The Best Summer Reading Series For Families

There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book.

–Marcel Proust

As we mentioned in an earlier post, structured schooldays have ended, and we now fully embrace the new pace of summer. I confess that welcoming wide perimeters of time for each individual’s curiosities and pleasure is the sweetest gift to me as a homeschooling mother. It is satisfying physically, mentally, and emotionally for all of us in our home to rest from new lessons and long academic days. While we seek to maintain simple structures of chores, meal times, piano practice, Bible reading, family read-aloud, and bedtime, we’ve exchanged formal lessons for copywriting (from classic, favorite books that they each select) and Bible memorization. One of the ways we continue to learn is through reading which is truly the most longed for summer delight. We fill our baskets with books and also pick a long book series to listen to.

Our family loves audio books for many reasons, all of us bond with the characters, share laughs about the stories, and enjoy retelling them long after the series has been returned to the library. Sometimes the audio versions are read by the author (my favorite), or they might be dramatized. Sometimes we listened to them while the children built Legos. Sometimes we all climbed on my bed and folded laundry while enjoying the stories, but mostly we listened to the book series in the car. We took the CDs with us on road trips, to brunch, farm milk pick-up, and to the grocery store. Nonetheless, we’re never found without the next CD!

The first 7 titles that I have listed are book series that we listened to in audio form in the order in which we listened to them over the years. We listened to one series per summer. The last 3 have been recommended to me, but we have only listened to the audio book of the first in the series. We haven’t read the sequels (some may be for older children than mine are at this time).

Alexander and Eva wanted to write a short review on these book series! Here are their words:

The Magic Tree House

Jack and Annie (bother and sister) take us on countless adventures in the past. Through the 55 small books that make the series, it’s a fun way to learn history! -Eva


The book series begins when Ramona is a very little girl and grows with her. She’s very mischievous and it’s written through her perception of life. There are 8 books in the series. -Eva

Little House in the Prairie

Laura Ingalls Wilder in the series of 9 books tells about a little girl and her family moving from the woods of Wisconsin to Iowa to Minnesota to North Dakota. It seems to be mostly autobiographical. -Alexander

The Indian in the Cupboard

Fantastic series of 5 books! A boy named Omri gets a small medicine cabinet for his 9th birthday from his brother. He thinks it’s a boring gift until he discovers the magic. -Alexander

The Boxcar Children

Four children are left orphans. The Alden siblings are afraid that their grandfather is a mean old creep. In the story, they realize otherwise. Many books have been added to the series. -Alexander

The Chronicles of Narnia

C.S. Lewis wrote the most popular children’s series (selling over 150 million copies). Four siblings, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy in order to escape the bombing of London during WWII move to a rambling country estate where they discover the secret land of Narnia in a wardrobe. There are 7 books in the series. -Alexander


An intricately woven story with endearing characters. Brian Jacques’s realistic depiction of the animal’s stories is why the author has been compared to J.R.R. Tolkien. 22 novels in the series (we have not read them all). -Alexander

The Penderwicks

A father and four daughters take a vacation in a gardener’s cottage in Connecticut and have daily adventures with the son of the lady who owns the manor house on which the gardener’s cottage is situated. A series of 5 books. -Alexander

A Wrinkle in Time

Overpowering the evil brain with love, Meg is able to save her family from the magic’s grasp. Interesting fantasy book! 5 books in the series. -Eva

Ann of Green Gables

Ann was a girl adopted at age 11 who finds a bosom friend. It’s full of tales of dangerous dares. 7 books in the series. -Eva

with love, Damaris

Farm Update: Early Summer

A Swarm Of Bees In May is worth a load of hay...

We moved the hives to a different location closer to the orchard and in the shadow of huge pines trees. Nathan and William have been checking on the new bees to make sure they’ve been settling in and making themselves at home. No stings yet!

A was an Apple pie; B bit it; C cut it; D dealt it

Nathan and the boys planted eleven new apple trees this spring. We love that they’re mostly heritage apples which one can’t find in the grocery store. The happy little trees are Harrison, Orleans, GoldRush, Early Fiji, Cox’s Orange Pippen, and Russet. Even though it will be a few years until harvest, the kids are putting in their orders for pies and crisps!

Mary Had A Little Lamb

The sheep are very low maintenance during the warmer months when the pasture is thick with nutritious grasses. Harry is our ram, and the four ewes stay pretty close to him. We expect that two ewes are pregnant and due in August! Larry, the llama, still keeps guard, but Harry has mostly taken over moving the sheep around the pasture.

This Little Piggy…

We’re discovering that Holly has a temper sometimes. When she’s annoyed at the flies, she squeals lets out a loud grunt. Holly gets so excited when one of the kids is coming near and when Nathan pulls up the drive way. She’d been in a temporary pen, but just a couple of wees ago moved onto a bigger and better abode. She shares pasture with the sheep and the llama, and they don’t seem to care. You already heard that we added little Rosie who follows Holly around.

More news about the pigs: We are borrowing a boar (a mature male pig) from a nearby farm in hopes to have piglets in early September. The boar has made himself at home, for he insists on eating first. He also tilts the water trough enough to make puddles and cool off in the mud.

There was an old woman, Went blackberry picking…

The raspberries have been unkempt and overgrown, and finally this spring, Nathan tilled a larger plot and has been transplanting them with the boys. It’s a larger raspberry patch now and has room for growth.

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, How does your garden grow?

We planted the garden in May which seems late to other hardier zones, but not much earlier than that we still have nights below freezing. We have become used to this rhythm, and it works well for us because around that time, we are finishing the longer schooldays. Also, waiting till May allows for less careful watch over the seedlings. We plant everything at once, even the hardier varieties that would stand lower temperatures. This simplifies the process for us, and we still enjoy a hard day in the soil with as many hands as are available to help. This year, Nathan’s Dad shared his insight and labor all afternoon. It made a huge difference in how much we were able to get planted!

I’m enjoying putting a blog post together about vegetable and herb gardening. It will be ready soon!

with love. Damaris

My Summer Favorties

Spring is quickly blossoming into summer and my senses are intoxicated. The warmed grass, the lilacs, and the apple blossoms visit me through open windows. Nathan just told me that there’s one peony bud too! I can’t get enough, really. Whatever schoolwork didn’t get completed in the morning, we take it outside to the picnic table. One of my most favorite sounds of summer is the frogs and toads at night. We sleep with the windows open, and it’s so soothing to hear.

Transitioning into summer also means new favorites! I have compiled what I’ve been using lately, and what I love the most.

I don’t like to wear foundation, so I let my freckles take over. I’ve never minded them, and using this light primer with a little tint from Pixi. It’s perfect! It feels smooth and adds radiance. I use it after my moisturizer whether I’m doing make up or not.

Summertime is a great opportunity to give hair a break, and I don’t blow dry it. This product is the best for natural, low-maintenance tussles. It’s called Not Your Mother’s – Beach Babe. It adds just a little body and wave plus smells like a day at the beach! I use it while my hair is damp and scrunch it with my hands. I’ll apply it again on the second day (without another wash). I have used this product for three summers now and still love it.

I usually wear Pixi’s clear lip gloss, but I ran out, and felt adventurous : ) It’s still a very natural shade yet adding a touch of color to my face. It’s a lip plumper without the tingling sensation. This lip gloss is not thick nor sticky but feels cooling and hydrating.

I find that because we spend more time outside and in the wind, my hair may need a little TLC. I started to use this serum irregularly in the winter, but now I apply it twice a week only to the ends just before bed (I keep it in my nightstand). It leaves no residue, and my hair feels and looks healthier in the morning.

I love picking a new scented candle for the new season! This one is flowery but not perfumy. I picked it up at World Market a few weeks ago, and everybody enjoys the fresh scent. I always light a candle when I’ve cleaned up the kitchen! How do you reward yourself?

This Jergens Natural Glow self tanner is the prettiest, most natural color I’ve found. Tanning products usually have a unfavorable smell and leave you either streaked or orange-toned, but this mousse goes on easily giving you an immediate tan! I tried using a mitt to apply the self-tanner, but it didn’t work well for me. Remember to scrub your palms immediately, though!

Lastly, I’m always cold. Unless it’s hot. Then I’m really hot. My husband says I have 1 degree of comfort, and he’s totally right. Hence this cardigan from Old Navy. I wear it everyday because the mornings are cold, the grocery store is cold, the library is cold…It’s the perfect weight and color for summertime.

What are you are your summer favorites? I love to hear your recommendations and ideas!

with love. Damaris

Peach Jam

Hello, early autumn morning!

Leaves are changing colors, chipmunks and raccoons are making cozy nests and dens. Butterflies are taking off to warmer places, and we’re all leaning into the sun, enjoying the last juicy peach harvest. I decided on writing this post because making jam can be the most intimidating, all-consuming job, but it doesn’t have to be!

This no-cook, freezer jam is delicious! The peaches were easy to peel and mash. You should know that just as we were about to fill our jars, a little spice was in the air! We added a dash of cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg – just because it’s fall.

Pomona’s Universal Pectin has been my favorite go-to for making this quick and easy jam. It has no preservatives or sweeteners, and it thickens with natural pectin (derived from citric fruits). I can find it year-around at Whole Foods, and it’s also available directly through their website. Each box makes 2-4 batches, but we always double or triple and use the whole box. It provides everything you need (including the easy to follow instructions) except for your favorite fruit, a bit of lemon juice, and the sweetener of your choice (agave, stevia, sugar). You’ll also need a little boiling water for the recipe. We’ve enjoyed using honey from our bees, and the honey flavor does come through the jam. We like 4 cups of fruit to 1 1/2 cups sweetener. It’s really delicious, and we enjoy the fresh taste and color of freezer jam!

There is no need to prepare jars for canning with freezer (no-cook) jam, which simplifies the process. Any container to fill with jam will do, but allow 1/2 inch at the top of the jar for expansion when frozen. We found that it’ll stay fresh in the fridge for a couple of weeks, or freeze it to preserve longer. We have used raspberries and strawberries in the past with great success. Remember that the jam will continue to thicken in the fridge. Pears, apples, and raspberries are in season, and this pear-vanilla jam is our next preserving adventure!

Very soon, the wind will get breezy and chill, and we’ll hear thunder’s low rumble from far away. And when the clouds loom over our quiet meadow, we’ll sink into the warmth of dinner rolls spread with sweet, spiced peach jam.

with love. Damaris

Family Currents

We thought we had a great plan and told the kids that they’d earned a reward of a day at the beach for all of their hard work this summer – and then it turned cold! Grey weekends seemed to be all we had for August, and Damaris and I (and the kiddos) were sure we’d missed our chance. You can imagine the little girls with their floaty toys and snorkels and disappointed faces : (

Who would have thought that the end of September would bring us 90 degree weather?! What a blessing – here we were, mid-September, and we finally made it! The beach was pleasantly secluded in that we had the whole lake to ourselves! Most of our kiddos are not swimmers yet, but there was no need to keep track them. This was the first time I can remember actually being relaxed around water!


Kittens playing. Kittens tumbling. Kittens climbing. Kittens sneaking. Kittens meowing. Kittens purrrrrrring. Kittens peaking.

Kitten playmates. Kitten baby dolls. Kitten jesters. Kitten sleepmates.

Kitten Joy!

One thing I love about these times of year, when you cross the bridge from one season to the next, is changing out the…..library : ) Sure we change out lots of other things with new seasons: bedding, decorations, linens, etc. But ordering a fresh set of books from the library to inaugurate a new season and all the it will have in store for us is such a satisfying joy. The kids gobble up the new books. Their excitement mounts for pumpkin carving, geese coursing south through the sky, leaf kaleidoscopes, final harvests, and on and on.

a note from Nathan

Family Currents

This is one of my favorite household product hacks. It’s stain remover that you can make with two ingredients that everybody has on hand. Choose any spray bottle, fill it 3/4 full of hydrogen peroxide and 1/4 full of liquid dish soap. This is the only stain remover we’ve used for years! It works great!

Yesterday was our first day off school since we started about a month ago. The big kids left early with Grandma and spent the day at a rock quarry where they even witnessed a blasting! We have bags and bags of rock -“treasure” finds. The little girls, Samuel, and I had a very quiet day. The girls rode bikes, we walked to the orchard, ate our fill in apples, baked cinnamon rolls while Samuel napped, and I read aloud. The change of pace was so welcomed!

Our raspberry patch has come back to life! The kids are so excited to see them again. They act like they’re welcoming old friends!

We never can get around to spring cleaning because school days aren’t over until mid May, and by that time, the garden is ready for us. Summertime is too fun to spend indoors scrubbing, so I’ve notice our pattern of spring cleaning in late summer just before school starts. Recently, we’ve splurged on paper towels. We hadn’t bought paper towels in over seven years, and I’m so glad we do now! It makes it easier for the little helping hands to clean up a milk spill without all my kitchen washcloths smelling sour. Paper towels are so worth it! That’s my cleaning splurge. Do you have one? I’d love to hear!

with love, Damaris

Family Currents

Last Saturday Eva and I went to a local grocery store, Hobby Lobby, and Home Goods. I told her that she has to always go with me from now on, because she’s the perfect shopping partner: “Mom, we have one already” or, “I think it looks sort of cheap.” She also pointed out, “The rug in the kitchen looks old and is stained.” Hmmm. How did I ever go shopping before? What a help! Finally, we picked up an autumn candle, a few tiny fabric pumpkins, and a fabulous surface cleaner/spray. I love change, and there’s no denying that fall is in the air!

Apples are in season, and don’t you love all things apple? We’ve been enjoying fresh apple cakes when the apples are not their prime. But when they’re firm and crisp, we like to make this simple and quick dip: In a food processor, blender, or mixer, whip 1 (8oz) cream cheese softened, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 2 teaspoons vanilla for about 1 minute. It will get lighter in color and fluffier (just a little). So good. You have to try it! It makes a nice side dish for supper when served with a bowl full of freshly-cut apples.

The children’s chore list seems to be more efficient than other years (so far – we’ll see). It’s taped to the blackboard in the kitchen, so we can be reminded often throughout the day. This year, we graduated the 5 year old from emptying trash bins, and we’ve introduced Providence to the wonders of chores – ha! Alexander and William don’t have daily chores (every-other month dishes for William) because they do a lot of work outside. They pick up on the tasks we need done throughout the week, though, like vacuuming, taking out the trash and recycle, etc.

…and for the lack of exciting adventurous escapades to report on, we have schooling to blame. Busy schedules do make the days truly fly by, though! We are so grateful for the good moments of learning and repetition, and repetition, did I mention repetition?

Our homeschool group meets once a week for a full day. The rest of the week, we do the work at home. I’m sure your week was filled with similar activities? School, cooking/eating, a little shopping. Repeat.

with love, Damaris

Family Currents

As we begin to trade one season for another, September brings new joys. Today has been long awaited for around here! We talk about it, we plan for it, we check in on the orchard, and finally today we kick-off our cider-making season! Even Grandparents join in on the exciting time of the year when apples are ripe and at the peak of their sweetness. It’s a FirstFruits Farms pure pleasure! So, Happy September to you!

Neighbors’ peach trees are still loaded with fruit, and before the season passes, you’ll have to try these peach muffins. They can be a quick sweet bread too! I have trusted this recipe for years, and never fails. Mix 2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 2 eggs, 3/4 cup any milk, 1/2 cup oil or melted butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2 cups petite diced peeled peaches. Grease your muffins tins or 9×5 loaf pan. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry. They freeze great in a ziplock bag! Nothing better than a peach muffin with your favorite cup of tea!

This was our first full week back to school, and it went by so fast! I think because the days are more focused and full, not even the children could believe it was Friday! Isabel gets done pretty quickly and Nora only has a little bit of schoolwork that she does with me, so often they and Providence find a “quiet” activity to do.

One of August activity that has become a family tradition and something that we look forward to every summer is the local Scottish Festival called the Highland Games. I’m not sure what we like best, the bagpipe competition, the caber toss, the sheep dog demonstrations, or the Highland dancing competitions We got pet the Highland longhaired cattle for the first time! We thoroughly enjoyed the family outing!

with love, Damaris

Save The Best For Last! – The Labor Day Pie

Is there anything more satisfying than a hearty pie slice topped with a dollop of real whipped cream? I was dreaming of strawberry-rhubarb pie as one last hurrah to summer. This pie is sweet and tart, with a side of bright. Why, it’s perfect for Labor Day!

Weeks before the first strawberry is ripe, the stalks of rhubarb have full leaves and are ready to be cut. Rhubarb grows well here in Michigan since it likes cooler climates and is a hardy, sun-loving perennial. The celery-like red and green stalks have a tangy taste but are very versatile. To harvest, cut the stalk at the base of the plant. Cut the leaves off, and never eat the leaves – they’re poisonous!

I had every intention of latticing the pie because it makes better pictures (wink), but it wasn’t working for me. If this every happens to you, and your crust isn’t cooperating, just crumble it all!

As we’re gearing up to the last weeks of summer, let’s hope a picnic and some pie are in your near future!


  • your favorite pie crust recipe (top and bottom)

  • 3 cups rhubarb, diced

  • 4 cups strawberries, quartered

  • 3/4 cups sugar

  • 1/4 cup cornstarch

  • 1 tablespoon lemon or orange juice

  • egg wash (1 beaten egg and a splash of water)

  • sprinkling of sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven at 425 degrees. Mix cornstarch and sugar in a bowl. Combine rhubarb and strawberries. Pour lemon or orange juice over the fruit, then the mixed cornstarch and sugar. Let it rest 10 minutes for juices to run a little. Pour fruit mixture on pie crust and top with another pie crust (vented full crust, lattice, or just go with the temperament of your crust-ha!). Freeze your pie for 30 minutes (if you can). Brush with egg wash, and why not top it off with a little sugar? Bake at 425 for 20 minutes then at 375 for 45 minutes. Allow it to cool at least 4 hours before serving so the juices set. You’ll have a runny mess if you serve it too soon!

with love. Damaris

Family Currents

We wait so long for peaches to be in season here! Usually, we eat fresh peaches sliced with our meals so quickly that I can ever make anything else with them (peach pie with crumb topping- I miss you!). This week, I reserved three large peaches for this cake which we had as Sunday morning’s breakfast with plain yogurt. I didn’t add the cinnamon-sugar over the peach layers and skipped the pecans (I had run out), but it was still so scrumptious!

Baby Samuel wasn’t so happy to stay inside with his crackers, so I brought him with me to the garden. Since I couldn’t pick veggies with one hand, he sat on the grass and was delighted to watch. He watched the ruby gems drop in my palms, and he reached for the ones that fell near him.

The latest with the garden: The cauliflowers are done, only a couple heads of cabbage left. Corn, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, and broccoli are still growing happily. The sweet potatoes and the Brussels sprouts will be a fall harvest, and the potatoes need to be dug up today! Kale, my friends. Kale keeps growing and growing and nothing kills it. So we eat it until no one has the courage to dig for it under the snow -because it will still be there! It has been a very sad summer for the squashes and zucchinis. Every year is different!

The days have been quite cool lately, and we have been enjoying the outdoors! Samuel is never very far from the little girls! It makes my heart happy more than it does theirs – ha!

We love to go to the farmer’s market, and I dream of the day we can have our farm goods displayed there too! I imagine the kids bagging baked goods for customers, and the children’s pleasant faces making people feel welcome. Nathan met us there since it is only a short walk from his office. We bought apple fritters, and the kids ate more samples than I thought was polite!

photo credit: Eva

Nathan offered to buy lunch at a tiny place by the market, and we shared a Korean bibimbap (rice bowl with chicken, veggies, and a fried egg on top).

We didn’t want to say good-bye, so everybody agreed we’d walk Daddy back to the office. Such a pleasurable day!

Lastly, we have big news coming your way! It may or may not involve fluffy bottoms. We will share a full post on their arrival and how they are settling in. Look for it this week!

with love, Damaris