Nonfiction November:Wk 1 A Year in Nonfiction

I am so excited to be participating in Nonfiction November this year! It’s my first time ever and I am looking forward to this challenge. Our first week is hosted by Julz Reads and our prompt for this week is a look back at our year. I haven’t read all that much this year in the way of nonfiction, just a few, so I am going to just post those titles near the end and slide right into my favorite.

Your Year in Nonfiction (Julz of Julz Reads): Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

If you ask anyone who knows me, they could answer what my favorite nonfiction read of the year so far has been. Hands down, it was The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating.

I picked this up right around New Year’s last year, but it sat on my shelf waiting to be read. Then in February, my aunt passed away. This devastated me and left me heartbroken. My aunt was like a second mother to me my whole life, from childhood on. Everything big or important, she was there. Always. And then she wasn’t anymore. As a reader, reading is an escape. But nothing was working – until I picked this book up. It was perfect for me in my grief, quiet, gentle, slow. A tale of a woman dealing with her own debilitating illness and finding hope and peace in the slow movements and life of a common garden snail that lived in a pot by her bed. This book fascinated me and entranced me. I felt hope and peace, in bits and pieces, inspired by Bailey’s story. I talked about this book to anyone who would listen. My friends know far more about snails than they probably should. Then in June, our family faced heartbreak once again, when my stepdad passed away suddenly. My mom had just lost both of her best friends within a few months, her sister and her husband, and for a week she lived with us, casting about for something as well. I gave her this book and while it didn’t make her grief go away, because nothing can but time, it worked its magic on her as well.

My snail love still is going strong. I had snails off and on all summer, hanging out in our terrarium for a bit before I let them go again in the garden. Then right before fall, one came to me, right to my door practically. We decided to keep this snail around for the winter, safe and warm in our house. We have named him Sampson and he loves apples! I imagine that is why he was hanging out at our house, with all of our apples from our apple tree.

This is by far my most recommended nonfiction book so far this year. I have sung its praises far and wide, asked my book club to read it, and extolled its virtues to my family and friends.

When I read nonfiction lately, it is generally nature nonfiction. I love memoirs and John Lewis Stempel, and in November I have a few nature books lined up to read already. But I feel my nonfiction reading is going to take a bit of a turn as well this month, veering off into food. Maybe it is the holiday at the end of the month, but I feel like reading about pie and foodways in addition to my nature reading. Here are the nonfiction books that I have read this year! Reading nonfiction is relatively new for me, and I am really enjoying it.

I am excited to participate, see what other people are loving and reading. There is always more room on that old TBR list after all!

My Sunday-Monday Post!

My Sunday Post is hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date

Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz

Last week was all about getting things back in order after being sick. And book club! This month we went out to a restaurant and it was different but fun! We had two people who couldn’t make it which was a bummer but we still had a good time. We also took an invigorating fall morning hike as a family on Saturday morning which was much needed. It was nice to get back outside and into nature! This week is a crazy one, with Halloween and all that. We also are joining up with the 30 Day Slow Down Childhood Challenge hosted by Wilder Child, and I am starting the Nonfiction November challenge as well. So, lots going on this week that we are looking forward too! Plus, the new moon is Sunday night, so we will be learning about the November full moon with the Kids Moon Club, also hosted by Wilder Child. I am excited about all the new happenings this week!

Read Last Week:

I finished Endless Night, which frankly, felt endless itself. I have just started reading Christie and have loved everything until this one. It was ok, but not great. But everyone has an off day, even the best. I am partway through Tunnel of Bones and I am liking this middle grade book. It has a great premise and I really enjoyed the first in the series as well.

Reading This Week:

The Wicked Deep is on the kindle and ready to go – I just love this cover, and I am looking forward to this read! I think it is perfect for the busy week of Halloween!

Posted Last Week:

A Sunday of Foraging and Gathering

A Few Mini Reviews

What Wyatt’s Reading – October

Bits and Pieces Friday

Watching:

Interior Design Masters on Netflix, Riverdale, Great British Bake Off, and this weekend Sleepy Hollow – both the Disney cartoon (with Wyatt) and the Christina Ricci version. (without Wyatt)

Projects:

We are getting ready to embark on our pie project that I mentioned last week! I think we are going to start with a classic apple pie first. I’m still making my little peg people gnomes, and I think we are going to make leaf bowls as a family tonight or tomorrow.

How about you all? What is going on in your neighborhood?

Bits and Pieces Friday

Sometimes I run into bits and pieces that are not enough for a whole blog post but that I really want to talk about! Sometimes they are purchases, sometimes they are fun stories, and sometimes they are worthy causes. That being said, here is what I loved this week and wanted to share!

One: I first learned about this contest from Marmelade Gypsy, and it brought tears to my eyes. Well, more than tears, I sat here and cried in my coffee over the lovely soul of Judy Winter. Judy had a son nineteen years ago who was born with Cerebral Palsy, like my little guy has. What Judy did though, is amazing. What a fierce advocate and mom for her boy. She and her charity, The Eric RicStar Winter Music Therapy Camp, have been nominated for an amazing prize by L’Oreal and reading her story, she definitely gets my vote. I will be voting everyday! Please read this post by her dear friend to learn more about the Eric RicStar Winter Music Therapy Camp and Judy herself.

Two: Since we are talking about special needs, I see this meme every year in different forms and love sharing it to remind us all to be patient and kind with each other. It has particular meaning for me, as my son has a speech delay and while he is working on his words, will not be able to say Trick or Treat this Halloween. I love Halloween and it’s magic of bringing people together, out and about in a community, and I love the energy and happiness it can bring. I like to keep that going by making all children feel comfortable and also, by not turning away teenagers. Trick or Treating is such an innocent activity for them to be doing, and I love to see them still enjoying it.

Three: Can we talk about this adorable new collection from Boden! All Harry Potter inspired, and I want to buy all of it up for all the kiddos in my life! Wyatt and I just watched Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone the other day and while he was not really all that into it, I am sure he will be one day…. lol. He did really love the Sorting Hat though.

Four: I am always looking around for fun nature crafts to do with Wyatt, to encourage his love of nature, and because play is learning! I loved this post that had so many fun ideas! There are a few here that I think we are definitely going to try!

Five: This article about revillaging. I know I miss the village and community I never had. I don’t believe we were all supposed to be out here without our village and tight community, and it makes me sad that society has moved away from this, and frankly left people on their own a lot. I feel lucky I have close family and my friends are small in numbers but they are my family too. I would step in and take care of their kids if needed, make a meal, just be there for them. My neighborhood is becoming closer too, that kind where you call on your neighbor for sugar or milk and hang out with on nice nights outside. I think America needs to find this quality again, the one where we embrace our community and our neighbors..

And that is it for this week! I hope you enjoyed these little bits and pieces, and don’t forget to vote for Judy Winter, please, if you think her charity should win. All the candidates are worthy as are their charities, but Judy Winter’s is near and dear to my own heart.

What Wyatt’s Reading – October

We have been doing so much reading together! My little guy loves books, always has. I remember reading to him on day two of his life, through the little porthole in the NICU incubator. I was reading The Poky Little Puppy, which had been one of my favorite books when I was a little girl. So perhaps his early introduction to books has paved the way, or maybe he is just like his mother, a reader and book lover. Whatever the reason, I love our days out at the library picking out books, and then taking our bounty home and reading them. This past month or so we have done a lot of reading about fall and Halloween and mushrooms and different sort of “hunts”. It’s been a good month. Here are some of our favorites!

We read some “hunt” books because we were talking about how this month’s full moon was the Hunter Moon. We don’t hunt animals ourselves, but we talked about animals that hunt, and also about different hunts we could do, like mushroom hunts, or rock hunting. We both loved Twilight Hunt a lot! It is not only about a hunt, but also has some great illustrations that have camouflaged animals. It was fun to try to find them together. We also both loved Minerva Louise – she is such a silly curious chicken. She makes us giggle. Wyatt really loved Peppa Pig and also the Runaway Pumpkin – he has a thing right now for farm animals, especially pigs. I particularly loved Rhoda’s Rock Hunt, which is about a little girl who fills her pockets to bursting with rocks she finds. I am buying this one for our library, I think it will be fun to reread next summer when we can get out and explore for rocks easier. Dark Emperor is a book of nature poems for children. This one we read as a family, one poem a night until we were done. We liked it so much that I think it is something we might continue.

A Few Mini Reviews

House of Salt and Sorrows: I loved this moody and atmospheric book! A retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, this was a macabre and maritime version that I really dug. I loved the world that Craig has built here, and it kind of reminded me a little of the Greyjoys from GOT. Lol. It was a great read, although I did figure out the villain pretty easily. I think the characters and the story were really interesting and well done though. A quick read, which might be neat to read near the sea or on a rainy day…

Death of a Ghost: Death of a Ghost is one of the many books in the Hamish Macbeth series. I hadn’t read this one and I love to just pick these cozies up and get to it, especially this time of year. I thought this was a pretty good one, that had poor Hamish running about and being clever all over the place. It was one as well, where you could feel these modern times encroaching on the Highlands – I think some of the other books felt more timeless, but this one is definitely for this era. A good comfort read, and one I needed while I was sick.

The Simple Wild: I adored this read by K.A. Tucker. Calla is a product of her generation, hooked on her selfies, and glued to her phone. She takes great pride in her appearance and style, and loves her fancy coffee. (I do too) Born in Alaska, she left with her mother when she was just a little girl, and doesn’t recall much of her time there. She and her father had a relationship that was strictly through phone calls, until one day she gets a call urging her to visit. Her father is sick and since she is at loose ends anyway, she goes. Little does she realize her whole life is about to change in a big way. I really loved this book and Calla’s eventual transformation. I did wish there were more interactions between her and her father, although the romance was quite nice.

The Dead Girls Club: I was so excited to read this book, and then..it was sort of meh for me. I never could connect to the main character at all- I didn’t find her likable or sympathetic, and in fact I really didn’t like her too much. I felt like the author had some good ideas and good material – I loved the idea of these friends sneaking off to talk about scary things together, the idea of the Red Woman, and the hardships of friendships when we are young. However, for some reason it never came together for me. Overall, good ideas, interesting plot, but the main character never grew on me, and I was never rooting for her.

A Sunday of Foraging and Gathering

After a week of not feeling well, by the time Sunday rolled around I was feeling well enough to get out. And I wanted to. Needed to really. Cooped up for so long at home we all needed to stretch our legs and breathe in some fresh clean air. Greenfield Village is closing for the season in two weeks, and we wanted to get a last trip in before they close. We have had so many fun day trips there this year that we wanted to take a last walk around. And I knew it was decorated for their Halloween event so it was bound to look pretty cool too!

The air was brisk and cool, the day was a bit overcast, but it all added to the moodiness of the moment, with the jack o’lanterns lining the streets as far the eye could see, the hay bales, the spooky scarecrows – we felt like we had entered some sort of creepy children of the corn type town this trip.

We meandered our way over to the gardens, which in the summer time is bursting with blooms and busy bees, little birds darting here and there, and elegant butterflies floating from flower to flower. A garden in fall can be just as beautiful, but I think they are in spite of the lack of life. The beauty is a stark one, a lone candle in the window, if you will. The colors shine so much brighter, mimicking the colors on the trees around. There is glory in the brightness of fall, the last flare before winter.

Billy is naturally an outgoing person, and he and Wyatt strolled around that red house while I poked about in the garden. He ran into a friendly gardener who gave him two seed heads, from a sedum and a blackberry iris. She told him that if saw anything in the garden that we liked that was either off the plant and on the ground, or had gone to seed, we could gather and save for our garden next year! I usually have my seed envelopes with me because I am a nerd so we spent some happy time gathering seeds from flowers that we will plant in the spring. Wyatt enjoyed playing among the rows like a little bunny, some of the flowers taller than him. He is such a sweet kid, smelling the flowers and enjoying time in a garden.

Needless to say we found some things. We harvested seed pods and black walnuts, just a few and left the rest for the squirrels, and nicked a few blooms that had been already been bent practically off by overzealous wildlife, or perhaps other people, or their purses and bags or strollers. We felt so lucky leaving with our bounty!

It was nearing lunchtime so we picked one last spot in the village to visit before heading home – Daggett Farmhouse, my favorite. It makes me think of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and it was so perfect to visit so close to Halloween.

If I could move into the village, this is the house I would pick. I love it so much. The colors, the simplicity, the squareness, the big garden, and the windmill next door. Lol. So very New England. It was built before America was America, this house, can you believe it? We poked around outside and headed inside where the reenactors were sitting down to a lunch of pies and cabbage. It looked delicious honestly. Wyatt really enjoyed the mention of pie – I am pretty sure he is going to dig our month or so of pie making. Or at least the eating of them.

We headed home to our lunch soon after, bowls of warm chicken lemon rice soup, which I think did much magic for our colds. It was a good day!

My Sunday-Monday Post!

My Sunday Post is hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date

Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz

Ugh last week. I am so bummed out when I am sick and I was sick last week. My doctor thought that my asthma issues were a combo of my seasonal allergies with a developing cold/upper respiratory situation. And by Tuesday night, my body proved her right. And we all know how as an adult it is so hard to get the rest and care we need when we are sick! So we keep on trucking! I did take Wednesday “off” as much as I could – while Wyatt was at preschool I decided to not do a thing, and curled up back in my bed and watched a movie on Netflix – the Ted Bundy thing starring Zac Efron. It was really good, if you are into that sort of thing. It starts after he is arrested, so there is no real gore or killing, it focuses more on the trials and his relationship with his then girlfriend Liz. Not really a comfort movie but I had been wanting to watch it but I couldn’t do that with Wyatt around and I was afraid it might be too scary before bed. Lol. I am starting to finally feel better! I think I am going to start my regime of probiotics and honey every day starting now!

Read Last Week:

I started Endless Night and then House of Salt and Sorrows sort of took over. Lol. I have to finish Endless Night by Thursday’s book club so I can’t get distracted again! I really loved House of Salt and Sorrows – the fairy tale of the Twelve Dancing Princesses is one of my favorites (my very favorite is The Wild Swans) so I enjoyed this macabre retelling. I also loved this world by the sea! I also read Death of a Ghost – I love dipping in and out of Hamish’s beloved Lochdubh!

Reading This Week:

I’m going to be finishing up Endless Night then starting these guys. I have been waiting for them both to come in from the library and they have finally arrived.

Posted Last Week:

Book Review: The Vine Witch

A Girl’s Day Out in Midland

Watching:

Extremely Wicked and Shockingly Vile with Zac Efron, Criminal Minds, and we have started the Halloween cartoons for the season! We watched the Curious George Halloween movie, and are going to watch The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown tonight. We are also still watching the GBBO – semi-finals this week, so exciting!

Projects:

We always have different projects going and right now we are working on making peg doll gnomes (I make the gnomes, Billy makes the hats), and we are going to work on our pie making game. Inspired by the GBBO, I am getting my mom to help us throughout the next month or so making different kinds of pies, fruit and savory. I also checked out two books from the library that make my mouth water just flipping through them. I am going to attempt to make a pie for book club on Thursday – cross your fingers for me! I am a much better soup maker than I am baker! Do you have a favorite pie?

What about you? What is going on in your neighborhood?

Book Review: The Vine Witch

Goodreads Summary:

For centuries, the vineyards at Château Renard have depended on the talent of their vine witches, whose spells help create the world-renowned wine of the Chanceaux Valley. Then the skill of divining harvests fell into ruin when sorcière Elena Boureanu was blindsided by a curse. Now, after breaking the spell that confined her to the shallows of a marshland and weakened her magic, Elena is struggling to return to her former life. And the vineyard she was destined to inherit is now in the possession of a handsome stranger.

Vigneron Jean-Paul Martel naively favors science over superstition, and he certainly doesn’t endorse the locals’ belief in witches. But Elena knows a hex when she sees one, and the vineyard is covered in them. To stay on and help the vines recover, she’ll have to hide her true identity, along with her plans for revenge against whoever stole seven winters of her life. And she won’t rest until she can defy the evil powers that are still a threat to herself, Jean-Paul, and the ancient vine-witch legacy in the rolling hills of the Chanceaux Valley. 

My Thoughts:

Oh man did I love this book! I got it from the Amazon First Reads program and I immediately started reading it. And that cover is a thing of beauty!

I love this world that Smith has created – a place of magical realism with witches that help tend the vines that supply the wine, nurture the land with their own brand of magic, watch over the vineyard for curses and spells and add their own magical flavor to the terroir. In this world, bierehexe also exist, doing the same for the beers in the Alps, bakers that create treats that you crave only when you are in love, and other various supernatural elements.

Elena was on her way to being the best, her powers creating amazing wines and flavors for her vineyard, Château Renard, when she is cursed to the swamps for seven long years. This book picks up as the curse is ending, and we join her as she returns to her home and lifes calling. She finds the vineyard changed though, now under new ownership, an owner who is not a believer in magic or vine witches. Jean-Paul believes in science and fact and logic and straight farming, although in this world, that puts him at a disadvantage. He needs a vine witch, his vine witch tied to his land, to help him find the glory he craves as a winemaker. Elena is more than happy to pick up her mantle again, but first she has to convince Jean-Paul. And of course, there is the pesky detail of finding out who exactly cursed her, and how she will get her revenge. Not to mention as well, that there is some sort of criminal running around draining animals of their blood, giving a bad name to the vine witches.

Inevitably, Jean-Paul and Elena fall in love – although this is sort of slow to start and honestly, could have used more development altogether. They have to fight a few battles together, against a few different evils and battles and hurdles. I felt like here is where the book could have used a bit more something. Regardless, I completely loved this book and am looking forward to the Smith’s next one, The Glamourist.

If you like witches, or wine, or both, then you will love this book! I recommend reading paired with a hearty Cabernet, if you are a wine drinker.

A Girl’s Day Out in Midland

Last Saturday a small group of my friends and I took a little trip away, just for the day. Away from our families and responsibilities for a few hours and it was simply perfect, hanging out together, having new adventures, and eating some pretty excellent food.

We do this every year and while usually we head to the West Coast of Michigan, this year we ventured north, to Midland. Most of us had never been there or really ever heard of it, but Jill had been there and said it was cool so, off we went. However, we went without much plan or direction which could have derailed our journey but luck was in our favor and we had an amazing day.

We started our day with coffee from Starbucks for the drive, then ate when we arrived. Tip for visiting Midland – make reservations before you go. We had no clue that we needed reservations for pretty much everything. I guess we were not aware that it was such a hot spot or tourist destination so we were unprepared to walk into Cafe Zinc at 10 am and be told there were no seats until 2pm. We ended up asking to sit at the zinc bar, which worked out perfectly. Three out of four of us ordered these Nutella and Rhubarb compote crepes, which were out of this world. Seriously delicious. We drank and enjoyed our food, and made our plan for the day.

After filling up on food, we shopped downtown, picking up this and that, whatever caught our eye. I am not a big shopper so I ended up leaving with a new blank journal and some special Halloween candy for Billy and Wyatt. Jill bought a few wooden quote signs that were adorable, Chrissy got a little purse and some candy, and Kelly was the winner of the day when she bought a hanging mobile made from a branch with a hundred paper cranes dangling from it. It was very delicate and beautiful hanging from the ceiling. I am excited to see it up in her house!

From here we headed to the Dow Gardens, a place I have been dying to go for months! I ended up waiting in the Forest Cafe while my friends walked around the woods and through the canopy though, since I had just had my big asthma scare the previous day. I still had fun sitting in the cafe drinking coffee and reading my book, with the woods as a view though. And I was able to get the lay of the land for a return trip there with my guys! Everyone told me the gardens and walk were really pretty – but cold!

The timing of the end of their walk coincided with almost the beginning of the tour of Alden Dow house, which we wanted to try to get in on, despite not having reservations. (our fault for not planning better!) So we scrambled over to the house, Kelly worked her magic, and voila, we got to go on the tour! And it really made the day. It was such an awesome tour!

The Alden Dow house is a fantastic mid-century modern space, designed by Alden Dow himself. 14,000 square feet of house, with two tour groups of twenty, and we never saw the other group once after we started. This house is gorgeous, y’all. Dow wanted a house that was like a seamless oasis of home and garden, believing that “gardens never end and buildings never begin..” And he accomplished this goal, as the outdoors and garden is reflected in every room, and is never far away. Huge windows that open onto terraces and gardens, a floating conference room that is 18 inches below the pond level, so you can literally open a window and be in the water. It felt like being in a boat, the pond and room were so connected. It boggled our minds how the water doesn’t get into the house, but it has never been an issue according to our tour guide, who was the nicest guy.

Dow also built this house with security in mind. It was built after the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, so he installed a safe room in the basement, that is unlike the safe rooms we think of today. It was a huge space, with a place for play for the kids, a fireplace, a plush bright carpet and huge comfy furniture to sink into. Not a bad place to have to hide out if necessary! And it also had its own terrace over the water so you could go outside and enjoy the outdoors as well. I’m assuming that would be if it was a non-emergency situation though! Lol. The terrace was also not accessible to people from the outside so it kept the security feature too. Besides the safe room, Dow situated the bedrooms along one hallway, on one side of the house, the pond side. The windows opened from the bottom and not wide enough for someone to gain entry, and the doors to the rooms did not open from the hallway. They were all in a row with connecting doors, so you could start at one room and head into all the rest locking doors behind you until you were all in one room at the end as well. It was really cool. From the master you could head into yet another room, a morning gathering room that I loved. It was cozy and warm, apple green and wood, with a view over the water and woods, a big fireplace, a table for breakfast, and bookshelves. That would have been the room I was in the most often, had I lived there.

We were not able to take photos of the inside, but I took a bunch of the outside! This tour was the highlight of our day, and I definitely recommend it to anyone in the area. Just do better than us and make reservations ahead of time!

After our tour, it was almost time for our dinner reservation (which Jill made at breakfast, having learned our lesson here) so we headed back into town. We had a quick drink at Whichcraft Taproom, and then bopped over to Gratzi for an early dinner. And omg, what a feast we had! The food was amazing, seriously. Chrissy had mushroom pasta, Kelly had Pollo Mostarda, Jill ordered the Mezzaluna a Costine Corte, and I had the Alfredo da Tavola. Mine actually was prepared tableside in a gigantic wheel of Parmesan cheese, that had been aged near the sea in Parma, Italy. It was quite an experience and I want to eat it again. I want everyone to eat it actually, it was so delicious! However, I was too full for dessert after eating it! It was a sacrifice I was happy to make though, as it really was one of the best things I have eaten, ever, maybe. Lol. The meal concluded with a splash of limoncello and we trudged happily and tiredly, full of carbs, back to the car to ride home.

Midland was a great choice of places to visit – I love being a tourist in my own state, and seeing new things about it. It kind of has a little something for everyone, outdoor adventures, home tours, shopping, good food. If you are ever nearby, I suggest popping in for a day! Just remember to have reservations first.