Monday Ponderings {May 25th}

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…’ it is only as we live in the ideals,’ says Bishop Wescott, ‘ that sameness of work does not become monotony of life. We cannot escape sameness of work if we wish to effect anything. The greatest achievement evolves itself out of endless petty and unnoticeable details; but, thank God, we need none of us suffer from that last dreariness, monotony of life. One thought of God, one glimpse of our ideal, and we go to work with renewed impulse and quickened powers, remembering that all the power of Christ is behind every scourge of small cords with which we would cleanse the defilement of our own hearts or of the world.

~ Charlotte Mason

Scale Howe Meditations, p. 88

Bold emphasis mine

{Thinking on obedience to our work, our callings,  and our stewardship here on this earth lately. A few of those things for me is obedience to the work of writing, my work as a mother, and my work as a lover and servant of God. Have you thought of your life as a work of obedience out of love?}

~

 

April Reads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

 

Monday Ponderings: {April 20th, Bodying Forth}

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Pen to paper, like fire to the flicker, coal to the lips, like basswood to the carving knife. Wordsmithing thoughts and ideas flare out. A billion brilliant poems seem to be written across the silky night sky, the Milky Way, dusting it for an extra frosting flourish. Jane Kenyon’s words echo between my ears, “the pressure of emotion, which many of us prefer to ignore, but for you,”…dear writer, she seems to say, holding her hand out and beckoning us in her open door, “is the very substance of your work, your clay.” The terra firma of it all, the LEGOs of words and the Lincoln Logs of spoken forth being. She goes on to weave more, the shuttle flying back and forth, the secret truth behind this tapestry called words. “There’s a need to make sense of life behind the impulse to write…,” minute moments become deeply remembered, the pebble dropped in, ever widening at the bottom of the well. An act of taking the swirling mass of murk and “bodying forth” the feelings as a co-creator to something potentially bigger than us. The very Word became Flesh and set up house here. The pens dipping and scratching, that ink pressed to the white tree pulp, tattooing, if you will, something sacred on our hearts. The Living Word. Just maybe our ink can drip, drop, trail, and trickle down through the cracks and crevices into the flow-age of our hardened hearts. Streams of black, inky living water. Echos of the Great Pen that dash off those diamond epics of the sky leaving an indelible mark behind forever.

{I highly recommend A Hundred White Daffodils by Jane Kenyon. ❤ Happy Monday!}~

 

Practice resurrection.

Marguerite Gachet au Jardin 1890 Van Gogh
Marguerite Gachet In The Garden, Vincent van Gogh (1890)

I’m listening to music and tackling a mountain of dishes this afternoon. Practicing resurrection is on my heart and mind, my dear friends. What did Wendell Berry, mean exactly by that, I wonder? In his stirring poem, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”,  I believe he alludes to creation that isn’t seen or measured or counted, weighting the “finished” product, place, person, or piece of art. We sing, speak, scribble, and send it off into the world without any glorious measurement of what has been done. I’ve been thinking about this as we all adjust to a slower paced world for the moment. Who am I? What is my worth? In Berry’s words, I find hope and slowly began to contemplate the coming celebration of the ultimate Resurrection. I find a tangible something that I can hold onto, even though I don’t fully understand, it flashes out as a filigree of truth and beauty swirling and spinning around me in a warm bath of light. I’m already known and am already of immeasurable worth. And so are you. You are still right now. You are at home in more ways then one. Be still and listen for the still small voice. “Do something that doesn’t compute,” and Berry’s call to “plant sequoias” rings loud and tall in my ears as a mother. It isn’t guaranteed that I will live to see the length, height, and breadth of my children’s days, yet I set in that seedling and I walk away knowing that I practiced resurrection. This isn’t something you have to do, necessarily. There are myriads of things we are told to do right now, this in Someone you find rest. A spiritual awareness of God in us, the Hope of Glory. An attitude of resurrection, that life abundant has been already given to us, we have no shadow of fear. Increase my resurrection faith, Lord! Resurrection looks like breathing in deep gratitude for the Heavenly bits here on earth. Loving deeply, living laughter, asking forgiveness, these create newness to replace the deaths. A cycle of regeneration, all things being made new. Yes, even my heart attitude and posture. The best thing about the resurrection life is that it multiplies. Truly a gift that keeps giving. And yes, tangible things like baking bread, scrubbing all these dastardly dishes, and looking deep into a love ones eyes can be part of resurrection resuscitation. An invitation to others to join into our resurrection practices, our giving of ourselves, their receiving becomes part of that cycle. Our words, our love, and our daily lives will be resurrection testimonies or most likely hidden, intimate resurrection worship for our Lord . Even if no one cares or notices, we keep at whispered prayers of our heart. Whether I live or die from a virus, I am the Lord’s precious child. I can practice right now, in these soap-sud-drenched life moments the beauty of being a creation of the resurrected Jesus. A masterpiece created to worship Him.

“My faith and my art coexist. Neither is in a closet. Everything I write is autobiographical. Even writing a recipe or directions from the airport reveal something of who I am. My faith is not unconsciously authobiographical. It is yoked to purpose, and for me that is God’s purpose for all of us on earth or anywhere else in creation we may turn up. I never ask: What is life for? The life I live is a constant answer. What I do is in the interests of others. Nobody writes, paints, sews, saws, chisels, or takes photographs twenty-four hours a day. But in all we do, we reflect our purpose – our faith, our reason for being.” –                             

Mary Duckert, p. 50, Voice of Many Waters (emphasis mine)

“Take heart, I have overcome the world.” ~ Jesus

~

Monday Ponderings {March 9th} Match-Striked Dawns

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Only Heaven is better than to walk with Christ at midnight over moonlit seas.

~B.M.

 

Trial ever consecrates the cup

Wherefrom we pour the sacrificial wine.

~Lowell

 

The Cloud of Witness

 

Fragments of these quotes have been tumbling around in my head lately. My heart skips from the idea that being shrouded in the blackness of life with Christ is the very next best thing to being with Him in Heaven. A profound reshifting of how I view the sorrows and trials of life. Weariness and relational pressures build like the dirty, greasy dishes in the sink. Yet I can choose to see the precious, discarded, darling pint-sized blue and green gingham shirt on the bathroom floor as evidence of a vibrant, earnest 5 year old boy I get to love.  Irritations war within me over snippy words, grating like the large dental bill opened recently. But the pleasant ‘thawp, thwap’ sound of our USA map blowing as the furnace kicks in below, visible heat and friendly sounds warming me inside and out. Hope drains away quickly like the last dregs of my coffee, if I glance at the waves instead of gazing into the piercing Eyes of strength. His hand outstretched through the darkness towards me. Deadlines, half written schedules, tensions between to-dos and to-creates, crumpled recipes, all pile like the dead, sodden, end-of-winter, depressing leaves out under the tree. Leaves not unlike the potato peels all over the floor, a child-like outlook that I so wish I could grab onto, saying this was the “best job ever” – peeling potatoes with mom. Potato-peelings of life moments are glorious if I can look at them anew, through a filter of child-like honesty and without cynicism.

I want to look at life through the simple delight of a deeply, simple but gorgeous painting found thrifting for a dollar – a fresh, haunting blue, sheep on a hillside – He comes for me, that one, lost wandering sheep, a mother floundering in a midnight, blackness of soul. He holds me safe around His shoulders, quieting my incessant bleating and trembling. His beautiful truths of how much He truly loves me, filtering down through the cobwebs and endless muck of my emotions and pressures of this world. He delights in giving me good, tangible gifts, yes, earthly things like moist, spicy chicken and buttery broccoli, deeply lashed pooled blue baby eyes to stare deeply into, piercing my brown ones. Gifts of little rivulets of melting ice, dribbling, merrily and softly down the side of the street, speaking, no whispering hope and spring to the heart and soul, a knowing that it will come again. The grave cannot hold hope for long  –  I know so, because of the jonquils everywhere in the wild as we traveled south recently – shards of joy piercing deep their yellow welcome,  cutting up through the thick, leathery folds of my dry, skin heart.

Those pudgy little boy feet, with one sock on, one off, moments that culminate in this heart whisper that “Jesus is here RIGHT now” with you, Amy. Even in the messes, misunderstandings, the doors of the van of life spilling out paper wrappings, petrified apple cores, and crumpled socks. Not unlike the refuse twisting and turning inside, frantically trying to recycle into anything redeemable. Ice melting, last bits of snow sifting down from branches, trial and triumph, hatred and hope, a mixture of drinks to sip from this deep cup of life…nothing immediately good can be seen or felt in these times of emotional  graveyard, but through these dry bones are rising brilliant match-striked dawns of joy.

Wait for it, Amy.

~

Monday Ponderings- Keep Your Clocks Wound {February 3rd}

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…we must daily keep things wound: that is, we must pray when prayer seems dry as dust; we must write when we are physically tired, when our hearts are heavy, when our bodies are in pain. We may not always be able to make our “clock” run correctly, but at least we can keep it wound, so that it will not forget. ~ Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water

Sunshine has spilled for two and half days in a row, albeit a bit spotty. On Saturday, I stood still near my kitchen window, gingham curtains brushing my elbows, hands wrapped around my hot coffee cup. I lifted my face, eyes closed to its warmth bathing me. Yesterday, I noticed a flicker of it through the tree branches, slanting through the window, and landing on the back of the church pew. It blinked and bowed, dancing across the wood grain just like a prayer.  This time of year we think of the coming of the spring, as we angle half past through the blinding white and the equally blinding darkness towards greenness and light.  Thinking on the L’Engle quote, it’s hard work to keep our many “clocks” wound and things going, especially in the darkness. Then the sunset itself was hopeful last night, a promising gift of purples, pinks, and pungency. There is often just the right amount of grace for the moment if I take time to look hard, peering through the dimness. This morning, I found myself up in the early black with baby,  then hands deep in dish bubbles, and my audio book. As the morning knocked, the sky grew lighter and lighter…mismatched to my heaviness over words that I was repeating in my head. Words have power, just as light does. Words sink down into our souls, whereas light shines up, around, out, and through.  The sunshine is good medicine though, when wading through dishes, desperate moments, and peeling back the inner onion layers (more on this later). Sunshine therapy at its finest, a moment or two of clarity, and the click clack of keys to catch it before it floats away into the air.

~

Monday Ponderings {January 27th}

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I thank Thee more that all our joy

Is touched with pain;

That shadows fall on brightest hours,

That thorns remain;

So that Earth’s bliss may be our guide,

And not our chain.

For Thou, Who knowest, LORD, how soon

our weak heart clings,

Has given us joys tender and true,

But all with wings, –

So that we see gleaming on high,

Diviner things.

 

A. Procter, The Cloud of Witness, p. 29

{I certainly didn’t plan being away from this little space for almost the whole month of January, but it was so needed. I’m learning to let go, being patient with myself, and yet, there also has to be a point where one shows up to one’s creative work. So, as yet, I’m not sure what that will mean, still muddling that through, but I do so hope I will be back more frequently}

~

Favorite Reads of 2019

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

My Favorite Book of  2019 

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

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

Faith Encouragement

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

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

Memoir

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

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

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

General Fiction

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

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

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

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

~Leif Enger, Virgil Wander

Poetry

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

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

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

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

Children’s Literature

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

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

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

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

Long Classics

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

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

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

General Non-Fiction 

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

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

 

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

Favorite Reads of 2018

Favorite Reads of 2017

Favorite Reads of 2016

 

December Reads

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Here’s what I finished in December!

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (***) – Beautifully written and so disturbing to me. I have intense feelings on all the questions and ideas this book raises. I can’t wait to go through this with my teen and discuss. I will say having learned a little about Mary Shelley beforehand helped me approach this book. I’m glad I didn’t go into it completely blind about the author’s background.

House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones (****) – Very fun!!! It took me a bit to get into it, but then I really enjoyed it. Wizard Howl shows up in a hilarious disguise in this unique adventure. In some ways, I liked this one better then Howl’s Moving Castle.

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

Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones (****) – Amazing and very weird. I’m going to be thinking on this one for awhile! This was a modern retelling of a few myths/ancient stories all melded together. This definitely isn’t for everyone, but I found it interesting.

The Stillmeadow Road by Gladys Taber (****) – This one took me a long time, but full of gems one comes to expect by a friend like Gladys. A sad overtone to some of this title as her longtime friend, Jill dies, and she flounders about a bit. Her dogs are a big part of her life, which sometimes seems out of proportion to reality. But I suspect it’s just me, as I have many children to care for, so the excessive care of dogs seems overwhelming to me. Ha! A few of my favorite quotes from this one:

“Perhaps maturity is realizing this childish self but not letting it dominate situations. Or perhaps it lies in accepting life as it is without rebellion…There is only today and what we make of it. We may still be happy, in one sense of the word, but we do not look for perfection ever after. The other side of this coin, is that we value more what happiness we may have instead of dreaming ahead for the ultimate.” p. 216

“But since we have just so much time allotted us, some of it should be spent in reflecting, and some in pursuits which have nothing to do with our daily lives, such as enriching our spirits with music, nourishing our minds with literature, enlarging our horizons by looking at great paintings. Because life isn’t a business, it is a precious gift.” p. 200

“Faith runs like a golden thread through our lives.” p. 204

I love how the Stillmeadow books are set up by months. Ideally, I’d love to read these and recommend taking these titles over a year, a month at a time. I have a new-to-me one for 2020!

The Holy Bible (*****) – finished Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Acts, and Romans.

{What a great year of reading! I have many half finished and unfinished reads, but overall, really enjoyed my pages this year. Having a new baby this year definitely slowed me down a bit, which is a good thing, I think, and I did read a lot of middle grade which is my favorite for relaxing.  I completed quite a few on this list of books on my shelf I was hoping to get to, but not all of them. I will hopefully be back NEXT week with my plan for 2020! I have some ideas to streamline my reading and to help me with my toppling TBR.}

How was your reading year?

~

Patience {One Hundred Bits of Gratitude by Thanksgiving 2019} #10

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Gratitude list for today:

91. unexpected compassion from a daughter that really blessed me
92. writing ideas, goals, and plans – resurrecting dreams
93. forgiveness
94. good talks with husband and kids about a hard situation, discussing deep feelings, the Bible, and conflict resolution
95. possible lead for online driver’s ed that read lessons for my dyslexic child, encouraging and helpful
96. baby boy banana grins
97. 5 yo asking to make newspaper boat in his Curious George book
98. anticipation over getting some areas organized over our lighter holiday school break
99. talking about Anne Frank with my oldest daughter
100. patience that comes when I give up expectations and rest in the Lord
~
How ’bout you? Anything on your list today?
{Thank you for joining me again this year! May our hearts be overflowing with thanksgiving always!}

October Reads

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This is what I finished reading in October! I definitely start reading my favorite genre when our homeschool begins, because it’s so fun and it tends to be lighter for my tired brain! Middle Grade! ❤ How ’bout you? What do you read when you are mentally tired? Do you enjoy Middle Grade? 🙂

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (****) – This was a lovely account of a young girl growing up in the aftermath of desegregation in the 60’s/70’s. Things are not easy and Woodson does an amazing job sharing her life through a collection of chronological, non-rhyming poems. I really loved this more than I thought I would.  I found her feelings as a young girl and creative rang true. She didn’t sugarcoat what she was feeling. It made me think and feel.

Writing from the Center by Scott Russell Sanders (**) – DNF – 2.5 stars for what I did read. There were SO many little lines of beauty in this book. Unfortunately, the author’s gorgeous writing was lost in his harsh, preachy tone. Even though, he and I may not agree on some of his blanket judgments, I was willing to hear him out and appreciate his perspective as a writer living and working in the Midwest USA. However, the deeper I got into the book, the more I found he whined, blamed, and contradicted himself. I haven’t read a book recently where I’ve loved the WAY the writer writes simultaneously being super irritated by some of what he was writing. It’s a very strange feeling. He needs balance and clarity to this message. He comes across hypocritical because he’s calling for change and willingness to work with others while clearly very prejudiced against views that aren’t his own or down-grading into stereotyping. Disappointing.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (*****) – My daughter had read this and thought it was “meh” and I had set it aside due to her recommendation. I was looking for something light and picked it up. I really loved Barnhill’s writing and this was a creative MG fantasy read. A mysterious, dark tradition hovers over a little village. The youngest baby of the village must be left in the woods to appease the evil witch.  But things are not what they seem and the evil may be nearer than they think! The ending was a bit convoluted and rushed, but overall, I really loved this because it was so beautifully written, maybe not so much for the plot.

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

The Crooked Sixpence by  Jennifer Bell (****) – Another fun Middle Grade fantasy about two children who find out a secret about their family after their beloved grandmother falls ill. They are Uncommoners who can use everyday objects magically! Magic rolling pin, anyone? I tried the second in this series and wasn’t able to finish it before it was due back to the library, so maybe this first book was enough for me. But I may return to this series!

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser (***) – I loved how the author KNEW children and how they act and behave. It was so realistic. I loved the relationship of the family and siblings with the neighbors. Just so lovely. The plot was a little thin, but overall, this was really sweet.

Studying to Be Quiet: One Hundred Days of Keeping by Laurie Bestvater (****) – I knew this author from another book of hers on Charlotte Mason journals, so I bought it without really knowing what it was. I received it and opened it thinking that it was just a book of favorite quotes of hers. Then I read the foreword/preface/afterword in one sitting. Wow! A lovely invitation to quiet ourselves in a journaling practice for 100 days. While I didn’t do it perfectly, it ended up being a lovely way of working through my last months of pregnancy and my post-partum haze. I actually journaled RIGHT in this book, using the wide, white margin for my own quotes, thoughts, and meditations. I recommend!

Sarah’s Unicorn by Bruce and Katherine Coville (*****) – This was a lovely picture book I read after I picked it up from a thrift store for my 7 yo because I recognized the author. A young girl finds her beloved aunt under a spell, changing her into a nasty witch who treats her cruelly. She finds solace and animal friends in the woods, leading to a chance for revenge. Will she take it?

Goody Hall by Natalie Babbitt (*****) – Another Middle Grade read that I really enjoyed! Swoon! Natalie Babbitt hasn’t disappointed me so far! Willet Goody is getting a new tutor and his name is Hercules Feltwright, who’s former occupation may have been an actor. Somethings not right at Goody Hall and Willet and Hercules are determined to get to the bottom of this mystery. (FYI: there is a seance in this title, which may be frightening to some children.)

The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson (****) – This slightly frightening title is the folktale of the creepy Baba Yaga, creatively reimagined by Anderson. My favorite part of this story was the walking house and it’s protective feelings towards it’s inhabitants. An interesting, darker tale of friendship, coming of age, and loyalty.

The Holy Bible (*****)- enjoying Psalms and John

What a lovely month of children’s literature! 🙂

~

 

 

July Reads

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Hello, Friends ~ a list of what I finished last month! How was your July reading stack? 🙂 I had some lovely reading…

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (*****) – My friend mentioned she was reading this with her children this summer and I just had to reread it too after hearing the beautiful things she was taking away. It did not disappoint. Such a simple story, but so very deep beneath the surface. I saved a few commonplace quotes for contemplation and I underlined my poor book excessively!

The Little Grey Men: A Story for the Young at Heart by B.B. (*****) – I just adore this book about the adventures of three gnomes in the gorgeously-described countryside of Britain. They in fact, could be the last gnomes left in the whole of Britain. They are searching for their brother who left to seek the source of Folly Stream that they reside near. Along the way they meet many friends and have an amazing discovery of a lovely ship to further aid them in their search. One caveat, there is one sort of strange section, just FYI, if you read with children, a giant is killed by the pagan god Pan.

The Left-Handed Story: Writing and the Writer’s Life by Nancy Willard (****) – I really enjoy Nancy Willard’s writing for children and this was an inspiring bunch of vignettes about the writing life.

Madame Chic Series by Jennifer L. Scott (****) – An Instagram friend recommended Jennifer’s Youtube channel to me and it was just the right thing for me at the right time. She is so challenging and encouraging to me as a homemaker and woman. I’m in a bit of slump coming off of pregnancy and just the post-partum season. So I checked out her trilogy of books from the library. Mrs. Scott lived in Paris for 6 months while in college, learning many helpful and inspiring things from her host family and specifically, her host mother, whom she has dubbed Madame Chic. I found her books a lovely extension of her Youtube channel. My favorite was Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris. I ended up skimming the other two in the series, as I felt some of it was a bit redundant or common sense to me, but I really am loving her vlogs when I get a chance to watch them. This one recently was so soothing to me for some reason. 

Island Magic by Elizabeth Goudge (*****) Beautiful! Honest & real! I love that Goudge doesn’t shy away from problems that can happen in marriage. I really enjoyed this book and I feel like I can’t do it justice in a review. Here is a review that I loved! I had this book on my list for the year, so that is nice to scratch it off.

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (***) – This was a well-written fantasy spinoff of Rumpelstiltskin with some twists. It was interesting, but I really couldn’t love any of the characters, even though they were well-written, I can’t put my finger on it, maybe just never really felt like there was a truly GOOD or noble person in the bunch. I’m not talking perfection, just goodness. That made me feel distant from the story like I was craving someone to root for. Overall, very creative!

The Holy Bible (*****) – I read Matthew and dove in Mark a bit. I’m constantly amazed at Jesus’ compassion. ❤

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