2016 Favorite Reads: Elementary/Preschool


The Complete Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem – We all love this book, really good for any age. My 7 yo and I will “ooo and ahh” over the gorgeous illustrations and gently told stories. Such scope for imagination in this delightful collection.


My Naughty Little Sister Storybook by Dorothy Edwards – These are told from the perspective of an older sister and the adventures and trouble of her little sister. Delightfully British turns of phrase, darling illustrations by Shirley Hughes, and gentle, humorous reminders of life lessons. Highly recommend.


Read-Aloud Rhymes For the Very Young Selected by Jack Prelutsky – This is absolutely charming. A collection of poems and sayings with delightful illustrations by Marc Brown. My 4 yo and I just love reading these together and can get lost in the illustrations. Highly recommend.


Ten Little Babies by Gyo Fujikawa – Charming counting book with the wonderful Fujikawa illustrations. My 2 yo’s favorite board book right now!


On Market Street by Arnold Lobel – This is an unique alphabet book with hours of interest logged in our home. The delightful pictures depict a person dressed with something corresponding with a letter of the alphabet. One of our best loved books!


The Quilt Maker’s Gift by Jeff Brumbeau – Another well-loved favorite here. Hours of intricate illustrations to pour over. Magical, sweet story with lovely message.

These are just a few of the many books that I could have included here. I tried share the ones that are currently being loved.

{book covers from Goodreads}

Any favorites in this genre that you’d share? I’d love to hear.


2016 Favorite Reads for Young Adults & Middle School


The Black Stallion Series by Walter Farley – this series has been a huge hit with my 13 yo. It follows the life and adventures of a young boy and a wild black stallion. Highly recommend.


Rascal by Sterling North – my 11 yo and I have been enjoying this book immensely. Humorous, adventurous,  crazy, and nature-orientated. We love the unique relationship between Sterling and his father. Of course, Rascal the Raccoon, is very entertaining himself. Highly recommend.


DragonKeeper Chronicles by Donita K. Paul – these are my 13 yo’s favorite fantasy series this year. Allegorical, mystical, and adventurous. I’ve been reading these with her and they are light, fun reads.


Silent Storm by Marion Marsh Brown – This lovely historical fiction title is a favorite with all ages here. It follows the story of Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller. We love that it gives us Annie’s perspective. Highly recommend.


The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare – a historical novel about a young girl coming to the colonies. She is having a hard time being accepted by her new family and misunderstandings and confusion abound in this Puritan world.


Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher – I just finished reading this to my 9 yo and it was just as good, if not better, than the first time when I read it to my oldest. It follows the life of a young girl who is being raised by her cloying, fearful aunt. Circumstances change and she is sent to live with the dreaded Putney cousins, who love and live a bit differently. This is a delightful tale that I love to read as a mother, because I learn so much about parenting. It can feel like a book more for girls, but it’s not. My 9 yo boy said it was his favorite book this year. Don’t miss this one. Highly recommend.

Honorable Mention:

The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis – Ever wonder where the Wardrobe came from? Or the Lamp Post? Or how Narnia came to be? My 9 yo and I are so enjoying revisiting the first story in The Chronicles of Narnia tales. We love hearing about the creation of Narnia and all the interesting bits that make this series unforgettable.

These are just some of the few that jumped out to me, that my older and middle children have really enjoyed this year. I will be back soon with ones for younger children and myself!

Please share your favorites in these age groups for this year!

{Book covers from Goodreads}


2016 Favorite Family Read Alouds


Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen – beautiful, haunting book about a family working through the father’s PTSD. The family is drawn toward a remote, inherited cabin, the natural, seasonal rhythms, maple sugaring process, and neighbors surrounding them in beauty, love, and light. Highly recommend.


Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White – this is a delightful story of a boy and a swan without a voice. Hilarious, sweet, and subtle nature lessons woven throughout. We love this title!


Family Grandstand by Carol Ryrie Brink – we finished this book earlier this year and can’t recommend it enough. Lovely story of a family living near the father’s job at a college, a writer for mother ;), and an interesting neighbor hood of friends and adventures.

Honorable mention is the Ralph Moody Series, which we’ve been slowly working through!

What are your favorite family read-aloud titles this year?

{book covers from Goodreads}


Monday Ponderings…{November 21st}


It’s strange how that is: everybody wants to change the world, but nobody wants to do the small thing that makes just one person feel loved.


The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life

Ann Voskamp

page 74

(Thinking on this quote today, the ouch factor and the thanksgiving of living a life ripe with opportunities to do just this very thing. May I not miss those opportunities!)

Monday Ponderings…{November 14th}


Thinking on this as a mother relating to my children…

“…it is far easier to govern from a height, as it were, than from the intimacy of close personal contact. But you cannot be quite frank and easy with beings who are obviously of a higher and of another order than yourself; at least you cannot when you are a little boy.”

-Charlotte Mason, Vol. 3, pg 4


November Days


The morning suns greets my eyes. I slip on my glasses and glory in the view. The old house creaks a bit and I walk pass the piles flooring we have yet to put in upstairs. I stumble down the ancient farmhouse stairs, dreaming of a steaming cup of coffee. Perhaps I should set up a coffee maker in my room? Maybe that is a bit extreme. 🙂 The chatter of voices greet me. “Hey, Mom. Guess what my dream was?” and “What’s for breakfast?” and “I’m cold, Mom! Where’s my sweatshirt?” all sing out as I grab my package of coffee from the freezer and start my Nectar of Life a brewing. My son begins making oatmeal for everyone, which usually ends up somewhere between water-y porridge or rock hard cement, but we all love it with brown sugar, walnuts, and a dash of milk. Some add a twist with a bit of peanut butter.

I am a huge fan of the author Gladys Taber. Have you read anything by her? She wrote extensively on her farm, Stillmeadow. As I pour my coffee, I take in the scene around me and begin to compose it, in my head, attempting to grasp the charm that Gladys always seems to find as she pens her normal days around the farm. Of course, Gladys lived a different life than me. She worked outside of the home for a time and also ends up having more dogs than children. Yet, I feel a kinship to her, leaning back against the cupboard, sipping, and taking in the beauty of the daily mundane doings and yes, chaos.

“Good news, Mom! Gandalf’s pink eye is clearing up!” is the glad shout I hear next from a precious child. Yes, go ahead and chuckle. Gandalf is our barn cat, so I guess creatures do have a part in my life, Gladys.

We move on through our day, alternating between discussions, chores, and books, with a few fights over stuffed animals and whose scissors the purple ones REALLY are. (They’re actually mine.) Ahh… glorious books. We have chosen to live life with our children here at home, learning together. Gerald Johnson takes us through early American history, we laugh at Ogden Nash’s poetry, and giggle as Louis the Trumpeter Swan learns how to play TAPS on his new trumpet. We write some, do a little math, make some caramel corn, and breathe the fresh, albeit tinged with burning leaves, country air. Someone is always asking me when’s the next meal. My crock pot definitely earns its keep.

I gaze at the steam rising from my coffee cup. Sigh. “Mom, the sewer guy is here.” My romantic ruminations are ruined. Reality stinks a bit, doesn’t it? 😉 I watch the fellow from my window, what a job, huh? He is stooped and haggard looking, I’m thankful for him, he makes my job a bit easier.

A few loads of laundry swirling around, blankets on the line. The scratching noise of pen on paper, drawings and journal entries being created. An old, petrified apple core peeks out from under the couch at me. Ahh. These November days. I get “questioned out” at about 4:00 pm, is there really still 4 or 5 hours till bedtime? Yet, I love this life I’ve been given. So, like Gladys and everyone before and those to come after, I rustle up some ingredients and go about thinking supper thoughts. I sneak in a few minutes of reading in my “garrett” as my daughter calls my bedroom, where I like to hide as frequently as possible. “You can’t just stay up here in your garrett all day, Mom, like Jo March!”

I cave in and put on the electronic babysitter. They have chosen the 1935 version of A Midsummer’s Night Dream with James Cagney and Mickey Rooney. It’s a bit creepy and weird, but I hear a laugh. A Puck-ish laugh, come to think of it.   Later the candles are lit, we began our supper with prayers and because it’s the season of thanksgiving, we purposefully go around sharing what we are thankful for today.

I’m thankful for all the November days days I’ve been given, for little blonde girls who shared their drawing with me, “Here’s what I drawed, Mom.”. I’m thankful for grins after a resolved fight over Nutella, and the piles of books to dig into soon. I’m thankful for the beauty of life. And maybe I DO need that coffee maker in my garrett.


A favorite recipe for you!

Skillet Sausage and Mushroom Penne

*adapted from original recipe from December/January 2014 Cook’s Country magazine – I use things I have on hand and I’ve doubled the original recipe here for my crowd.

1 pkg sausage of your choice (I use breakfast sausage )

fresh mushrooms, chopped – (I use half to a whole package)

4 cups chicken broth

1 can diced tomatoes (sometimes 2, depending if I feel tomato-y or not)

about 1 1/2 packages penne, this is like 18 oz?? I think

1 1/2 cups heavy cream (I actually use half n half, because I rarely have cream on hand)

Parmesan cheese (being the gourmet that I am, I use the green can shake cheese, I know. The horror. You are welcome to use freshly grated.)

  1. Cook sausage, breaking it up, until no longer pink, add in mushrooms. Cook together till brown. Transfer mixture to bowl, set aside.
  2. Return skillet to heat, add broth, tomatoes and juice, pasta, and cream. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, simmer, stirring often, until pasta is al dente. (I actually use a pot, because of the doubling of the recipe!)
  3. Stir sausage-mushroom mixture and 1/2 cup Parmesan into pasta. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with other 1/2 cup of Parmesan, cover, and remove from heat until cheese is melted.

Enjoy! I serve it alone for quick lunch or add a salad as a side for a bigger dinner.