fiction. Marillier is a beautiful writer. I also reread a favorite fantasy A Winter’s Promise by Christelle Dabos with an online friend and this political thriller in a fantastical world was so fun to return too! I really enjoy Ophelia, the main protagonist and her animated scarf. She is betrothed to a stranger and on her way to his polar land and there’s a lot going on beneath the surface of this political matchup. I rounded out the month with sweet classic children’s stories, Family Sabbatical by Carol Ryrie Brink and Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson. These both were so lovely and heartwarming. Brink sends a family of five on a research trip to France and they have so many delightful adventures. Ibbotson wrote the Amazon River area so beautifully and her nature writing really brought the story to life.

December’s reading was wonderful with the British family story, High Rising by Angela Thirkell making me laugh. An widowed author and her son and village’s highjinks. I also loved listening to The Christmas Hirelings by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, read and performed by Richard Armitage while I held a sick little boy. It was heartwarming and inspiring. Braddon is a new-to-me Victorian author and I can’t wait to try more of her. I read a novella?/ short story by Emily Hayse called Yours, Constance, and I’m still thinking on this one. The setting was a glittery 1920’s party scene. We are in the head of Constance, a wealthy, cynical young woman who has recently lost her sister. The glitz and the glam don’t fool her, but something strange is happening in the crowd she runs with. This has a supernatural element and is very fast paced, but you quickly grow to appreciate Constance and understand the internal tensions she’s going through. Last but not least, I picked up the nonfiction Aggressively Happy by Joy Marie Clarkson and wow. This packed a powerful punch about how to live loved and to embrace all the seasons of our life in a meaningful way. These were my favorites from the fourth quarter of the year, what were yours? I’ll be back soon hopefully with my favorites of 2022!

Favorite Reads {3rd Quarter 2022} 📚🍁📚

Shadows 🍂🍃🌾🌞

Hello Friends, here we are again, another chunk of our yearly pie gone and enjoyed. What a glorious summer! Here’s what I really enjoyed reading in July, August, and September. 🍃🍁🍂🌾🦌🌞🐈‍⬛🌚🌛🍄🪵🌲🔥

Glass 💙

July was a quieter reading month as we were so busy traveling, visiting, and enjoying the summer weather! My friend Kim suggested The Summer Book by Tove Jansson and I absolutely loved this gentle book about a grandmother and her granddaughter’s relationship with each other and the island they live on. It explores aging and youth, intimacy with nature, and many deeper themes. I still think about this book. Tove’s gentle pen & ink illustrations are superb. I also loved the coming of age story, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. This story was weirdly lovely and I loved Cassandra’s thoughts as a writer. The quirky cast of characters were so fascinating. All Manner of Things by Susie Finkbeiner was historical fiction, a pleasant surprise from a Booktube recommendation. It follows a Michigan family dealing with Vietnam and race tensions in their small town. This was done gently and so well, I really want to try more from this author. I also dipped into a lot of various things for Jane Austen July, a readathon on Booktube/Bookstagram.

August brought gorgeous weather, scrambling to complete summer projects, plan our homeschool year, and read all the things. I read a lot this month, but there were a few gems that shone. I really loved the main girl protagonist in Jake Burk’s Greetings from Witness Protection. A foster teen who is asked to help a family hide. She is so brave and kind, even though she has to overcome a lot of challenges. So heartwarming! ♥️ I finished my reread of Mansfield Park by Jane Austen and I thoroughly enjoyed diving into the characters. I found the Crawford siblings, Mrs. Norris, and Sir & Lady Bertram to be such interesting character studies in what not to be. I absolutely adored the slightly creepy and introspective story of a little girl trying to dig her family out of grief and finding solace in nature and her books. The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange was so lovely!

September brought a definite shift to the air, and we slowly have been easing into our school books. Bouquet of sharpened pencils ✏️ anyone? I was so excited to see a You’ve Got Mail themed readalong over on Booktube, as that’s one of my absolute favorite autumn movies. I finally read All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot, a lovely memoir of a English veterinarian on the Yorkshire Dales. It was humorous, the characters so fascinating, and I loved Mr. Herriot’s gentle air of never ending patience. I also enjoyed Gerald Durrell’s memoir of his childhood in Corfu. My Family and Other Animals brought gorgeous writing and the wonders of the minutiae of the natural world. Durrell’s family situations were hilariously crazy and it was fascinating and disturbing to get a peek at English family living in a British colony. I was so curious about the play Lover’s Vows by Mrs. Inchbold which was so scandalous in Mansfield Park. I finally found it via kindle and it’s also on Project Gutenberg and I really enjoyed it. A young man comes back from the military to find his mother destitute and reveals a secret! I also read Family Shoes by Noel Streitfeild, my third this year by this author and she is fast becoming a favorite! It follows the Bell family, a poor vicar’s family and their hilarious adventures trying to wade through relatives and help their parents with money.

What did you absolutely love reading the last few months? 🍁📚🍁 I’d love to hear!

Favorite Reads {2nd Quarter 2022} 📚🌿📚

Half a year of joys and sorrows. ♥️🌿♥️ How can it be? So blessed to have words to help us through, help us understand, and give us a gateway to journey through life with compassion. What were your favorite reads the past few months?

~☀️April💦~ I had a wonderful reading month with quite a few mysteries, including two Agatha Christies, but the books the stood out were my reread of Christy by Catherine Marshall and Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. Honorable mention was a reread of A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken. Christy was such a masterful look at female friendships, our influence and impact as women, and what it means to have a selfless faith. Mr. Dickens didn’t disappoint with his gorgeous cast of characters in Our Mutual Friend, and I was so pleased to immerse myself in the world of an exploration on wealth and what true richness is. I read this with a local friend and some Booktube friends, which made the experience so much richer. I hope to watch the BBC adaptation later this year. These two books fulfill two of the prompts for the Back to Classics challenge. My reread of Mr. Vanauken’s memoir sharing his love story, coming to faith, Oxford, thoughts on beauty, and his friendship with C.S. Lewis was powerful and asked a lot of important questions.

Reginald Wilfer is a name with a rather grand sound…the existing R.Wilfer was a poor clerk. So poor a clerk, though having a limited salary and an unlimited family, that he had never yet attained the modest object of his ambition: which was, to wear a complete new suit of clothes, hat and boots included, at one time.

Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend

🌸May🌿~ another WONDERFUL reading month, mostly thanks to Kate Howe’s Booktube, who’s cozy, comfort recommendations are spot on! I loved continuing to read through the Betsy Tacy Series by Maud Hart Lovelace , reading two more. I loved Betsy In Spite of Herself, as Betsy had to learn important lessons about being herself and not trying to be what she thought others wanted. I loved Chronicles of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery, a short story collection that was heartwarming and thoughtful. I finished up David Copperfield by Dickens with our homeschool group and wow. So good! I loved Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright. The nature writing, details, and domesticity was just so uplifting. An adventurous tale set in Cornwall, In the Roar of the Sea, by S. Baring Gould, had some lovely characters and the descriptions of the Cornish coast were sublime. A nonfiction that I really enjoyed was The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Details by Paula Byrne. The most moving read and surprising was a children’s book, Skellig by David Almond. A haunting story of a young boy coming to terms with his move to a fixer upper, an ill infant sister, a new neighborhood friend, and a mysterious creature tying them all together.

“Fear is the original sin,” wrote John Foster. “Almost all the evil in the world has its origin in the fact that some one is afraid of something. It is a cold slimy serpent coiling about you. It is horrible to live with fear; and it is of all things degrading.”

L.M. Montgomery, The Blue Castle

🌤June🌺~ Another AMAZING reading month! My 1st quarter reading wasn’t the greatest, but the 2nd quarter made up for it! A favorite reread of the month was The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery, so inspiring and heartwarming. Second chances and asks the question if you only had a short time left, how would you live? I’ve reread this book countless times and it’s one of my very favorite Montgomery books. I read a wonderful dystopian, fantasy on my daughter’s recommendation, Elantris by Brandon Sanderson. I enjoyed the light hearted, deceptively deeper YA Pride & Prejudice retelling Pudge & Prejudice by A. J. Pittman. If you like coming of age, 80’s/90’s high school setting, and quirky characters, you will enjoy this! That House That is Our Own by O. Douglas was a lovely domestic, female friendship focus with light romance set between London and Scotland. I also adored the gorgeous writing in The Skylark’s War by Hilary McKay. It follows a widower and his two children in the English countryside leading up to WWI. McKay does a wonderful job thinking and speaking like a child would. My favorite of June, however, after all that goodness, was The Magic Summer by Noel Streitfeild. This strange, quirky story shares how a family of four children has to spend the summer in Ireland with their eccentric aunt. The courage and fortitude they learn is inspiring. Aunt Dymphna may be a bit TOO hands-off, but she doesn’t speak down to the children and trusts them. I really enjoyed this story. I’ve enjoyed two Streitfeild books now and I can’t wait to read more!

It was all over – the goodbys, the present-giving (except Aunt Dymphna’s present) – and everybody seemed sorry to see them go. “But I think this place is like sand,” said Penny. “You are there when you’re there, but when we’ve gone it’s like the sea going out – all the marks which were us won’t show any more.” Robin did not like that. “Not my marks won’t. They remember me forever.” Naomi agreed with him.

Noel Streitfeild, The Magic Summer

I excited for a whole new bunch of months filled with space for reading! What are you especially excited for? I’m looking forward to #janeaustenjuly on Booktube and elsewhere. A month long Read-along centered on all things Miss Austen related! 🌸🌺🌸 Happy Reading! Love, Amy

Favorite Reads {1st Quarter 2022} 📚🌿📚

What’s up, Doc? Can you tell what my children have watching lately? 🐰 I thought it would be easier and fun to just highlight my favorite reads this year in a quarterly fashion. 🌿📚🌿

…January favorites…

I had some BEAUTIFUL reads in January. Surprising reads, too, as Out of Silent Planet was a reread and was so much better this time around. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was a semi-autobiographical, heart wrenching look at a Soviet work-camp. The Scent of a Water was a favorite, so introspective and lovely. About an older woman starting afresh and the things she learns from the journals of her relative, her new neighbors, and nature. Wives and Daughters just a pure character dive into depth and insight, people to root for and love. Gaskell is SO accessible and lovely. You don’t have to work hard to be rewarded.

February brought the the lovely read of Emily of Deep Valley, a book that’s been on my TBR list for a long time and it didn’t disappoint. A coming of age story with so much to learn for this almost 42 yo! My reread of Martha’s Vineyard: Isle of Dreams by Susan Branch was just perfect. My favorite memoir from her! I really enjoyed finding the work of Austin Kleon, his encouragement on creativity really resonating with me.

A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered.

C.S. Lewis

March brought the beginning of a huge reading slump, but I did manage to enjoy the adult historical fiction, The Morning Gift, by Eva Ibbotson, a new to me author whom I’m enjoying. This was about an girl trapped in Nazi-occupied Vienna and it was different, well done, and I really enjoyed it.

Me attempting to break out of reading slump! 🤪 Do you do this? Try chapters of many different things to see if anything grabs you? 🌿📚🌿 Did you read anything lovely the first few months of 2022? I’d love to hear! How do you break reading slumps? What books are you anticipating soon? 😄🌿♥️May your books be long & delicious, your coffees hot, and your days sunshiny!

Love, Amy ♥️🌿

Lenten Gratitude {2} 🌿♥️🌿

Continuing my Lenten List of Gratitude ~

11. Mr. Kleon’s work has been opening my mind to possibly lately. And that’s a good thing.

12. Thinking on this quote I read with my 17 yo the other day, “A picture or poem, or the story of a noble deed, ‘finds’ us, we say. We, too, think that thought or live in that action, and, immediately, we are elevated and sustained. This is the sympathy we owe to our fellows, near and far off. If we have anything good to give, let us give it, knowing with certainty that they will respond. If we fail to give this Sympathy, if we regard the people about us as thinly small, unworthy thoughts, doing mean, unworthy actions, and incapable of better things, we reap our reward. We are really, though we are not aware it, giving Sympathy to all that is base in others, and thus strengthening and increasing their baseness: at the same time we are shutting ourselves into habits of hard and narrow thinking and living.” ~ Charlotte Mason, Ourselves

12. Thinking about creativity and how sometimes it’s hard to grasp that elusive ‘thing’ that’s haunting you and waiting to be born. How birth is beautiful and miraculous, yet it’s earthy, natural, and an everyday occurrence all over the world. These lyrics speak to that and here’s the music video which has stunning imagery about this tension. {click CC button, top right corner of video for English subtitles}

13. The flames, smell, colors, warmth, ritual of filling our indoor woodburner. I’ve been finding in the midst of the hard work of it and constantness of it, a beauty. Hmmm, this sounds like writing practice. 😬😩😂

14. Margin. Modern life is a snowball. I’m thankful when I remember to stop it and live counterculture for a bit. Run counterclockwise, Amy. One part of this can’t really change though. Relationships. Those you need to keep your toe dipped into.

15. This zany, high energy podcast. An encouraging online friend, Adrienne, recommended me to this resource!

16. Starting enjoying a new Shakespeare play, composer, and especially enjoying this unique artist with my children. So thankful for the moms in my homeschool group for sharing these riches.

17. For this this poem and animation. So peaceful!

18. For photography- snippets of light for dispelling darkness

19. Warmth: fires, slippers, hot showers, hot tea, steamy coffee, and comfy thrifted purple Scotland sweatshirts.

20. Changes of perspective to help me get outside of myself. For coming back to my mountain to climb with newness and freshness, or at least a deep breath. ♥️🌿

What’s fueling you? 🌿♥️🌿 Lots of love from the Ridge, Amy 💜🌿💜

January Hope : Green Growing Things, Light Chasing, and Books are Most Definitely Friends

The early morning tickle of light burns pink and delightful over the snow and cuts through the intense cold. I’ve been snuggling into warm sweaters {sometimes, two at a time!}, jackets, and soothing stories. Early mornings, especially, have been for putzing around, fiddling with my coffee, rearranging books, obsessively checking my paperwhites to see if they are blooming, trying to suck any bit of hope into my spirit from green things. And let’s talk of light chasing. I often find a patch of sun and close my eyes as I stand in its comforting square. Or gaze at the flicker of candlelight, or hold my hands to the wood burner’s glow. Light around corners, light from the heavens, crystal shards through the sharp refrigerator nights, my breath puffing a halo around me. My rereading of Elizabeth Goudge stories is going to be one of endless delight and delicious mind sustenance. I can tell already and I’ve barely dipped into her massive pile of beautiful words. Yes, I’ve slowly begin rereading her and searching for those I don’t yet have in my collection. The crockpot has been bubbling nonstop {my Instapot, too, albeit something seems to be amiss with the cover! 😦 } with chicken taco soup and chilis. Big fluffy socks, moccasin slippers, peppermint mint tea, and finishing off the coffee with a hint of Christmas scent, along with the children’s copious amounts of hot chocolates with a large side of books have been the order of our days.

We finally packed dear ‘ole man Christmas away, wistfully, and full of gratitude for the cheer, remembrance, and sparkle he brings to winter. Back to Miss Goudge, The Scent of Water, brought me through a tough week mentally, mid January, and Snow & Rose, added a sprinkle of whimsy, too. Although, I’m jealous of those that read Emily Winfield Martin’s sweet book for the first time, the little surprises weren’t there on my second read. Wives & Daughters is bringing me so many friends I wish to know and others I’d not care to be around, looking at you Hyacinth Clare *glares*. Poor Mr. Gibson and Molly!

Taking my tea with me to the post! Sending penpal letters and cards is really a delight!

The class system in Elizabeth Gaskell’s story is so unfathomable to me in my independent, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps 21st American mentality. How women had to move about to be proper is fascinating and sobering. But for all its flaws, this Victorian novel is showing the love of one’s family, connections, and it can’t help but pull you in. Gaskell’s characters are so intriguing, mirror-like for ones soul. Molly Gibson’s too accommodating nature, a peace lover at all costs, even to the determent of herself and those she loves is a bit to close to home for comfort. I wonder if she’s an Enneagram 9? HA! 😉 Mr. Gibson’s deep, interesting character, but his extreme resistance to showing his true feelings reminding me a little of Elinor Dashwood. He keeps his regrets, mistakes, and joys close to his heart. Roger Hamley’s open, curious, kindhearted character falling for beauty without the careful observation that he gives his scientific life, Osborne and Squire Hamley. The Hamley family being probably my favorite friends to follow from Wives & Daughters. The 1999 tv mini series has actually been pretty true to the book! Yes, I watched before reading. I can’t wait to tackle the rest of Gaskell’s novels that I’ve yet to read, as North & South, Ruth, and Wives & Daughters, haven’t disappointed. I know just which one to pull into my lap next as I already have it on my shelves. Mary Barton is waiting and beckoning to me from my TBR pile of possibilities for this year.

My heart is anticipating and super excited to join a book challenge on Instagram/Booktube next month called FebRegency. We will be reading Regency plays, poetry, nonfic, and Regency novels mentioned in Jane Austen’s work. I actually want to reread Mansfield Park, dip my toes in William Wordsworth and William Blake’s poetry, try a Richard Sheridan play, read a few diary entries by Dorothy Wordsworth, and maybe a novelist that inspired Jane Austen, Maria Edgeworth, or Fanny Burnley. The cold, hard Kindle is coming through for me, due to a lot of these things above being free or inexpensive. ❤ So exciting! But, I’m choosing to curb the expectation a bit and S-L-O-W-L-Y enjoy the ten remaining days of January.

If all else fails and my heart needs a little lighter fare, but no less deep, the kindly post brought a volume containing the richness that is Professor Tolkien’s Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham with lovely illustrations by Pauline Baynes of Narnia fame.

Our reading together and nature gratitude continues in our homeschool with our first ever phenology wheel nature journaling project for the year and interesting dips and conversations surrounding The Old Farmer’s Almanac. The Yearling and White Fang have been spotted curled up with various children and Rosemary Sutcliff’s illustrated-by-Alan-Lee versions of The Illiad and The Odyssey are well loved. We keep stumbling forward through the mysterious, beautiful, and maddening world of maths, spelling, the frightening current news, topping it all off with a generous dollop of poetry and music. I’ve been enjoying listening to Spiers & Boden, The Hobbit Soundtrack, Enya, Louis Armstrong, Studio Ghibli Soundtracks, and BTS Kpop. How’s that for eclectic? But the good Lord’s earth is a veritable feast of delights for the taking. I for one want to fight back against the ice, darkness, and cold of this world with a tenacity that rages against it all with a whisper of gratitude, open-handed humility, and a shard of Beauty and Truth – He is strength to the poor, strength to the needy in their distress, a refuge from the storm, and shade from the heat {paraphrasing a tender morsel from the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 25}. I see Jesus as my lighthouse, stalwart and aflame in this black, inkiness that enshrouds earth. I grab ahold of a beam of the light, drink it down, eat it up, and try to let it shine out, so others can join me along the murky path. Shine on, friends, keep drinking in, soaking in His beauty so we can spill a little out, a drip, a dribble of Hope. We need Hope. Hope on. ~

Favorite Reads of 2021 ♥️🌿{Massive List: You’ve Been Warned}

Remembering our daily autumn tramps in a little woods on our property…♥️♥️♥️

Dear Fellow Page Turners and Word Drinkers 😄, it’s that time of the year to think about all the wonderful books I’ve read this past year and take on the impossible task of narrowing down my favs {failed miserably at the narrowing down part. Ha! }. 2021 was a FANTASTIC reading year for me! I was thrilled to read so many great books. Here is my post from my 2020 favorite reads and my categories that I wanted to focus on in 2021. I touched all of my categories EXCEPT I didn’t really finish any biographies. Once again, I listed categories below to help you, if you’d prefer to scroll to your favorite genre, instead of reading through my massive list. 😏♥️ I left Goodreads this year in spring with no regrets and have plans for a pretty analog reading journal, continuing what I started this year, because I loved it so much. I’m truly a paper gal. I blame Booktube, especially Chantel 😂😍, for so many great books! I read a lot more mystery this year and surprisingly, historical fiction. Curl up with your favorite hot drink and a pen and paper because happy toppling 2022 TBR, my friends! 😂😎♥️

Favorite Book of the Year 2021~

Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly -5 stars!!!! This was just so lovely! A middle grade story about a little girl being shuffled around in the foster care system and an artist who is slowly declining due to Alzheimer’s disease. Deeper themes about belonging and being seen. This book just made me FEEL. It was so, so sad and lovely and REAL.

Poetry ~

The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry – 5 stars! Some of Berry’s poetry is a little inaccessible to me unless I am in a certain mood with lots of patience. NOT THIS COLLECTION. This book and the Holy Bible got me through 2021, sane-ish. 😉 Ha!

Hilltop Verses and Prayers by Ralph Spaulding Cushman – 5 stars These are lovely, intimate poems, prayers, and Scriptures. I gave this as a gift recently. There is a second book also which I’m slowly savoring.

The Lost Spells by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris – 5 stars, breathtaking watercolor illustrations and gorgeous wordsmithing from MacFarlane. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!

Nonfiction/Memoir-

Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings by Diana Pavlov Glyer – 5 stars! This was just SO inspiring about how community is so important in our creative pursuits and in life. I was so inspired by this book, so two writing friends and I have started checking in on Voxer and spurring each other on. I’ve been also getting into more bookish community on Booktube. ❤

Letters by a Modern Mystic by Frank C. Laubach – 5 stars! Fascinating and super lovely look at one man’s attempt at “practicing the presence of God” moment by moment in his daily life. Mr. Laubach was a literacy advocate in the Philippines and other countries.

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May – 4.5 stars This book articulated how I feel so very often! It was a beautifully written memoir of the author’s pressing INTO the dark times in her life instead of fighting them. This wasn’t from a Christian perspective, but it was so inspiring, reassuring, and I felt “seen”.

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson – 5 stars! A mind-blowing book about personal responsibility. Even if you don’t agree with everything from Peterson, don’t miss this amazing book. Philosophy, religion, psychology, and so much more!

This Beautiful Truth: How God’s Goodness Breaks into Our Darkness by Sarah Clarkson 4.5 stars – this one was ALMOST my favorite of the year. I loved that I finally found a book that questions the scary idea that God is the creator of sin and horror in the world. This book is so beautiful in an unique way – the non-chronological time line in this memoir was my only complaint as sometimes we jumped about a bit, but I loved how Sarah shared her struggles with mental illness and her questions and deep things she was contemplating.

Lost in Wonder: Rediscovering the Spiritual Art of Attentiveness by Esther de Waal – 4.5 stars, despite a few theological differences, this book was such a blessing to my prayer and gratitude life practices. Beautiful thoughts, quotes, Scripture, and glorious poetry on how really seeing and practicing gratitude ultimately turns our heart towards God. Highly recommend.

The Lazy Genius Way: Embrace What Matters, Ditch What Doesn’t, and Get Stuff Done by Kendra Adachi – 5 star read for me! I was so surprised by this as I don’t really like these types of books usually. I felt so freed and like I can tailor my home in the way that fits me. And yet, she does challenge and give tools on how to run what works and is important for you. I can’t wait to read her Kitchen Lazy Genius title next year, as I need major help in the kitchen. HA!

Present Perfect: Finding God in the Now by Greg Boyd – 5 stars, fantastic look at keeping God’s love in mind in the moment you are currently in! This book was life changing for me and so helpful about my thought life.

Kohila: The Shaping of an Indian Nurse by Amy Carmichael – 5 stars, one of the most convicting, beautiful reads for my faith and my job as a wife, mother, homeschooler, writer, woman, and friend. So beautiful! A bit rambly, but I took down pages of quotes that challenged me and inspired me in my Christian faith.

Lay of the Land by Dallas Lore Sharp – 5 stars, just lovely, intimate memoir with reflections on nature, life, with the author’s faith woven throughout.

Boundaries for Your Soul: How to Turn Your Overwhelming Thoughts and Feelings into Your Greatest Allies by Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller – 4 stars – such an interesting book and I especially found the chapters on guilt/worry/anxiety so helpful. I loved that this was from a Christian perspective and included a lot of Scripture.

Middle Grade & YA Fiction ~

Fog Magic by Julia Sauer – 5 stars, a short, haunting portal magic MG fantasy that I really enjoyed. The setting was LOVELY.

Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt – 5 stars. WOW! Jane Eyre thread throughout, the Vietnam War, domestic abuse, and poignant observations on a young boy’s life. Schmidt did NOT disappoint in this companion to The Wednesday Wars.

Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss – 5 stars! I LOVED this first in a fantasy/dragon series, but heard the second is not great, and the third never came out. So I just stopped here! If you like classic feel fantasy, this one was great.

Heart of Red, Blood of Blue by Rebecca Belliston – 5 stars! I heard about this one on Oceana’s Booktube channel and my oldest daughter and I loved it. Medieval-adventure-romance done SO well with great twists. Heads up, I did try a couple other of Belliston’s titles later and they weren’t for me, but this one was wonderful!

The Recorder by Cathy McCrumb – 5 stars! This is the first in a Sci-Fi Series called The Consortium. This was one of my anticipated reads from 2021 and it didn’t disappoint. So fascinating and I loved the characters! We follow a Recorder, a person raised from childhood to record history and observe life, or is she? She is thrown into a mission with a great bunch of characters and questions are asked about who she really is? Space, giant bugs, octopus-like robots and more.

Beneath the Haunting Sea by Joanna Ruth Meyer – 4 stars, I read all? of Meyer’s novels in 2021 and I really enjoyed this one. In the beginning, I found the story of the ancient gods on the side was more interesting to me than the main story. However, the last quarter of the book picked up, blending present and past well. I loved Wen, the shape shifting, and the cooperation between the two main characters. The whale was so clever, lots of strange, magical, unique details that made me feel. I loved the secret library/mansion/sea/cottage setting. Meyer is SO good at setting. I loved that Talia didn’t compromise her beliefs. Overall, a bit stream-of-conscious-along-for-the-ride type read, but so atmospheric, clean, and intriguing!

The Rivers Lead Home & Other Stories by Emily Hayse – 5 stars, haunting, sparse, adventure short stories that really inspired me. I really enjoy this Indie author!

Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw – 5 stars, this YA historical fiction was full of intrigue, mystery, and light romance. I gave this as a Christmas gift to my 12 yo!

Of Salt & Shore by Annet Schaap – 5 stars, loved this story! I really grew to care for Lampie, the sweet lighthouse keeper’s daughter and the sad hardships she faced. This has a Beauty & the Beast, Little Mermaid, Jane Eyre, Secret Garden mashup vibe to it! A bit dark and creepy, definitely for older middle grade or YA.

The Brave by James Bird – 4.5 stars. I adored this book and loved the main character Collin. I loved the First Nation/Indigenous, magical realism bent to it which was so well done. I loved the creative and real feeling way this talked about disability, disease, and death. I DO NOT RECOMMEND this book for Middle Grade readers, however, as it included too many adult sexual type comments/situations and I don’t like that in books geared for 8-12 yos. I will be thinking about this one for awhile.

The Mirror Visitor Series by Christelle Dabos – 4 star series! This is a grand, magical, unique, mirror-traveling political type fantasy. It has an extremely slow-burn romance and huge cast of such FASCINATING characters. Pretty long, but it was a page turner for me! This was recently translated from French and I really loved this one. Overall, pretty clean, probably older YA/Adult.

The Breadwinner Series Books 1 & 2 by Deborah Ellis 5 stars – first two books in a heart-wrenching series about a family in war-torn Afghanistan. This is a MG series, but I’d definitely read it with my children or give it to older kids as it touches on sobering topics. I’m taking a break before reading the last two books as they are heavy. I noticed that there is a an animated movie that I want to check out.

Sweep by Jonathan Auxier – 5 star book! Oh my. SO sweet, creative, magical, and heart-wreching about the loss of a parent, belonging, friends, and so much more. I really loved learning more about children as chimney sweeps.

Incarceron & Sapphique by Catherine Fisher – 5 stars duology! Fantasy story about a fascinating living prison and finding the key to it! Creepy and mysterious. Wonderful, intriguing characters, great twists, and very clean. Great YA reads!

Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud – 4.5 stars, SUCH A CREATIVE idea! Ghost hunting children who have an agency to take care of those pesky haunted houses. A little dark, but I enjoyed this first one.

Ignite the Sun by Hanna C. Howard – 4 star creative read of a girl who can harness the power of the sun! If you like elemental magic in fantasy stories, this one was great, and clean. The romance was a tiny bit cheesy, but overall this was great. I loved that it was a stand alone, so that we got all the great action and story in one go!

Adult Fiction ~

When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka – 5 stars, disturbing historical fiction about the horrors surrounding a Japanese American mother and her children trying to psychologically and physically survive relocation to American interment camp during WWII. The writing was SO beautiful, sparse, sad, and so wonderfully expressed. The mental hoops that they had to jump through were so disturbing and how others ignored/excused mistreatment of a whole group of fellow human beings was so sobering and thought-provoking.

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice and O Jerusalem by Laurie R. King – 4 stars – The first and third books in a LONG series surrounding “retired” Sherlock Holmes and his new sidekick, Mary Russell. I’ve read 4? in this series and there are some preachy/weird themes and I disliked the second book so much, but the writing is SUPERB and the idea so creative. I’m going to continue reading!

The Other Bennett Sister by Janice Hadlow – 5 stars, beautiful and sympathetic look at what happened to Mary Bennett. A MUST READ FOR JANE AUSTEN FANS!

Father Brown: The Essential Tales by G. K. Chesterton – 5 stars, unique and interesting mysteries solved by a quiet, observant priest. I was very pleasantly surprised by these!

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter & Sweet by Jamie Ford – 4.5 stars, another super interesting historical fiction inspired by a true story. An abandoned hotel basement full of Japanese American belongings found some decades later reveals the stories of so many lives disrupted due to the interment camps. Disturbing and so interesting, told through the eyes of a father and son relationship. Highly recommend!

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys – 4 stars, another historical fiction for me! Wow! A disturbing, intense look at 4 evacuees from war torn Germany/Poland/Lithuanian who were headed to be taken on the ill-fated “rescue” boats. The horrors of war and ethnic cleansing atrocities were up and in your face. Trigger warning on this one, so scary, but SO well done. This was my first Sepetys and it won’t be my last.

The Secret of the Chimneys by Agatha Christie 5 stars – LOVED this stand alone from The Queen of Mystery. I’m finding her single stories without Poirot or Marple are some of my favorites. So hilarious!

The London House by Katherine Reay – 5 stars – I am not a huge historical fiction reader and especially not of WWII time period, but I ended up reading so many this year. Ha! However, I have enjoyed Reay’s books in the past, so I gave this one a try. It was AMAZING. I loved the story being told through letters, diaries, and memories. I found the history about dress designers, the Nazis, and Salvador Dali to be fascinating!

L.M. Montgomery ~

Along the Shore: Tales by the Sea – 4 stars for me. A lot of Montgomery’s stories are so sweet with happy endings, but these were grittier and dark. I really enjoyed them.

Emily Climbs x2 {reread} – 5 stars The second in the Emily Starr series and my favorite! So lovely about family, writing life tension, creativity, all with Montgomery’s swoon-worthy nature writing. One small thing that’s weird is an older male friend of Emily’s is a bit creepy, but I can forgive it, because the rest is lovely.

Jane of Lantern Hill {reread} – 5 stars! My handle Amy of Hearth Ridge is inspired by this book! I read this first after a hard pregnancy and a touch of PPD and it blessed my socks off. How simple loving and having someone to care for can be the most important thing to your life. How serving and giving end up blessing YOU in return.

After Many Days: Tales of Time Passed – 3.5 stars, short stories of “second chances” or “time past” – it had a slow start, but I appreciated the latter stories.

The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery: Volume 2 – 4 stars The first volume of Montgomery’s journals touched on her girlhood and this one gave such an interesting and dark perspective of a Canadian woman during WWI. Highly recommend!

Whew! 😅♥️ Of course, I read the Holy Bible and so enjoyed especially going through the New Testament, John in particular. Hopefully, you got a good recommendation or three that you anticipate! I’ll be back soon with my reading ideas for 2022!

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: Mid~year Reading Favorites, Bookishness, and Other Ramblings

“One can pour something divine into every situation.”

Frank C. Laubach

Hello Dear Hearts,

Happy Saturday to you! I decided to do a little different post this month for my Gratitude & Glories post – combining a multitude of lovely things, The Simple Woman’s Daybook, with the things I’ve read so far this year that are sticking with me like molasses. I may touch on what I’m currently reading and other little rambling tidbits, but I want to stay close to the wonderful words that have been gifted to me through these past few months.

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The Simple Woman’s Daybook

Looking out my window ~ I’ve been basking in the glorious wind-waving landscape and warmth on my face. Part of my enjoyment is the words that whisper right alongside as I contemplate the expansiveness that warm weather brings. It’s truly a seasonal addition to one’s homeplace. My friend Heather lent me the lovely book The Lay of the Land by Dallas Lore Sharp and I’ve been just diving into it in small dips because I don’t want it to end. This is my first by him and it won’t be my last! Do you enjoy naturalist type memoirs? One of my favorite genres. Another book that I’ve had to really focus on, but finding rewarding if I’m patient is Lost in Wonder: Rediscovering the Spiritual Art of Attentiveness by Esther de Waal.

I am Thinking and I am Thankful ~ I’m in love with Hollyhocks and am constantly staring at them and so thankful for them. A little watering and extra TLC in the beginning and the second year they come all friendly-like in their glory. I’ve been thinking a lot about many things, but mostly about stillness and faithfulness and love. I recently finished Kohila: The Shaping of an Indian Nurse by Amy Carmichael. One of the most beautiful, convicting reads for my faith and my mission as a wife, mother, homeschooler, writer, woman, and friend. It’s a bit ramble-ly, but richly rewarding if you put a little fortitude and focus into it. I took pages of quotes into my Commonplace. Along the same vein, I finished Letters by a Modern Mystic by Frank C. Laubach and it was wonderful and unique and so thought-provoking. Living moment by moment, habitually turning one’s thoughts and heart to the Lord. June is my birthday month and I received This Beautiful Truth: How God’s Goodness Break into our Darkness by Sarah Clarkson and I’m only a few chapters in and I am LOVING it. I may purchase a few copies as Christmas gifts for dear women that I love.

One of my Favorite things, what I’m Wearing, and Creating ~ I reread Wendell Berry’s The Mad Farmer Poems this month and man, I love them SO much. I highly recommend them! I’m looking for a copy to purchase soon. They are a favorite. I’ve been loving skirts and dresses and I can’t tell you the satisfaction I get from the wind whipping them about my ankles as I walk barefoot or with my lovely, new sandals to get the post. I inked some words last week on my fiction and I finally organized a whole mess of notes and things for the fiction projects I’m working on. I know deeply that I just need to write and I’ve been reading James Scott Bell’s book Just Write: Creating Unforgettable Fiction and a Rewarding Writing Life and it’s telling me the same thing. I still slowly working on here and there my prereading and nature journal and that is bringing me lots of joy.

I am Watching, Reading, and Listening ~ I watched my two birthday gifts with some of my children, my favorite version of Little Women (I did not care for the new one 😦 ) and Whispers of the Heart, about creativity. I’m slowly reading Jordan B. Peterson’s book Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life and I like it more than the first, if that’s possible. So thought-provoking! I may not see eye-to-eye on him with everything, but I love how he makes me think. I’m almost half way through Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens and slowly moving forward with my oldest two on Great Expectations. Next up will be David Copperfield. I was so happy to find thrifting a book I’ve been wanting to read called Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford and it opened out so well and interesting. I’ve been loving receiving handwritten magazine from a lovely friend in Tennessee about mothering and life and bookishness. It’s a highlight to my month. I’ve been listening mainly to Japanese Instrumental Music and Native Flutes and they have been so peaceful and lovely, paring so well with the weather and languid days of summer.

I’m Hoping, In the Garden, and I’m Learning ~ I’m hoping to find a delightfully deep and detailed fiction read yet this summer. Any suggestions? I like a bit of romance, domesticity, details, spiritual themes, family, mystery, and nature, and I prefer clean, which takes out a lot of modern titles. I’ve tried quite a few and haven’t found any that I REALLY love yet this year. And I’ve read a lot! Surprisingly, this has been, so far, the year of good non-fiction for me. The garden is producing little surprises here and there and I’m especially excited for the sunflowers and other small things. Days of small things are big, indeed. I was excited to see a Raven recently when my husband and I traveled to a funeral (yes, sort of deliciously creepy, I know) because I haven’t ever identified one near our home. We have American Crows, but not Ravens regularly. I’m still learning to continually reorder my affections back into the proper order of Truth & Love. Habits and rhythms that keep me sane and focused help my scatterbrained self. It’s hard, but so worth it. I’m rereading Bright Line Eating: The Science of Living Happy, Thin, and Free by Susan Pierce Thompson with friends and it’s so interesting and helpful. I’m loving Zechariah and Romans right now in The Holy Bible.

For the eternal substance of a thing never lies in the thing itself, but in the quality of our reaction towards it.

Amy Carmichael

Gratitude & Glories: {April & May}

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The Simple Woman’s Daybook

Hello dear friends! I certainly had no idea I’d take TWO months off from this little corner. Having friends over, house guests, a family wedding, graduating my FIRST baby *waaa!, and just trying to finish out our homeschool year strong lent for quiet on the blog front. I’m back, though, and inspired by my friend, Kim, and just refreshed from the first month or so of my summer Instagram break, I feel up to the challenge to share here a bit more. Here is a post to record and share what we’ve been up to this spring!

For April/May 2021

Looking out my window… despite one fluke night of freezing temperatures (where my procrastination on the garden came in handy…*wink,wink*), our weather has been GLORIOUS. Low humidity, 70’s & 80’s, sunshine, blue & white fluffy skies, and enough rain for a brilliant green carpet. Wisconsin is a delightful state, minus February. 😉

I am thinking… about a lovely generous gift from an online friend. I was able to attend Art History classes and discussions via Zoom the last four weeks. We finished last night and I really enjoyed them! Check out Rachel Magdalen Drennen’s site here to enjoy her beautiful work and look at her upcoming classes.

I am thankful… for the anticipation each night as I lay my head on my pillow for my morning prayer time with coffee, Bible, journal, and books.

One of my favorite things… our “teepee” trellis that we are attempting this year. My oldest son and I made it out of tree branches, beans, morning glories, and cucumber plants. Hopefully, the plants will grow up the strings and branches to create a fun canopy for my children to play in! 🙂 I keep you updated on it’s progress.

I am wearing… I’ve been wearing gardening clothing for this past week, but I’m so excited to wear my a new black & white striped skirt and soft black t-shirt I picked up thrifting as well as my other skirts (I’m not much of a shorts gal). Also my new copper colored Carhartt overalls which I used some gift money to finally get. I just roll up the bottoms and wear with a fun shirt, different shoes, and earrings.

I am creating… I’ve been writing some cards for pen pals, writing faithfully in my gratitude/prayer journal, and I started a new project inspired by Celeste from Joyous Lessons and The CMEC. I was delighted in April to get away with some other Charlotte Mason moms and I got to listen to some of these sessions. Anyway, I was so inspired, I’ve started a combo journal for pre-reading my older children’s school books this summer, quotes, and nature sketches. I’ve already begun and I’m loving it SO much. It makes me a wee bit nervous to see how much reading I’ve set up for myself, but I really think it will help narrations and discussions in the autumn when school starts up. I may share some photos of this journal. I didn’t write ANYTHING on my fiction project in May. 😦 I did get some words down in April, but my goal would be to hit 20,000 words by the end of June. Hold me to it, would you? 😉

I am watching…some Youtube random things. I hope to watch the new Little Women movie soon with my daughters. Have you seen it? Is it good? Anything fantastic you’ve watched recently? I honestly don’t watch a ton, because my gigantic bookstacks call me so loudly!

I am reading… I read a lot in April and May, to my kids and for myself! We loved reading Petook together for Easter and a favorite around Mother’s Day is My Mother is the Most Beautiful Woman in the World. The Enola Holmes Series was a fun Middle Grade read for me, albeit a letter in the last book irritated me so much! HA! I reread Emily Climbs and Jane of Lantern Hill by dear L.M. Montgomery and sigh. LOVE. My favorite non-fiction reads were Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson, and Present Perfect: Finding God in the Now by Greg Boyd. All three are full of lovely ideas and encouragement! I started a Middle Grade Harry Potter-ish series called Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo. So far, the second book has been my favorite! Beneath the Haunting Sea by Joanna Ruth Meyer is a very lovely, creative fantasy for my fellow speculative fiction readers. In the Holy Bible, I’ve worked through the end of Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel. Luke, John, and now into Acts, too. I’m attempting a Charles Dickens Project and I’m hoping to read all 15 of his novels. I’ve only read Bleak House as A Christmas Carol is considered a novella. No time frame, just to keep up constantly till I’m finished. So far I’m reading Great Expectations with my oldest two over the summer, slowly Martin Chuzzlewit, and I have to read David Copperfield for our Charlotte Mason Highschool Literature class I’m facilitating this autumn.

I am listening to… not much! I do listen to BTS kpop HA! when doing dishes occasionally and I’ve loved this song lately to meditate on.

I am hoping…to write more this month. I’m planning weekly word count goals. Just to keep moving forward. I have two writing friends who I check in with on Voxer and I have a monthly Zoom writing group to help. I have quite a few things to do for my daughter’s graduation party in August, so need to keep moving on those plans. I was so inspired by this post by Kourtney here and am thinking of incorporating this with my writing and journaling.

In the garden… hoping to go to an Amish greenhouse soon to round out some things I’d like to add. I have some seeds to get in the ground, too. I’m definitely moving slow getting things in, but am excited! 🙂

I am learning… to rest when I need too and not to hide or binge on things when I’m feeling misunderstood, exhausted, or overwhelmed. I tend to overeat, over consume media, or spend money INSTEAD of dealing with things or just getting sleep. I really need to grow in this area.

Wood Anemone – early spring nature adventures!

In the homeschool room… we’ve officially closed the books on 2020/2021 Willow Tree Academy! WOOHOO! My first graduate, too! Overall, it was a great year. I’m starting planning already for next because I’m more realistic right after we’ve finished. We have two read alouds to finish this summer and we will be continuing The Chronicles of Narnia reread.

Shared Quote



This is the road of self-indulgence, and whenever we have to justify anything we do to ourselves by saying, ‘There’s no harm in it,’ we may be pretty sure we are on the downward grade.

Charlotte Mason, Volume 6, Book 1, p. 194

Some moments from my day {month}...

We made maple syrup this year for the first time!
My oldest son worked so hard! It was a long process, but a lot of fun.