Review of Wren Bay: the Story of Making a Home

Have you ever heard of Rose Syrup?

I hadn’t until I read Wren Bay: The Story of Making a Home by Clarice Fox-Hughes.

This book is full of recipes for things I’ve never heard of.

I’m not into cooking that much.

But I love this book!

Lots of other topics that I am deeply interested in are woven throughout the book. The story line is sweet and gentle and kept my attention so intensely that, at times, I couldn’t put it down.

The main character, Wren, is a lovely, sophisticated – but not uppity – young lady from Boston. She was orphaned as a child and was raised by her eccentric Aunt Sophia and Madame Mimi, her aunt’s cook, who is like a grandmother to Wren. She is raised in luxury and city ways.

Into her life steps Devlin, a young man who falls in love with her at first sight. And the feeling is mutual for Wren. He is a farmer who stumbles into her heart at a time of extreme vulnerability. Her kind heart is touched by his need, and she is attracted to him just because he is a very attractive man.

The circumstances and timing don’t seem promising for a relationship to develop between them. He will be sent to war soon, and he doesn’t think she will really fit into his life on the farm. But, after a short courtship, Devlin asks Wren to marry him. She happily accepts.

Thus begins Wren’s new life as a wife – a farmer’s wife – and a homemaker.

“Sitting quietly in her herb garden Wren Bay listens to the buzz of the bees. She is trying to find comfort in their familiar sound and not let the distress over missing her Devlin, who has gone to war, overwhelm her. It has only been two weeks since he left to fight in a part of the world so torn apart, she cannot even imagine. She has been steeling herself for what is to come. Wren is resolved to keep busy and promises herself to be strong like Devlin, but she is human and is struggling. After all, how do you say goodbye when you have just said hello?”

To give you an idea of the topics that Clarice touches on in this story, here are some of the concepts she uses Wren’s story to portray:

Charlotte Mason method of home education
Recipes at the end of each chapter – many of them French
Decorating and craft ideas
Herbs and herbal teas – recipes and tips for using herbs
Making the best use of what you have
Re-purposing and reusing to make things you need and love
Following dreams
Being creative
Staying positive in the midst of difficult times
Growing and working through fears
Seeing needs of others and trying to help

I met the author, Clarice Fox-Hughes, through Facebook. She asked me to become her friend, so I checked out her blog to see what she was like. I was not prepared for the charming and enchanting place that is her blog. The feel of her blog is beauty and elegance made by hand.

Her blog is called Storybook Woods.
Her sophisticated tastes are out of my league, but it’s fun to step into her world with her and learn about a life I’ve never known.

I’m practical and no-nonsense. She’s romantic and creative. I like her!

I feel like I have entered a new world, a new genre of blogs.

I feel like an outsider looking in.

I am not artistic or creative. I don’t sew or do any of the other crafty things that Clarice and her friends do.

I’m just starting to learn about herbs, but I haven’t really done anything with them yet.

But I do want my home to be lovely.

I read Edith Schaeffer’s book The Hidden Art of Homemaking last year, and I feel that it has helped me to see opportunities to make our celebrations and daily life more beautiful, uplifting and special.

I want my children to have memories of HOME as a place that they loved being – their favorite place to be.

I have had the challenge of moving three times in the last two years. But our houses are getting bigger and nicer each time we move!

Clarice’s blog inspires me to beautify my home inexpensively, using materials I have on hand. She is so creative!

Her cooking ideas are out of my reach right now. But that may change in the future.

Clarice’s book, Wren Bay, sparks my interest in these new ways of viewing homemaking in the same way that her blog does. In fact, her blog and this book work in tandem. Her blog makes the book come alive and the book complements her blog beautifully.

How real Wren’s charming world is to Clarice! And through her book, she happily escorts any who are willing to come and experience the richness of Wren Bay’s world.

One of her goals in writing this book is to give the reader a mini-vacation! I felt that way as I read it. It was an exotic vacation for me, since so many of the ideas were new to me.

But I found myself inspired to look for ways to beautify our home and our table for special occasions and just for every day.

A very special part of the book and blog combination that I find fascinating is that Clarice is continuing to fill in details of the story on her blog. She has found pictures of people who look like her characters and tells a little more of their story with the pictures she posts on her blog. She has added details like Devlin and Wren’s favorite songs in videos that have the same elegance and charm as the story. I have really enjoyed the sights and sounds that these have added to the story. My relationship with the characters is being deepened with each new facet she adds to her blog.

Her blog is full of lots of other good things to read about and see pictures of and learn from.

But the Wren Bay part of it has captivated me.

I love to get caught up in a story. And with Wren Bay and Storybook Woods, the story continues, even though the sequel hasn’t yet been written.

You can read the first chapter of Wren Bay here. And you can buy the book here at

May you be as delighted as I have been to meet these new friends.

The Boys (and Girls) Make Their Mama Proud

Mother’s Day was kind of strange this year.

My mom had just had a knee replacement three days before.

One of my sons and my husband had left the day before for a (possible 3 month) stint in South Carolina. Gary went for a job. Patrick went for a vacation. 🙂

Patrick knew that it would help Gary not to be so lonely if he went along with him, so that’s the main reason he went. But he doesn’t hate the swimming pool and independent lifestyle he’s enjoying right now. He always wanted to live a bachelor’s life. He’s getting his chance now.

But Mother’s Day was kind of melancholy without those two members of our family. Even though I still had 9 children here, the house seemed kind of empty.

The remaining children did their best to make it a nice day for me.

Fiona gave me a box of assorted books and cards and cd’s and a Snicker bar. She knows what I like.

The kids all pitched in and cleaned the house real well.

Kelsey picked a bouquet of wildflowers for me.

She also made chocolate chip cookies.

Anna bought petunias and planted them for me in front of the house.

Emma got me a Reese Cup as she got herself a special treat at Walmart.

Abby graced me with the privilege of buying her a candy bar during said trip to Walmart.

And my Boys…

Well, my boys made me proud.

Morgan (10) and Garrett (7) baked peanut butter cookies with a little help from their friends.

Boys in the Kitchen from Penney Douglas on Vimeo.

Shawn was listening to Sherlock Holmes on the Gutenberg Project while his little brothers baked cookies. That’s the voice you hear in the background in the above video.

Shawn sang and worshiped the Lord with me that night, choosing songs that he knew I liked, and we had a nice prayer time together.

Today, Shawn made me proud again. Here is what I found him doing.

Reading Dante while listening to Classical music from the period in which Dante lived. Can you get more cultured than that? What a great unit study!

They make me proud every day.

So do my girls.

I Want to Leave a Legacy

How will they remember me? Did I choose to love? Did I point to You enough to make a mark on things?

Another song about the same theme, by the men this time!

Aaron Jeoffrey wrote this song, and the video shows some great heroes of the faith. If you see some that are unfamiliar, look them up. One person can make such a difference in this world.

Just look at David Wilkerson.

The Lord is really speaking to me about the kind of legacy I will leave and the generations that will reap what I sow.

I’m taking this very seriously.

We are in the season of counting the omer. I’m taking stock and finding out what I need to work on. God is looking for people who are serious. We need to be intentional and purposeful in our parenting and in our relationships.

It’s too important to take lightly. We can’t just let time pass us by. Every moment is a gift from God.

Every child is a gift from God. Every marriage is a gift from God.

Let’s treat them as the precious gifts they are.