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Winter is a Time for Movies

Winter has always been a time for movies in my family. As a child during Christmas vacation between cookie baking and gift wrapping we spent time watching some of our favorite classics: Pride and Prejudice, Anne of Green Gables, and Little Women. Not because all of these films were Christmas related, but because they took extra time to watch and the long dark winter nights were the perfect opportunity to enjoy some movie magic.

Winter continues to be a favorite time for me to curl up some hot chocolate and a great story in the form of a movie, mini-series, or TV series on Netflix. Here are some of my favorites:

North and South
Elizabeth Gaskell’s excellent novel gets adapted for film in fabulous style. Heroine Margaret moves from the country to a factory town and has a hard time adjusting. Actor Richard Armitage rivals Colin Firth when it comes to playing the misunderstood brooding hero and Brendan Coyle of Downton Abbey fame is memorable as the union organizer of the cotton mill.


Wives and Daughters
Another Gaskell adaptation, young Molly must adjust to life when her widower father remarries a woman who has a grown daughter Molly’s own age.

Pride and Prejudice
Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle are fabulous as Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. Really, this adaption is the best as far as I’m concerned. Other adaptions have their good points, but nothing rivals this six hour version of the novel.

Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Green Gables–the Sequel
Anne of Green Gables
defined my childhood in many ways, both the film and the book. I was introduced to the novel by the film. It was the first time I encountered a red-haired heroine and I fell in love with Lucy Maud Montgomery’s writing. Although the Sequel doesn’t follow the book like the first movie does, I enjoy it too.

Bleak House
This Dickens adaptation has a riveting multi-layered storyline! One episode would quickly turn into just one more. And the cinematography is excellent!

Lark Rise to Candleford
I can’t tell you how much I loved this series! I discovered it when I was nursing Sophia and was so sad when the final season ended. You’ll recognize Brendan Coyle yet again and Julia Sawalha (who played Lydia Bennet in Pride and Prejudice) is all grown up and the head of the local post office in this charming series.

Rosemary and Thyme
Murder. Afternoon tea. English gardens. Just a day in the life of two middle-age professional gardeners and amateur sleuths.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries 1 & 2
It’s the 1920s in Melbourne, Australia. Phryne Fisher is a “lady detective” in a man’s world. Dressed to impress, this pistol-packing fashionista is smart, sophisticated, and ready to solve the latest crime.

Doc Martin
Doc Martin is new in town. Formerly a surgeon, but having formed a crippling fear of blood, Doc Martin becomes the GP of the small town of Portwenn, filled with quirky characters. Martin who is surly, tackless, and lacking people skills doesn’t fit into the town’s friendly and tight-knit community nor does he try.

Call the Midwife
Call the Midwife follows Jenny, a newcomer to London’s East End Anglican convent, where she is to work as a midwife. The series is incredibly heartwarming, life-affirming, sensitive, and thoughtful as it deals with poverty and women’s issues of the time.

So there you go, I hope you find a new series to enjoy! What movies or series are you watching?


Chris - January 20, 2015 - 11:21 am

I’ve seen 7 out of the 10 and loved all that I’ve seen. However, I must say that I’ve tried Bleak House twice and just couldn’t get into it either time. So dark…but then, it’s Dickens.

Claire @ Lemon Jelly Cake - January 24, 2015 - 4:04 pm

Oh, how I love some of these! My sisters and I had both a “Wives and Daughters” party and a “Pride and Prejudice” party where we sat down with friends and watched both of those. (Clearly this was before I was married with kids, haha.) I loved Julia Sawalha in Lark Rise; watching that show made me envy her beautiful, beautiful clothes. :)

Am I Beautiful?


I was putting her to bed the usual way, with a song and prayer.

Suddenly, my four year-old daughter made a pouty face.

“What’s the matter?” I asked, stopping the song mid-line.

“You sing prettier than me,” she sulked. And then, as if it added insult to injury: “You sing prettier than me and are more beautiful than me.”

I must admit I found my daughter’s comparison of herself to me — at the age of four no less — sobering and a little disturbing. That she would already feel some need to compete in the beauty and talent department with another female saddened me. It also made me realize how innate those feelings can be.

I already knew she was tuned into recognizing and valuing beauty — in nature and in other people. And most days after picking out her clothes, she comes down to the kitchen to ask what probably every woman has wondered at some point, “Am I beautiful?” But this new revelation of comparison and competition made me think deeper about the message of beauty I want my daughter to receive.

Join me over at Ungrind to finish reading

Image Credit:

Dorothy Greco - January 17, 2015 - 3:09 pm

Lovely article. Truly. Just followed you on Twitter. I’m also a photog, (ex.)homeschooling mom, writer (at SMR too). Look forward to seeing more of your work.

4 Books to Influence Your New Year

The New Year is a time when many of us take stock of where we are in life, make goals, or attempt to make changes in our habits.

It is also a time when some of us make booklists of what we want to read in the upcoming year. Outside of the many wonderful people in my life, I have to say, books have been some of the most influencing forces in my life.

I’ve gathered a few titles that I think are particularly good to consider when starting off with a fresh year in front of me. Books that nourish, provoke, encourage, and inspire.

Find out what those titles are over at

Ava Claire


I was due January 5th. I didn’t think I’d last that long, but I didn’t imagine that our new bundle of joy would arrive on Christmas Day!

But arrive she did, and what a sweet Christmas surprise! I still can barely believe we have another baby in the house. She gets showered with love everyday by her siblings, who are excited to have her join our family.

We have enjoyed the Christmas break and Josh being home from work. We’re thankful for my mom who has helped out and family that were in from out of town who got to meet Ava. And we’re super thankful for the amazing meals so many wonderful friends have been dropping off!

We’re getting used to our new normal and loving almost every minute of it.



zoanna - January 6, 2015 - 10:38 am

She’s just as sweet as can be. Love those little arms that stretch just to the top of baby’s head. Precious pictures. We’re so happy for your family. Looking forward to meeting Ava Claire. (Was she named for someone in the family?)

amy - January 6, 2015 - 12:36 pm

Love. She is beautiful. Congratulations again!

Corinne - January 6, 2015 - 4:57 pm

She’s perfect!! Congratulations:)

Imene - January 6, 2015 - 5:22 pm

Oh what a lovely lovely christmas present!!! he is adorable


Claire @ Lemon Jelly Cake - January 7, 2015 - 11:10 am

Oh my goodness, congratulations! What a beautiful baby girl. :)

Briana - January 7, 2015 - 1:31 pm

Oh, I just love her already and can’t wait to spend more time with her. :)

krista - January 7, 2015 - 2:08 pm

Goodness gracious…I’m not sure I can handle that much sweetness. She is beautiful!

We love our Christmas babies too. There is just something about holding a newborn at this time of year with a sleep-deprived, aching body, and a fresh awareness of how far our Savior reached down to give us a hope and a future.

Praying for you guys!

Danielle - January 8, 2015 - 8:23 am

Thank you all, and yes Krista, you are right!

@Zoanna, no, the name is not a family name. The boys have family names but not our girls. There’s not really a single female name in our family history I love, ha ha! Ava had been on my mind for a while. And I like what Ava Claire means, “life and light” or “life and bright.”

Kelly Sauer - January 13, 2015 - 8:47 am

I love her! And her name is so beautiful – we considered a “Claire” for Noley, but didn’t find it fit!

Joyce Eller - January 14, 2015 - 7:34 am

She is absolutely adorable!!!
May you be blessed greatly during this time!
I can’t wait to meet her!
Love you all,
Aunt Joyce

What I Read in 2014

WhatIRead copy

This was a good year for reading. I read some truly wonderful fiction along with a few duds sprinkled in-between. All of my non-fiction reading ended up being really great; my hope for next year is to read even more non-fiction than I did this year.

And of course I want to know: what was your favorite book of the year?


The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio***
A duel-narrative mystery that connects a present-day story with the past.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling*** (audiobook)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling*** (audiobook)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling**** (audiobook)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling****
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling**** (audiobook)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling**** (audiobook)

I finally read (or listened in this case) to Harry Potter and it became one of my favorite series. After certain friends raved about it and I read this article by Andrew Peterson I finally gave it a try and wrote my thoughts on it here.

Morning Glory by Sarah Jio**
An interesting book but not as good as some of Jio’s other titles.

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen**
I’ve enjoyed all of Allen’s other whimsical southern novels but this one, more weird than whimsical, left me disappointed.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd***
One of my favorite novels of the year. I already reviewed it here. A fascinating historical fiction based on the true life of Sarah Grimké.

Silenced by Dani Pettrey***
A fast-paced outdoor adventure/mystery series I always enjoy.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbough****
I found this novel riveting about a homeless girl and her connection with flowers one of my favorite reads of the year.

Goodnight June by Sarah Jio*
Jio’s more recent novels have been more disappointing than her earlier ones. This one was unsatisfying and unbelievable in many ways.

The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes*** (audiobook)
An exciting heartbreaking historical novel based during World War 1.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (audiobook)***
The book had me in tears multiple times. A story of family, medicine, love, forgiveness, and brotherly connection, it is magnificently told, although I felt it did lose some traction in the middle. I would warn it’s not a novel for the faint of heart. From various procedures described in great medical detail to female circumcision, the novel doesn’t shy away from frank descriptions of operations both successful and disastrous.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart ***
I wouldn’t say I liked We Were Liars, but appreciated it. The writing was excellent with metaphors that astonished and a story that had a great twist. That said, none of the characters were particularly enjoyable.

The Bird in the Tree by Elizabeth Goudge***
This story started off slow but I came to enjoy it. Goudge’s writing is always beautiful and now a bit old-fashioned in the attention to detail and descriptions–the type of writing I savor. The story centers on the matriarch of a family, Lucilla, who is thrown into turmoil when her favorite grandson falls in love with ex-daughter-in-law.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley**
This book was recommended to me by three different people who’s recommendations I usually enjoy. I just couldn’t get into this novel, however, and forced myself to finish it. It had a great concept, but just didn’t grip me, although I can’t pinpoint why.



When Others Shuddered: Eight Women Who Refused to Give Up by Janie Janosz***
I love biographies so this book of little-known women of Christian history was a hit with me. Full review was published on Ungrind.

Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World by Tsh Oxenreider***
I enjoyed Tsh’s reflections on attempting more intentional living in areas of work, education, travel, and entertainment. I particularly enjoyed her experiences in other cultures and how being exposed to these other ways of doing things have influenced their family’s choices.

Team Us: Marriage Together by Ashleigh Slater***
I started following Ashleigh Slater’s blog when I first began blogging and was so excited to discover she had the opportunity to write a book. I love her books’ theme, the idea of creating a marriage team. Check out my full review.

A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg***
A heart warming foody memoir with delicious recipes. I enjoyed Wizenberg’s writing very much.

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard ****
This book was my favorite non-fiction read of the year. Thank you Amy for recommending it so highly! It is my favorite kind of non-fiction combining history, science, and biography. The book covers the life and assassination of James A. Garfield, his assassin Charles Guiteau, his medical doctors who unintentionally hastened Garfield’s death, and Alexander Graham Bell who worked hard to create an induction balance to save Garfield’s life by trying to find the lodged bullet. A book that makes you wonder, “what if” Garfield had lived, what kind of presidency would he had have?

The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas by Ann Voskamp****
My second year reading this book for advent, I found it really centers me on the meaning of Christmas in a thought-provoking way.

So to wrap it up, my favorite non-fiction was Destiny of the Republic, while my favorite fictional reads were a tie between the following: the Harry Potter series, The Language of Flowers, and The Invention of Wings.

And don’t forget to share your own favorite titles of 2014!

Claire @ Lemon Jelly Cake - January 5, 2015 - 11:08 am

Yay, I love your book recommendations! I actually picked up The Winter Sea from the library because of you and I LOVED it. I ended up reading two or three more books by Susanna Kearsley and I can’t tell you the last time I discovered something “new” in fiction that I like! ;) I think my favorite book of the year was “Surprised by Motherhood” by Lisa Jo Baker. I usually have a difficult time getting through “parenting” books (in fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever finished one before) so I loved that her book was more of a memoir than a how to.

amy - January 5, 2015 - 11:24 am

I love that you read and enjoyed so many of my recommendations this year :) I was about to be appalled that you gave HP only 3-4 stars…then I remembered that you use a 4-star system!

Definitely adding Cutting for Stone to my (ridiculous–it’s approaching 350 I think) “want to read” shelf. And I hope to check out Ann’s Advent devotional next year (though I also got Watch for the Light through PBS a couple of weeks ago, so we’ll see).

You know I always enjoy doing my own roundup…not sure if I will get to it this week or next. I think DotR was my fave nonfiction this year as well–and I also really enjoyed Invention of Wings. And Language of Flowers was at the top of my list last year, and HP the year before that–we share similar taste. Wish we could do a book club. I’ve never been in one but I think it would be really fun with you!

Danielle - January 5, 2015 - 1:20 pm

@Claire, I wanted to like The Winter Sea, but just didn’t LOVE it. But most of the other folks I know were like you and went on to read and enjoy other titles by her!

@Amy, I always love your book list too. Yes, I got a good many titles from you. :) A book club would be super fun! Yeah, everyone else I think does 5 stars (Good Reads, Amazon) so maybe I should switch to that? But hey, I’ve been keeping this rating system since before those sites EVER existed, so hard to make that change now! But maybe I should for seamlessness sake . . .