My Favorite Reads of 2020

It was the year of nonfiction for me this year! For the first time ever, my list has more nonfiction than fiction. I did read some great fiction books though as well! I narrowed my list to my top seven. Let me know if you have read any and what you thought!

Let’s begin, shall we?

These were the three standout fiction books that I read this year, and my most recommended to people throughout the year.

Mexican Gothic is hands down my favorite book of the year – it was just so much everything. Plot, characters, quirk, atmosphere, twisty and scary and horrifying. And this cover is amazingly beautiful. Have any of you seen the Instagram posts where people are recreating this cover? I can understand why, it is so rich and warm and lovely.

My Sister the Serial Killer was a surprisingly amazing read for me. I thought I would enjoy it, but not necessarily love it as much as I did. I think it is such a unique take on family relationships and love, and of course, a bit of creep factor as well.

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts was such a fun fantastic read! I loved it so much. It reminded me of a Westing Game for adults.

The Call of the Wild and Free was a book that really changed our lives! If you are a regular reader here, you may have seen my posts where I talk about how it really spoke to me and about how to frame our homeschooling experience. It is not the right experience for everyone, but it is perfect for us right now.

The Creative Family Manifesto is another book that heavily influenced our lives this year. Because of this book, we were inspired to take drawing books with us on picnics and have lazy days drawing away. I am not an artist by any stretch of the imagination but I am enjoying what I am creating and that is the most important thing…right? Wyatt loves drawing and painting and that is something I want to encourage, and we have art supplies always available to him for when he feels like making or creating. Most nights now he will sit quietly happily drawing away.

The Cider Revival. I just really enjoyed this book! It was a fascinating look at apple orchards and the cider industry, especially all those small cideries out there. Plus, we had a fantastic night of cider tasting after I read this book.

The Salt Path was amazing. I have never read a book like this before. I have read many memoirs of people hiking and walking long distances, but never for these reasons. I loved the journey start to finish, and I am looking forward to reading Winn’s follow up. I am a person who underlines and makes notes in their books and this passage from The Salt Path was just so powerful.

I was a part of the whole. I didn’t need to own a patch of land to make that so. I could stand in the wind and I was the wind, the rain, the sea; it was all me, and I was nothing within it.

What did you read that you loved this year?

Our Favorite Picture Books This Year

A week or two ago, Wyatt mailed a letter to Santa from the big Santa Mail Box in our city – and to be honest, I had no idea that he was going to get a letter back when we did it, but wow did it bring a smile to my boy’s face! And, we found out that Santa loves books too! We have read some fantastic books this year, and I wanted to share some of our top favorites with you.

(this post contains Amazon Affiliate Links)

Wyatt’s current favorite holiday book is the Llama Llama Holiday Drama. I read this a billion times a day, and when I am not, he is looking at it himself half the time. Thanksgiving in the Woods is a fun one that we actually won in a giveaway on Instagram this year- and while we both love it, I think it would be so fun to actually have a Thanksgiving in the Woods one year! I included Ohana Means Family, but it was more my favorite than Wyatt’s. I just loved the illustrations and the introduction to Hawaiian culture to Wyatt. Scout and the Gumboot Kids were a big favorite of Wyatt’s this year, whether on television or reading the books. He really loved The Case of the Wooden Timekeeper. Then finally, all the way back in January, we read Little Wolf’s Song and Winter Walk, and Wyatt loved all the howling in Little Wolf’s Song, and then surprised me by really loving Winter Walk.

Leo the Lightning Bug! This book also came with a CD, and Wyatt still listens to it and flips through the book, reciting parts out loud with it. It reminds me of me when I was his age, listening to books on tape and record and looking through the books. (For Christmas I bought him The Thousand Star Hotel by the Okee Dokee Brothers, which he can flip through while he listens to the story streaming..ah technology.) Nightsong was really cool, and Honey, adorable. Wyatt is a fan of David Ezra Stein. He is also a giant fan of the Little Blue Truck, and he loved this Springtime book. Which reminds me I never bought him The Little Blue Truck’s Christmas! Then finally we found two new to us owl books that we really enjoyed, Tanna’s Owl and Otto the Owl who Loved Poetry.

The Giraffe That Walked to Paris is my favorite picture book that we read this year. I liked it way more than Wyatt, so it is definitely my favorite, not his. I had never heard of this event before and it was sort of sad but neat to learn about it. Anatole was an old favorite of mine that I enjoyed sharing with Wyatt, who also liked it. And then finally, The Salamander Room – this book made me commit to adopting our leopard gecko Harry, which I realize is two different species entirely but it was still a fun way to segue to Harry for Wyatt.

I did miss the library so much this year, browsing the shelves and all the new books. If there are two places I miss going, it is the library with Wyatt and then Ikea with Billy. We would drop the boy off to my mom then head to Ikea and have lunch and shop. We are exciting.

I am looking forward to reading more with Wyatt in the months ahead, especially now as he is picking up letters and can read some of the words himself more and more! He loves reading, and I love that he loves reading!

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

Hello everyone! I am sitting here drinking my coffee, looking back over the past week, waiting for my breakfast pie that I made to cool, because everyone needs pie for breakfast once in a while. Then this afternoon we are going to go for a hike and make a dried orange garland. Last week wasn’t too bad, but it sure was busy! I feel like I am in a good spot with the upcoming holidays as far as preparations, I had a video chat with a blogger friend which was a nice change in my week, we had takeout tacos on Friday, and all in all, it was a pretty ok week. We were supposed to have our virtual bake-off yesterday, but all of us were having a hard time finding some of the ingredients we needed so we decided to postpone, which is a bummer.

Read Last Week/Reading This Week:

I am almost done but not quite there! I am enjoying this read, although slowly. I don’t have much time to read right now but I am enjoying the calm I am finding in these pages when I do have the time. And my dreams lately have been so filled with the sea and water..I wonder why?

Posted Last Week:

Snow, Christmas, Quiet

These are a few of my favorite things..this year

Watching:

Sherlock! Whoa that last episode we watched..this show is amazing! So glad that we are finally watching it. We thought we were at the end but then saw we have one more season yay!! We are also watching Edwardian Farm, and finishing up Virgin River. As for movies, we have watched Christmas Eve on Sesame Street which was my favorite as a little girl. Watching it with Wyatt took me back to my childhood watching it with my parents. We also watched Charlie Brown’s Christmas, and a non-Christmas movie, Fisherman’s Friends which we loved!! This week we will watch Love Actually and The Muppet’s Christmas Carol, which we are saving for Christmas Eve this year.

Stay Safe everyone, be well, and happy holidays!

These are a few of my favorite things..this year

Bryan over at Still an Unfinished Person has been sharing a few favorite posts this month as part of an annual blog event, and I have been enjoying reading about his look back. I have also been inspired to share a few favorites of my own! It’s been a year, that’s been pretty rough all over, but I think it did my soul and spirit good to think about those things that did make me smile this year. I usually always do a separate favorite reads of the year post, but I will do that closer to the New Year.

Good Moments that Happened:

Pre-pandemic, right before everything started going south, we went on a family trip to the west side of the state for Wyatt’s birthday. It feels like a lifetime ago! But we had a lot of fun on that trip, and I am glad we got to have it before we went into lockdown. And right after we celebrated Wyatt’s fifth birthday with almost all of our family and friends, literally a few days before Michigan blew up. I am so grateful for the time now, seeing those faces all in one place like that.

Yet after everything, we still managed to have some good times. Simple ones, like our lazy picnics in the park, socially distanced social hours in yards during the summer, and our own owl prowl. Our Wild Hunt was definitely a highlight for us, the Halloween Party my brother and sister-in-law managed to throw for our kids safely, our cider tasting bonfire. And of course our family field trip to the pumpkin patch, the apple picking day with my SIL and niece, as well as the trips Billy and I and Wyatt took to the chestnut farm and peach picking. These memories make this year seem not entirely without some good times.

Favorite movies that we watched:

We started a movie night on Friday nights around here, which was something new for us. We get our snacks (Haribo Cherries for me, Bridge Mix for Billy), and pick a movie to watch, usually with Wyatt sleeping right between us. I had some definite favorites! The Biggest Little Farm, This Beautiful Fantastic, Knives Out, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Fisherman’s Friends, and finally Blow the Man Down, which was recommended by Greg at Book Haven.

Favorite Homeschooling Units That We Have Studied:

I have really enjoyed this year of learning with Wyatt. I always wanted to homeschool, and while I didn’t want a pandemic to force me into it, we have been enjoying this time. We always do a supplemental study with our curriculum and I love choosing them, sometimes with him, sometimes on my own. Our favorites this year have been: Snails, Bees, Bears, Owls, and Pine Trees and Porcupines for living creatures; for places, France and the Great Smoky Mountains; and finally, the unit we are currently doing, the Winter Hygge bundle. (more on that tomorrow!)

And finally, our favorite purchases. Because if there is one thing I have done this year at home, it is shop a bit more than normal – all online with the exception of one…

Favorite Purchases:

Harry!! Of course, Harry. she is our favorite new addition to our home this year, hands down. Who knew I would love my little leopard gecko so much? So much, that I think I want to add another to our family. Maybe after Christmas, we will see.

I have to mention our blankets that we bought for picnics, we used them so much. This was the year of the picnic for sure. We would pack up some things, head to our shady tree spot in the park, and camp out for a bit with snacks and drawing materials. So relaxed and lazy. Wyatt is obsessed with picnics now – I am trying to work out a winter version. Speaking of drawing materials, I splurged on art supplies and am so glad that I did that as well.

What kinds of favorites do you have from this year?

Snow, Christmas, Quiet

This evening I felt something I haven’t felt for quite a while. Content. Maybe it was the chili bubbling on the stove, the dark night folding our house up, Carol King singing away in the background, the falling snow outside, I don’t know. But there it was finally. Contentment. Peace. It’s been a rough hard year, but today, I felt it. Hope.

Lately, I seem to have grown some solid roots at home. In a previous life, way back in 2019, we would be out and about, going to different events, hanging out with family and friends, enjoying our holiday season in a very social way. And while I miss those times and those PEOPLE, very much, we are having a very quiet season at home right now, leaving only really for our hikes, and Billy to work. I think about how this full moon cycle is the quiet moon, and it makes sense. In the past, no one would have ventured far this time of year, opting to be at home, safe and snug and warm. Kind of like we are doing now. Our evenings are full of hearty warm comfort foods, listening to music, creating, and snuggling up under blankets to watch movies and binge tv, like Edwardian Farm. Wyatt has been spending every evening after dinner these days with his crayons and paper, in the shadow of my Monstera, Goblin, drawing the night away, or flipping through his books. I am working on my own projects, my little gnome trinket tray for Dinogirl, my little peg dolls for my other nieces, Glitzy Girl and JayZ. Billy is usually drawing up ideas and plans for things he wants to build, and we are just all together in our little den, with each other in our own little worlds.

Tonight, I was thinking about Christmas and Christmas carols and how my favorite has changed over the years. When I was younger, I loved Good King Wenceslas. It’s upbeat tempo, its message of helping our neighbor, I just really loved it. But these last few years, my soul is called to O Holy Night. I can’t seem to listen to it without tearing up, every single time. “The thrill of hope, a weary world rejoices/For yonder breaks, a new and glorious morn..” This year, more than any other, these words speak to me so deeply they resonate within. I listen and let the tears flow, quietly. My husband doesn’t laugh or poke fun, just looks at me, touches my hair. He knows what it is like when music grabs you that forcefully.

This year we are supposed to be able to see “the Christmas Star”, Jupiter and Saturn coming close together for the first time since the middle ages, on the night of the Winter Solstice. The longest night of the year, it is also signifies the return of the light to the world after so many months of darkness. And I feel like that, that we are coming out of this darkness. We are not through the woods yet, but we have a light.

Stay safe everyone.

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

And the Christmas rush is on! I didn’t think I would encounter that this year, since we are not going anywhere and I started Christmas shopping in September. But apparently, I was wrong. I still have a few gifts left to purchase, I need to wrap, send out my cards, and I do want to do some baking for us as well. I did however get the gifts made for my nieces that I wanted to make them, and I got the cranberry infused gin rolling. So I am getting there! Last night we drove around and looked at lights and watched Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas (a fave) so I am feeling a bit more festive. Then this upcoming Saturday we are having our digital bake off, where my friends and I and our families will be all making Yule Logs and then sharing them online with each other! I am excited to see how they turn out.

Read Last Week:

I am working my way through this and I am really enjoying it! I just need more time. I will probably finish it this week, and if I do, I am starting…

Posted Last Week:

Homeschool: Pine Trees and Porcu”pines”

Book Review: Fox Crossing

Watching:

Sherlock (only one left, eek!) Edwardian Farm, Virgin River Season Two, and we just started watching Christmas movies.

And that is about it from here! Stay safe everyone!

Book Review: Fox Crossing by Melinda Metz

Goodreads Summary:

The charming village of Fox Crossing, Maine (founded 1805) is the last bit of civilization before the 100-mile wilderness, the wildest and arguably most beautiful stretch of the Appalachian Trail. The little town has something else to offer as well… something rare, something that a few even call magic. It has The Fox. Crossing paths with a black cat is said to bring bad luck. But crossing paths with The Fox is a whole other story…

SOME SAY THE FOX IS GOOD LUCK
In the mountain village of Fox Crossing, Maine, everyone knows the story of The Fox. According to local legend, one of the town’s founders crossed paths with a curious-looking fox with a distinctive white ear and paw. The unusual fox sighting not only inspired the town’s name, it sparked a fantastical piece of folklore that’s been passed down for generations. Some people say that whoever sees The Fox will be rewarded with good fortune, love, and happiness. Others say it’s just a silly folk tale…

WHAT DOES THE FOX SAY?
Annie Hatherley doesn’t believe The Fox legend–even though it was her great-great-great-grandmother who spotted the critter centuries ago. But now it’s part of Annie’s legacy, along with her family business, Hatherley’s Outfitters. For years, Annie’s been selling gear to hikers on the Appalachian Trail. But she’s never seen The Fox–until now. Out of nowhere, this little white-eared vixen leads her to Nick Ferrone, a woefully unprepared hiker who needs her help. The Shoo Fly Bakery owner also spots the sly creature–who takes him to a homeless dog that needs his love. Annie can’t deny that something magical is happening–because she’s starting to fall for a certain foxy hiker named Nick…

My thoughts:

When I saw this book on NetGalley I immediately requested it – snow, a fox, hiking – this book is totally made for me. And I absolutely adored it! I finished it and immediately looked to see if the author had anymore books set in this quirky town of Fox Crossing, Maine. (no, but I am hoping that changes!)

This small town sets right on the edge of the 100 Mile Wilderness in Maine, the northernmost end of the Appalachian Trail, and said to be very dangerous and for experienced hikers only. For the most part, the residents of Fox Crossing are open and friendly, with maybe one or two exceptions. One of whom is Annie, who runs Hatherly’s Outfitters, and is the last shop of its kind before hikers would begin the 100 Mile Wilderness. If they need something, Hatherly’s is their last option – which is good because Annie can be a bit prickly, especially if she feels a hiker is not ready for the trail. Which is how she meets good-natured Nick Ferrone, and from there, sparks and other things fly.

There is also a legend of The Fox – not just any fox, but The Fox. To spot the fox is said to bring luck, good fortune, even love – and there are those who seek The Fox out for just these reasons. Others choose not to believe – how could one fox be around for so long, right?

This book was delightful – I love books set in small towns with interesting characters, and the extra added bonus of a legend made it perfect. I loved every character in this book, which rarely happens. Like I said, I would love to read more about these characters!

If you are looking for some warm and cozy reads this winter, this is definitely one to add to your list.

Thank you to NetGalley for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

Homeschool: Pine Trees and Porcu”pines”!

Last week we studied conifer trees and pine cones – and porcupines! We started off by going on a pine cone and conifer tree hunt – and found that there are not huge areas of evergreens near us! Most of our hikes are through woods filled with oaks and hickory and walnut trees, but hardly a conifer to be seen. We did find one place that had a bunch, so we were able to get a few different pine cones at least, but we were never really able to do a big walk and work on identification. But that is ok, we have years for that!

I chose to focus on more hands-on type work for this particular study. I believe when you are studying nature, you should feel it and smell it and experience it. Except for when we got to the porcupine portion of our week, we didn’t need to experience that firsthand..

We started with a fun scientific investigation of pine cones, where Wyatt chose a particular pine cone, and did some observations and an hypothesis or two. Then we put the pine cone in water to see if if would sink or float, and also to see what would happen to the open pine cone. We looked very closely at one to see if we could find any seeds left inside, and we found one little seed, then discussed the life cycle of a Christmas tree. We also talked about the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center and how that little owl was in it this year! Then we read a book about two cardinals in the same situation.

We discussed the parts of a pine cone, the parts of a pine tree, looked at features of different types of conifers, and then made our own little Christmas tree ornaments from twigs. They turned out so cute and individual! Wyatt’s is very patriotic, mine is traditional, and Billy’s is very fluffy. We also turned a few pine cones into peanut butter bird feeders, but the squirrels stole them immediately.

For our creature study this week, we did porcu”pines”! I think this turned out super cute! I cut out the template and had Wyatt snip the needles off the branches and glue them on. We talked about the similarities between the pine needles and a porcupine’s quills, and learned a few simple facts about porcupines. We also watched a video of a porcupine eating a pumpkin and it was super crazy! I will link it below. As always we do themed studies as a supplement to our regular curriculum.

This week we are exploring the world of The Nutcracker ballet- which I have learned from practically everyone in my family that they don’t like! Only Wyatt and I seem to like it. Lol. I figured Wyatt would, he loves music so much but I was shocked that it is not well liked in my family (mom, dad, husband, niece..) Oh well, some weeks turn out better than others!

Resource Round Up:

Life Cycle of a Christmas Tree – The Preschool Tool Box

Pine Cone Science – Playdough to Plato

Identifying Conifers and Flash Cards – Playful Learning

Books Read:

(Contains Amazon Affiliate links)

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree (one of my holiday favorites) || Red and Lulu || Pick a Pine Tree

Videos:

Teddy the Porcupine Eating Halloween Feast

Rockefeller Center Owl

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 a pretty slow week around here. We homeschooled, I shopped online for Christmas gifts, and that is about it. Today we are going for a wintery hike and I am looking forward to getting outside and stretching my legs.

Read Last Week:

If you read here pretty regularly, you know that I love anything with foxes! This book didn’t disappoint either, I loved it! It was the perfect book for a slow and cozy week. Review this week.

Reading This Week:

I’m so excited to start both of these! Although, I bought Dark Salt Clear and am super bummed that I somehow got this version with this cover lol – I like the other cover better! I think I might order the other one after Christmas. Anyone else ever done that?

Posted Last Week:

Homeschool: Scotland!

Currently..December

Goodbye November, Hello December

Watching:

Sherlock, although we only have two episodes left!! Nooo! Death in Paradise, Agatha Raisin, The Queen’s Gambit, and season 2 of Virgin River. We don’t usually watch this many shows at once – we generally pick two but we have been hopping around. And we are about to start watching Christmas movies of course! I can’t wait to watch Emmett Otter and Muppet Christmas Carol again this year as a family – those are two family favorites. Wyatt has been watching Wild Kratts and Sesame Street mostly these days. I have to admit I love the Wild Kratts too.

And that is really it from my little corner of Michigan – stay safe and well everyone, and enjoy the season.