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I know all about lists.

I know all about lists of things that should have been done yesterday . . .

last week . . .

last year . . .

I know all about adding something to your list

just so you can cross it off

and feel like you’ve done

something.

And I know all about those things that stop you,

get in your way.

The things that need to be done everyday and keep you from getting ahead.

All that time in the kitchen that can leave you wishing

that you didn’t need to eat.

Those mountains of washing (clean or dirty)

that never, ever go away.

And I know what it’s like to trip over a toy, drag it back to where it belongs

for the seventh time that day.

Or what it’s like to feel frustrated by a spilled drink

(oh, do I!).

What it’s like to feel a little less than sympathetic

when someone gets an owie,

bursts into hysteric tears,

yet again.

Oh, and isn’t it easy to grow frustrated, feel hopeless

at the impossibly long list of jobs you want to get done–

those emails, those phone calls, those jumbled closets and drawers.

And it’s easy, far too easy,

to forget

the very reason

that you even do it all.

And forget the very people behind the reason

you’re making those phone calls, cooking those meals, cleaning that house.

You can forget

that for those of us home raising little souls,

our children are not a distraction from our work,

they are the purpose of it.

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And so next time you feel disheartened

by all the things you didn’t do,

remember what will matter

a week, a year, or more from now.

Remember what they will remember

when they go.

And take the time to pull them close,

tell them how they’re loved

by God,

by you.

And pull them close to read

that favourite, dog-eared book.

And kneel down to tell them,

as if there’s nothing else,

what they’ve done right,

or how what they’ve done has hurt another

and how they can make it right.

For raising souls should not be rushed, 

is not a side-line job. 

And while we long to make a beautiful, harmonious haven

for those we love,

it is not the meals we cook, the dust we extinguish, the pictures we hang,

but the love we give, the patience we show,

the fruit of the Spirit within us, 

the Spirit we help them to grow inside

that they will remember most,

that will really matter

in the end.

Avonlea x

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Happy Little Sigh

Homemaking Inspiration from Literature ❤

 

 

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You don’t have to look far to find ugly.

It’s there in the news.

It’s there on your computer.

You can find it in the tone of your very own voice.

And as much as we’d like to erase it,

make it disappear with our magic mummy wands,

one day our children will find out about ugly.

Or maybe it’s ugly that will find out about them.

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My fingers are blue with the telling of it.

All that rolling eggs round till they come up like the sky.

And we said it was like the stone rolling,

opening up that cave-tomb

two millennia ago.

And we speak of the first Good Friday,

and how strange that we call it all good,

when there came then the ugliest ugly

that ever was

or ever will be.

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From the kitchen window I watch them,

red-breasted robins against the flat, dry brown.

And I know it means winter was beaten,

and I smile at the green that will come.

A great kafuffle and we’re out there,

tramping the brown with our boots.

And I stop them once or twice just to point out

where a bulb or a bud has poked through.

And I’m breathing in the sweet smell of new life,

and I’m thanking Him there’s such a thing as grace.

Because today there was plenty of ugly

In my heart, in my voice, in my face.

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You don’t have to look far to find ugly.

Ugly always finds some way in.

And how could I even bear it?

Go on pretending that everything’s great

If it wasn’t.

Really wasn’t.

If I couldn’t look them in the eye and tell them

That ugly won’t win.

No, ugly won’t win, precious children.

Because His grave didn’t hold death in.

And the last time we lock eyes

won’t really be the last.

Oh, my sweet ones,

He has conquered death and sin.

 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

– Revelation 21:5

Avonlea x

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Happy Little Sigh

Homemaking Inspiration from Literature ❤

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When Covid restrictions hit two years ago, we, like most of the world, found ourselves cut off from the people and activities that were the framework of our lives. The large church we attended closed. For quite some time. Even though we’d volunteered and attended faithfully for eight long years, the size of the church and several other factors made it almost impossible to make deep friendships with people in our area. More than ever, we ached to share life with friends. So we started attending a small church. Before we knew it, we were “doing life” with two other families. Sarah and her husband, who live locally, and Ann and her husband, who were here for missionary aviation training. Here are two more reasons why we fell in love with our tiny church (link for part one below) . . .

1. Gaining wisdomMany big churches tackle the need for community by creating small groups, or churches within the church. These small groups are meant to meet together regularly to study the Bible and encourage one another. Sometimes this results in real spiritual growth and lifelong friendships. But other times these groups become transient. People move, change churches, or don’t want to lead any more, and the budding friendships, along with the spiritual growth, can fade away. Another challenge is that Bible studies and small groups are often organized by ages and stages of life. All the newlyweds are put together, all the young families, all the college kids, and all the retired people. While we may have more in common with others in our same stage of life, we end up missing out on the blessing of a real church family. College kids don’t get the benefit of homecooked meals and a stable place to take refuge on the weekends. Older adults are left feeling like they’re in the way and not needed any more. Children lose the joy of adopted grandmas and grandpas. And younger couples lose the gift of being discipled by those who have already passed through many mountains and valleys of life . . . Not only did we find we were “doing life” with Sarah, Ann, and their families, we were also blessed to be surrounded with others both older and younger than ourselves. The woman who came from England some 50 years ago to work for the summer, and married a local farmer. The single dad with two kids. The grandma who drives a school bus and teaches Sunday school. The high school graduate. The WWII vet. The guy who comes on a motorcycle. These sound like stereotypes, but each one has a name, and each has gifted us with generous pieces of themselves, and a share in the wisdom and richness of their lives.

We cared so deeply that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our own lives as well. That is how beloved you have become to us.

– 1 Thessalonians 2:8
One of our favorite Seniors & one of our favorite Juniors

2. MissionariesPeople who serve God in foreign parts don’t come home for long, and when they do, getting to know them personally and hearing firsthand about their work can be hard, especially in a large church. Missionaries, like those on stage in the worship band, can become “other,” people who are extraordinary and different from ourselves. But all that can be different in a tiny church. Being part of our church family provided us and our children the opportunity to bond with Ann, her husband Ernst, and their children. We were wading rivers, walking trails, soaking each other in splash pads (even the grown ups!). We were roasting hot dogs, sipping coffee, dishing out ice cream. And as friendships formed, so did the realization that their year was almost up, and we would soon have to say goodbye. With growing achiness in our hearts, we felt how attached to them we had become, and how at home they had come to feel with us. Yet through the pain, we realized the immense blessing of seeing up-close-and-personal that Ann and Ernst were special. Not because they were super-humans, but because when God called, they had responded, “Here am I; send me.” (Isaiah 6:8). The impact of this living example of obedience to God has been incredible, both for our children’s hearts and our own.

Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

– 1 Chronicles 16:24
Charlie getting a lesson from Ernst on one of the helicopters used to reach remote and mountainous areas

A year after arriving at our tiny church we said goodbye to our friends, as they prepared to enter the next stage of their missionary journey. I was so glad Sarah’s family is still local, and God has answered our prayers and brought other families to our church. I’ve been reminded that we talk about hearts for good reason. It’s the muscle that pumps life-giving blood through our bodies. It’s also the source of our joys and sorrows–and sometimes, blood-clot like, is the place those joys and sorrows get stuck. I’m feeling that today. Feeling that immense grace, but with a good measure of achy-heartedness, lodged like a lump in my chest. That happens, sometimes, when friends are loved and lost. But isn’t that what life is? To love. To find our true purpose. To lose–but only for a short while! Because in Christ, this is not the end. Never goodbye, only “See you later.”

Ann, Sarah, Avonlea

Avonlea x

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Happy Little Sigh

Homemaking Inspiration from Literature ❤

  • Missed my first post, “Three Big Blessings in a Tiny Church”? Catch it HERE

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The great boot exchange, I call it. Snow boots hauled up, rain boots hauled down from their upstairs closet winter home. April now, and I’ll expect a spate of showers before the sultry of summer comes to stay.

The rain boots tumble from my arms. Frogs, and monkeys, and the green Hunters I like so much. Chatter, and light in my lads’ eyes as they recall past springs and puddles splashed.

Then I send them out with boots and brushes to wash away the winter mud, for boots must be stored away clean.

I peek from the dining room window and watch them sitting on the steps, lips pressed in earnest as their little hands scrub.

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Then I’m caught up for a while, sizing up which rain boots now fit who, and which can be given away—just another part of motherhood one wouldn’t think to list, though it takes an afternoon twice every year.

But I leave my work now, and step out. So new the spring, the grass yet a patch of green and straw.

Birdsong. Warmth. Flat blue beyond the branches bare.

I gasp. I’m gasping. And I cannot gulp enough of this sweet, this air.

And I watch my lads for a moment, as they laugh and run.

My curly top squats beneath our big old tree, and I’m called to see the wild violets growing there.

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A moment more, then in again to think of dinner.  And as my hands chop carrots into little discs, I think of this day. And I think of motherhood, and the labor of making a home. I think of how it’s disregarded. Seen as unfulfilling and of little worth. But I know otherwise.

And I sigh contentment for all I am and all I have. For the pleasure in this exchanging of boots. In this marking of the seasons, and remembering of dear times past.

I am building their memories, building their lives.

May my lads always find pleasure in order and in a job well done. May they find joy in little things. May they have thankful hearts. And may they one day go into the world with the strength that only a mother’s love can bring.

Avonlea x

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Happy Little Sigh

Homemaking Inspiration from Literature ❤

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Going from a big church to a small one is akin to moving from bustling New York City to the village of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island. Or so it seemed to me. After moving from Scotland, we spent our first 8 years in America at a mega-church. We loved the cookies and the coffee with flavored creamer pods. The choo-choo train in the nursery. The worship band. And how easily we could apply the teaching to our lives. But after 8 years of striving to find a steady small group, and volunteering weekly in Sunday School, we still hadn’t found our people. We made friends, but American life is busy, and distance made actually seeing those friends a problem. We longed for nearby friends. You know, kindred spirits. Friends you call last minute to join you for a walk in the woods, or a cup of tea on the porch. Friends who know you . . . and love you anyway.

Then Covid came, and our church closed. For quite some time. More than ever, we ached to share life with friends. So we started attending a small church. And fell in love. Here’s why . . .

1. FriendshipSome churches have the population of a small country. You could go months without speaking to anyone. Spend years giving a cheery smile and answering “Great! You?” when asked how you’re doing, even if you’re dying inside. At least that’s how it was for us. In some ways, it’s easier. But if you long for a place where you’re noticed, wanted, known, try a tiny church . . . Shortly after starting at our little church, we met two families who wonderfully, surprisingly, almost instantly, became an intimate part of our lives. Sarah and her husband and children, who live locally. And Ann and her husband and children, who were here for a year of aviation training before heading for the mission field. At first it was the children running circles together and playing tag in the church lawn, while the adults made small talk. But small talk at church quickly turned to invitations to Sunday lunch, then time together during the week.

“If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”

– I Corinthians 12:26

2. Breaking BreadIn case you’re wondering, Church Picnics, Ice Cream Socials, and Pot Lucks are still going strong in many small churches. And yes, you might find meatloaf, casseroles, and Jello salad, if you’re lucky. But invitations for Sunday lunch or Saturday cook-outs are also not extinct. And we know eating together is about a lot more than putting food in our mouths. It’s about sharing our joys and burdens. Lightening each other’s loads with a listening ear and a hug . . . We “broke bread” with our new friends in the church hall, drinking hot cocoa after a drive to see the frozen waves of Lake Michigan. At picnic tables, before a hike in the woods to see the first green haze of spring. Under the stars, roasting s’mores and watching fireworks. On the porch, sipping coffee and talking about marriage, our children, the tough lessons God was teaching us. True friendships were built, and trust too, over refills of coffee and wiping our children’s sticky popsicle hands. With trust came the ability to speak honestly, bare our souls, and lift each other up. Life is so much sweeter when you don’t eat–or hurt, or laugh–alone.

“breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart.”

– Acts 2:46

3. Finding Your PlaceBig churches run on an army of volunteers, and we were blessed by the loving hands that served in our big church. But in a large congregation it can be intimidating to offer your services as a musician, Sunday School teacher, or small group leader, especially if you don’t consider yourself a semi-professional, or at least really cool. With our busy lives, having all the slots filled might feel like a good thing. But it also deprives us and our children the opportunity to serve . . . We soon found how useful we could all be at our little church, and what a blessing it was to serve alongside others. At Christmas we drove to the homes of those who couldn’t get out, singing carols and leaving cookies. In the spring my oldest sons and I cleaned the church windows while the two little boys helped the pastor heap mulch around newly planted petunias. On hot summer days, we hung out together at church with Sarah, Ann, and the pastor’s wife, crunching celery sticks and creating a Wild West town for Vacation Bible School. I started buying flavored creamer for Sunday morning coffee, and Sarah brought red and pink zinnias from her garden to brighten the women’s Sunday School. My oldest started to play cello for “special music.” The younger ones sang on stage and made cards to give out. And yes, the church needed cleaning, bulletins needed handed out, and people needed shown to their seats. No one did everything, but everyone did something. Our children learned that they, too, are a valuable part of the church family, and have something worth contributing to bless others. It’s so precious to know you belong.

Spur one another on to love and good works.

Hebrews 10:24

If you find yourself in-between churches, or feeling alone, get connected to a truth-teaching local church. Yes, you could slip in and out without speaking to anyone–but this might be a challenge! Always choose to take this as friendly curiosity and a desire to welcome you in. For you are wanted, you are valued, you are needed. If you’re already part of a small church, make sure you warmly welcome newcomers in the warmest kind of way. Jesus would want you to.

Avonlea x

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Happy Little Sigh

Homemaking Inspiration from Literature ❤

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If you caught my post Bring Your Book to Life, featuring ambience videos for 12 classic novels, you’ll know how magical they are! Not only are ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) or ambience videos themselves scientifically proven to aid relaxation, they’re also the perfect way to recreate the atmosphere of your favorite read! Reading one of these 6 classics this holiday season, either to yourself or as a read-aloud? Try playing the corresponding ambience videos on your TV or laptop while you read to bring them to life!

1. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – Many of us are familiar with the opening line, “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” but this story of the March family, set during the American Civil War, has more than one Christmas scene to warm your heart this season.

2. Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy – Chapter one of this 19th century romance novel brings us to “a cold and starry Christmas-eve,” while chapter two gives details of the Christmas decorations in Dick Dewy’s thatched cottage. The perfect happy-end book for Christmas!

3. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis – I probably don’t have to explain the Narnian’s fear that their land would be forever under the spell of the White Witch, who made it “always winter, but never Christmas.” Thankfully, that wasn’t the end! Experience the land of Narnia with this video while you step into this wonderful book.

4. Little House on the Prairie/A Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder – I know of few more heartwarming or dramatic Christmas scenes than when Mr. Edwards wades through a stream in a blizzard, carrying his clothes on this head, to deliver Christmas gifts to the Ingalls family. “Think of having a cup and a cake and a stick of candy and a penny.” Oh, for simpler times! This video will take you right to that scene!

5. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – This very manageable-sized story never ceases to make me smile. Instead of watching the transformation of the miserable, miserly Ebeneezer Scrooge, why not read about it yourself, accompanied by this Victorian London Ambience video? And don’t say, Bah! Humbug!

6. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery – You might not consider this a Christmas book, but it has plenty of winter cheer and Christmas scenes to make it perfect for this time of year. Anne did say, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are white frosts.” (AOGG, ch.18). And don’t forget the Christmas ball! Find “scope for your imagination” with the Anne Christmas ambience link below.

For Anne-inspired ambience for Christmas reading, click here !

Avonlea x

Find me on . . .

Instagram/Facebook/MeWe @happylittlesigh

Happy Little Sigh

Finding beauty in the everyday  ❤

❤ For LITERARY INSPIRATION for Heart & Home & a PERIOD DRAMA in your inbox EVERY Friday sign up here! ❤

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To open a book is to step into another world. We book lovers know that! Oh, but what if there was a way to make that journey more real, more immersive? To engage all your senses, making it almost possible to believe you’re really with Anne Shirley that first night at Green Gables? Or really on a dark London street watching Sherlock Holmes solve a crime?

I have a secret–it’s called Ambience Videos or ASMR, which stands for autonomous sensory meridian response, and is described as a feeling of well-being combined with a tingling sensation in the scalp and down the back of the neck. The appropriate reaction to a good book! *happy little sigh.*

What if there was a way to make that journey into a book even more real?

I’ve selected Ambience Videos to immerse you into 12 Classic novels. Simply tap below links to play on your laptop or cast to your TV to create the perfect mood for each book and delight your eyes and ears. Next, brew a cup of tea or coffee to delight your taste and smell (which drink or cup would suit each book?). Finally, get a cozy blanket and get ready to step into your book in a whole new way! OR simply use as a peaceful background during your morning quiet time or as you go about your day.

*Note – some videos include soothing music, while others have relaxing sounds such as rain, a crackling fireplace, or murmured voices. I included two videos for each novel, so choose the one that inspires you. Adjust the volume to add to your reading experience, not distract from it.

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – Who’s coming to visit? Could it be Bingley and Darcy? And what secrets are Bennet sisters Lizzie and Jane sharing as they get ready for the day?

  • Bennet Family Lounge (Pride and Prejudice) by Overarch
  • Sunny Morning Bedroom (18th Century Georgian/Colonial) by Ambience of Yesteryear

2. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien – Will you stay at Bilbo’s cozy hobbit hole, or venture into the Shire?

  • Hobbit Study Session by ASMR Weekly 
  • 6 Hours The Shire ASMR by ASMR

3. Middlemarch by George Elliot – Does Casaubon’s library inspire you, or does the dreariness of pouring over manuscripts alongside Dorothea make you long for a visit to her sister’s country estate?

  • Relaxing Library – Relaxing Rain, Thunder and Crackling Fireplace by Cozy Moments  
  • English Estate Morning Tea by Scenic Inspirations

4. The Complete Father Brown Mysteries by G.K. Chesterton – What mysteries will you solve alongside this eccentric sleuth as he pokes around his quaint English village (occasionally stopping for tea), or hops aboard a train in search of clues?

  • Edwardian Parlour with Tea & Fireplace by Ambience of Yesteryear
  • 1940s Train Journey by Overarch

5. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery – Can you hear Anne (with an ‘e’) poor herself a cup of tea in her peaceful bedroom at Green Gables? She will need it, in preparation for her upcoming exam at Queen’s!

  • 3D ASMR Anne of green gables | Anne’s Bedroom by ASMR Movely
  • 3D ASMR Anne of Green Gables | Queen’s Entrance Exam by ASMR Movely

6. Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – Would you prefer sipping tea in 221B Baker Street, or joining Sherlock on the streets of London as he masterfully works to solve the latest crime?

  • Ambience/ASMR: Sherlock Holmes Parlor, 221B Baker Street by Ambience of Yesteryear
  • Victorian London Thunderstorm by Autumn Cozy

7. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper – The peace of the wilderness is calling your name–or perhaps you fancy a venture into the Colonial town?

  • Smoky Mountains Morning by Travel Ambience
  • Colonial New York City Federal Hall by P&E Soundscapes

8. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – Begin reading with a trip to the English wetlands, where Pip spent his youth, then move on to the bustling streets of London.

  • English Wetlands by Ambience World
  • 19th Century London by Overarch

9. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – Rain lashes down outside the March home, but inside, Jo is busy scribbling away on her latest novel.

  • Thunderstorm in the Lake District by Outdoor Therapy
  • Thunderstorm and Rain by Dreamy Sound

10. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – Jane doesn’t know what to expect as the carriage takes her through the night to Thornfield Hall, but it’s not long before she enjoys conversations with Mr. Rochester in his study.

  • Riding a Carriage by TERAVIBE
  • Rain and Thunderstorm Sounds by Guild of Ambience

11. The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy – Would you prefer strolling the winding lanes of Casterbridge or sitting beside the fire, listening in as Michael Henchard tells his life’s tale?

  • Cozy Country Village by Dragonfly Mage
  • 19th Century Cottage by Ambience of Yesteryear

12. White Fang by Jack London – Whether journeying through the wilderness with the dogsled team, or finding solace at Weeton Scott’s cabin, it’s sure to be an adventure!

  • Wolf Forest by Michael Ghelfi
  • Cozy Cabin Porch Ambience by The Alley of Ambience

*BONUS! Which book could be read using this 1930s library ambience? It’s one of my favorites.

Avonlea x

Find me on . . .

Instagram/Facebook/MeWe @happylittlesigh

Happy Little Sigh

Finding beauty in the everyday ❤

❤ For literary inspiration for your home & a PERIOD DRAMA in your inbox EVERY Friday sign up here! ❤

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The sight of school supplies at your local supermarket may leave you feeling like summer has slipped away, even if you don’t have children of your own. You probably have a list of things you wanted to accomplish and enjoy that now seem like they’ll have to wait till next year. But the official first day of Autumn isn’t till September 22, so don’t sigh in despair and order your first Pumpkin Spice Tea Latte or pack away your parasol just yet! Here are 12 whimsical ways to bring beauty to your last 48 days of summer . . .

1. Pick Wild Flowers – Warning! I stop for black-eyed Susans! And I know just which stretch of country road to find them. Picking wildflowers is one of my personal traditions to mark the season of summer. It brings the color of summer indoors, spreads a lovely smell, and adds a touch of wild, gentle beauty that store-bought flowers never have.

2. Make a Cobbler – The taste of summer! Blueberry and peach are my favorite, and all the better if you picked the fruit yourself. Pinterest will provide a quick, easy recipe that should only take 10 minutes to throw together. Then pair with ice cream and enjoy slowly–somewhere with a lovely view is best (maybe your deck, or round your table with friends?).

3. Read Under a Tree – What a wonderful new perspective we get, looking up at the underside of a tree! The branches stretching out, the light streaming through, turning the leaves to stained glass windows. It’s beautiful. To really soak up the last of summer, pull out an old quilt or blanket, spread it out, and open a book–pausing now and then to watch the leaves dance in the breeze.

4. Have an Adventure – How may times have you told yourself that someday you’ll stop at that little antique barn you always pass by? Or that one of these days you’ll go visit that friend who lives across the state? Or that you’d so love to have lunch with friends at that new café? This might be just the time to do something different, go somewhere new, or see an old friend and have your own wee adventure!

5. Get Your Feet Wet – What says summer like the smell of sea air, the feel of sand between your toes, or the sight of a river winding into green? Dive into summer (or dip your toes in!) by getting yourself out to the water! Splash others and laugh when they splash you back! You could even try reading with your feet dangling in the water.

6. Read on Your Porch – You’ve probably done something to make this space attractive, but have you actually taken time to enjoy the flowers you planted or the pretty cushions or candles you bought? Make yourself an iced coffee, sweet tea, or sparkling water, and soak up the heat with a good book–or paint, knit, or do whatever hands-on activity feeds your soul.

7. Visit a Local Historic Place – If you’re anything like me, nothing catches your eye like an old school house chocked with weeds, or a historic marker on the side of the road. So many times I’ve wished to peek in the windows of an old school house, town hall, or church, or thought about stopping to read the sign and find out what historic event took place there. Make an afternoon of driving nearby country roads and through local small towns, and take the time to stop and photograph any abandoned or old buildings you find, or simply look inside. Always more fun if you have a cold drink for the road!

8. Host a Dinner Party – Have fun creating a destination-themed summer soiree, such as A Trip to Tuscany, or a literary-inspired theme, such as Anne of Green Gables or Jane Austen (haven’t you always wanted to?!) or make it simple with burgers on the grill. Invite those friends you’ve been longing to catch up with, or someone you know needs a friend in their life. Don’t be afraid to invite people last minute. Eat lots, drink lots, laugh lots.

9. Play Pooh-Sticks – If you aren’t familiar with the game made famous by Winnie-the-Pooh, all you need is a bridge, some water, and sticks. Children optional. Everyone drops their stick from one side of the bridge at the same time, then rushes to the other side to see whose stick made it under first. They’re the winner! Repeat. The game is even better if you have to take a scenic walk to reach the bridge.

10. Watch the Fireflies – I missed these most miraculous creatures when we lived in Scotland. And I just learned on a trip south to Kentucky this summer that fireflies (or lightnin’ bugs) can have multiple different light pulses and colors, depending on the species. Some have a slow off-on fade, while others glitter with quick flashes like Christmas lights. Not sure how your lighting bugs glow? I suggest you take the time to step outside and find out for yourself.

11. Get a New Perspective – A new perspective doesn’t necessarily have to come from a swing, although if it’s been a while since you’ve seen the world upside-down and your feet against blue sky, you should definitely head to the park soon! Maybe your perspective is from the top of the mountain, the top of a sky scraper, or somewhere else with a beautiful view of the world. Wherever it is, make sure it helps you soak up summer!

12. Start a New Book – I know you have a stack of books to be read (don’t you?!). If you’ve been stuck on the same one for a while, put it aside and instead pick up the one you most want to read next. Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner is in my to-read pile, and I look forward to jumping in!

BONUS – Have a Summer Movie Night! – Invite your girlfriends (or ask another family with kids to join your crew!) for one last night of popcorn, chocolate, and Period Drama Fun before the school year kicks in and everyone gets busy. Need some suggestions? Check out this list I made of 30 Period Drama Favorites .

Swallows & Amazons – see complete movie list here

Been inspired by this post? Get connected for more literature loveliness, period dramas, and grace-filled inspirations.

Coming Next? decorating tips inspired by Little Women . . .

Avonlea x

Find me on . . .

Instagram/Facebook/MeWe @happylittlesigh

Happy Little Sigh

Finding beauty in the everyday ❤

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What is about a story that makes it a classic? And what is it about Jane Eyre, in particular, that has helped it stand the test of time, and inspire so many theater productions, film adaptations, and spin-offs? I know what I love about it–Jane’s character, for starters. She’s so mistreated, yet stays true to herself and her beliefs, even in the most tragic of circumstances, and is rewarded so wonderfully in the end. Then there’s Jane’s time both at Thornfield Hall and with the Rivers family, with such beautiful surroundings, and time for reading, painting, and longs walks. But let’s not forget the excitement of the gothic influence on the story, and the less-than-serene moments that put us on edge. But what do YOU love about Jane Eyre? And which of the following color adaptations is your favorite?

Jane Eyre 1970 – Susannah York & George C. Scott (1 hr 50 min)

This adaptation brings us our only blonde Jane! The actress who plays the young Jane did an excellent job. And I like the spirit Susannah York brings to grown-up Jane, despite the 70’s vibe of her appearance (Let’s call her Big Hair Jane), and the fact she looks closer to 28 than 18. Rochester, too, looks much older than his supposed 38 years. But he also brings passion and emotion to the role that make it come to life (though with a bit more growling than necessary). We get the scene where Jane collapses on the moors, but don’t see St. John (pronounced “Sinjin”) Rivers carrying her home (I like that scene). St. John himself speaks in an aloof, cold manner, and something about him unsettles me, but I like the scenes with his sisters. Some of the scenery around the Rivers’ home and Thornfield Hall is beautiful, though the film quality isn’t great. The colors are too saturated in some scenes and too dark in others. BUT a big plus for this version is the music score by John Williams, who is known for composing the scores for Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park, E.T., and others. Though this is the earliest color version I know of, I enjoyed it more than some of the later adaptations.


Jane Eyre 1973 – Sorcha Cusack & Michael Jayston (4 hr 35 min)

This version stars Sorcha Cusack, who you might recognize as housekeeper Mrs. McCarthy from the Father Brown detective series! She has a very cute, expressive face, which shows a lot of what Jane was feeling inside, and I thought she did very well with the part. I had a harder time warming up to Michael Jayston as Rochester (is that eyeshadow he’s wearing?!), who speaks in a very clipped, upper-class sounding voice, but that could just be me. The cinematography leaves something to be desired, the only music is at the beginning and end of each episode, and the many voiceovers take away from the acting. BUT it is a much more faithful version, and includes a lot more exact dialogue and details from the book than other adaptations, which is always fun to see on screen. And with over FOUR hours of watching time, it’s the perfect version if you’re bedridden or need company when you have a big project to work on!


Jane Eyre 1983 – Zilah Clarke & Timothy Dalton (3 hr 59 min)

While watching this adaptation I couldn’t forget that this Mr. Rochester went on to be a future James Bond! Timothy Dalton does superbly with this part–dark and brooding and full of emotion. And Zilah Clarke is perfect as Jane–small and doll-like but with fierce inner passion and strength. St. John Rivers stood out to me in this version–he looks precisely as I pictured him from the description in the book, with his “Grecian profile,” although the actor portrays the character as a cold, judgmental religious fanatic without any love for the people he would help with his missionary work. With its longer length, you get a lot more details, scenes, and characters from the novel than the shorter versions–such as Jane’s wanderings through both town and countryside before finally collapsing on the moor (can you tell I like this scene?). In fact, this version is probably truest to the book. If you haven’t seen it yet, I’d say give it a try!


Jane Eyre 1996 – Charlotte Gainsbourg & William Hurt (1 hr 56 mins)

Young Jane (Anna Paquin) and housekeeper Mrs. Fairfax (Jane Plowright, Tea with Mussolini, Enchanted April) are the real stars of this adaptation. Although he’s not on screen, Italian director Franco Zeffirelli (Romeo and Juliet 1968, Tea with Mussolini) brings another star to the film. While I found some of the other Mr. Rochesters too blustery and angry, William Hurt’s take on the character seems too placid and uninteresting. Charlotte Gainsbourg did well as Jane (although she’s too tall!), but would have been better opposite another male lead. The music and scenery are an improvement from previous versions, as is Jane’s attire. With its shorter length, many scenes from the novel are missing, as expected. But the plot also veers off completely at times, such as Jane first meeting St. John Rivers at Gateshead when she goes to see her dying aunt, instead of him discovering her on the moors. And as soon as Jane leaves after discovering Mr. Rochester is married, Thornfield is already on fire! Overall, most of the story is captured in the adaptation. But with many details that add depth and breadth to the story missing, and with the mis-portrayal of Mr. Rochester, the film is not as good as it might have been.


Jane Eyre 1997 – Ciaran Hinds & Samantha Morton (1 hr 48 mins)

This was the first version of Jane Eyre I ever saw (anyone else?) Samantha Morton has the right “Jane-ish” look, and Ciaran Hinds fits the Rochester profile, too. But I found her a bit too mechanical at times, while Hinds comes across as too shouty and angry (as he is in a lot of roles), and I couldn’t help but find it hard to believe that Jane would actually fall in love with him. This is the first version where St. John Rivers, played by Rupert Penry-Jones, seems like a real contestant for Jane’s love (we DO get the wonderful scene where he finds Jane on moors and carries her home–Love!). And if you didn’t know, both Penry-Jones and Hinds play Captain Wentworth in Jane Austen’s Persuasion in the 2007 and 1995 versions, respectively. So I suppose Jane had a choice between Wentworth and Wentworth! I liked Gemma Jones as Mrs. Fairfax, but found the girl who played Adele too old for the part. Also, because of time constraints, this version left out a lot. But it’s still worth watching, even if just for comparison, for all the familiar faces, and because there’s always something to like about a version of Jane Eyre!


Jane Eyre 2006 – Ruth Wilson & Toby Stevens (3 hr 50 mins)

Cinematography had come along way by the time this mini-series was made, which alone makes it a more enjoyable watch. There are dreams, flashbacks, hallucinations, and creative camera-angles. The music score is good, and the scenery and settings are stunning. But I also think that both Ruth Wilson and Toby Stevens brought so much to their roles. Wilson both looks the part of Jane, and brings Jane’s uncertainty, humility, and passion to life. Stevens is a wonderful mixture of brooding, fear, and playfulness, and it’s easy to see what draws Jane to him. I loved the conversations between them, in which they discuss their pasts, or issues of morality, and you can sense their growing attachment to each other. Georgie Henley (from the Narnia films) looked just the part as Wilson’s younger Jane self, and I really liked Lorraine Ashbourne’s portrayal of Mrs. Fairfax. We have the scene where Jane gets lost on the moors (yay!), and a good portrayal of St. John, although he didn’t quite look the part. I appreciated how this version had the time to portray many of the details of Jane’s inheritance and discovery of her relationship with the Rivers. I also think the ending of this adaptation is the very best! But if you want a more accurate representation of the book, you might not like that this version adapted some of the dialogue for modern ears, and took creative licenses in telling the tale.


Jane Eyre 2011 – Mia Wasikowska & Michael Fassbender (2 hrs)

This adaptation boasts more beautiful music, cinematography, costumes, and settings. But similar to the 2019 adaptation of Little Women, the film starts later in the story, which can be confusing if you aren’t familiar with the book. This version begins with Jane running away from Thornfield Hall (a gorgeously filmed scene), and then moves back and forth between the past and the present to tell the story. Mia Wasikowska looks just the part of the reserved Jane, and you can sense the fire behind her eyes. But I would have liked to see more of that passion escape, especially during certain scenes. We only get glimpses of smiles and few real tears. In parts, she seems plain depressed. I would have loved to see real laughter, or the occasional raised voice, and all those emotions we know are trapped inside–especially during the proposal scene. Likewise, though Fassbender shows plenty of moodiness and pent-up frustration, we don’t see much of a playful, teasing side, or any lighter interactions between him and Jane. Judy Dench (A Room with a View, Ladies in Lavender) does, of course, steal our attention when she’s on screen as Mrs. Fairfax. But Jamie Bell (Nicholas Nickleby), although he’s a talented actor, didn’t quite make a believable St. John, in my opinion. Going back to Jane and Rochester, the natural chemistry between them wasn’t what it could have been. But this beautiful film is definitely worth watching, if you’re a Jane fan or not.


SO . . . which of these Jane Eyre adaptations is YOUR favorite? Have you seen them all? If not, which one above will you be running to watch next? I’d love to hear!

Avonlea x

Find me on . . .

Instagram/Facebook/MeWe @happylittlesigh

Happy Little Sigh

Finding beauty in the everyday ❤

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Summer is almost here, which means nights watching sunsets at the lake, roasting marshmallows over a campfire, and sitting on the porch listening to the crickets. But there’s also nothing like kicking back with a cold drink for a summer movie night! Besides, I know my friends Down Under are saying Goodbye Summer and Welcome Autumn, and are ready for cozy nights in. So this is my gift to all of you–thirty period dramas you might never have seen! All are set from the 1700s to the 1950s (apart from one exception–you’ll see why), and all can be watched in a single sitting–2.5 hours or less (we’ll get to the best mini-series another time!). I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below . . .

1. Somewhere in Time (1980) – Which of us period drama fans don’t dream of traveling back in time and stepping into our favorite film or book? That’s almost what this young playwright (Christopher Reeve) does when he falls in love with the photo of a famous turn-of-the-century actress (Jane Seymour). This time travel movie has the added benefit of whisking the main character and the viewer back to Mackinac Island in northern Michigan. Yes, it’s a little hokey at times, but it’s worth it to see these two amazing actors together. Also starring Christopher Plummer. Rated PG


2. Wild Hearts Can’t be Broken (1991) – Take a a trip back to America’s Great Depression years and the exciting but dangerous world of diving horses. Sonora Webster (Gabrielle Anwar) is a runaway, trying to find a way to support herself. What she finds is adventure, her life’s passion as a diving girl, and a place to call home. If you’re a horse lover, like a happy ending with a few tears along the way, and like being whisked to another time and place, this might be a good pick for you! It’s based on a real story, and it’s one the whole family might enjoy. Rated G


3. Under the Greenwood Tree (2005) – based on the book by Victorian author Thomas Hardy. If you’re a period drama fan, you might recognize Keeley Hawes as Fancy Day, the new school teacher in town who, with her beauty and vivacity, attracts not one but three different suitors. The educated parson, the wealthy farmer, and the poor young tradesman. Who should she choose? Although Hardy’s books don’t all have a happy ending, I will tell you that this one does. But what I love most about the story is the peek into a small 1840s English village, and all the traditions and goings on that made up the villagers’ lives (including some wonderful English folk music!). Rated PG


4. Wildflower (1991 ) – Back to the years of the Great Depression. This time we’re off to the South, and the unlikely heroine is a beautiful, deaf young woman, Alice, who is kept locked in a shed by her violent stepfather. Enter spunky Ellie, played by a young Reese Witherspoon, and her sensitive, college-bound brother Sammy, who try to help Alice by teaching her poetry and showing her what life in a family is supposed to be. Of course her stepfather isn’t amused by all this, and of course Sammy can’t help but notice just how lovely and sweet Alice really is. I love this one! Rated PG-13


5. Love and Friendship (2016) – If you think you’ve watched and read all of Jane Austen’s works, you might be wrong if you missed this one! Austen was just eleven when she started this novel, and it was probably written only for the pleasure of her family and friends. It is dedicated to her French cousin, Eliza de Feuillide, an extremely colorful woman who’s husband was guillotined during the French Revolution. For the young Jane, these events must have been sheer inspiration to a writer’s imagination. It’s full of the wonderful wit and social criticism we expect from her later novels. Also, the deliberately complicated plot has plenty of fainting spells, deaths due to a variety of causes (including “galloping consumption”), elopements galore, unbelievable coincidences, and unscrupulous cads. One thing that struck me is that the “heroine” Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale, Emma, 1996) isn’t a particularly likable character, but the truest-hearted girl does, in the end, get her perfect match. Rated PG


6. Miss Potter (2006) – About the life of Beatrix Potter (Renée Zellweger), creator of Peter Rabbit and her other wonderful children’s characters. Flashbacks take us to her childhood visits to Scotland–where she began her love of nature and developed her skills as an artist. And in the present, we walk with her in her struggle to break into the publishing world as a woman and author of children’s books in Victorian England, and also through her true love, heartbreak, and eventual move to Hilltop Farm. While this film is aimed more at adults, we see cheeky Peter Rabbit and the other animals come to animated life through Potter’s imagination. Also starring Ewan McGregor. Rated PG


7. Swallows and Amazons (2016) – This adventure is one for the whole family! Four siblings in the countryside, a sailboat, and an island–what could go wrong? Maybe just a few close calls with spies, a small tribe of wild girls, and a lot of adventure. Based on the 1930s book series by English author Arthur Ransome. Rated PG


8. Tolkien (2019) – Based on the life of J.R.R. Tolkien, creator of the Elvish language and author of The Lord of the Rings. Much like Miss Potter didn’t have Peter Rabbit as an actual character–although he came alive to Beatrix Potter–in this film Hobbits and Orcs march across the screen as figments of Tolkien’s imagination. They are products of his university studies, of the fellowship he formed with his school friends, and of the horrors he saw in the trenches of WWI. There’s a lot of back and forth between the different stages of his life. There are so many subtleties to catch, and it’s one I’d like to watch again. It’s moving, informative, and creative. Rated PG-13


9. Emma (2020) – I didn’t think I’d like this adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel after reading a few reviews. Several complained that it was all too perfect. And it’s true that many scenes seem choreographed (with the characters moving almost as if in a dance) and coordinated (with wallpaper, and cake frosting, and Emma’s intricate hair styles matching just a little too perfectly). But for me, this only made the feast for the eyes all the more sumptuous. We still see Emma’s emotions as she navigates first her friend’s heartbreak, and then her own. And Mr. Knightly has enough ruggedness to balance out the finery. Bill Nighy (I Capture the Castle, 2003) is brilliant as Mr. Woodhouse. And the music! It made the film, if you ask me. The only scene I wasn’t a fan of was the proposal scene. Rated PG


10. Brooklyn (2015) – My mother grew up in an Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn, though her family wasn’t Italian. And her story–or maybe that of my grandparents–is in so many ways like the story of Eilis (Saoirse Ronan, Little Women, 2019), the young Irish woman who leaves her tiny Irish village to begin a new life in big New York city in the 1950s. It’s a story of family, of home, of love . . . it’s a story of America. Based on the book by Colm Tóibín. Rated PG-13


11. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) – Huge Victorian houses, wonderful costumes, and Judy Garland singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Did you know it came from this film? Oh, and ketchup making, possible long distance phone proposals from New York City, misunderstandings with handsome neighbors, and a Victorian Halloween. I think this movie goes through all the seasons. And I can’t forget the excitement of the St Louis Fair. Rated PG


12. The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017) – In this film both Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens, Downtown Abbey) and Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer, Nicholas Nickleby) star together in the story of how Dickens created A Christmas Carol, about the most famous miserly bachelor of all time. This book forever changed the way we view and celebrate Christmas. If you haven’t seen it, do! If you have, see it AGAIN, even if it’s almost summer. There are so many details to catch! It’s also the third movie listed (see 6,8) about characters coming to life to inspire an author. Rated PG


13. Belle (2013) – Tells the story of a real-life woman, Dido Elizabeth Belle, whose father was an English sea captain and whose mother was a former slave on a Spanish ship that her father captured. As a girl, Belle is brought to England to be raised alongside her cousin, Elizabeth, by their great uncle, Lord Mansfield, at his estate. As a woman of mixed ethnicity, Belle endures coldness and even cruelty by some, even as the niece of a wealthy and powerful man. She has the attention of some undesirable suitors–but also of a man who loves her, truly. While Belle’s active involvement in the abolition movement is probably fictional, her uncle, Lord Mansfield, was indeed involved in a court case involving a slave ship and murdered slaves. This has led many to speculate that Jane Austen named her book Mansfield Park after Lord Mansfield, as she calls attention to the evils of slavery in this book. Rated PG


14. Chariots of Fire (1982) – This may be our only official academy award winner 🏆though every movie I’ve suggested is sublime, of course! Wonderful in its subtlety and understated beauty, and the fact that it’s based on the lives of two real British men. Harold Abrams, a Jewish Cambridge University student, and Eric Liddell, Scottish athlete and Christian missionary. Each was an amazing man, full of determination to do their best running for Britain at the 1924 Olympic Games. Each had a different force driving them. The writing, the acting, the scenery, all superb–and the music by Vangelis–love it!!! The running scenes are also inspiring! But what’s most inspiring to me is the life of Eric Liddell, who went on to dedicate his life to the Chinese people. Rated PG


15. The Young Victoria (2009) – The name Queen Victoria often gives us a picture of the plump, dignified, but rather dour looking woman who was photographed in her later years. But of course everyone was young, once, and this film is about just that–Victoria’s adolescent and newly married years. She was next in line to the throne after her uncle, King William. As he nears death, the ambitious Lord Conroy hopes the 18-year-old Victoria will appoint him as regent to rule in her place. Of course she turns out to be far more strong-willed and independent than expected. Meanwhile, Prince Albert of Belgium is being schooled on Victoria’s likes and dislikes, with the intent the two will marry–though he doesn’t like being told what to do any more than she does. The rest is history, but I’ll let you watch and figure it out. Screenplay written by Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey. Rated PG


16. Much Ado About Nothing (1993) – You can have Romeo and Juliet if I can keep THIS. I’m much more of a happy endings kind of girl. And none of Shakespeare’s comedies end happier, or are more relatable and appealing than this adaptation. This play gave us lines like, “Friendship is constant in all other things, save in the office and affairs of love.” And “Claudio is in love. With whom? . . . Look how short the answer is–with Leonato’s short daughter.” Ah, me. Quick summary – The kindly noblemen Leonato, his lovely daughter Hero, and playful niece Beatrice welcome friends home from the war. Among them are Prince Don Pedro, his sullen and bitter brother Don John, witty Benedick, and the handsome young nobleman Claudio. Benedick and Beatrice engage in a battle of wits, and Claudio falls in love with Hero. To pass the time till the wedding, they try to trick Beatrice and Benedick into falling in love. Meanwhile, Don John plays a cruel trick, making Claudio believe Hero has been unfaithful to him . . . With beautiful Italian scenery, a wonderful soundtrack, and a cast of MANY period drama favorites (Emma Thompson, Sense & Sensibility 1995, Kate Beckinsale, Emma 1996, Robert Sean Leonard, Swing Kids 1993), this film is a treat. Rated PG-13


17. Ladies in Lavender (2004) – I’m not sure if it’s the wonderful soundtrack with music by Joshua Bell, the 1930s setting, the gorgeous Cornish scenery, the simple lives portrayed by the main characters (Hello Maggie Smith and Judy Dench), or the idea of a mysterious stranger washing up on a beach that makes me love this film so much . . . do you want to watch it already? When sisters Ursula and Janet find a young man, Andrea, washed up on their beach, unconscious and with a broken ankle, they take him in and care for him. He doesn’t speak English, so who he is and how he ended up there remains a mystery. The two sisters form an attachment to him, treating him as the son neither had–though in Ursula’s case, one wonders if it’s more of a longing for the romantic relationship she never had. They soon discover his talent on the violin . . . unfortunately, this also comes to the attention of a beautiful, foreign painter who is staying in the area. There are rumors the two are spies, but Ursula and Janet are suspicious of the woman, and remain protective of Andrea. I won’t give away the end! It’s a bittersweet film that stirs up emotions of longing for times past, forgotten memories, and people we’ve had to let go. Rated PG-13


18. Letters to Juliet (2010) – This is the only movie set after the 1950s. But with the beautiful Italian scenery, and the theme of both WRITING and ROMEO & JULIET, I thought I’d make an exception. Sophie is an American journalist visiting Verona with her fiancé, who’s there to find products for his restaurant. While he’s busy exploring vineyards and eating cheese, Sophie does her own exploring. On a visit to the house allegedly inhabited by Shakespeare’s Juliet, she notices a stone wall stuck with letters–and then sees a woman take all the letters and put them in a basket. Intrigued, Sophie follows, and finds a secret society of women who make it their business to answer each and every letter written to Juliet, asking for advice on love. On a return to the wall, a stone comes loose, and Sophie finds a letter that’s been hidden for 50 years. Sophie decides to answer the letter, and soon English Claire (Vanessa Redgrave) comes to Italy with her grandson, Charlie. This is when the journey really begins, as Sophie joins Claire and Charlie on their hunt for Claire’s lost love. Rated PG.


19. A Room with a View (1985) – One of my favorite movies ever, ever, EVER!!! The MUSIC, the SCENERY, the COSTUMES, the ROMANCE. Happy, happy, happy sigh!!! Lucy Honeychurch is in Italy as a tourist under the care of her cousin, Charlotte (Maggie Smith). But alas, they weren’t given a room with a view of the Arno River, as promised. An English father and son offer to switch rooms with them, but Charlotte worries it’s not quite proper. Despite her efforts to keep Lucy from the son, George, Lucy ends up being kissed by him (best movie kiss ever). Their new novelist friend, Eleanor Lavish (Judy Dench), thinks it’s romantic, but Charlotte is horrified and whisks Lucy back to England. There, Lucy becomes engaged to bookish Cecil (Daniel Day Lewis). Everything seems to be going well until George and his father take a house in the village. Based on the book by E.M. Forster. Have you seen it? Do you love it too? *This film is not rated. There’s a scene where the men go for a swim in their birthday suits, so get your remote ready.


20. Tea with Mussolini (1999) – Not only does this film take us back to stunning Florence, Italy, but we’re joined once again by Maggie Smith and Judy Dench, who were in both A Room with a View and Ladies in Lavender. In this film, they’re joined by Joan Plowright (Jane Eyre, 1996). A group of cultured ex-patriot British women meet weekly in a local museum for tea, as Europe is on the brink of being thrown into WWII. Then they have Luca, the young boy that Mary (Plowright) has charge of, and who they all keep a watchful eye over. The Fascists may be planning some big changes in Italy, but these strong women aren’t interested in letting Mussolini or anyone upset their ways–or harm the people they care about. They will be brave–and they’ll do it with style! *Another fascinating thing about this film is that it’s based on the autobiography of the director, Franco Zeffirelli. Rated PG


21. Swing Kids (1993) – A romantic but also more serious movie than the others I’ve suggested. Swing Kids, starring Christian Bale (Little Women,1994) and Robert Sean Leonard (Much Ado About Nothing,1993), brings to life the Swingjugand (Swing Youth) of Germany, who risked everything to stand for freedom–specifically by daring to meet together for the forbidden but popular swing dance and jazz music. These young people admired the American way of life and sought to oppose the National-Socialist ideology. It wasn’t a stand for their faith, but it was a stand for freedom. This film is about friendship, love, and standing for what is right. You will love the dancing. The soundtrack is amazing!!! But also expect the heavy themes included in most WWII films. Rated PG-13


22. I Capture the Castle (2003) – “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink . . . ” I’ll begin the review the way the book begins, in a most quirky, inviting sort of way. The book continues as it began… surprising, interesting, delightful at every turn. The film is also sweet and quirky, but what the movie fails to capture is the magic, the voice, the insight into the head and heart of a 1930’s English girl living in a damp, ruined castle. Cassandra Mortmain’s (Romola Garai, Emma, 2009) father (Bill Nighy, Emma 2020) is a struggling author who just received the final royalty check from his last book. Just when the family are desperate, and scheming ways to make money for food, enter two handsome, confident young Americans who have inherited the estate next door. The girls scheme to get Cassandra’s older sister Rose engaged to the eldest brother, and it seems to work . . . the problem is that Cassandra herself falls desperately in love with him. Meanwhile, their hired hand, Stephen (Henry Cavill, Enola Holmes) is in love with Cassandra. Written by Dodie Smith (author of 101 Dalmatians) when she was stuck in America during WWII, and had a serious homesickness for England. I think you’ll LIKE the film and absolutely LOVE the book. Surprisingly, rated R. Apparently for brief nudity (when Cassandra sunbathes on the castle roof or bathes in the moat)?


23. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018) – WWII has ended, and people are still picking up the pieces of their lives–some still left wondering about the fate of their missing relatives. Orphaned writer, Juliet Ashton (Lily James), is feeling lost herself. Her latest book didn’t sell well, she’s out of ideas, and she doesn’t know where to call home or what to do next. One thing she does have is a friendship–by letter only–with the unlikely members of a literary society on the British Island of Guernsey, which was occupied by the Nazis during the war. They are still waiting for the return of one of their members, Elizabeth (Jessica Brown Findlay). Juliet is recently engaged, but feels compelled to go to Guernsey to meet her friends and perhaps write about their society? What she finds on the island is a whole lot more than she expected. Here’s where I HAVE to say again that this film is really so good, but based on a book that is EVEN better!!! Also, you will recognize 4 cast members from Downton Abbey! Rated PG-13


24. The Man From Snowy River (1982) – Some of the most epic films were made in the 80s, and in my opinion, this is one of them. This movie is based on a poem, which in turn is based on the legend (or history) of a great horse rider who could tame wild horses and stay on his saddle through any terrain. It’s the movie that changed how I see the name Jessica (beautiful). It’s also the classic Cinderella story, but reversed, where a poor but hardworking young man falls for the beautiful, wealthy rancher’s daughter . . . oh, and it’s all done Australian style. With a wonderful cast, including Kirk Douglas, Sigrid Thornton, and Tom Burlinson, this movie has all the adventure, romance, breathtaking scenery, and beautiful music you could ask for. It’s also a horse lover’s dream. Rated PG


25. Little Women (1994) – I like every adaptation of the book by Louisa May Alcott, but for me, this version will always be best. I find it to be a masterpiece for the eyes, the ears, and the heart. If you don’t know the story, the four March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy are home with their mother while their father is fighting the American Civil War. The girls stay busy with attic theatricals, playing the piano, writing, and other pursuits meant to improve themselves. Meanwhile, young Laurie (Christian Bale, Swing Kids,1993) moves in with this wealthy grandfather next door, and can’t help but be drawn to the March family–especially Jo, though she isn’t sure she feels the same. Rated PG


26. Great Expectations (2012) – A must-watch adaptation of Charles Dickens’ must-read novel. One thing I love about watching multiple film adaptations of a favorite classic is comparing how different actors play a part. Helena Bonham Carter (A Room with a View, 1985) was perfect as eccentric Miss Havisham and Ralph Fiennes very emotional as escaped prisoner, Magwitch, who’s helped by young orphaned Pip. Pip is later brought in to be a companion to Miss Havisham’s ward, Estella. He was meant to love her, and she was taught to never love him. But then one day Pip finds he’s been left a fortune by a mysterious benefactor. Could this change everything for him and Estella? Rated PG-13


27. Swept from the Sea (1997) – Based on the story “Amy Foster” by Joseph Conrad, this tragic tale of love between Russian emigrant Yanko Goorall–who is washed ashore in England when his America-bound ship is lost–and a girl from the Cornish coast. While most people in the small village are afraid of Yanko, he is befriended by the local doctor (Ian McKellan, Lord of the Rings), who finds Yanko is very good at chess. He also gets the notice of loner Amy, who is an outcast because of circumstances surrounding her birth. This one might leave you bawling, but I loved the cast of familiar British actors, the scenery, and the unusualness of the story. Rated PG-13


28. Nicholas Nickleby (2002) – Dark and frightening, romantic and sweet, funny and clever, and very sentimental. This story is all that a Dickens story should be (based on his novel of the same name). It follows the young Nicholas Nickleby, from his idyllic country home, to the streets of London, to the horrors of Do the Boys Hall, the boarding school in Yorkshire where he lands a post as teacher’s assistant. The boarding school bits really are quite frightening! Favorite line “I stuck up for thee. He said thee weren’t fit to live with pigs. I said thee were,” (Said in a heavy Yorkshire accent). Boasts a wonderful cast, including Christopher Plummer (The Man Who Invented Christmas), Romola Garai (Emma, 2009), Jim Broadbent (Brooklyn, 2015), and Jamie Belle (Jane Eyre, 2011). Rated PG


29. A Royal Night Out (2015) – Britain has been cooped up for six long years during WWII, and now the whole world is out celebrating–At least it seems so to 19-year-old Princess Elizabeth (called “Lilibet”) and her 14-year-old sister, Margaret Rose (nicknamed “Princess 2” or simply “P2”). The two hatch a plan to join the masses incognito. Elizabeth convinces her father that if she’s in the crowd, she can much better assess what the honest public response is. Her 14-year-old sister, Margaret, just wants to drink champagne and show off her passion for the Lindy Hop at the Ritz Hotel dance. Their father, The King, insists on two officers as chaperones (This really happened in 1945), but it doesn’t take long for the girls to fix this problem, and what results is a night full of romance, mishaps, and fun. Most of their adventure is probably just fanciful imaginings of what the two young royals might have gotten up to during their one night living as commoners, but I loved “seeing” our Queen as she might have been as a young woman. Rated PG-13


30. Jane Eyre (1996) – A little investigation might reveal the existence of more adaptations of Jane Eyre than you’d realized! I love them all, and this version directed by Franco Zeffirelli (director of Romeo and Juliet, 1968, and whose life Tea with Mussolini is based on) is no exception. Have you seen it? If you aren’t at all familiar with Jane Eyre, it’s the story of an orphaned girl cast off by her wealthy aunt and sent to a harsh charity school for girls. She eventually advertises, and finds a place as governess at the grand but eerie Thornfield Hall. She loves her young French charge, but many clues lead her to believe all is not what it seems, including the brooding owner. Starring Dame Joan Plowright (Tea with Mussolini, 1999) and Charlotte Gainsboroug (Le Misérables, 2000). Not rated.

31. Mansfield Park (2007) – I know I said 30 movies, but I love giving a bonus! Young Fanny Price is sent to live with her wealthy relations at Mansfield Park. While the family treat her tolerably well, they also like to remind her of her lower place. It’s only her cousin, Edmund (Emma, 2009), who treats her as an equal. They are the best of friends, and Fanny hopes they can be more. Enter attractive, stylish new neighbors, brother and sister Henry and Mary Crawford, and things begin to change–but Fanny isn’t sure it’s for the better. Based on the book by Jane Austen. Rated PG

Still need something to watch? Did you know there are two other versions of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park?

I’d love to hear below–did I list one of your all-time favorites? Did you find one you’ve never seen before?

Avonlea x

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