January’s Books of the Week & Goals Update

by | Feb 5, 2020 | a slice of life, Favorite Things | 35 comments

At the tail end of last year, I decided I would share a Book of the Week each week of 2020.  I love learning from books and going back to them again and again for inspiration, ideas, wise words, lessons…  I view it as continuing education and I make frequent trips to the book store to browse for new reading materials.  I mention these books on my Instagram stories or here on the blog, but I thought it would be nice to share them in a more organized fashion for those who are interested.

I’m going to feature a mix of new books and ones that have been favorites for years.  I’ll also share books on a variety of subjects from art and home decorating to design and business.  They will all be books that I consider to be “resource books” – books that can be referenced repeatedly in order to mine goodies that may have been missed the first time.

So, here are my books of the week for January…

Week 1 | Making a Life by Melanie Falick

I bought this book at the tail end of 2019 and I absolutely loved it.  I made so many notes as I was reading through this book and poring over the pictures.  It’s a celebration of those who make beautiful things and it asks the question whyWhy is that desire in us?  There are so many beautiful, stirring quotes, thought-provoking interviews, and images that make you want to do something with your hands.  It’s encouraging, inspiring, and a feast for the eyes.

Week 2 | Martha Stewart’s Organizing

This book was just released in January and I had the chance to get an advanced copy from the publisher.  I would’ve bought it, anyway!  I love Martha Stewart’s books.  There are some that have been on my shelves for 20 years and I still look to them for ideas.  There is a timelessness to the style and advice Martha and her team curates.

What singles this book out from other organizing books is that it’s not just a book about sorting out your closets, but about organizing your life and home seasonally.  This book includes the kind of calendar you find at the front of each Martha Stewart Living magazine.  It gives tips on what vegetables are in season, when you should order seeds for your garden, and the best way to pack away winter wools.  And, true to Martha, everything is pretty to look at.

Week 3 | Essentialism by Greg McKeown

I shared about this book last year, but I had to put it on my book of the week list.  It is so, so good and left a deep impression on me.  I approached this book expecting it to be a dry read, but there were so many things that applied to my work as a creative – the importance of play in innovation, the value of sleep for idea development, and the necessity of editing in order to make room for what is most valuable.

This book celebrates the German philosophy Weniger aber besser, which translates to Less but better.  I took pages and pages of notes on the book and have referred to it many times professionally and personally.

Week 4 | Slipcover Style by Allison Wormleighton

I made my first slipcover when I was in college with some blue and green plaid cotton fabric from Walmart.  I was given a gold couch that had probably been circulated among college students for a few years and it was in desperate need of a makeover.  So, I just made it up as I went along, tucking some pieces of fabric into seams with a butter knife!  I’m pretty sure I wrapped the cushions like a present and pinned them in place with safety pins.

After I got married, I repeated this effort, only improving my technique slightly.  I finally bought Slipcover Style and learned how to make slipcovers properly.  If you look through the book, you can see its influence on my style…ruffled skirts, ties, and pleats.  These days, you can learn to slipcover from video tutorials like the one I shared on my blog a few years ago, but this book is still a great one-stop resource with tips, how-tos, and inspiration.

This is a book that’s out of print, unfortunately!  When I shared it on Instagram, there were many used copies that were just a few dollars, but those copies sold out and now the price is jacked up.  If you wait a while, I’m sure some reasonably-priced used copies will surface again or you can check your library for this one.

Week 5 | Daily Painting by Carol Marine

This book was referred to me by a reader a couple of years ago when I first started oil painting and it was the best book for beginners that I came across (and I’ve read a lot!)  It’s practical, approachable, and generous.  Carol doesn’t assume you know what she’s talking about.  She explains it all, welcoming you into her world with an ease and friendliness that makes you feel like you can do what she’s doing.

I still use the custom medium and many techniques and exercises she shares in the book and I always go back to it when I feel a little stuck.  If you’re interested in oil painting, this is a must-have in your library.

If you want to follow along with Miss Mustard Seed’s Book of the Week in real-time, follow me on Instagram.  I share about the books on the grid and in my Stories.

Do you have any favorite resource books that should make it on my list this year?

In other January news, I shared some of my dreams and goals a few weeks ago and I thought I would share an update.  As most of you suspected, I was a little overambitious, but I’ve done pretty well.

In the creative category, I have been working on some small paintings and sketches to get comfortable at the easel again.  I haven’t been able to do it daily, but I’m working back towards that!  I haven’t started on the Nordic-style crochet socks, but I have been making dishcloths and I’m trying to make copies of some vintage glass cozies I bought a few years ago.  I’m also still making an afghan, square by square.

Professionally, I have been posting on my blog five days a week, I’ve stepped up in sharing and building community on social media platforms, and I started working on my first Decorating Dilemma of the year.  I’ve done a bit more work on my oil painting course for beginners, but progress has been slow.  I need to set a self-imposed due date, so I feel a greater sense of urgency to get it done!

And personally, I’ve been doing great.  I started working with a trainer at the gym to build my strength back up after shoulder surgery and I’ve already seen great improvements in just a few weeks.  I’ve even done a few exercise classes and just modified what I needed to.  They were hard, but I was proud of how well my shoulder handled it.  I’ve also been eating healthy, whole foods that I’ve been prepping on the weekends to make it easier and more convenient to make good choices.  I’m sharing my meals on Instagram Stories if you need some inspiration.  I’ll also share some recipes here on the blog that people have been asking about.

And I’ve been working through Rosetta Stone’s German program, doing just a little bit each day.  My dad, brother, and I have been texting a little bit in German to each other to practice, too.  The conversations are always silly…  “What color is your pen?  My pen is blue.  I ate two eggs.  What did you eat? Etc.”  I’d like to be a bit more consistent with this, though, so that’ll be a goal for February!

How have you been doing with your 2020 goals and/or resolutions?


  1. judith

    I admire your enthusiasm and drive to learn new things. Thanks for sharing the books!

    There is a paperback version of the slipcover book available on Amazon.

    Perhaps this is a typo, but to pour is to cause a liquid to leave a container. To pore is to read or study attentively.

    • Marian Parsons

      Well, I had no idea that pour over was actually pore over! I thought of pores as an opening. See…always learning! 🙂 Thanks for letting me know.

  2. Lisa P

    You are a superstar! I’m working on doing a fraction of the things you do—following your kind and encouraging advice for planning, journaling, etc. Thank you for sharing the things you do—You and they they are always inspirational!

    • Marian Parsons

      Thank you, Lisa! I’m glad that my endeavors are an encouragement to you. 🙂

  3. Kimberly Carnegie Bruhn

    Marian….wie gehts?

    • Marian Parsons

      Ich war krank, aber es geht mir besser.

  4. Addie

    Love that shot of your PA home….beautiful. I didn’t remember the cushions being done in the buffalo print. I don’t know how you had the heart to sell that settee or that bench in front of it!!! Just amazing.
    Question for you: when you paint on those index cards are you using oils? Don’t be hard on yourself, you are back into it. They look great!!!

    Oh….something funny….I use Yahoo homepage and todays big story was, “Stainless appliance cleaners..find out what works!” You beat them!!!!

    • Marian Parsons

      I actually do still have that bench, but I know! Why did I sell that settee?? I don’t even remember, but I’m sure I had a good reason. I guess because of the move… It was such a pretty piece, though.

      And yes, I am using oils on the index cards. I just prime them with an acrylic gesso first.

      And so funny about Yahoo! 🙂

  5. Jane Allen

    I just read the book “Adorning the Dark” by Andrew Peterson. The byline was “Thoughts on Community, Calling and the Mystery of Making”. I saw that Jeanne Oliver had just read it and recommended it. It was an enjoyable and quick read. It mostly talked about writing music but could be applied to all forms of creating. Some of the points that I really found valuable from the book: 1. we each have God given gifts and are called to use them in different ways. 2. he share the anxieties and fears that he went thru in his journey that I could relate to made them seem ok. 3. He share the importance of being in a community of makers and how we can elevate each other.

    • Marian Parsons

      Sounds great! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Lisa P

    I love the weekly/daily planning pages that you described and kindly offered to share a few weeks ago. Haven’t had any luck in getting them after a number of attempts then and again today. I know you are a busy lady but if and when you have some time, would you let me know if there is something else I should do to be able to receive them?

    • Marian Parsons

      So sorry! I’ll e-mail them to you directly!

      • Carrie

        Hi Marion
        I’m having the same problem. I received an email reply from you after registering, but it’s just another copy of the original post, without the download …🤷🏼‍♀️

        • Marian Parsons

          I e-mailed them to you as well! Sorry about that!

  7. Betty

    Your “Book of the Week” is one of my favorite posts! I look forward to it all week, and then quickly order it from the Library. Thank you for all of your suggestions!

    • Marian Parsons

      Oh, I’m so glad!

  8. Laura

    I am loving your curly hair!! Wondering if it’s naturally curly and what you use to get it to look so great?

    • Marian Parsons

      Yep, that is my natural curl! I can’t remember what I used specifically that day. I’ve been trying different things…

  9. Claire

    Marian, on this “ It’s a celebration of those who make beautiful things and it asks the question why. Why is that desire in us?” I can humbly tell why this desire is in us. The Bible tells us we are created in God’s image and God is the original creator. The Bible tells us he is the original creator. Because we were made in his image we have the desire to create. Some may create with paints or fabric and some may create with binary code or wood or with words. Our creativity reflects a creative God.

    • Marian Parsons

      Yes, I completely agree with that and that would be MY answer. I loved reading other answers from other perspectives. Why do they feel it’s in them? Why do they feel it’s important to make beautiful things? They don’t say “God put it in us”, but the answers often point to that unintentionally or unknowingly. He is woven in our fabric and we can’t get away from that.

  10. Julie K

    I also have not been able to download the weekly/daily planning pages. Could you send them to me as well? I’ve been following your blog now for a while and it’s one of the highlights of the day!

  11. Darlene

    I started bullet journaling mid January to get myself focused & purpose driven daily. It has taken the stress of remembering everything or finding the scattered notes or ideas. I’m surprised how much I enjoy it. I also printed out your planner sheets to incorporate into my journal. I love the opportunity to be creative while I set my life schedule straight!

  12. Sandy

    There are four people before me to borrow Essentialism at our library and I put in for it when you first posted. You have many readers in Ohio.
    I have a tear in my right shoulder. Found out after a MRI. Received a cortisone shot a week before Christmas. We were hosting a family Christmas Day open house. Felt good for three weeks. My days are fine, but a lot of painful nights. I’m considering summer to have the operation. Any thought?

    • Marian Parsons

      Oh man, I’m so sorry to hear about your shoulder. I definitely feel your pain! I had two cortisone shots, a procedure, and a few months of PT to try to resolve my shoulder issues, but it just wasn’t getting any better. PT really helped, but I never gained full use of my shoulder and my pain didn’t resolve. Surgery was rough, but I had two issues (calcific tenonitis and a bicep cyst) that were both good candidates for surgical repair. The recovery was tough, but I am now pain-free and gaining strength and mobility each day. I’m so glad I did it. I’ve had a lot of people ask me, so I’m going to write a whole blog post about my shoulder saga for those who are interested. It’s a common issue!

  13. Nancy ann Skora

    dear Marian, So glad you have decided to start blogging more… I have been so inspired by your recent blogs. I have been more inspired to do more around my house and in my business. Cleaning and cleansing… organizing my house and craft areas. It has really helped. Having you to help inspire us is such a blessing. God Bless….

    • Marian Parsons

      Thank you! What a lovely comment. 🙂

  14. Dorene

    Like several people have previously commented, I have also been unable to download your planning pages. I would love to be able to use them if you would kindly email them to me.
    I have been following your blog for years. It is one of my favorites and one of the few that I read every time you post. It is always a source of inspiration and today was no different. This is exactly what I needed to read and reflect on today. Thank you so much for all of the insights you share and for allowing us to join you on your creative journey.

  15. Nan

    Ditto on the planning pages. Please email them to me also! Thanks ever so much!

  16. Lisa

    I’ve had Essentialism on my list for so long and I definitely want to check out Martha’s book.

    I hope your feeling better today.♥️


  17. mary m

    I will always appreciate your video on making slipcovers 101. otherwise I would never attempted it.Mary m

  18. Tammie Price

    Sounds like you are making great progress, Marian! Love the book shares!

  19. Naomi Shelton

    During 2019 I kept a list of the books that I read. I had been wanting to do that for a long time and finally did it. I think I missed recording several but ended up with approximately 34 for the year. Which I tho’t was on the light side since reading is one of my main forms of entertainment and learning. Of course I read many other things than actual books, but didn’t keep track of those. Anyway, I like the idea of your weekly/monthly book list and am now making another list of the books I want to read starting with the ones you reviewed for us in this post. Thanks for the motivation and the help to widen my literary experience.

  20. Amy Mings

    Love the idea to be continually learning through a variety of books. I need the organizational one by Martha Stewart. I try to tackle one area once every few weeks, but they don’t always stay neat and tidy 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  21. Martha

    I love,love your blog and instagram.
    Glad you are feeling better.
    There was a book you mentioned but I cann’t find the title
    It was a book about decorating with more instead of less, it looked like an antique decorating book
    One of the pictures had Ron’s of canes instead of ones.
    Next I like your breakfast and lunch how do I get the receipts. It’s this a keto diet.

    Thanks Marion and have a wonderful dat

  22. Cheri Dietzman

    I always look forward to your books of the month!


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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