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Beyond Pop-Up Books: 8 Christmasy Titles to Put You in the Spirit

EP beyond pop-up books

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Eyrie Park is home to thousands of books. There are books in every bedroom, in the den and living room, in the kitchen and in closets. At Christmas time, we empty a couple of high cabinets and put out baskets and seasonal reads. We have many picture books about Baby Jesus, Santa Claus and snow. We have pop-up books and easy readers and beautifully illustrated picture books that get read at this time each year, preferably by a blazing fire!

However, in the past few years I’ve realized that Christmasy reading doesn’t have to be a contained in a 32 page hardback about a reindeer with a red nose, which is why I’ve compiled this list of chapter books perfect for cozy December nights. Several of them would be great to read aloud to kiddos, others are intended for adults. Without further adieu, I give you 8 Christmasy Titles to Put You in the Spirit. :)

1. The Coat-hanger Christmas Tree by Eleanor Estes

I have been an avid Estes fan since I was a wee lassie. I cannot exactly explain why I love her books so much. There’s something special about them. I think it’s the way she wrote real life into her children’s books without being preachy, dramatic or dull. They’re just great. I didn’t read The Coat-hanger Christmas Tree until I was a young adult, and it will never replace Ginger Pye in my heart, but I did really like it. In the New England based tale, ten-year-old Marianna desperately wants a Christmas tree but her mother refuses to be “like every tom-dick-and-harry.” As we know, kids find their own ways of doing things, hence the Christmas tree made of coat-hangers. Sadly, this gem is out of print, but I know you could find yourself a copy. You can do it!

2. The True Saint Nicolas: Why He Matters by William Bennett

This title was new to me last year, but I gobbled it up in time to lend it to my grandmother when we saw her for Christmas. She and I both agree, it’s a fascinating little book! If you’re like me, you’ve heard of Santa Claus/Old Saint Nick/Father Christmas your whole life and had some random ideas of who these mythical characters came from, but no clear story in your mind. This book quickly covers the real person named Saint Nicolas, the myths and legends about him, the other mythical characters who have been combined with Saint Nicolas over the years and the origin of our modern “Santa Claus” traditions, such as why he leaves gifts in our stockings, etc. Mostly it’s just interesting and super fun. It made me excited for Christmas and for teaching my little siblings about a real man who exemplified the true meaning of Christmas many a year ago.


3. Christmas with Anne by L. M. Montgomery

L. M. Montgomery, Christmas…how could you go wrong? This little collection of stories features our beloved Anne-with-an-E in her tale of puffed sleeves (real Anne fans could never forget that one) and fifteen other heartwarming, holiday tales. I’ll be honest, I haven’t read the entire book yet, but I know it will be delightful. Montgomery’s eloquence set in P.E.I. during Christmastide will make me throw another log on the fire, I’m sure.

4. Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien

Didn’t know Tolkien wrote a Christmas book, did ya? Well, he kind of did, at least. This lovely book is a compilation of letters Tolkien’s children received in the mail every December “from Father Christmas.” The letters detail life at The North Pole, the life and work of the author (Santa) and included original artwork. If you get this book, you will love Christmas a little bit more. And maybe wish Tolkien was your dad.


5. The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp

Ann’s long time love of the Advent season finally bore a book last year! If you’ve followed her Advent devotional in the past, you are familiar with the stunning way she weaves the entire love story (Bible) into Christmas. Her writings completely changed how I view Jesus’ genealogy (it actually matters-a lot!) and the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day. Grab a copy early and work your way through the season. You won’t regret it.

6. The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas by Madeleine L’engle

You know her from A Wrinkle in Time and some really deep theological books, but you might not know that she penned a winter’s tale as well! In this little book (complete with twenty-four short chapters) the Austin family lets you in on their holiday traditions each day of Advent. There’s a lose, sweet plot happening all along. The ending may make you sigh with joy. Maybe.

7. A Quiet Little Woman by Louisa May Alcott

I’ll read anything by Alcott. She’s my literary heroine. This is a short story by Alcott which I enjoyed when I was younger but would probably bawl through today, simply because it’s about a girl who needs a family. Patty cannot bear another day in the orphanage. Even after a family finally does come for Patty, it is only because they need a servant. But there is one person who does care about Patty! Will Patty find her family in time for Christmas?! I especially enjoy reading about the origin of this story: “The young Lukens girls had written to Miss Alcott telling her that they were so inspired by the examples of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, that they, too, were launching their own literary publication.Soon the Lukens girls received a very special gift-a Christmas story from Miss Alcott about a lonely orphan girl who finds a family to love her. Following its publication, the story stayed in an old magazine until many years later, a reader chanced upon it.” (From Amazon) Kate’s Choice is another very sweet Christmas tale by Alcott.

8. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

If you’ve never read this before, you need to get yourself a cute little copy like mine and get to it! It’s a very un-intimidating read. You may know the story from various plays or picture books or (heaven forbid) Mickey Mouse movies, but Dickens wasn’t just a story teller, he was a writer. You must read it in his own words at least once. It has some fantastic little quotes. It definitely touched my heart!

What books do YOU love to read at this time of the year? Share in the comments!

7 Stories that Helped Me Relate to the Poor

EP 7 Stories

I am a very privileged person. Growing up, we may not have had everything we could’ve wanted, but we were never hungry or in need. Poverty was just something I read about in my many, many books. I recently had a conversation with my eleven-year-old sister about why certain people act the way they do. We talked about how much we have to be thankful for and how “hurting people hurt people.” We wound up referencing “The Hundred Dresses” by Eleanor Estes, a wonderful book about a little girl who wears the same dress to school every day, but claims quite brazenly that she has a hundred dresses at home. This gave me the idea for the post you’re reading. Which stories have helped me relate to and understand the poor? I’m sharing seven that come to mind.

1. The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

This winner of the 1945 Newberry Honor is a timeless short chapter book for kids. It is one of those stories which perhaps couldn’t be written for adults, but is easily taken in by children. The story revolves around Polish immigrant, Wanda Petronski, who is ridiculed by her classmates for wearing the same faded blue dress to school every day. To avoid bullying, Wanda claims she has a hundred dresses at home. This story doesn’t not necessarily have a happy ending, but an important lesson is learned by the other girls in Wanda’s class and by generations of readers.

2. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

After falling in love with the 2005 BBC miniseries, I read this novel during a road trip. Several years later, I still think back on it often. I never expected to find such themes of generosity, fair trading practices and social justice in a book written in 1855. The book itself is fascinating, romantic and well written, but the plight of the factory workers during England’s industrial revolution will stick with me forever.

3. A Christmas Carol (or anything by Charles Dickens!)

While Austen was writing about ballrooms and bustles, Dickens was writing about the grim and grimy lives of those below the poverty line. You’ll see yourself reflecting in the amazing characters in his novels and your heart will go out to every orphan, widow, drifter and pickpocket he concocts.

4. The Rich Family in Church a true story by Eddie Ogan

This story has had a great impact on me personally, ever since I read Eddie’s real-life account online. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but this short tale will touch your heart. What happens when a widow and her teenage daughters try to raise money for a poor family in their church during The Great Depression? You’ll never forget it.

5. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Well, the reason this book taught me about poverty is probably that this book taught me about everything. I consider this to be my favorite fictional book of all time. The March family is struggling to make ends meet while Mr. March is serving in the Civil War, and yet they are remarkably and realistically generous. I just love it. It will make you want to give your butter away on Christmas. (The movie is also excellent.)

6. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Though I haven’t read the assumably wonderful book, I adore both the 1998 and 2012 film adaptations. In what I consider to be one of the most incredible stories ever written, you’ll follow the plights of the pure-hearted prostitute, the honest thief who has broken parole, the innocent daughter of swindlers, the once-rich rebel fighter who is willing to lose everything in the name of liberty and an orphan who, against all odds, becomes an heiress. Just. So. Good.

7. George Muller the true biography

A missionary to Bristol’s orphans, George Muller has taught me more about trusting God for financial provision than any other hero I’ve read about. I loved his biography by Janet and Geoff Benge, but I know his autobiography is said to be great as well. Don’t believe in miracles? Read this account.

What stories have impacted how you think about poverty?


This post contains confessions about Chicken Helper, Chocolate Chip Waffles and ABC’s “Once Upon A Time”. Be prepared to judge.

During my week of being “Marmee” I’ve learned to take things day-by-day. Things have really gone quite smoothly this week, though we do miss our parents very much and I can’t say that there haven’t been a few moments in which I’ve looked for them and thought “What am I supposed to do?”

I think one of my best choices this week was to read Willin and Jubilee Aunt Nancy and Old Man Trouble before they went to bed one of the first nights. This is a story about how to stay positive when things go wrong. I love it-clever and cute. Old Man Trouble definitely tries to sneak into Eyrie Park whenever my parents leave, but I think we’ve kept him away pretty well through prayer, positive attitudes and preparation. 

Another choice that I’m very glad I made was to cook every day this week. Actually, today I made curry chicken salad sandwiches for lunch, so that can’t really count as cooking. But on the other hand, I plan to cook dinner on Monday, which will mean that I’ll cook seven times before my parents get home. Not to mention those chocolate chip waffles…

I have really enjoyed planning meals, gathering ingredients, grocery shopping, posting the menu, cooking, serving (and eating!) this week. It’s been fun and made me feel productive. It’s something that is necessary yet can be enjoyable when well organized and the whole family gets to enjoy the results. The best thing about this week has been that I’ve known exactly what my priorities were to be-taking care of the family. I didn’t have to wonder if I should schedule in writing or reading or anything else that I normally try to do for myself because I knew that that wasn’t my priority. And I (as you can see) have found spare time to write anyway. 

{Above: Marmee prepares to leave her daughters in charge of Orchard House while she visits Mr. March in the hospital. I may or may not pretend to be one of the March girls while I take care of Eyrie Park…}

So here’s the Day-By-Day of my week, for anyone who is interested:

My parents left in the afternoon, flying out of our local airport. That day I took all of the Christmas decorations down, did a lot of cleaning and rearranging and washed all of the sheets. This is also the day that the rabid raccoon met his fate on our deck. I made the Boredom Solution Jars that night.

Baked potatoes, bacon, fixings and salad

Joey, Sabrina, Donavan, Birdie and Sam all read the instructions for “Diplomacy” while I worked, played, ate, slept and thanked the Lord that I didn’t get involved. The game is still not over. Meanwhile, I taught Willin and Jubilee how to play “Battleship.” This is a war game that I approve of. 

Tortilla Soup with the help of Birdie. Of course, it isn’t really tortilla soup at all (we’ve changed it so much) so we should call it Spicy Vegetable Soup. Plus chicken, in this case. Served with chips and cheese. Yummy!
Donavan also brought two rotten bananas which were married to our one rotten banana in a delicious bread.

I went to the grocery store twice (forgot to get extra sour cream after some of it was used on left-over potatoes) and cooked, did laundry and probably played games or watched a movie (don’t recall.)

Sour Cream Enchiladas, salad, chips. Then Marie Calendar provided us with an apple pie. Blue Bell ice cream tagged along as well…

My parents celebrated 27 years of marriage!
My friend M. came over and helped me cook dinner. She also introduced me to Deanna Durbin movies (which I now love.) I couldn’t remember the name all evening and kept calling her Debbie Durrant. Then we ate dinner, talked about life, made no-bake cookies and promised to see each other again before she has to be whisked off to college. It was very nice “taking an evening off.” The diplomats focused on the war and I again praised God that I didn’t get tied into that days before…

Fettucini Alfredo, spinach and dinner rolls. I’m not going to lie…I had a “helper” with this one. “Chicken Helper.” Actually, I was nervous about this because it was my first time to use “Chicken Helper.”
But, no shame…no shame!
Also: Birdie made no-bake cookies. Yum!

Deanna Durbin (middle) in “Three Smart Girls”

My sisters and I watched “Little Women” which is tradition to be watched with sisters during the Winter. Of course, it was in the 60’s outside, but we imagined that it was bleak out. We all got choked up at the right parts and then ranted and raved afterward. Then Jubilee put on a long, plaid nightgown and asked to carry a candle to bed. We, of course, accommodated her. 
Also, my wonderful brother-in-law took my younger brothers to the park to rollerblade. This was a huge help!

Baked parmesan tilapia, steamed broccoli and yellow squash and rice. This meal was so easy and successful! And at dinner time, I ruined the healthfulness of this day by giving into my craving for chocolate chip waffles.

Sabrina and Donavan were so kind as to take Jubilee off of my hands for a while. She had a blast getting a banana shake from Sonic, flying a kite in the park, rolling down hills (her hair tells the story) and coloring at their awesome apartment. 
I, meanwhile, got to sneak out and meet M. for coffee. Only, neither of us really drink coffee. Smoothie, java shake and conversation were all excellent. 

Well, nothing really. But I did whip up some delicious Curry Chicken Salad which we ate on crescent bread. We paired this with dill pickles and lemon iced tea and picnicked on the deck until it got too hot and we came inside. Yes, January 6th and I was sweaty.

Happenings Plans:
Church, Beth over to watch at least part of “Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel” (we’re on a girl movie kick with Jubilee…she says that “Pride and Prejudice” has to be next!) Then dinner and “Once Upon A Time.” Because yes, we watch a show on ABC. It’s true. I’m sorry. We know it’s dumb but still look forward to it all week. Judge away. 

Cooked: Supposedly Cooking:
Stir fry with chicken, rice and sauce. Yummy, easy, healthy and did I mention yummy?
This meal is my childhood enemy turned lover. 

Monday Again:
Chores, babysitting, grocery shopping, cooking, welcoming my parents back at last!

Supposedly Cooking:
Yet to be decided. Any suggestions?


re-reading and re-writing

“(I) do my best all-round keep good company, read good books, love good things, and cultivate soul and body as faithfully and wisely as I can.” -Rose In Bloom

Yesterday I wrote you a nice-sized post about spiritual things and deep thoughts and scripture, but Blogger decided to fling it into oblivion and never return it. Therefore, in good time, I am planning to re-write it. Until then, I thought I’d share with you this lovely painting I found by Julius LeBlanc Stewart and the happy news that I am going to be again reading Rose In Bloom, this time aloud to Birdie. You see, with so many books yet to be read, I can never justify re-reading unless it is aloud to someone else. Therefore, I have arranged the previously mentioned partnership. After all, when my mother handed it back to me last night after she had read it (I recommended it, of course,) I couldn’t stop thumbing through the dry, wheat-colored pages and relishing the familiar lines. I almost just started reading it again right then, but refrained (I am so mature these days, you know.) I put it back on the bookshelf for about ten minutes before I came up with Operation Re-Read. Birdie gladly accepted and I’m giddy with anticipation! Anyway, so I am looking forward to that and you can be looking forward to my post about Isaac, so long as I am able to regain my inspiration and properly publish the post!

Love and love,

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