Holiday Tales


A few years ago, I started a new reading tradition for myself. On November 1st, I begin to read books and stories about the holidays. A simple tradition but one that has brought much joy to my reading.

This year I started with an old classic published in 1897: Holiday Tales: Christmas in the Adirondacks, by W.H.H. Murray. I’d never heard of it before, but I’m glad I discovered it because it was a lovely beginning for this season’s reading. The book was free for my Kindle, and can also be read online as part of Project Gutenberg eBooks. It contains two stories about an old trapper named John Norton who lives in a cabin deep in the Adirondacks.

The Dismal Hut

The Dismal Hut

The first story, called How John Norton the Trapper Kept His Christmas, is about how he helps a neighbor, a woman with three children living in a dismal hut in the woods. They are starving and destitute, almost completely without hope. The Old Trapper had just started to put together a basket of food to take to them when a large crate is delivered to him from his son who had moved to a city far away. The crate contained warm clothing,  foodstuff, and other things needed to help the neighbor woman, whom the son had met on his last visit. With Old Trapper’s kindness , the caring generosity of his far distant son, and the help of the old friend who delivered the crate, they bring Christmas and renewed hope to the little family living in the “dismal hut.”

Ah, if some sweet power would only enlarge our hearts when, on festive days, we enlarge our tables, how many of the world’s poor, that now go hungry while we feast, would then be fed!

The second tale, John Norton’s Vagabond, is of another Christmas when John Norton decides to invite everyone in the woods, including the “vagabonds,” to his holiday dinner. The Old Trapper believes strongly that Christmas is a time for “forgivin’ and forgittin’,” so he invites even those men that have stolen from his traps. It’s a humorous story, but with the most important, albeit simple, messages.

Ah, friends, dear friends, as years go on and heads get gray–how fast the guests do go! Touch hands, touch hands with those that stay. Strong hands to weak, old hands to young, around the Christmas board, touch hands. The false forget, the foe forgive, for every guest will go and every fire burn low and cabin empty stand. Forget, forgive, for who may say that Christmas day may ever come to host or guest again. Touch hands.

With it’s poignant reminders of what the holidays are all about, with stories of kindness and caring, this was a very enjoyable book to start my holiday reading.



The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine


“Sunshine” seems to be my theme for this week!  A few months ago,  I pre-ordered Alexander McCall Smith‘s most recent #1 Ladies Detective Agency novel, The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine. It arrived on my Kindle just in time to bring some needed sunshine to a dark, rainy weekend. AMS’s books are always a breath of fresh air with happy and humorous reminders to focus on the kind and good in life rather than getting bogged down in the negatives that surround us all.

“Everything could always be worse,” she would say, “and so be grateful that things are only as bad a they are.”

The main character of the #1 Ladies Detective Agency novels, Mma Ramotswe, is a kind, intelligent, caring detective. She makes a difference in people’s lives — in the lives of the people in the books and also in the lives of the readers! I love her outlook on life, her interactions with the other characters, and the way she problem-solves the situations she faces in her business and in her personal life.

So many people had lost that sense of identification with the land that gave meaning to life; that fixed one firmly to a place one loved. At least we still have that, she thought: at least we still have land that we can call our place; acacia trees that are our acacia trees; a sky that is our sky because it watched over our mothers and fathers and took them up into it, embraced them, when they became late. We still have that, no matter how big and frightening the world becomes.

With humor and words of wisdom, this is a book series that definitely brings sunshine into our lives.

Sunshine in the House


What’s all that laughter I hear from the Grandboy’s bedroom upstairs? He and his daddy have been reading aloud a whole stack of Diary of a Wimpy Kid books they picked up at the library. There are three sounds I love on a rainy afternoon like this:  The sound of the rain…  the sound of someone in another room reading aloud…  and the sound of my Grandboy’s laughter.

Grandboy books

Fall Reading


My sunflower garden…

August, September and October have been busy months! My days have been filled with projects and activities, mostly outdoors and mostly in our garden. But we have also done some enjoyable traveling, including a lovely trip in late September to Salt Lake City to spend some time with my 96-year-old mother.

Reading has continued and been very enjoyable, but I just haven’t wanted to spend time writing reviews. Blogging has continued, but almost entirely on my garden blog, which is my online journal of our gardening life. My garden is where my heart is right now, so please do stop in and visit me at My Garden in the Grove.

Although many of the books I’ve been reading in the last few months are about gardens or gardening, I have read other things, too. Here’s a list:

Tasha Tudor, 100 Years

Tasha Tudor

Tasha Tudor is one of my favorite artists. She was the author and illustrator of many children’s books, including my favorite edition of The Secret Garden, and she is beloved worldwide. She was born 100 years ago today, and so to celebrate her centenary, I bought a copy of a lovely book about her: Tasha Tudor’s Garden, by Tovah Martin, with beautiful, beautiful photographs by Richard W. Brown.

There is so much beauty and inspiration in this book! I look forward to reading it and learning more about Tasha Tudor, about her elegantly “simple” lifestyle, and about her gorgeous gardens. I will read it slowly, absorbing as much as I can of the natural beauty she created and surrounded herself with during her long life.

Please visit her family website to learn more about her life and her work.

photo by Richard W. Brown

photo by Richard W. Brown

Garden Reading: Emily Dickinson’s Gardens

Now that I am retired, I’m spending more and more time in my garden. I started my garden blog as an online journal for myself and family. Now I’ve decided to open it up and share it with those of you who love gardening, too. If you find me missing from my book blog…you will most likely find me on my garden blog. I’d love to meet you there!

[The following review was published on my garden blog. I reposted it here, but something happened and it never showed up! Rusty blogging skills?] So here it is, reposted. Again.


During the hot afternoons of the last few days, I completely immersed myself in a lovely book– Emily Dickinson’s Gardens: A Celebration of a Poet and Gardener, by Marta McDowell. I love poetry, and I love reading about the gardens of the great gardeners, so this was the perfect choice for me. And to add depth to this immersion, I pulled from my bookshelf my volume of The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, as well as another beautiful little book for young people, Emily Dickinson: A Brighter Garden, with some of her poems illustrated by the wonderful artist (and gardener), Tasha Tudor. What a lovely way to spend my heat-wave afternoons!

The “Belle of Amherst” was a brilliant poet who drew much of her inspiration from nature and from her garden, in particular. Her love for flowers and for gardening started very young, as did her love for words and poetry. As a teenager, she put together a very impressive “herbarium,” a collection of dried and pressed plants, all beautifully organized and identified by their Latin names. She loved spending time in her family’s gardens and in the meadows and woods adjacent to the family homestead.

During her lifetime, Emily DIckinson was known as a gifted gardener. Not everyone knew that she also wrote poetry, although she shared many of her poems with friends and family. Very few of her poems were published during her lifetime, and no one knew the extent of her writing until after her death when her sister, Lavinia, discovered almost 1,800 poems tucked away in a drawer.

This book was organized by the seasons of the year, and included descriptions of the plants that were grown in Emily’s garden each season, and poems that were inspired by those plants or by the season. A lovely combination! The author, Marta McDowell, is herself a gardener, so she lovingly included how-to information and special tips for other gardeners.

The mix of very interesting biography, descriptions of Emily Dickinson’s gardens with beautiful poetry interspersed, and very helpful gardening advice made the book a pleasure to read and a wonderful learning experience.

The beautiful illustrations below are by Tasha Tudor from Emily Dickinson: A Brighter Garden.


Garden Reading

August, so far, seems to be one of those times when I can’t settle into reading just one book. I’m currently reading 4 different ones! How crazy is that? But I keep going back to one book in particular, on my Kindle, and I’m enjoying it very much. I think it reflects where I’m spending much of my time (in my garden) as well as where I really want to put my reading efforts! Here it is:

Emily DIckinson

Summer Heat and Reading


We are in the middle of a rather miserable heat wave here in Oregon. Yesterday, the temperature rose to 104 degrees Fahrenheit in our town. Today will be “cooler”, perhaps only getting up to 102 degrees. That’s much too hot for outdoor activity, so I intend to stay indoors this afternoon, in a much cooler spot: my new reading/knitting corner.

Knitting project: taking out about six more rows of the project I’m working on after discovering that the second skein of yarn is actually NOT the same weight as the first!

Reading: Listening to the audiobook version of Jimmy Carter’s new book, A Full Life, Reflections at Ninety.

A Full Life