Favorite Books: Mysteries


My godmother got me hooked on mysteries. I was in third grade and it was The Secret of the Old Clock - Nancy Drew. I read mysteries throughout my growing up. When was reintroduced to the genre about 10 years ago, I never looked back. I will admit that mysteries are all I read currently, along with a bit of poetry and stacks upon stacks of homeschooling books and children’s read alouds.

The authors listed below are all ones I keep up with – and not one of them ever disappoints. I usually find time to read the new installment in the series sometime with the year it is published. It varies as to which is my favorite, but Louise Penny holds a special place in the queue. I have read her Armand Gamache series ever since I picked up an ARC of her first book, Still Life. Before she was a rock star – which she is now – we used to email occasionally. She was always witty and charming and down-to-earth. I’m sure she still is. Her new books debut in August, but somehow I am able to delay gratification and save it until the week between Christmas and New Years. Our family always rents a small house at the beach and Louise, Gamache, Jean Guy, Clara, Myrna, Gabri and Olivier always come with us. (The car is a little tight!) I always tell myself I will take it slow and ration the chapters, but that never happens. I proceed to completely ignore my family for 24 hours straight while I am transported to the magical village of Three Pines. (Tom and the boys are busy watching college bowl games anyway, so they don’t miss me at all.) 400 or so pages later, I look up and am surprised to find myself at the beach. It’s a soft landing and I’m already looking forward to next year. (Serendipitously, there is a  Gamache reading group forming. The series will be read in order and it begins April 21. Let me know if you join.)

So even though I have gushed about Ms. Penny, I would encourage you to read to any one of the authors below. Nothing is too grisly or gory or scary. All are impeccably written. I have listed author (with a link to their personal websites), followed by the detective and the setting.

Donna Leon/Guido Brunetti/modern-day Venice

Charles Todd/Ian Rutledge/London between the wars

Laurie R. King/Mary Russell/London between the wars

Jacqueline Winspear/Maisie Dobbs/London between the wars

Louise Penny/Armand Gamache/modern-day Canada

Reed Farrel Coleman/Moe Prager/1970s-1980s NYC

Alan Bradley/Flavia deLuce/1950s England

Lisa Lutz/Isabel Spellman/modern-day SanFransisco

Sara Gran/Claire DeWitt/modern-day USA

Jasper Fforde/Thursday Next/futuristic England

Tana French/lead detective varies/modern-day Ireland

Sunday Selections


I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:
How are you?

I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:
What is God?

If you think that the Truth can be known
From words,
If you think that the Sun and the Ocean
Can pass through that tiny opening
Called the mouth,

O someone should start laughing!
Someone should start wildly laughing—

- Hafiz, “Someone Should Start Laughing”

Habit: Reflective Friday

A peek into my week. Wishing you a lovely weekend friends, and thank you for spending part of your day with me. S

IMG_7911I took one photograph all weekend. There was no chance of capturing it anyway.

IMG_7914It seems unfair to have gotten poison ivy inside my bra and not have a salacious story to tell.

IMG_7938I walked until I ran out of light – that Patti Larkin lyric in my head the entire time.

IMG_7734I told him to add “cattle theft” to my long list of transgressions.

IMG_7967There is always, always a seat at their table.

Favorite Books: Literary Fiction


I remember learning to read in Miss Young’s kindergarten class at School 15 in Elizabeth, NJ. Miss Young taught kindergarten when my grandfather went to School 15 - my grandfather. Miss Young was old. Ever since those little yellow readers about Sis the Snake, I have loved to read. I still remember my first trip to a library. In my memory, it is a dark fall night and the children section glows as if by candlelight. I remember when we moved to the suburbs and lived in a house where I could walk to the library. Walk to the library? Absolute bliss. Blindfolded, I could probably still find the biography section and where the Encyclopedia Brown books were shelved. Later, I went on to earn two degrees in English which both required a lot of time in libraries. And now, there is a whole new set of sweet memories in bringing my children to the library.

So in celebration of National Library Week, I am declaring April “Book Month” here at Sure as the World. Each week, I will be posting a list of my favorite books. I will try to limit myself to a dozen or so titles, however, I’m not making any promises. The lists are not hierarchical, nor are they definitive. And even though nothing makes me break out in a cold sweat faster than the question “What’s your favorite book?”- I’m diving in and reminding myself to be brave in all things. I hope you’ll join me.

  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon

  • The Sparrow and Children of God, Mary Doria Russell

  • Broken for You and Sing Them Home, Stephanie Kallos

  • Animal Dreams and The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver

  • The Red Tent, Anita Diamant

  • The History of Love, Nicole Krauss

  • The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd

  • The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafón

  • Five Quarters of the Orange, Joanne Harris

  • The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

  • Fair and Tender Ladies, Lee Smith

  • Salt, Isabel Zubar

  • Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie

  • Jazz, Toni Morrison

And now you. What are your favorite literary fiction titles? Do tell.



Hey . . .  If you found your way here from Simple Homeschool, welcome. My name is Sheila. I live in a small town in western NC where I homeschool my two boys with Waldorf inspired methods. This blog is one of my favorite places. The friendships and connections I have made here have changed me. Blogging has made the world smaller, kinder, more intimate, with more magic and grace than I could ever imagine. If you are inspired, please leave a comment and/or subscribe to my blog. I’d like to get to know you too.

I am currently writing an ebook entitled, “From Wholeness: A Guide to Seeing Bigger, Going Deeper, Doing Less.” It is a workbook/guidebook of sorts to help keep the most important things in homeschooling – our children – front and center. I know some of my deepest spiritual and personal growth have come from showing up for this homeschooling gig, day after day, year after year – however, sometimes I forget the bigger picture and I am hoping this ebook will help me remember. If all goes as expected, it will be available free to subscribers in May – just in time for summer planning.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me. Again, I’m glad you’re here. S

PS. I’ll be moderating the comments at Simple Homeschool, and as always, I’d love to know your thoughts. Here is the full link http://simplehomeschool.net/doubt/

Teaching Cursive Writing


I have had cursive writing as an academic goal for Vincent the last four years running. Four years! We first came to Waldorf when Vincent was in grade 3 which is normally when cursive is taught. I purchased the special fountain pens and extra refills for the lovely copywork I pictured us doing in our main lesson books. This did not happen in third grade. Fourth grade? No. Fifth Grade? No. Sixth grade? Hallelujah, YES!!

Over the years, I have tried many different approaches: workbooks, free printables, using my handwriting as a guide – nothing worked. Vincent has always struggled with coordination and flow in his physical movement, and I came to realize this correlated with issues related to handwriting. Knowing something cognitively, however, did not necessarily translate to how I was teaching. And if I am being honest here, I didn’t want to address it from a wholistic perspective. I just wanted him to write in script – damnit! – how hard was this??!!

A couple of things happened this year that helped me to change my thinking and I was (finally!) able to take a wholistic, long view. We started with form drawing in September (like we always do) but this year I was committed to it in a different way. We followed the forms in The Write Approach Book 1 – step by step, form by form, week by week. It was not easy. The flowing nature of the forms and the progression of the movements was all very hard for Vincent. I thought we were going to come to blows one day when I introduced this “wave” form. We struggled through a few lines over a couple of days and then put it away to rest.


In October, I attended a eurythmy workshop with Cynthia Hoven and also scheduled Vincent for 2 private curative eurythmy sessions. I have shared my personal love of eurythmy before in this space, but watching Vincent struggle profoundly with body geography, fluidity and space was about more than I could bear. I swear 90% of his energy and awareness is in his head – I have always known this – but I never made the connection that that doesn’t leave a whole lot left over for the rest of his body. Ms. Hoven gave us several practice sequences to address specific concerns. Four days a week we worked with copper rods, rice trays, jumping movements and walking exercises. In addition to this gross motor movement, we also kept practicing our written forms with The Write Approach.

By February, Vincent was much more at ease with the flow of the pen across the page and I thought we could just jump right into the letters. I had the expectation that he would be able to write a sentence in script. When I asked him to do this, he gave me a blank stare. He had absolutely no idea how to go from something typewritten to writing it on his own in cursive. So we backed up and started with book two of The Write Approach series. Here the letters are laid out very logically as to how and where they are formed on the page. Using these pink handwriting books in conjunction with the suggestion of gel pens in this great blog post, proved to be a winning combination.

We are continuing our eurythmy practice and daily cursive writing practice at least through the end of this year. I am so proud of Vincent for sticking with the program. I know he feels a huge sense of accomplishment every time he goes to write something in script – even if it is endless lists of cars and NCAA basketball teams!

**One thing I want to say about The Write Approach books: they are very difficult to use as workbooks. The tight binding and the spacing of the practice lines were a deal breaker for us. So I used the books more as a teacher’s manual and had Vincent copy the forms from the chalkboard onto big manila paper (12 x 18). When he proved proficient with a form he then copied them onto good white drawing paper (again 12 x 18). We used the handwriting books only when he moved onto book 2. His writing is still rather large, but otherwise fluid, straight and nicely spaced.

Sunday Selections

It is by going down into the abyss
that we recover the treasures of life.
Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.
The very cave you are afraid to enter
turns out to be the source of what you are looking for.
The damned thing in the cave that was so dreaded,
has become the center.
You find the jewel and it draws you off.
In loving the spiritual you cannot despise the earthly.
The purpose of the journey is compassion.
When you have come past the pairs of opposites,
you have reached compassion.
The goal is to bring the jewel back to the world,
to join the two things together.
-Joseph Campbell

Links and Other Thinks: March 2014


 It is no secret that I love Susannah Conway’s blog, but her book, This I Know, blew me away. Seriously considering one of her e-courses. (Actually registered for one: The Sacred Alone. Oh my . . . without exaggeration, it is changing me.)

 YUM: crispy rice treatspork pot roastquinoa veggie burgers.

 My most favorite shirt is styled exactly like this top/dress pattern. Thinking of making (!) myself a few for warmer weather. Lord knows I have enough fabric!!

 Attention Waldorf Homeschoolers: Do you know about Waldorf Inspirations? So much inspiration organized by grade. Going to spend some time over there this weekend to help me with our upcoming Medieval History block.

 Going to give these veggie nuggets a try. (watch out Jude!!)

 Jen is such a great motivator! This month she is hosting a Clean Home Challenge - check it out.

 Want to bake bread with a bread machine? Jessica has a great tutorial. Don’t have a bread machine? See my low-tech post. My bread recipes are here.

 Katie has a nice round up of meatless meals for Lent – or anytime for that matter.

 Amy Butler’s magazine. Need to spend some time checking this out.

 Emmie pinned this tiny Easter garden, complete with three wooden crosses and the rock rolled away from the tomb. Precious and holy.

 I have two pairs of cashmere gloves with holes in the fingers that I can’t bring myself to throw away. Now I can refashion them with tips from this pin.

‘Til next month . . .

Habit: Reflective Friday

A peek into my week. Have a great weekend friends, and thank you for spending part of your day with me. S

IMG_7370There is a difference between being good and being kind.


IMG_7803Pets in a jar: this time he’s serious.


IMG_7812Their uncle is mailing them a new Corvette one piece at a time.


IMG_7797‘Burgeoning’ has always been one of my favorite words.


Vision Board

IMG_7765I have wanted to make a vision board since December when Andrea wrote about the process during our Holiday Blog Hop. Creating one was also the “assignment of the month” for the e-course One Little Word that I am taking. (Registration is still open and you cannot beat the price: $31 for the whole year!) Last Friday, the planets aligned and I found everything I needed: supplies, inspiration and a window of time. I tried not to over-think the project and turn it into an art collage. Elaborating on my word for 2014, I set an intention with a few other words cut from a shipping box (Thank you, Beth!!), a few images from the newspaper, a scrap of tissue paper and a couple of fancy napkins. I added a bit of paint and some stick-on letters and presto! a vision board. People suggest using a canvas, but I didn’t have one, so I just glued everything to some sturdy cardboard I saved from the back of a pad of watercolor paper. I have it hanging by my desk, a gentle visual reminder of what I want to invite into my life this year.

IMG_7761Some detail shots:

IMG_7767 IMG_7769 IMG_7770 IMG_7768 Have you ever created a vision board? How has the process manifested in your life? I would love to know.



Sunday Selections


Think in ways you’ve never thought before
If the phone rings, think of it as carrying a message
Larger than anything you’ve ever heard,
Vaster than a hundred lines of Yeats.

Think that someone may bring a bear to your door,
Maybe wounded and deranged: or think that a moose
Has risen out of the lake, and he’s carrying on his antlers
A child of your own whom you’ve never seen.

When someone knocks on the door, think that he’s about
To give you something large: tell you you’re forgiven,
Or that it’s not necessary to work all the time, or that it’s
Been decided that if you lie down no one will die.

- Robert Bly, “Things to Think”