It's that time of year to start thinking about Christmas reading lists! I thought I'd share a few of our favorites:
Living the Season Well by Jody Collins
I read this book over the weekend and it was the perfect thing to help me start thinking purposefully toward how I want this holiday season to look for our family and how I can intentionally plan less, do less, create less, but focus more on the things that matter like talking with the children about Christ, who He is and what He came to do as well as having time and energy to reach out to those that need the loving hands of a person to communicate God's love tangibly to them.
Jody's book introduces the concept of Advent to those who are unfamiliar with the term and the practices of the traditional church calendar and the season of preparation for Christ's birth that advent is. She also talks about getting a realistic handle on present-giving, decorating, and even eating. The season doesn't have to turn into a super-stressful, chaotic, overwhelming occasion. If we are willing to give up certain things, change our practices, and keep our focus, the season can be lived well.
Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp
I love this book so much! It's one of the ways I can easily keep the younger kids focused on Scripture throughout the month of December. This book is similar to the Jesse Tree project and has a reading for each day of advent, covering the entire story of the Bible throughout the month! We have an ornament we add to our "Jesse Tree" each day after we do our reading.
Becky's Christmas by Tasha Tudor is my favorite children's book and we read it every year, usually as part of my birthday celebration. It shows what the Christmas season is like for a farming family in the early 20th century in New England with handmade gifts and decorations, homemade baked goods, and of course beautiful illustrations by Tasha Tudor.
Lucy & Toms' Christmas by Shirley Hughes
This is my favorite British children's Christmas book. It shows the Christmas season from the perspective of a little girl and boy living in modern England and includes so many of the various Christmas traditions we enjoyed when we lived in the UK.
Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher
This is my favorite adult Christmas novel. Just thinking about it brings cozy feelings and thoughts of sitting by a fire in an old stone house with a snowstorm outside, good company inside, and the propect of many happy days ahead.
Every Valley by Albert Blackwell
Handel's Messiah is something I love to listen to at Christmas -- it's taken from Scripture and the way the Scriptures were sewn together and accompanied by music is just amazing to me. It's like listening to an incredible Bible study and at a very stressful time of year the words and music always soothe my soul.
All that to say, this book is meant to be read during advent with a reading for each day based off of a portion of Handel's Messiah.
The Christmas Stove by Alta Seymour was introduced to us last year by Amy over at Hearth Ridge Reflections. It's a vintage story set in Eastern Europe about two orphan children who must go to live with a grouchy old aunt and how they must earn their keep and celebrate Christmas. It was delightful!
Christmas with Miss Read and other Christmas books from the same author are always welcome at this time of year. Miss Read writes about a little village in England.
Carols of Christmas by Andrew Gant
This is a collection of carol histories. It's always fun and instructive to learn the history behind popular songs.
Sleigh Bells for Windy Foot by Frances Frost
This chapter book for kids is another book that is dear to my heart. Set on a farm in upstate New York in the early 20th century, it is the story of a 12-year old boy and his pony and the adventures he and his family get up to at Christmas-time.
Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet & Allan Ahlberg
The Jolly Postman books are so much fun with their adorable illustrations and the fact that the pages have little pockets with extra parts to the story you can pull out and enjoy! Being from England, how can one go wrong?
Shepherd's Abiding by Jan Karon
This is one of the book's I have on my library list this season. I feel it is hard to find a good Christmas story and I am always on the lookout! I hope someday I have the skill to write one, or more....
And that's it for this Christmas book list! Please note this post contains affiliate links. When you click through to Amazon from my blog I receive a small percentage of whatever you purchase and I appreciate your support!
We relished the two weeks of fall break! The only comfort to starting school at the end of July is a nice long break just when fall is turning beautiful.
This break I decided to take the four younger kids camping. We left our "non-campers" to their own activities and travels and headed west to Turkey Run State Park.
We set up our tents and the boys experimented with making fires.
Of course half the fun of camping is making food outside. Laura took on the dishes.
Some things have changed since I went camping as a child -- for one thing, it seems that 95% of the campers have RV's now! When I was a child it was more like 20%. With the RV's comes all kinds of fancy decorations! Each evening we walked around the campground to see the full-scale halloween paraphernalia that many campers had set up!
I think one of the highlights of camping for me was seeing the beautiful stars again -- just like I remembered as a child. We could even see the Milky Way. Living in suburbia means we don't see many stars. (The photo below is not of the stars -- it's a special tree light several of the campers had.)
We needed fires in the mornings because the temps dipped to 42 degrees at night! Very cold!
Tea and hot chocolate and a good fire make all the difference!
And of course pancakes with real maple syrup!
We spent two mornings hiking the trails at Turkey Run and we were all impressed with what fun and beautiful trails they were!
We put a lot of steps on our feet!!!
One afternoon we headed south to Bridgeton to find out what the "Covered Bridge Festival" was all about.
We quickly discovered it was not for us -- mostly it was food tents and crafts we weren't going to buy.
Things were better back at the camp site where we could read and draw.
And then there was dinner to make.
I loved this tree trunk we saw on one of our hikes! Looks like a raccoon left his footprint!
We tried to imagine historic Indiana where the forests were covered in trees this big.
The trails were so different from where we live and we enjoyed the variety.
We had such fun camping that I think we will make a regular habit of this.
Back at home we started in on chores, doctor appointments, and lunch with Auntie Em and Cousin Olivia!
Everyone needs to get in on the action where Olivia is concerned.
Our fall was so different from the picturesque and perfect season we had last year. However, we still have some color going on.
I can't believe that next year I'll just have these two home with me full-time -- everyone else will be at high school or college!
I've got to enjoy these last few months with Rachel before she heads off to college next summer!
Outdoor fall picnics are lovely -- except for the yellow jackets.
I took some time to go meet my friend's new member of the family: Kip. He's awfully cute and I think will make such a lovely companion!
I read this book over fall break and it was SO good -- tea, favorite authors, Europe, books, librarians, etc.
My mom invited James over to paint one morning -- the entrance to where she stays looked like a magic forest.
Laura got to go out for "tea" at Panera with me one day.
And I took a "day off" by myself to go down to Brown County and visit the T. C. Steele home there. The weather was fantastic and the foliage was beautiful!
T. C. Steele was a famous Indiana artist who was one of the first artists to move to Brown County. He chose a beautiful place to build his home!
Just look at the golden carpet underneath those trees!
Since I've read about T. C. Steele in the past it was even more fun to see his studio in person and a number of his paintings.
And my day off was certainly a gift of beauty:
I loved the tea-scape set up in the Steele's living room, alongside all the books and paintings.
And there was a painting of peonies in the old kitchen!!! PEONIES!! I had to get excited.
I even had some time to sit and sketch the house.
Then I took myself to tea in the touristy town of Nashville. The day had quite the rejuvenating effect. Hopefully enough to last me through the next school term!
Meanwhile the kids were slaving away......not really. They only had to do a few chores a day, and they even earned computer time for it! But we did manage to get the winter clothes out and some good deep cleaning accomplished.
And now we've had several frosts, summer is truly over, and the holidays are fast approaching. There's still beauty everywhere -- it just changes daily.
School is underway and our break is receding into the background but I'm thankful for the new memories we made and the refreshment we enjoyed.