Dishes and Dreams

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The rainbow swirl of greasy film glimmers up at me. A spot of soap makes it shrink away in concentric circles. The bright, scorching light of sun off snow hits my eyes from the little window above the sink. The brightness is a gift this time of year, as is the flicker of candle flame sitting on the sill. Any sort of light offsets the February gray. The smell of the candle intermingles with dish soap, the sudsy, drips hitting the water with a pleasing, soothing sound. Water is so meditative, running through little streams, out of faucets, down crashing falls, dribbling off eves, and bubbling over rocks. A dangerous, beautiful thing. I wash away the vestiges of spaghetti, oatmeal, and frustrations. Meditating on music, movies, and a glance through the window, a Downy Woodpecker at the suet. The rough towel, that’s seen better days, dry in my damp hands, swiping, stacking, closing cupboard door. Shutting out the bitterness, harsh words, washing it all clean, and stacking it away in the forgetting cupboard. Our days are stories, stories that we are putting down in living ink, blood, sweat, and yes, fat drops of salty tears. Silverware jumbles, clanging, the clink, clink of stacked glasses and mugs, building, working through each step of these relationships. Each day of clanks, clinks, and new blocks for the foundation.  I scrub stubborn spots of crusty peanut butter and Nutella, it fading and swirling down into the depths. Just like my children, their childhood, messy, beautiful, and slipping away all too fast, the slurp of the drain licking up the last drop. Dishes that held hot delicious memories of these moments, this twenty-four hours around the sun. Sustenance, conversation, and fruits of one’s hard labor. There’s something so satisfying about dishes and dreams.

~

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Monday Ponderings {Abe Lincoln’s Birthday, February 12th}

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One of the greatest things in human life is the ability to make plans. Even if they never come true – the joy of anticipation is irrevocably yours. That way one can live many more than just one life.

Maria Trapp

The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, p. 260

 

Writing is torn from a person, it has to be said. If you are going to say something worthwhile, you’re going to burn.

-Unknown author

from Amy Carmichael: Beauty for Ashes by Ian H. Murray

 

referring to a snow storm:

…all the time there was a rustling and whispering, a sibilance of snow. The air was alive with movement, the dancing and whirling of a thousand individual flakes with a life as brief as the distance from leaden sky to frozen earth. ❤

p. 105

on feeling like one isn’t doing “enough” of __________ in life:

Warmth suddenly flooded Sep’s cold frame. A man could only do so much! He had set his hand to this particular plough and he must continue in the furrow which it made. What use was it to try to set the whole world to rights? He must travel his own insignificant path with constancy and courage. It might not lead to the heights of Olympus, but it should afford him interest, exercise and happiness as he went along. And, Sep felt sure, there would be joy at the end.

p. 206

Miss Read, both above quotes, emphasis mine

The Market Square

 

I’ve discovered my best work comes from the uncomfortable but fruitful feeling of not having a clue – of being worried, secretly afraid, even convinced that I’m on the wrong track.

Dani Shapiro

Still Writing, p. 51

 

{Happy Birthday to Abe! These are some quotes that struck me from my weekend reading. Hope they intrigue you as well. I’m mulling over them more as we start a new fresh week. Happy Monday}

~

 

 

 

Good Morning, February.

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The sun is shining. The fire is hot. The door opens with ease. The blue sky spills down into the dankness. The cellar door clanks back and forth, back and forth, my friend wind waving well wishes.  But it cannot block out the fluffy bits of fullness floating through the firmament. I turned the calendar page. A new month, a brilliant blue moon to love. A clean slate, chalk-dust free, full of promise.  The books are opened, tattered bookmarks and all, candle wicks blackened from light and heat, mugs with rings around them, grounds in the bottom. The ice is still here, the ice is still everywhere, but the sun glints off of it, a jewel shining in my heart. February, welcome.

Meditating on grace and truth:

For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. John 1:17

~

 

Get Lost

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I follow the wet, dirty footsteps down into the basement. My own previous steps upwards and out. My winter boots thunk, thunk. A dank, warmer air greets me as I step inside. The door creaks. Despite its chipped paint, cobwebby appearance, the door betrays finer days. Perhaps the farmer’s wife, I daresay, chose it for a bit ‘o beauty to grace her humble cellar space. Or perhaps, and more likely, added later, a cast off, used where needed. This underground cavern I’m in is lit by a few naked bulbs, a draft of air, as I pull in the green garden snake of a hose, tinkles the string against the light. The hose, muddy, leaky, wet in my hands. A splatter of it all on my black leggings, my well-worn, brilliant blue t shirt clashing, garishly with my mauve cardigan. No need for fashion here. Function definitely over form. Function with its kind of beauty, for the taking, for the absorption. I brush my hand, broken finger nails, rub the hose slime from them, and clump, clump up the inner stairs. Left behind are the wet tracks, tinkling light cords, slosh, and mud. Mingling. What does it all mean? I don’t know. Nothing. Everything. But its a clear moment. Senses engaged. A noticing. And for that I’m grateful.

Thinking on this quote:

“I have to get lost so I can invent some way out.” – David Salle

~

Dear Friend

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Dear Friend, 

It has been such a long time since I last wrote. How are you? We find ourselves in a bit of a grey, snowy landscape, yet not without its pleasures. The sun has been shining, glittering off the white brightness, and the temperatures fluctuating between icy negatives to downright balmy 30-ish degrees fahrenheit. Our dear Phoebe turned SIX years old this week and it’s been a spread-out, quiet-like celebration for the past few days. Just her style. She loved her little felt kitty family we stitched for her and we’ve read through her new book twice already.  She asked for a batch of  scones for her Saturday breakfast. Our first two weeks back to our home learning have been just lovely, albeit a few inevitable back-to-the-books hiccups. “Opportunity” by Edward Sill, Spanish lessons, and a sewing class are just few things we’ve loved. I find myself fighting to enjoy all the beauty in this moment, in this season, yet with an anticipation for the coming of spring. There’s a fine line between contentment and looking forward to something, is there not? The bird feeders have been full and I’ve especially enjoyed the American Goldfinches with their dull grey winter coats on, a hint of their brilliance on the edges. They are so much daintier then the jolly, chubby Juncos.  How is the weather in your area? We’ve enjoyed a winter picnic on a brilliant sunny morning, when the temperature rose a bit. We even attempted tea making by melting snow over a crackling fire. A lovely time of relaxing. The children have ice skated and brought out their sleds, their tracks and paths, crisscrossing the acreage. How is your family doing? Anything new brewing? I’m easing back into some crafting, which has been enjoyable. I set aside some of it two children ago, and now with older ones pitching in, we’ve been able to try our hands at embroidery, painting, and I’m gazing at fabric stacks waiting for a new project. On my book stack, I’m especially slowly savoring The Golden Apples of the Sun by Ray Bradbury. It’s definitely a bit weird, but very creative and thought-provoking. This is the first time, in a long while, I’ve enjoyed a collection of short stories. Have you read anything lovely lately? Well, I better close, as I have a birthday lunch to prepare. I’m thinking of a lemon cake for afternoon tea as well. Maybe from my Jane Brocket book. Blessings to you, dear friend, and can’t wait to hear from you soon.

Love & beauty to your day!

Amy

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{Simple Scones – Allrecipes – I double the recipe. We omit the raisins and I sometimes substitute Greek yogurt if I don’t have sour cream on hand. Sometimes, I add a little nutmeg or other spice. I would love caraway seed, but some of the children aren’t fans.}

~

The Dean’s Watch by Elizabeth Goudge, Pied Piper by Nevil Shute, and More Favorites from my 2017 Reading Year ~

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Reading is a vast ocean of beauty, ugliness, and everything in-between. Ideas swish and swirl, changing the shape of our hearts, giving us compassion and understanding, softening our rocky edges. We are continually filled and emptied as we read. A humility, a refreshment, and a cleansing.

I had a wonderful year of reading, I’m so grateful for the beauty of being at home with my children, all reading together, and the time I’m given to share with many great minds through the pages of books. I tried my best to narrow my list down to those that I really stood out to me and that I’m still thinking about, forgive me for so many. I didn’t include The Holy Bible, books read with my children, Charlotte Mason educational volumes, and so many others, you can look under Year in Books, if you enjoy digging through book lists as much as I do.  I broke it into categories so you can skim to those you might be interested in.

Favorite Book of the Year:

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“Could mere loving be a life’s work?”

I cannot tell you how much I loved this book…how much the “simple” act of loving, of reaching out beyond ourselves has far reaching consequences. A timely and beautiful challenge to me as a wife, mother, and friend. This book moved me to tears and Goudge’s characters mean SO much to me, her sense of place is WONDERFUL…I was transported to this cathedral town. The nature descriptions were vivid and gorgeous. Sigh.

Writing/Author Memoir:

Dreams and Wishes: Essays on Writing for Children by Susan Cooper  – Although the author and I have very different worldviews, I found this book enchanting, inspiring, and laced with a bit of magic. I know, I know…weird description for a book of essays. However, Cooper did a fantastic job just speaking to that elusive “something” in story that catches us deep in our core and takes us on a figurative journey. Continued here.

Spanning Time: A Diary Keeper Becomes a Writer by Elizabeth Yates – I found this book of Elizabeth Yates diary entries spanning her life absolutely fascinating. I’m still thinking about it, but it covered so much history and just reading from a young girl growing to woman through the early 1900’s in Buffalo,NY, WWI, the delicate and challenging part of being of a wealthy, upper class family, and the privileges yet heavy expectations on her. Continued here.

Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity by Ray Bradbury –  I’ve read 7 or 8 books on writing or author memoirs this year, instead of writing, imagine that. Ha. Sad truth. This was just about my favorite. Just so beautifully encouraging and so very inspiring. Bradbury is hard to explain, just sort of explosive, I think is my word for him. I have commonplace quotes to think over, and I’m totally in love with his love of words. Long live logophiles.

Memoir:

Landmarks by Robert MacFarlane – This is such a hard book to describe. I loved it! About sense of place, about people who’ve connected with their immediate surroundings and specific far-off places, and the history of place words. Continued here. 

Rising Ground: Search for the Spirit of Place by Philip Marsden – I felt like the author and I were on a hike through all of Cornwall and south western part of Great Britain, chatting about the importance of home, of the religious significance of man-made rock formations, and the land, all connecting with the people who lived and died here. Continued here.

A Gathering of Larks: Letters to Saint Francis from a Modern-Day Pilgrim by Abigail Carroll (poetry-memoir mix) – I found this delightful poet in an anthology, and I’m so glad I did. I’ve been searching out her works and this is a lovely juxtaposition of the life of Saint Francis with Carroll’s modern life. I love the introduction she gives us to St. Francis and I love her jarring, beautiful, simple poetry. Visit her here.

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The Exact Same Moon: Fifty Acres and a Family by Jeanne Marie Laskas – I just loved, loved this! The author’s conversations with herself and stream of consciousness type writing. It was all so real. I could picture myself saying and thinking some of the exact same things. The beginning is a bit slow, but then the beautiful last half as she goes through IVF and adopting from China. Wow. One of my favorite memoirs in a long time. 

O Come Ye Back to Ireland: Our First Year in County Clare by Niall Williams and Christine Breen  – This was a beautiful memoir of two New Yorkers, of Irish descent, deciding to pull up roots and move to Christine’s family cottage in West Ireland. The language and writing of this memoir was so beautiful and of course, the descriptions of Ireland are enough to swoon over. Continued here. 

Education & Parenting:

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (YA fiction, but falls under this heading for me as it was about dyslexia) – I absolutely loved this book, I cried at times. This follows the life of Ally, a sixth-grader, who has dyslexia, and doesn’t know it. The author clearly shares some of her own life experiences through the thoughts and feelings of this young girl who believes she is stupid. It shares how one person valuing another as a person can change the course of their whole life.

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Charlotte Mason and The Great Recognition edited by Nicole Handfield – I so enjoyed this collection of essays that further helped illuminate and illustrate Charlotte Mason’s Great Recognition. I especially enjoyed the color prints of the fresco and Ruskin’s thoughts on them in such a nice convenient form.

Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World by Ben Hewitt – Firstly, Hewitt is a beautiful writer. Secondly, even though I’m not an unschooler, I took away a lot of beauty, inspiration, and new ways to think about learning at home with our children. I really enjoyed this memoir!

Fiction:

Pied Piper by Nevil Shute – This beautiful story follows John Howard, a grieving 70 year old man, who escapes to a fishing vacation in France, after the death of his son in the RAF. It’s summer 1940 and he craves quiet, avoiding all the talk of war and death in England. Little does he know what he is headed for! This was a BEAUTIFUL, heart-wrenching tale that blessed the socks off of me. It was written in a plain, straight-forward style, and yet I was right there with Mr.Howard through every step of this extraordinary journey. The love and grace shown by him and others was an example to me of God’s unconditional love. I loved the children in this book and Mr. Howard’s treating them as people. My second favorite book of the year!

A Far Country  by Nevil Shute – Beautiful!  I really enjoy Mr. Shute!

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury – his book follows the story of 12 yo Douglas’ summer vacation in a small town during the late 1920’s. This book is so strangely weird and deeply beautifully, bordering on creepy at times. Bradbury does a wonderful job looking at life through the eyes of this extraordinary boy’s imagination and spin on things. The language and turns of phrase are unforgettable. I believe some of this might be inspired by Bradbury’s own childhood. I’m looking forward to reading more from him.

The Major of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy – Wow. Hardy is definitely not cheery reading, but somehow you forgive him because of beauty of his writing. I love the title, it means more than what’s on the surface, of course. Mr. Henchard is a character you find yourself alternating between frustration, dislike and pity. Continued here

Buried Giant by  Kazuo Ishiguro – The beginning was slow, so it took me a bit to get into it. For me this story asked more questions then it answered about memories, age, time, and love. It was a subtle, surprisingly powerful read for me. Continued here.

Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery – I adored this title. (It ended up being my favorite of the trilogy.) Even though I’m an avid L.M. Montgomery fan, this is the first time I’m going through this series. Oh my. This is the second in the series and we continue following Emily as she grows into a young woman and beautiful writer. Continued here.

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Gentian Hill by Elizabeth Goudge – English history, legends, sweet romance, mystery, deeply flawed, yet lovely characters, a quiet stone chapel, a lovely working farm, and a gorgeous, idyllic coastal English village make for another charming, beautiful, deeply moving story. Continued here. 

Difficult Books that I’m Glad I Read:

The Gray House by Mariam Petrosyan – Wow! This book was the longest I read this year. It was crazy, upside down, and inside out, but totally tugged at my heart strings. I came to care about many of the characters living in the Gray House even the hard-to-love ones. Continued here.

Silence by Shusaku Endo – I’m STILL thinking about this title.  I don’t think I totally understood it for some reason. 

 

Children’s Classics I Read to Myself:

Dobry by Monica Shannon – I found this book while dipping into a favorite book of mine on reading with children called Bequest of Wings by Annis Duff. Mrs. Duff was mentioning great children’s books with food in them! I was intrigued and picked this one up as it won the Newberry. I found this book absolutely sweet and interesting about a peasant boy in Bulgaria who lives with his mother and grandfather. Continued here.

The Midnight Folk by John Masefield – I found this title because I wanted to read a children’s classic for myself over Christmas. I was reading reviews on The Box of Delights and found out this was the first one in the series. I’m so glad I did! What an enchanting, magical British children’s story. Continued here.

Alright, regrettably, one has to stop SOMEWHERE. Ha. There are many others I read this year that I thoroughly enjoyed, including many rereads of favorites, but I think these are the ones that I keep thinking about.  If you made it this far through my list, bravo! A couple of goals I have for the new year are to read these 12 books on this list, read more modern books, especially memoir, and work on quality choices and finishing things. How ’bout you? What was your favorite read from 2017 and what do you want to read more of next year?

And if this isn’t enough reading goodness for you, here is a lovely bookish place to visit.

Here’s to a new year of great books!

~

 

 

 

Unexpected Christmas Gift

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Some things need a deep soaking, a curing, if you will. Our Amish counter top is in my basement, butcher-block, solid, dusty, maple, I think, or maybe it’s walnut, I’m not totally sure. All this past autumn, it’s been waiting patiently, thirstily, for a deep drink of mineral oil and a soft touch. Every time I’d see it, going about putting groceries away in the chest freezer, washing another load of laundry, the many trips up and down the basement steps, there it was in my peripheral vision. A slight wood smell lingering. In November, I watered the poor, dear dead bit of tree for the first time. It was a surprisingly simple process to draw out the beautiful swirls, richness, and golden-dark amber hue. Every day for a week, a deep rubbing, fingers brushing, seeping, curing, and protecting. Oily finger tips, tree-grain lapping it up, slow care bringing the wood out of its deep sleep. A little bit of tending each day, in between frenzied holiday preparations, the cool, dim basement, and a length of earthiness, a bit of sanctuary. My hands moving, smoothing the dry places with another drop of oil, quiet motion, almost a prayer. I’m now serving the guest it’s drink only once a week, but this process of working slowly with the grain, this beauty of birth, the seeing of the seed in fallow ground sprout, these moments in the mundane, have been my own unexpected Christmas gift. One that I will be reminded of every time I enter my kitchen. True beauty is found in the process, the moments, the counting the rings of life slowly. Soaking in every rich detail.

(I started writing this awhile ago, and my counter top is now installed!)

~

November Reads

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Hey, fellow Bibliophiles! There went November. What did you finish reading this past month? I’d love to hear!

I’m Half Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley (***) – This is the fourth in the Flavia de Luce series and we find Flavia at Christmas time putting up with a big surprise from her father. They are in financial trouble and he hires out their historic home to a film company. Flavia, of course, always has something up her sleeve, and this time is no different, as she hatches a plan to trap Santa. After a famous actress is found dead, she is on the case. I found this book a bit  predictable with a heavy dose of cheesiness.

Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom by Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart (*) – This book rubbed me the wrong way. You’ve been warned.  Spoiler alert and long review/rant here if you are interested.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (*****) –  Magic realism fascinates me, but I suspect with this one, I really just love the story of justice for the little boy who’s family is murdered. The quintessential battle between “good” (as good as dead people in a graveyard can be) and “evil”. The creepy, fantastical elements make for just a simply good story to me. I really love the relationship with one of the graveyard characters, Silas and the boy, Nobody Owens. I think there is some metaphor here maybe, deeper things, but I just see it as a good story.

Ourselves by Charlotte M. Mason (*****) – This might actually be my favorite so far (I haven’t finished Formation), of Charlotte Mason’s works. I can’t articulate why yet, still mulling over it, but I absolutely loved it. I especially found Book 2 to be challenging and beautiful!

Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage by Madeleine L’Engle (*****) – I can’t tell you how much I loved this book. Madeleine looks back over life, marriage, parenting, and the creative life while walking through her husband Hugh’s cancer diagnosis. Such a beautiful look at life through the lens of faith. I don’t agree with L’Engle on all elements of faith, but her refreshing outlook on God’s character really blessed me. 

The Lighted Heart by Elizabeth Yates (*****) – Elizabeth Yates is probably best known as the author of Amos Fortune, Free Man, although she has written many other beautiful stories. In this lovely memoir, she walks us through her life with her husband Bill as he is going blind. I just love how she describes this from an outsider, yet close relation to someone struggling and how she tries to understand what he is going through. A beautiful story of how different a life of hardship can be if you choose the path of beauty and don’t shut out others, life, and the world around you. So very challenging and heart-warming.

Take Your Characters to Dinner: Creating the Illusion of Reality in Fiction: A Creative Writing Course by Laurel Yourke (****) – A sweet, online friend mailed this to me as a surprise! I savored it slowly and found this to be a fun way to learn how to write deep fictional characters. This is a book you can go back to over and over and work on small parts of it slowly. Very in-depth, detailed instruction on building believable people in your stories.

Dracula by Bram Stoker (****) – Over Halloween, the Bookstagram community (yes, that’s a thing) on Instagram, were digging into creepy classics, so I decided to try one. This is nothing like what you expect…no teen romances with vampires, or vampires struggling to be good and loving humans. (I haven’t read any modern vampire stories, just FYI) This is deep, creepy tale of good versus evil. Easy to read, engaging setting with gorgeous, haunting descriptions, much of this was written in the form of letters and journal entries between the main characters. I found myself tense and disturbed by the Professor and his friends having to find, track, and “kill” the un-dead, all victims of a centuries old vampire, Count Dracula. They then team up to end his generations of terror. Occasionally, I felt like parts were a bit redundant, like didn’t we just go through this exact situation, but overall, fascinating. Stoker’s use of vampire lore/legends was a bit “cheesy” at times, like garlic being a talisman against vampires etc. (An online friend mentioned that these might have originated WITH Stoker!) Overall, I found this adventurous and interesting.

On Writing: A Memoir of Craft by Stephen King (****) – Other then the excessive swearing and general crassness, I really enjoyed this book and felt like it was inspiring and practical. It wasn’t overly technical, which I appreciate. I’ve never read ANY of Mr. King’s fiction, just doesn’t seem like my cup of tea (he hates clichés, btw. Ha.), but I’m really glad I picked up this title. It makes me feel hopeful, encouraged, and gives me a place to start at with writing.

P.S. I found his attitude towards his wife refreshing and wonderful.

The King’s General by Daphne du Maurier (***) – Beautifully written, informative fictional story based on true people and events during the English Civil War. The immortality and lack of any redemptive characters was disappointing to me. Honor was intriguing, but I could never like her very much. Overall, I felt sad and disappointed at the end. A lot of the situations are probably what it WAS truly like but I was hoping for something a bit more hope-filled in the lives of the characters.

Thoughts Afield: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter by Harold E. Kohn (****) – This took me a very long time to get through because I wanted to read the sections in the corresponding season. These were beautiful short devotionals/essays touching on humanity, faith, and nature. For the most part, I found these just so gorgeous and lovely with bits of stark beauty jumping out. A few were a bit moralistic, but overall, I loved them. I see that Mr. Kohn has a large back list and I can’t wait to read more of his quiet essays and observations.

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro (*****) – The beginning was slow, so it took me a bit to get into this title. For me, this story asked more questions then it answered about memories, age, time, and love. It was a subtle, surprisingly powerful read for me. I really think I’m probably missing a lot in it’s vague undertones, but I came away with much to think about and ponder. I really appreciated the approachable prose, it’s beautiful, yet simple. Yet the implication of what Ishiguro writes is complex. Can’t wait to read more by this author.

The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright (***) – Christian fiction title that I’ve been anticipating. A longer review here if you are interested, a bit of a spoiler alert.

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke (*****) – The middle dragged a bit for me, but the story was wonderful and full of delicious book-lover’s dreams, characters coming alive, real power in reading out loud, writer’s ink bringing life to characters – my oldest and I really enjoyed reading this and talking about it! We are looking forward to the other two in the series.

The Holy Bible (*****) – Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. I just love those names, don’t you? I finished reading through for the year. However, I’ve started the Gospels again and read Matthew in November also.

Here are a few titles I forgot to include in other month recaps!

School Education by Charlotte M. Mason (*****) – I recently finished rereading this as part of my CM Book Study Group and it is so fantastic. Read here for an overview!

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner (**) – Spoiler Alert! Everything happens too fast (boom – a best friend, boom – a Christian, boom – love at first sight, boom – engaged & married. The End.) The story idea was an intriguing one, but just very little character development.

The Esther Paradigm by Sarah Monzon (***) – A modern retelling of the story of Esther. I loved the setting, detailed and richly woven life with a Bedouin clan. I liked that the romance wasn’t just physical-attraction driven, character was important. However, the romance situation was hard to swallow. Overall, this was a light, interesting read.

Mr. Write (Sundaes for Breakfast #1) by Chelsea Hale (**) – The title (not to mention the cover art) should have clued me in, what can I say? This was very predictable, eye-rolling plot, annoying, inspirational romance.

 

~

 

 

Dancing

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Dancing with them was the best thing that happened last Tuesday.

Curls flying. Laughter. Little, slippery hands in mine.

“Faster, Mommy!” Ella said, on her tippy-toes. We circle dance, meeting in the middle like a bunch of Celtic monks, flowing in and out. It doesn’t matter if the music doesn’t exactly match our dance moves or rather our lack there of.

Loreena McKinnett sings “The Highway Man”, a haunting poem by Alfred Noyes, remember Anne reciting it in front of an admiring Gilbert in the movie version of Anne of Avonlea? My reverie about poetry ending as three year old Ben stomps on my bare toes.

“Dance, Mommy!” he hollers, daring me to stop thinking, pay attention, and just keep dancing.

Giggling, spinning, chattering, and trying to sing the eclectic ballads swirling from the “Book of Secrets” CD.

Phoebe grins her toothlessness up at me, readjusting her iron-like grip. I keep going, huffing and puffing, trying not to accidentally trip and make an even bigger fool of myself.

Collapsing, we start talking all at once, even the non-dancing, by-standing critics. “Remember the ‘Charleston’, that Jimmy Stewart did over the swimming pool?” I throw out into the fray. “Mom, you mentioned maybe learning contra dance,” Annie adds. “Let’s look up circle dances on You Tube,” one enthusiast says, “And swing like from the Glenn Miller songs from the other day.”

Eyes rapt with amazement, we watch the beauty of dance, movement, swiftness, creative precision.

It begins again, inspired and intrigued, we badly “Charleston” around, hilariously attempt Highlander jigs, float like butterflies and, well, you get the picture. We pump up the music and just let go, following a cadence of joyful footsteps dancing away the ages.

So simple, the world to them.

Shining eyes, quick breath, smiles look up and over at me. Like I hung the moon specially for them. All from a simple dance together.

~

 

Fells {English Memories}

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{Lake District, Cumbria, England, June 2016}

What is it about the English fells that captured my heart and built my faith so much? Perhaps it’s the barrenness of them, or the romantic sentiments attached to them from so many stories I’ve read by English authors? I’m not sure, but something about these hills meant so much to me and I will never forget them. At the risk of sounding overly sentimental (what, not me!?), they burned an indelible mark into my soul. There is something about lifting up my eyes to such hills, those airy, lonely, wilderness retreats that refreshes me, makes me dream, and lifts my heart out of heaviness. I’m so thankful my newer home area has many hills and valleys, making my heart sing, as I dream they are my very own fells.

“Mountains seem to answer an increasing imaginative need in the West. More and more people are discovering a desire for them, and a powerful solace in them. At bottom, mountains, like all wildernesses, challenge our complacent conviction – so easy to lapse into – that the world has been made for humans by humans. Most of us exist for most of the time in worlds which are humanly arranged, themed and controlled. One forgets that there are environments which do not respond to the flick of a switch or the twist of a dial, and which have their own rhythms and orders of existence. Mountains correct this amnesia. By speaking of greater forces than we can possibly invoke, and by confronting us with greater spans of time than we can possibly envisage, mountains refute our excessive trust in the man-made. They pose profound questions about our durability and the importance of our schemes. They induce, I suppose, a modesty in us.”
― Robert Macfarlane (emphasis mine)

Here, here, and here – If you are interested, more about my 2016 England trip.

~

Autumn 2017 – Our Favorite Books for Children & Young Adults

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This may seem like a massive list for just a few months of the year! We do enjoy our books, that’s for sure. However, remember there are eight people (well, my 3 year old didn’t say much) weighing in on their favorites for RIGHT now. They don’t necessarily have anything to do with autumn, just what each person is enjoying personally, some from our learning and others just for extra fun during this season. I tried to take photos of all the suggestions from my family for this list, but that didn’t work out (alas, real life), but I did some. I also added an age range, but honestly, we all love most of these. Hope you enjoy this list!

The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay – Hilarious adventures of three friends who have a magical pudding that never runs out! Two nasty puddin’ thieves are after their treat. Wonderful rhymes and songs! (All ages! Australian Classic.)

The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton – This is the first in a series and my 5 year old and I are very much enjoying this! Our copy has full page, lovely, colorful illustrations. This is the story of three children that find a magic tree that takes them to faraway, crazy, lands. They meet a host of fun friends, and some creatures they wish they HADN’T met! (10 and under)

 

 

 

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis – a favorite reread here all around. (All ages!)

The Twenty- One Balloons by William Pène du Bois – the incredible story of a retired Professor who decides to take a balloon trip, ending up crashing on an island full of surprises. (All ages!)

American Tall Tales by Adrien Stoutenberg – this is well-loved favorite, especially the part about Paul Bunyan. (10 and younger)

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer – We are really just in the beginning of this book, but my 12 year old and I are really enjoying it. It is sobering, yet heart-warming. We have really interesting discussion after reading. I’m editing just a wee touch as I read this out loud, but over all a engrossing story of a young man growing up in Malawi. (12 and older)

The Black Star of Kingston by S.D. Smith – (*whispering* I find this series little simple and redundant.) My children, however, especially my boys, find the idea of warrior rabbits, fantastic! This is a prequel, I believe, to The Green Ember.  A certain boy is even getting a t-shirt from this series for Christmas. (10 and under)

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Knee-Knock Rise by Natalie Babbitt – My 8 year old and I are reading this together and so far it is a mysterious, interesting story about a boy Egan who travels to visit relatives. Everyone in the village lives in terror a menacing noise up the mountain, is Egan curious and brave enough to find out what’s up there? (10 and under)

Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown by Maud Hart Lovelace – this is the fourth in this series and I’m looking foward to reading this with my 8 year old daughter. We’ve been slowly savoring these. Adventures of two friends and their families in a Midwestern town. She picked this before we’d even read it, because she really loves these! I’m going to hold off on the last four in the series as those are when Betsy and Tacy are older. We’ll pick up on those later. (10 and under)

The Secret River by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings – This was a sad, yet mystical story about a little girl and her parents during the Great Depression. A neighbor shares the story of a secret river full of fish, sending Calpurnia on an adventure to help her family and friends. We have the version with Leonard Weisgard’s illustrations and I think that adds a lot to this. (10 and under)

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The Book of Golden Deeds by Charlotte M. Yonge – A collection of stories of bravery and true courage. You won’t find any sports “heroes” in this book! Highly moving and challenging. My daughter and I have wonderful discussions on this title. Older language, just FYI. (12 and up)

The Story of John J. Audubon by Joan Howard – This is an interesting biography or historical fiction? (I can never tell), about Audubon. My daughter and I are really enjoying talking about it. ( 8 and up)

The Cloudspotter’s Guide: The Science, History, and Culture of Clouds by Gavin Pretor-Pinney – Interesting science behind clouds told in engaging way with folk lore, stories, and myths behind clouds. Good for discussions with older students, some adult- type topics in it, just FYI. (12 and up)

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Half Magic by Edward Eager – Three children find a magic pebble that gives you HALF of what you wish for…so be careful! This leads to hilarious situations! The children love this book. (All ages!)

The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss – This is our summer read aloud that we didn’t finish and we are still very much enjoying it. Fantastic examples of what hard work and ingenuity can do. Great examples of a loving family environment. I think some of the situations in the story are a bit TOO convenient, but I didn’t mention that to the children, and they love the exotic animals, interesting houses, and adventures the Robinson family are having! Older language, just FYI. (All ages!)

Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards – yes, by THAT Julie Andrews. This started off slow for us, and some children were very frustrated and emotions ran high about certain parts of this book, that they actually wanted to quit! However, I pressed on with this one, because I had peeked ahead, and now they can’t get enough of it. Hopefully, they will enjoy the ending. (All ages!)

Honorable mention, not pictured:

The Dry Divide by Ralph Moody – this is the 7th book in the Ralph Moody Series which my husband has been reading in the evenings to the children. We love this rough and tumble true story of Ralph’s life.

The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini – my oldest wanted me to include this series. We both enjoy fantasy and she read this series this autumn after it was recommended to her.

We read many picture books and my youngest has favorite board books, but I can’t get my head wrapped around our favorites in those areas right at the moment. I’ll let you know if any jump out at me.

Happy Reading! Please share if you have any favorites from these genres in the past few months!

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October Reads

Lesser Ury (German, 1861-1931), Parisian Interior, 1881 - Copy

Lesser Ury (German, 1861-1931), Parisian Interior, 1881 {Google}

The weather is turning into a perfect blend of cold, misty, grayness. Perfect for reading, that is. Curling up with the hot coffee, quilts, and taking a deep sniff of those old books off of ones shelves is just about perfection here on earth, don’t you agree? I wanted to clear up something that came up on last month’s post. These posts list the books I’ve FINISHED that month. Maybe my title is a bit misleading, but many of these books I may have been reading for months, but I finished them up in the month I list them. I also had a request for listing the children/YA books we read here. I think I will try to do that quarterly. So be looking for an autumn children’s/YA book round up soon. Maybe later today if I can squeeze it in!

Dreams and Wishes: Essays on Writing for Children by Susan Cooper (*****) – Although the author and I have very different worldviews, I found this book enchanting, inspiring, and laced with a bit of magic. I know, I know…weird description for a book of essays. However, Cooper did a fantastic job just speaking to that elusive “something” in story that catches us deep in our core and takes us on a figurative journey. Those fictional journeys often speak into our reality. She is mainly speaking of this in regards to writing, fantasy, imagination, and especially the openness and wonder in children. I loved many of the ideas that I pulled from this reinforce Charlotte Mason’s thoughts on how young children need broad exposure to rich ideas from imaginative worlds, nature, myths, and legends. Although she is talking mainly from her perspective, there is so much in these essays that can span many experiences and situations. I really, really enjoyed this.

The Lifegiving Table: Nurturing  Faith through Feasting, One Meal at a Time by Sally Clarkson (*****) – As always, encouraging, idealistic, and something to aim towards. Clarkson’s books always make me so thankful for my life as a wife and mother. I know that some find Mrs. Clarkson a bit too idealistic, but I read once a quote somewhere on the topic of writing, “Don’t look at a wonderful writer and think that you will never be able to write like them, instead look at them and think I want to write like that.” I’m probably misquoting that and I don’t know who originally said it, but I take it as aim high, live your life to the fullest. Clarkson is that catalyst for me as a mother and friend, especially. I love her thoughts on hospitality and all the recipes in this book look simple, doable comfort food. I love her Scriptures and encouragement for my faith. She calls us high, yet shows us grace for weary times. I love her compassion towards times when things are chaotic and hard. I felt this strongly especially in this title and I loved her thoughts on young adult/adult children as I’m just entering that season. Overall, another favorite from Sally. I can’t wait to try some of the recipes.

Wild Days: Creating Discovery Journals by Karen Skidmore Rackliffe (***) – Basic, yet beautiful ideas about how to use journals as an important part of learning. This book is really nice if you need some fresh inspiration for nature, science, or common place journals.

Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World by Ben Hewitt (****) – First of all, Hewitt is a beautiful writer. Secondly, even though I’m not an unschooler, I took away a lot of beauty, inspiration, and new ways to think about learning at home with our children. Really enjoyed this!

Anna Akhmatova (Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets) by Anna Akmatova (****) – The notes at the end of this collection saved me a bit as I confess extreme ignorance about Russian history. I loved Akhmatova’s use of words, though. Sigh. Even though I didn’t always completely follow what subject she was touching on, I still loved her raw depth of emotion and the cadence. Some of her originality was probably lost in translation, but overall I just loved these.

The Silver Hand by Stephen R. Lawhead (*****) – This is the second in the Song of Albion series that my oldest and I started last month. Wow. This one was even better than the first. The two time-traveling Oxford post graduate students are now fully apart of the Celtic world of Albion, which is thrown into civil unrest at the murder of their king, Meldryn Mawr. Lewis or Llew, as he is now known by, finds himself in an important position, with insane odds stacked against him, that could affect the future of Albion.  I loved Tegid, the Bard character’s perspective, which this story is told mainly through. This is definitely for older young adults as it is very violent.

Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper (*****) – This was a comforting reread, and I loved it even more than the first time I read it. Three children are visiting their mysterious Uncle Merry Lyon, in a dusty old house on the Cornish coast. After finding an hidden entrance to an attic full of junk, a old map is discovered, and that’s the beginning of a dangerous, creepy, mission to find a missing grail. King Arthur, England, and scary evil henchman. Yes, thank you very much, Susan Cooper. Middle school on up!

Songs from the Slums by Toyohiko Kagawa (***) – Heart-wrenching poems from a Japanese minister who chose to live and work among the extreme poor of Japan’s slums.

Freedom of Simplicity: Finding Harmony in a Complex World by Richard J. Foster (****) – 3.5 I believe the author is from a Quaker background and I found his outlook interesting.  I loved the first 3/4ths of this book, so much to think on and pray about. The emphasis really being getting our eyes off of ourselves and onto the Lord. The last fourth of the book was interesting, a kind of “Christian socialism” promoted. Some of it was good and it had elements of truth, but a bit formulaic and the author seemed a bit more “preachy”. Overall, an interesting read, full of food for thought.

The Holy Bible (*****) – Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, and John (I honestly read John again at the same time I was in Ezekiel, as it is such a heavy book)

Care to share what you read this month?

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