Sunday-Monday Post

Last week was a very tough, hard week. My family had to say goodbye to my Aunt Barb, who after a two year battle with pancreatic cancer, finally found peace.

My aunt was like a second mother to me- she was always there, for me. Always. Through the little things, and the big things. There were many times we shared a look, trying not to laugh. Times when I was so afraid or angry and she was there for me. She was there for my parent’s divorce when I was eight, when I was dropped off to college my freshman year; when I got married, when I had Wyatt. The looks she would give me when she thought I said something outrageous which was probably a few times a month. I tried to be there for her too as much as I could. Through her first brush with cancer when I was in high school, to times when she was scared or mad or nervous too. And times we would just laugh together, like when I tried to teach her how to use the internet to online shop. She volunteered in the school library I worked in, and since I called her Aunt Barb, so did all of the little kids. If you knew me, you also knew my Aunt Barb.

So this week has been tough. I didn’t get much reading done. Reading is always such an escape for me, but I find there are times I can’t lose myself in a book, times of grief or high stress. Times I wish I could! I would wander about my home, picking up this book or that, reading a page or two then putting it back down. Trying a different book later, doing the same thing. Reading books that I would never pick up usually. Or books that are not super involved, no plot to focus on. I read from a book of Mary Oliver’s poems, and some of her essays from another book, Upstream. I read from a book called Smudgings and Blessings; I flipped through my seed catalogs, and magazines.

I didn’t get much reading done, but I did hear so many stories this week. Old stories and new stories, about my aunt in more recent months, about my aunt as a child, a young woman, about when she was a new mother. We did a lot of crying, but we also did a lot of laughing. Smiling through our tears as we looked at old pictures.

This week, I have a lot to do. Cleaning and grocery shopping, finishing up the details for Wyatt’s birthday party in a few weeks, working on some new ideas. Our full moon dinner is on Tuesday, and I think this one will be just me and my guys. Maybe next month we will celebrate with family again. And I’ll probably find my reading mojo somewhere in there too.

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

We had such a fun weekend this weekend. We went to the farm, we got our DIY going on Sunday, I had a business venture meeting on Saturday – plus I had soup twice! I love soup and would eat it all the time for every meal, if my other family members would. 

Read Last Week:

I enjoyed both of these books! I read The Lost Sisters in preparation for The Wicked King, which I am looking forward to immensely. And I waited a whole year for The Vanishing Stair! It was worth it though, I love this series and the characters. 

Reading This Week:

Watcher in the Woods is another book I have been waiting to read for a very long time! I love the Rockton series. What a cool concept, in my opinion. And I always love Rhys Bowen. I hope to have my review of The Victory Garden up on Thursday so I have some reading ahead of me!

Posted:

Hello, February!

Watching:

Outlander, Top Chef, Hometown, Agatha Raisin, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Schitt’s Creek. 

 

How about you all? What have you been up to?

Hello, February!

Have any of you seen that meme that says “January was a tough year, but we survived”? That is pretty much how I am feeling. January was a rough month, but we made it. We were sick a lot, stuck inside, the weather trapped us indoors, and we didn’t get to do a lot of the things we planned. We did have a lot of good family time at home, but we are feeling a little stir crazy. We usually love to hike and be outdoors in the winter, but January kind of kicked our butt this year, including slamming us with a polar vortex on its way out the door. So hello February, we are glad to see you!

The arctic freeze last week was horrid, leaving us layering up inside, gathering all of our blankets, and in general causing us to be slugs. We were as toasty as could be, and then there was a fire in a nearby county that depleted natural gas reserves. We got an alert to turn our heat down to save resources so that we didn’t run out! That was a fun turn of events. Not only that, but the rest of the lower peninsula had to worry about losing electricity as well. Our city actually has its own power company, so we are generally not down long, so in the event of losing heat, we could have used an electric heater. Not fun, but doable. Thankfully it didn’t come to that though!

By the weekend, Wyatt and I were crawling the walls. When Billy got home from work on Friday, we ventured outside for the first time in days, and headed to one of our favorite restaurants, Joe’s Hamburgers. It is an eclectic mix of local history, hockey, and burgers and beer. Everyone must have had the same idea, as it was packed, even early in the evening when we went.

Saturday we ran a bunch of errands, then we got to play! We spent most of the day gone from the house – we went to the nature center, where Wyatt had a blast exploring. Then we took a long ride in the car, where Wyatt promptly fell asleep after having exhausted himself at the nature center. We stopped for pie to eat at home, drank some coffee, looked at the frozen tundra that Michigan had become, then turned the car toward home. My mother-in-law came over to watch little man so that we could get out for a bit the two of us, and so Billy and I went on a winter night hike through the woods followed by a bonfire and s’mores.

The night was perfectly clear and still and cold. There is nothing like the magic of being in a winter woods at night. Lucky us, as we started down the trail a majestic great horned owl chose to fly overhead, leaving his lady owl on their nest to keep their eggs warm. After our walk, we gathered around a warm bonfire, making s’mores and learning about the area, and sharing our own stories. I managed to eat three before calling it quits, getting marshmallow all over my gloves since I am perpetually messy, but the little boy who was there with his parents devoured six, and managed to keep his gloves marshmallow free!

The full moon this month is the snow moon, so called that because this was a time of heavy snow. Hopefully though, we are done with big snows around here! It is also a time for renewal, so we are taking this month to try to focus on things that renew us, as a family, and as individuals. I have been wanting to practice yoga again, as I used to go religiously before Wyatt, so that is a huge goal for me personally this month. As a family we are focusing on our garden – planning it, starting seeds if we need to, looking forward to the warmth of spring and the return of wild and bright colors.

Anyone else have any plans or goals for this month? Were you excited to see January go?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

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

So last week was the longest. week. ever. Wyatt and I were stuck inside for five whole days due to the polar vortex and a snowstorm. Temps here reached close to -50, and we stayed tucked up inside. Literally. One Wednesday, the coldest day, we hung out in my bedroom which was the warmest room as it gets the daytime sun. We watched so much tv, more than normal, read so many books, colored, played – we were feeling like caged animals by the time Friday rolled around. And strangely, I didn’t have much time to read my own books!It’s really hard to get things done sometimes when you have a housebound, bored preschooler! Lol. We spent the weekend playing catch up and being out as much as we could. I think I am going to post about our weekend tomorrow, the vortex left some pretty scenery behind, before Michigan went crazy and gave us spring temps the past two days, which are much appreciated!

Read Last Week:

We read mostly kids books last week. These were our books that were in constant rotation. I loved The Storm Whale in Winter; Wyatt loved Once Upon a Northern Night and Brownie Groundhog and the February Fox. Wolf Wilder I managed to finish but it is a kids book too! Lol. It was really well done, with great imagery and language. I loved it.

Reading This Week:

I am so excited for this sequel!! I loved the first book so much, I can’t wait to dive into this. I probably won’t get a chance until tomorrow, but I am sure it will be worth the wait!

Posted Last Week:

Brrr! Books to Read When It’s Cold!

Book Review: The Ash Family

What We are Watching:

Outlander, Schitt’s Creek, Top Chef, Hometown (is this one word?), Grace and Frankie.

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

Book Review: The Ash Family

From the Publisher:

When a young woman leaves her family—and the civilized world—to join an off-the-grid community headed by an enigmatic leader, she discovers that belonging comes with a deadly cost, in this lush and searing debut novel.

At nineteen, Berie encounters a seductive and mysterious man at a bus station near her home in North Carolina. Shut off from the people around her, she finds herself compelled by his promise of a new life. He ferries her into a place of order and chaos: the Ash Family farm. There, she joins an intentional community living off the fertile land of the mountains, bound together by high ideals and through relationships she can’t untangle. Berie—now renamed Harmony—renounces her old life and settles into her new one on the farm. She begins to make friends. And then they start to disappear.

Thrilling and profound, The Ash Family explores what we will sacrifice in the search for happiness, and the beautiful and grotesque power of the human spirit as it seeks its ultimate place of belonging.

My Thoughts:

The first thing that drew me to this book was the cover – then I read the description and knew I was all in. I have a thing for reading books that are set in communes, and I was super excited to start this one.

Idealistically, a commune sounds like a beautiful thing, one that appeals to my crunchy granola type nature. Off-grid living, living off the land, baking your own bread every day, enjoying the fruits of your labors all sounds so back to the basics, pure, wholesome. Except sometimes ideas can get twisted up and ugly, sometimes they can take a wrong turn. Berie meets Bay at the bus stop after a spur of the moment decision to not get on the plane that will take her to college. She is unsure of where she wants to go or what to do, and suddenly, an answer appears. Bay tells her that there is a rule about going to the farm – you either stay three days or you stay forever. When Berie’s three days are up, she doesn’t leave.

Berie is a person adrift, wanting to stay at the farm and be part of something bigger, part of the wilderness, part of this family hidden away in the hills, yet has a hard time letting go of her “fake” life, as the community refers to the rest of the world. Their life on the farm is real, all else is fake. Dice is their leader, their “father”, and has a magnetic personality that compels those around him to want to please him, to follow his wishes, no questions asked. He is doing penance for the crimes against the earth that he committed in his “fake” life, before he started the farm. A man committed to the “real” world he has created, yet has a fondness for soap scented with artificial pine while living among actual pine trees. He has rules and doctrines that the family must live by, with some pretty steep punishments. There are no possessions, everything belongs to everyone, there are no couples, no children are allowed. No pharmaceutical medicines, if you get sick or injured it is all folklore remedies. No talking about your life before, and heaven forbid the rest of the family think you are shirking your duties. It is a hard life, but they are doing what they feel they need to do. And the family’s desire to protect the planet is extreme – they are not just a band of happy hippies, they are eco-terrorists, cooking up more than jam on the farm. They make bombs, and bullets, and not only are they not afraid to use them, they are looking for the opportunity.

Berie does her best to fit in, but while she is 99% brainwashed, she still isn’t completely sold. She realizes she is an empty vessel, waiting for someone to fill her up with what she needs to do and be, and she feels that her place is on the farm, tending the sheep. Even before the farm, she seemed to live her life by what her boyfriend wanted, how he saw her through his lens. I found her a bit unlikable – her decisions didn’t only affect her, and she makes some pretty bad ones. Also, her mother is this huge shadowy figure, whom we never actually meet. Berie portrays her as some sort of villainous figure, yet her memories don’t seem to support this. Again, what is the truth?

This book was amazing – it kept me guessing, and totally off balance. I didn’t know truth from a lie, a friend from a foe, or what was really happening behind the scenes. I wanted to keep reading and reading, I wanted to know what the heck was the real story, in this story of fake and real.

Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the advance copy! 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Brr!! Books to Read When It’s Cold Outside

Is it cold where you are? Where I am, Old Man Winter is breathing down hard on us. Tomorrow we are supposed to plunge down to negative forty, with the wind chill, and you can already feel that polar air sneaking in and taking over. This arctic freeze is supposed to stick around for three days, so we have been battening down the hatches to get ready, stocking up on tea, coffee, macaroni and cheese, getting out all of our warmest, wooliest clothes and blankets, and putting flannel sheets on! As I write this, the wind is whipping up a frenzy around the house, and I have a cup of tea steaming next to me. I am feeling pretty cozy and well insulated for now.

I think there are few schools of thought for books to read when it is cold. The first camp of people just read what they feel like, free spirits. Another group reads warm weather books, set in tropical settings, beaches and islands and sunshine. Then there are people like me, who like their reading material to match the weather. I am very seasonal, and that includes what I read. And of course, I have a few suggestions.

Visit icy, snow covered Russia..

or the pioneering days of the US.

Read a scary book, a mysterious thriller, or a short little classic with a crazy ending,

or drift like snow into fantasy worlds.


So grab a mug of your favorite soul warming drink, a cozy blanket, and get reading!

Even if it isn’t cold where you are, maybe you are in the mood for a snowy setting?

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

Hey all! I hope you have all had a great week! Ours was just a basic week lol. We did start the week with a Full Moon Family Dinner with my brother, sister-in-law, and niece, which was a lot of fun! The kids played, there was food and drink and conversation – not a bad way to spend a wintry night. -And we have many more wintry nights on the way! Winter took its time getting to my part of Michigan, but this week it is going to hit us like a hammer! Snow last night, another 5-7 inches expected Monday, then the artic polar vortex swoops in giving us awesome temperatures like -40. I am sure the boy and I will be spending much of our time huddled inside against the weather. I went to the library to stock up on books for the week, and have been planning different things for us to do indoors – it will be a long time in the house for us if we get those temps. Good thing we all like to read!

Read Last Week:

Two very different books but I loved them both. The Ash Family was crazy and intense and I didn’t want to put it down. The Wood was amazing as well, in the way that all of John Lewis-Stempel’s books are.

Reading This Week:

Apparently my reading this week is taking me to snowy cold Russia. Perfect for the weather we are going to have this week! I’m not sure I am emotionally ready for the tween book The Wolf Wilder – I usually don’t read books with animals the main focus because I sob if any of them are injured or die. I’ll let you know how I do, if this is a trigger for you too!

Posted Last Week:

This journey began with a bear – a little post filled with my musings about nature writing sprinkled throughout with references to different books

Watching:

Grace and Frankie, Outlander, Schitt’s Creek, Top Chef, Hometown, and we are waiting for tomorrow’s episode of Agatha Raisin!

How about all of you? What’s been happening in your neighborhood?