Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (1847)
Read for my bookclub. It was so strange reading slowly and dissecting it with others. I realised how much I had forgotten, or overlooked in past readings. I loved this book so much as a young adult and found such beauty and consolation in Jane's story, and yet now reading it, I was frequently troubled, especially in Jane and Rochester's relationship and romance. Charlotte is a master storyteller. So worth reading if you haven't before.
Assembly by Natasha Brown (2021)
Lent by a friend. This was a fast read - maybe over two nights - and seemed to end too soon! I found it really engrossing, interesting, horrifying and thoughtful. Highly recommend.
Right to Sex by Amia Svinivasen (2021)
I have been wanting to read book of essays for some time. I was delighted when it was lent to me! Svinivasen explores issues of sexuality, consent, pornography, incel movements, desire, racial injustice and more - she looks at how feminist and philosophical theory has sought to understand these issues over time, and where such theories are lacking or unsatisfactory for our times. Her essays are intelligent and personable, thoughtful and arresting. Svinivasen skilfully balances her own views and questions with those of other academics and I was left with much to ponder and examine further. I cannot recommend this highly enough.
Gift From the Sea By Anne Morrow Lindberg (1955)
A re-read after many years. It was the perfect book to take down to the sea side on our holiday in November. I found Anne's reflections on life and shells, on motherhood and faith, as profound, beautiful and timeless as I did the first time. So worth reading.
Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker Palmer (1999)
Read for my studies last semester. I found Palmer's life story fascinating and his thoughts around vocation and coming to more contemplative (yet practical) faith really fresh and compelling. He writes: "Self-care is never a selfish act - it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.”
A Spacious Life: Trading Hustle and Hurry for the Goodness of Limits by Ashley Hayles (2021)
Mum gifted me this book and I took it away on holiday. I savoured it slowly, and appreciated Ashley's honesty and vulnerability. She weaves in personal stories, scripture, reflection and practical suggestions carefully and beautifully. We are not called to lives of hustle and hurry, of stress and bitterness Ashley argues - but to spaciousness and healthy limits, to healing through play and rest, community and connection, to faith that renews and refreshes our whole beings - body, soul and mind, Highly recommend.
The Last Guests by J P Pomare (2021)
I don't usually read this genre (suspense, crime, thriller), but after reading an interview with the New Zealand born author I was intrigued and requested a copy from my local library. I ended up reading it over the two days I was stuck in bed with a stomach bug at the beginning of December. It was the perfect escape - a thrilling, quick read with rather unexpected twists and intriguing characters. It definitely made me think twice about air bnb's and house surveillance~
The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage (1967)
I loved this. It was a quick and thrilling read over a couple of nights. The language is spare and evocative. It makes me want to delve into the world of American gothic westerns! The dialogue seamlessly slips from spoken words to thoughts and stream of consciousness in the main characters. It is as much a portrait of personal relationships and family as much as it is a thrilling Western. I read it after watching the film (which is beautifully composed and acted) - but definitely enjoyed reading the book and getting so much more from the characters and back stories.
Top 9 books of 2021:
1. The Tall Man
2. You Are Not a Gadget
3. Adam Bede
5. Hold Your Fire
6. This Golden Fleece
7. The Year of Magical Thinking
8, Right to Sex
9. The Power of the Dog
Find more details of books read this year in the posts below.
We returned last week from our holiday by the seaside. Our first time off the farm as a family for more than four years. We sunk our feet and hands into the warm sand. We felt the cold rush of salt water over our bodies. We caught waves and watched tides come in and out. We explored rock pools and gathered seaweed. We found shells of many colours and sizes and sometimes ones with little whelk residents still inside. We watched the clouds roll and the water froth. We listened to the birds chattering in the gum trees. We walked under coastal teatree and huge banksia trees and flowering bottlebrush. We read books in bed and in the park and on the beach. We caught a ferry and saw a giant petrel take flight. We squished moon snail egg sacks in our hands and bought fresh squid from the market. A seal swam under our feet on the pier. We made a sand octopus and many a sand castle. We ate fish and chips too. We delighted again and agin in the gifts from the sea //
November has arrived with all her flowers and sunshine and birthday celebration! It's still sinking in that my youngest baby is now a five year old. He is such a jolly, passionate, theatrical and tender fellow. He requested a white chocolate cake with whipped cream and French-style coffee buttercream icing and a sloth on the top.
Meanwhile the garden is bursting with colour, leaf and bloom - white foxgloves with little speckles of deep purple, yellow irises, red valerian, white daisies, roses and lavender beckoning all the bees. I recently acquired some beautiful Liberty of London fabric - cotton lawn sprigged liberally with flowers - it will be like wearing my November garden around on my chest //
The fennel has flourished in the garden this year, so I have been looking for ways to incorporate it into our meals. Here's my favourites so far:
Fennel + Lamb Shank Stew
2 fennel bulbs
2 stalks of celery
1 large onion
3-4 medium sized lamb shanks (or 4 large slices of lamb neck)
3 garlic cloves
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
fresh zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups stock (vegetable/chicken/beef)
For the fennel gremolata:
Small handful each of parsley and fresh fennel leaves + mince finely with the zest + 2 garlic gloves. Combine in a small jug with the juice of 1 lemon (the one you just zested) and 1/4 cup olive oil. Stir to combine with a fork.
Chop onions, fennel and celery into thin slices. In a heavy-based saucepan/stewing pot, gently sauté onions, fennel and celery for around 5 minutes. Remove vegetables onto a plate and add a splash of olive oil to the pot. Next add the lamb shanks, turning each side quickly until it is browned. Return vegetables to the pot along with minced garlic, chopped rosemary, lemon zest, wine and broth. Simmer on a low-heat for 1.5-3 hours (you can go longer with a slow-cooker). Check after 1 hour and top up with more broth if necessary; you want your shanks to be just-covered in liquid to prevent them drying out. Serve stew with steamed rice or mash potato. Garnish with the fennel gremolata.
Apple + Fennel Slaw
1 fennel bulb
1 large apple
2 spring onions
small head of ice-berg lettuce or green cabbage (I used the former here)
mix of fresh greens and lettuce leaves, baby beetroot leaves etc
large handful each of fresh mint, parsley and chives
Shred fennel bulb. Peel and slice apple into thin strips. Do the same with the carrot or grate like I did here. Shred ice-beg lettuce or cabbage if using. Chop herbs and spring onions finely. Toss everything together in a large mixing bowl with the green leaves.
For the dressing:
1/2 cup homemade mayonnaise (sour cream or creme fraiche works well too)
2 tablespoons olive oil
juice of an orange or a large lemon (orange adds a lovely sweet note)
2 teaspoons of wholegrain mustard
salt and pepper to taste
Make the dressing by whisking all the ingredients mentioned above in a small jug and pour over salad. Toss gently and serve.
October has been an intense, joyful, and exciting month. Everything feels like it's emerging from winter hibernation; we see and feel the signs of new growth, unfurling, possibility, planning, promise. The baby quince is flowering for the first time since we planted her. The incredible blue echium attracts wattle birds and bees in abundance. I love watching them as I sit at the kitchen table with my morning cup of tea. The vegetable patch gifts us delicious things every day: sprouting broccoli, spring onions, baby leeks, lettuce, fennel bulbs, silverbeet and the first of the snow peas. Calendula, red valerian and forget-me-nots are coming out everywhere. Marvelously self-seeding. We are grateful that school and kindergarten has resumed on site after months of lockdown. I am in the final weeks of my study for the year and feeling the deadline for my last big essay looming. Other sweet glimmers include being able to include these gorgeous possum and koala puppet friends in my kids messages for church; savouring all the thoughtful conversations shared for the Soulcraft festival; short bouts knitting a blue Sibella cardigan; and listening to this beautiful album by Lord Huron as we open the windows wide and let the fresh spring air in... Tell me, how are you going? What does this season hold for you?
I want to remember the afternoon in the spring holidays we went out for a walk, my three boys and I. We walked, rode and scootered to the cattle yards. They humoured me as they played, holding still long enough for me to take their portraits. And it's in seeing their faces captured that I realise how beautifully grown they are, these three boys of mine. I want to remember the blue September sky, the growth of new leaves on the trees, the grass soft and green, the fine spider webs in the gorse bush. I want to remember the sounds of birds and the the cattle grazing the river flats, the sight of children rambling back home, this beautiful place, our home of more than two years.
September brings springtime. Sunshine. Daffodils. New leaves. Electric green. Open Windows. Tiny birds. Vaccinations. Birthdays. Snap dragons. School holidays. Busy bees. Sprouting broccoli. Suprise calfs. Forget-me-nots. Bluebells. Baby leeks. Island cubbies. Afternoon walks. Tadpoles. Valerian. Hopeful dreams //
look above you
softly enfolding you,
permission to be
hidden from view.
we all need
quiet patterning -
or shelter from the heat
or rain forthcoming
or warning earth
sticks and stones
water from the sea
and air, sighs,
maybe, a kind of
a shroud for
doubts and longings,
like a cloud
blotted out and
scattered in the wind.
ABOUT the author
Emily Clare Sims is a farmer and mama to three young boys. Each day she looks for ways to notice beauty, contemplate her faith and savour the seasons...