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“Eliot was scornful of idle women readers who imagined themselves the heroines of French novels, and of self-regarding folk who saw themselves in the most admirable character in a novel, and she hoped for a more nuanced engagement from her own readers. Even so, all readers make books over in their own image, and according to their own experience. My Middlemarch is not the same as anyone else’s Middlemarch; it is not even the same as my Middlemarch of twenty-five years ago. Sometimes, we find that a book we love has moved another person in the same way as it has moved ourselves, and one definition of compatibility might be when two people have highlighted the same passages in their editions of a favorite novel. But we each have our own internal version of the book, with lines remembered and resonances felt. — Rebecca Mead, My Life in Middlemarch

I took a bit of a break from my Lenten reading to read My Life in Middlemarch last week and it was a very good decision. Even if you’ve never read Middlemarch, you’ll certainly have another favorite novel, one you’ve likely read many times, and you’ll understand the points Mead makes about attachment to a work of literature helping to shape our lives.

Also, one of the more interesting reads from the interwebs this week, In Defense of Fanny Price: Why You Don’t Like Mansfield Park as Much as You Should. This piqued my interest because of all the Austen novels, Mansfield Park is hands down my favorite, and very much so because of Fanny Price. Haley lays out a sound argument in favor of the introverted heroine, the heroine that is quiet in her strength. Out of an abundance of curiosity, what is your favorite Austen novel? Why?  What are you reading?

  • My favorite is Persuasion. Hands down. Can you believe I’ve never read Emma? I’ve listened to it (not the same thing at all, if you ask me) and I’ve seen movie adaptations, but I’ve never read the book. It might be my second favorite, anyway.ReplyCancel

    • admin

      I agree! Listening to and reading a book are definitely beasts of a different color!ReplyCancel

  • Oooo, glad to hear that you like this book (the Middlemarch one). I LOVED Middlemarch when I read it years ago. I listened to the author be interviewed for a podcast and immediately added it to my to-read list. Glad you gave it a thumbs up!

    I like Pride and Prejudice. Probably because it was the first I read and I just LOVE the witty banter. Sense and Sensibility is a close runner up because I’m probably more like Elinor than any other JA heroine.ReplyCancel

  • And I’m reading “The Invention of Wings” which is fascinating in every way. The Gimke sister were astounding for their time.ReplyCancel

  • I am going to pick up Mansfield Park again. I have been reading mostly Wodehouse and enjoying it thoroughly. Picking up curriculum books as we are homeschoolers to browse and even in my postpartum sleepiness have been reading the TinTins my littles cannot put down. Causing a sensation. Yelled down the hall by my son, “Mama’s reading TinTin, come quick!” Ha!ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Brooke, TinTin is hugely popular in this house! I have a bunch of old copies I picked up in France and those and the Asterix books are highly prized :) ReplyCancel

  • I’m jealous! I’m on the hold list at the library for My Life in Middlemarch but I’m number 200 and something. I read Middlemarch during my first pregnancy and loved it.

    Choosing a favorite Austen is like choosing a favorite child. I just can’t, I love them all.ReplyCancel

  • i picked this up at the library today. i am yet to start reading it. now looking forward to doing so.ReplyCancel

  • Alex and I are reading Emma right now for British Literature, it’s my first time reading it and I love it.

    I hope your week has been better than the last one and you have a great weekend.ReplyCancel

  • This is another on my list. Thanks for the review.

    It is so difficult to choose my favorite Austen, but I think it would have to be Persuasion. Anne is my favorite Austen heroine.ReplyCancel

  • This sounds like a good read, will have to check this out. Currently reading “Unglued”. Lovely new blog Amanda.ReplyCancel

  • I love the new look, wonderful job Amanda.ReplyCancel

  • Oh, Amanda…I just LOVE your new look here, it’s perfect!! I can’t stop smiling….it’s beautiful and simple and just so you :o)

    I can’t tell you how often I have a book on my wish list and I pop over here to see you have read and written about it. This is one of them and I think it’s moved to first place. I’ve just started Middlemarch and really love it so far. I’m eager to read My Life In Middlemarch. Do you think it will spoil my reading pleasure if I read them at the same time?

    Happy friday and now-it’s-the-weekend to you!!ReplyCancel

    • admin

      April, she does talk a bit about plot and characters…if I were you, I’d wait :) ReplyCancel

  • Oh my I love the blog update. Beautiful. It suits you well.

    I read Mansfield Park in France, what great book. Love Fanny Price. :) ReplyCancel

  • Oh my I love the blog update. Beautiful. It suits you well.

    I read Mansfield Park in France, what great book. Love Fanny Price. :) ReplyCancel

  • I like the look of your blog! Middlemarch is probably my favorite novel of all time. I’ve seen My Life in Middlemarch and I think I’ll give it a try. Thanks for the recommendation!ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Lisa, thank you! And I love hearing that you love Middlemarch – we’re kindred spirits!ReplyCancel

  • The new look is so perfect for your blog. Brave! I’m wondering if it’s just my browser but the font looks very small. Would it be possible to bump it up a tiny bit? Thanks for creating this space.ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Rachel, what browser are you using? I’ve bumped it up a notch but it looks fine in Firefox and Chrome.ReplyCancel

  • I haven’t read Middlemarch in years. I now need to pick it up again and it read. This book sounds great too. Something else to add to my reading list. I love all of Austen’s novels but my top two favorites are Emma & Persuasion. So much so that I named our first daughter, Emma Jane, after my favorite book and author:)ReplyCancel

  • Emily

    I love your blog but I wish the font was bigger! I get a headache!ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Emily, what browser are you using? It seems to be showing find in Firefox and Chrome.ReplyCancel

  • Linda

    I didn’t care that much for American Hustle – altho I did like the acting by the two ladies in it… Nebraska (as someone else said) was a good movie for me… Made me laugh and cry…

    Spent the weekend dealing with tons of rain coming down – then sleet – then snow… A couple of trips to B & N for more books (because heaven knows I don’t have enough) – HA! Knitting of course – starting some new shawls….

    Linda in VAReplyCancel

    • admin

      Linda, thanks for the Nebraska suggestion, I’ll add it to the queue!ReplyCancel

  • Carol

    Mansfield Park is my least favorite! I despise Fanny Brice and all the other characters, sorry. Emma is my favorite. I read Middlemarch about 25 years ago and enjoyed it.ReplyCancel

  • I believe my favorite is Persuasion, but this might be because I read it years ago while traveling alone in Italy. It is often difficult for me to separate the book from the time period in my life.

    I’m still moving slowly through John Banville’s novel, The Sea. I’ve also just dipped into The Sound of the Mountain by Yasunari Kawabata. A Japantown find.ReplyCancel

  • I do like Fanny.
    The only Austen heroine I struggle to like is Emma.
    Northanger Abbey is quite a lot of fun, I think.

    I’ve got Middlemarch on my reader, but haven’t started it yet. I’m currently reading Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell.ReplyCancel


weekending. my favorite part of the week. a time to relax, live, love, just be. if you’d like to share your weekend either with words, photographs, or both, leave a link to your weekend post or flickr photo in the comments, or post it on the fb page.

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this weekend was an extension of the week
a week most definitely over 2 days into it
there were appliance failures, car failures
i could go on but i’ll spare you the gory details

i think i need a reset, a hard reset
the plan is to clean out
closets, armoires, chifferobes, cabinets
throw the windows open, deep clean the house,
put summer bedding on the beds so that
when the spring weather returns thursday,
we’ll be all set to embrace it.
i think we’ll kick off the great spring fling 2014 tonight
with this dish, it’s always a crowd pleaser

how was your weekend?

ps: april prompts will be up over here first thing monday morning.



weekending. my favorite part of the week. a time to relax, live, love, just be. if you’d like to share your weekend either with words, photographs, or both, leave a link to your weekend post or flickr photo in the comments, or post it on the fb page.


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this weekend was full to the brim
saturday was work, work, work while the
mister wrangled the little people
a stolen hour spent reading then
off to dinner and playing at the park after dark
with glow sticks (earning those parent of the year points)
sunday morning coffee, biscones, and bacon with mister and
the wee lass, perfect way to start a sunday
shelves hung in the boys’ room to house the model planes
and in the girls’ room to house the breyer horses
i’m feeling the urge to spring clean
throw open the windows and clean everything then
sit back on my sofa with a book and enjoy that feeling of
smug satisfaction that comes with a house that
shines like the top of the chrysler building (name that movie!) but
it’ll have to wait until this week is over since this week is
a kid birthday & multiple deadlines
until then, i’ll dream of a clean house


how was your weekend?

ps: full moon tonight, get out & enjoy it!

  • The mr is away on business, I’m spending some extra cuddle time with the little boy and this weekend has been all about food for me:

    Glow sticks are a firm favourite in this house too, although prior military means we call them chem lights… much less magical sounding I suppose?

    I’m feeling the spring cleaning bug too, maybe time to convince the boy that it really is time to sort and tidy his toys.ReplyCancel

    • admin

      rebecca, i cannot for the life of me find a way to comment on your weekend post but i wanted to say, the honey baked grapefruit sounds amazing and like something i *must* try!ReplyCancel

      • I turned off comments on the post, I’m playing with the idea that people will chat elsewhere? I’m not sure yet how I feel about it though.

        The honey baked grapefruit is delish, you really should try it. I’m not even that huge a fan of grapefruit but it really softens that bitter taste.ReplyCancel

  • I’ve got lots of shelf dreams for our house right now… over the kitchen window, in the laundry room, etc. oh, if it’s something that gives them fun memories that they’ll hold onto for a bit (remember that night we played in the park after bedtime? with the glow sticks? that was SO cool!) then you do indeed rack up some parent-of-the-year points! at least, I think so. most definitely.
    our weekend was stopping to enjoy all the ordinary things, a long hospital visit, and today, enjoying a visit from her uncle Kevin and a rainy Sunday hanging around~

  • Linda

    Even though I’m now retired (3 years and counting) – I still find myself on a “schedule”. It is just the way I am made up I guess. But this weekend – I’ve really tried to throw that schedule away and just “be”… some knitting – out to breakfast this morning – grocery shopping today instead of tomorrow (I’m a wild woman I tell you)…. But it has really made me feel better. But I know that come tomorrow, I will be back on that self imposed schedule I put on myself – retired or not!

    Linda in VAReplyCancel

    • admin

      linda, at least you tried to live a bit more freely! it’s all about baby steps but truth be told, i love me a good schedule :) ReplyCancel

  • “shine like the top of the Chrysler building–” Annie of course! :-)

    (Picture me, soundtrack on LP, belting it out into my hairbrush! Much younger then but my love for Annie will never die. )

    Here the weekend has been mixed– warm and sunny yesterday, chilly and rainy today. My very dresses are singing for spring from the closet! But daffodils and quince are blooming and there are promising bits of green all over.

    Finished one wonderful book (Perfect by Rachel Joyce) and began another– I am on a roll!

    Spring cleaning sounds good here too– nothing like a too-much closed house swept with fresh breezes!ReplyCancel

  • Annie! A favourite from my childhood :) Great weekend here, packing up to head south…can’t wait.ReplyCancel

  • I want do some heavy duty cleaning myself, but I am waiting on the rain to pass, for now I’m embracing the mess.

    It’s been kind of quiet here so I just going with it.

    Playing outside in the dark with glow sticks sounds like a wonderful activity. Yes, you are rockin’ the mama points.ReplyCancel

  • well, annie! wouldn’t i love to do some spring cleaning too. i did manage to clean the dreaded bathroom and throw out old clothes.ReplyCancel

  • Lovely photo. I love that clean house feeling! Here’s my weekend:

  • Annie! One of my favorite all time musicals!! Can’t wait till Ellie is old enough for that one! :) Yes, I am in the clean house mode too. Windows have been flung open every morning, broom and vacuum are always out. Winter things are being replaced by spring things! Loving it! WIshing you a lovely week!

  • oh, come spring clean here too please?! I had both kids home for three nights and now it’s just my son. Been finding my “me” time early in the mornings and it sustains me for the day :)

  • Sounds like a lovely weekend. We had a really nice one as well.

  • Annie. I cried every time I watched as a kid.
    I love the slowness of your Sunday after a full day of work. My house could use a little bit of Spring time lovin’ but I like to wait until the week before Easter.
    We had a b-day party this weekend…

  • we spent all of a saturday doing laundry, because we’re packing for our vacation to Thailand! then sunday was spent running errands before the snow hit us, AGAIN. i’ll be glad to bypass this weird seasonal transition for the next couple of weeks!ReplyCancel

  • While I would rather be knitting or reading than cleaning, I’m with you. I am so ready to throw open the windows and clean all the things.

    Here’s what I did this weekend:

  • I just finished cleaning my windows (in and out) this morning. It has been an ongoing project for the last few weeks and oh, how I love clean windows. The weekend for us was more sickness (nothing new there) and rain, rain, rain, both of which cancelled our plans for a camping trip. Yes, disappointment all around, but since I had been longing for a slow weekend with nothing to do, I guess I got just that.ReplyCancel

    • admin

      katie, sorry to hear about the sickness but clean windows!ReplyCancel

  • What a great idea to take glow sticks on a night adventure to the park, I’m going to have to borrow that and earn myself some points too!

  • Wow, it certainly was full to the brim! Mine was a little less so, spent with a headache : ( Discovered the cause of it though, vitamin supplement…stopped taking forthwith! Enjoyed some sun despite it, and time with my boy : ) You sound way too busy for spring cleaning but hope your dream comes true!ReplyCancel

  • the movie…I’m thinking “Annie.”
    And maybe someone else answered it, but I didn’t read thru to see.

making + reading

the habit of being_fern2

Well the Poulette hinted, she had Petunia hint as well and now, she has Fern, bosom friend to Petunia. Two jelly bean colored bunnies to dote on and watch over and share all her secrets with. I walk by her room and see them arranged on her bed just so, in place of honor. Occasionally there is a small porcelain tea cup and saucer in front of each one, as though they’ve been having a clandestine tea party. I wonder what it must be like to be nine and so innocent, so full of imagination and magic. I don’t know so I observe and marvel and think all girls should be this lucky.

After an intense period of edits, laying out, and generally getting this ready to send to the printer, I staked out a spot on the sofa and immersed myself in two books as a reward.

These are some of my favorite smells: toasting bagel, freshly cut figs, the bergamot in good Earl Grey tea, a jar of whole soybeans slowly turning beneath a tropical sun.”

—Kirstin Chen, Soy Sauce for Beginners

The first sentence in Soy Sauce for Beginners drew me in. While I can only imagine the aroma of soybeans fermenting beneath the tropical sun, I enjoyed this second coming-of-age tale (turning 30) about Gretchen, who returns home to Singapore from California. Not a perfect read and more chick-lit than I usually care for but I did enjoy reading about the making of soy sauce and the inner workings of a family-owned company.

After such a light read, I picked up off a stack on my shelves waiting to be read was Kimiko Hahn’s Narrow Road to the Interior. In this, Hahn takes an unusual approach to writing autobiographical material and poetry. She applies Japanese literary aesthetics to the world she inhabits — the East Coast of the United States in the first years of the new millennium — and writes out of one of the great traditions of world literature: the zuihitsu, which in Japanese literally means following the brush. For me, the appeal of this book was the continual return to family: Hahn’s daughters, the shadowy presence of her ex-husband, a lover. You never get a sense of them as individuals but rather through Hahn’s experience of them.

It’s a former life—the one bent over small children and a small dog,
tweezing ticks off all three. I think how I don’t even miss their

Loneliness is the habit of this house: even with two box turtles in a box
on the porch I wonder what a home may be.

—Kimiko Hahn, Narrow Road to the Interior


  • I had Soy Sauce for Beginners on my list and will have to pick it up when I finish the book I am reading, I knew it would be something I would enjoy and thought of you so I should have known you would be drawn to it.

    Fern is a beautiful friend. It’s nice to have little friends to love and play with while growing up. All girls should have such a childhood Amanda and I wish they all did.ReplyCancel

  • i just finished Attachments by Rainbow Rowell, which made me laugh. it was a very light read.

    we’re headed to thailand next week and i am in the search for a new book to dig into for the long ride over.ReplyCancel

  • Kirsten

    You’re so clever! And your daughter’s life sounds idyllic. You made it that way! What a lovely mum. xReplyCancel

    • admin

      you are too sweet, kirsten. i’m sure she could provide you a laundry list of abuses she suffers on a regular basis ;-) ReplyCancel

  • That final phrase about the lonely habit of the house… that chilled me to the bone. A visceral reaction. if all words were so profound, I’d never leave my bed. Oh my…ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Angie, it definitely provokes you to think, doesn’t it?ReplyCancel

  • gosh that last quote pokes me.

    that is such as sweet and innocent bunny. made for tea parties really.ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Monica, it poked me, too and really provoked me to think about my own conceptions of loneliness and home.ReplyCancel

  • I read Soy Sauce for Beginners when it was came out as a Kindle First book. I loved it. I was surprised at how much I did, but I am glad that I stepped out of my ‘reading’ box. :D ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Yay Christy! It was a good, light read, just what I needed – so glad to know you enjoyed it, too!ReplyCancel

  • Lovely Fern, and what fabulous tea parties they sound. The second books sounds like a fabulous read, the excerpts you included really appealed to me. One to add to the ever growing list I think!ReplyCancel

  • Jenny

    What a wonderful bunny Amanda. I love the character and love you must put into these little friends. Someday she will understand how lucky she is (if she doesn’t already know!

    Deep in the throws of planning a 5th Fairy b-day party for my little lady but finished Snow Child. Very good read.
    Will move on to Orthodoxy when I find it.
    Have a great weekend.ReplyCancel


weekending. my favorite part of the week. a time to relax, live, love, just be. if you’d like to share your weekend either with words, photographs, or both, leave a link to your weekend post or flickr photo in the comments, or post it on the fb page.


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this weekend was early saturday morning
proper coffee in a proper cup, spinach and ricotta quiche with
the most amazing crust
reconnecting with mister before the
demands of our day found us hither and yon
most notably, me creeped out at the reptile show with the boy
it was coming back together for church then pizza en famille and
snuggling up on the sofa to watch the good doctor while
the wee lass purred in my lap
today: i swear i’m making a meal plan & grocery list
groan groan groan groan
then we’re off to explore the bayou and soak up some sunshine

how was your weekend?


  • Meal planning & grocery list making are just hard to do sometimes. I have friends that put their meals on a two week rotation. That would be nice but then you can’t shop the sales. Ugh. I think I’m tired of “winter food” at this point. Soups, stews, etc have lost their appeal. :) ReplyCancel

  • meal planning gives me the shivers! i can never follow through with what i plan….problems wit authority i guess…..the rest of my family took my mom to the airport moments ago. i will be flying solo next week. babymoon officially over!ReplyCancel

  • ours was a mixed bag of hospital visits, sunny days, birthday celebrations for little friends, chicken coop cleaning, and good eats. glad you soaked up some sun~ I am ready, ready for spring!

  • there was a birthday party (complete with gluten-free cake!) and then today: a bris and then a baby shower. and i’m missing an hour…ReplyCancel

  • I’m hoping to sneek in some of that quality time this week with my mister as we retreat for a week away, glad to hear the sunshine is being enjoyed by all.x

  • That quiche…just mmmmmm. We soaked up some sun too, by the sea : )ReplyCancel

  • Oh my, I think I need to bake a quiche.

    Yes, meal plans help my week flow better and when
    I don’t have one I flounder, but going to the market
    for the supplies can be an even worse fate for me.ReplyCancel

  • my weekend went by too soon. but it always does, when i am having fun. we start our week on sunday, so i am well into my week now.ReplyCancel

  • that ricotta cheese quiche looks amazing!!! I LOVE quiche!
    Sounds like you had another lovely weekend. Hoping the weather was as nice as it was here. (It was almost too hot here, for my liking). :)
    Happy Week to you!

  • My weekend was full of wind. The 30 mph kind. I clean and cooked and prepped and sewed. All good things. It was a weekend spent inside and it felt good.ReplyCancel

  • That coffee looks amazing! Here’s a little peek at our weekend… Have a great week!ReplyCancel

  • you drink the prettiest drinks ever :) Glad you were with your mr and catching up with each other. I’m in the midst of one child out of two visiting during spring break(s). Busy busy!!

  • We had an outstanding weekend on the Mississippi Gulf Coast – Second Saturday in Old Town Bay St. Louis, time with friends, and an excellent furniture find that I spent yesterday priming & will paint today. It was a great way to start my spring break. It was over too quickly, though. I’m happy to be home with my husband rather than at work out of town.ReplyCancel

  • Oh yes, the meal plan. I hate it, but at this point in my life it’s necessary if I’m to get any half-decent meals on the table. Quiche sounds absolutely lovely right about now!

    My crazy weekend:

  • I love your weekend, and I feel the same way about grocery shopping.

  • Oh meal planning. I need to do that. And soon. Like I should have done it over the weekend!!! We are in desperate straights here with food!! The thought of it though…blech! Other then that our weekend was relaxing…just what we needed! And we were able to get outside for a bit. That was much needed!! :-) ReplyCancel

  • The coffee looks delish and so the quiche.
    Yesss…a grocery list and meal plan- been working on that for months.ReplyCancel

  • oh, sounds busy but good :-) ReplyCancel

  • leonie

    i love making meal plans, but only love shopping if i can go by myself. then, i can take as much, or little, time as feels good and can do a few detours on the way home :) ReplyCancel

  • I lost my meal planning mojo a bit as well.. I think it has to do with the changing seasons. Time for something new, I think..

    I had a day all to myself this weekend, for the first time in years. That was something!

    I hope you have a good week ahead xxReplyCancel

  • Hooray for sunshine! Ours didn’t arrive till today, but we still enjoyed a really lovely cool, cloudy day at a friends’ lake house on Sunday.ReplyCancel

  • Oh what a good weekend, just as a weekend should be.

    Wishing you a wonderful week!

  • I never seem to make the time to meal plan and make a grocery list. I have this vision of taking a leisurely hour going through cookbooks and planning out wonderful meals but I always seem to end up stocking ingredients for the same seven or eight recipes and making them week after week… I’ll get better in the spring when the farmers market opens again and I can get fresh things; I usually do better then. xoReplyCancel

  • Hope you are enjoying some sunshine today.ReplyCancel