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it was a long, long weekend
full of days of nothingness and then
days full of activity and friends
the mister and i watched this, two thumbs way up
we had a few days of extra kids at the house which
believe it or not meant a boost in productivity for me
there was an uptake in cookie consumption too but sometimes
we need to give in and indulge our weaknesses (dark chocolate)
speaking of weaknesses, the frog prince read this and inspired, he
promptly launched into reading this and has
raided the library for every book on submarines he could find
the dining room table is covered in books about subs and his sketches of subs
caught up in submarine fever, he and the mister constructed a periscope
and watched this while the
red bean and i watched this
it’s her first time seeing it and she loooooves it
yesterday, on the eve of advent we went to a winter festival at our church
faces were painted, gumbo was eaten, saint nicholas arrived on an antique firetruck,
the trees were lit, and all were merry
today we’re breathing deeply, ready to fill the next few weeks with peace and hope
i’ll be absent from this space for december, popping up on instagram,
reveling in the quiet joy that is this season and
wishing you a peaceful and joyful advent!

  • One of the podcasts I love is “Stuff You Missed in History Class” and they JUST this week had one on a submarine disaster (that ended happily–amazingly) . Your Frog Prince might enjoy a listen:

    • admin

      Thank you, Danielle! Will pass this along to him.ReplyCancel

  • We got the tree up yesterday, I wrapped 30 or so presents and then plotted out a schedule/grid for December so that everyone has transportation to various planned Christmas activities (children’s theater, choir, church, party etc.) and everyone gets fed… December can be chaotic but it’s worth it, right?ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Wow! Presents already wrapped? I haven’t even requested their lists…will try not to hyperventilate now ;-)ReplyCancel

  • Wishing you and your family a peace filled Advent, and a wonderful holiday season. All the best!ReplyCancel

  • happy weekend amanda!! Loved seeing your post and can you believe it’s the beginning of advent already? my weekend was busy and crazy but full of family and fun. I’m looking forward to a do nothing tomorrow :)ReplyCancel

  • Wishing you the very best of holiday wishes!ReplyCancel

  • Oh! Thank you for the suggestion of Lark Rise! I’m always looking for things to watch with Em and forgot about that show. I think she’ll like it.

    Wishing you hope, love, joy, and peace this advent season.ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Erin, the girl has seen both versions of Pride & Prejudice (she read the book first), Little Women (ditto on the book). We’ve dipped our toes into Larkrise and Cranford and she loves them both. Hope this gives you something to watch with E!ReplyCancel

  • Enjoy a beautiful advent season Amanda. I hope this time is everything you want it be and much more.ReplyCancel

  • I would love to follow you on Instagram! What is your name there? Mine is LyssaGirlLovesLife : ) Happy December!ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Lyssa, It’s writealm on Instagram :)ReplyCancel

  • A Blessed Advent to you! Wonderful that you are seeking to focus on this and your family! God bless and keep you! May your Christmas be beautiful and bright!ReplyCancel

  • Jane

    Would love to follow you on Instagram since you won’t be blogging in December. What is your username?ReplyCancel

  • Felicia Jones

    I do love Advent. This weekend was the hanging of the greens in preparation. It felt strange going to cut the tree without my girl (who’s away at school) this year.ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Oh, that would be a big change, Felicia! I know you must be looking forward to having her home soon :)ReplyCancel

  • Mary

    My husband loves “Das Boot.” “Hunt for Red October” is pretty good too. I live in New Orleans, and have followed your blog for some time. I love your reading recommendations and reflections. Enjoy this quiet waiting period. I intend to try for a peace-filled and joyful advent. Thanks.ReplyCancel

  • sounds like a lovely weekend! enjoy the season of advent~ I too shall aim to revel in the quiet joy. xoReplyCancel

  • Sounds like a lovely weekend, balanced with both creativity, fun and rest. I’m looking forward to the peace after the storm of seasonal activities too :)

  • pamela

    We love Lark Rise, too.

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“She wondered if she would ever again be able to have a normal conversation and what topics she might be able to discuss with ease and interest. At the moment the only topic she could discuss was herself. And everyone, she felt, had heard enough about her. They believed it was time that she stop brooding and think of other things. But there were no other things. There was only what had happened. It was as though she lived underwater and had given up on the struggle to swim towards air. It would be too much. Being released into the world of others seemed impossible; it was something she did not even want. How could she explain this to anyone who sought to know how she was or asked if she was getting over what happened?”
— Colm Tóibín, Norma Webster

+ + +

Norma Webster is quite possibly one of the most riveting character studies I have ever read.

Set in a small town in southeast Ireland during the late 1960s/early 1970s, this is a study of Nora, a widow in her forties struggling to come to terms with the loss of her husband while shouldering the upbringing of her four children.

Left without an income, Nora must find employment after years as a homemaker. Nora wants to hide and she needs to mourn but feels she can’t because of the probing eyes of the small village she lives in. The book is a study of a strong and intelligent woman trying to pick up the pieces and rebuild her life on her own terms. Tóibín does an impressive job of portraying Nora as a real flesh and blood person and we, the reader, are privy to her inner thoughts and the inner journey she undertakes toward self-acceptance and healing.

  • Excellent review. I will be adding this to my “to-read” list. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Sounds excellent and just up my street…on my list to purchase! Have a great weekend, Amanda : )ReplyCancel

  • Wow- I am going to hunt this one down…ReplyCancel

  • sound like just my type of book. i really enjoy a good character driven novel.

    and boy, does this resound with me at the moment, “But there were no other things.”ReplyCancel

  • just picked this up at the library!ReplyCancel

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“But thinking of her life was another thing. Lying there in that room in that house in that quiet town she could choose what her life had been. The others were there. The world was there, evening and morning. No matter what anybody thought, no matter if she only tagged after them because they let her. That sweet nowhere. If the world had a soul, that was it. All of them wandering through it, never knowing anything different or wanting anything more.”

—Marilynne Robinson, Lila

+ + +

Set in the same fictionalized town as Home and Gilead and populated by the same characters, Lila tells the story of how the Reverend John Ames came to marry his quiet, uneducated, and hard-edged wife. The novel is epic, not in terms of its plot but in the wide net it casts around biblical characters (Ruth, Job, Hosea) and themes (baptism, creation, doubt, exile, prodigals,  regeneration, sanctification,  wanderings both literal and spiritual).

This is the story of an old man made young by the love of a woman caught off guard by grace, a story that filled me with a mixture of beauty and dread from the first page to the last.

PS: The New York Times had a great interview with Marilynne Robinson which I discuss briefly here. Read the entire NYT interview here.

  • This one is on my list too. I do enjoy her writing.ReplyCancel

  • I reread Gilead and read Home for the first time in preparation for this book. Eagerly awaiting the day I can get my hands on a copy!ReplyCancel

  • Leslie

    London Review of Books just did an amazing review of Lila as well. Worth a look. Can’t wait to read this one.ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Thanks for letting me know, Leslie! I’ll definitely give the review a read :)ReplyCancel

  • I read both of the other novels and can’t wait for this one! THanks for the link to the interview!ReplyCancel

  • Oh, my goodness, I just read _Lila_ this week and was just bowled over. The quiet beauty of it . . . the ache and the beauty and the way they can’t be separated at all, the way the beautiful thing between Lila and Ames could never have existed without everything that preceded . . . it’s a story that sinks into you, isn’t it?ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Cindy, It does sink in and it sticks with you too. I find myself still thinking of it, of her, of him.ReplyCancel

  • I’m desperate to read this – Home and Gilead both took my breath away with the skill of their writing, and their mood has stuck with me. Really I think I need to dig them both out and re-read before I let myself buy Lila, much as I want it now, and then I need to set aside some quiet time so I can read it properly, not just in snatched pages between child-emergencies.ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Helen, I live and read in snippets between child emergencies…I definitely understand your predicament.ReplyCancel

  • I need to put my knitting aside and read more than just before bed, I am getting woefully behind and you just get adding to my stack of books. ;)ReplyCancel

  • I think this is going on my list! Thank you.
    Hope you are doing well after the arrival of your sweet girl – and that your little guy is healing up nicely. You’ve been on my mind. xoReplyCancel

    • admin

      Thank you, Bella! We’re all good over here. Wishing you & yours a happy weekend. xoReplyCancel

  • I spent the last half hour getting caught up on your blogs, requesting 4 or 5 mentioned titles from the library, looking at your beautiful knitting on Ravelry…what a lovely way to wake up this morning! Thank you for sharing…ReplyCancel

the habit of being_daybook


During the question-and-answer period, I was asked where I thought art came from, from what part of the mind. […] Art comes, if we are blessed with what Jack Tworkov called a “little touch of grace,” into the highest part of the mind, that with which we can know the presence of God. But we have to pay attention to that area in order to notice the grace, or even perhaps to attract it.

— Anne Truitt, Daybook


I’m also talking about Daybook in relation to the work of writing over here today.

  • I just ordered Daybook, thank you once again dear Amanda.
    Have a beautiful weekend.ReplyCancel

    • admin

      I hope you love it as much as I did, Tracey!ReplyCancel

  • sounds like a worthy book to read, thanks! I’ve been thinking for days on your short very well worded recent book reviews. You are a treasure to us. God continue to bless you in all these things, family, friends, reading, writing, etc!ReplyCancel

  • Daybook has been the guiding light of my year. Anne Truitt’s discipline and obsession, and her commitment to using every minute she possibly could to work have echoed through my thoughts again and again. But, most of all, I think of that steely core of belief that allowed her to invest in herself and her work. So lovely to see Daybook on your table too — I’ll be hopping right over to read your thoughts on how it relates to the work of writing…ReplyCancel

the habit of being_field notes1


I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the leisurely pace of the last few weeks. I’ve had time to catch up on snail mail correspondence with friends old and new. I still haven’t tackled the backlog of New Yorkers though. One day…


the habit of being_field notes2


We finished up our Father Brown read aloud and read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (and other stories) in the spirit of reading something a bit spooky for Halloween. The Red Bean, our resident tea drinker and Anglophile, found the two Tea Shop Girls books at the library and loved them so much she insisted I read them. Using one of the recipes from second book, The Secret Ingredient, she actually got up and made scones two mornings last week. The first time was a learning experience with the kneading of the dough but the second time she was much more confident and actually modified the recipe making cinnamon and cardamom scones with a vanilla glaze. I could definitely get used to this.


the habit of being_field notes3


Finding my rhythm in the kitchen with the Camellia in the wrap. Kefir making has resumed, kombucha brewing, steel cut oats are set to soak overnight for the morning’s oatmeal. And squash season is upon us so I’m in my happy place—three cheers for domestic bliss!

What is making you happy this week?

  • i attempted making kefir and failed horribly. are you using a metal strainer? in my research, i read that metal weakens the grains so everything i used was plastic or glass. what is your secret??

    we are back from a very long weekend visiting dw’s family in KY. the week will be spent cleaning, laundrying and the weekend will be rewards with baked breads and cookies. i’m looking fwd to the weekend, very much.ReplyCancel

    • admin

      lan, i am indeed using a metal strainer and my grains have been fermenting milk for years now ;-)

      my first thought is what sort of milk are you using? ultra-pasteurized? i use raw milk or when i’m too busy to get to the farm and buy it, i buy a local organic milk that is slightly pasteurized and non-homogenized. friends that i have given grains to didn’t have much success with ultra-pasteurized. second and third thoughts: are you using enough grain? is your kitchen too cold?ReplyCancel

      • we only buy organic milk. my first time i did use ultra pasteurized, and then scaled back to pasteurized. purchasing raw milk is illegal in MD :( and i can’t find a source in PA, that i trust, and that isn’t so far that the cost of travelling to/from to buy would be worth all the effort and $.

        admittedly, we started around time that we were travelling and it interrupted fermenting time etc. i’m half tempted to start again but i’m not sure.

        also, i bought my grains from Cultures for Health, and whatever amount of grains they gave me is what i used.ReplyCancel

        • admin

          it’s illegal here too but i take issue with the government telling me what i can/can’t put into my body so i consider every gallon i purchase to be a protest ;-)

          try again if you like it or like the health benefits! i will happily send you grains if you want.ReplyCancel

  • I could get used to scones like that too!

    I’m happy to be making soup twice this week: tomato basil and lemon chicken bowtie. Yum. Along with some good bread.ReplyCancel

  • This week I am grateful for finding my center again ;-)ReplyCancel

  • I am slowly finding my happy place after a not so good start of the week last week. onward and upward! I’m looking forward to seeing my daughter and son in law to be over the weekend :)ReplyCancel

  • I’m happy for a friend who has volunteered to help me clear the weeds that returned with the rain. I’m happy that the gray, damp clouds aren’t weighing me down. I’m happy for you in your kitchen with your new baby, finding rhythm and routine.ReplyCancel

  • looks like the last two were what I call ‘fun’ reading! and the scones, yum! Red Bean is doing well with this!! Glad for the goodness in your life!ReplyCancel

  • So good to hear all is well! This week cold temperatures are making me happy! Wearing boots and vest to walk the dog.ReplyCancel

  • Love a good scone, and with tea, just so English! Red Bean has great taste…hee, hee! Good to hear all is well with you.

    Things making me happy this week are cosy evenings with my two favourite people, early morning frost and creating!

    Happy Thursday!

    Jane xReplyCancel

  • Felicia Jones

    I love the read aloud selection. I do so miss those days. Is that the same Father Brown, the crime-solving priest, who has a series on PBS?ReplyCancel

    • admin

      The same, Felicia! Chesterton wrote the stories and there is a version for children that we read aloud — I found it quite charming and the kids enjoyed it too!ReplyCancel