Category Archives: Life

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

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.


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


Reading on the Porch


It’s been so hot here recently that I’ve spent very little time in my favorite summer reading spot: my chair on the front porch. This morning, though, the air was cool and just perfect for some time spent reading instead of doing all my other morning activities. It was heavenly!

Currently enjoying The Keeper of the Bees, by Gene Stratton-Porter.



June Highlights: Family Reads


Half of my June was delightfully spent traveling. We enjoyed a lovely family get-together, a time to celebrate my inspirational reading Mom, who will be turning 96 in August. The family spent a week reminiscing, laughing, walking, visiting a museum and a special library, eating at as many different restaurants as we could, watching sports and fun mini-series on TV, and talking about books. I’m always interested in what others are reading, and I particularly love to hear what my family recommends. Here are a few of the books that were being read or that we discussed:

Vacation Reading



We are enjoying a beautiful, early June vacation, and early June is such a beautiful time to travel! While teaching, early June would be filled with end-of-the-school year fun and stress, busy as could possibly be. Field trips, testing, finishing units and projects, report cards, and tenderheared goodbyes. In my old school district, there are still 8.5 days of school left! But now retired, we are able to enjoy traveling at a time when temperatures are mild, hillsides are lush green, and roads not yet jammed with traveling families. Ah…the joys of retirement.

So I brought my Kindle along on the trip, and my earphones for listening to my audiobooks. I’m enjoying my traveling reading and listening, relaxing over beautiful scenery and distances with these books:








Oxfordshire in the Blood


The Hubby and I just finished watching the old Inspector Morse series (all 33 episodes) which we first watched on Masterpiece Mystery many years ago. The books were written by Colin Dexter; the setting was Oxford, England; and the main characters were the brilliant Chief Inspector Morse and his hardworking colleague, Detective Sergeant Lewis. I’ve never read any of Colin Dexter’s books, although I always thought I would like to because we enjoyed the TV version of Morse so much. On my TBR list! The TV series was intelligent and well-written, very good mysteries, and enjoyable to watch again this many years later.

Thomas Gomm

My great, great, great grandfather, Thomas Gomm.

Another reason we returned to the series was because I have been reading some family history. My paternal great, great, great grandparents all came from Oxfordshire. When I remembered that the Inspector Morse series was filmed in Oxford, I thought it would be fun to see the area and watch a good mystery program at the same time. I was not disappointed. The mysteries were great and the filming of that area was wonderful. Many beautiful shots of the city and outlying areas.

Of course, the more I learn of my family history, the more I would love to travel to Oxfordshire and visit the locations where those distant grandparents lived. But that probably won’t be happening very soon, so my reading and TV viewing will have to do for now. Just for fun, I spent some time online and compiled a reading list of books set in Oxfordshire. There are probably many others I missed, but it turned out to be a fun list that would provide me with many hours of reading pleasure. Here’s some of the list I’ve compiled:

  • Jude the Obscure, by Thomas Hardy
  • A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness
  • His Dark Materials (trilogy) and Lyra’s Oxford, by Philip Pullman
  • Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
  • Gaudy Night, by Dorothy Sayers
  • Last Bus to Woodstock (Inspector Morse), by Colin Dexter
  • An Instance of the Fingerpost, by Iain Pears
  • Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome
  • To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis
  • Some Tame Gazelle, by Barbara Pym
  • Tom Brown’s Schooldays, by Thomas Hughes
  • Oxford Blood, by Antonia Fraser
  • The Oxford Murders, by Guillermo Martinez
  • Byron’s Child, Carola Dunn

Side-by-side photos of my great, great, great grandparents in Oxfordshire…

Celebrating Spring


Early last year I re-read one of my favorite books, Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows. It was delightful to revisit this old favorite, and I discovered that the landscapes of Grahame’s timeless story fit very well with the landscapes I see around me here in Oregon. I have some favorite spots that I pass by every day, and I’m sure they are inhabited by Mole and Ratty, Mr. Toad, and Badger. It keeps this beloved book close to my heart on a daily basis.

This morning I celebrate the first day of Spring by once again thinking of that delightful book which starts out with Mole doing some Spring cleaning. I’m sure that many of you, especially my friends enduring that endless East Coast winter this year, are also feeling that ‘spirit of divine discontent and longing’ on this first day of Spring. May your day be filled with wonderful stories, beautiful blossoms, perhaps some spring cleaning, and respite from those Winter storms! Happy Spring, friends!

The mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was going in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing.


Illustration by Arthur Rackham.

Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World


Photo by Frank Hurley

January 1915. One hundred years ago, Ernest Shackleton‘s beautiful ship, Endurance, became completely locked in the ice of Antarctica. The story of this extraordinary expedition and the survival of the entire crew, despite being stranded for two years in one of the harshest environments in the world, is a fascinating story. All the men survived that experience because of the phenomenal leadership skills of Ernest Shackleton.

When I taught 6th grade many years ago, my teammates and I put together a January unit of study on the Shackleton story. We used Jennifer Armstrong’s book, Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World, as the basis of the unit, and the 6th graders became as fascinated by the story as we (the teachers) were!, It was a unit in which we focused on some very important life lessons–lessons and discussions about leadership, compassion, hope, and endurance.

So in the middle of January, I stopped everything I was doing and revisited that story in honor of my hero. I loved sharing that book and story with my students, and, if you haven’t read anything about Sir Ernest Shackleton and his ill-fated ship, Endurance, I urge you to pick up one of the many books about this expedition and discover why this man is one of my heroes. There are quite a few books to choose from, but I’m very fond of the little, nicely written book I used to introduce him to young people. It is also available as an audio download through Audible.