What I Read in Winter (2019)

It’s Spring, it’s spring! Well…the calendar says it’s spring. There are leaves on trees, dogwoods blooming out in the woods, azalea blossoms everywhere, and pine pollen putting a fine, yellow dust on everything. Cue Coldplay’s “Yellow!” Because it is all yellow.

I ended the winter season in bed, despite all my vitamin D taking ways. Last Thursday I woke up with a slight sore throat but thought I was fine, and by later afternoon I was down for the count. Fever, chills, aches, a throat made of fire…great fun. But minor compared to the flu of February, 2018, so that’s an improvement. This illness I call The Putrid Throat (thanks, Poldark) only lasted a couple of days, and I was given the gracious gift by my husband of spending those two days in bed. He even kept the homeschooling going on Friday so we didn’t lose a day. I should make that guy a steak dinner. [And if you’re a parent and you’re hating me right now for getting to stay in bed while sick, I know. I hate me, too. There here have been many times when bed was not an option during an illness for me, and there probably will be many times like that in the future. I salute all of you fighting illnesses in the thick of parenting through busy work schedules, single-parenthood, taxi-ing children with hot tea and theraflu by your side, and travel.]

Ending up in bed for two days means I started and finished several books. These, on top of another stack I read, make up my “Books I Read This Winter” list.


The Bear and the Nightingale, Katherine Arden – This was a very compelling and beautifully written but dark book, set in rural Russia at the end of the medieval period. The Russians held many beliefs about household spirits, similar to the light-hearted treatment of the Scandinavian “Tomten” that guards the house and gave favor to it if the house is well cared for, or the Irish Faeries that look favorably upon a household if milk is left out for them. However, the Russian household spirits were numerous and called “demons” so that definitely adds a darker feel to the whole thing. Katherine Arden lived in Russia and studied their history and culture deeply, and her immersion is reflected well in this seamless and fascinating novel. This is part fairy tale, part historical novel, and does require you to suspend all reality and accept it for fantastical, or you will probably hate it. I loved it, however, and couldn’t put it down.

Bel Lamington, Fletcher’s Inn, and The Blue Sapphire, by D.E. Stevenson. I believe I’ve written ad nauseum about how I adore this author’s work, so I’ll not elaborate here, except to say I liked Bel Lamington, thought Fletcher’s Inn a rather weak sequel, and really enjoyed The Blue Sapphire. I wouldn’t put any of these at the top of your D.E. Stevenson list if you’ve never read her work. Start with Miss Buncle’s Book or Listening Valley or Mrs. Tim of the Regiment.

Where the Forest Meets the Stars , Glendy Venderah- Whew, this book was a page turner! It reminded me a lot of Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder, as far as atmospheric setting and some similar content, but was more personable when it came to characters and fast paced. Some hard, real life things came up in this book, and the characters’ values are certainly not my own life values. I’d give it a solid PG-13 rating (and it does, in fact, read like a movie in my opinion), but I really enjoyed it.

Becoming Mrs. Lewis, Patti Callahan – I had no intention of reading this novel of the relationship between Joy Gresham and C.S. Lewis when I first heard of it. It felt like sacrilege to touch these real people and their relationship with fiction! Then I heard Mrs. Lewis’s son Douglas Gresham talk about the book in an interview. He said that he had become friends with Patti Callahan during the writing of this book, that he really liked the book, that he found it more true to life than many other accounts of Joy Gresham, and that he thought it was a well-written and delightful novel…well, gee, he convinced me. I decided to read it. And I fully agree with him, it’s a great book! I highly recommend it, especially if you’re a Lewis fan.


Becoming, Michelle Obama – I think Michelle Obama’s memoir was an important book for me to read. Through reading it, I got to know the former first lady and former president as people instead of merely as political figures. Their backgrounds shaped so much of what they cared about in politics, and that was good for me to understand where they’re coming from, whether I agree with them on all the issues or not. It was eye opening in many ways, and I really enjoyed learning about Michelle Obama’s background and her journey from a lower-income Chicago neighborhood to the White House. I think my husband got tired of me interrupting his own reading to say, “Did you know that…..” so many times. Michelle Obama has a great writing style, and a kind tone towards all people in her book.

Book Girl, Sarah Clarkson – Several times as I read Sarah Clarkson’s memoir about the way books have shaped her life, I felt like I was reading my own story. Almost all of the same books that impacted her are the ones that have impacted me, from childhood to adulthood. She is more eloquent than I am, however, when it comes to explaining the deep effect these books have had on her. I can highly recommend her book and all of her book recommendations in it. There were some she recommends in her booklists and friend’s booklists that I haven’t read yet, and knowing our book tastes are almost exactly the same, I’m moving them to the top of my reading list.

The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy, and Women’s Work, Kathleen Norris – I didn’t love this book as much as I expected to, but I’m still glad I read it. It was thought provoking and a good reminder of the beauty and call to worship that is available in our everyday lives. Norris has a friendly, thoughtful tone and unique insights. However, this book remains cerebral and somewhat academic. It is not dry or lifeless, but it is very inwardly focused and you can tell it is written by a person who has led a life spent in times of long quiet and contemplation. Norris did not have children, and I have four, so my homelife is very different from hers. Several times I found myself thinking “but I have children around all the time!” as I read her work. Still, it was definitely worth reading and possibly re-reading in the future.

The Private World of Tasha Tudor, Tasha Tudor and Richard Brown – I have always loved Tudor’s illustrations, and reading about the life she cultivated in an old house using many antique things just because she delighted in

Image result for tasha tudor

that was fascinating and inspiring. I don’t plan to start wearing long dresses and dipping candles, but embracing simpler living and building beauty into everyday life, along with a deeper connection to nature in daily routine, definitely appeals to me. Her words quoted throughout are full of wit and good sense. The photos are beautiful, as well! I sat down with this book on a cold Sunday afternoon and read through it in a pleasant hour.

House of Dreams: The Life of L.M. Montgomery, Liz Rosenberg – L.M. Montgomery’s books are up there with The Chronicles of Narnia as my favorite books of all time (if I’m forced to choose!). I’ve skimmed through a few biographies of Montgomery’s life, but have never found a satisfactory account of her outer life and inner life (think journals plus facts) combined until now. Rosenberg’s tone and writing style are just perfect for taking readers through the ups and downs of Montgomery’s life without sinking into melodrama. She writes about Montgomery with admiration and respect, but keeps her tone light and not overly passionate, as some biographers can be. House of Dreams is easy and enjoyable to read, suitable for young adults, and well researched. Also, Julie Morstad’s illustrations make me slightly giddy with their perfection.

Read Alouds

The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster – We all laughed a lot in this book, but especially Ella (9), who understood the word play. Isaac (7) liked the story, but much of it was over his head. Since reading it, we’ve talked many times about how Milo, the main character, went from bored and in a hurry for no reason at the beginning of the book to curious and interested in everything by the end, and how much more he enjoyed life after his adventure.

Caddie Woodlawn, Carol Ryrie Brink – Oh, this book. As I read this aloud to my kids, I remembered over and over again why it has kept a strong hold on my heart all these years. It’s such a perfect book – a mix of danger and adventure, complex yet lovable characters, compelling history, and relationships between family, friends, and neighbors. I choked up so many times reading it, and it’s not even particularly sad, it’s just that powerful. Brink is one of those amazing writers who doesn’t have to explain what the characters are feeling, but conveys deep emotions just the same. And let me tell you how much my kids loved it: after we finished it together, they immediately got the audio book from the library and began it over again. I call that a hit. Violet (4.5 going on 10) says it’s her new favorite. (Caveat: she has said that about The Secret Garden, The Boxcar Children, Pippi Longstockings, and many other books…she is a story lover to her core).

The Railway Children, E. Nesbit – We’re halfway through this one and we look forward to reading a chapter of it every day. I have to confess, I have never read E. Nesbit, as a child or grown up. This is a terrible, horrific oversight and 2019 will see a complete remedy of it. I’m thinking about watching the movie adaptation of The Railway Children when we’re done reading the book. Ideas on which version is best are appreciated!

And that wraps up the books that saw us through Winter, 2019! Of course, we read many, many picture books with the little two as well, but that’s another post for another time. I hope your winter was a good one and that spring treats you well and brings lots of sunshine and great books your way. Happy reading!

Everyday Life

What’s Saving My Life, Winter 2019

We’re halfway through Winter! (Spring, please come early). Bloggers around the web are gathering to ask the question “What’s saving your life right now?” What we really mean is what are the little things making winter bearable and even enjoyable? I’m joining in the fun to share what small things are making this season a good one, even to this Summer Lover. To join the fun, click over to Modern Mrs. Darcy.

The winter woods outside my window.

In my previous What’s Saving My life posts (here and here), the items on my lists were various odds and ends I’d discovered, like my Blendtec or Grapefruit face wash. This time, many of the items on my list have been recommended to me by friends, so I guess I should say above all these things, friendship is saving my life this winter. But let’s get down to the nitty gritty, as Nacho Libre would say.

Things Saving My Life – Winter 2019

Vitamin D – Why have I waited so long to take Vitamin D? I feel so much brighter than I usually do in January, in body and in spirits. And my whole family got terrible colds to start January off and I didn’t. Hmm. It’s only $15 for a year’s supply, so it sure seems like it’s worth a shot! (Shout out to Sara for telling me to get this!)


Elizabeth Goudge + D.E. Stevenson + Elizabeth Cadell + Rumer Godden – I’ve fallen so deeply into novels written in the mid-20th century this winter. There is a strength of character and theme in the books from this time period that I can’t get enough of. I’ve never read Elizabeth Goudge and Rumer Godden before last November, and I could say “Where have you been all my life?” but I’m too thrilled to find new-to-me writers so profound, beautiful, and readable. I’ve tried several times to pull myself out of my antique reading habits by picking up new releases, but it’s been futile. New releases feel hyperactive compared to the calm security I find in these four authors. I’m firmly entrenched in the mid-20th century for now (with the exception of two upcoming bookclub picks! Maybe they’ll save me from the spiral back in time…).

Kindle Unlimited – Amazon is running a deal for three months of Kindle Unlimited for $0.99. I love it so much. It’s partly to blame for my vintage book vortex, as they have a bunch of D.E. Stevenson books. It’s been a very cozy winter in my reading world, thanks to Kindle Unlimited. They have new releases as well, and the deal is still available if you go here. I’ve set myself a reminder to cancel it after 3 months because I can’t justify spending $10 a month when I have access to such great libraries (and I’m in and out of them multiple times a week), but if you aren’t a big library user and you are a big reader, Kindle Unlimited could be your new best friend.

The Whole30 Cookbook, The Whole30, and Food Freedom ForeverYou’ve heard me talk about The Whole30 before. I love it because it truly sets me back on a good path of eating healthfully and mindfully. After

December, who doesn’t need that? (I’m blaming you, four thousand cookies, chocolates, and cakes everywhere I go). This is our 4th Whole30, and while I love it, I can’t keep Whole30-ing all the time. I’m so glad I read Melissa Hartwig Urban’s book Food Freedom Forever. It explains how to make good decisions going forward without guilt about “what’s worth it” for you based on the information you gather in reset diets like The Whole30. Also, I can’t say enough good things about the recipes included in The Whole30 and The Whole30 Cookbook. Whole30 recipes you find online are hit or miss, but these recipes are winners. [Sidenote – Food Freedom Forever is currently free in Kindle Unlimited membership.]

Hoopla – I cancelled Netflix just in time to avoid the Marie Kondo craze. Not really, I had my own tidying frenzy  in 2016. The only regret I have about life without Netflix is how my treadmill life has suffered. It’s difficult to enjoy treadmill workouts without something to watch. Enter, Hoopla! It’s a digital media service through the local library that offers many, many movies, TV shows, audio books, and music albums. There is a limit on how many things you can check out per month (but if you have more than one library card in your family…well, you can check out a good bit. Currently re-watching Season 1 of The Great British Baking Show on the treadmill because it’s the pleasantest thing on TV ever. Also, you can’t raid the pantry while you’re on the treadmill, so it’s the only safe time to watch it. And yes, Hoopla does have a Roku app and can be connected through Chromecast, as well.

Sunday Riley – Talking about skincare can get a little tricky these days, but I hope we can all agree that no one skincare line is right for everyone. Without wanting to rile anyone’s feathers (see what I did there), I have to say that I’m very glad my sister told me about Sunday Riley. I have tried lots of things for my adult acne prone skin, but always the products are too drying, or just don’t work, or are too expensive. This kit has been absolute perfection for me. I love how it uses lots of natural ingredients (though it is not organic or all natural). I should also say that my sister who told me about this is saving my life/face. It’s great to have someone who has similar skin trying out things! Thanks, Emily!

The Lazy Genius – This was my favorite podcast in 2018. I love how Kendra helps me think clearly about the everyday things I deal with that can build up into mental overwhelm. I also love her philosophy of having one “guru” on topics – one voice you consult about various things. For example, your mom might be your cooking guru, your co-worker your travel guru, etc. The Lazy Genius is my “simplify the everyday things” guru.

Stitchfix – I dislike clothes shopping 99% of the time, so Stitchfix is a lifeline. I’ve gotten a box a year over the last three years and every time I’ve kept all the items in it. Possibly it’s because I’m desperate not to have to go shopping and not very opinionated about clothes, but I think the stylists are pretty good at their jobs! I guess you could say Stitchfix is my style guru.

Homemade lotion and lip balm – All store bought body butters and balms pale in comparison to these two very easy recipes. I buy the ingredients from Amazon (mostly the cheaper NOW brand) and use cocoa butter in place of coconut oil because coconut oil irritates my skin (weird, I know). One batch of each of these will last me about four to six months. Trust me, making a batch is way easier than taking my crew (or even just myself) to the store, so not only is it better than what’s in stores, it keeps me out of stores. Win, win. (Notes – the lotion says it’s for varicose veins but really, it’s simply a good basic moisturizing recipe whether you have vein issues or not, and for the lip balm, I leave out the honeysuckle).

Fancy? No. Awesome? Yes.

The Lark Ascending – I listen to this song three or four times a week. It’s a song that seems to tell a story. It puts me in mind of all the pioneers and brave people that have gone before me. The song is always paired in my mind with the painting below since Sarah Clarkson so wisely put them together in an Instagram post. It lifts my spirits and also braces me up to do the good work in front of me while looking for the beauty around me. [P.S. The whole album by Tasmin Little is exquisite.]

The Song of the Lark, Jules Breton

Those are the things lifting my spirits this winter!

For a list of summer favorite things, go here!

Everyday Life

To Fight and Win Against Internet Exhaustion

Hello, from my first blog post of 2019!…on January 28th….but hey, at least it’s still January! So sorry it’s taken so long. I’ve had bit of a mental dilemma when it comes to blogging and the whole internet experience lately. As I reflected on 2018 and planned for 2019, I realized something. I suffer from Internet Exhaustion. Okay, okay, that’s not a real condition. What I really means is I let the internet exhaust me in 2018. I’m a golden child of the information age, and it’s wearing me down. It’s as if having to know all there is to know is part of my core being. That’s why it’s just so tiresome to see article title after article titled “The 12 Books You Can’t Miss This Year” or “The one thing you should be doing to make mornings a breeze” or “These 49 Amazon Products Are LIFE!” Like, really, 49 of them? It’s tiresome because many of us feel like once we’ve seen that headline, we HAVE to know. We have to click on it. We HAVE to know what one thing we’ve been doing wrong when we clean the shower. We have to know the one thing NOT to say to our bosses and ALL the other “one things” because we are responsible, capable adults, and if we don’t know, we might not be capable of being responsible, capable adults….it’s madness. Or at least, that’s how I feel.

I’ve read a bunch of articles about how we’re addicted to these types of, well, articles, because getting new information gives human brains a hit of dopamine. And, apparently, many of us have major FOMO when it comes to information. Combine the Fear of Missing Out with our addiction to the dopamine our brains produce when we learn something new, and we can

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Nom, nom, nom!

let ourselves become internet consuming monsters. Yes, last year I was an information Cookie Monster, cramming all those unhealthy calories in like a cookie addict (especially the delicious looking cookies titled “Six Things You Didn’t Know About Queen Elizabeth’s Nightly Routine”…guiiilty…). And it’s trickled into this year as well. So I have to do something about it!

Maybe you’re feeling like me and you didn’t even realize it. Maybe you and I both never want to know what versions of Avocado Toast we have to make before we’ve really lived. I mean, it’s okay. We’re good. We don’t actually NEEEED to know about the three-step process to eliminating blanket odor. OH no, I didn’t even know that was a thing but maybe all my blankets have it!

See how easy it is? I just made that up. But it didn’t sound too far fetched, did it? We’ve all read articles just that loony before and actually given our thought-space to them. So, right, we’re fine without knowing how to make the sixteen best tomato sauces and how to avoid blanket odor. (Seriously, do not go sniff all your throw blankets right now). We’re good.

But are we? Because that’s what we have to decide. Will I believe I’m fine without knowing all there is to know, or staying current on, well, everything? If I can truly stay healthy and sane and also use the internet, I have to ignore the articles I know are luring me in as a FOMO suffering, info-loving person in the Information Age. It’s like I’m a shopper going in to a store for laundry detergent, but I end up spending an hour weeding through clearance items so I don’t miss a possibly amazing bargain. The internet can be the same — I only meant to spend one minute online checking the weather, but 15 minutes later I’ve learned the best way to organize a home media center and I still don’t know what the weather is going to be like today! I can make a choice every time I go into a store to only go in and get what I need and come right back out…so I should start practicing that way of “shopping” every time I open up a browser, right? Intentional internet usage: that’s the answer! If I went into Target looking for a set of measuring cups and came out with a set of measuring cups and three pages of cute seasonal stickers from the Dollar Spot and a gorgeous green water pitcher that’s going to look great on my open shelf cabinet, I would see that as a failure and be really disappointed in myself. (I’m not judging your Target shopping habits here, by the way, just my own…). I’ve got to change my mindset to be an intentional internet user just as I am an intentional shopper (most of the time). I don’t have time to browse the aisles in TJ Maxx so why in the world do I think I have time to get lost in the aisles of information on the internet?

So intentional internet usage is the plan going forward! And that leads me to this blog I write here. Knowing so much of the content on the internet is draining us more than giving life to us, I don’t always know what the write Tinners Path, Englandhere anymore. The pressure to generate titles like “Fourteen Books You Must Read to Your Kids This Winter” is just yuck. I don’t want to be another voice telling you what you can’t miss. Not to mention that I feel like I really can’t come up with those titles because all I’ve read lately is older books. How does “The Twenty Best Books You Missed From 1951” sound to you? Catchy? I thought not. But anyway, the point is I think I’d like to continue putting up book reviews and sharing other good stuff, but it’s never my intention to be another shouting voice wearing you down and making you feel like there’s one more thing you have to know or do. I hope this spot on the internet is a light, open space, for maybe finding a good read or pointing us to a path of thoughtful and intentional living. With that goal in mind, I think I can keep putting out content out into this amazing and often overwhelming world.  

I hope you don’t deal with Internet Exhaustion at all! But if you do, join me in 2019 to fight in? Let’s be intentional internet users, intelligent but not weary and worn down with information and click bait. I find so much encouragement and good mentorship on the blogs I choose to follow, and I have no intention of throwing the baby out with the bath water, but I aim to finish 2019 in a saner state of mind than I began it with when it comes to the choices I make on what to feed my mind. As always, thanks for choosing this spot on the internet to stop and stay a while! I’m looking forward to sharing more books and life with you. 

With love and good wishes for the coming year,


Quick Lit, Reading, Reviews

Quick Lit -November 2018 – A New, Vintage, and Classic Hodgepodge

Hey friends! It’s a rainy and cold week here which I hate until I remember to call it “reading weather” instead of fall weather and then it’s ten times more bearable. What have you been reading lately? Here are some books I’ve enjoyed in the past couple of months, in no particular order. My list is a hodgepodge of recent releases, vintage novels, and an old classic.  Please jump on over to Modern Mrs. Darcy to see what other book bloggers have enjoyed this month, too! Happy reading!

The Clockmaker’s Daughter – So, so good. If you liked Morton’s other books, you’ll like this one. It is fairly long, but even so I would have taken more about the characters. Warning that there is an element of ghosts in it, but it’s very mild and not scary at all, just completely whimsical and not at all spiritual, in my opinion. I’d rank this one up in Morton’s top three best books, behind The Forgotten Garden and The Secret Keeper.

How to Walk Away – Reads like a Hallmark movie but with better writing and not so neatly wrapped up at the end, thank goodness! I was surprised at how much I related to the main character – you really do feel like you’re in her head, which is not a bad thing in this case. Not prize winning literature, but a nice, light read, if somewhat predictable.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper – I liked the first half, liked the characters, but felt a little weirded out by the end. Still, it was a cheerful read that happened to also be a bit thought provoking. I especially recommend if you like quirky characters.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Speaking of quirky characters…Eleanor is quirky. I was talking to a friend about this book and told her I thought the first three chapters were my least favorite opening chapters of any book I’ve ever started and finished. But I made it through, and I’m glad I did. By the end, I loved everyone in it.  Think A Man From Ove and you’ll be thinking along the right lines for this book, but with a much bigger twist at the end and a younger main character.

Around the World with Auntie Mame – Hilarious if you like books published in the 1950s (which I looove).

The Fledgling – I will read anything by Elizabeth Cadell and I have never been disappointed. This one was actually a bit of a mystery combined with a sort of Little Princess type story. It was lovely.

The Penderwicks – I am waaay behind on this modern classic, but I’m glad I finally read it! My oldest daughter liked it, as well, but the seven-and-under crowd thought it was “dreadful.” I think it’s great for girls ten and up, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some boys like it, too.

The Princess and the Goblin – We all looooved this book! It was a read-aloud for school that we looked forward to every day.  Now I want to read all of George MacDonald’s fantasy books.  Five stars from us all.



Children's Books

Our Favorite Slightly Spooky Books

It’s the week of Halloween, and if you’re like us, you like the dressing up part of the day and the candy part of the day, but not so much the spooky part of the day. I could use a yard sign that says “No Zombies Permitted” right about now. However, if you’re up for just a little dose of spookiness combined with a large dose of silliness in your picture books this week, Mercer Mayer has got you covered. Mayer’s books are the absolute top of the list for us when it comes to fun and funny books with slightly scary subjects. Just go right past the Little Critter books and you’ll find a goldmine.

Bat Girl Pumpkin Courtesy of Ella Harvell

Four-year-old Violet especially loves The Wizard Comes to Town at our house, and all of us are huge fans of the books There’s An Alligator Under My Bed and There’s A Nightmare in My Closet. The reason we like these so much is because Mayer pairs these traditionally scary creatures with spunky human characters in his books who smash the scariness of the creatures by the end of the book with their wit and no-nonsense manner.  Another crowd favorite is You’re The Scaredy-CatIn fact, Mayer has written and illustrated so many fantastic books that are slightly spooky but one-hundred-percent light-hearted and silly, the Mercer Mayer shelf at the library or bookstore is going to be all you need to fuel your reading this week. But if you have a minute, also check out Ben Hatke’s Nobody Likes a Goblin and Julia’s House for Lost Creatures.


Here’s wishing you happy reading and a fun and silly, not-too-spooky week!


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