Sunday Bookends: Gallbladders, colds, and other inconvenient parts of life

It’s time for our Sunday morning chat. On Sundays I ramble about what’s been going on, what I and the rest of the family have been reading and watching, and what I’ve been writing, and some weeks I share what I am listening to.

What’s Been Occurring

First, Happy New Year to everyone visiting today.

I’m looking forward to a new and exciting year.

I will admit I’m kicking off the year with some trepidation and worry as my mom is in the hospital with a gallbladder issue and not feeling well. Surgery is scheduled for Tuesday. I have not been to see her because I am recovering from a cold and because, as usual, she was thinking of others even as she is in the hospital and asked me to come so I wouldn’t be on the roads on New Year’s Eve. I am, however, going to see her today, whether she likes it or not, but briefly and while following hospital policy and wearing a mask. I even have a n95 I might try to slip on but they are horrible to breathe through, especially when I already have serious sinus issues.

Mom has been having pain in her upper stomach area for several months now and has been told each time that it is gastritis. Her heart and other conditions had been checked and that’s all doctors seemed to be able to figure out. Friday night my dad took her to the ER and an amazing doctor decided to run several tests, believing it very well could be her gallbladder, even though the pain was in a different area than it often is for gallbladder issues. They admitted her, sent her by ambulance to a larger hospital, and now surgery has been scheduled.

Not much else has been occurring since Little Miss developed a cold this past week and then I did as well. The cold was very mild, but annoying.

What I/we’ve been Reading

I actually finished A Mark of Grace by Kimberly Woodhouse this week after starting it at the end of the week before. It was a pretty good book, but I do wish every main character in historical fiction didn’t have to go through such hardship. People in the past had happy lives too. It’s okay to show that and not throw in all the sadness you possibly can on them. That being said, I still liked this book (don’t worry, the sadness is not that crazy) and the mystery surrounding it. I felt I had part of the mystery figured out but still wanted to read on to see if I was right.

Now I am on to The Reckoning Trees by Alicia Gilliam, which is a book I started at the beginning of 2022 and for some reason got distracted from and didn’t finish. I am looking forward to finishing it now. Well, soon. If you’ve been here long, you know I don’t read quickly.

In the evening before bed, I am reading Anne of Windy Poplars because it is wholesome and sweet, and I need that right before bed.

At night, Little Miss and I are reading Fortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman.

The Husband blazed through books this past week since he was on vacation from work. Right now he’s reading Cold Wind by CJ Box.

What We watched/are Watching

Last week I decided to start watching Cary Grant movies for the winter, but I didn’t get to start them yet. I think I’ll start with Holiday with Katherine Hepburn because I don’t remember watching it before.

I hope to rewatch Suspicion because I think I watched it years ago but can’t remember the details.

I watched the first episode of Miss Scarlet and the Duke and enjoyed it -especially because the man has a Scottish accent.

I hope to watch more of the show this week.

Last night I was watching the Youtubber Darling Desi and Little Miss said to me, “Are you seriously going to just sit there and listen to that woman tell you what she got for Christmas?”

I felt so …. Judged.  I also turned the episode off and went to bed.

What I’m Writing

I’m taking a break from writing and haven’t even shared a lot on the blog recently, but hope to remedy that this upcoming week as I look back at favorite movies, books, and shows from 2022.

Now it’s your turn. What have you been doing, watching, reading, listening to or writing? Let me know in the comments or leave a blog post link if you also write a weekly update like this.

Sunday Bookends on Monday: Christmas, books to be read in the new year,

It’s time for our Sunday morning chat. On Sundays, I ramble about what’s been going on, what I and the rest of the family have been reading and watching, and what I’ve been writing, and some weeks I share what I am listening to. This week I am a day late since Christmas was yesterday and I was too busy to finish the post, which I actually started Christmas Eve.

What’s Been Occurring

I rambled more about what happened last week in my blog post on Saturday. I included some photos of the kids playing in the snow we received and also shared about the arctic temps we received. You can find that post HERE.  

Today I will share that I’ve been in a cocoon of Christmas for the last two weeks and I really am not ready to crawl out of it. It’s been nice watching happy movies and reading fluffy Christmas books.

Yesterday, we visited my parents for Christmas. I only received a couple of gifts this year and that’s the way I wanted it because I was more excited for the children to receive gifts. I was especially excited because my son was receiving a bass guitar, which he’s been wanting to learn for a while now. I wanted to go back to bed after Little Miss woke us up early but I was too excited to see how The Boy would react to the gift, which we had stored at my parents.

I wasn’t sure he’d want me to share the video I recorded here on the blog, so I won’t, but his grin was huge. He was so excited to get home and try it out, but finally went upstairs at my parents’ and tried it, even without the amp. When we arrived home, he went straight upstairs and started practicing.

My dad joked that our neighbors won’t bring us Christmas cookies anymore because we gave The Boy this loud instrument. For now, though, the windows will be closed since it is so cold, so the guitar shouldn’t bother them.

The Husband did buy me the five-DVD set of the original Anne of Green Gables series by Sullivan Entertainment (the Canadian produced one from the 80s) but it hasn’t arrived yet. I am very excited to start watching it when it does since that movie series was part of my childhood.

What I/we’ve been Reading

This past weekend I finished Shepherd’s Abiding by Jan Karon.

It reminded me I really like Jan Karon books but I also get a little annoyed by how she writes them in short bursts of information with tons of section breaks and quite a few points of view changes that sometimes make my head spin. I still enjoy the overall message of them, however, and will continue to read them as comfort reading.

Last week I started The Mistletoe Countess by Pepper Basham and am listening to it on Audible, which we have at a reduced monthly rate as part of a special deal, for four months. I am enjoying it so far. I’m only on Chapter 4 because every time I try to listen to it, I get interrupted or fall asleep (if I try to listen at night).

Quite frankly, I am overwhelmed with book choices right now. I truly feel like I have some form of ADHD because I can’t focus on one book at a time.

I am reading a book called A Mark of Grace by Kimberly Woodhouse right now because it releases next Tuesday (January 3).

I also got back into Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery, but then a Bookstagrammer I follow on Instagram invited readers to join her in reading The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery so I may try to tackle that this week instead. We will see how far I get. She actually suggested readers read it in a weekend. A weekend?! I’ve never read a book in a weekend.

I’m such a slow reader. My brain seems to dart away to other things I need to do. For example, I have blog posts to share or write and social media pages to maintain and homeschool lessons to plan and … blah, blah, blah.

This week I plan to listen to the chapters I assigned The Boy in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn last week for school. I’ll probably do that as soon as I finish this post.

In the new year, I have a whole list of books I hope to tackle, but I’ll ramble about that another day.

The Boy is not reading anything this week that I know of. He’s simply enjoying talking with friends online, making plans to meet them in person, and practicing on his new guitar.

Little Miss and I are reading Paddington At Large at night still and have taken a break on our book for school but may pick it up again this week.

The Husband is reading Game On by Janet Evanovich.

What We watched/are Watching

I watched quite a few movies last week, a few of them with family.

Two we finished up when we were interrupted watching them the week before. One of those was A Christmas Story Christmas, which was a sequel to a Christmas story. It had a slow start but got much better as it went on and we enjoyed it.

I also watched It Happened on Fifth Avenue, which I stumbled on on HBO Max (via our Roku) and The Husband said he had watched it before when he used to work a night shift as a switchboard operator at the local hospital.

It was very good. If you are interested here is the plot:

On Christmas, The Husband started Miracle on 34th Street at our house and then we finished it later in the day at my parents.

We also watched Charlie Brown’s Christmas at my parents at my dad’s request, even though I had watched it earlier in the week.

On my own, I watched A Walton’s Christmas, which was actually the pilot for the television show. It was a very, very melodramatic and a bit over the top, much like the show could be at times, but still sweet. I don’t know if I’d necessarily watch it again.

I also watched A Little House on the Prairie Christmas special from season eight, which Erin from Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs recommended for me and I really enjoyed it. It was very wholesome and heartwarming. Each adult character shared a Christmas memory and Laura’s memory of Mr. Edwards bringing gifts to her family one Christmas when there was a blizzard was my favorite because it is a story that Laura shared in one of her books, which, if you remember, I read a couple of times to Little Miss last year.

On Christmas Eve we watched The Rankin/Bass claymation/animated special Santa Claus is Coming to Town (the one with Mickey Rooney and Fred Astaire) and then really got into the Christmas spirit by watching…. Top Gun Maverick.

What I’m Writing

I am writing nothing right now. Is that proper English. No, probably not, but I’ll roll with it.

I’m on a bit of a fiction writing hiatus after finishing up my Christmas novella, Beyond the Season (which incidentally is free on Amazon this week and via the link at the top of the page). Shores of Mercy is with advanced readers and my editor so I’ll be making corrections on that before long.

On the blog this week I shared:

What I’m Listening To

Last week I listened to a ton of Christmas music. I am not currently listening to any specific music this week. I am, however, listening to audio versions of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Mistletoe Countess this week.

Blog Posts I Enjoyed This Past Week

I hope to share some of my favorite blog posts on this post each week. I’ve been saving posts to share for months but haven’t actually sat down and put them together in one post so I thought I’d share at least a few here today.

Now it’s your turn. What have you been doing, watching, reading, listening to, or writing? Let me know in the comments or leave a blog post link if you also write a weekly update like this.

Sunday Bookends: Snow, disappointing books, more Christmas books and movies

It’s time for our Sunday morning chat. On Sundays I ramble about what’s been going on, what I and the rest of the family have been reading and watching, what I’ve been writing, and some weeks I share what I am listening to.

What’s Been Occurring

I’m starting a new feature on Saturdays where I’ll ramble more about what’s been going on generally in my life. You can find this week’s HERE.

In that post I rambled about the snow we received this week, the snow we might get this week, and some other fairly innoculous stuff.

Here are a couple extra snow photos that I didn’t share yesterday. The kids went out (at my urging) to sled since there was a fine layer of ice on top of the snow. The result was a couple of injuries so it might not have been my best suggestion. The sled was very hard to stop. Oops.

What I/we’ve been Reading

In yesterday’s post, I ranted a bit about the book Little Miss picked out for me a week ago during the local library book sale. She picked it off the shelf so at least I don’t own the book now. I really thought the book was going to be a good one and for the first several chapters I had a hard time putting it down. Eventually, it became a bit wandering and tedious, though, and then, out of the blue, in the 21st chapter of a 23-chapter book, the author dropped two fairly minor swear words and then the big one. Fudge, but not fudge, as the narrator says in A Christmas Story.

It was so bizarre. I mean I was happily skipping along, though getting a little disturbed by the darkness the book was starting to throw at me, and then boom! The bad guy dropped the word and it was just completely out of place. It was like serving vegan food at a biker bar, or biting into a piece of chocolate, swallowing it, and finding half a worm. I told a friend it was like reading a sweet Miss Marple book and then all a sudden she just turned around and said, “Well, f-it, I’m over this sweet stuff,” and walked off the page and out of the book. Okay, I didn’t exactly say that to my friend, I added a bit more for this post, but it was close.

Needless to say, I will not be reading any more books by Leslie Maier. I don’t need any more nasty surprises.

This week I am back to Shepherds Abiding by Jan Karon (and hopefully spelling Shepherds right since I have been spelling that three ways lately thanks to writing too much lately and burning out my brain – or because I’m stupid. One or the other.). I actually never left Shepherds Abiding, as I have been reading a chapter here or there for the last couple of weeks to drag the book out for my enjoyment.

I had a bit of a breakdown this week when Little Miss had a cup full of water on our table for her art project and I knocked it over and it spilled down the table and onto my hardcover copy of Shepherds Abiding, crinkling many of the pages in the process. At first, I was upset at Little Miss, but quickly realized I’m the adult who one, allowed her to have the water on the table and two, had left my copy of the book on the floor. Why was it on the floor? I can’t remember, honestly, but I think it was because I was doing schoolwork with her and laid it down and – who even knows. I do stuff like this all the time.

So the book is a bit beat up, but I can still read it. I also have it on Kindle, but for Christmas, I like to read actual books because I am a book snob at times.

If you have never read Shepherd’s Abiding, it is the eighth book in the Mitford Series, and here is a brief description:

Millions of Americans have found Mitford to be a favorite home-away-from-home, and countless readers have long wondered what Christmas in Mitford would be like. The eighth Mitford novel provides a glimpse, offering a meditation on the best of all presents: the gift of one’s heart.

Since he was a boy, Father Tim has lived what he calls “the life of the mind” and has never really learned to savor the work of his hands. When he finds a derelict nativity scene that has suffered the indignities of time and neglect, he imagines the excitement in the eyes of his wife, Cynthia, and decides to undertake the daunting task of restoring it. As Father Tim begins his journey, readers are given a seat at Mitford’s holiday table and treated to a magical tale about the true Christmas spirit.

I hope to listen to The Mistletoe Countess by Pepper Basham this week, as I stole The Husband’s Audible credit to buy it. We have Audible for a few months, but may have to get rid of it in February because everyone keeps raising their prices and it’s getting to be a bit much.

Little Miss and I read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson this week and absolutely loved it. This is a book that was read to me when I was in elementary school and has stuck with me all these years, even though I only had it read to me that one time. This year while looking for Christmas book ideas for Little Miss, I spotted it on a list of suggestions and had planned to order it on Amazon. Then, in an effort to conserve money for Christmas, I delayed order it. I was so excited, however, when I went to the book sale at the library and found an old copy of it!

The story was as hilarious and touching as I remember it and I even found myself crying at the end, after laughing for just about the entirety of the rest of the book. If you’ve never read it, do yourself a favor and find a copy. It is a children’s book but it is so well done that it is entertaining even for children.

Here is a description:

This year’s pageant is definitely like no other, but maybe that’s exactly what makes it so special.

Laughs abound in this bestselling Christmas classic by Barbara Robinson! The Best Christmas Pageant Ever follows the outrageous shenanigans of the Herdman siblings, or “the worst kids in the history of the world.”

The siblings take over the annual Christmas pageant in a hilarious yet heartwarming tale involving the Three Wise Men, a ham, scared shepherds, and six rowdy kids. You and your family will laugh along with this funny story, perfect for independent reading or read-aloud sharing.

Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Ollie, and Gladys Herdman are an awful bunch. They set fire to Fred Shoemaker’s toolshed, blackmailed Wanda Pierce to get her charm bracelet, and smacked Alice Wendelken across the head. And that’s just the start! When the Herdmans show up at church for the free snacks and suddenly take over the Christmas pageant, the other kids are shocked.

It’s obvious that they’re up to no good. But Christmas magic is all around and the Herdmans, who have never heard the Christmas story before, start to reimagine it in their own way.

I just learned this week there is a movie and I couldn’t find it streaming anywhere, but someone put it up on YouTube 8 years ago so I think I’ll check that out this week.

The Husband is reading Star Trek: The Vulcan Academy Murders

Little Miss and I are reading Paddington At Large because we can’t remember reading it before. For homeschooling, we are still reading Children of the Longhouse.

The Boy is stuck reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because I am an evil, evil homeschooling mom. Bwahaha!

What We watched/are Watching

This past week I watched It’s A Wonderful Life (again) as part of the ‘Tis the Season feature I am doing with Erin of Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs. You can read about that HERE.

The Husband and I also watched a couple more episodes of Brokenwood Mysteries, because it’s so good.

I watched part of A Christmas in Connecticut and then felt uncomfortable with it and abandoned it part way through.

I also watched a couple videos by Darling Desi, one of which you can find here:

We watched the first episode of Season Three of The Chosen Sunday night and will watch the second tonight.

You can watch it on their YouTube channel for 72 hours and then you have to watch it via their app. Seasons one and two can be found streaming on Peacock and Amazon and I believe Netflix now.

We got interrupted watching A Man Called Ove the week before last and never got back to it until last night. It’s a really good movie. This is the Swedish version and it’s available on Amazon. This is not the Americanized version that will be coming out with Tom Hanks. I don’t think that version is necessary when the Swedish one is so well done. If you do watch it, please make sure to have some tissues and be prepared for some sweetness and some heartache.

I hope to continue with the Christmas themes this week by watching a couple other Christmas-themed movies/shows. When I found The Best Christmas Pageant Ever on Youtube, I also found that someone had uploaded A Walton’s Christmas and The Christmas Box with Maureen O’Hara. I think I might add those to the list for this week.

I plan to watch The Shepherd, which is part of The Chosen series, as well before Christmas. You can find that here:

What I’m Writing

Today I’ll be finishing the last chapter of my Christmas novella, Beyond the Season, which I am sharing here on the blog in chapters. It finishes up Tuesday and then I’ll post a link to a Bookfunnel file of the full story.

What I shared on the blog this week:

What I’m Listening to

This week I listened to this on YouTube a lot while finishing my Christmas novella.

Now it’s your turn. What have you been doing, watching, reading, listening to or writing? Let me know in the comments or leave a blog post link if you also write a weekly update like this.

Sunday Bookends: Christmas books, Christmas movies and Christmas events

It’s time for our Sunday morning chat. On Sundays I ramble about what’s been going on, what I and the rest of the family have been reading and watching, what I’ve been writing, and some weeks I share what I am listening to.

What’s Been Occurring

I’m all in for Christmas this year.

Am I alone in this?

Erin from Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs and I started watching Christmas movies in the beginning of November and for many, that is way too early. In fact, it is usually way too early for me too, but this year I was craving light, cozy, and happiness and had no problem starting the Christmas season celebration early.

When I was a kid, I absolutely loved Christmas and it gave me such a cozy feeling, but over the years that feeling faded. Christmas wasn’t always happy. Sometimes it was stressful and brought back heartbreaking memories of those we’d lost.

This year, though, for some reason, all of that has been pushed aside and replaced with warm joy.

Last year I was definitely grateful to be spending Christmas with my family after being in the hospital on Thanksgiving, but I was still too tired to be as excited as I wanted to be.

This year I am grateful and excited when I think about decorating for Christmas or watching Christmas movies, or working on my little Christmas story for the blog. I feel like this young lady I watch on YouTube. Darling Desi sometimes is too giddy and happy for me, and I feel like she’s fake, but then I realize that she isn’t fake, she’s simply in the mood for happiness on her YouTube videos and she hopes to pass that feeling on to her viewers.

She’s creating a space for happiness, all things fluffy, and nice and she welcomes people to that space, knowing that their lives and hers are not perfect but do need a bit of respite from time to time. Her channel is that respite and it’s very nice, even if I occasionally roll my eyes at some of the things that make her giddy. She really just seems so young to me sometimes, but I’m sure she’d feel the same about me but the opposite direction. *wink* Really, though, I often find the things that make her giggle with delight do the same for me.

I’ve never thought of myself as a “girly-girl” but when I feel giggly over a pretty L.M. Montgomery book cover with her or smile as she sips some fancy tea or shake my head with amusement when she dyes her hair orange-red again, I realize I’m a little more girly than I realized. I even like to watch her decorate her bedroom and fancy bed with fluffy lace and frills.

The weather this week wasn’t super cold. Not until we got to Saturday when we actually wanted to leave the house, that is.

Yesterday our little town held a Christmas festival of sorts with vendors, cookie sales, book sales (glee!), a scavenger hunt, hot chocolate, and ice carving. In the evening they held a tree lighting and caroling and then a light parade or Christmas parade.

The scavenger hunt involved going to each business and finding the photo of an elf and then writing down what the elf was doing in the photo. The entire time Little Miss and her friend were running to stores, I just wanted to go to the book sale and see if they put out any extra books from the day before when I checked. The selection wasn’t the worst, but I’m short and the way they set the books up made it hard for me to see them well.  Plus the books are for sale for a donation and I feel like I have to give a big donation for what I take home with me because I often take home a large pile. My pile wasn’t as large Friday but on Saturday I grabbed a lot more, especially children’s books and a history book on Vietnam for The Boy for later in the year.

Today I might visit my parents but I’m not sure yet because we might actually get a snow/rain mix. If that happens, we usually stay home because my mom doesn’t like us to be on the road, even if we are only seven minutes from their house. It is a very hilly, windy, twisty seven minutes.

What I/We’ve been Reading

The past week I have been making my way through Shepherd’s Abiding by Jan Karon, as a Christmas tradition I started last year. I’m really enjoying it. It’s just such a pleasant and relaxing read, but it’s also very moving.

A few months ago, Little Miss ran to me in the library and handed me a cute little 5”x6” book and said she thought I’d like it.

It was cute and had a cornucopia on the front and I figured those were two reasons she grabbed it. I didn’t know what to say since I’d never heard of the author, but I read it and ended up really enjoying it. It was called A Quilter’s Holiday by Jennifer Chiaverini and it’s a part of a series so I’m sure I’ll be going back to the library to pick up others (if I can get over my fear of damaging library books).

On Friday, Little Miss came running to me again with a book the same size and thrust it at me.

“I think you’ll like this one.”

It is called Christmas Cookie Murder and is by Leslie Meier.

I was a bit disturbed by the cookie skull and crossbones and Little Miss thought it would be right up my alley, but she knows her dad and I watch a little of mysteries so I think that’s why she chose it. The thing is, I don’t know where she finds them or chooses them from the shelves. She couldn’t even see the front photo but somehow, she picks great books because I am breezing through this book, desperate to find out who committed the murder and why.

Like the other book she picked, it’s fairly light. I’d call it a cozy mystery and I think I’ll be reading more by Leslie.

I had a goal to finish a couple more Christmas-themed books, including Dawn Klinge’s America’s Favorite Christmastown and The Mistletoe Countess by Pepper Basham by the end of December, but I don’t think I’ll make the goal since I also have to read the chapters of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that I assign the boy. Sigh. I feel I’m in high school again.

The Husband is reading – gasp! He says he is in between books. I have no book to

Little Miss and I are reading Paddington at night but I am so excited because I have been wanting to read her The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever, which was read to be in elementary school, but I didn’t want to spend extra money to order it and when I went to the book sale yesterday they had a copy which I got for a small donation. It was so exciting!

What We watched/are Watching

Early last week I watched Holiday Inn. I wrote about it earlier this week on the blog.

The Husband and I watched an episode of Brokenwood Mysteries that made me cry.

Last night we watched The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special and, well, it was okay, but I am a bit over Marvel at this point. You ever hear the saying, ‘too much of a good thing?’ Yeah, that’s the case here.

Erin and I are watching It’s A Wonderful Life for our Christmas movie this week if you would like to join in.

I really hope to finish A Man Called Ove, which is a Swedish movie, that I started last week, later this week. I don’t think the previous sentence made sense, but, well, it’s getting

What I’m Writing

I am sharing twelve chapters of a Christmas short story, novelette, whatever it is called, on the blog. I started Friday, December 8 and it will finish on December 20th.

I’m still working on the end of the story while I wait for the final of edit of Shores of Mercy to come to me so I can put the finishing touches on that and get it ready to publish on January 31.

This week on the blog I shared:

What I’m Listening to

This week I’ve been listening to Steven Curtis Chapman’s new album and some Christmas music on the local Christian radio station. The station has also been sharing Christmas radio dramas including A Candle in the Window.

What have you been doing, watching, reading, listening to or writing? Let me know in the comments or leave a blog post link if you also write a weekly update like this.

Sunday Bookends: Little white lies, Three Amigos, and it is time for Christmas books

It’s time for our Sunday morning chat. On Sundays, I ramble about what’s been going on, what I and the rest of the family have been reading and watching, and what I’ve been writing, and some weeks I share what I am listening to.

What I/we’ve been Reading

I finished Love and A Little White Lie last night after working on it for a few weeks now. It didn’t take me this long because it was bad, but because I kept getting interrupted by writing projects, books, or just the everyday weirdness of life.

I will be honest that I almost bailed on this book part way through because the one character was so annoying to me and because the middle dragged a little bit. I really wanted to reach into the book and slap the one character. He was so whiney. Argh! But the book was really worth finishing because the writing was so good, the main character was so complex, and many of the supporting characters were loveable.

In case anyone reading this is interested, here is the description:

There’s a lot of irony in hitting rock bottom

After a heartbreak leaves her reeling, January Sanders is open to anything–including moving into a cabin on her aunt’s wedding-venue property and accepting a temporary position at her aunt’s church despite being a lifelong skeptic of faith. Choosing to keep her doubts to herself, she’s determined to give her all to supporting Grace Community’s overworked staff while helping herself move on.

What she doesn’t count on is meeting the church’s handsome and charming guitarist. It’s a match set for disaster, and yet January has no ability to stay away, even if it means pretending to have faith in a God she doesn’t believe in.

Only this time, keeping her secret isn’t as easy as she thought it would be. Especially when she’s constantly running into her aunt’s landscape architect, who seems to know everything about her past-and-present sins and makes no apologies about pushing her to deal with feelings she’d rather keep buried.

Torn between two worlds that can’t coexist, can January find the healing that’s eluded her, or will her resistance to the truth ruin any chance of happiness?

I am finishing a book for an author friend this week (By Broken Birch Bay by Jenny Knipfer) and then I plan to focus on Christmas books, including Shepherd’s Abiding by Jan Karon, America’s Favorite Christmastown by Dawn Klinge, and A Highland Christmas: A Hamish Macbeth Mystery by M.C. Beaton. If I can find a paperback copy, I’d also like to read some of Christmas with Anne by L.M. Montgomery, if it is a real book and not just some knock-off Amazon thing. Has anyone heard of it?

Little Miss and I are reading Paddington before bed and Children of the Longhouse by Joseph Bruchac during the day.

The Boy is reading Sea of Monsters, which is a Percy Jackson book and yes, during the week I am making him finish The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The Husband is reading Kagan The Damned by Jonathan Maberry.

What’s Been Occurring

This past week we had a good school week during which I actually felt like I had fun, even if the children didn’t.

We didn’t do much else during the week, other than visit my mom on Thursday and grocery shop on Friday. Our shopping trip was delayed by an issue with the van that I thought was going to cost a lot, but turned out could be fixed by my dad dumping three quarts of oil in the engine. In other words, I don’t pay attention to the lights on the dash of my car.

This week’s weather was a mix of mess, wind, and cold. Still no snow, which was fine with me.  

This next week we don’t have a ton planned and if it’s going to be as cold as it has been, I am fine with that too.

What We watched/are Watching

Last Sunday, The Boy and I watched Planes, Trains, and Automobiles while The Husband took Little Miss to a train ride with Santa.

Later in the week we watched The Three Amigos, an old movie from the 80s with Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Chevy Chase.

It is a movie I used to watch with some friends of mine, probably when I was 9 or 10 and it was so weird and funny to watch it again all these years later. There was at least a couple of off-color moments, but for the most part the movie is clean.

The movie is about three actors who portray a trio of heroes called the Three Amigos in silent movies. A woman who is looking for someone to rescue her town from an evil man who is terrorizing it sees the movie, thinks it is a newsreel and sends them a telegram, asking them to come save her town. The telegraph operator decides to edit the telegram so she can afford to send it and, unfortunately, the actors think they are being hired for an acting job. Hilarity ensues from there as “they” say.

During the movie, there is a scene where Martin Short and Steve Martin sing a song called “My Little Buttercup,” which I had forgotten all about until it started. I used to sing the song to my mom and dad after my friends and I watched the movie and they would laugh so hard because I looked so ridiculous. I’m leaving it here for your viewing pleasure.

Little Miss’s impression of the movie: “Nope. Too much fantasy. Not enough reality.”

Sigh. If you knew what movies she watches, you’d really laugh at that comment.

There is a scene in the movie where the villain has a discussion about the word plethora and what it means. As I watched it I remembered that this is where I learned the word and from then on kept finding ways to use it in sentences. I still find a plethora of ways to use the word in sentences. Get it? I still find a plethora – yeah, okay. You get it.

Anyhow, later in the week, I started to watch You’ve Got Mail then realized that I don’t really like that movie because the two main characters are lying to their boyfriend and girlfriend and chatting to each other behind their backs. It is essentially a movie about cheaters, even if parts of it are cute.

I clicked off that and saw The Bookshop Around the Corner with Jimmy Stewart and then realized something I didn’t realize before. You’ve Got Mail is based on this 1940 movie.

As usual Hollywood is not original because I also started to watch A Man Called Ove this week and it is a Swedish movie that is being released in the U.S. under the title A Man Called Otto starring Tom Hanks. From what I can see, the American movie has been recreated frame for frame. I enjoyed what I did watch of A Man Called Ove, even though I would consider it a dark comedy and those aren’t usually my thing. I stopped it because I decided I should watch something a little happier since I was home by myself. I plan to finish the movie this week.

Anyhow, back to The Bookshop Around the Corner – it’s supposed to take place in Hungary, but only one person has a Hungarian accent. The rest either have New York accents or British ones. Besides that odd glitch, it is a very good movie about a man who is writing to a woman and later learns that the woman is someone he actually knows in real life.

I very much enjoyed the movie and was glad I watched that instead of You’ve Got Mail.

Also this week I watched The Muppets Christmas Carol as part of the ‘Tis the Season Cinema with Erin from Still Life with Cracker Crumbs and Katja_137 from Breath of Hallelujah.

They both had such interesting posts about the movie. I loved how Katja_137 threw in so much trivia about it, including an edited scene I didn’t even know existed.

You can read her post here:

And Erin’s here:

What I’m Writing

I’ve been working on a short story that I will start sharing on the blog Friday and run for 12 days after that. It will feature the characters from Spencer Valley, including Molly, Alex, Robert, Annie, Franny, and maybe a little bit of Jason and Ellie and Matt and Liz.

Here is a little sneak peek for those of you who might like to read along:

Cold bit at Robert Tanner’s skin, stung his lungs, and made him wish he could stay inside under a blanket with a warm cup of coffee. Instead, he stepped further into the cold, pulling his winter cap down further on his head.

Between the house and the barn snow swirled wildly, darkening the sky and making it feel like dusk instead of late afternoon.

Inside the barn it was warm, and he was grateful for it, even if his arrival did mean he’d have to start cleaning out the cows sleeping area and preparing the second milking of the day.

Truthfully, his mind was far away from the tasks of the day. His thoughts were consumed with another project he hoped to have complete by Christmas – a gift for his wife of 30 years.

On the blog this week I shared:

What I’m Listening To

I have not been slowing down and listening to anything except for some worship guitar music while I write. I hope to remedy that this week and listen to some more music. Some nights my daughter and I listen to the family hour on our local Christian radio station, which features Adventures in Odyssey and other Christian radio dramas from 7 to  8 p.m.

Now it’s your turn

Now it’s your turn. What have you been doing, watching, reading, listening to or writing? Let me know in the comments or leave a blog post link if you also write a weekly update like this.

Sunday Bookends: Pretty Christmas lights, making pies, and a lot of Christmas movies and shows

It’s time for our Sunday morning chat. On Sundays I ramble about what’s been going on, what I and the rest of the family have been reading and watching, what I’ve been writing, and some weeks I share what I am listening to.

What’s Been Occurring

Last week we had a wonderful Thanksgiving and I was so glad to be there with my family after spending last year’s in a hospital room, alone, with a burly nurse who was really nice but not who I wanted to spend Thanksgiving with. The ambulance drivers and ER nurses and doctors were nice too, but again…not family. 

This year we had a small gathering at my parents and it was the best thing ever – for me at least. I couldn’t stop feeling giddy inside because I was simply there. Little things that usually annoy me – okay, fine. Some of those things still annoyed me but they annoyed me less because I was alive to be with my family! Whoot!

Earlier in the week we went over to help my mom make an apple pie for The Husband’s birthday (he’d rather have my mom’s apple pie than cake any day – the same as our son) and Thanksgiving. We made two apple pies and figured we’d have the second one for Thanksgiving and skip the pumpkin pie since there was only six of us. My husband is given one whole  pie for himself.

Dad decided we needed a pumpkin pie though and made one Thanksgiving morning.

On The Husband’s birthday we visited a local Festival of Lights, per his request. This is a light display set up at a golf course about a 35 minute drive from our house. We had visited it in 2020, missed it last year because we were sick and then recovering so this year The Husband said that’s what he wanted to do for his birthday.

The display is massive with trees wrapped in lights and various displays set up on the grounds. You drive through it slowly and take it all in. I wish it could be done twice but, alas, they charge $30 for one drive through. This year it was completely worth it as they had added even more to the display than when we visited in 2020.

I invited our neighbor and her granddaughters (friends of Little Miss) to come with us and it made the night even more rich and fun. The giggles and squeals of the little girls in the back was a little overwhelming at times but also wonderful to hear.

We encountered a dead deer in the road in the other lane on the way to the display. On the way back our neighbor, who is in her late 70s and gets up very early in the morning, dozed off as she said she probably would. She was maybe out for ten minutes but we thought she was still out when suddenly she said, “Don’t forget that dead deer up here!”

We all about wet ourselves because we thought she was asleep. Luckily, someone had already moved the dead deer out of the roadway because it was a large deer and missing it would have been hard to do.

Friday was a lounge-around-the-house day for the kids since they I had given them the rest of the week off school. Little Miss had a friend over. They decorated our tree for us, which we didn’t expect to happen but it was nice to have that job done for us.

Saturday The Husband and The Boy went to see Wakanda Forever (Black Panther 2) and Little Miss played with her friend again.

What I/we’ve been Reading

I haven’t been reading as much as I want to be so I am still – yes, still – on the same books I’ve been on for a month now.

I hope to finish Love and A Little White Lie by Tammy L. Gray this week so I can continue on some Christmas books, including Shepherd’s Abiding, which I am reading off and on.

I am taking a break from The Father Brown collection for now.

I’d like to read or finish the following books for December:

Shepherd’s Abiding by Jan Karon

By Broken Birch Bay by Jenny Knipfer

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Christmas in Absaroka County by Craig Johnson


America’s Favorite Christmastown by Dawn Klinge

Knowing what a slow reader I am, I doubt this list will be accomplished, but we shall see.

What We watched/are Watching

Last week I watched another Signed, Sealed, Delivered movie, White Christmas, Brokenwood Mysteries, a show called Still Standing, the movie Enchanted, and started the follow up movie to A Christmas Story on HBO Max.

What I’m Writing

I am working on a short story that I hope to share on the blog before Christmas. It will feature Alex and Molly, Robert and Anne especially, but also some of the other characters from Spencer Valley. That’s all I can tell you.

I’ve also started another book and would love to finish it in time for a spring release.

This week on the blog I shared:

What I’m Listening To

 I’m not actually listening to a lot right now. Anyone have any suggestions?

Now it’s your turn. What have you been doing, watching, reading, listening to or writing? Let me know in the comments or leave a blog post link if you also write a weekly update like this.

Sunday Bookends: Snow returns, Charles Bronson movies and fathers in my reading

It’s time for our Sunday morning chat. On Sundays I ramble about what’s been going on, what I and the rest of the family have been reading and watching, what I’ve been writing, and some weeks I share what I am listening to.

What I/we’ve been Reading

I have started my annual reading for Shepherd’s Abiding by Jan Karon. I love this sweet story about Father Timothy Kavanaugh who finds a nativity set that he wants to repaint and fix up for his beloved wife Cynthia. Sigh. It’s just such a sweet story.

(If you haven’t read Mitford before, Father Tim is Episcopalian so he is allowed to marry. *wink*)

I am also continuing with the Father Brown Collection by G.K. Chesteron, which is a collection of short stories. I’m a mood reader so I read a story and then switch to a different book for a bit.

I’ve also started Love and A Little White Lie by Tammy L. Gray and am enjoying it so far. It’s about a woman who has taken a job at a church but doesn’t feel she belongs there. It is the first book in a three book series.

At night I have been reading Paddington Races Ahead with Little Miss.

I am also reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain off and on during the week with The Boy, who is reading it for school.

The Husband is reading…. Oops. I forgot to ask before I scheduled this and he’s already asleep.

What’s Been Occurring

I rambled about what has been occurring on a post from Friday and not much more has happened since then. In that post, I shared that we had our first official snowfall earlier in the week, only a couple of days after it was in the low 70s. Last night we had more snow, but only about an inch and a half.

This week we are looking forward to celebrating The Husband’s birthday by attending a festival of lights display about 45 minutes from us and then a quiet Thanksgiving with my parents. We are also looking to five days off from school since the kids seemed to be burned out on lessons. Yes, already burned out. This early in the school year.  

What We watched/are Watching

The Husband and I watched two Charles Bronson films this week: Mr. Majestyk and Red Sun. They were both very good. Red Sun featured a bit of female nudity that we weren’t expecting and Mr. Majestyk featured swearing that was tame compared to the movies of today but still swearing. That’s just a disclaimer for anyone who is sensitive to those aspects of movies.

I also watched two Hallmark Christmas movies. Sign, Sealed, Delivered for Christmas made me cry and Trading Christmas made me smile. I own Trading Christmas because it is just a light movie I enjoy watching. Both are on Amazon.

I also watched The Christmas Carol Goes Wrong for the ‘Tis The Season Cinema feature with Erin from Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs.

This week Erin and I will be watching White Christmas and posting our impression of it on Saturday. Please feel free to join us and post your impressions as well.

What I’m Writing

I’ve started writing a new book while I am editing Shores of Mercy, but I am not ready to share it yet and not sure I will share it on the blog or not this time. It’s going to be different than my previous books, in some ways, and it is not part of The Spencer Valley Chronicles, or any series. I can tell you that the main character is male, over the age of 50, and it will be one point of view, third person. I’ll keep all of you updated.

This week on the blog I shared:

A Chat and a Cup of Tea or Something Warm

‘Tis The Season Cinema: A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong

Special Fiction … Wednesday? Mercy’s Shore Final Chapters

Educationally Speaking: Fall Homeschool Update

What I’m Listening To

While I am watching Christmas movies early, I haven’t yet started Christmas music and won’t do that until December, most likely. When I do it will be the Michaels – Smith and Buble.

I found a Youtube video of worship music being played on a guitar that I’ve been listening to while I write.

Now it’s your turn

Now it’s your turn. What have you been doing, watching, reading, listening to or writing? Let me know in the comments.

Sunday Bookends: friend visits, warm weather, and Christmas movies

It’s time for our Sunday morning chat. On Sundays I ramble about what’s been going on, what I and the rest of the family have been reading and watching, and what I’ve been writing, and some weeks I share what I am listening to.

What I/we’ve been Reading

I have been reading a collection of Father Brown stories by G.K. Chesterton and have been enjoying them for the most part. The third one I read went off on a weird ramble for several pages that had nothing to do with the story I thought but these were written in the early 1900s so I cut Chesterton some slack.

I have also been reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain with The Boy for school and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe with Little Miss.

I’ll probably start a new fiction book this week, but I’m not sure which one yet. I have a few I’ve read the first few pages of an am liking so I just need to pick one. The Seven and a half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle has caught my attention so far.

What’s Been Occurring

This past week Little Miss and I were both surprised when her little friends who moved to Texas a year and a half ago, came back to stay.

Little Miss had a blast visiting with them during the week. We were still able to finish schoolwork but it was pushed off to the evenings to they could play together.

The friends are signed up back into school now so we won’t have our school days interrupted as much.

She was able to visit with some other friends yesterday.

We didn’t do a lot last week other than school. We had been doing game nights once a week with my parents but I had congestion and they were doing other things most days so we will have to have a game night another time.

The weather was oddly warm all week and then today it dropped into the 40s and it is literally downhill from here. It’s like we were in spring and then drastically plunged into winter. Our sinuses are definitely going to suffer even more this week. As I was writing this actual snow started to fall. Yuck.

What We watched/are Watching

This week I watched light and fluffy stuff including a couple of Hallmark movies even though I am not the biggest fan of Hallmark movies. I do like the movies based on the short-lived show Signed, Sealed, Delivered which follows a group of employees in the Dead Letter Office of the United States Postal Service. The premise – of them solving mysteries surrounding lost letters or packages — is a bit far fetched but the overall stories are uplifting and encouraging.

Earlier in the week I watched The Man Who Invented Christmas as part of the ‘Tis the Season Cinema feature Erin from Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs and I started this week. We are watching Christmas movies from now until the week before Christmas. Next up is A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong which you can find here on YouTube:

This special was on the BBC and is part of a series of specials and shows about a theater group who is always messing up or somehow ruining their shows with misspoken words or mishaps.

What I’m Writing

I didn’t share much on the blog this week other than the last chapters of Mercy’s Shore (Shores of Mercy).

I had to add a quick chapter to Shores of Mercy and also started a couple other stories to see which one sticks in my brain for me to continue it.

I did share a blog post about The Man Who Invented Christmas.

What I’m Listening To

I am listening to a lot of Family Life, our local Christian radio station.

Now it’s your turn

Now it’s your turn. What have you been doing, watching, reading, listening to or writing? Let me know in the comments or leave a blog post link if you also write a weekly update like this.

Sunday Bookends: The Boy turning 16, Mary Berry, and warmer weather

It’s time for our Sunday morning chat. On Sundays, I ramble about what’s been going on, what I and the rest of the family have been reading and watching, and what I’ve been writing, and some weeks I share what I am listening to.

What I/we’ve been Reading

This week I finished Dog Days of Summer by Kathleen Y’Barbo for a book tour. It was okay, but I was disappointed halfway through, unfortunately, and need a break from book tour books for now. Those are books I don’t have the benefit of abandoning for a different one.

I switched over to GK Chesterton’s Father Brown stories and am really enjoying it so far. Many of these stories were the basis for the British show, both the original 70s series and the more modern one.

I have a few choices to start as novels next, including The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton, Miss Julia Knows A Thing Or Two by Ann B. Ross, a Longmire book, or a Joe Pickett book, and Criss Cross by C.C. Warren.

The Husband is reading Tishomingo Blues by Elmore Leonard.

The Boy is reading a Percy Jackson book.

Little Miss and I are still reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe at night.

What’s Been Occurring

This past week I thought I had caught a cold, but it appears to be sinus drainage from the weather change this week which included temps jumping up, especially over the weekend. I was better yesterday during the day but I continued to cough from what felt like mucous draining down the back of my throat during the night. I think if the weather would stabilize, that would help my sinuses a lot. What I am thankful for is that it hasn’t affected Little Miss like it usually does.

Yesterday, today and tomorrow we are celebrating my son turning 16. He had friends over yesterday and today. We will visit my parents today and are cooking steaks on the grill — a treat since steaks have been so expensive. Yesterday Little Miss and I helped my mom make two apple pies for The Boy who is not a fan of cake but loves his grandmother’s apple pie.

Tomorrow he gets a day off school and we will celebrate some more.

What We watched/are Watching

I failed at No News November so far but hope to do better this week and plan to use shows like Classic Mary Berry to help stay away from news as we move into elections here in the United States.

I won’t completely stay off news, especially Wednesday, but I will be taking a longer break.

If you don’t know who Mary Berry is, she is a cook from the U.K. who might be well-known to fans of The Great British Baking Show, which airs on PBS in the U.S. I had to Google how old she is because during one episode she said she’d been cooking one recipe for 60 years and she learned it in college. It turns out she is 87 and her full name is Dame Mary Rosa Alleyne Hunnings DBE. I know this particular series must have been filmed years ago because there is no way she is 87 in this series. I looked it up and she was 83. Good grief. She ages well. I read that her mom died when she was 105 so it sounds like Mary could have many more years of creating cooking shows.

Part of the time I am confused while watching her cook because they either use a different name for the ingredient over there or I’ve absolutely never heard of a particular ingredient.

I didn’t watch much else this past week, but hope to watch some more old movies, etc. this week.

What I’m Writing

I am currently editing Shores of Mercy and hope to start another story, outside the Spencer Valley Chronicles, this week. I have actually started four other books, but I have to decide which one I am going to continue to work on to release next.

On the blog this week I shared:

What I’m Listening To:

This week I listened to various praise and worship songs.

Now it’s your turn

Now it’s your turn. What have you been doing, watching, reading, listening to or writing? Let me know in the comments or leave a blog post link if you also write a weekly update like this.