A Few Quick Book Reviews

It’s been a minute since I have posted a review, but I have read some great books so far this year that I wanted to share my thoughts on, especially the Cozy Minimalist Home! That book feels like a game changer!

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Cozy Minimalist Home: I loved this book! I found it so inspiring. We live in a small house – like 900 sq feet. I love this house, it was my grandparent’s, my mom grew up here, but it is small. And it always worked for Billy and I. Then we added a child to our family, and not only does he have all the toys and books and everything that most kids do, he also has a lot of equipment, like walkers and wheelchairs. I had to get creative with space, and also get rid of some of my stuff just to save on time, since I didn’t want to spend my days just cleaning them away. I began rethinking our spaces and getting rid of things, but it didn’t feel… cozy. I loved the new open feeling, the lightness, but I still needed some warmth. And this book really showed me how to add that touch of cozy. Instead of having a bunch of stuff that maybe is not as important, you choose what you want in your room thoughtfully. Add in those cozy touches without overdoing – a warm, comfy blanket, pillows, a great rug.. books. For me, bits of natural elements are really important too. There is a little bit more to it than that, but Smith has clear, simple, easy steps you should take in order when thinking about your space that make so much sense! I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to pare down yet still keep that cozy warm feeling! We are slowly redoing our house, room by room, and what I have learned is definitely going to come in handy. (and I just wanted to add, this applies to any size home!)

Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw: This cover is gorgeous, isn’t it? I had just read The Wicked Deep when this book came out, and it sounded so perfect for me. A woods, secrets, winter, magic… I love all of these things! I actually started reading it on the first night of a full moon, which is purely coincidence but it was funny because this book begins on a full moon in winter, just like when I began reading it. It sort of set the mood. And I loved this book. I think the woods have always been a foreboding setting throughout history and literature – warnings to not go into the woods alone, or at night, bad news lurks within. And there is an otherworldy feeling to standing in a quiet wood in the dark. I think this book captures that perfectly, that feeling of almost unease. Nora Walker, like the women in her family before her, can communicate with her woods, and right now, it is telling her something is amiss. I really enjoyed this atmospheric read!

The Secret Life of the Owl by John Lewis-Stempel: Lewis-Stempel is one of my favorite authors to read. He has such a way of describing his surroundings and the natural world that just invites you in, and makes you want to know more. This short little book about owls is no different. I love owls, and this book was a great journey through folklore and poetry and facts about owls. If you love owls, I wouldn’t miss this one. It’s not overly scientific and includes mythology and other fun bits about hoo-hoos as Wyatt likes to say.

What Wyatt's Reading – January

We have had such a great reading month together! I have started keeping a book journal, where I am tracking a few different things, including the picture books we read together every month. We always have a mix of books, the ones that Wyatt picks out for himself and then the books that I pick out, because I like to theme his reading around the things we are doing and learning together. This month they were mostly picked out by me – for some reason we just couldn’t get to the library together this month, which is a bummer because I love when Wyatt and I go to the library – which generally is every Friday! Next month we will start again. And get hot chocolate afterwards too, I think.

As usual, I just listed our favorites, his and my own. Wyatt adored Snow Sisters – I read that one to him a million times, I think partly because the brunette girl in the illustrations looks a little like his cousin! Wyatt is also a little obsessed with wolves and howling right now lol, and he loved Little Wolf’s Song, and Little Wolf’s First Howling. He definitely enjoyed all the howling. And then surprisingly, he really loved Winter Walk. I say surprisingly because it had a lot of nonfiction elements, learning about different things you can find on a winter walk, like blue spruces and blue spruce pinecones, but that was his go to, drag it from the library basket favorite ALL MONTH. I guess I need to buy that one! He also seemed to love Sugar White Snow and Evergreens, and honestly I did too. The illustrations and story were wonderful!

I loved Wolf in the Snow – it was so cute, and also heartwarming. And Winter Trees book was seriously cool, I actually learned a lot from it. Wyatt wasn’t super interested in it, but I read it a few times for me. Lol. Another one I think we will buy. I actually loved all of the books this time, quite honestly.

And then, the Scout and the Gumboot Kids books! We loved these so much. We only did the craft from one of the books, but I am going to go back to them the more seasonally appropriate they become for the other books that we have. If you are interested in learning more about them, check out my Puddles and Pinecones post. We had so much with that book and activity!

Next month we have more snow books on the horizon, although I do plan to start adding in some Valentine’s books- plus whatever Wyatt finds on the shelves. I am looking forward to going to the library with him again – and I know the librarians miss him too, as they told me!

My Sunday-Monday Post

My Sunday Post is hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer

Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz

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

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links for books, where I will make a small commission if you were to make a purchase, at no extra cost to you.

Last week went sideways fast. Wyatt had a million appointments, Billy had to work late every single night, and I spent countless hours on the phone with insurance and doctors. We did have “book club” last week though, which I desperately needed by the time it came. Sometimes you just need those few hours to unwind, to recharge so that you can get back to work again right? And Michigan is so ugly right now guys. All mud and gray. Yuck. I miss the snow that we usually have – and now I sound so whiny! I apologize for sounding like a gloomy Gus, I guess I am feeling a bit of the January blues! I feel encouraged though, everyday brings us closer to spring and more light and new life in our world. We are going to start a calendar of firsts in a few weeks, where we look for these signs of the earth waking up from winter (the silly winter that we have had!), the first buds we see, etc. I think it will be so hopeful! This week in our Exploring Nature with Children program, we are going to be studying winter ponds. I am pretty excited to do this one! We are going to start by slipping on our muck boots this afternoon and hiking around the pond we have chosen to observe.

My friend Kelly’s house for book club.

Read Last Week:

Good news, I broke my reading slump!

The Hand on the Wall: I was super excited to see that this was out! I downloaded it and immediately started reading it. Such a great series!!

Reading This Week:

One thing I miss about working my old job in the elementary school library is the excuse to read all those middle grade and younger books. Now I have no excuse, I just still like them at times. I really think I am going to buy a whole collection of Jean Craighead George for our house – I think Wyatt will enjoy them when he is older. Right now I am enjoying the Seasons of the Moon series.

Love Begins at Willow Tree Hall: I also was in the mood for something lighthearted as well – and Valentine’s Day is right around the corner so… romance it is. I thought this looked like such an inviting cover.


The Ranch, WinterWatch on Britbox, some Rachel Khoo in London cooking show whose name eludes me but I love. She made a Black Forest Gateaux in one episode that looked insanely delicious! That show is also on Britbox. We might start Frankie and Grace pretty soon – I love those ladies. When I grow up I want to be Lily Tomlin.

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

My Sunday-Monday Post

My Sunday Post is hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer

Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz

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

Last week was just a week, living the everyday life. Meetings, appointments, dinners, errands. Not bad but nothing special. It does seem like winter has arrived full force in Michigan, with freezing temperatures and snow. We did play outside in the snow for a few minutes yesterday, not too long as it was sort of sleeting outside, so not the most fun, but we still got outside for a little bit in the snow. We are going to be talking about winter trees this week with the Exploring Nature with Children homeschool curriculum (Wyatt goes to school, but I do a little supplementing) and I am looking forward to this week! We already had a little bit of discussion and play having to do with trees last week, with our book and activity, which you can see in my Puddles and Pinecones post. As for what else we are doing, that is up in the air too! I guess we are totally flexible this week and open to anything!

Read Last Week/This Week:

Things are not going well here with reading. I seem to be in a…. slump. I pick stuff up and I am just meh, not interested. And these are books I know I will probably like! So this week I am just going to give myself some freedom to read whatever, and explore my stacks and see what pulls me, hopefully, from my reading slump. I do have some contenders, from my nonfiction reading stack, that I am going to try. So this week is all up in the air!

Posted Last Week:

Puddles and Pinecones – Scout and the Gumboot Kids

1000 Hours Outside Challenge

Last Week in Photos


We started watching The Ranch again, what a great show. I love the addition of Dax Shepherd! We finished up His Dark Materials, which was amazing, and also finished Anne with an “E”, which I loved and was so sad when the season ended! We are also watching The Elliot Homestead YouTube videos, and have a list of shows to watch, although we are not sure what is next. I kind of want to watch Troop Zero on Amazon, so that might be what we watch.

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

Puddles and Pinecones

Over the weekend the weatherman predicted torrential rain storms, flooding, and then to top it all off, ice. Well, it did rain, a very drizzly cold rain that did do a little flooding, and raised the rivers and creeks a little bit higher. We had plans to stay inside and do fun things there for most of the day and night, but..we couldn’t resist a little splashing in puddles first!

Wyatt wears AFO’s – braces for his feet to help him stand stronger when he is working on walking and standing. We love his braces, they are great tools to help him. But they also make it hard to buy shoes and boots, boots especially, as we can’t really manipulate his foot into one with the stiff braces. But we found that Butler boots have enough give in them that they slide fairly easily right over the braces – so we ordered him a pair of bright cheery yellow boots, his favorite color, and perfect for adding some sunshine to a dreary day. Then it rained and we got our wish to go stomp around in the puddles!

The cutest little stomp and splash ever!

While we are all excited that we found boots that work with his needs, Wyatt is more excited about the fact that he now has gumboots like the character and kids on one of his favorite shows, Scout and the Gumboot Kids! This very morning while we were watching one before school (they are short and perfect for a moment like this!) Wyatt went and got his boots out and started putting them on, just like Scout and the Gumboot Kids. Gumboots are another name for rain boots, or wellies, whatever you want to call them, and this show is adorable, with nature mysteries presented by a felt mouse in his own little cardigan and gumboots. The episodes are short, with a quick mystery that includes clues, and a mindful moment, which I am hoping to incorporate more of into our lives. The talented Jessie Farrell also provides the music and song for these episodes, with lovely lilting tunes that are so catchy that kids don’t even realize they are learning as they are singing along. As a companion to the Scout series, there is also Daisy and the Gumboot Kids, and Daisy is a crafty little mouse full of ideas for nature crafts. We love these shows and I love the inspiration they provide, while teaching Wyatt about all sorts of things – caterpillars and butterflies, space, agates, trees, dinosaurs are some of our favorites!

Not only is this series on television, they are now a series of books published by Firefly Books! We were lucky enough to receive a set of four signed books before Christmas, and now that the holidays are over, we really have time to spend looking through them together and talking about what we read. These books are beautiful, with full page artwork that captures the eye and attention, as page-size photos of the characters that Wyatt loves, solving the mysteries on paper within a book! Each book also contains two pages of field notes that relate to the mystery, mindful moments, and a nature craft. There is so much within the pages to inspire creativity and learning! We have been having a lot of fun with them. We also received a cute little coloring and activity book, a signed CD of Jessie Farrell’s music for the show, and stickers!

Today we spent some time reading through the books a little after school – Wyatt likes to “read” them to me too.

After we read about bird feeders and butterflies, I had a book and craft set up in the other room waiting for us.

We read the book, The Wooden Timekeeper, and talked about conifer trees, pincones, and the rings on trees, and how when you count them you can find the age of the tree. Wyatt really liked playing with the pinecones and petrified wood the best.

I showed him the pictures in the book of the craft, and let him choose whether we made an owl, bear, or mouse. My sweet boy chose to make an owl, my favorite! It was a group effort, with him doing the gluing while I helped out with the placement and cutting. We had a great time reading and making this little owl together! And look how cute!

Scout and the Gumboot Kids and the series, both on television and the books by Firefly Books are such a great resource for kids to learn, and entertaining and cute to boot! (yeah, see what I did there..)

Thanks to Firefly Books for the wonderful gift of the books, CD and extra little fun things!

1000 Hours Outside Challenge

We love to be outdoors – we always did, but since we had Wyatt, we have increased the amount of time that we are outside. We learned that it is so good for your brain and vision and just your whole health and body and healing to be in nature, and we were determined to take every available route to aid him in his journey. Sometime last year I learned about the 1000 hours outside challenge, but it was too late for us to attempt to make the 1000 hours. So, this year we are trying. I don’t think we will get there – we have our own challenges that we have workarounds for. But, I am curious as to how much time we WILL spend outdoors. I think just by trying we will achieve more outdoor time than if we hadn’t attempted this challenge.

The 1000 Hours Outside Challenge was the brainchild of a couple, Josh and Ginny, from the state of Michigan, actually even my own part of the state. We love the outdoors here in Michigan! They had read that the average child spends 1200 hours a year on a screen, which is crazy when you think about it. They hope to balance some of that screen time with time outside, and aim for about twenty hours a week. Right now, we are nowhere near that, but we hope to increase our time as the weather improves.

So this January, we were off and running, and have done three different hikes, and a small little walk in the snow. Our time spent isn’t much added all up, but the time spent meant more than just the minutes themselves – we had all that time together, soaking up the fresh air, the snow, the birds and trees, and all the goodness that lives outside. And all that family time!

We hiked through a lonely, cold marsh, where we were the only humans. When we stood silently, we could hear the wind rattling the bones of these marsh grasses and trees, and the din of the waterbirds, which lined the rails of the decking and dotted the gray waters. We were surprised to see no real ice, it was all open water pretty much still – it’s been such a mild winter!

We took a quick snowy walk around our neighborhood, and then another short jaunt through another marshy area. The pond here was just starting to gain a skim of ice, but it was utterly silent there, except for the lapping of the water onto the shoreline. This is where I found my turtle shell!

Then this past weekend we visited yet another more marshy type spot, which was weirdly snowy, icy, and muddy. We tried to be more observant of the small things we could spot here, and I found some air-breathing freshwater snails, while Billy spotted some bits of green and icy swirls. There is something to be said for being the only people in a cold woods – everything feels different, the quiet is just so big!

So, while we have not racked up lots of actual time on the clock, we have had many family adventures already. I can’t wait to see where the rest of the year takes us! And, it looks like my son is ready for whatever it brings!

Last week in photos

We had such a busy week last week! Honestly, parts of it were pretty rough. Wyatt had some arm spasm that we had never seen before and that scared us; then later in the week hit his head which further sent me into my own anxiety. Then we had a heavy duty weather storm warning that caused me to worry about my mom, alone in her house 10 miles away. I did not want her to be stranded without power because I knew it would upset her so my husband went and picked her up to have her stay with us, just in case. The weather never actually got bad but we had fun all of us anyway, munching on giant family size nachos, having a dance party, and finding our animal personas. I wrote a bunch of animals on popsicle sticks, and some fun qualities like joyful, curious, strong, etc and then we pulled to see what we were. I was Quick Owl, whatever that means lol, Wyatt is my little Bold Badger, Billy is a Strong Wolf, and my mom is a Fearless Rabbit. It was fun! So aside from my worries, we did have our fun times.

So this old turtle shell. On Tuesday after therapy where we asked Wyatt’s PT about his arm spasm, we took a little hike, and spotted this turtle shell. I couldn’t get it out of my mind after seeing it, and knew I couldn’t leave it there in case someone found it and destroyed it, dishonoring this turtle’s life. So, Wyatt and I took a trip back on Thursday and retrieved it, bringing it here to keep safe. I don’t know what to do with it exactly, but I know it is safe at least.

Then on Thursday night, I actually got out of the woods and mud and dressed up, did my hair, and went somewhere that served adult drinks with my best friends! We reserved these cool igloos at a restaurant near us, and it was so neat to be in them. It would have been prettier had it been snowing, as it should be in Michigan in the winter, but it was raining. Not as pretty, but the gentle rain sounds on the igloo were enjoyable. It was a seriously much needed time with my tribe, we laughed so much our faces hurt, ate so much food, and exchanged our Christmas gifts for each other. I had made everyone hand painted by me ring dishes (made the dish too!), Chrissy made everyone lavender soap that smells amazing, Mary bought everyone the softest plaid blankets, Kelly gifted us all the cutest cat shaped cheese boards, and Jill bought us all wine based on our personalities/likes. Mine is called The Woodlands, so very perfect- and I am drinking a glass right now!

On Friday we celebrated the Full Wolf Moon, with wolf paw cookies, and chili. Lol. Wolves might eat chili right? My hungry wolves did at least. My mom made these delicious butter wolf paw cookies, which we ate the heck out of. Then we had a collective “howl” at 7:30, where my mom went to the window at her house and we went to ours and howled, which Wyatt of course thought was awesome. His favorite song is Howl by the Okee Dokee Brothers, so we followed our howl up with the song version. We calmed things down by turning off the lights and reading picture books in the tent by lantern light. My dad bought us that battery powered lantern and Wyatt loves it.

So although my week had its anxiety ridden moments, it also had some pretty darn good ones.