Reading Update: November and Early December 2016

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Remember what I said about reading A LOT less lately? Well, it's true...Over the course of the last few months I've only finished four books. I'm not sure if I forgot to write something down, but I think I've just been taking my sweet time. The good news is that each one of them is rave worthy!

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen - This is the Jane Austen book that I never planned to read. I've been attending my youngest brother's Omnibus class (most of the time) and one week Carrie mentioned Fanny Price. She doesn't like Fanny at all, but her description of her convinced me that I might and that I HAD to read this book. I put a few other books aside in order to dig right into this one. It's now POSSIBLY, my favorite piece of Austen's work. I still REALLY like Persuasion, so it might be a tie. I have a lot I could say, but I'll leave you with this: This story is hilarious, heart breaking, and full of wisdom that extends from Austen's era right up to our own. If you've never read it, you must!

The Swan House by Elizabeth Musser - This was our book club pick for November and it's another book I have LOVED recently. I'm still thinking about it and the lessons it taught me. It tells the story of the South in a way that is reminiscent of The Help (another of my favorite books). BUT, there is something about this book that sets it apart. This book will challenge the way you think, feel, live, and respond to the hard things we face in life. It's set in Atlanta and there is a real Swan House that you can visit. So....What are you waiting for?

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling - This was probably my third time reading book number one. I enjoyed it, but I also know that it's not going to be my favorite. The thing about first books is that soooooo much of the "plot" centers around laying the ground work for the readers. It's the perfect length to get you "into" the world of HP, but short enough not to bog you down. Reading it this time around gave me an appreciation for Hagrid as well as an understanding of Rowling's influence on my brothers' writing styles. I also finally understand the different houses!!! Pottermore sorted me into Hufflepuff, but I'm 100% Ravenclaw.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling -This was also a re-read for me. When I read the first three, it was my FAVORITE. Reading it again reminded me why! If you click on the title you can read my full goodreads review (which has a few "spoilers"). The most important thing is that:  I loved it just as much this time around as I did last time. I got more out of it and enjoyed parts of it as though I had never read them before. 

Now, I have a few questions for you!

Have you read any of these books?

Which Austen is your favorite?

Is there an era of historical fiction that you tend to gravitate towards?

What's one book that's stuck with you for months at a time?

Which house are you in (have you been "re-sorted" at the "new" site)?

Which HP is your favorite? 

5 More Things About Me pt. 4

Friday, December 23, 2016

December 4, 2010

I < 3 NYC. I don't care how cliche it is to say so because this city is my favorite. I spent one day there back in December of 2010 and found that it was everything I hoped it would be. I think about it almost constantly this time of year.

Aside from the occasional crop, slight adjustment, or a quick black and white or sepia toned filter, I don't edit my photos. What you see is straight from the camera. It's amazing what people can accomplish with photo editing software (I'm looking at you, Amy and Rach), but I just don't do it. When people talk about alllll the time they spend editing, I can't sympathize because I honestly have no idea as to where to even begin.

I think of "my style" as preppy/classic. The truth is, if you stopped by my house on any given day you would find me in jeans and a tshirt OR some kind of horribly tacky pants that are super comfy and a tshirt. The ensemble will always match, but you may cringe at the sight.

I know what people drive. In our old town, my Mom and I used to play this game where I would try to guess who was going to be in the grocery store based on the cars in the parking lot. I was SURE this would be a hopeless cause in our new city, but I've already started saying, "That was so and so." OR "Oh! So and so is in that store over there." When I see certain cars, I still think of the people that drove the same one in my old town and get excited for a split second before I remember that it's not theirs and that it can't be theirs.

I went to public school until I was in 8th grade. I was homeschooled from that point on and dream of homeschooling my own children someday, should I have them. I love talking education. Veteran teachers (homeschooling or otherwise) are some of my favorite people to talk to.

What don't I know about you? 

It Was Snowing

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Another post I drafted on December 9th. I've got a few coming your way! 

The other day I went to pick my Mom up from work. I went in to let her know that I had arrived only to learn that it was going to be a while before she could leave. In the few minutes that I was in the store, a little mini snow storm blew in. I stepped out onto the sidewalk and immediately took up my "it's snowing" stance. I looks like slower, surer steps, chin tilted down, hands crammed into pockets, and rounded shoulders. I think I may have even muttered something sarcastic to myself. I don't mind snow, but I do not want to get caught out in it. I started my trudge to the car when a sound of absolute glee caught my attention.

I looked toward where the sound was coming from to see a little girl and her Mom. The little girl was looking up into the sky beaming. She had her hands out and her glee had turned into sheer awe. I paused and my "it's snowing" stance melted away into a smile and a laugh. All of a sudden, my memories of those same feelings came flooding back. The Mom had stopped walking and was beaming right along with her daughter. Only, she wasn't delighting in the snow. She was delighting in her daughter. In that moment, there was no hurry. The little girl was completely taken with the flakes falling all around her. The Mom was happy to let her take her time. And I was content to watch.

The last thing I heard before I got into my car was the little girl say, "I love snow." To which the Mom replied, "Yes, you do love snow, don't you?"

The whole exchanged lasted less than a single minute before we all picked back up where we left off. They made their way into the store and I got into my car. Th snow kept coming down and I saw it for the beauty that it was. I sat there waiting for my own Mom thinking about the joy children bring. They remind us to see things the way they're meant to be seen. They remind us that there is no hurry and that life is better when we take our time.

It was snowing and they weren't in a hurry. After that, neither was I.

Christmas Survey 2016

Sunday, December 18, 2016

December 18, 2014
Last year, I came across this post on Skylar's blog and immediately took the time to copy down the questions with plans to answer them this year! Feel free to copy them and answer them on your blog. If you do, be sure to let me know because I'd love to read your answers!

Wrapping paper or gift bags?
I am terrible at wrapping gifts. That said, I appreciate and prefer wrapping paper!

Real tree or artificial?
We haven't done a tree at all since 2010. If I was going to have one, it would be real.

When do you put up the tree?
We normally got the tree the first week in December and then let it rest in the garage for most of a week.

Hardest person to buy for?
The person that I don't have any ideas for. There isn't one person in particular that this is always true of. I tend to be pretty good at coming up with gift ideas, but occasionally, I will be STUMPED.

Easiest person to buy for?
My Mom. I also always have one million ideas for my sister.

Favorite Christmas film?
Oh, this is HARD. I'll choose Holiday Affair.

Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
I love it when we do a cold cut buffet for Christmas. In the past I've made broccoli salad and Trish's Bean Dip to go with it.  This goes soooo well with the endless board games and movie nights and lazing around that Christmas vacation brings.

Snow: love it or hate it?
As long as there's no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Colorful or clear lights on the tree?

Favorite Christmas song?
This year? Christmas Night in Harlem. Usually? God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen or Oh Holy Night.

Do you celebrate Advent?
YES!!! It's my favorite thing about Christmas.

Travel at Christmas or stay at home?
Stay home. 

Favorite Christmas cookie?
Chocolate Crinkle Cookies. I used to be sooooooo afraid of them, but then I made them and now I love them.

Favorite Christmas tradition?
Advent and Epiphany. On Epiphany we have atiyfs for breakfast, open the presents from our parents, and have a Middle Eastern feast.

Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
Christmas morning.

Most annoying thing about this time of year?
The cold? Other than that, I wouldn't change a single thing.

What is the “sil­li­est” fam­ily tra­di­tion you do, or miss doing?
I don't think we have any silly traditions. Do we?

What do you want for Christmas this year?
I need some new sneakers. There are a few books, movies, and cds that I'd like. Reach Records always has a Christmas sale which makes me nostalgic over t-shirts. I'm getting old because there's a face lotion that I love but that's a little $$$, so I'd be quite happy to unwrap a new bottle of it.

What holiday traditions are you looking forward to most this year?
All of them! I'm excited that my sister is home this year. I wish my brother could be here and that Ron and Julie and Jay would come over like old times. Our decorations are still in storage, so I only have the "extra" garlands and lights to hang. I look forward to Christmas as we know it sometime SOON.

I'd love to hear your answers! Feel free to make a post of your own this week. :) 

Advent 2016

Friday, December 16, 2016

December 10, 2016
I picked Andrew Murray's "Waiting on God" back up the other day. I made it less than halfway through last year's Advent readings and wouldn't you know it...When I finally got myself together this year, it was right where I left off last year. Man plans his way, but God established his steps. It gets even better. Not only did I pick up where I left off, but the first day's reading dealt with themes that I've been wrestling with lately (faith, being taught by God, and even the balance between sin and repentance).

When I read the verse that went with the day's essay, I knew that this was exactly how it was supposed to have happened. I rarely get discouraged about not being able to finish something becaues I am a firm beleiver in the fact that I will finish it when  the time is right. This goes for silly things and important things. I'm happy to take my time.

I've been going to a new Bible study and I've got mixed feelings about it. I'll be honest. I take theology very seriously. I have come to learn that this is rare. Studying the Bible with other believers has taught me that very few people are eager or have put the time into thinking for themselves. So, I go to this Bible study which seems to be non-denominational and I've heard some pretty typical comments. Everything from the KJV only debate, to thoughts on salvation, and of course, the man-centered theology that misses the actual meaning behind every Biblical text has come up so far. Bad theology, especially from people who should know better, gets me every single time.

The last meeting was about faith and especially the faith of Gideon. I'm not going to get into what was said, because that's not the point. The point is, I was wrestling with what was said and God saw fit to clarify the matter using His Word, Murray's old booklet, and an unrest in my spirit. He also threw in a line about how He teaches His people for good measure.

What have you been wrestling with lately? 

Are there in themes that God has brought to your attention?

On My Mind

Thursday, December 15, 2016

December 9, 2016
I drafted this post back on December 9th. Everything I wrote is still true, so I'm leaving it here for you to read. Well, everything except, the snow has continued off and on since then and we're up to nearly a foot of snow. :) 

The first real snow is coming down outside. We're on a "winter storm watch" which basically means all of the kids are EXCITED. I dropped the van off to get the snow tires put on earlier this morning, so I'm okay with it. Settle in with a cup of something warm and let's chat...

I've been doing so little reading and writing lately that I almost don't feel like myself. What's something that's such a huge part of who you are that pushing it aside affects you? It's definitely reading and writing for me. I've even attempted to carve out time to go to the library so that I can sit down at a clean table and just WRITE by the big windows. That's another thing...I'm not one of those people who plunks down in a coffee shop or restaurant or library to do something like that, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Going non-stop has me celebrating any day without any place to be. Apparently I need to stop getting so excited. Each time I've had one, SOMETHING comes up.

We made it through tech-week!!!! My Mom and I are in charge of props for my brother and sister's current show. We've done a lot of tasks over the years. This is a first. I was super nervous about it, but I think I may have found my "thing". We'll see how it goes during an actual show. Last night, I actually dreamed about not being able to find something. I couldn't figure out what I couldn't find and I couldn't remember the person's name that needed it.

I've been rejoicing in the fact that God answers prayers. Dwelling on this truth has been so good for my soul!!!! I've got a list of things that I'm praying for. It reminds me to check back with people and to praise God for the ways He responds.

While I did pick up my Advent study (I'm finishing the one I started last year), I haven't put up the Christmas decorations, mailed my Christmas cards, or bought a single present. It's nearly the middle of December. I'm not sure what I'm waiting for!

What's on your mind? 

The Great Book Chase

Monday, November 21, 2016

My love for used books started about four or five summers ago when my Mom and I started scoping out library sales during the small town festivals in our area. Sometimes I'll see a book at several sales before I finally realize that I'd better buy a copy. That's what happened with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

I'm not sure who I have to thank for the hunt that began during the summer of 2013 when I decided to buy that first Harry Potter paperback. I'm thinking it's a combination of my brothers, Amy, and Robyn. The four of them were constantly telling me that I just HAD to read these books. Everyone is shocked to find out that I've never read the whole series.

My Grandma bought my brother and I the first three HP hardbacks as they were released. I read them and then stopped. I mean...Number four is LONG. They were releasing movie versions AND I wasn't sure that I would be able to pass the test to get the points I needed for the Accelerated Reading program at my school. I watched my brothers devour them right along with my Mom, I got just as excited about everyone else each November when a new movie was released. But I never read the books.

So, I bought that first book and The Great Book Chase began. I promised myself (and my brothers, and Amy, and Robyn) that I would look for the books and that as soon as I had them all, I would read them. I wasn't sure how long it would take, but I was determined! My rules were simple, each book had to: come from some kind of used book sale, be paperback, and cost $2.00 or less.

As of October 2016, I officially have the entire HP series in paperback. It took years and if I remember correctly, it cost me about $4.29.

I can't remember where I got the first book. I THINK it was during a book sale in the basement of the library in a town 40 minutes away from where I grew up. I wish I could remember, because it seems so important, but I can't. Once The Chase became "official", I started keeping track. In 2014 I picked up the second book at our town's own big book sale that my family used to help with. I was sooo excited about finding it unexpectedly.

Most of a year went by and I found number four at a goodwill while we were in town for my brother and sister's drama class.

Most of another year went by and my brothers were starting to get impatient. I'm sure both Amy and Robyn forgot alllll about it. But, I was always looking. Occasionally my Mom and I would go out with the single purpose of chasing down another book in the series. Last Christmas she and both of my brothers were super close to buying me a brand new set. I told them to be patient, but I knew that I was running out of time. I HAD to find these books. 

The strange thing about HP is that you'll see TONS of Sorcerer's Stones, quite a few Chamber of Secretses, and every now and then you'll see The Goblet of Fire. But, tracking down 3, 5, 6, and 7 seemed IMPOSSIBLE. They just aren't out there. I don't know if people stopped buying after 1 and 2. I don't know if people that have books 3 and up actually LOVE their books and aren't willing to part with them. Either way, it certainly made the book chase a little more exciting.

So, I put a little more effort in this year...I found numbers 3 and 7 at a thrift store that benefits a local animal shelter on June 14th. It was during one of "The Great Book Chase" excursions. We went to every single store, several yard sales, and looked at EVERY SINGLE BOOK they had. We found them and I scooped them right off the shelf. This store wanted $1.00 each, which was okay with me. I was in for a special treat.

Once I got out to the car I was looking at my copy of The Deathly Hallows. It turns out that it's the UK version and it had a bookmark from Italy tucked in at chapter 5. I snapped a picture and texted it to my brother.

After that exciting discovery, we were pumped. Not only was I getting closer to having the whole set, but I now had one book that seemed to have come from some super interesting person. I kept hoping that I'd run into another one of their discards. Before I knew it, summer was over and we were focusing on getting our house packed up. My little HP obsession was on hold.

Then, a few weeks ago, my Mom and I were out on a Sunday after church looking for "relics" for our church's Reformation Day celebration. I wandered over to the books to do a quick glance JUST IN CASE. I found 5 and 6!!!! They were pretty beat up and I debated on whether or not I should get them. My Mom did what she always does and said that I didn't have a choice (thanks, Mom!!!). Books were 75% off that day and so I got them BOTH for about 29 cents.

My set was complete.

I always thought The Great Book Chase would end when it began, on some unsuspecting summer day. I pictured myself plodding through the books at the pool and the lake and out on the back patio. It turns out, I began my journey with HP on a Sunday evening in November.

Something else exciting happened...My sister (who hasn't read ANY of them) has decided to join me! We read the first chapter last night taking turns after every sentence (we never read this way, but I knew it would be a fun memory to make, so we did this time). During the early days of the chase, I accidentally bought a second copy of the first book because I couldn't remember if I had it. She'll read that copy.

The hunt for my set is complete and after spending so many years chasing these books it seems strange to be "done". Maybe I'll start chasing down a set for my sister.

Have you read this series yet?

Do you collect used books? Which ones are you currently chasing after?

Friday's Letters

Friday, November 18, 2016

November 7, 2015
It's been a while since I've done one of these posts. I've found myself writing this one in my head alllll week. I'm not one to delight in busy-ness, but it's been one BUSY fall. We cleaned up the last of the leaves in the backyard and got the patio ready for winter. The first of the snow came and went and my sister and I both got to put our winter driving skills to the test. McDonald's supplied a hearty breakfast and we made Ghiddu proud with our couponing skills.

Now it's Friday. We're making my Aunt Linda's famous Crunchy Korean Chicken for dinner. After that (they don't know this yet) we're pulling out the first of the Christmas movies (I watched Paper Angel the other night, but that doesn't count). I took a vote and I'm holding off on putting up the Christmas decorations until NEXT Friday.

Now, back to those letters I was telling you about...

Dear Lady In the Ice Cream Aisle,

You made my night last week when I was out hunting coffee ice cream for my Mom. I spied that Fudge Brownie ice cream in your cart and commented on how you knew what was really good. Your quick reply of "With caramel topping!" was perfect. I made brownies the other night and I'm going to have one with ice cream and caramel topping tonight.

Dear Reader Guy,

You were sitting in the living room area of the bookstore last night sipping your coffee and reading from a couple of books. I was wandering around the shelves killing time before our movie started (Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them). I peeked at the book sitting on the table in front of you and it was Steinbeck. I never did figure out what book was in your hand. What else do you read?

Dear Plymouth, 

I've been looking forward to the big parade allll year! You really are America's Hometown and your enthusiasm for our history is inspiring. The kids at my brother's co-op have been studying you and I want nothing more than to snatch them up and take them to see you and the many historians you have given us. I'll be tuning in from my kitchen tomorrow morning!

Dear Christmas All the Time Radio,

I owe you a big "Thank You!" too! I've been looking and looking for you and had just about given up. Abbey posted to FB this morning about finding you, so my sister and I looked until we found you on the drive to work this morning. I've got the radio set and it won't be budging until this broadcast is over. I can't wait to turn up all of our favorite songs and I'm especially looking forward to the night(s) we drive around looking for Christmas lights! 

Dear Sister of Mine,

I always seem to have something to tell you. People keep finding this "secret" space of mine because of you. It was a slow trickle for a while there, but it seems that more and more are popping up. I guess I should be grateful since I kept saying that I felt like it was time for me to put myself out there. If you're reading this and you're new here: Welcome! You owe my sister big-time. I probably never would have shared this with you. It's not that I don't like you, it's just that, well....I'm not sure how you'll react to what I do here.

What are you up to this weekend?

Do you have any letters to write today?

If you're interested in watching the parade, it begins at 10:15am EST TOMORROW. You can watch the live broadcast online HERE.

What I'm Into: October 2016

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

October held a little bit of EVERYTHING. Good news, bad news, visits with friends, more plays, a new phone numbers, and lots and lots of rain. There were a few sunny days and I made the most of each one! On one of them, I bundled up to go for a hike with Abigail. She left for MA on Saturday and I'm going to miss her. I keeping meeting MA people. 

Anyway...It's over now, but this is what I've been into lately!

What I'm Watching

My brother and I have been watching Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell. It's strange, but pretty perfect for fall. We like it!

We had a movie marathon Saturday in October. It was cold and rainy and (most of us) had nowhere to go. My Mom and I kicked things off bright and early with Still Alice. My sister joined about half way through. Then we watched Lady Jane Grey to celebrate the fact that I was done writing up the piece on her. Then, we watched Wildfell Hall. It was LONG and I didn't watch all of it. After that, my brother watched Castaway for school. We had watched it the night before with the kids from his co-op, but he had rehearsal, so he didn't get to watch the movie with them.

We watched The Imitation Game one Sunday evening and while there were some weird/inappropriate parts, it was mostly VERY well done.

Now that we're almost done with JS&MR I was really hoping to find a show to get into, but I haven't yet.

What I'm Reading

At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon  - This was on my summer reading list and it took me FOREVER to get through. After renewing at the library, I finished it just in time for the final "no renews left" due date. I did enjoy it, I just don't think I was in the mood for THAT kind of book.

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner - After my Mitford slump, this was the perfect book to shake things up. In fact, it's THE best book I've read in a while. If you haven't read it, don't wait. There's a reason why everyone was talking about this book when it was published. It's a story full of characters and wisdom that will stay with you for a while. I also read these books.

When I wrote this post, I was reading "Mansfield Park" by Jane Austen for the FIRST time ever. I really enjoyed it! I like Fanny even though I'm pretty sure we're not supposed to. I couldn't figure Edmund out. I kept wondering if he was friend or foe.

In the Kitchen

My "special" tea. One cup of piping hot Lipton black tea, 1 tsp. honey, 1 tsp. lemon juice (I use the bottled kind by ReaLemon). I woke up with a sore throat back on the 13th and one cup of this chased it right away.

I made Ina Garten's Skillet Lemon Chicken. I love watching Ina make chicken. She uses the flavor combo featured in this recipe to cook chicken any way she can (in the oven, in a skillet, on the grill...), making it made me feel fancy. It's effortless and I think it will make a great company dinner. I paired it with mashed potatoes and fresh green beans (I boiled them just until they were tender and then sauted them in butter and some garlic powder, I prefer the powder because of the texture that it creates as it sticks to the green beans).

I also made biscuits and gravy, german sausage with funeral potatoes, a loaf of cinnamon raisin quick bread, beef stroganof, and my favorite crock pot pork chop dinner. One night, things got desperate and I made a black bean "taco" salad which involved the dregs of the tortillas chip bag. I took a turkey breast from the freezer and turned it into three meals (chicken alfredo, chicken enchiladas, and chicken pot pie soup). It was good to do so much cooking again, even if I did go nearly crazy trying to come up with meal plans.

My proudest kitchen moment happened when I brined and fixed a really amazing beef brisket following my sister's strict instructions! This four and a half pound beauty fed us WELL for like three or four days. YUM.

I went crazy on the soups in September and then kind of backed off in October....We'll see if I make more of them in November.

It's the wrong season, but I still love these. There are six words hidden in this one.
On the Living Room Floor

We've also been playing more games again. We had Aubry over one day to try out Code Name. It is a TON of fun and seems to be best played with exactly 4 people. Which happens to be perfect.

My sister and I have been playing a lot more Mille Borne again. We also played Monopoly once or twice (we play it for 1 hour and see who is ahead at the end of the hour). She tromps me. She's figured out my strategy.

After the Castaway party we taught our friends to play Empires. That game never gets old! I've got my name alll picked out for the next time I get to play it.

As you can see, October was full. I didn't even mention the rehearsals or the shows that my brother and sister have been at nearly every night. We're here. We're alive. And God gives us many great things to enjoy along the way.

What have you been into lately?

Four October Reads

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

October was a pretty decent month for reading! I didn't read very much, but I really liked everything that I did get to read. How many more times can I say read?

When a month is full of so many good books, I basically HAVE to tell you all about them. So, here are four books with some short reviews for you and yours. These would all make great November reads too.

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner // This was a book club read. We all pretty much loved it. It's the story of two sisters and the lives that intersected with theirs during WWII in England. It's written in three distinct parts that work together to answer every single "and then what happened?" question you may have. I'd never read Meissner before, but you can be sure that you'll be hearing more about her from now on! Her writing is beautiful, clean, and it transports you to another time and place. There's a reason why everyone has been passing this book around. It's GOOOOD.

The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber // Abu-Jaber is a Jordanian American and this is her memoir told through food and recipes. She writes about New York and New Jersey and Jordan and the memories each of those places hold for her and her family. The food is probably pretty foreign to the average American, but it is authentic and the recipes are TOTALLY doable. The beauty of Middle Eastern food is that it's mostly different combinations of the same 10 -15 ingredients. Once you develop a taste for it, there are very few things that you won't enjoy. I adored this book. As soon as I finished it, I recommended it to my aunt and my cousin and tried to get my Mom to read it too. Disclaimer: My Mom is in a bit of a reading slump and she could NOT get into it, so it's not for everyone.

Death by Darjeeling by Laura Childs  // If you're looking for a cozy mystery, THIS is the series for you. I picked it up because of the cover, the number of books in the series on the library shelf, and Childs's note of thanks to Mary Higgins Clark in the front. I expected it to be set in England, but was pleasantly surprised to find that it took place in Charleston, SC (one of my favorite places). You'll get to know Theodosia Browning, the owner of a tea shop in Charleston, and the people that come into her life because of her role as businesswoman. Theo is young (I'm thinking like 32, if I remember correctly) and I kept having to remind myself that she was NOT an elderly woman. She has a dog named Earl Gray and a penchant for getting herself wrapped up murder investigations. I said it was a cozy mystery and it is. There are descriptions of teas (and the occasions on which each one is called for) and the baked goods that are sold in the shop. And...Theo's investigation tactics are not always plausible. BUT. I liked it so much that I immediately went to the library to check out the next one.

Gunpowder Green by Laura Childs  // This is the second installment in Childs's Tea Shop Mystery series. It contained everything that I raved about after reading the first one and even more. In this book, the groundwork had been laid and so the characters came to life a little bit more. The mystery is easier to focus on because you're not having to keep track of a cast of brand new people. In fact, I was able to solve this one on my own by about the midway point. I'll be reading more of this series in the months to come, for sure! Oh, and Childs includes recipes from the book at the very end of each one.

My book club is reading "The Swan House" by Elizabeth Musser this month. Join HERE.

What are you reading right now?

Picture Walk in October

Friday, October 28, 2016

Saturday, October 8th was a GOOD day. It started out rainy and slow. My Mom and I watched "Still Alice" before the house woke up. We paused it while I ran my brother to a rehearsal. By the time I got home, my sister was up and ready to join in on our movie marathon. She wasn't crazy about that movie. Her exact words were, "I think I needed to see the beginning."

After that we watched Lady Jane Grey. Since the same lady who plays Bellatrix was playing Jane, it took some getting used to, but it was pretty well done. I think they MAY have gotten a little tired of me saying where the movie was mixing things up or skipping over important events in Jane's life.

After that, we started watching The Tenet of Wildfell Hall. Just so you don't think we're bums...We had rented these movies from the library and they were allll due. That rainy morning combined with a looming due date were the perfect combination for a movie marathon. We watched SOME of Wildfell Hall and then the rain started to clear up. I was getting stir crazy. For once, my sister had ZERO plans, so I asked her to go for a walk. We bundled up and I stuck my camera into my pocket....

I'm committing a pet peeve (sorry, Amanda)...I can't choose which of these pictures I like best. We'll call them (from top to bottom) 1, 2, 3. Which is your favorite?

These pictures required a bit of strategy. Sometimes I like capturing strangers right along with the scenery, but on this day, I decided not to. It wasn't busy, but it wasn't as dead as these pictures might lead you to believe.

We saw a friendly old man with two dogs who were JUST as friendly as their master. We saw a couple of guys lounging and chatting on the sea wall. I saw one guy sitting on the wall intently looking out onto the lake. Truth be told, there was something "dark" about him, but I envied him. He came down there by himself and sat for however long he wanted to. I wish I was brave enough and bold enough to do that.

We saw a couple of families out trying to take pictures. We saw some boys on their longboards. And then there was the couple that was meandering along the trail right along with us. It's always awkward when you find yourself wandering along at the same pace as someone. Do you speed up? Do you wait for them to speed up? Do you continue your pace even though it means that you're less than 10 steps behind them? I never know what to do in those situations. We passed them and then slowed back down.

It was beautiful and peaceful and refreshing. A sleepy town after a rainy morning really can't be beat. Picture walks with this sweet sister of mine are always in order. We talked and laughed  and caught up on things that we hadn't talked to death yet.

I keep wondering how much more of THIS we're going to have. In this town. Together. During a season where neither one of us is married or has a DIFFERENT family to take care of. This, my friends, is why I'm in no hurry.

Oh...And since the 16th of September, we've been collecting license plates. Normally we just spot them and write them down. We're up to 24 different plates now! My sister recently traveled to Ohio for her friend's wedding, so this one required a quick picture. I'm not sure I've ever seen an Ohio plate around here.

Julie, here are the pictures!!!! It's Friday. But I finally shared them. :)

What's something about your current season that keeps you content with it? 

Do you play the license plate game just for fun?

Good Stuff

Friday, October 14, 2016

October 14, 2014
Pandora made my day with a notification they sent me this morning. You might get a kick out of it too. It said, "The weekend's finally here! Time to turn Sidney Bechet Radio up. Way up." I think I might just do that! What's one of your favorite stations on Pandora?

Today, I've got an all over the place post for you. It's a cross between a currently post, a what I'm into post, and list of things I'm thankful for, and one of my old "from four days" style posts. You've been warned.

We're heading into the weekend with a very real possibility of a major storm heading our way. So far, we've had a fair amount of rain (typical this time of year) and the wind kicked up last night. The wind is NOT our friend. Please be praying for the coastal areas as they are the ones who will likely end up with the most damage if things go as the weather people suspect them to.

That's that. I had my West Coast friends pray for my East Coast friends last week. This week, we're trading places. I am not afraid, but I do know that this is a great opportunity to seek God in prayer.

Aside from that, I'm going into the weekend with some great times behind me too.

Volleyball started back up this last week. I was super rusty (I had like three HORRIBLE bumps and a handful of TERRIBLE serves. I almost never miss a serve.), but I kept at it and by the end of the night I was ALMOST my old self again. I'm excited to play a lot more and hopefully a lot better in the months to come.

I can officially no longer say that I've never been to Panera. My sister and I went there for lunch last Thursday. I had super high expectations and while the food was good (I was silly and didn't get the mac and cheese), it was a little more than I want to spend on soups/salads/sandwiches. I'm convinced that we just didn't order "right", but the jury is still out for me. Any tips?

This week, my friend Abigail and I met up to go hiking. I am soooo excited to live in an area where I can hike again. We did two loops, saw lots of very friendly people, enjoyed a nice long chat, and stopped a time or two to take in the views. She'll be leaving for MA in a few weeks and I'm going to miss her while she's gone. She's the second person I've met from MA now on this other side of the country...Funny how that works.

My sister and I went for a walk recently which kind of turned into a bit of a picture walk. I've got some shots to share and I'm thinking Monday will be the day for that. Hold me to it!!!! We walked and walked with the goal of enjoying some fresh air and the fall foilage.

As I always do this time of year (since my MA days)....I realllllly realllly want to have a Guy Fawkes party. Apple cider, caramel apples, s'mores, and a fire. Wouldn't that be fun? I'd skip out on the effigies (that thoroughly creeped me out) and maybe watch Meet Me In St. Louis instead. I'm sure it won't happen, but it does sound fun. I mean...I wanted to try to have people over for cake some Sunday AFTER my birthday and that still hasn't happened, so let's just be real about this. ;)

Before I sign off for the day, I wanted to share a few links with you:

Today is Amy's birthday!!!! She wrote a post sharing some birthday wisdom. Check it out and wish her a happy birthday!

My friend Emily mentioned my post in her Weekend Reads roundup. I love roundups and being featured in one is always exciting!

Last night I made Ina's Skillet-Roasted Chicken Dinner. If you need a meal that's easy to make, great for company, and will make you feel fancy, this is what you're looking for.

Want to take a ramble around the yard with me? Here's a post from two years ago today.

Do you have any rambles to share with me? 

What's one recipe (an old favorite or a new find) that you've made and loved recently?

Have a great weekend!

The Home Fire

Friday, October 07, 2016

Back in August, I was listening to my Early Jazz station on Pandora when this song came on. I don't know exactly what I was doing, but I have a feeling I was up to my neck in some kind of housework. The message really struck a chord with me.

Armstrong was singing away about how much the home fire means to him. Even the things that are less than desirable all worked together to be his little heaven on earth. He was so happy there that he invited others in to share it with him. In that moment I knew that the work of keeping the home fire burning is a good one.

I don't do it perfectly. I've been at it for so long that I do a lot of the work without even thinking about it. I need to get better at going with the flow. I need to be able to plan ahead in a way that leaves room for a handful of friends to stop by and join in on whatever it is we're eating or doing. My Mom was always so good at making room for my friends and I know that I've done a terrible job at welcoming people in. If I've had time to plan, I'm game, but it's the unplanned that keeps me grumbling growing.

Homemaking hasn't been very popular for a LONG time. People look down on it or feel like it's looked down on. I'm so pleased that it's making a come back. Women are getting excited about cooking and cleaning and gardening and spending the majority of their time tending to the ones they love. It is a full time job and one that's worthy of our praise and devotion.

God gave us these homes to be little churches in our neighborhoods. As we welcome people into our everyday lives, it's our opportunity to share our relationship with each other and with Him. The need to sleep and rest and eat and work are gifts from God to give us ways to connect to one another. 

I may not be a mother or a wife, but I've been given a home fire to tend to and it is one of my greatest joys. I know that my family appreciates it. I know I have so very much to learn. I'm thankful for the reminders - however unexpected they may be - that this life I've been given is a good one. It's easy to turn my eyes to other things. I can truly say that I'm proud of my work and content to continue in it as long as I can.

Whatever we do, people will always have something to say about it. We'll always think there's something "better" or "more important" that we could be doing. This weekend, take some time to think about the work God has given you. Thank Him for it. Ask Him to help you to be glad in it. And, whether you're the keeper of the home fire or not, celebrate the gift that it is!

As for me, I sit here having the furniture dusted, the kitchen tidied, a loaf of this bread baking away in the oven, and the rain coming down outside. I've got Louis providing the soundtrack. And now, I'm off to get some laundry going.

If you're ever in town, inquire. We'll be glad to have you share the home fire!

Currently: October 2016

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

October 5, 2016
I had planned to take a picture of the leaves or the garden or something outside to head up this post, but this morning, as I sat surrounded by notes and books I knew this is the best picture of life right now. I got asked to write a little something on Lady Jane Grey for my church's Reformation celebration coming up at the end of the month, so I'm kind of obsessing over all things Tudor History right now. The main source I used was Faith Cook's book, but as I always do, I went digging and found some fantastic letters as well. This is a period of history that I know so little about. I think I'll be hooked on it long after this writing project is finished.

Aside from that, it's October. The week has been rainy, our front lawn is COVERED in leaves of all shapes and shades, and dinner is my version of my favorite beef roast recipe happening in the crock pot.  Every evening has SOMETHING in it. We continue meeting up with friends to visit and eat and play as often as we can.

Be praying for my Grandma, if you would. She had surgery last week and it hasn't been easy on her! Also, be praying for everyone in Charleston (and other hurricane areas). Matthew chased the slew of cousins that I have in Charleston out of town, but a few of them haven't left yet. Also, Amy has a call to make and a house that needs God's protection.  That storm is in His hands! As for me, I'm currently...

Cheers-ing: My newest historical hero, Lady Jane and my God whose grace led her and sustained her allll the way. Seriously, you guys, her story is not for the faint of heart. It will inspire you and bolster your hope and make you super grateful for those whose lives and labors were used to pave the way for our Christianity.

The cars, my notes, and that Lady Jane writing project. I reallly need to do a full detail on the cars. Organizing notes is something I've adored ever since my elementary school days. And reworking a paper never gets old.

Quiet dreams. It's the time of year when doing "my jobs" is easiest for me. Keeping house is a big job and sometimes I get down on myself about that being "what I do". So, I do the work my hands find to do and I quietly ponder what might be around the bend. It might be more of the same and that's fine by me. It might be something difficult and while that scares me, well, that's why the dreams are QUIET.

Less produce. More junk food. EEEK. I need to learn more about fall produce. I'm excited that sweet potatoes are coming back down! What else should I look for?

This morning, it was my Claude Debussy station on Pandora. It's as close "classical" as I'll probably ever get. I've also had my rainy day playlist on repeat.

And that's that. Happy Wednesday to you all! I'm linking up with Anne and Jacqui.

What are YOU up to?

Fall Reads Handpicked For YOU

Monday, October 03, 2016

When I think of fall reading, I think of books that are older and heavier. These kind of books have to be well written because the themes they center around beg you to slow down and take your time. In fall, the nights are long and the get-togethers are fewer and farther between. The yard work is slowly coming to an end and we are left with more time to get some reading in.

Fall reading is pretty much my favorite, so I've decided to give you a list of books that I couldn't get enough of as I was reading them. Some are short, some are longer, and they each fit into a specific category.

The 10 books that I think YOU should read this fall are:

Historical Fiction

The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy This is one novel that I cannot seem to stop recommending. It, like the other novel I'm stuck on in this category, flashes back and forth between modern day and Civil War days. This one is more mystery than novel. It is sure to keep you guessing.

The House Girl by Tara Conklin A novel that flashes back and forth between modern day New York City and the Underground Railroad days. You get to know two women as you discover the timeless tie that binds them together. 

Literary Fiction

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith  This novel, written in journal form, will satisfy your craving for a well written book that is a story of life as it happens. It's not full of mystery or intrigue and a lot of the time it's just kind of bumbling along. Now, I know that doesn't sound promising, but every now and then that's just the kind of reading we need to do.

The Small Rain by Madeleine L'Engle I've been an L'Engle fan since 6th grade. Imagine my joy when I found this book on my library's website several falls ago! It's the story of a girl named Katherine as she grows up and finds her own place in the world. And it's set in NYC. It's a win all the way around. 


By Searching by Isobel Kuhn Autobiographies are always rewarding and this one is no exception. Kuhn was a Christian woman who had a lot of learning to do. In this short book, she shares some of her wisdom and tells about being a young woman in the 1920s. 

84, Charring Cross Road by Helene Hanff  This is a book  you can read in one sitting! It tells the story of a friendship between a woman in New York and a bookseller in England. The writing draws you in, so be ready to keep reading! Bonus: They made it into a movie starring Anthony Hopkins, so be sure to watch it AFTER you read the book.

Mastering the Art of French Eating by Ann Mah I never blogged about this one, so the link will take you to goodreads instead. This book got me started on my "read a book about France and cooking in November tradition". As you can guess, it's about eating and cooking and traveling around France.  It is a great introduction to that world.


Remember Me by Mary Higgins Clark Another book I've never talked about on the blog before...I've been reading Mary Higgins Clark since 6th grade. I like her mysteries because they are well written, plausible, and always clean. She gets her inspiration from real cases and each story is set in New England which happens to be a part of the country that she is very familiar with. This one is set on Cape Cod and is so good that I've read it several times. 

The Doorbell Rang by Rex Stout My Mom got me hooked on Stout. His mysteries are the kind that make you think if you plan to solve them before you make it to the end. They feature two very likeable characters who will keep you laughing. 

The Cape Cod Mystery by Phoebe Atwood Taylor I can't put my finger on whose writing Taylor's reminds me of, but it's the best kind of likeness. The mystery is good, the setting is rich, and the characters are well crafted. If you've been to the Cape you'll enjoy a book that tells of the Cape as it was and if you haven't, I suspect this one will make you want to a plan a trip very soon. 

Choose a book or two or ten and let me know what you think! I've read and loved each and every one of these books. I'd love nothing more than to chat with all of you about whichever one(s) you choose to pick up!

Which one(s) sound perfect for you?

Is there a book (or ten) that you think I should read this fall?