eight is great

a little get together with a few close friends (blueberry muffins and ice cream for dessert, as per her request) a couple days before and then on her birthday- waking to a house full of decorations, pancakes for breakfast, a trip to the serpentarium, an attempt at bicycle shopping, ice cream for lunch, a movie in the afternoon, and spaghetti & meatballs for dinner.  her favorite gift of all was a quill and ink set from a good buddy.

hello, 8.


winter bits :: snowy days, home days

we had a good, big snow a couple weeks ago.  it was such fun.  we built a snow family (and a little snow unicorn!), there was hot cocoa, snow play, tea, movies, loads of time by the fire, lots of reading Harry Potter together.... we went to some nearby falls and it was such a treat to see them frozen almost solid, with just a trickle of water running below.  last week we had another snowfall- just a couple inches, but it hung around for days.  it has been such a nice change of pace for winter to actually feel like winter this year.


2017 book list

The 2017 book list:
(favorites marked with an *)

Marrow Island, Alexis M. Smith
The Comet Seekers, Helen Sedgwick
Carry On, Warrior, Glennon Doyle Melton
*To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee
The Wonder, Emma Donoghue
*A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman
News of the World, Paulette Jiles
My Antonia, Willa Cather
The Horse Dancer, Jojo Moyes
A Thousand Mornings, Mary Oliver
The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert
The Lost Art of Mixing, Erica Bauermeister
One Plus One, Jojo Moyes
The Housemaid's Daughter, Barbara Mutch
My Grandmother Asked me to Tell You She's Sorry, Fredrik Backman
Ship of Brides, Jojo Moyes
*A Country Road, A Tree, Jo Baker
*The Road, Cormac McCarthy
The Fever Tree, Jennifer McVeigh
Suttree, Cormac McCarty
The Moon is Down, John Steinbeck
*A Piece of the World, Christina Baker Kline
Vitamin N, Richard Louv
Caroline: Little House, Revisited, Sarah Miller
*Before We Were Yours, Lisa Wingate
The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
*Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders
*Beartown, Fredrik Backman
*The Alice Network, Kate Quinn
H is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald
*Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer

Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery (with Claire)
The Poet's Dog, Patricia McLachlan (with Claire)
Little House in Brookfield, Maria D. Wilkes (with Claire)
Little Town at the Crossroads, Maria D. Wilkes (with Claire)
My Side of the Mountain, Jean Craighead George (with Claire)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J.K. Rowling (with Claire)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J.K. Rowling (with Claire)
*Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling (with Claire)


It's possible that I look forward to this annual book list post more than any other.  I love the looking back at previous lists and rereading folks' recommendations.  There's something about it that feels tidy and good and comforting, a long list of books read.  All the stories imagined and characters met- it's like I've got this whole new world of experiences to pull from, even if I merely lived vicariously through the words someone else put to paper.

I've come to find I really like Fredrik Backman's style.  I read three of his books this year (after previously having read zero).  He gets to the point but provides plenty of imagery without being too 'flowery', and I find his work generally "quippy", which I quite appreciate as long as it doesn't involve someone being a real asshole.  I also read three books by Jojo Moyes this year, and liked them all, especially The Horse Dancer and The Ship of Brides.  I'd say I see her books as being somewhat light (in a good way), and a sure bet that I will be entertained for a few days and come away glad that I read them (with the exception of Me Before You, which I loved, but it left me sobbing and feeling pretty bare for a couple days, and The Girl You Left Behind, which was definitely a bit heavier than the other books I've read of hers- the fact that it was her writing blended with a historical fiction made it an easy sell for me and it was one of my favorites from last year).  Sometimes a book moves me so much I find I can't start another one for a bit because I need more time to let it really settle in (The Grapes of Wrath, The Snow Child, Poisonwood Bible, All the Light We Cannot See, To the Bright Edge of the World, and How Yoga Works, to name a few).  I can't say I really felt that way about any of the books I read this year, though there certainly were several books that I really loved.  I suppose, actually, that I felt that way after reading The Road, but that may have been more a feeling of being disturbed than generally moved, if that makes sense.  Some I found very intriguing and original even though I wouldn't call them favorites- The Comet Seekers, The Wonder, The God of Small Things.  The Signature of All Things is one that I had tried to read last year and just couldn't get into.  I stuck with it this time and have to say I eventually got hooked in and then lost myself in a world of travel and mosses and sad love stories but it took a solid 100 or so pages to get me feeling like I really cared about what was going on.  From there on, I really loved it- but I feel like to put a little star next to a book I need to not feel so 'meh' about the first 100 pages.

The Road really got to me.  Oooph.  It is so intense and horrific and so unlike the books I usually read.  I felt gutted by it, and yet still it was a favorite, for sure.  I just loved the writing.  It was raw and sparse but somehow just beautiful.  I loved his writing so much that I went and checked out Suttree pretty immediately after but gosh that was different.  I felt like I slogged through that one.  Still, I'm looking forward to reading more Cormac McCarthy.

The Alice Network was right up my alley- historical fiction about strong women in German-occupied France during (mostly) WWII.  Parts of it reminded me of The Nightingale, which was one of my favorites from last year.

Lincoln in the Bardo was such an interesting read.  I've never read anything like it.  It took me a bit to settle in and get a clear picture of what on Earth was going on but once I was in I was so glad I stuck around- it is so entertaining and vividly described.  It is essentially one evening in the life of Abraham Lincoln (the night his son dies) narrated by a whole host of 'ghosts' that are stuck in this purgatory-like existence and are watching the goings on.  I found it to be a really quick read.  It is wild and different and........ well, I liked it a lot.

Braiding Sweetgrass is..... well, it's just gorgeous.  From the book jacket: "...she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers....to show that the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgement and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world."  Really, it is just beautiful.  It is science and folklore and indigenous wisdom, and the secret lives of plants all mixed up in this perfect little package.

As you can see- we've entered the world of Harry Potter.  It's a family affair- I read chapters aloud on the evenings papa isn't at the fire department, that way we all know what's going on.  We're about 150 pages into book 4 now, and once we finish it we plan to hold there for a good long while.  No need to rush her little self into too dark a world just yet, I figure.  She can go back and reread the others if she wishes.

And I suppose that's that.  Of course there were nonfiction reads too- mostly about the AIP (autoimmune paleo) diet, general wellness, gardening, homesteading this and that, etc.  Oh there was a beautiful book called Cabin Porn (NOT porn) that was full of gorgeous images of interesting dwellings and stories about the folks who built and lived in them.  Such eye candy.

I started making these lists in 2013 after being inspired by a friend to do so.  If you're interested in reading previous lists, you can follow the links below:


Also, as always, I'd LOVE to hear what your favorites were, and heartily encourage the sharing of book recommendations and reviews.  Cheers!


winter bits :: making merry- the in between

The week between Christmas and New Year's Day is, as far as I'm concerned, best taken at a snail's pace.  Nowhere to go, nothing big on the agenda.  Just a whole lot of fireside reading and tea drinking,  puzzles, catching up (sort of) on the newspaper, playing board games (Clue!), a whole lot of movie watching, and, new to us, setting up and engineering a very old train set.  There were some great family and friend visits as well, but really we just sort of hunkered down.  Papa worked New Year's Eve and so she and I just had a simple little 'hurrah!' hours early and then went to bed.  We talked ever so briefly about the idea of setting intentions for the year ahead and when I asked her if there was anything she'd like to do more or less of in the coming year, she told me she'd like to drink more water and volunteer more with a local nonprofit called Bounty and Soul, which we have been aiming to volunteer with weekly for the last couple months.  They provide fresh produce (along with free yoga classes, recipes, nutrition education, etc) to families in need and have been working hard to make a dent in the food insecurity in our county.  I told her I thought both of those things sounded great.

I've yet to give much thought to any intentions of my own for the coming year. Well, I am aiming to hydrate more and commit to stretching/doing yoga for at least a brief period each day, and so far so good on both counts.  Beyond that though, I don't know.  I'm not really a 'pick a word for the year' kinda gal.  I think it's a nice idea and all, but I think it's just that, at this point, I feel like I know.  I already know what I want to work on and do more of and bring into my life.  I already know what doesn't serve me and what I'd like to let go of.  I am becoming more and more familiar with what my 'work' in life is, both in terms of honing my character just so and also simply accepting myself where I'm at.  I suppose I just no longer want to make lofty resolutions.  But I can hang with 'drink more water' and 'move more'.  Reckon I'd like to write more letters as well.  It's the little things, right? (but speaking of writing down thoughts on how to approach the coming year and such, here's something real pretty that a friend of mine wrote)

New Year's Day we made the traditional southern meal of black eyed peas and collard greens, with collards picked right from our (very cold) backyard.  As it has in so many places lately, it has been really, really cold here.  Highs steadily below freezing, lows in the single digits, and wind chill even lower.  The wood stove is a very hungry beast these days, and we're watching as the wood pile dwindles steadily (so thankful for the big stockpile of wood papa prepared for us earlier this year!).

Happy 2018 to you and yours.  Wishing you a year of health and happiness and goodness all around.


winter bits :: making merry, part three- solstice and christmas cheer

One of my favorite traditions during the holidays is our solstice evening candlelit dinner followed by a fire.  A few years ago it included dear friends who were visiting from out of town and we morphed Claire's birthday ring into a menorah so as to celebrate Hannukah with them and we had the merriest and most joyous of dinners. It was fun and silly and included spontaneous guitar accompaniment to Claire's dance moves around the table, as well as plenty of food and drink and good cheer.  Last year our solstice dinner included dear friends here in town who have become family to us- I feel like we are aunts and uncles to each other's children, and siblings to one another.  At the start of the meal the kids joined hands and we big folk circled hands around them and we said our little meal time blessing: "thank you for the wind and rain, the sun and pleasant weather, thank you for this, our food, and that we are together".  Something about our two circles and the sparkly candlelit magic of the night moved me to tears.  We had all come together to share a traditional holiday meal (as in turkey and cranberry sauce and stuffing and the like) and to celebrate the birthday of one of the kiddos and we decided to combine all to do it on solstice.  So much goodness, there.  So much to celebrate.

This year, it was just the three of us and that was sweet, too.  We enjoyed our meal by candlelight and then moved outside for a fire.  The next day we got together with friends to make treats for the birds and then the day after that we hiked together and added some of the suet and seed pinecones to a little perpetually-decorated hemlock in the woods off one of our local trails.

Following solstice, we decided it was past time to get some holiday baking on, so we made some gingerbread cookies and some almond flour-tahini cookies.  Yum, yum.  Christmas music, sparkly lights, the sweetness of receiving cards from friends and family....... and a whole lot of hunkering down and doing nothing but drinking tea and reading books by the fire.

We visited with my mom several days before Christmas and then had a sweet Christmas Eve visit with my brother and his girlfriend, watched lots of movies, and played lots of Clue.  There was the annual Christmas Eve reading of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' where we are skyped in with loved ones afar and all enjoy the hilarity of technical glitches and time-lapsed reading and such.  Truly, I love it.  My mother-in-law read this story every Christmas Eve to my husband and his siblings when they were growing up and has continued to do so through their adulthood and now she reads it to them (us) and to their (our) children as well.   Claire opted to leave cookies and such out for Santa.  Sometimes she does, sometimes not.  We don't really 'do' Santa, but we play along with whatever she wants to do.  I dutifully crunched the carrot and drank the coconut milk and nibbles the cookies and then scratched a thank you in charcoal on her little note.  Unlike when she asked me point blank about the tooth fairy (she asked if I did it, I asked what she thought, and she said, pointedly, "I think I don't want to be tricked by grownups"- well, that was that and I said yes, it was me. she still sometimes keeps her teeth and sometimes leaves them out- but she doesn't ask me anymore.  it's more fun playing at it sometimes, you know?) she didn't really bring up the cookie tray the following morning.

We enjoyed a slow and easy Christmas morning, pulling goodies out of stockings (or, rain boots for papa and I since our stockings got wet and moldy following a snow globe bust sometime while they were stored in a bin), opening a few gifts each and snacking and drinking hot drinks.  We visited my dad in the afternoon and then came home for a lovely and simple dinner.  Watched movies.  And then had friends (the same friends who joined in our solstice/holiday/birthday celebration dinner last year) over for drinks and snacks and fun.  The kids all played, the piano was plinked and plonked, the birthday girl snapped photos of the evening with her new camera.  The brother, brother's girlfriend, and father of one of our friends was in town and they came along too and it was all so merry and good.

cheers to you and yours~