Monday, March 14, 2016

My Stack of Books: March 2016

That time of the month already?  Okay, here goes:


A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny
The second Inspector Gamache novel.  All the old gang was back together again.  I read this one in about two days, and it was great.  The winter weather was a powerful character in this book.


The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny
This is the last of the books that I purchased in December, and I really savored this one.  I know there are at least eight other Inspector Gamache novels out there, but I'm going to try my hardest not to rush through them all. 


Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
I read Kaling's first book, and I enjoyed both of them.  I was a huge fan of The Office, and I also watched The Mindy Project when it was on Fox. I haven't made the jump to Hulu yet.  Rob really didn't care for The Mindy Project, and that's probably because Kelly Kapoor was such an annoying character on The Office.  I especially liked her final essay about confidence.


Tricky Twenty-Two by Janet Evanovich
The latest Stephanie Plum installment--fun and breezy.  I do wonder whether anyone has started "literary" tours of the 'Burg over in Trenton.  I might take one of those!  A good mystery with not a little silliness.

Monday, February 29, 2016

What I'm Into: February 2016

Linking up with Leigh again!  February is the shortest month, but it so often feels like the longest.  Cold short days over and over really take a toll on my mood, but this year? Not so much!  We have had a couple of glorious Sundays where the temperature has topped 60 degrees.  And now, even if we get hit with another blizzard, we are at that point in the year when the meteorologists will say that the snow won't stay on the ground long due to the angle of the sun.  And that sun--it's hanging around longer, I am noticing!  All good signs.  I try my hardest not to complain about winter (or any other season, for that matter), because I know that it too, shall pass, and life is too short to spend complaining about one-fourth of the year.

So, what have I been into this brief February?  Let's see:

Reading:  I started another edX.org course.  This time it was on A Room With a View.  I ran out of steam by the final week.  I enjoyed taking these two courses, but I'm going to give this a rest for March.  In other reading news, I am on my third book in the Inspector Gamache series, and I'm a fan!

Watching: Oh, Downton, only one more week!  What shall I do without you?  Please give everyone a happy ending!  Maybe some designer will bring back Downton-style hats.  Nobody wears hats anymore, and the Downton ones have all been so great throughout the series.

Cooking:  Last month I was trying to get us on a soup kick.  Some of us are still observing weekly soup--the rest of us are not.  During Lent, our church has soup supper and a vespers service on Wednesday nights, so those of us who can make it go for soup and the service.  I can tell that a winter of stick-to-your-ribs comfort food is starting to stick to my waistline.  As the days get longer, I'm going to look through the archives and start preparing some lighter fare.

Shoveling: none!  Well, there was one ice storm that we tried to shovel out from, but it really couldn't be done.  Since the temperature soared into the 50s the next day, we really just had to wait it out.  I am happy to report that there is no lingering snow in the yard!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Keepin' It Real

I don't think I've written a non-books, non-goals related post in quite a while.  I could say "all year" to sound more dramatic, but let's give the drama a rest for now, shall we?

If you look along the sidebar, you will see that this is my tenth year on this little blog.  Tenth.  Count the years.  Hard to believe.  This blog has gone through some phases.  I'd say now I'm deep into my "reading phase."  But reading has been a lifelong pleasure for me; really the linking up and recording what I've read is the phase part.  You can see that there was an intense crafty phase, with quilting and sewing clothes and totes and knitting and crocheting.  And always there has been parenting. 

We are in a much different stage of parenting than when I first started blogging here.  Then, the kids were 7, 5, and 3.  Now, they are 15, 13, and 12.  I have one left in elementary school, and the oldest will begin looking at colleges in earnest next year.  The years really are short, even though some of the days are painfully long.

I've been trying to re-dedicate myself to this space, and I've had a burst of clarity.  Through all my phases--crafts, gardening, reading, the one constant about this space (and probably about myself) is that I try to keep it real.  Yes, I try to be optimistic and view my life through as rosy-colored a lens as possible.  But I openly acknowledge that I am an imperfect human, with more laundry than I can possibly do in a week and tumbleweeds of dog fur drifting through my home.

So what I hope I'll be able to continue to convey to you moving forward is more periodic check-ins in the "reality" department.  Not to complain or to bring us all down, but more to build a sense of community, a sense of "me, too!"  I take comfort in knowing that I'm not the only mom in the world who can't understand why her children are unable to hang up their wet towels--don't you?  We'll all get through this together, and in the meantime, maybe we can all have a good chuckle at ourselves when we discover we've turned into our parents!

I'll let my parting words be shared in the picture below. This was our Christmas card for 2015.  This was the first year I ever included any kind of note about what we're all up to, and more than one parent told me that it all seemed very familiar to them.  That made me happy, and I hope it will make you smile, too.


Happy (belated) new year to you all!

Monday, February 15, 2016

My Stack of Books: February 2016

I'm linking up with Anne again.  Here's what I've been reading this last month:
 


Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart
Elizabeth Gilbert is quoted on the cover as loving every page of this "smart, romping, hilarious novel."  I didn't feel as strongly as she did.  This story moved slowly at first, but picked up as I got into it.  I wouldn't call it a romp, or hilarious, really.  Based on a true story.


Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People by Nadia Bolz-Weber
The title says it all--over and over, Bolz-Weber finds God revealed to her in the most unlikely of people.  I find it encouraging that a pastor keeps having to re-learn this lesson--it means there's hope for me.  I don't love all the colorful language, but if she cleaned it up, I guess it wouldn't be her authentic voice.  But still...


Life and Other Near-Death Experiences by Camille Pagan
The book I finished in a day.  I recommend.


The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The book I should have read in school.  I will post a longer review of this in my reading challenge post.  Glad I read it.


When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Wow.  Such a gifted writer.  His intellect is staggering, and his humility and compassion are so touching.  I know there are people out there who don't like cancer memoirs, but this is spectacular.  I will revisit this one often.


A Room With a View by E.M. Forster
This month's edX.org book club book.  I read this many years ago--think early 90's.  That was also the last time I saw the movie (the Helena Bonham Carter version).  Young lady travels to Italy, and a whole new world begins to open up to her.  Makes me want to go to Italy.


Still Life by Louise Penny
I started this book last summer, but I didn't get past the first couple of chapters.  It just wasn't the right time for me to start this series. But Anne has just raved about this series that I purchased the first three novels in a boxed set back in December when Amazon had a $10.00 coupon code.  So--what did I think the second time around?  Very good.  This novel centers on Chief Inspector Armand Gamache.  He's based in Montreal, but he is assigned to a murder in a tiny village near the U.S. border.  The village and its residents are beautifully described.  There are a few false leads, and it leads to an exciting conclusion that I don't think I saw coming.  I do hope that the next book or two will include the character Yvette Nichol.  It seems that the author spent a lot of time putting her into the story--she clearly has some sort of issues that haven't been identified yet, so I hope she will be fleshed out more fully.  I guess I'll find out soon--I have the next two books waiting for me!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Saving My Life: Winter 2016

I'm linking up with Anne to share what's saving my life this winter.


Norwegian Hand Cream
My hands have become so cracked and dry this winter; they're much worse than they've ever been. So the last time Rob and I were in BJ's, I picked up a three-pack of this lifesaver.  Now I have one in my purse, one in my desk at work, and one in my bathroom.  My hands thank me!

My Library
Always a life saver! 

Reading Challenges
I have joined Anne's reading challenge and a Classics reading challenge.  These are fun because they are forcing me to be intentional about what I'm going to read.  Not that reading whatever I come across is bad, but the challenges force me to think beyond my comfort zone.  I like it.

Moving my phone out of my bedroom
This has been a great one.  I had been using my phone as my alarm in the mornings.  Bad idea.  It's way too easy to reach for it just one last time before bed or first thing in the morning.  There is no email so important that I need to read it while still horizontal.  My evenings and early mornings are going so much more smoothly.  And to think--life always used to be that way!


What I'm Into: January 2016

I'm linking up with Leigh!


Reading
I'll provide specific updates on what I read in January on the 15th, but my total book count is down from last year.  One reason is because of the edX.org course I took in January.  Another reason was my book selection--I find that the classics can't be (and shouldn't be) devoured over the course of a couple of days.  I have made a small dent in my Christmas books, but there's still plenty left to read--and plenty of cold, snowy winter days left to spend reading!

Watching
Almost nothing--what has happened to my must-see TV?  I was there with bells on for the Sherlock episode, and boy, was that ever fantastic!  I recorded it, so one of these nights, I'll watch it again.  Then there is Downton Abbey.  I do so hope Anna and Bates will get the happy ending they deserve--along with Edith.  I'd say they're on the right track so far, but based on last night's hints about Robert (grabbing his abdomen again), I think Mrs. Carson/Mrs. Hughes may have another occasion to wear her wedding coat--and it won't be for a wedding!


Well, there was one other thing I watched in January... and it lived up to the hype.  Almost.  Rob went to Clemson, and this has been a very fun year to be a Tiger fan.  Believe it or not, Rob had to be out of town for work on the night of the big game, so we talked right at the beginning and then during half time.  It was a very exciting game, and a fine end to football for me for the year.

Cooking
In mid-winter, I'm getting serious about having soup at least once a week.  Here's the problem: my people do not want soup once a week.  They don't love soup.  What??!!  So I usually have to pair it with grilled cheese sandwiches, which they do like.  So far, I've made broccoli soup and a Greek chicken soup.  Also chili...and baked potatoes.  Winter time is when I can buy a five pound bag of potatoes and know that they're all going to get eaten.


Shoveling
After the blizzard last weekend, Rob is finally seriously talking about buying a snow blower.  Even with our generous neighbors helping us with their snow blowers, it still took everyone hours to dig out.  I have learned that I have a couple of favorite shovels--one we had to toss last year because it was broken, and one that is on its way out.  Never thought I'd have a favorite snow shovel (or two!).

January seemed to go by pretty quickly, no?  Only one snowstorm for the month--and only one day off from school.  That number is way down compared to the last couple of years.  I swear, last year, the kids seemed to have a steady stream of three or four day weeks.  Here's hoping that February will be just as gentle!

Modern Mrs. Darcy 2016 Reading Challenge: #1

A Book You Can Finish in a Day

I didn't start this book thinking that I would finish this in a day or that this would be my entry for this category in the reading challenge.  I think this is one of those categories that needs to happen on its own--I don't want the pressure of having to finish a book in a day, you know?

Anyhow, this the second book I've read by this author--the first was The Art of Forgetting, which I enjoyed.  When this story opens, Libby Miller learns that she has a rare and bad form of cancer on the same day that her husband tells her he's gay.  Not a good day by any measure.  Libby grew on me as the book progressed.  At the beginning, I found Libby's faux curse words to be a little much, and her reactions to all of her dismal news just seemed a little far-fetched.  But as the book progressed, she improved.  I recommend this book.