It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Call me crazy, but I wait until December to start my Christmas shopping. Who can even think about Christmas gifts in September when we haven’t yet had a flake of snow, or (even worse!) in July when thoughts should be turned to sun and sand? To really feel the spirit, I need the air brisk, lamp poles decorated with greens, and holiday muzak blaring. A little hustle and bustle never hurt anyone, she said blithely.

My favorite: Jane Eyre
My favorite: Jane Eyre

But what to buy the booklovers on your list when even bookstores seem to offer only to-be-expected booklights, book totes, and bookmarks with maybe a reading journal thrown in for good measure? I found two companies whose products sent me over the moon–and I can’t imagine the bibliophiles in your life wouldn’t be just as pleased as I was.

The first (and probably the easiest to order from for this holiday season since they’re based in the U.S.) is *Litographs. What’s unique about this company is that the graphics on their posters, totes, and T-shirts are created out of the actual text of the work. And it’s those T-shirts that caught my eye–as their website says, it may be “the best shirt I’ve ever worn”. How fun to have passages of my favorite Jane Eyre perched right on my shoulders and wrapped around my heart. Nothing more romantic than that!  The simple graphics reflect the titles which include famous works of British and American literature, as well as plays, poetry, mysteries–just

Yes, please, Louisa May Alcott!
Yes, please, Louisa May Alcott!

about every genre is represented. The process of making the T-shirts and prints is amazing; you can watch a video here. There’s even a pretty extensive line of temporary tatoos. Go figure! To make your shopping even more of a no-brainer, Litographs is a socially responsible company that partners with the International Book Bank, donating one book to a community in need for every shirt, tote, or print sold.

The other company I’ve loved browsing is *Bookishly. Because they’re located in England, shipping might take up to four weeks. (The website is very clear that “next day shipping” applies only to buyers in the U.K.) But  be sure to remember this site for the next gift-giving holiday or a birthday or anniversary or retirement or … okay, for me just about any event would be a good time to receive one of Bookishly’s goodies. This site features a wider range of products, including prints, jewelry, greeting cards, and journals. I’m not much for jewelry, and I don’t send much snail mail, but the prints really caught my eye. The quotations are printed on the pages of vintage books, usually titles that somehow compliment the quote. For instance, the quote by poet Sarah WIlliams “I have loved the stars too fondly” is printed on a page of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. Jane Austen’s “You must be the best judge of your own happiness” from Emma is stamped on a page from the novel. Be still my beating heart! Each print comes framed, but “glass-free so you can really feel the old page.” (And get a whiff of that old book smell, too!)

While I’d usually say the best gift for the reader in your life is one of the books on their wishlist that they so kindly printed out for you, a gift from Litographs or Bookishly would be a close second–and a much more of a surprise under the tree.

*this post is not sponsored by either company, nor was my opinion solicited. I came across the products much like you do–surfing the net on a Saturday morning with coffee in hand. I share the links only because the products are unique and would make great gifts.

Do you reread?

My son has read Stephen King’s Dark Tower series multiple times. And I mean multiple multiple times. It’s like comfort-food reading for him. Familiar and warm. (Kind of odd to put King in the ‘comfort’ category, isn’t it?!)

Me, not so much. I have never been one to turn back to a novel after I’ve enjoyed it on the first read-through, not even my favorites. Maybe that’s because the last book I read is usually my “favorite”–until I open the next. (I seem to have pretty good radar for books–or I’m incredibly indiscriminent–so for a moment my read-of-the-week is the best book ever.)

Our shelves house hundreds upon hundreds of books because I like need to own my books and once they’re mine I can’t bear to part with them. It’s something akin to a mother’s love, I think–they become my offspring. Now it would save me a bundle of money if I did reread and I have this wild and crazy plan that when I retire, I’ll start at the top left hand shelf of the first bookcase and go right through to the end, rereading every last one of those lil’ darlings.

We’ll see how that goes.

I will confess, though, that there are two books I’ve read more than once–maybe three times or four? One is my favorite classic of all times, Jane Eyre. I read her first time around in high school when I was hungry for gothic romance. And what sixteen-year-old isn’t? Truthfully I think I have a little bit of Jane in me, so reading her comes as naturally as living–except that, no, my husband doesn’t have a crazy woman hidden in the attic. I don’t think. (I always skip the part where she lives at Marsh End, though–too much wholesome living and not enough romance for my tastes.) miss pickthorn and mr. hareBut Jane Eyre, classic that she is, seems like pretty standard rereading material.

My other reread is a lot more obscure: May Sarton’s Miss Pickthorn and Mr. Hare. A family friend gifted me the novel when I was in high school. It’s a rather odd choice for a teenage girl, I think, but I loved it then as I love it forty years later. Miss Pickthorn, retired Latin teacher, lives a solitary life in her tidy little cottage with its neat little woodpile and warm stove and letter writing in the afternoon. Mr. Trumbull Hare is a hobo who has taken up residence in the henhouse across the road–a ne’er-do-well who needs to be taken in hand. And so begins a sweet fable of friendship found and lost.

So I guess I do reread after all … I think it helps me remember who I was when.

Short and sweet: Six Word Memoirs

IMG_2413 IMG_2412 Inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s shortest short story ever—For Sale: baby shoes, never worn—Six Word Memoirs were born nearly ten years ago.  Publisher Larry Smith is their papa. Since then, Smith Magazine and media from The Colbert Report to NPR to The New Yorker to O! have published the little gems. Everyone, it seems, wants to tell their story in a mere six words. Steven Colbert’s? (Well, I thought it was funny.) Writer Amy Tan’s? (Former boss: writing’s your worst skill) There’s even an app and you can find them everywhere.

IMG_2416Even on the wall in my classroom.IMG_2415

This year I decided that each week we’ll devote one entire hour to reading (“You mean we read for the whole hour?!) and one day to writing. So the first week of school, SWMs seemed like a good place to start. I gave a short explanation of the process, shared with the kids one I wrote (It wasn’t always happily ever after), and let them loose. They drafted, shared their memoirs with classmates, and then chose their favorite to post anonymously on the wall.

The memoirs cover everything from the prosaic to the sublime. The kids wrote about their family, their pain, their dreams … and they just might be my favorite student writing of all time.

Try writing yours.

Autumn gifts & graces

blazin’hot & drippin’ humid ♥ damp morning dew ♥ cool streak ♥ one yellow leaf ♥ stuffed peppers october♥ reach out sad soul ♥ prayers ♥ happy times, framed ♥ moving closer ♥ lector ♥ fall candles ♥ this list ♥ coffee & ice ♥ jeans & tennies ♥ Buddy & Trixie ♥ my heart ♥ my time ♥ a working toilet ♥

gifts & graces
Ann Vos @

clean towels ♥ Bud’s nose ♥ email talks ♥ Recovery ♥ PBS News Hour ♥ my sad little Jeep ♥ independence ♥ morning dark ♥ peek-a-boo babe behind the chair ♥ grading essays ♥ blog–caught up ♥ newsletter ♥ farmer’s market ♥ books, books, books ♥ plenty of craftiness ♥ essential oils ♥ one last turtle sundae ♥ neighborhood sidewalks ♥ church on Sunday ♥ arm party ♥ fresh-washed floors ♥ pumpkin fun ♥ butternut squash soup ♥ little yellow locust leaves ♥ tears ♥ kale & squash & cider ♥ Jane Eyre ♥ Miss Pickthorn & Mr. Hare ♥ sizzling bacon ♥ simmering chili ♥ space heater

Cheers to 80 years!

My mom turned 80 last week.

mom's bash
The gang’s all here
Team Elaine
Pedal Power

Her life’s story is hers to tell, but trust me when I say it hasn’t been all sweet tea and cupcakes. Growing up in miserable poverty in Cleveland, she scraped and saved and fought for the life she has now–one, I’m guessing, she never thought she’d realize. Especially since halfway through her life she found herself needing to start all over again after a devastating loss. Mom is generous to a fault and has never stopped giving, even when she had nothing to give. She is the proverbial church lady (and I mean that in a good way) and her faith touches everything she does.

Mom and friend Sue outside our bar stop. Every 80-year-old loves a good wall o' skulls, right?!
Mom and friend Sue outside our bar stop. Every 80-year-old loves a good wall o’ skulls, right?!

So my brother and I decided to celebrate the big 8-0 in style. We got all of the grands and signficant others together for a pedal around town on the Great Lakes Pub Cruiser. No, we didn’t bar hop–took the “easy route” (a bit of a euphemism for those of us over fifty!) that stopped only once for a libation and then another stop for shopping at our city’s beautiful Downtown Market.

Mom was decked out in style from her birthday tiara to her sash and beads. Perched on the back no-pedal bench, this Queen for the Day perfected her Miss America wave as cars honked and waved back. Music blasting over the sound system, we sang along. You are my sunshine. Roll out the barrel. Sweet Caroline.

Team Elainemom's bash2At our first bar stop, Mom played the arcade video game Street Fighter with her oldest grandson and apparently disemboweled his character. She played pool with the boys and my niece–and made a pretty sweet shot or two. The two little great-grands joined us for dinner at a restaurant we love. She laughed, smiled, beamed, and got hugs from total strangers.

I often think about what’s ahead for me as I age, especially when, after I turned 50, I realized my time here is over halfway spent. I worry and fret about money, mistakes I’ve made, dreams that are dashed. On each of my birthdays now, Mom tells me I’m “catching up”.

I should be so lucky.