Thursday, January 22, 2015

January is for Home


There is something I love about January, despite the darkness and the cold weather. I love that it is, ideally, a month for being at home. Everyone is worn out from Christmas, the days are short, and no one wants to go anywhere. The weather might even cause an enforced stay at home. Yes! This is just what I want.

I want a place to rest and rejuvenate for the year that will only get busier and busier from here on out. I want a private hibernation filled with hot drinks, piles of inviting books, a fire in the fireplace, and some knitting by my side. I actually want winter.

Of course my hopes are always higher than my realizations, especially as my kids get older and their lives require more running around. And this year the weather is not cooperating! Fifty-two degrees Fahrenheit this week! What is going on? I need my snowed-in-for-a-week weather.

Here are some of the ways I love to celebrate "home" in the winter:

Hot Drinks -- Of course there is tea, but there is also coffee, hot chocolate, spiced cider, and, no doubt, all sorts of other concoctions you could discover and make. Part of the fun is how these are taken -- on a tea tray with china or a fun tea cozy, by the fireside, how about out of doors? You can add some excitement to your winter by finding a few new drinks to enjoy.

Home -- I recently read Charlotte Moss' "Winter House" in which she advocates adding a few decorating touches to your home just for winter -- turning it into a sort of retreat. Of course she had the privilege of actually buying and creating a winter house just for winter. Nevertheless, she realizes not all of us can do that. But, we all can give our homes a little attention, bringing out cozy blankets, adding a candle here and there, rearranging furniture to suit a more cozy atmosphere. Here are some decorating books to consider:

Winter House -- I admit that Moss' choice of colors and decorations were not all my style. But, I still loved this book. Perhaps it's because books are an instant vacation for me and while I was reading this I was miles away in Moss' Aspen house reaping the benefits of a winter retreat without having to pay for one myself.

  Novel Interiors: Living in Enchanted Rooms Inspired by Literature by Lisa Giramonti is the book I am in the middle of now. Oh this is right up my alley (or shall we say "cottage lane"). Novel Interiors is a decorating book arranged around our favorite novels with chapters such as "Shall I Put the Kettle On?" (think Dickens, Austen, Gaskell), "Remembrance of Things Past" (think Wharton, Waugh, James), and "Oh, the Glamour of It All" (think Fitzgerald, Maugham, Nichols). Giramonti includes quotes from all these novels interspersed among the lovely photographs of homes that suit the atmosphere of these books. And, there is a wonderful annotated bibliography of novels at the back (a perfect reading list!).

Dreaming -- winter is the perfect time to dream about the months and year ahead. Start a diary or journal, jot down ideas, or just muse in your head. It's time to just think and not do!!!!

Food -- winter is the time for soups, roasted vegetables, pot roasts, and hearty comfort food. I enjoy checking food books out of the library as well as finding new ideas online or in magazines.

Books -- reading is the best past-time in the winter, especially when you can spend hours sitting in a cozy stuffed chair with your feet close to a fire and plenty of tea or coffee by your side (you can probably tell I'm dreaming here). Do you have a favorite winter book? Mine would be Winter Holiday (Swallows & Amazons),  The Long Winter (Little House), and  The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia, Book 2).

Correspondence -- since it is harder to see people in the winter because of bad weather and poor travel conditions it makes it the perfect time to hibernate at home. And, the perfect time to write a few real letters for a change! You may have heard me mention the book quote letter exchange I participate in throughout the year. Once a month I am sent the name and address of someone around the world and I send them a little note or card with some quotes my current reads. I also get one in return from someone else. It's lots of fun and not too big of a time commitment. In case you are interested, our organizer has just put out a call for new members! Check out the blog post here.

Handwork -- and how can we forget knitting, crochet, or sewing (or whatever art form you most enjoy)? For many people, winter is the only time of the year where they get time to enjoy this hobby. I can't believe how many online groups there are for these activities (Ravelry especially), and how many people are making podcasts that you can sit and watch. There is inspiration to be found everywhere!

Now we don't want to get ourselves so busy with all these delights of winter that we defeat the purpose of resting and rejuvenating! On the other hand, for many of us, it is a necessity that we work hard to shake the winter blues that so easily stretch out their icy hands and pull us down if we aren't vigilant.

As with any season, we must set aside the things that aren't and focus our enjoyment on the things that are! Happy January to you all!


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Monday, January 19, 2015

Mondays are for Grace


True contentment is the power of getting out of any situation
all that there is in it."

-- G. K. Chesterton

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Words and Wool

My Ballyshannon Cardigan is coming along very well! I'm very pleased with how the design is working out and am pretty sure the size is going to work!! There is still a LOT of knitting to go so I'm telling myself to sit back and enjoy it.


As for reading, what time of the year is better suited for this past-time than winter!!

I just posted my Favorite Books of 2014 here.

I have a number of books to post about but I'm making myself wait until I've finished them! Here are some recent reads:

Your Future 'Other Half': It matters whom you marry by Rebecca VanDoodewaard is an absolute must-read for any girl of dating age. This is a short, well-worded, full-of-wisdom paperback that is aimed at college girls but I think is appropriate for high school because that is when girls are really forming their first serious ideas about dating and marriage (read it yourself first to be sure). Rebecca explores how your future mate could effect you emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically, etc. and implores you to take great care in your choice. And she doesn't leave girls off the hook -- she ends with some soul-searching questions about how you can have a positive or negative affect on your mate.

Letters on an Elk Hunt by a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart is the sequel to the Letters of a Woman Homesteader that I recently read. As always, Stewart is witty, informative, and very entertaining. She takes the reader with her on a several-month journey to hunt for elk meat in the wilderness. I only wish she had written ten books!

  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo is, apparently, a very popular book right now. Kondo has some good advice on purging your possessions and tidying up your life. I felt that what she had to say could have been said in a few short chapters but the book is easy to skim. Her methods boil down to keeping only those things that "bring you great joy" and making sure you have a place for everything to be kept. Kondo brings her religious beliefs into the book but these can be sifted out, or, for me, when she urged thanking objects for their usefulness in one's life, I figured it would be easy to switch the focus and give thanks to God for allowing me to have these objects and for how they have benefitted my life today. I wouldn't say this is an all-time favorite cleaning up book for me but I certainly took a few good and useful things away with me!

A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers by D. A. Carson is the book our Bible study group went through this fall. Carson's thesis is that our greatest need as Christians is to know God and know His love for us and prayer is one of the ways this is accomplished. Carson walked us through numerous prayers from the Pauline epistles and the lessons he brought out were very helpful and definitely motivating toward prayer. The style of the book isn't the easiest reading but we all agreed that having it as a discussion book enabled us all to get more out of it.

The Sweep's Boy (My Story) by Jim Eldridge was read in school last week. We are studying Victorian England and this was perfect since it is set in 1870 in London. It is a page-turner telling of the life of an orphan who becomes a chimney sweep and is then forced into burglary. We all loved it and couldn't wait to read the next chapter.

That's all for now! You can find more ideas on knitting/crochet and reading at Ginny's Yarn-Along.

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Mondays are for Grace


"Grace grows best in winter."

-- Samuel Rutherford in a letter to Lady Culross, December 30, 1636

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Favorite Books of 2014

I thought I would look through my notes and pull out my favorite books from the last year. I was aiming for ten but when the list only included eight and there were no fiction in that list I went through again and that resulted in this current list. 
Families Where Grace Is in Place: Building a Home Free of Manipulation, Legalism, and Shame by Jeff VanVonderen was so extremely applicable to me, my past, and thus my current life that I already see from my notes that I need to read this again - actually I need to own this.


Scribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creativity by Michael Card. I read a lot of books on art, creativity, and the Christian worldview. Card does such a beautiful job of showing artists how important art is and what a gift it is to be able to celebrate creativity, beginning with the creativity of Christ.

Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now by Walter Brueggemann writes in a brief but profound way about making the Sabbath (the Christian Sabbath being Sunday) a way of resisting modern culture's focus on competition, one-upping, getting ahead, etc.

True Woman 101: Divine Design: An Eight-Week Study on Biblical Womanhood (True Woman) by Mary Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss was a very well written study on what the Bible says about womanhood and how does that play out in our culture today. There are accompanying free videos that go with it online and I appreciate that she had women participate from all walks of life and all personality types. This was a very well-grounded study.

Grace Filled Marriage: The Missing Piece, the Place to Start by Dr. Tim Kimmel was a marriage book that emphasized giving your partner grace -- learning to appropriately overlook, forgive, choose to think the best about your spouse.

Eyes Wide Open: Enjoying God in Everything Eyes Wide Open: Enjoying God in Everything by Steve DeWitt is probably the best book on art, beauty, and the Christian worldview that I have ever read.

Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie may just be the most life-changing book I read this past year. I had a tricky childhood and that has resulted in some very predictable behaviors which this book explains in such easy-to-understand ways. Not only that but the author so clearly shows how these behaviors can be changed and overcome.

Letters of a Woman Homesteader (Dover Books on Americana) by Elinore Pruitt Stewart was such a fun, easy, delightful, non-fiction read written by a true woman homesteader who lived in Montana 100 years ago. Her adventures are amazing and she is so gifted with how she describes her life. This is a page-turner.


Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys by Stephen James and David Thomas is definitely the best book I've read on raising boys. In fact, I read it early in the year and have just now ordered it from the library to peruse again. The book is broken down into age-groups so you can look up what stage your boy is in and see just how they might be behaving and what their greatest needs at that age are.

A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily Freeman. Another excellent book on art and creativity and the Christian.

Longbourn by Jo Baker is probably my favorite historical fiction from this year. It imagines the life at Jane Austen's "Bennet Household" from the perspective of a servant. Very well done.

Time for Tea: Tea and Conversation with Thirteen English Women by Michele Rivers was such a fun book even if it is a decade or two old now. I loved reading about the lives and tea rituals of these women, each unique and beautiful in their own way. I would love to write a book like this!

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel by Rachel Joyce was definitely a favorite paperback from the year. It chronicles the long-distance walk of Harold Fry from the south to the north of England and how his life changes along the way.

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear was my best fiction discovery of the year. I do love this series, set during and after World War 1 in England and always involving a mystery.

And that's it for now! Of course I am still surrounded by stacks and stacks of books I'm reading or planning to read... I am so thankful for this delightful hobby and the library system that makes so much of it possible!

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