Saturday, December 10, 2022

Slowing Down // A 30 Day Challenge

The habit of rushing is my ultimate nemesis. It gets me every time. That hurry, hurry, out the door, back home, get supper on, quicker, quickly. I forget so often to slow down and enjoy the moments around me. To soak them in before they vanish. Because, suddenly, it's bedtime, suddenly, it's the next day, and it feels like I repeat this over and over again. And now the year is almost over.

When I put together my Falling into Autumn post, I realized the lack of photos that I had from June to September. Usually, there are far too many and I have to spend hours going through and selecting the right ones. This year, however, there was (what felt like) only a handful. Even when looking at the events of our summer, there aren't too many photos, and now I'm wondering what we even did this year. Not that photos are everything, but they do help 'reassure' me that we did have some kind of an adventure. 

I rushed and forgot to soak in the moments. I rushed to get into our new house and I rushed to visit my parents for our summer holiday. I rushed to get home again and to get the girls ready for school. And school is a whole other animal. Since I spent my energy trying to propel myself to the next thing, I forgot to notice and sit with the small moments of magic, stillness, and growth. I feel like I've missed out on all the blessings this year could have offered. 

When I took photos in November of our long weekend, a wave of remembrance hit me as I played about with my camera, taking shots of the daily going-ons. I love this. I love taking photos. I love being creative. I love expressing myself and sharing my daily life in this space. The camera is the tool I need to be present and to zoom in and zone in on the world around me. I definitely don't want to have it glued to me every single day, but I want to pick it up more often and use it as training, in hopes that natural habits will develop.

I decided that this was a perfect time for another photo challenge. These challenges are my favourite because I can see it all put together in one post and I'm amazed that every little photo built up towards something that means so much to me. Whether I was busy working on something (there is always a kid to pick up, a present to finish) I took a photo. I had days where I wandered the house, seeking its magic, and then there were days that I was so obsessed with all the beauty my plants were producing, that taking a photo was so easy. I took a photo for thirty days and this was so needed. By stopping and pulling out my camera, I was able to see things a different way. Closer up or further back, a different angle - it felt like I was way more in the moment, able to enjoy it fuller and play, rather than fight or hurry. 

What I Learned from this Project : 

- Slowing down and being still is so important to me and my day benefits from it. Even if it's just for the smallest of moments to be thankful for something, or to appreciate the warmth of my tea, or delight in the rainbows in my girls room. To have those moments of joy helps elevate the rest of my day. 

- When I discovered those little magical moments of my day, whether I was roaming the house "looking" or in a craft project seeing it anew, I found even more joy as I stepped back to take a photo. That felt huge and as the challenge went on, I began getting excited about "stepping back" and seeing it from a different view. 

- Blogging is actually a huge help in this regard! When I start thinking about what type of project I want to post, I feel like the photographer in me goes a little nuts. I also feel like I can slow down with the post I'm writing. For example, my Celebrating Years of Reading post took me almost two weeks to complete, and I really enjoyed working on it for that length of time. To collect words and photos, to build up a post, it needs the time and I'm realizing the value in that.  

Moving Forward : 

- All messes are beautiful, even if I don't think so in the moment. Take photos and put it away, even if the project seems wonky. I'll be thankful later.

- I need to take time to sort out my day better. Projects and household chores, and future dreams, all important, but so is taking care of myself. I need to figure out how to prioritize those slow moments without feeling guilty about them. 

- My girls get absolutely ticked when I stop what I am doing and join in on their "messes." Usually, I observe and encourage and praise them, but when I stop and join in on the fun (the art, the dance party, their imaginary worlds) they are delighted. I want more of this moving forward. 

Here are the photos. I hope you enjoy. Sincerely, Emily. 

The start of new blooms and finding joy in making something out of nothing.
This quote did not want to photograph well, but this is what it says : "This is the story of my love for winter, the scent of fir and spruce, ghost stories read with a glass of sloe gin, and beewax candles with shadows dancing on the ceiling. With recipes, fables, and quick fireside suppers from November to February, I take you through my essential preparations for Christmas and New Year and everything you need to enjoy the winter months." - Nigel Slater, The Christmas Chronicles. My Little Pony forever!
Christmas songs have begun and all my hearts in rainbow order. Thanks, Bug!
Rainbows in rooms and crazy plant growth. Look at all that hair!
This was one such moment, I jumped in and joined them on making their snow fort. I laughed so much and so did they. Such a special moment. Now, all we need is more snow - am I allowed to say that?
Getting bigger every day and a slow moment in the car. Starting a new book always gives me such a great feeling.
Our first time ever putting Christmas lights outside our house. I am so happy! A beautiful Christmas tree decorated by the loveliest lady.
More blooms and a little ghost keeping my books safe.
A surprising rainbow found in the library and a new moose to join our moose family.
A moment with my littlest one and a bloom at large.
A moment with my oldest, parked in the car, waiting for the younger, big books in tow. A morning of ponies and puzzles.
WOW! Beauty in one corner, a mess in another. Just kidding, I love this kind of 'mess' and think its so beautiful.
Got the lights up on the tree, finally! eeee I am being blessed by such blooms.
Twinkle lights in the girls room and snow in the garden.
Decorating ornaments. I got these lovely colouring ornaments years ago from my mom, and now, we colour a new side every year. There are even some little baby scribbles on some of them and I am telling the girls, who are now older, to go around those scribbles gently. 
Look at those blooms! And those tiny fingers!

Friday, December 02, 2022

Celebrating Years of Reading & Book Ideas For Christmas

For as long as I can remember, I have always loved to read. Some of my favourite childhood memories are ones where I found myself snuggled in a cozy corner with a new book in hand. Feeling the thrills of stepping into a character's shoes or reading their backstory for the first time. Or memories of being given countless hours at the library, and how I'd walk up and down those shelves, searching for that one spine that would call out to me. But the memories of my parent's reading to me are the most precious (their voices changed with the characters, their careful explanation over a new word, snuggling up close so I could see all the pictures), it all brought me so much joy. Books have shaped my life.

I loved (still do) the discovery of new worlds, the thrill of an adventure starting, the following of clues. I found heroines that I loved, villains I despised, been mystified, terrified, and often learnt lessons right along side the protagonist. Smacking my head when they landed in trouble and gasping at the clue so obviously missed. The lure of the one ring in the Hobbit captivated me and the black spot in Treasure Island scared me senseless. As did the hounds from Baskerville. I discovered then that was about as 'horror' as I was willing to go. Nancy Drew was my sleuth of choice and I aimed to read every one of her books - and to this day, I still am not sure how many I did end up reading. This was all before goodreads, and before I knew the possibility of book tracking.    


The library was one of my favourite places to go as a child. I often skipped right past the picture book section (cause that was for babies) and explored the rest of the bookshelves instead. I quickly found which ones to avoid (horror) and which ones to walk straight towards, where I knew that I would find my own 'precious'. You can just imagine my delight when I found out that there were thirteen other books in the Wizard of Oz series. I took the "quiet" policy of the library very seriously and wouldn't have made a peep, but I danced with silent enthusiasm. 

There have been so many books that I found at the library and read where specific scenes still haunt me to this day. I couldn't tell you the title or who the author was if my life depended on it, but specific moments and characters dance about in my head, filling me with similar emotion of awe or dread that I first felt when I read their stories all those years ago. Several of these books I did manage to find over the years, thanks to google. But some are still a mystery. Thank goodness for the internet now, where I can research and track books down, but back then, I relied solely on my mother, whose memory was amazing. And when she couldn't remember the book I was seeking, I went to the next best thing - the librarian. 

The best feeling in the world as a kid was being taking seriously by an adult. I remember feeling so nervous trying to carefully explain the premise of a book to my favourite librarian (her name was (and probably still is) Barb) and she listened to my words so carefully as she wrote down her notes. When I told her all that I could remember, she went to her computer and started the search. It was such an important thing, I remember. I so desperately needed to find this book and I felt like Barb understood that. When she came back with a title and I wasn't sure, we ordered it and waited, and when the book finally came, my little self was filled with glee as she held the correct one in hand - a copy of Castle Tourmandyne*1 by Monica Hughes. Mission accomplished. The Castle in the Attic, Gulliver's Travels, Bridge to Terabithia, and the Jewel Kingdom Series were other such successes. I found kinship with Barb and only felt slightly bad bringing in my accidentally-got-wet-in-the-tent copy of A Wrinkle in Time and it's sequel, paying for them, but ultimately winning because it meant I got to add those two books to my own personal collection. 


After the library, the next best thing was actually collecting my own books. I have been gifted Charlotte's Web, The Darkness is Rising series, Cinder, and several Agatha Christie volumes over the years. Around my 13th birthday, a lovely copy of a Little Women came to me and, oh, how I fell in love. Little Women meant a lot to me then, but it means even more so now that I am a mother. Back then, I wanted to be like Jo. I loved her the most! But upon a recent reread, after having two of my own girls, I found myself drawn to Marmee's scenes. I loved hearing her wisdom and seeing her love for each of the girls, how she saw each little women for the wonder that they were. It was wonderful! I loved how my own perspective had changed towards this book and I'm so curious about rereading other childhood favourites now. 

As much as I loved Jo, Anne (with an E) was always my favourite fictional character, and she still is to this day. My parents gifted me the entire Green Gables collection for Christmas one year, and it is a present that has grown more valuable to me as the years go on. I love the way Anne sees the world and often wished I had more of her spunk. In a way, this post really is a huge thank you note to my parents. I am forever grateful for the encouragement they gave of stories and reading, of imagination. Growing up, they put so many books in my hand. The BorrowersBlack BeautyThe Chronicles of NarniaMatilda, and even encouraged me to pick up Stuart Little. They told me that if I read the book, and wrote a little report about it, they would take me to see the film in theatres. My nine year old self was ecstatic and the movie is still so special to me! Harry Potter played a huge role in my childhood as well. My mom discovered the first book because a friend of hers son was reading it. She brought it home, and possibly the second one too, devoured it, then handed it to me telling me that I needed to read it too. We waited every year for the new book to come out. My mom would start her reread of the ones we already owned, then I would get them, then pass it along to my sister when I was through. My brother was last, poor soul. We created this 'train' of reading all so that we could fall into the world once more and get truly invested and ready for the newly published story. The thrill of patiently waiting for the next, of seeing my mom's excitement, of going to the movies and spending the entire car ride home comparing movie to book, it all holds so many wonderful, happy memories for me. I am ever so thankful to my parents who encouraged my love for reading. Without their support who knows how many literary friends I would have made.   

There have been so many books over the course of thirty-two years and I absolutely love reading, yet, the funniest thing happened to me the after the birth of my first born. For whatever reason, I completely stopped reading. I think I was so focused on her and all the new (and probably exhausted), that I left the joy of books behind completely. It wasn't until I was pregnant with my second child when I started picking them up again. Started craving them. I chose novels by John Green and found my way onto Patrick Rothfuss's epic fantasy. Then, I discovered the gloriousness of Goodreads and faithfully have been tracking my reads ever since. 


During that four year gap, I have no idea what I did with my time (probably just stared at new baby face), but over the last five and a half years, I've read so many wonderful stories. I love looking back at my photos and remembering what book I was reading during a specific event or season of time and seeing what project I had along side of it. I read Hitchhiker's while I was camping and Outlander while visiting my parents. I love the memories that come up with them all and find that a cozy atmosphere really does add to the reading experience. 

And along the way, I've discovered my love for talking of books with someone else. Whether its through discussion during a book club, a random chat with a friend, or being lead to new books entirely by strangers on the internet (hi, book tube), talking about books is such a passion of mine. I find small talk strangely odd and hard for my introverted self to get around, but book talk? Anytime, please! I even landed a job in a bookstore for four years of my life - and it was one of my favourite jobs too. My eldest has started reading a ton of chapter books and it has been incredible hearing her explain the worlds she has visited or have me read sections of her books that have made her laugh. My youngest is just starting to read and loves anything with animals on the cover. I hope they continue to love books the way that they do now and I hope we'll forever bond over them.

Which brings me to the second half of this post. I thought it would be a lot of fun to share some of my absolute favourite reads of the last five and a half years (the time I spent reading after that odd "new mom" book gap). I think Christmas time is the best time to gift books to someone you love and I thought it would be so interesting to see all of my favourites together in one post. There have been so many wonderful books that have been put in my hands or that I've listened to, and I want to share them all. 

Of course, all of these favourites are based on my own personal opinion and experience, but I hope that a treasure or two will leap out at you. This list makes me very, very happy. :) 

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND

Christmas Themed Books 


1. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. 2. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum. 3. Letters From Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien. 4. Christmas with Anne and Other Holiday Stories by L. M. Montgomery
5. The Christmas Chronicles by Nigel Slater. 6. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss. 7. A Porcupine in a Pine Tree by Helaine Becker.

Books That Made Me Laugh



My Favourite Picture Books*3


1. You Are Special by Max Lucado. 2. Franklin's Flying Bookshop by Jen Campbell. 3. The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman. 
4. Annie and the Wild Animals by Jan Brett*4. 5. Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper. 6. Enemy Pie by Derek Munson.
7. The Yellow Kayak by Nina Laden. 8. The Wish Tree by Kyo Maclear. 9. Lights on Wonder Rock by David Litchfield.
10. Swashby and the Sea by Beth Ferry. 11. Puff the Magic Dragon by Peter Yarrow. 12. Miss Maple's Seeds by Eliza Wheeler.
13. Imagine That by Jonathan D. Voss. 14. Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett. 15. Julia's House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke.*5
16. Dandy by Ame Dyckman.*6 17. In A Jar by Deborah Marcero. 18. Red Sings from Treetops by Joyce Sidman.
19. This is Sadie by Sara O'Leary. 20. The Big Book of Bugs by Yuval Zommer. 21. When Green Becomes Tomatoes by Julia Fogliano. 22. The Honeybee by Kristen Hall.
23. Tiny T.Rex and the Impossible Hug by Jonathan Stutzman. 24. Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima*7. 25. It Fell from the Sky by The Fan Brothers.
26. The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires. 27. Oona by Kelly DiPucchio. 28. The Barnabus Project by The Fan Brothers.

Middle Grade 


1. The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill. 2. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.*8 3. The Wild Robot by Peter Brown. 4. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell.*9
5. Charlotte's Web by E. B. White. 6. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente. 7. Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend. 8. Kiki's Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono. 

Graphic Novels 


1. Garlic and the Vampire by Bree Paulsen. 2. Quiet Girl in a Noisy World by Debbie Tung. 3. Book Love by Debbie Tung. 4. Happily Ever After & Everything In Between by Debbie Tung.

Non-Fiction 


1. Sorry I'm Late, I Didn't Want to Come by Jessica Pan. 2. Conscious Creativity by Philippa Stanton. 3. The Library Book by Susan Orlean. 4. The Read-Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie. 
5. If You Find This Letter by Hannah Brencher. 6. An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler.

Christian Non-Fiction


1. The Ministry of Ordinary Places by Shannan Martin. 2. Get Out Of Your Head by Jennie Allen. 
3. Fervent by Priscilla Shirer. 

Biographies 


1. As You Wish by Cary Elwes. 2. 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. 3. On Writing by Stephen King.

Classics*10 


1. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte. 2. Pygmalion by Bernard Shaw. 3. The Scapegoat by Daphne du Maurier. 4. The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery.*11
5. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. 6. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. 7. The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde. 
8. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keys. 

Historical Fiction


1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.*12 2. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. 3. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. 4. Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell*13

Contemporary Fiction


5. Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy. 6. Anxious People by Fredrik Backman.

Mystery


1. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. 2. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley.*15 
3. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. 5. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman.
5. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. 6. A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie. 

Fantasy


1. Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger. 2. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow*16. 3. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. 4. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.
5. The Night Circus by Erin Morgernstern. 6. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss*17. 7. Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. 8. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. 

Alternative Reality


1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. 2. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. 3. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke.*18 

Fairytale Retellings 


1. Heartless by Marissa Meyer. 2. Breadcrumbs by Anna Ursu. 3. Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. 4. Cinder by Marissa Meyer.
5. Beasts and Beauty by Soman Chainani. 6. Snow & Rose by Emily Winfield Martin.

Great Anthology Collections*19


1. The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke. 2. Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories by Kelly Barnhill. 
3. Rogues edited and arranged by George R. R. Martin. 4. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman.
5. A Tyranny of Petticoats edited by Jessica Spotswood. 6. Tales of the Peculiar by Ransom Riggs*20. 7. Hungry Hearts edited by Elsie Chapman*21.

~~~

If you have read any of these and loved them, or have any books you think I would also like, please don't hesitate to leave a comment down below. I would love to hear from you.   :)

Musings and afterthoughts

*1 - I own this book now, and it's probably the book I am the most nervous to reread.
*2 - This book made me laugh so much the first time, then I listened to it with my girls who laughed even more. 
*3 - I thought picture books were baby books when I was younger, but not anymore. With beautiful illustrations, deep messages, and complex words, they are some of my favourite things. 
*4 - Basically anything by Jan Brett is awesome!
*5 - All three in this series are wonderful! 
*6 - Dandy is one of my favourites. With my husband who removes all dandelions and my daughters who love them, this was a perfect family read. 
*7 - We probably should have purchased this book long ago. We've borrowed it from the library so many times, I've lost count.
*8 - This is a darker middle grade. 
*9 - Another childhood favourite. Another reread I enjoyed immensely and cannot wait for Bug to read it.
*10 - I realized, after the fact, that I forgot to put Anne of Green Gables on this list. Oops!
*11 - I love the Blue Castle with all my heart!
*12 - This book destroyed me. I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. So good! 
*13 - Probably my favourite book of the year. 
*14 - Another book that made me sob. I was doing fine until my husband asked if I was okay. I broke down in the kitchen and had to reassure everyone that the cause was only a book. 
*15 - I first read this book in December and now I want to reread the whole series. I love it to pieces. 
*16 - I need to own this book!
*17 - I honestly believe it was this book that really got me back into full-time reading. 
*18 - This is probably supposed to be under fantasy, but I really do feel like it fits here the best. 
*19 - With all great anthologies, there will always be a story or two that won't be liked as much as the others. Overall, these are the ones that had a high rating of over 4 stars from me. I did not like every story, but I liked the majority. 
*20 - This anthology by Riggs might be more appreciated with the context of Miss Peregrin's Home for Peculiar Children. 
*21 - This anthology was completely well done. I did not like every story individually, yet, every single one painted a larger picture and connected with each other in a very cool way. Which I really loved.