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Category Archives: Reading

The Beauty of Being At Home in the World

Sitting in the square shadowed by the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, I raised my head from jotting down some notes in my journal to watch a young girl, probably around three years old, spinning in her dress, her shoes clacking along the cobblestones as she spun. With wobbly legs, she fell into the arms of her father, laughing, enjoying this moment together. Her joyous words in fragmented Italian sentences, much like the ones that would issue from my mouth, echoed across the plaza. The timelessness of the moment striking me as I watched this family interact in such a grand space that could have been any place in the world.

********

Standing in the cavernous space, lifting my head up to see the vast walls rising above my head, I felt all at once the grandiosity that the cathedral sought to evoke of such a limitless God, but also my own, specific place in the Church of millions upon billions of persons through the overarching years. It was a place for my unique person; it was a place for the grand choir of saints in chorus.

********

 

These snippets from my travels are memories that I carry, brought back to life again after reading Tsh Oxendreider’s latest work, At Home in the WorldThe wanderlust that is never sated; the homebodiness that aches as one wanders about. This seeming dichotomy which may, in fact, be simply hewn from the same stone.

“Sometimes, even when I’m standing on a remarkable slice of terra firma, I’m besotted with wanderlust, my heart thumping for the next unknown place and my mind wondering what’s next. But right now, in this rain forest, floating crystal waters after a walk on ancient, sacred soil with my flesh and blood, I want to be nowhere else. Nowhere. This, right now, is home. I can hear God through the rustling of the prehistoric fan-shaped leaves, the scurry of alien insects on the bark, the familiar laughter of my children slipping on stones in the water. Everything here is unfamiliar, but it’s familiar. We are transient, vagabonds, and yet we’re tethered.”

I know this of which she speaks. With the birth of my children, it seems even more acute. I sense these moments where time nearly stands still, while, at the same time, it rushes past.

The connectedness of it all. The same two feet can bypass the crosswalk of a busy, Parisian intersection while cars whiz past or walk across the ice-kissed grass in the Blue Ridge Mountains on a frosty morning. Both instances I walk to class, I study French. The same, yet different.

“The earth’s surface is over 70 percent covered in water, and sometimes I wonder about a drop of water resting on my shoulder, whether it’s been to Antarctica or the South China Sea, or perhaps, miraculously, even out of my childhood kitchen sink.”

Living in Rome for a semester, we consume pasta like our grades depend upon it. I would never complain about the copious amounts of ravioli and penne that we eat as it is and will always be one of my favorite foods. But there are days here and there I long for the comforts of American food. It isn’t necessarily the food itself I miss, but the comfort of home it evokes. On several occasions, my friends and I steal away to the local Hard Rock Cafe to enjoy a burger and fries. Burgers are rarely the food I search for when faced with an extensive menu, but that juicy, red meat holds a place of home for me that nothing else there provides, and I could choose no other.

We want to explore Fez, but we want to see old friends more, and so, today we do what old friends do: we drink coffee, we drink gin and tonics, we order pizza, we watch questionably downloaded American television, we bake cookies, and we talk.”

A delicious ice cream bar–a dark chocolate Magnum, to be precise–held out like an unspoken language when the words fail to connect us. My friend’s grandmother gives it as a peace offering to two kids, fumbling around in a sea of foreign words and culture. We understand chocolate and cold ice cream. We accept with gracious smiles. When there is no other way to associate, there is always chocolate ice cream bars.

‘We toast to friendship that spans miles, languages, and our different lots in life. We are mothers; we belong to each other. This coffee brings us together.’

In my tiniest of apartments, after climbing eight flights of stairs to my floor and enjoying a view of the sparkling Eiffel Tower on every landing, I flop down on my bed exhausted by the day’s exertion. I reach for the Hunchback of Notre Dame, a familiar author, a familiar pastime, to delight in at the end of a hard day. Funnily, I am taken back to many of those places I have seen throughout the day, I revisit them over a century ago, just as I did hours ago. When done, I reach for my journal and pen, in an attempt to unpack all the thoughts swirling from these intersecting pieces of my day.

‘I feel at home in the world, and I feel like Alice falling down a rabbit hole.’

My body and soul long to return to many of the places I have visited over the years. Their streets, their landmarks, somehow familiar although never quite “home”. I ache to take my husband, my children, to see with their own eyes these sites that are “my own” to make them theirs too.

“[T]he aftermath and beauty of dividing your heart and leaving it in infinite places.” 

This is the beauty of being #athomeintheworld. 

I challenge you to take a peek into Tsh Oxenreider’s At Home in the World and not find yourself transported to another place while you find yourself tucked into the warm blankets on your bed, sprawled out on the warm grass in the sunshine, or speeding along on the musty metro to your job. It will incite wanderlust, either sparking movement to research flight information to that next city on your bucket list, or take you within the realm of your imagination, compelling you to revisit some of those seemingly far off places you’ve travelled once before that, in truth, aren’t all that far off. It’s an adventure to read. And its a compelling inspiration to find adventure of your own, personally or with your favorite travel companions.

 

{All quotes taken from Tsh’s book, At Home in the World. Also! For a further sneak peek into her book, Tsh offers a chapter from the audio version of her book on her podcast. Links within this post are affiliate links. By clicking through, I get a tiny portion of the proceeds–thank you!}

 

Never a Waste

 

I found myself earlier in the week running around, completing some last minute tasks for the upcoming holiday this weekend, as I’m wont to do as one approaches.

I had pulled together a few things here and there that I wanted to send to my brother in Michigan who lives there during law school, and won’t be with us to celebrate Easter on Sunday. I filled a little bag to carry the things with me to the post office, with the intention of picking out a flat rate priority mail box upon arrival to package the items in.

We had received something earlier in the week from a family member in such a box that looked like it would be an appropriate size for my things, so I went in search of this item when we arrived. Lo and behold, no such thing existed, at least not in our little town post office. There were only three choices: the first was about as small as a regular-sized novel, so way too thin for my purposes; the second, about the size of two large shoe boxes put together, about twice as big as I needed; and never mind the third.

Since I had no other packaging options with me other than what was available to me at the post office, and my children were already entering into the noontime melt-down stage, I hurriedly looked at the boxes available for sale. The smallest was still too large, but, at least, this one could be altered.

I went to work loading the box, then cut the sides down so that it would fit nicely against the objects in the box as I had nothing to fill in the empty space with. A slice here, a bend there, I finagled the edges down to close the box. I taped it shut, placed my label on top {again, searching to the bottom of my purse for a suitable scrap of paper to write on as these provided nothing for addressing}, and shuffled the children along with me to get in line.

When it was our turn, I informed the post man I would need to pay for the box too, in addition to postage. He paused for about five seconds, looking at the box puzzled, then remarked that he didn’t recognize the box, at first, as something they sold for I had cut it down.

He then asked, “Do you stay at home with your children? Are you a housewife?”

“Yes?” It was now my turn to be puzzled.

“Well, that certainly is a waste! Look at what you’ve done here! So smart!”

I was a bit taken aback by the remark, so I gave an awkward chuckle, paid for my things, and moved on.

But his remark stuck with me as I drove home. I ruminated on it and after a few minutes realized just how mistaken his comment had been.

*******

Being a mother and housewife, gives me ample opportunity to practice these very skills he was so impressed by. Sure, they could come in handy aiding in professional work, but they are no less useful at home taking care of my family. I’m content to be resourceful. I’m happy to find suitable substitutions when exactly what I need is not available. I’m glad to be able to adjust mathematical proportions when they are not satisfactory for the task at hand.

And why should I not employ some of my best skills at the service of my family that I love dearly?

It is unfortunate that caring for others, especially those most helpless in society, is seen as a profitless endeavor. The eyes of the world mistake what in life is really most important. The raising and nurturing of souls entrusted to my care is the most important work of my life. I want to give the best of myself right here.

I would not walk away from this interaction discouraged, however. Instead, it gave me great resolve to continue bettering my skills, my intellect, to more excellently serve my family at home.

*******

Today, I finished a book about Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha {Patsy} Jefferson Randolph, called America’s First Daughter. Although a work of fiction, it gave some excellent historical insight into the influence of this grand woman on her father’s legacy. As her mother died when Patsy was young, she took on the matriarchal role of the family, including serving as Jefferson’s “First Daughter” when he was serving in public office positions, at home and abroad. Her father supported her education, in both homemaking and intellectual pursuits, which left her with quite a useful set of skills in managing a household while educating and raising her own children. She was never employed in a profession, but her concealed work within the heart of the family, the influence of which sometimes stretched out into public affairs, had a huge impact on the work and authority of Mr. Jefferson. {And did I mention she raised twelve children, many of which went on to live illustrious lives?}

This book reminded me that an education is never “wasted” even if you are not employing what you have learned outside the home. A family, a household is the basic cell of society. What is happening within it has a greater influence, ultimately, on society at large than any work that is happening in a professional environment. My mind, my skills are not “wasted” on the concerns of my family and home.

Homemaking and raising children may not be acknowledged as professional endeavors but it is some of the most important work that I, or anyone, will ever engage in. Let’s not demean it, nor shame the women and men who undertake this often hidden and thankless task with great enthusiasm, giving much of their best in domestic tasks to those who need them most.

 

March 2017 Reads

Reading was a little light this past month as we had much going on. I spent a good deal of my reading time knitting a shawl, which I can’t wait to share about later. But it was all good reads this month, so at least there was that!

What did you enjoy in March?

 

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond — This was a fascinating look at the situation regarding housing for those who live below the poverty line in America and what is exacerbating the problem from both sides: tenants and landlords. The author suggests a possible solution in the epilogue: a universal housing voucher system. There is a lot of food for thought here. This would make for an excellent discussion with a book club. {I read this book for the MMD Challenge for Reading for Growth in the category of “A book of any genre that addresses current events”.}

A Fatal Grace (Chief Inspector Gamache, #2) by Louise Penny — Murder mysteries have never been my cup of tea, but that all changed with this series that I’ve finally had time to dive back into after reading the first several years ago. Besides the excellent twists throughout the main story itself, there is an underlying “search for meaning” happening in the heart of the protagonist that runs through the plot of each book in the series. {I read this book for the MMD Challenge for Reading for Fun in the category of “A book in a genre you usually avoid”.}

At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider — Tsh’s writing has long been an inspiration to me both on her blog and through her published works, so it came as no surprise that this would resonate with my deeply too. After selling their house and paring their belongings down to only the essentials, Tsh, her husband, and their three children embark on a 9-month journey around the world. They choose to do this for enrichment — to experience new cultures, see the wonders of the world with their own eyes, taste the cuisine of exotic foods, all in the hopes of discovering their true place in this world. The answer might surprise you…or you may find a strong sense of connection with her findings. Warning: Reading this book may spark a serious case of wanderlust.
{I read an advanced copy of this as part of the #athomelaunch team. The book will be officially released, Tuesday, April 18th.}

 

Books Read with My Children

Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert — An excellent choice as we move into the Spring season. My daughters love identifying the colors and learning the names of many of the flowers that are popping up from the ground these days. We’re even dreaming of planting our own “rainbow”!

What Does Bunny See by Linda Sue Park — Along the same lines as Planting a Rainbow, children are taught colors and flower names, but this time in rhyming verse. We couldn’t wait to flip to the next page to see if our guess was right!

A Small Thing…But Big by Tony Johnston — Discovered this beautiful story on our library’s ‘New Books’ shelf. It tells of a little girl who encounters an old man and his little dog at the park. They are both nervous about the other but learn that even a small leap of faith can bring about a big result.

The Crayons’ Book of Colors by Drew Daywalt — Another great book for color identification. Written by the author of The Day the Crayons Quit, this is more suitable for the 2-5 year old crowd. The author utilizes a touch of humor making the color choices in the drawings unforgettable.

My Garden by Kevin Henkes — A young girl dreams of what she would grow {or not!} if the garden was completely under her control. Yes, just yes, to the jelly bean bush!

Mercy Watson by Kate DiCamillo — We listened to the six Mercy Watson stories on audiobook during our long car ride back and forth to Southern California a few weeks ago. Even mama, couldn’t help laughing along to the antics of this porcine wonder and her affinity for hot buttered toast.

 

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February 2017 Reads

Can’t believe February has flown by and it’s time for another reading round-up. I had a good stack of reads this month, as did the girls. I even found a book of poetry that I can’t live without!

 

The Lifegiving Home by Sally Clarkson — A wonderfully inspiring read that’s been on my TBR list for over a year now. Broken down by months, it gives theoretical ideas and practical tips for inculcating a home that brings life and love to it’s inhabitants. It’s less about material things, more about culture. I will be returning to it again and, perhaps, make my way through this companion.

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson — Another that has been on my shelf for some time. This was a gift from my brother, Ethan, for my birthday last year, but one that had been on my radar before as many friends had recommended it. I knew it dealt with a heavy topic {facing death} so I was waiting for a suitable time to read. It is written in the style of a personal journal. It is a series of letters to the narrator’s son in which he reflects as he lives out his last months on earth. The issue of forgiveness was prominent in the second half of the book. I’m still mulling over the actions of the parties involved and what I would have done in a similar situation. {MMD Challenge book for growth in the category: “A Pulitzer Prize or National Book Award winner”}

News of the World by Paulette Jiles — This reminded me a bit of True Grit by Charles Portis, probably because of the Western setting. But what it is more is a story of relationship between an old man and a young girl, neither of which understand each other {verbally or otherwise} at the end, but grow to be the best of friends by the end. It shows the importance of listening and understanding another without allowing yourself to be clouded by your own ideas first.

Caught Up in a Story by Sarah Clarkson — The author here does an excellent job of explaining the importance of story in the lives of children {and adults, for that matter!}. I notice much of what she points to in my own children at already a young age: liveliness of imagination, expansive vocabulary, a desire for exploration. It was a great encouragement in the direction we are leaning with our home schooling. {MMD Challenge fun book in the category: “A book about books or reading”}

 

Books Read with My Children

Stuart Little by E. B. White — The adventures of Stuart are small, yet big, for such a tiny creature. It’s hard to wrap your mind around a mouse living in a world of persons, but he does it with flair.

The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White — The last of our E. B. White reads. It was hard to get into during the first quarter or so, and I don’t think it held their attention as well as Charlotte’s Web {although, it is hard to surpass that masterpiece}. Ultimately, we did find ourselves enjoying the antics of Louis with his trumpet, his interactions with the boy, Sam Beaver, and laughing at Louis’ father’s monologues.

Queen of Hearts by Mary Engelbreit  — This has been Evelyn’s favorite Valentine’s Day book since she was only a year old. We read it multiple times every year. The young protagonist has such a zealous heart for all things Valentine, but her eagerness to do well in one arena, leads to neglect in another. We love the way she improvises to save the day. {Also, don’t miss Mary Engelbreit’s Mother Goose We are so drawn to Engelbreit’s vivid, bold pictures. This is our favorite of all the collections of the nursery rhymes.}

The Giant Hug by Sandra Horning — This was Lucie’s favorite during the season of love. It tells the story of a young boy who mails his grandmother a giant hug and the route it must take to reach her. For those with affectionate hearts.

The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear by Don Wood — This one was pulled out of book storage and memorized in a day by both girls after repeated readings. It was a favorite for both Steve and I growing up, so no surprise that our girls like it too. Perfect as we move into strawberry season soon.

When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano — I often find poetry hard to appreciate but this little book of seasonal poems, from Spring to Winter, is perfection. It is for children, but I want a book for our shelf to peruse from time to time.

 

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January 2017 Reads

Reading is a huge part of our family culture. As I type, the girls are sitting with stacks in the other room, flipping through books and either just looking at the pictures or attempting to recount the words read to them from the pages. {It’s really the cutest thing to listen to them!} I want to share more of our favorite pastime here on the blog to inspire you too!

In the past, I’ve shared snippets of books here and there throughout the year, and, then, done a compilation of everything read at the end of the year, but we’re going to change things up a bit. Starting with this post, I’m going to do a month recap {a little late here on January — I’ll try to be better about February}.

I’ll share what I’ve read, books I’ve read aloud with the girls, and some of our favorite picture books that month.

{I’m also participating in the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge for the 3rd year in a row. This year, she has two lists — one for fun and one for growth — I’m attempting to do both. I’ll mention the category I’m reading it for if the book is for one of them.}

So without further adieu, here’s January’s reads!

 

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi — Moving through generations, this story follows the family lines of two girls descended from an African slave woman on the Gold Coast as it was being colonized by the British. It is fascinating to see the direction of each girl’s family tree and their subsequent progenies outlook on life as they are affected by cultural influences and circumstances.  To be honest, this is not a book I would have picked up on my own, but when researching for a book to read from the growth category of “A book by an #ownvoices or #diversebooks author” for the MMD Challenge, this one stood out to me. I highly recommend.

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom — A page-turner that had me neglecting my household duties one morning, this follows the story of an young immigrant orphan who ends up on a plantation in the South during the Civil War era. She’s neither slave, nor entirely free, so her relationship with the household folks and the slaves, whom she mostly lives with, is an interesting one that forces her to question her loyalty to and love for each. A huge hit for this historical fiction fan.

Eve of a Hundred Midnights: The Star Crossed Love Story of Two WWII Correspondents and Their Epic Escape Across the Pacific by Bill Lascher — This was my pick for “A juicy memoir” in the MMD Challenge book for fun. Memoirs and WWII history are always a happy combination for me. What I found fascinating about this book, however, was its American perspective of Asia during WWII. So much is written and said about the European conflict, but relatively hushed about Asia. {Although I can’t tell you how many WWII Navy seamen I know of who fought in the South Pacific, including my own grandfathers!} The story of these journalists sheds some light on the hidden history.

Five Love Languages for Children: The Secret to Loving Children Effectively by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell — I’ve read the original Five Love Languages numerous times. This one is geared toward your children, but I didn’t glean too much more, other than a few practical examples, that I didn’t already know from reading the original.

Interior Freedom by Jacques Philippe — One of the best works of spiritual reading I’ve read in a long time. It forced me to sit with a journal to copy out passages and read only a few pages at a time to digest the wonderful meat in this gem of a book. I only wish I had picked it up sooner, per my husband’s recommendation.

 

Books Read with My Children

Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White — This classic never grows old. White’s writing is poetic, seamless, and grand. I enjoyed this even more than when I read it as a child. And, of course, my girls latched onto all the favorite characters and talk about them often when they come to mind throughout the day.

Some Writer! : The Story of E. B. White by Melissa Sweet — This was a beautifully done, work of art by the incredible illustrator Melissa Sweet {we also enjoyed her Balloons Over Broadway about a puppeteer in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade}. She lives in the town where White had his farm house and his granddaughter still lives, so she had direct access to many of the things he loved and which influenced his writing. She does an amazing job sharing the story of the man. {I even came to find out an interesting tidbit: He’s THE White of Strunk & White’s Elements of Style!} There’s an excellent interview with the author at the Read Aloud Revival podcast here if you want to learn more about her.

The Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson — Lucie is obsessed with this adorable picture book that has a beautiful rhyme which the girls love to repeat. It was an excellent read during our month of talking about hibernation and migration.

Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner — This fun story looks at which animals stay awake and which ones sleep during the long winter months. Beautifully illustrated. I was happy flipping through it myself.

The Jacket I Wear in the Snow by Shirley Neitzel — The repetition could drive the reader batty, but the children love it. 😉 For those who live where it snows, they will understand well this peeling on and off of layers in order to go in and out of the snow.

 

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{Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for Quick Lit this month.}

What’s Saving My Life Right Now

Lucie at play

In the dreary doldrums of winter, Anne of Modern Mrs. Darcy had the excellent idea of sharing a few thoughts on what is saving one’s life right now. So much negativity these days — this brings a positive spin to throw us back into the light.

  1. Tazo’s Joy tea — The name says it all. Every Christmas season for the past, at least, 5 years, I’ve taken to drinking a daily cup of this delightful mixture of black, green, and oolong tea. I’m not sure if it is still available at the store, but I stocked up on a few tins before the end of the season. I’m still enjoying my morning cup.
  2. Trader Joe’s fresh flowers — Erica of Be a Heart gave an excellent talk a few weeks ago in the Blessed is She‘s workshops on the importance of beauty in our lives. One thing that brings a lightened mood and beauty to my home, even on difficult or overcast day, is a lovely bouquet of TJ’s fresh flowers. I usually purchase one of the arrangements selling for $3.99, but sometimes I mix it up with a bouquet of just carnations or roses.
  3. Interior Freedom by Fr. Jacques Philippe — I’ve been struggling with finding peace lately, but this excellent read that my husband’s recommending for several years really helped me. This short work has all the right words for an honest dialogue with the Lord about finding that interior peace. He has some others that I will be making my way through soon.
  4. Knitting — I was just telling a friend the other day that finding moments daily to pick up my needles and stitch a few rows makes all the difference for keeping anxiety at bay. With all the crazy busy of life, it is difficult to slow down and truly rest. This activity forces me to still myself. I can literally feel my heart rate drop as I loop in and out.
  5. Meal planning with my planner — The Blessed is She Liturgical Planner‘s are first rate. {None in stock right now, but an updated version should be making it’s way to the shop soon!} The included meal planning and grocery list space {right next to each other!} ensure that it happens every week and makes it super simple to do. I’m actually enjoying the process.
  6. This is Us — We don’t watch a whole lot of television in our home, so you know when there is time reserved for it, it better be good. The show This is Us is a must-see for me every week. It is so well-crafted. The characters are all so real. The situations are ones we find our own selves in at one time or another. I’m laughing and crying through every episode. {And I was very sad there wasn’t a new one last night!}
  7. Raffi — This might seem like a rather silly thing to include on my list, but if there is one children’s musician I will listen to over and over, Raffi is it. I can’t say that of many {or any} others. My girls are completely head-over-heels with his songs, and I totally don’t mind. {He was my childhood favorite too.}

{What’s saving your life right now??}

 

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Books I Read in 2016 and Books to Read in 2017

page from Well Read Women

2016 was a good year for books. The majority I read, I thoroughly enjoyed. Perhaps it’s because I’m becoming more in tune with the stories and subjects that truly interest me, or perhaps it was just a lucky selection. Either way, I’m hoping for the same in 2017!

I’ve got a great list going for this coming year. And I’ve almost finished my first! Let me know in the comments if you have ones to add.

 

Read in 2016: 

Novels

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah — Being a huge fan of historical fiction, especially of the the WWII era, this was an automatic addition to my reading list. But it caught me by surprise, as it explored the war almost exclusively from the women-who-were-left-at-home’s point of view. Very poignant and well-written.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh — Having enjoyed working with flowers in arrangements  over the years, learned mostly from my mother, this book struck my fancy. The story revolves around the Victorian meaning of the flowers used by the protagonist in her arrangements. It’s wonderfully woven into the story. Great characters. More thoughts here.

Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry — My first experience of Berry’s works and I’m yearning for more. I found myself copying passages to return to time and again. The way you are drawn into the deeply personal thoughts and experiences of Hannah was incredible.

Gunnar’s Daughter by Sigrid Undset — It’s been a while since I’ve read the Lavansdatter series, which I love, so I decided to give one of Undset’s others a try. Written in her early years of writing, there is a bit of disjointedness to the story. But that could also be the translation.

The Lake House by Kate Morton — This mystery was wonderfully drawn out and had me yearning for a trip through the London countryside.

The One in a Million Boy by Monica Wood — I started this one not knowing what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised by the characters woven into the story. It explores how a loved one can have a profound impact on lives even after death and how, perhaps, there may be more to someone than meets the eye.

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George — Fun, little story, set in one of my favorite cities. This is a light hearted read sure to be enjoyed by bibliophiles and francophiles alike.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles — Review here.

The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartín Fenollera — Many amongst my friends were raving about this. It was an okay read for me.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave — I didn’t like this one as much as I thought I would.

Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen — One of my least favorite reads of the year, the character’s lacked a depth that I need in a good novel.

 

Short Stories

Memory Wall by Anthony Doerr — After enjoying several others of Doerr’s works, I picked up this collection short stories written earlier. Beautiful writing, but not as captivating for me as his longer books.

 

History

Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste by Luke Barr — Review here.

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson — This author is quickly becoming one of my favorites. I’ve always loved historical fiction, but his works are non-fiction that read like fiction. Highly engaging, very intriguing.

 

Parenting/Education

The Artful Parent by Jean Van’t Hul — I’m a huge fan of the Artful Parent blog and this book is a great extension of it. Even our local art museum bases their toddler-based art program–Artful Tot–off of Jean’s philosophy and projects. Especially inspiring for those who aren’t creativity-focused themselves.

Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt — My learning style is founded upon a great library {even if it is one borrowed from the local one} for the children to read along with mom and dad, and, eventually, on their own. This book is a great encouragement and resource for doing just that.

Real Learning: Education in the Heart of the Home by Elizabeth Foss — Managed to grab my mom’s old copy, as this book is out of print, and so happy I did. Elizabeth’s writing through her blog has been an encouragement to me as I embark on homeschooling my children, and her book is equally so. I’ll be returning to it often for further inspiration.

The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease — The author does an excellent job of explaining why reading aloud to your children is so vital, as well as providing excellent places to start in an expansive booklist. I borrowed this from the library, but need to grab my own, updated copy to have as a resource at home.

The Highly Sensitive Child by Elaine N. Aron — A great help in learning some methods to help children who deal with different types of sensitivities thrive when the world is overwhelming. {Helpful for adults too!}

The Importance of Being Little by Erika Christakis — I really loved this well-researched book on the importance of less didactic lessons and more exploration in early childhood.

 

Self/Home/Family Improvement

Rising Strong by Brené Brown — One of my favorite authors, this book addresses how moments that may kick us down can, ultimately, be excellent tools for growth. Highly recommend. Here is a reflection I wrote on mercy based on my reading of this book.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown — I rarely do audio books, but that is the only way this was available at our local library. I was glad I did as note taking was much easier this way. A book that will inspire you to take an honest look at what is truly important in your life so you can better give your time to the things that truly are.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert — Many creative types were praising Gilbert’s latest work, but I felt it was more praise of her own accomplishments than great encouragement. Just me.

 

Memoirs

Something Other Than God by Jennifer Fulwiler — This book recounts the author’s journey to faith, of finding God when He was the one she was least interested in. If you are a fan of Jennifer’s writing, you’ll enjoy her story.

Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World by Anthony Doerr — One of my favorite memoirs of all time. In addition to loving Doerr’s writing, I couldn’t lose with stories of bringing up baby twins as an expat in Italy and his first-hand account as a non-believer experiencing Rome during St. Pope John Paul II’s funeral.

Memoirs of a Happy Failure by Alice von Hildebrand — This was a fascinating read knowing the author from some of her other works. She comes across as a strong, faith-filled woman {which she is}, but this reveals her crisis of confidence due to the pressures from those who doubt her convictions.

Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace by Anne Lamott — This anecdotal collections was humorous, sponanteous, inspiring, irreverent, and sad all at the same time.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi — Perhaps my favorite this year, published posthumously, this neurosurgeon begins to write his memoir when he’s faced with his own terminal illness. It will make you dive deeply into your own thoughts of facing death.

 

Politics/Law

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson — A sobering look at the lack of equity in our justice system, and the work of a man who is desperately trying to change it one person at a time.

 

Communications

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age by Sherry Turkle — I appreciated this honest look at how technology can actually be a hindrance to connection and conversation. Some great thoughts here on how we can put checks on ourselves and our children’s internet consumption and better foster connection.

 

Spirituality/Religion

Chiara Corbella Portrillo: A Witness to Joy by Simone Troisi — A difficult, but greatly inspiring read. A little reflection based on my reading of this book.

Divine Mercy for Moms by Michele Faehnle — Review here.

Encountering Truth: Meeting God in the Everyday by Pope Francis — Review here.

Taste and See: Experiencing the Goodness of God with Our Five Senses by Ginny Kubitz Moyer — Written by one of my fellow Blessed is She writers, I loved this wonderful reflection on the blessings in our lives through the five senses.

Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist — This book was a great reflection for me as I struggle daily with perfectionism. I will be revisiting it throughout this coming year as I try to live out its message.

For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker — Along the same lines as above, Jen’s message didn’t resonate for me in the same way, but I know many appreciate her writing.

 

knitting and little paris bookshop

 

To Read in 2017: 

Novels

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Les Miserables: Tome I by Victor Hugo {IN FRENCH!}

The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni

The Winthrop Woman by Anya Seton

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes

Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher

Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray

A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny {Inspector Gamache #2}

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

 

History/Memoirs

Eve of a Hundred Midnights by Bill Lascher

The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough

First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies by Kate Andersen Brower

One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson

Hope Heals: A True Story of Overwhelming Loss and an Overcoming Love by Katherine and Jay Wolf

Gift From the Sea by Anne Lindbergh

 

Parenting/Education

Caught Up in a Story by Sarah Clarkson

Educating the Whole Hearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson

Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie

The Lifegiving Home: Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming by Sally Clarkson

Give Your Child the World by Jamie C. Martin

Whole Brained Child by Daniel J. Siegel {re-read}

Homeschooling Series by Charlotte Mason {Volume I here.}

 

Self/Home/Family Improvement

Quiet by Susan Cain {re-read}

Open Heart, Open Home by Karen Mains

 

Spirituality/Theology

The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp

Vibrant Paradoxes: The Both/And of Catholicism by Robert Barron

In the Midst of Chaos: Caring for Children as a Spiritual Practice by Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore

Who Does He Say You Are? : Women Transformed by Christ in the Gospels by Colleen C. Mitchell

Interior Freedom by Jacques Philippe

 

Philosophy

The Way of Beauty by David Clayton

 

Social Sciences

Walkable City by Jeff Speck

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

 

Poetry

Poems and Prose by Gerard Manly Hopkins

 

Writing/Creativity

Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott

The Knitter’s Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes

Simply Calligraphy by Judy Detrick

 

Cookbooks

Cooking for Jeffrey by Ina Garten

A Kitchen In France by Mimi Thorinsson

Date Night In by Ashley Rodriguez

 

{Books I Read in 2015}
{Books I Read in 2014}

 

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Gathering My Thoughts ~ Apples to Apples

Outside my window: Saturated earth. Such a blessing here in this parched land. Over the past three days, we’ve had about 5 inches of rain come down and the earth hardly knows what do with it.

looking outside

Listening To: Finally a little bit of quiet after struggling for over an hour with getting the girls settled for their naps. They haven’t been good about going down lately, but the rainy days over the weekend made a change in that. The sun is back out today, though, and so are their indefatigable dispositions.

Clothing Myself In: I’m wrapped in one of my favorite sweaters I picked up at Anthropologie last year. {Don’t they have just the best sweaters??} It’s a sage color, knit all around and felted on the torso. It swings across and clasps at the shoulder. I made the extra effort of getting everyone dressed before lunch today. Quite the accomplishment, I tell you! 😉

Talking With My Children About These Books: So many great books to read this time of year! I’ll try to keep it short….

  • Lucie especially loves this book filled with poetic prose and beautiful pictures of this adventurous scarecrow.
  • This one hasn’t lost his fascination over the past few years and has been a great way to teach the lifecycle of the pumpkin so there are no hard feelings {at least in theory} when our jack o lanterns die at the end of the season.
  • This fairly new release we found at the library has the cutest illustrations and has been a hit for our highly imaginative, little one.
  • This sweet, sentimental story may have had me in tears at the end.
  • A great one to garner excitement for apple picking {although, that wasn’t necessary here}.

In My Own Reading: I recently finished A Gentleman in Moscow which I wrote a bit about here. I also quickly read through The Awakening of Miss Prim. It is next up to be discussed over at the Fountains of Carrots podcast — any day! — so get to reading before the spoilers come out! Just released today!

My knitting has been a distraction lately, so I haven’t picked anything up in about a week. But I’m about to commence reading Everyone Brave is Forgiven. It was recommended to me by my fellow historical fiction fan friend, Megan. She never steers me wrong. I’ve partly held off on starting it because it will mean having my nose stuck in a book for hours on end. I always get caught up deeply in those types of reads.

Thinking and Thinking: About the cooler weather and all the wonderful autumn and winter activities ahead of us. I definitely should search out one of those printable Fall activities you can find on Pinterest to keep us inspired. The girls are already begging to go up to the dusting of snow in the mountains. Pumpkin carving is happening this weekend.

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picking apples with daddy

Pondering:

St. Teresa of Avila’s feast day was this past Saturday. Funnily, I kept running across quotes of hers all day {and not in the expected places, like social media}. This prayer/poem of hers really touched me and is one I want to keep close.

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Carefully Cultivating Rhythm: It’s hit or miss but we’re trying to get a routine to our mornings of “schoolwork” and chores, followed by a more relaxing afternoon. {Although, the afternoons have been anything but relaxing lately as my children are heavily protesting nap time…but need it.} We need a better wind-down routine in the evenings for everyone. Working on it.

sticker work

Creating By Hand: My knitting has really taken off. I’m enjoying trying different weight fibers, stretching myself with increasingly more difficult patterns. I’m working on my first adult socks. The pattern I chose was a bit more challenging than I probably should have with my first pair, but I’m getting through it. I’m about to the toe bed. I love the colors of the yarn.

sock knitting

Stephen and I took a trip {just the two of us — oh, the novelty!!} to Portland a little over a week ago. There was a yarn shop about two blocks from the place we were staying. Let’s just say, that was a huge danger for our bank account. I’ve been eyeing Quince and Co.‘s yarn online ever since I was introduced to it through Making Magazine a few months ago, and was pleasantly surprised to find they carried it at the shop in Portland. I came home with a huge bag of it.

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Evelyn already has a hat knit from their Lark line in Clay and Egret, which I started and finished in an evening. It was my first foray into Fair Isle and I’m very happy with the result. I’m about to start another for Steve in Quince’s Osprey. I also went out on a limb and purchased myself enough to make my first sweater from Chickadee in Malbec. I’m anxious to get it cast on.

Learning Lessons In: Making boundaries…and keeping them in charity.

Encouraging Learning In: All things apples. We travelled to Apple Hill during the week last week before the rain hit. We feasted on caramel apples, baked goods filled with apples and toted home 40 lbs of apples to make pies, applesauce, apple butter, and who knows what else. On Saturday morning, just as the drenching began, we took the girls to an orchard just a short way from our home so they could pick apples from the tree. This was Evelyn’s one wish for the apple season. Glad to see it fulfilled. Lucie enjoyed it just as much, and they were adorable munching those juicy orbs straight from the tree in the drizzling rainfall.

high hill ranch apple hill

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Today, we were working on patterns with some apple stickers. Later in the week, we’ll be stamping with apple halves, learning about the life cycle of apples, taste testing apples to choose our favorites, and there will certainly be some baking!

Crafting in the Kitchen: I spent about an hour this morning chopping up about 10 lbs of apples to make apple butter in the crockpot. I plan on canning most of it. There is another 40 lbs waiting by my front door to be turned into some sort of appley goodness over the next few weeks. Ideas anyone?

eating apples

To Be Fit and Happy: I really need to work on this. I begin something for a few days and quickly fall off. I’m just not motivated. I can’t find my groove. I’m thinking of signing on for Barre3 again and alternating that with my rowing machine for cardio. I really want to run, but it is so difficult to coordinate with Steve’s schedule going into the fall and winter months.

Loving the Moments: I’m really enjoying the curriculum that I’m working through with the girls. Yesterday, we did some apple graphing. There was also a trip to Apple Hill and Machado’s Orchards, near our house, last week for apple sweets and apple picking. We have some other apple activities this week, including stamping, pie baking, and taste testing different varieties for our favorites.

picking apples

Living the Liturgy: Looking forward to the feast of St. Pope John Paul II this Saturday. He’s one of my favorites, so we’ll be sure to celebrate him in style. Something with apples? 😉

I would really like to do something special for the Feast of All Saints this year, but also don’t quite have that figured out. Need some time to plan.

I’m greatly looking forward to Advent this year and trying really hard not to let it sneak up on me. I’m especially excited to work along with Blessed is She’s Advent journal this year and use the Jesse Tree cards once again.

Planning for the Week Ahead: Steve is switching to a new job mid-week, back to his longer commute, so we are gearing up for that change which affects the whole family dynamic. Hoping for a smooth transition and still plenty of time to enjoy together.

taking a leap

 

Also, linking up with Ginny for Yarn Along this week!

#write31days ~ day 8: a gentleman in moscow

a gentleman in moscow

Last year, I happened across Amor Towles’ novel, Rules of Civility. It was richly captivating for me, reminding me, as many have said, of The Great Gatsby. It was one of my favorite novels that year. I went in search of more books by the author, but, much to my disappointment, discovered that that was his only published novel so far.

Fortunately, he didn’t wait too long to get back to putting a pen to paper. And, now, he has certainly outdone himself.

Towles’ latest, A Gentleman in Moscow, tells the story of a Russian man, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, who is forced under house arrest in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow during the early 1920s. The narrative follows along with his adventures while living there, stuck inside the posh hotel. {But which he is no longer able to partake as fully of as he once was.} A man of culture and civility, it is interesting to read how he navigates the period of communist inculturation happening during his lifetime. The Count is a character who has you rooting for him throughout the story, and who stays with you long after the last page. I was certainly sad to see him go.

The other persons he encounters, both employees of the hotel and the visitors which grace the halls of the fine place, are full of depth and intrigue. The author does a superb job of weaving their lives together. There are many great moments which leave you on the edge of your seat, waiting to find out what happens.

Admittedly, I am not well-educated in Russian history, nor have I had the chance to read many Russian novels. But after this small glimpse of Russian history and culture, I am eager to learn more and pick up a Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy.

This may be my top pick of the year.

 

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Gathering My Thoughts ~ Busy, But Happy

chasing bubbles

Outside my window: Sunshine, yet coolness. We had a wonderful spring rain yesterday and the air is fresh and light.

Listening To: Quiet while the girls rest.

strawberry picking

Clothing Myself In: Half pjs, half active wear — which the only activity I’ve done in it so far today has been dishes and general cleaning. And perhaps a few laps around the backyard with the girls.

Talking With My Children About These Books: We finished our last chapter of A Bear Called Paddington this morning. Breakfast included English muffins slathered in butter and marmalade in his honor. The girls have been inquiring about marmalade as it is Paddington’s food of choice, so we dropped some in our cart during our weekly shopping trip. They are both big fans. I wasn’t much when I was little, but I love it now too.

I’m thinking of Mr. Popper’s Penguins for our next read-aloud. What are some of your favorites to do with young children?

paddington marmalade

In My Own Reading: Provence, 1970 — I purchased this on a whim as I needed an extra book to fill my cart on a buy two, get one free sale through B&N. It is written by the grand-nephew of M.F.K. Fisher who seems to have inherited his grand-aunt’s talent for writing, detailing the winter of 1970 and how it shifted the American way of cooking and eating due to this group of food writers that includes M.F.K., Julia Childs, James Beard, etc. Probably more of interest to the foodie set and those interested in the evolution of the food scene in America, otherwise, you might find yourself bored with so many details of the relations between these writers.

Thinking and Thinking: About making a Summer Bucket List with the girls. We have plenty of things planned {which I will add}, but it is fun to have a few spontaneous options so when we find ourselves with downtime on a Tuesday morning, we have ideas of fun to be had! What should we add?

painting each other

Pondering: “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ~Sylvia Plath   {Thanks to Verily.}

Carefully Cultivating Rhythm: Although we don’t have a strict schedule, and I don’t believe in one with very young children, we do have a happy rhythm to most our days which I really love. One of the most essential parts of our day is nap/quiet time. They need it, I need it.

painting in the sun

Creating By Hand: I have some teeny, tiny socks I’m working on {The needles are so tiny!!}–my first pair of socks ever–for my littlest nephew born this past Monday evening. At some point this week, I also hope to stitch up his blanket. Warmer weather has me switching into stitching project-mode rather than knitting. I just don’t feel like it much when it is so warm.

Learning Lessons In: Being easy on myself. I’ve had a heavy dose of ‘guilt’ in just about every facet of life lately, most of it completely unwarranted. It makes me less than my best when I’m thinking about all my errors {or what I perceive to be such}. And it truly has not been helpful in regards my attitude/outlook on life. Trying to turn that around. My husband helps me immensely.

sock knitting

Encouraging Learning In: We have a new Chick Fil A being built in our town. I pointed this out to Evelyn the other day. She’s ecstatic…but was a tad confused why we couldn’t go there yet. Currently, it is only framed. When I began to explain that it still needed to be built, a light bulb went off in her head. “Buildings are BUILT BY PEOPLE! They’re not just there.” So now every other question is: Who built this? When was it built? It cracks me up. 🙂

Crafting in the Kitchen: Inspired by Britt‘s Instagram post last week, we pulled out the Joy of Cooking to make our own oatmeal cookies, sans raisins, this morning. They are a definite hit.

tea time

To Be Fit and Happy: I have a rowing machine sitting in my garage that is just begging me for a good workout. We finally got a bunch of things cleared out this weekend that mean I can actually access it. Now, I just need to build up my motivation….. I’ve been inactive for too long.

Loving the Moments: Lucie’s spontaneous hugs and kisses with an ‘I wuv you’ tucked into my ear. The point at which they begin to offer affection and endearments without promptings just makes you melt into a puddle…and offer whatever treats their little hearts desire!

Living the Liturgy: The feast of the Sacred Heart is coming up this next Friday. It is one of my favorites. I’m thinking of what to do to commemorate the feast with the family.

organized simplicity lists

Planning for the Week Ahead: We have a long weekend on the horizon. We’re planning on house projects that have been put off too long. I’ve been working, piece-by-piece, on decluttering our storage office room that has become out of control. Major progress was made yesterday, so painting, new bookcases, furniture rearrangement, etc. will be possible on Saturday.

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