On my bookshelf

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ah, there's nothing like a stack of books and a cup of tea, is there? Add a cozy fire as the temperatures fall, a lap cat, and an afghan, and it's a little bit of heaven.

My book club met last night, and I told them of our plans to add more bookshelves to our family room. It was either: 1) get rid of a bunch of books, 2) never buy another book for the rest of our lives, or 3) get some more bookshelves. 

No contest.

I'm all for minimalism in clothing and kitchen gadgets, etc., but walls of books surrounding me with their friendly and inviting faces are really a necessity.

I'm looking forward to using an app a friend told me about that scans ISBN numbers, so that you end up with a catalog of all your books with title, author, publication date, etc. I'm excited to reorganize all our books, many of which are stacked all over in chairs and on tables and on the floor.

We even have a family contest going as to how many books we have. The guesses range between 1000 to 2000, which I think is a modest collection. My friend has more than 3000. How many do you have?

Our book club recently finished The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson. It is a fictional story of life in modern-day North Korea. Not for the faint-hearted. Graphic and disturbing. Several of our members couldn't finish it. I found it well-written and compelling despite the difficult subject matter.

Last night we discussed Mountain Rain by Eileen Fraser Crossman, a biography of the author's father, a missionary in inland China in the early 1900s. Well-written, with many of her father's letters and journal notes included, it emphasizes the importance of prayer. Very inspiring.

Next on the agenda is Still Alice by Lisa Genova, about a woman's descent into early-onset Alzheimer's. I have to admit I'm not really looking forward to reading it. Reviews call it "heartbreaking."

I get most of my books from the library, and love their interlibrary loan service, through which they borrow books from libraries all over Michigan.

One of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Goudge, is getting harder to find, even through interlibrary loan. Those hard-to-find, much-loved books are the ones we should add to our home libraries. I ended up ordering this trilogy from Amazon, new. Amazon is also my go-to source for hard-to-find used books.

My friends reminded me last night of the huge library book sale that is held three times a year. I had been staying clear, because we had no shelf space. But now . . . uh-oh.

Look what Marcia from marciapilar.net (formerly A Table Named Love) recently sent me from one of her giveaways . . . 

Aren't they gorgeous tags?  The colors and design are beautiful. I think I'll use at least a couple as bookmarks.

She also sent me this lovely bookmark.

Thank you, Marcia. I love them!

One of my all-time favorite authors is Wendell Berry. He has written a number of essays on the importance of maintaining the family farm and agrarian way of life, none of which I have read (but mean to someday). But I think I've read all of his novels, set in a fictional farming community in Kentucky.

If I ever write a book, Wendell Berry will be my muse. Such simple, powerful prose. (My sister thinks it's very funny to have an 80-year-old farmer as a "muse"!)

It's a rainy day, perfect for setting aside a little reading time (Ha. Do I even need an excuse?). I have several books to choose from. I think I'm going to read The Blue Hills by Goudge, as it is due back at the library on Friday. There's no way I'm going to get through Shadow of the Moon by M.M. Kaye; that will have to be renewed.

What's on your bookshelf? Do you have a favorite author(s)?

A spicy fall tea

Monday, October 27, 2014

Allyn Nelson Collection, made in England

I was in Trader Joe's last week, and everything was pumpkin. Pumpkin coffee, pumpkin pie, pumpkin scones, cookies, bread, pancake mix . . . the works. I picked up some pumpkin cream cheese. And some little ginger cookies, perfect for fall.

Have you ever used whole nutmeg? Definitely worth the little bit of extra trouble to grate it fresh. My  microplane zester works perfectly for this.

I grated a little nutmeg on a scoop of the pumpkin cream cheese.

Perfect dip for the little cookies.

The weather has been gorgeous here in Michigan. The first two pictures show my view from my tea table out into the backyard. The photo on the right was taken out my front door. 

Sandi at Rose Chintz Cottage has invited us all to participate in pink teas for the month of October to show support for those affected by breast cancer. Be sure to stop over and visit.

Fifty ways to live a more beautiful life

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I love lists, don't you? Some random thoughts here, in no particular order, on ways to live a more beautiful life.

1. Take a bath occasionally, rather than a shower. Close your eyes and relax. Some of your most creative ideas might come to you here.

2. Use the good stuff now. The silk blouse, the silver, the good china. Don't wait.

3. Light a candle for dinner.

4. Re-introduce the family mealtime. If you're by yourself, set a nice table anyway.

5. Always have flowers in your house. Find something from your garden or yard, or forego something at the grocery store and buy flowers.

I love using my grandmother's rose shears.

6. Take a tech sabbath once a week. Turn off the phone, the laptop, the TV, everything. Read, think, or go for a walk.

7. Be kind to everyone you meet.

8. Give something away to somebody just because. You'll be reminded that it truly is more blessed to give . . . 

9. Figure out what colors and shapes look/feel good on you, and gradually get rid of those items that don't. Be true to yourself; I finally admitted that I dislike wearing black even though it's supposed to be so chic. Now I don't have anything in my closet that's black and it feels good.

10. Forgive people who've wronged you. This can take a long time sometimes, but it is worth it.

11. Write a handwritten letter to someone. It will make their day.

12. Try to learn something new, or do something new, every day. For instance, I just learned how to save my blog (duh . . . about time).

13. Don't drink from plastic water bottles, except at the gym. Treat yourself to a real glass. 

14. One word. De-clutter.

15. Discover your passion, and spend a little time with it every day, even if you only have a half hour. Read, write, knit, paint, tutor, listen to opera, bake . . . 

Handmade pumpkins from Celestina Marie Design. 

16. Stop drinking soda and drink water instead.

17. Stop at the recycling bin before you come in the house from the mailbox and dump all the junk mail and catalogs before you bring them in the house.

18. Learn to say no. Not every need is a calling.

19. Learn to say yes. To things that scare you a little, but you've always wanted to try.

20. Find a hairstyle that suits you and is easy to style, and a good hairdresser. In my opinion, this is worth more than clothes, makeup, and jewelry put together.

21. Smile. It's an instant facelift.

22. Practice compassion. You have no idea what someone else is going through.

23. Make your bed every day. Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project says, unbelievably, this one thing makes people the happiest!

24. Learn to cook from scratch. You will save money and be healthier.

25. Make a list of things you are grateful for each day, if only in your head. Even on the worst days, you can be glad for a hot cup of coffee or a car that starts.

26. Put on your favorite music. Dance if you want.

27. Get enough sleep.

28. Have somebody to love, whether a spouse, a beloved kitty, a neighborhood child, or a friend at work.

29. Think before you speak. 

30. And listen without interrupting.

31. Floss.

32. Take a mini-retreat every once in a while. Once when my children were little, I booked a room in a local hotel for myself overnight while my husband watched the children. I just took a Bible, some inspirational books, and my journal. I had about 20 blissful hours of uninterrupted time, and came back refreshed and ready to be a wife and mommy again.

33. Get organized. Even if you only spend 10 minutes a day on a junk drawer or the linen closet or the spice rack, you will eventually get there, and feel so much more in control of your home. Set a timer and do it.

34. Stop feeling guilty about downtime. Our American culture makes us feel that if our planner isn't chock full of Important Things To Do, we are a slacker. Just don't go there.

35. "Comparison is the thief of joy." Be yourself; you're the only one who can.

36. Worry will show on your face.

37. "Fake it 'til you make it." I'm not the person I want to be, but I try to act like her. Cary Grant once said he wished he was as debonair, cultured, and gentlemanly as the characters he played in the movies. And after acting that way for years, he eventually became that person in real life.

38. Don't try to go it alone. Be humble enough to ask for help.

39. Stop trying to change or control people. Let them make their own mistakes decisions (oops . . . gave myself away there).

40. Invest in comfortable bedding and pillows. After all, you spend a third of your life in bed.

41. Spend time outdoors, enjoying the natural world, as often as possible.

42. Enjoy a good belly laugh, one that has you gasping for breath.

43. Make a ritual for getting through mundane tasks. Light a candle, put on some music, and fix a cup of tea when you're paying the bills, for example.

44. Polish your shoes, sew on that button, moisturize your heels . . . pay attention to the details.

45. Pay someone a sincere compliment.

46. Let an offense go. Decide you're not going to react. Does it really matter?

47. Quality, not quantity, with things.

48. But don't buy into the "it's quality time that counts" with people, especially children. It's not just quality time; it's quantity; lots of t-i-m-e spells l-o-v-e.

49. Be still and breathe.

50. And, above all, love the Lord. Talk to Him often. Believe His word. He cares for you more than you know.

I'd love to hear what you would put on this list. Please share.

Tea from a friend

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Stephanie from The Enchanting Rose has hosted another fun teacup and mug exchange. She is having the official reveal on her blog on Thursday (10.23), but graciously allowed us to post our teacups anytime prior to Thursday. I couldn't wait to show you the beautiful package I received from Kitty at Kitty's Kozy Kitchen

Wow . . . I was overwhelmed when I opened the package . . .

Look at this beauty. So many gorgeous colors.

She made this darling crocheted pumpkin for me. I couldn't believe it! Isn't it just too cute? I saw one on her blog recently and told her I'd love to have tea with her and have her show me how to make one, and . . . she sent it to me!

These all smell delicious, especially the coconut chai. I am drinking the gypsy rose.

These little shortbread guys are delicious. I think they would also taste great dipped in chocolate. Don't you think they'd like to wear some brown trousers?

I had a lovely tea time today, feeling blessed by my blogger friend.

My package for Stephanie's exchange is winging its way from here in Michigan to New South Wales in Australia! I do hope it gets there before Thursday. I'm kind of afraid it may be a while yet.


In beauty news, look what my daughter scored from Sephora. A 500-point bonus gift.

The darling little lip gloss is only two inches high.

Mmm . . . Dutch apple pie for later.

Thank you, again, dear Kitty, for the fabulous package.


Joining with Sandi at Rose Chintz Cottage for her October pink teas in support of breast cancer awareness month.

And don't forget to stop by sweet Stephanie's on Thursday.

The power of a compliment

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Do you remember the old playground taunt, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me"? It's so untrue, isn't it? Bones mend much more quickly than hearts. How true that the tongue has the power of life and death (Prov. 18:21).

We all long to be loved and appreciated. A kind word, a sincere compliment, can lift our spirits and give life. It can make our day. Or even longer. Mark Twain once said he could live two months on a good compliment!

the last of the lobelia

Two things here.

We need to be life-giving in our words to others, and we also need to receive life-giving words with grace and real acceptance.

Don't shrug off a real compliment. Don't come back with a,  "oh, it's nothing." You may think you're being humble, but it really is an insult to the one giving you the compliment. They are then in the awkward position of trying to reassure you of your value. Accept it gracefully, with a smile. And then, here's the important thing: take it into your heart and allow it to sink in and encourage you. 

It is said that for every unkind and hurtful comment we get, we need at least ten compliments. Don't we tend to shrug off the compliments and only focus on the negative? So allow that life-giving word to reach your heart.

And can I interject one thing especially for my Christian sisters? Don't just say, "oh, it's all the Lord; I did nothing."  Yes, we know that our gifts come from the Father, but to always deflect praise with a false humility is wrong. The Lord is using others to encourage and love on us, and we need to receive it, instead of puffing ourselves up to look super-spiritual.  Just try a simple, "thank you so much," or, "thank you; I'm so grateful for the Lord's help."

A woman once told me I was a real Proverbs 31 woman. Ha! I almost laughed in her face. If you only knew. But later, reflecting on it, I thought, well, maybe there's something there, maybe I'm not such a hopeless case after all.

It was an encouragement and a motivator. It humbled me and made me want to try to be the person she thought me to be.

My youngest son always raves on my home cooking. Does it make me feel puffed up? No, it encourages me to continue to put my best efforts into cooking for those I love. Hmm . . . wonder if he's figured this out?!

In that vein, don't be a flatterer (no, my son is being genuine). I learned from a neighbor years ago to be on the lookout for ways to genuinely compliment each person you meet. Don't say something unless you mean it. There's something good about every person you meet. Sometimes it's easy to find; other times you have to really look. 

I like to do this with salespeople and waiters. They're working hard, and probably have to deal with more than their share of rude people. 

Once, at the grocery store, I noticed the cashier had super-long, flashy and bejeweled talons nails. I couldn't focus on anything else, and I couldn't, in all honesty, say I loved them. So I kind of blurted out, "Wow, your nails are amazing!" (They really were.) She lit up with a big smile and enthusiastically showed me the details on each nail. I saw her as a real person, not just someone with questionable taste. It was good for both of us, maybe even more so for me.

Be a life-giver to those around you. Pour genuine and kind words into their hearts. So many people are hurting and needy; so many are weighed down with anxious thoughts, with worries about health or finances or relationships. It doesn't cost anything to be a giver of life and encouragement.

An anxious heart weighs a man down,
but a kind word cheers him up. (Prov. 12:25)

Coffee with Lucy and Ethel

Sunday, October 12, 2014

{Joining with Sandi's pink tea (or coffee) in support of breast cancer awareness month.}


Sometimes life just gets difficult. When I'm worried or anxious, or feeling down, I pray. Or I write in my journal. Or I try and count my blessings.

But sometimes, I just sit down and watch a couple episodes of I Love Lucy. Nothing like a good, old-fashioned belly laugh to get your mind off things for a while.

Who can forget those side-splitting episodes where Lucy and Ethel work the assembly line at the chocolate factory or stomp those grapes? 

Such good friends. How 'bout stuffing our faces with chocolate a la Lucy?

Okay, maybe not . . . 

Maybe, in honor of the 50s, when packaged, convenience foods started appearing in the supermarkets, an easy-to-grab treat to go with our coffee and TV show?

my poor cow creamer always looks a little distressed -- don't worry, Bessie; only 150 calories!

A little ice cream with my coffee, some fun times with Lucy and Ethel, and suddenly things don't seem quite so bad.

can you find the typo?!

{I looked up the grape-stomping episode online, and guess what I found? Just this past Saturday, October 11, the citizens of Jamestown, New York, Lucy's hometown, broke the grape-stomping record in their annual contest. Over 1,200 participants, stomping 60 tons of concord grapes in the middle of town, beat the record set in Spain with 977 participants. The grape vat was more than two blocks long! Who knew?}

Somewhere in Time

Friday, October 10, 2014

Last weekend, my husband and I went up to the Upper Peninsula to enjoy some fall color. We met with some cold and rainy weather instead.

Here we are, crossing the Mackinac Bridge.

For those of you not familiar with our state, the Mackinac Bridge, built in 1957, is a 5-mile-long suspension bridge that connects Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas, as you can see by our GPS. 

The little town of St. Ignace, on the northeast side of the bridge.

You can see the beautiful pines in the background.

We stayed on Trout Lake, at a lovely little restored motel and inn called Birch Lodge. The owners are working hard to re-create the atmosphere it once had, back when one of them stayed there as a child. 

Here are a couple jukeboxes they have kept in working order. They even provide the quarters. For a quarter, you get five songs. I played These Boots Are Made For Walkin' by Nancy Sinatra.

Check out these old menus they've kept, and the prices!

And this breakfast, all for a dollar . . . 

And everything typed on a manual typewriter . . .

This is the old bar area, with a canopy made of small birch logs. An old cash register, advertisements, cigarette and Alka-Seltzer dispensers . . . 

Remember these old lights? And check out the wallpaper . . . 

The inn was originally built to be a TB sanitorium, but it never opened. The rooms, which are being restored, have beautiful old wood floors and lovely antique furniture. The owner showed me cupboards full of old restaurant crockery, some made by Hall, and pristine percale sheets, hand-embroidered with Birch Lodge on them. They were washed in the old way, with a wringer, and then all ironed in a press.

A beautiful long balcony overlooks the lake. I can imagine the original idea was to allow TB patients the opportunity to sit in the fresh air and sunshine, perhaps with a nice warm blanket spread over their laps as they rocked in comfortable rockers and enjoyed the view.

And, oh my, check out these fabulous old advertisements for Spry, found in some of the many old magazines the owners still have at the lodge.

I can't help it -- the editor in me has to say "WE ladies"!!
Now that we're home, the weather is beautiful again.

(The title of this post is from the movie Somewhere in Time, starring Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve, and set on our very own Mackinac Island, which you can see from the bridge, and visit via a ferry. Very charming, with no cars allowed, only horse-drawn carriages, and famous for its beautiful lilacs, Victorian homes, and fudge.)

Have a lovely weekend, friends.
Made With Love By The Dutch Lady Designs