Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Tuesday list

1. I blew through Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner last week. Five stars, no hesitation. I'm really glad I re-read the first four books in the series before I read it, and I know that this one will hold up well to a re-read later. Turner is a masterful storyteller in my opinion, and I like how each of her books can be slightly different (this one's told in first person, but with a different narrator than we've seen before). The Thief series is a great introduction to fantasy -- the books aren't too long, but they're full of depth and layers, and the characters are full of life.

2. Jeremy and I finally started watching the BBC's Sherlock, and I'm really enjoying it! Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are just fantastic. I know I'm late to the party on this one, but better late than never, right?

3. Newest book on the Kindle -- The Martian. One nice thing about holding off on reading popular books is that you don't have to wait for them at the library! I also have a couple of non-fiction books I want to start, although there's something about summer that just makes me want to binge watch shows on Netflix.

4. Somebody let me know if Starbucks starts delivering (or that new coffee shop that just opened up down the street that I need to try but keep forgetting. Note to self)

5. Well, looks like nap time is over. Peace out.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Wednesday list

1. And....we're back! Mostly caught up on sleep and settled back into routine. The kids had a great week at Nana and Grandpapa's and J and I had a great week at camp. For me it was a bit of a mixed bag emotionally -- missing people who weren't there this year and heartache for hurting campers -- but there were a lot of great times and answered prayers too. I was also really challenged by the message each night during worship. We pray for the kids to learn and grow and be convicted, but it's pretty cool when the message reaches everyone at camp.

2. I finished my re-read of the first four Queen's Thief books by Megan Whalen Turner and I'm ready to dive into the newest installment that came out last month (Thick as Thieves). I also just got notified that a book I had on hold at the library is available (Exit West, by Mohsin Hamid), so I've got a lot of reading to do!

3.It might be time to get new running shoes when your toe is starting to poke a hole in one of your current ones. Fortunately, I love getting new shoes! Sticking to my tried and true Saucony Rides, but it reminded me that I really need to plan a little field trip to our local running store -- I'd like to try on some new styles for fun, and maybe see if they have any information on local 5ks and other races. Bonus: the running store is less than a mile down the road from a used book store I've been meaning to check out.

4. I don't know if it was getting a full eight hours of sleep Sunday night or what, but I woke up Monday full of motivation: I did all the post-camp laundry (8 loads), went to the grocery store, mowed the lawn, and even cooked dinner. Obviously, yesterday and today have been...less intense. But that's okay. At minimum, I have at least managed to get up early enough to get dressed before the kids get up (and yesterday got to read my Bible too!), which really sets a good tone for the day when I have stuff I want to get done. My kids get up early enough normally that I don't think I'll ever be one of those people who loves to always gets up before the kids do -- and I've started to own that -- but because I'm slow to wake up it's kind of nice to have at least 10 minutes first thing in the morning before the chaos starts.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

A Tuesday list...see you in a couple of weeks!

1. So, Facebook's Timehop is a funny thing. It shows me how I was a full participant in boring and mundane status posts back in the earlyish days of Facebook, and it shows me that this time last year I had almost the exact same thought as I did this morning: getting ready for camp is a combination of planning then waiting until it makes sense to pack. Kind of like staying at home with littles -- super crazy moments and busy running around interspersed with sitting and building with blocks or pushing cars around the floor.

2. The second book in the Charlotte Holmes' series became available from the library yesterday! I really enjoyed the first book (A Study in Charlotte).

3. Somehow I've forgotten how much summer running is all about survival because the runs are just so much harder in the heat and humidity. Of course, this would be a prime time to focus on cross training, but I am so inconsistent in cross training. It's hard to exercise when the kids are up and around -- naturally as soon as I start to do something they abandon what they were playing nicely with and want to be all up in my business -- and there are just too many other things I want/need to do when they're napping or after bed time. Running's nice because they go with me in the jogging stroller. Of course, the best solution would be to get up and do it before they wake up...I say that about a lot of things though. Maybe the second best solution would be to just start doing it so they get used to it, and I can put up with interrupted workouts for a while until interrupting me gets boring.

4. We got newly upholstered couch cushions last week! Our 40 year old couches have had a face lift and I am in love! They're navy -- neutral enough to decorate around, without being brown. (I love brown, but we're surrounded by a lot in various shades of brown and tan and beige already right now).

5. Whiny toddlers who haven't napped are THE WORST. So frustrating, but you know they can't really help it. Sigh. This is why you don't get more interesting blog posts.

6. With camp coming up, it'll be a couple of weeks until you hear my random thoughts and/or book reviews. In the meantime, stay cool, read a lot, and let me know what your favorite non-running exercise is!

Friday, June 30, 2017

A Friday list

1. It occurred to me today that we leave for camp in a week. I foresee a bit of frantic-ness and perhaps some excessive list-making in my future.

2. I've been staying up way too late at night re-reading The Queen's Thief series by Meagan Whalen Turner so I can get started on the newest addition to the series (I mentioned it a couple of weeks ago). It's a fantastic re-read because it's been long enough since I read it the first time that I don't remember a lot of detail, plus it's got enough substance -- both plot and character -- that it really holds up to being re-read. I just love these books so much. (Obviously...did I mention the too many late nights?)

3. This morning's exercise included a short run-walk (tiredness + jungle-like humidity = a little bit of walking mixed into the running) and mowing the lawn. I'm pretty sure I sweated (is that a word?) out about two pounds.

4. I'd been hoping to sneak in a trip to the theater to see Wonder Woman before camp, but that's not happening. Maybe it'll stay in the theater a while and we can go after. It's doing so well that it seems possible.

5. I've joined a challenge -- Jon Acuff's "Summer of Finish." It's supposed to be an encouragement/motivator to finish something by the end of the summer. I'm using it as a writing challenge because I'm this close to finishing a project I've been working on since forever. Of course, you think that would mean when I get done with this list I'll get to work, but....real talk I'm probably going to take a power nap first. I mean....work smarter (with a little rest) not harder, right?

 Happy weekend!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Thursday List

1. I know you all are on the edge of your seats wondering what happened with my hair care dilemma. Four words: apple cider vinegar rinse. I know! After a little bit of reading and research, I came across that suggestion and gave it a try: diluted some apple cider vinegar, washed my hair like normal, and then rinsed with the vinegar. Magic. Soft, silky hair with no more of the weird dandruff-y like buildup. That was over a week ago, and I'm just now thinking of doing it again. So...problem solved!

2. Potty training.

3. Jeremy's birthday is next week, so this weekend is birthday celebration extravaganza. Houston Dynamo soccer game tomorrow night and a game day with friends on Saturday. He likes to do a come-and-go all day kind of thing.

4. I've finally jumped on the British Baking Show bandwagon and I am officially hooked. And hungry.

5. I've recently discovered a new-to-me artist: Brady Toops. Soulful singer-songwriter with a super chill vibe. I downloaded his newest album and am enjoying it quite a bit.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Watching...Anne with an E

Like many women and girls across the world, I consider Anne Shirley to be a kindred spirit. The Anne of Green Gables series is hands down one of my absolute favorites -- and I have a tough time naming favorite books! I have watched and own the most well-known film adaptation by Sullivan Entertainment, and I have re-read the books countless times. Last year, PBS put out a new Anne of Green Gables adaptation, which I have not seen yet; then this month, Netflix released an adaption of a Canadian Broadcasting Company adaptation called Anne with an E. Over the past few weeks, my dear friend Nicole and I simul-watched (she lives in North Carolina, so we couldn't actually watch together in person, so we just schedule a time to watch and text each other) the seven episode series of Anne with an E.

Prior to watching the new show, I'd read an interview with the creator, so I knew going in that the Anne with an E adaptation was going to skew a little more melancholy than previous adaptations. I knew that they were expanding on Anne's tragic childhood prior to Green Gables, so I was prepared for significant differences between the show and book. Which, to be honest, I would have expected anyway, given that there have already been television adaptations of the material, so it makes sense that they would want to make their own mark in a different way. And I'm not generally a true purist when it comes to book to movie/tv adaptations anyway. The thing that matters most to me in adaptations is how true is the visual version to the characters, relationships, and world. Does the adaptation stay true to the spirit of the book? That's more my concern.

So. Anne with an E. How did it stack up? I have definite mixed feelings. (I'll try to stay spoiler free, but read at your own risk. Also, I have lots of words to say about this, apparently so....it's long. Sorry not sorry)

The bad:
1. Matthew. This was the most heartbreaking disappointment, because Matthew is one of the true gems of Anne of Green Gables. The actor did a great job portraying Matthew's quiet, shy sensitivity, and his love for Anne. They added a bit of extra back story for Matthew in this version, but I didn't mind that. It was sweet. But there were a couple of instances where they had Matthew doing things that were EXTREMELY out of character in my opinion, and out of character in a way that really bothered me.
2. Billy Andrews. There's this whole drama with Billy Andrews in the show that was completely absent from the books (because Billy doesn't really do anything at all in the books until the second one). Which...fine, whatever. But I didn't like the drama, and I didn't like the way they changed his character into a bully and a jerk. And kind of tagged on to that -- some of the kids and other towns people in general were just a lot meaner at the very beginning. I understand what the show creators were going for, but it wasn't my favorite and didn't sit well.
3. Heavy handedness. One of the negative critiques I read of this series was the heavy handed approach to feminism, and I have to say while it didn't bother me as much as it did that reviewer, I can definitely see her point. Anne of Green Gables -- the original book -- is remarkably feminist. Anne is smart and intelligent -- her number one rival in school is a boy, and not just any boy, one with a gigantic crush on her BECAUSE she's so smart. She's a successful teacher and principal. She goes to college when that wasn't the norm (her best friend Diana wasn't allowed to study past high school since it wouldn't help her get a husband, according to her mother). She's independent and a published author. When she gets married and has a family, you never get the sense that she's settling, or that she's just doing what's expected -- it's clear that it's her choice. Anne with an E just takes a much less subtle approach to those themes. Similarly, there is a much more heavy handed approach to establishing how hard it is for Anne to settle in and fit in in Avonlea. There are some storylines that just go on for too long with lots of extra (and in my opinion unnecessary) tension and drama. While a little bit may have added some richness and a fresh perspective to the story, I think they could have benefited from a little more subtlety.
4. The cliff hanger ending. I'm not opposed to a cliff hanger in general, but this particular one -- which involves a brand new storyline -- was a hard no for me.

Now the Good!
1. Anne. Fortunately, Anne was still Anne (heavy handed feminist comments aside). She was still resilient and creative and imaginative and optimistic despite all of the reasons she had to not be. She was still flighty and forgetful, yet level headed and extremely handy to have around in a crisis. She was still adorably vain about her looks, and still big-hearted, loving, and generous.
2. Marilla, Diana, Gilbert. Other than Matthew and Anne, these are the three most important characters and relationships to get right, in my opinion, and thankfully, they were fantastic. Marilla was spot on: stern, practical, and no-nonsense on the outside, but with a soft, gooey center and a dry sense of humor that she just needed to put into practice before Anne came along. Diana seemed completely true and authentic, just a normal girl with a big heart and a sweet spirit. And I loved the portrayal of the Anne-Diana dynamic: Diana being the string on Anne's balloon, grounding her when she needs it, but also liking her for who she is and always letting Anne be completely herself. Diana was quick to stand up for Anne and try to smooth things over with the other girls, and it was just a delight and really faithful to the spirit of their relationship in the books. And finally...Gilbert. Even though they changed his storyline quite a bit, I don't think they could have done better at capturing the heart and spirit of the boy who is simultaneously oh so dreamy and yet completely deserved that slate over the head. Every interaction between Anne and Gilbert was just right.
3. Jerry Buote. I'm not sure how many people would agree with me on this, but I actually enjoyed the way they significantly expanded Jerry's character. In the book, he's a name -- the hired hand who helps out on the farm and who never even gets a line of dialogue. In Anne with an E, he and Anne often interact like brother and sister, and I think it's kind of a fun addition.
4. A lot of little things....like the fateful Rasberry Cordial Tea, Ruby Gillis, the Story Club, the amazing opening credits, and Miss Josephine Barry. There were a lot of delightful moments in these seven episodes. Characters and small scenes or interactions that were just right, things that really captured some of the best things in the book. And even some scenes that weren't in the book, but could have been: like a scene where Marilla is worried and deals with it by staying up all night cleaning and baking.

Bottom line (finally, you say): There was enough I liked that if they make more I will keep watching. I'd recommend it, but with reservations, depending on your tolerance for changes to the source material. Ultimately though -- like I told Nicole -- if I'm hankering for the real thing, I can just pull out my books and dive into the familiar and wonderful world of Avonlea.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Wednesday list

1. Met some friends at their neighborhood pool this morning. Last summer going swimming felt like a huge headache. C had just turned 2 and M wasn't even a year old yet. It all felt complicated and hard. But now that they're both walking, and no one's still drinking bottles, and C will stay beside me until she gets on her floaties it's much less of an ordeal. Plus, I've reached the stage of toddlerhood where leaving the house -- even for a trip to the pool -- doesn't require a bunch of stuff. So, we all had fun, the kids are napping, and it was a good mood booster for me.

2. I needed a mood booster because before we left, the kids were playing outside and both me and the littlest managed to step in some kind of animal poop in the middle of the yard. We don't have a pet. But my money is on one of the stray cats that roam our street or one of the litter of stray kittens that, while adorable, seem to think our backyard is their backyard (and no, we DO NOT feed them). I just want to be able to send the kids out to play without wondering if they will get covered in poop. They aren't going to look for it, or avoid it. This isn't the first time this has happened, and I'm just really, really over it. BUT! Pool time. I'm feeling much more chill now.

3. Yesterday, I finished reading First Impressions, by Charlie Lovett, and it was....pretty good. I have and really enjoyed Lovett's first novel; The Bookman's Tale, and First Impressions follows the same basic format: a literary mystery told half in present day and half in the past. I enjoyed the format (as I did with The Bookman's Tale), and I enjoyed the plot and the mystery. I thought the historical chapters -- which followed a fictionalized Jane Austen -- were well-done for the most part. Unfortunately, aside from the setting and plot, the present day chapters left a lot to be desired in my opinion. The characters -- even the main character, Sophie -- just felt completely flat and unrealistic. Lovett added a little romance into the story and while the idea was solid the execution was awkward and passionless and left me rolling my eyes so. hard. I'm of the opinion that authors can write fantastic characters of the opposite gender, but in this case it just felt like the author had a really hard time writing a woman character (not to mention that cringe-worthy romance). That said, I enjoyed the book enough -- and really enjoyed The Bookman's Tale -- that I wouldn't hesitate to pick up another book by the author again.

4. But let's talk about a really GOOD story.  Girlboss, on Netflix. It's a little vulgar (so, Mom, I don't think you'd like it), and the first couple of episodes I wasn't sure I could handle watching the main character for 12 more episodes, but it just kept getting better and better. It's the story of an early twenty-something girl who can't keep a job, can't figure out what she wants, has a complicated relationship with her Dad, and a pretty big chip on her shoulder. But one day she finds an expensive vintage leather jacket in a thrift shop for only $6 and sells it on Ebay for enough money to pay her rent and then some. So she starts a business. In her words: "You know when people flip houses? I do that, but with old clothes." What really kept me watching the show, was the storytelling. I love watching (or reading) characters grow, and watching them navigate relationships that feel authentic and complicated. And the pacing was spot on. Just enough tension and time to earn each step forward, each new development, but not so much that any one storyline dragged too much.

5. MEGAN WHALEN TURNER HAS A NEW BOOK OUT IN THE QUEEN'S THIEF SERIES. Y'all. I loved this series. Deceptively complex fantasy, with a unique world, brilliant storytelling, and one of my favorite characters of all time. It's been a while since I read the first four books in the series, but they're not too long so I'm going to reread them before I dive into number five. But you better believe it's sitting in my Kindle waiting for me!