Tag Archives: Books – Cozy

Books Read in December, 2009


Village Christmas, (1966) Miss Read
First published as what Miss Read would call “a slim volume”, this edition of Village Christmas, along with The Christmas Mouse, was included in an omnibus entitled Christmas Tales. Set in Fairacre, it is the story of 2 aging sisters who are comfortable in their set ways, until their world is invaded by a young family who moves in across the road. Diana Emery and her husband have 3 cheerful little girls and another baby due any minute. Margaret and Mary are constantly shocked by the Emerys: Diana smoked, wore torn stockings, sent the children over to borrow a bit of string for a parcel, and was actually friendly.

“As Mary had foreseen, her Bohemian garments scandalized the older generation. An then, she was so breath-takingly friendly! She had introduced herself to Mr. Lamb in the Post Office, and to two venerable residents who were collecting their pensions, shaking hands with them warmly and asking such personal questions as where they lived and what were their names.

‘Wonder she didn’t ask us how old we be,’ said one to the other when they escaped into the open air. ‘She be a baggage, I’ll lay. I’ll take good care to steer clear of that ‘un.’ ”

While not exactly a spoiler, I just have to include a passage from the last few pages, because, of course, everything turns out to be okay. New babies have a way of changing things.

” ‘D’you know what Vanessa said when her father fetched her?’ asked Margaret. ‘She said” “This is the loveliest Christmas we’ve ever had!” ‘Twas good of the child to say it, I thought, after such a muddling old day. It touched me very much.’

‘She spoke the truth,’ replied Mary slowly. ‘Not only for herself, but for all of us here in Fairacre. ‘Tis a funny thing, sister, but when I crept up the stairs to take a first look at that new babe the thought came to me: “Ah! You’re a true Fairacre child, just as I was once, born here, and most likely to be bred up here, the Lord willing!” And then another thought came: “You’ve warmed up us cold old Fairacre folk quicker’n the sun melts frost.” You know, Margaret, them Emery’s have put us all to shame, many a time, with their friendly ways, and been snubbed too, often as not. It took a Christmas baby to kindle some proper Christmas goodwill in Fairacre.’ ”

The Christmas Mouse, (1973) Miss Read
The second Fairacre story in this volume is the story of old, widowed Mrs. Berry, her young widowed daughter Mary and Mary’s two little girls and a couple of unexpected guests on Christmas eve. It’s a bit longer than the previous story and is also a morality story with a good bit of wisdom in it.

No Holly for Miss Quinn, (1976) Miss Read

This third Miss Read Christmas story is also set in Fairacre, with a different set of characters. Miss Quinn is an efficient, executive secretary for a businessman. Her life is well ordered and just the way she wants it, with very little fuss and certainly no big celebration at Christmas. Then her brother sends out a call for help with his children when his wife has to go into the hospital and he, being a vicar, is busy with parish duties.

Caring for a whole household is a new experience:

“With a shock she remembered that there had been no preparations made for lunch at home. For the first time in her life, she bought fish fingers, and a ready-made blackcurrant tart. How often she had watched scornfully the feckless mothers buying the expensive “convenience” foods. Now, with three children distracting her and the clock ticking on inexorably, she sympathized with them. Catering for one, she began to realize, was quite a different matter from trying to please the varying tastes of five people, and hungry ones at that.”

It’s a lovely story, with even a touch of romance, and I read it again nearly every year.

Christmas Scrapbook, (2005) Phillip Gulley

A second Harmony Christmas story by Gulley, concerns the Quaker minister’s attempts to make a really special gift for his wife, a scrapbook of her life. Gulley is a real-life Quaker minister and I’m a little uncomfortable with the casual lying in which his protagonist engages. It’s an okay book, but no great shakes, and unlike the Miss Read pieces, I won’t reread.
Esther’s Gift, (2002) Jan Karon

If you’ve read any of the Mitford books, you know that Esther Bolick’s claim to fame is her Orange Marmalade Cake. This story is about her preparation of several to give as Christmas gifts and her struggle with generosity.

Once I read that when Jan Karon first mentioned the cakes in her series, that she didn’t have a recipe for it, just the idea. Memory fails me as to how she finally came up with it, but I’m glad that it’s included at the end of this story. It sounds mouth-watering.

Same Kind of Different as Me, (2006) Ron Hall and Denver Moore, with Lynn Vincent

Not a Christmas book at all, but simply an incredible story, Same Kind of Different as Me, is a double first hand account of redemption and freindship. More on this book later. Here is their website.

Christmas Cookie Murder, (1999) Leslie Meier

Really, I should know better. A couple of weeks ago I was at our local library and looking for some light reading and picked this one up. One of the Lucy Stone series, it’s set in a little town in Maine. Lucy is a wife, mother and part-time reporter for the local newspaper. Meirer’s story lines are mildly interesting but they drip with political correctness.

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Merry Christmas Eve

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Altered Books, A Sister Project


Sandra, over at Add Humor and Faith was asking about altered books. I’ll bet they’ve been around a long, long time on an individual basis (when people wouldn’t have access to a blank book or fresh paper, etc…) but I’ve only known about them for the past 4 or 5 years. It’s a particular niche in the crafting/art world. Actually, the scrapbook/craft type are more to my liking because the art ones get weird really fast.

It was not easy for me to start making them because I’m such a book lover; rarely have I even written in my own books (the big exception is my Bible where I make lots of notes) and the horror of painting or gluing in one was hard to overcome. But I did.

And still, I’m pretty selective about the ones I’ll use for a project. It has to be one that I don’t think I’ll ever read, one that I really disliked or one that no one else would want – for instance, even if I donated it to the library, they would probably end up sending it to the paper recycler because it wouldn’t sell. The sources are almost unlimited. Our younger son had a huge stack of mathematics magazines that he didn’t want; instead of regular slick pages these have the book type pages and are just right for this craft.

The project from my previous post is in one of these magazines, and I also used one for a round robin that was just between my sister and me. I use cardboard from a cereal box to stiffen the soft covers, then decorate them with fabric or something else.

Sometimes crafters will buy a buy a book (hopefully a secondhand one – I can hardly stand the thought of a new book going straight to altering!) that’s in the same theme as their subject. For instance, using a gardening one when their subject is flowers, or an old cookbook for recipes, etc… That looks pretty clever when finished, and I’ve gathered a few to do that sort of thing, but haven’t started them, yet. Also, really unconventional materials are used and are nearly limitless, like paper sacks, or sewing fabric pages; children’s board books are good but not as versatile.


In a Round Robin, each person chooses their own theme and sets the rules for working in their book. They do their own cover and two pages, then pass it on to the next person (who passes theirs on, etc.). Normally each contributor would only do 2 pages in another person’s book (like my sister’s paper doll book), but since she and I were the only ones involved we passed ours back and forth several times.


She allowed me to set up the overall rule that this project was to be unconventional in the sense that nothing could be used that was bought specifically for paper crafting and we should use as much stuff as we could that had cost nothing at all- or at least had not been bought new. I wanted to see just how creative we could be. There are incredibly wonderful products on the market (and my sister has lots of them) but I wanted to see what we could do with our imaginations. She talked me into altering the rule to include one new product per page. Yes, I know I’m cheap thrifty.

It was a lot of fun.


Her theme was Tranquility; mine was Cats and Cups. All the photos in this post are of her book. Mine will be in a future post.

She used old file folders cut down to make her pages and key rings to bind it. Her cover (seen at the top of this post) was fabric from a drapery sample book (Thank you, Pat Fischer. Pat is my friend who gave me those wonderful, out-of-date books from her shop Ruffles and Things and I shared with Fran. Also, the background floral on the page below is one I got from a sample book). We used magazine pictures, church bulletin covers, used postage stamps, scraps of fabric, hand painting, journaling, ribbon, buttons, counted cross-stitch, embroidery, both watercolors and acrylic paint, the interior of security envelopes, old trumpet music (from the library sale), a few rubber stamps; and even more. Most of the stuff we used would make a traditional scrapbooker head to the fainting couch – almost none of it was acid free. We aren’t worrying about that. This is for us, not posterity; our inheritors are probably not interested.

For these 2 pages, I started by gluing down (I use glue sticks) pages from an old novel, then painting them yellow and green to match the cut-outs I was going to use. Then I painted a border around both pages to repeat the border in the cut-out. Using a pair of decorative scissors and a hole punch, I made the paper lace to go under the fireplace picture (which I had glued in). Using watercolors, I painted a little house, a bunch of flowers and little yellow hearts. For added dimension I wanted them to be a little thicker, so I made my own chipboard pieces by gluing them onto the cereal boxes, then cut them out and sanded the edges. The little house had a hole punched in the top and threaded with pearl embroidery cotton to hang on the binder ring.

I love books and it’s fun making my own. It can be about anything I want it to be. My efforts won’t ever be featured in Cloth, Paper, Scissors or a Stampington magazine, but I really enjoy it, it costs almost nothing and as they say, it’s cheaper than therapy.

Linked to:
Frugal Friday on Life as Mom.

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Timeless Treasures, a Review

Timeless Treasures - The Charm and Romance of Treasured Memories

Timeless Treasures - The Charm and Romance of Treasured Memories

Thinking about my favorite cozy books this week caused me to look around on my shelves and dust off a few of my old friends.  Some of my favorite non-fiction books about home and hearth are by Emilie Barnes.

Published in 1996, this slim volume has 7 chapters with topics such as the importance of family heritage, caring for heirlooms, collecting and storage.  Emilie writes that she inherited very few material goods from her family, but she is rich in stories and tradition and says that these are some of the most important family heirlooms.  The beauty of antique and vintage items are appreciated even if they came from someone else’s family.  She has several suggestions on where to look for them, her rules for acquisition (#1 is to only buy what  she loves) and what to do with the new treasures, and how to store the things that cannot be left out on display. However, she does encourage daily enjoyment of as many things as possible. And if something becomes a little tarnished from love and usage: “Those signs of aging are evidence of contact with real people and real lives. In place of that flawless, factory-bright finish, your timeless treasure will have the sheen of love and grace and character.

And, like a human being, your treasure will be all the more beautiful for having lived a little.”

Artwork by Sandy Lynam Clough

Artwork by Sandy Lynam Clough

She places particular importance on handmade things, whether it was the shelf made by your  grandfather, the lopsided clay pot made by your kindergartner or a crocheted doily you bought at an antique mall or thrift shop.  The importance of recording the origin, names on old photos and family stories is illustrated by many personal stories sprinkled throughout the book.

One story that particularly spoke to me was by her brother-in-law, Kenneth Barnes:

“All the years that I was growing up, a picture hung in my bedroom.  It depicted two small puppies napping on a table and a tiny kitten with its smiling face raised high in between them.  The caption read “Suzie.”  Many nights I went to sleep looking at Suzie and her companions.  The frame was old and hung from a nail by twine that wrapped around two thumbtacks, one mounted in each upper corner of the frame.
When I married and left home, I left “Suzie” behind and never thought to wonder what would happen to her.  She  was simply part of my childhood life, along with a ship clock with tin sails I had won for selling newspaper subscriptions.  After my  father died, Mom had a garage sale and part of the departed treasures included “Suzie” and the clock.
Thirty-two years later I was asked to speak at a meeting some four hundred miles from home.  I asked my wife, Paula, to join me on the trip, and she agreed to do so under the condition that we spend a few days afterward roaming the territory.  (I’m not really much for shopping and sightseeing, but she loves to browse in old shops.)
After the meeting I was driving down a divided road in a rainstorm.  Suddenly to my left I saw an antique shop that pulled at me like a magnet, tugging on me to make a U-turn and come back.  This I did.   As I roamed from table to table looking at all of the discarded treasure, my eye traveled to a picture leaning on a fireplace mantle.  The frame was very old.  The twine that hung from two corner thumbtacks was dark from years of collecting dust.   And there, in the center of the picture between her two sleeping companions, was my old friend Suzie.  On the same mantle sat my clock ship with its tin sails.
There was no doubt in my mind of the authenticity of my find!  The merchant made a sale, and I then realized the meaning of the phrase, “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.”  In this case, a timeless treasure because all those years in between faded quickly and, for a brief moment, I was that ten-year-old looking at my smiling friend Suzie, which I still cherish to this day.”

There are lots of interesting quotes throughout the book, such as this one by Jane Austen: “Her plants, her books…her writing desk…were all within reach…she could scarcely see an object in that room which had not an interesting remembrance connected with it.” Or this one from Flavia Weedn: “Some of its mane is gone, the paint is chipped, but that’s what makes it so wonderful. Don’t you just know it was well loved!”

Sandy Lynam Clough

Sandy Lynam Clough

The artwork by Sandy Lynam Clough, is romantic and evocative.

Timeless Treasures would make a nice gift for someone you know who loves family and vintage treasures.  It makes a nice gift just for yourself, too.

A quick search on the internet showed a lot of copies available, starting at $.01 +shipping.

It’s a lovely book and I highly recommend reading it with a nice cup of tea.

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Cozy Reading

100_8353Brenda over at Coffee, Tea, Books and Me is asking her blog readers to submit their favorite books and movies that are in the Cozy category. She defines them as ones that make her feel all warm and cozy in the winter weather. Partly because we live in the south, my definition would be a little different – books and movies that me feel contented. There’s more to it than that, but when I start trying to nail it down, it gets elusive.

For instance, Agatha Christie mysteries are considered cozies, but they almost always involve murder. No gory details or horrible unpleasantness – but murder, none the less. I struggle with my affection for her books. Surely a Christian shouldn’t be so fascinated with sin. If I’m wanting to rationalize, I could say that it’s actually the intricacies of logic and justice that intrigue me.

Cozy books of all types make up a good deal of my reading. I also read a lot of challenging non-fiction: political, Alzheimer’s tales, biographies, but I find that after a few of these books, I need to read something that calms me down a bit. Because, even though I believe those topics to be necessary and important to my life, they can be a bit stressful.

Anyway, here’s some of my list. It isn’t complete because I’m sure that I’ll remember an omitted favorite this afternoon.

I’ve used Brenda’s format, to help me compare my list to hers.

AUTHORS
M.C. Beaton -mostly mysteries: Edwardian, Scotland, Cotswolds
Elizabeth Caddell – light mid-20th century novels of England
Agatha Christie – mysteries
Emily Kimbrough – reminiscences of very early and mid-20th century
L.M. Montgomery – Anne of Green Gables series
Miss Read – very light and pleasant novels of an English village school
D.E. Stevenson – light English romances
Gladys Taber – journal-like books about living in New England
Laura Ingalls Wilder – Little House books

FICTION
+Little House in the Big Woods, Laura Ingalls Wilder
*Absolutely any of the Miss Read books
*Mrs. Miniver, Jan Struther (disclaimer: there is a chapter on fortune telling which I skipped. I don’t think witchcraft/occult is harmless fun.)
*The Gown of Glory, Agnes Sligh Turnbull (one of the reader reviews on Amazon compared it to Our Town.)
*The Nightingale, Agnes Sligh Turnbull (same town as The Gown of Glory, different people)
*Half Crown House, Helen Ashton (post WWII England)
*Owl’s Castle Farm, Primrose Cumming (mid-WWII English farm life)
*Now That April’s There, Daisy Neumann (English children returning home from America 1945)
SERIES
*Fairacre series by Miss Read
*Thrush Green series by Miss Read
*Some of the Mitford books by Jan Karon
*Reminisce Magazine books – collections of short personal stories from very early to mid-20th century

NON-FICTION – HOME ARTS
*A Thousand Ways to Please Your Husband with Bettina’s Best Recipes, Louise Bennett Weaver & Helen Cowles LeCron (either 1917 or 1932 edition)
*The Little House Cookbook, Barbara M. Walker
*If Teacups Could Talk, Emilie Barnes
*The Charms of Tea, by Victoria Magazine
*Beautiful Home on a Budget, Emilie Barnes & Yoli Brogger
*Timeless Treasures, Emilie Barnes
*Sew Pretty Homestyle, Tone Finnanger
*Crafting Vintage Style, Christina Strutt
*Creating Vintage Style, Lucinda Ganderton

BIOGRAPHIES & AUTOBIOGRAPHIES
*Farewell, Horton Foote
*In My Father’s House: the Years Before the Hiding Place, Corie ten Boom
*Agatha Christie: an Autobiography, Agatha Christie
*A Fortunate Grandchild, Miss Read
*Time Remembered, Miss Read

FASHION

*20th Century Fashion, John Peacock
*Fashion Accessories, John Peacock
*The Costume Collector’s Companion 1890-1990, Rosemary Hawthorne Air

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Mrs. Miniver Comes Home

MRS_MINIVER-6
“… And there was the square itself, with the leaves still as thick on the trees as they had been when she left in August; but in August they had hung heavily, a uniform dull green, whereas now, crisped and brindled by the first few nights of frost, they had taken on a new, various beauty. Stepping lightly and quickly down the square, Mrs. Miniver suddenly understood why she was enjoying the forties so much better than she had enjoyed the thirties: it was the difference between August and October, between the heaviness of late summer and the sparkle of early autumn, between the ending of an old phase and the beginning of a fresh one.

She reached her doorstep. The key turned sweetly in the lock. That was the kind of thing one remembered about a house: not the size of the rooms or the colour of the walls, but the feel of door-handles and light-switches, the shape and texture of the banister-rail under one’s palm; minute tactual intimacies, whose resumption was the essence of coming home.

Upstairs in the drawing-room there was a small bright fire of logs, yet the sunshine that flooded in through the open windows had real warmth in it. It was perfect: she felt suspended between summer and winter, savouring the best of them both. She unwrapped the chrysanthemums and arranged them in a square glass jar, between herself and the light, so that the sun shone through them. They were the big mop-headed kind, burgundy-coloured, with curled petals; their beauty was noble, architectural; and as for their scent, she thought as she buried her nose in the nearest of them, it was a pure distillation of her mood, a quintessence of all that she found gay and intoxicating and astringent about the weather, the circumstances, her own age, and the season of the year. Oh, yes, October certainly suited her best. ..

…She rearranged the fire a little, mostly for the pleasure of handling the fluted steel poker, and then sat down by it. Tea was already laid: there were honey sandwiches, brandy-snaps, and the small ratafia biscuits; and there would, she knew, be crumpets. Three new library books lay virginally on the fender-stool their bright paper wrappers unsullied by subscriber’s hand. The clock on the mantelpiece chimed, very softly and precisely, five times. A tug hooted from the river. A sudden breeze brought the sharp tang of a bonfire in a the window. The jigsaw was almost complete, but there was still one piece missing. And then, from the other end of the square, came the familiar sound of the Wednesday barrel-organ, playing, with a hundred apocryphal trills and arpeggios, the “Blue Danube” waltz. And Mrs. Miniver, with a little sigh of contentment, rang for tea.”

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