Author Archives: Robin

About Robin

I’m a wife, mother, daughter, grandma, retired teacher, gardener, knitter, and passionate reader. I live near Portland, Oregon, USA.

Goodbye January

readingJanuary was an enjoyable reading month for me — I read seven books and also celebrated my own birthday as well as the 9th anniversary of the birth of this blog. As usual, my reading was all over the place, from Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road, to Anthony Trollope’s The Warden, and each of the 7 books was a good choice for me.

As far as reading challenges go, I usually sign up for a few starting in January, but this year I’ve decided to keep those commitments to a minimum and just focus on my own reading. So I am focusing on my own Goodreads 2016 Reading Challenge, planning on reading at least 75 books, and I joined Emma Watson’s Goodreads feminist book club, “Our Shared Shelf,” and will read the 12 books she chooses for this year. Also, my Mom and I continue our daily phone chats, mostly talking about books, so my reading is strong and healthy and off to a good start for the year. It continues to bring me great joy.

So it is goodbye to January and hello to February which includes an extra day this year for extra reading!

Here are my January reads:

 

A Gift of Reading

My sweet life-long reading buddy, always-reading Mom, age 96, didn’t want any gifts for Christmas. Really, what she didn’t want was to receive things that would take up any space in her small apartment. But since she loves to read, and loves her Kindle, I didn’t have any problem coming up with a very appropriate-for-her gift! I gave her a small library of Kindle books to keep her busy for the confining winter months when she can’t walk to her library (next door) or even her post office (also next door). So I sent her a Kindle book each day from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Eve. I tried to pick exactly the right book each time, and I think I got pretty close. Here are the books I sent her for winter reading.

A Perfect Ending

16th

It’s been a very cold snowy wintery weekend, so the whole family has enjoyed the warmth and quiet of home, everyone doing their own thing throughout the house. Hubby has been doing jigsaw puzzles on his iPad. Daughter has been knitting. Son and Grandboy worked first with Legos and are now creating something terrific in a Minecraft world. And I did something  that I haven’t done in ages! I spent the entire day reading a book, from start to finish! I honestly don’t remember the last time I allowed myself that pleasure, but it certainly should happen more often! So despite the cold, it has been the perfect end to a lovely holiday. Happy New Year, friends, and happy reading!

Last Year’s Words

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.

~ T.S. Eliot

2015 was an enjoyable reading year for me. I was a consistent reader in 2015, which is joyful for me after numerous years of inconsistency. Reading has always been my baseline … no matter what was going on in my life, reading was always happening. Happily, I returned to that sense of normalcy and enjoyed always having at least one book underway. One book, one audiobook, one Kindle book, one library book … often all of them at the same time!

2015completedI read 65 books in 2015. (Please visit me on Goodreads to see the complete list.) Which was my favorite book of the year out of the 65? Interestingly, it was the last book I read, just finishing it yesterday morning. I love the Maisie Dobbs series, by Jacqueline Winspear, and her last book, A Dangerous Place, was, in my opinion, her best yet. I love the emotional honesty that is at the core of every Winspear book, and I enjoy the stories and puzzles that the wonderful character, Maisie, must work through.

A Dangerous Place

My second favorite book of the year was Marta McDowell’s lovely study of Emily Dickinson’s Gardens. Combining my love of poetry and of gardening, this book was just a pleasure for me to read. I will definitely be reading more of Marta McDowell’s books on gardens this year!

Emily Dickinson's Gardens

 

As I reflect on my 2015 reading, the quote above by T.S. Eliot seems particularly appropriate. The books I read in 2015 belong to last year’s language. I’m so looking forward to discovering another voice, the new voice of next year’s words, in my reading in 2016!

Home

Home

We had a lovely Thanksgiving this year with all the family at home, including the Grandboy. We didn’t go anywhere, except for long walks, and the family just enjoyed being at home, quietly doing their own kinds of things over the extended weekend. The best kind of holiday!

Home, by Carson Ellis, is a wonderfully illustrated picture book about HOMES, and all Ellis’s fun illustrations introduce young children to the idea that there are homes of all kinds around the world and in imagination. I really fell in love with this book because it is filled with a combination of fun and fancy, and very important ideas. Children (of all ages) will enjoy this compassionate introduction to diversity.

Carson Ellis is a local artist (Portland, Oregon) who has also worked collaboratively with her husband, Colin Melloy, (of the Decemberists) illustrating their terrific series, Wildwood Chronicles.

Home 2

 

Holiday Tales

holidays

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.

W. H. H. MURRAY, THE MURRAY HOMESTEAD GUILFORD, CONN.

W. H. H. MURRAY,
THE MURRAY HOMESTEAD GUILFORD, CONN.

The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine

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

a_grandchilds_laugh

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

IMG_3214

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