My 2020 Book List

Although I didn’t read nearly as much as I have in the past, these are the books I read in 2020. Here is my 2020 book list.

My 2020 book list
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I do love reading. When quarantine started in March I honestly thought that I would have a ton of time to devote towards reading. Unfortunately, that is not how this all turned out. I spent a great deal of time engaging with my children and bonding as a family. Of course, I absolutely don’t regret that at all!

This year was also spent homeschooling. This was the first year where I taught both boys. My youngest is in kindergarten and I also taught my two-year-old in tot school which is actually just purposeful playing but it requires me to be present because I teach as we play. ( You can see my Kindergarten reading list here.) After a few bumpy months, we found our groove. We’ve gone a little slower than anticipated, but that’s okay. In my spare time, I spent lots of time working on my Etsy shop which had great success this holiday season. With all that happened, I admit, my reading fell by the wayside once November came. I still have some unfinished books as well as books I meant to read this year.

In this list, I am only going to mention the books I actually read. There are several books I started and did not complete. I will include those in a separate post for the books I intend to read for 2021. Let’s get started. Here is my 2020 book list.

Washington’s Spies: America’s First Spy Ring

Washington’s Spies was by far, my favorite book I read this year. Alexander Rose, is a masterful storyteller and he begins his book with an introduction to Nathan Hale and his friendship with Benjamin Tallmadge. Tallmadge, who while serving in the Continental Army, would go on to lead America’s first spy ring for General George Washington, the Culper Spy Ring.

In the book, we learn of the heroic contributions of those who would become our first spymasters within the ring. The ring itself was a hodgepodge of talent and disciplines – Benjamin Tallmadge, a cavalry soldier, Abraham Woodhull a cabbage farmer, Anna Strong (America’s first female spy), Robert Townsend a Quaker torn between politics and family, Caleb Brewster a blacksmith, and Austin Roe, a tavern owner among others. Their shadowy missions, which primarily take place throughout Setauket, Long Island, and other parts of New York, combine the use of double agents, double-crossing, dead drops, disappearing ink, codes, and ciphers, and signals on laundry lines. The book painstakingly recreates the precarious missions of the ring which ultimately, also smokes out the infamous turncoat Benedict Arnold.

The Annotated and Illustrated Journals of Major Robert Rogers

After reading Washington’s Spies, I was eager to read more on some of its major players, one of which is Robert Rogers. Rogers was a frontiersman who served in both the French and Indian War as well as the American Revolution with the Queen’s Rangers on behalf of the British. This particular book written by Timothy Todish is actually partially autobiographical. A large portion of this book, The Annotated and Illustrated Journals of Major Robert Rogers, is written from the narrative of Roger’s own journals. Missing historical gaps and additional context are supplemented by Todish which makes for a thorough retelling of Roger’s life and military career.

Memoir of Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge

Again, after reading Washington’s Spies, I wanted to read further about Benjamin Tallmadge. I absolutely fell in love with this heroic man who contributed so much to the revolutionary war. I found the Memoir of Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge, written by Tallmadge himself. This autobiography covers Tallmadge’s friendship with Nathan Hale along with his emotions over his execution. Tallmadge records his experiences as a cavalryman in the Continental Army as well as his relationship with Washington.

One thing that is lacking in this book is a telling of Tallamadge’s movements as spymaster of the Culper spy ring. This memoir, originally written for his children, is surprisingly tight-lipped about his spy days. This is a little disappointing because most readers gravitate towards this memoir to learn exactly that. He does write about it some, but don’t expect sensational details about his spy tactics. Still, this book is a gem for those of us who love American Revolution history.

You’ll Get Through This

I typically enjoy Max Lucado’s books. After receiving some disturbing news this year, I decided that I wanted a book to aid me through my emotional response. You’ll Get Through This frankly did not give me the substance or comfort I have found in other Lucado books. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this book, but I felt more connected and comforted by other Lucado books. I think it is a worthwhile book that you will enjoy if you need hope in your current situation.

This book uses the story of Joseph and his betrayal of his brothers and his being sold into slavery. The book continues to teach through Joseph’s struggles, which God uses for His glory and for the good of Joseph. If I am being honest, this book, seemed to regurgitate much of Lucado’s prior works. If you are looking for other good Lucado books, I highly recommend He Chose the Nails, It’s Not About Me, and For the Tough Times. The general message in this book is something that really needs to be impressed upon the modern-day Christian. God may not remove the circumstances but we can be assured that he will use it for our inevitable good.

The Original Wit & Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln: As Reflected in His Letters and Speeches

This book, The Original Wit & Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln, is a compilation of various speeches and personal correspondence. The most apparent quality of Lincoln’s writing is that he was a masterful composer of sympathy and compassion. Some of his most provocative compositions are letters of condolences to grieving families. Here we get a more intimate look at the man who ended slavery as he writes to military subordinates as commander in chief during the Civil War. We also get to discover the more private Lincoln from his correspondence with friends and family.

The Haunting of Hill House

After watching the original Netflix series, Haunting of Hill House I was eager to read the original source material knowing full well the Netflix series varies greatly from Jackson’s artful story. Still, I had started reading this book years ago but never finished. I never went back to it, so naturally, I decided to remedy that. Shirley Jackson crafts a classic haunted house story.The gothic horror story centers around Eleanor, a fragile, lonely recluse who after caring for her ailing mother agrees to be a part of a psychological study conducted in a stately home. Theodora, a Bohemian artist and the heir to the home Luke Sanderson also join her for the study conducted by Dr. Montague. Once there, supernatural happenings and poltergeist activity begin to sinisterly torment the inhabitants and their psyche.

Happiness is a Serious Problem

Dennis Prager, know as a conservative talk show host discusses happiness at its core. Although religious himself (he is an Orthodox Jew), Prager explores happiness as a human condition, but not necessarily from a religious viewpoint. How we respond to circumstances in our life, our attitude, and everyday choices are components of a pragmatic approach to happiness. Prager manages to break down these components into chewable portions that one can apply to his or her life.

This was an interesting book but one that should be read slowly and with sips. Like philosophy, I found that there is lots of food for thought nestled in the pages. Also as a side note, I purchased this book as an audiobook. The audiobook is not narrated by Prager who has a very distinctive voice. Instead, a drab narrator has been supplanted for Prager. Stick to the printed version if you can.

12 Rules for Life

12 Rules for Life, written by world-renowned Psychologist Jordan B. Peterson, is not an easy read. In fact, this actually took as much concentration from me as other complex writings like Freud, Dostoyevsky, and Chaucer because there is so much to consider in a single sentence. Love him or hate him, Peterson himself has become a controversial figure for his outspoken political statements. He strikes me as a classic liberal but in recent years has become outspoken about certain progressive political policies.

As the title suggests, Peterson cites twelve profound rules for life that are built upon a number of influences such as mythology, biblical archetypes, historical context, and social constructs among other things. One should note, Peterson does not consider the bible to be divinely-inspired rather a tool of moral relativism. Like Peterson himself, many of his conclusions may be controversial and in today’s political climate, often waffles from left to right at times. I enjoyed reading his book even though I do not agree with all of his conclusions and I certainly have respect for him as one of the finest minds alive.

What Are You Reading?

The volume of my reading this past year was a little pathetic by past standards. I’m hoping I can do a lot more reading this year. In the comments below, I’d love to hear about the books you read this past year.

Hot Cranberry Orange Cider

Hot cranberry orange cider is a delicious hot punch that is perfect for holiday parties in the Fall and Winter.

Hot cranberry orange cider

I love cranberries. I get so excited when I see them finally appear in our grocery store. Once Fall hits, I make a wide variety of cranberry foods. From cranberry-orange muffins to white chocolate and cranberry cookies, I love making things with cranberry. I’ve had this recipe for a few years and I’ve grown to love it. This recipe actually calls for cranberry juice which you can get year-round. However, I love to add a few whole cranberries to the punch when I serve it. We’ll get into all that later, but for now, let me tell you about this easy punch recipe.

We love entertaining around Christmas time. In fact, for the last seven years, I’ve been hosting Christmas for our family. I always set up an awesome hot chocolate bar that family and friends rave about! You can see my post on how to set up your own hot chocolate bar. I even have the best slow cooker hot chocolate recipe that you’ll ever try! Be sure to check those out before you leave.

How to Make Hot Cranberry Orange Cider

When I found this recipe years ago, it came with specific instructions to make over the stove. That is how I am going to share the recipe today, However, you can make the entire recipe in the slow cooker (e.g. crockpot) if you like. This recipe calls for several things, frozen concentrate and cinnamon imperials. Don’t know what those are? Cinnamon hard candy. Kind of like starlight mints except they are cinnamon flavored. You can find them at your local grocery store in the candy section.

This recipe calls for no actual sugar or cinnamon. Instead, it uses the sugar in the candies to sweeten the tart drink. The recipe instructions direct you to melt down the cinnamon candy by boiling it with the cranberry fruit cocktail which essentially turns the candies into a cinnamon syrup. Yes, the candies will still melt if done in the crockpot, but it will take a while. Until they are fully melted they can be a choking hazard, if someone doesn’t realize they are in there and they go for a cup before they are dissolved. Trust me, this can happen, even with adults. So I’d still recommend that you dissolve them on the stove. Then if desired you can transfer over to a crockpot afterward. I normally do just that, so the punch can stay warm as guests serve themselves. The recipe also calls for whole cloves, so you want to make sure you strain those out before serving. The stovetop method ensures your punch is ready in 30 minutes.

Cloves

Serving Hot Cranberry Cider

When you serve it, you can serve it directly in your crockpot. I recommend providing a ladle and spoon rest so avoid your countertop or surface from getting sticky from the ladle. If you don’t want to serve it in a crockpot and want a more classy look, they sell chafing punch bowls on Amazon. They are way more sophisticated than crockpots for your holiday parties.

By the way, if you are using a crockpot, allow me to introduce you to my best friend. A couple of years ago I discovered the slow cooker liners and they are awesome. I don’t typically buy disposable stuff, but these are awesome especially around the holidays. During the holidays my crockpots are used almost on a daily basis. The only thing I hate about using them is all the soaking and scrubbing in between uses. This totally eliminates the need for both. Just take and toss when you are done and then wash your crockpot without the elbow grease.

When I serve it, I often serve it in my old depression glass punch bowl or in cute Santa mugs. These Santa mugs (below) are from Pottery Barn. They are exactly like my mother’s vintage ones in her kitchen. You can also put it in Mason jar mugs. Another favorite of mine. I serve the punch with whole cranberries which I put in the punch while being warmed and I garnish with a cinnamon stick.

hot cranberry orange cider
santa mugs

Hot Cranberry Orange Cider

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Drinks
Servings 24

Ingredients
  

  • 64 fl oz Cranberry Juice Cocktail
  • 2 Cups Water
  • ½ Cup Cinnamon Imperials (candy)
  • 12 Whole Cloves
  • ½ Cup Frozen orange juice concentrate
  • ½ Cup Frozen lemonade juice concentrate

Instructions
 

  • Combine cranberry juice, water, cloves, and cinnamon candy into a large stockpot.
  • Boil mixture until candies are fully dissolved. Reduce heat to low.
  • Add lemonade and orange concentrates. Remove cloves.
  • Transfer to a crockpot or heatproof serving bowl. Keep heat on low. Serve with heatproof mugs or punch cups. Garnish with cinnamon and whole cranberries if desired.
Keyword citrus, cranberry, holiday, holiday party, holiday punch, lemon dressing, orange, punch
Vintage Green Punch Bowl

Printable Christmas I Spy

Trying to keep the kids busy at home? Here is a printable Christmas I Spy to keep those little ones from feeling bored on those cold days.

printable christmas I spy

It is just the beginning of December but we are already busy without Christmas activities. Every year, we set up an Advent calendar and fill it with Christmas related activities or experiences. We have so much fun doing it as a family and it really gets us in the mood for Christmas. You can get all kinds of ideas for holiday-themed activities in my posts, The Ultimate Christmas Bucket List, 10 Beautiful Christmas Traditions to Start, and 50 Acts of Kindness for the Holidays.

We have a had a great homeschool year. My kindergartener is reading very well and he is obsessed with spelling at the moment. I’m so glad that we have managed to keep their interest in school even though we aren’t getting out much. I am so grateful that we had a wonderful and productive Fall. That said, I am so glad that we are taking some time off in December. We will be taking a whole two weeks off and just focusing on fun activities and play, so I’ll be sharing some of our fun activities here on the blog.

Printable Christmas I Spy

To Christmas off, I’m sharing a printable Christmas I Spy that I’ve made for my kindergartener. I think that children under five might struggle with it. I purposely made it a little challenging by using similar objects. Therefore, it is better suited for ages five and up. You can download it here and print it out at home. Feel free to share this post with others.

You can download some of my other FREE games and activities for other holidays

And coming soon this month, I’ll be doing a printable Christmas Memory Game! Stay tuned or subscribe to the blog to be notified.

As with all my printables on the blog, you can print them without an email sign up, although I”d love it if you subscribed.

Directions

You can use the following for your I spy game:

  • Crayons
  • Colored pencils
  • Markers
  • Highlighters

There is an answer key at the bottom of the page that states the objects to find as well as how many of the items there are in the maze. I suggest having your child count and color them as they find them. I’ve included lots of objects that are similar and objects that are not in the key to make it more challenging.

Download You Printable Christmas I Spy

This printable is in letter size and is in a pdf file. You will need a pdf reader in order to access the file. You can download a free version of Adobe Acrobat Reader here.

Thanks so much for reading and I hope you are your little ones enjoy this fun activity.