Tuesday, October 9, 2018

A Tuesday list...

This is really more of a list-within-a-list situation with something I've watched and something I've read over the past couple of weeks.

1. Today, I took myself to see A Star is Born, the film starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga that came out over the weekend. Here are four reasons why I enjoyed this movie SO MUCH:

  1. The talent of everyone involved. The acting was on point, everyone from Ally's Dad's buddies who only have a couple of scenes to our main couple Ally (Lady Gaga) and Jack Main (Bradley Cooper) and every supporting character in between. Of course, we already know Gaga's musical talent is undeniable, but Cooper is a legit rock star now.
  2. The laser sharp storytelling. No moment, no word, no scene, no frame is wasted. There are no unnecessary tangents, and nothing is left out.
  3. This is a movie about a rock star who meets and falls in love with a talented singer and songwriter singing in a dive bar a few times a week. He believes in her and gives her a chance to be on stage and grow her talent, and -- as the title says -- a star is born. However...the story is not about music or life on the road or fame. It's about Jack and Ally. It's about Jack's demons and addictions...in the context of his relationship with Ally. It's about her growing confidence and popularity...in the context of her relationship with Jack. It's a story about two people who meet, fall in love, and live a life together.
  4. The music. This is closely related to talent, of course, but it's worth saying the soundtrack to this movie is on fire. I know I just said it's not a story about the music or rock star-pop star life, but the fact that Jack and Ally are musical stars is certainly a big part of the story. It's the context, the setting, and sometimes almost like another character.

2. The Royal We, by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan a novel about Bex --an American college student who gets accepted in a study-abroad program at Oxforrd -- and Nick -- prince and heir to the throne of Great Britain (yes...inspired by the real-life romance of Britain's college sweethearts William and Kate) 
  1. This book was so engaging and hard to put down. I'd pick it up any chance I could, and would stay up way too late reading one more chapter. 
  2. There are so.many.bad.choices being made in this book. So many bad choices.
  3. I loved that it was as much about Bex's relationships with her twin sister, her parents, and her friends as it was about the main romance. Relationships are hard and messy, and this story did a great job of showing relationships of all kinds in a realistic, nuanced way.
  4. London! Oxford! Pubs and tea and slang and all that good stuff.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

A Wednesday list....

1. Apple pie for breakfast.

2. Ellie Holcomb has been around and making music for a while, but I discovered her album Red Sea Road earlier this year and I've been loving it. This month, she came out with a short kids' album - Sing: Creation Songs - and it is fantastic! Simple yet meaningful songs about God and his creation. I love it when musicians make children's albums that are as enjoyable for the parents as they are for kids -- just good music. (another one of those is Young Folk, by Josh Lovelace. When you have everything from a lullaby to a song about a bear eating your underwear, you know it's a good album).

3. The church we attend hosts a women's Bible study every Fall and Spring. This year we're doing a study based on Matthew 5-7 (the Sermon on the Mount). I'm really enjoying it so far. The teacher is doing a good job of encouraging us to test and challenge the way we've always read those passages, and to really look for practical application within the Scripture. For someone who has grown up reading the Sermon on the Mount countless times, it's easy to read it but not really absorb what you're reading.

4. It's concert week at our house! Needtobreathe comes to The Woodlands on Saturday night and we'll be there hoping the weather cooperates. (it's an outdoor venue). And speaking of concerts...the Americana/folk/indie duo Beta Radio has a new album out (which you should totally check out if you like music that sounds like it grew up on the back of North Carolina and the Apppalachians then spent some time chilling out at the beach). The new album is great, and the guys are on tour and coming to Houston next week! I haven't bought tickets yet, but I'm considering it. Fun fact: I worked for a year or two with Ben Mabry, one half of Beta Radio, back when we were both baristas at Port City Java in Wilmington.

5. I'm in between books at the moment. I'd like to work through a few more from my bookshelves, but nothing's jumping out at me so I grabbed a few possibilities at the library last week: I've been meaning to try a Flavia de Luce mystery for ages, and finally picked one of those up. Then I grabbed a book of  sci-fi/fantasy short stories by Mary Robinette Kowal who co-hosts one of my favorite podcasts (Writing Excuses), and a young adult novel in verse by Kwame Alexander after hearing him do an interview a few weeks ago. I've never been a big fan of novels in verse (in other words: a narrative story told through poetry), but I was feeling like doing something different and he seemed like a really interesting person.

6. I just realized this week that This is Us started this week! Yay! Who else is in the mood for emotional drama? I haven't checked, but I hope that means Superstore starts up again soon. Oh, and speaking of TV, the kids recently discovered Dinosaur Train. It's not super annoying, so that's good. However, because Amazon Prime only has three seasons included for free, they've been watching the exact same episodes over...and over....and over. Which IS super annoying. But this week, I discovered I can add a PBS kids subscription to our Prime account for $4.99 per month, thereby unlocking seven more seasons worth of shows. WORTH IT.

What are you watching and reading and listening to these days?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A Wednesday list...

1. My landscaping philosophy tends toward practical (herbs, fruits and vegetables, etc), native, and natural (as opposed to overly pruned and prim). HOWEVER. There is also something immensely satisfying about a simple, freshly mowed lawn.

2. Earlier this year I toyed with the idea of training for the Houston Half Marathon. The race is in January, which is the ideal time to run a long race in Houston because it allows one to train when it's not one million degrees outside. It's also local, so no travel expenses or time required. When I'm running regularly, I've grown to enjoy running a half marathon occasionally because it forces me to push myself and break up the day-to -day running routine a little bit. Of course...I just realized that if I'm going to run the Houston Half Marathon, I'll need to start training next month. So I guess it's time to dust off the training plans.

3. J and I are planning a trip to London, England next summer with a some friends here in Houston. Just saying it seems surreal, and I am so excited! Like...I can't hardly talk about it so excited. I'm the only one who has been before, which adds a whole other layer on my excitement because I can't wait to share one of my favorite places in the world with other people. It also adds a tiny layer of nervousness, because I'm not a tour guide by any stretch of the imagination and don't want anyone to have unrealistic expectations of me. We started actual planning this week (making lists of what we want to do and what our individual priorities are), and the early planning will help with clear communication and help me not to forget things like planning ahead of time how to get from the airport to our hotel/AirBnB.

4. Last week I finished season 2 of Sneaky Pete on Amazon Prime (to the detriment of my sleep habits). Such a good show! The characters, the actors, the pacing, the emotional heart, the cons and twists and turns. I loved it all.

5.I finished The Golem and the Jinni this week. It's been a while since I've finished a book and been so sad to see it end. It has a a vivid, atmospheric setting; and flawed, interesting, complex characters. The tone reminded me a little bit of The Night Circus. I think it would make a great book club book -- at least, it made me wish I had a book club to talk about it with! Also on the reading front: Grumpy Cat, my most recent favorite library find. This children's picture book is basically about a grumpy cat who meets a few cheerful and happy animals that ask her to play. She keeps saying no, and finally they ask if she wants to race. The cat pretends she's going to race, but when they say "go!" the other animals run off leaving Grumpy Cat alone -- exactly how she wanted to be. I love it so much. Odd children's books with no happy or predictable ending are the best.

Happy Wednesday!

Friday, September 14, 2018

What Toddlers and Allergies Taught me About Simple Eating

Y'all. I'm trying to keep my cool over here today, but it's mostly impossible.

Have you ever been to The Art of Simple? It's a pretty cool web site with resources, articles, and community built around living a purposeful, simple, joyful life -- and what that means for each individual. It's also the home of the podcast Simple, hosted by author Tsh Oxenreider.

Earlier this year, they began accepting guest submissions, and I sent over a short blog post for consideration. Well what do you know...they accepted it! It's up on the site today, and I'd love it if you went and checked it out! Here's the link: What Toddlers and Allergies Taught me About Simple Eating.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A Wednesday list...

1. I came across an article -- "How I am Learning to Listen to Myself" -- this morning, and it was like the author had read my mind. It's a short read, but a good reminder to be conscious and discerning of the voices we're listening to and seeking out -- not everyone with a platform is an expert, and even if someone is an expert, that doesn't mean you have to listen to what they say. And if music speaks as much to you as it does to me, check out "Listen to Your Life" by Nichole Nordeman.

2. Last week the kids started back to Mother's Day Out, and I'd given myself to permission to celebrate with one "fun" day. So Thursday I went to see a movie! A romantic comedy even! I love going to the theater, but don't do it much these days. I splurged on a popcorn and a Dr. Pepper, and only had to share the theater with two other people. It was pretty fantastic. I saw Crazy, Rich Asians, which was a delightful, fun, light-hearted movie. It was a great adaptation of the novel, and a solid movie on its own (so if you never read the book you can still enjoy the movie).

3. I don't know about you, but I occasionally find myself on quests for the Goldilocks version of a specific item of clothing: the perfect pair of jeans, the perfect pair of black pants, the perfect cozy sweater. Lately, I've been searching for the perfect basic t-shirt. Not too sloppy, not too tight. Not too thin, not too thick. Good quality, but not too expensive. Cotton or a cotton-blend preferred. After a lot of searching, I'm trying out a new brand: Everlane. So far, it's meeting the fit and fabric qualifications. It's more expensive than some plain t-shirts -- but if it lasts at least two years, it will be a good value.

4. I finished Sing, Unburied, Sing, and it was beautiful, gut wrenching, sad, and thoughtful. The characters and setting were vivid. I love a book that shows multiple perspectives to the same story, especially when one side of the story initially seems very straightforward. My next read is The Golem and the Jinni, which has been on my to-read list for years.

5. Like a lot of people, the biggest thing on my mind this week (literally and figuratively) is Hurricane Florence. It's headed toward my one-time home of Wilmington, NC, and toward a lot of people I love. If you think of it this week, say a prayer that the God of the wind and the rain will be merciful on the people in the path of this huge, powerful, and soggy storm.

Monday, September 3, 2018

A Monday list...

1. It's rainy today, and honestly it's the perfect day to be rainy. My kids woke up way too early this morning (a bed wetting accident), and desperately needed an actual nap today. And we all know a rainy day is much more conducive to day-sleeping.

2. Speaking of cranky kids...originally I was going to go to the grocery store today, but that is NOT happening. Thank goodness for the invention of online ordering and grocery pick up! My only complaint with grocery pick up -- and it's very, very minor -- is that I can't use my reusable grocery bags, and I end up with way more plastic grocery sacks than I need for garbage can liners. At least most grocery stores and Walmart has a bin to recycle plastic bags, but I wish there was a way to use reusable bags for grocery pick up.

3. There are a few home office tasks that I am WAY behind on, and as I try to get caught up before the end of the year I'm reminded about why it's superior to just stay as caught up as possible. Oy.

4. I think back-to-school-almost-fall season has me in a sort and organize and purge kind of mood. Almost like spring cleaning, except instead of cleaning I want to go through our book shelves and get rid of stuff we don't need anymore, go through our file cabinets and shred documents we don't need anymore, and organize all my photographs. We'll see how much I get done before the feeling passes and life gets in the way.

5. I've started watching the show Sneaky Pete on Amazon Prime, and am really enjoying it so far. It's about a con man who gets out of prison and has to go into hiding from a former mark. Giovanni Ribisi stars, and he's one of my under the radar favorite actors. The show's interesting, smart, snarky, and has a bit of a mystery element. And as far as reading goes, I just picked up the book Sing, Unburied, Sing, which is critically acclaimed and award-winning....and I actually don't know what it's about yet! It's been around long enough I forgot the summary, but I know everyone says it's good so...finally giving it a try. I like going into a book fresh like that though.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

A Thursday list...

1. I've recently decided I'm picky enough to buy the good lunch meat from the deli instead of whatever is cheapest in the pre-packaged section.

2. It's so hot, y'all.

3. I got a treadmill earlier in the summer and am so, so grateful to have more flexibility in my running. But I've GOT to get over the 20-25 minute rut I'm currently in. To be fair, if I'm running while the kids are up, then that's about how long I have while they watch a show or before someone things they need something. But sometimes I run after they go to bed, and I still can't make myself break those 20 minutes. It's better than nothing, but I'm really feeling the need to up my game a little. Especially since I really want to do a fall/winter local 5k, and I've had the Houston Half Marathon in January on my radar. (still plenty of time to get ready for both, but still.)

4. I'm all caught up on season 2 of Anne with an E, and I watched To All the Boys I Loved Before. As with season 1 of Anne with an E, I've got mixed emotions. Very few of the storylines in season 2 had anything to do with storylines in the books, but this turned out to be a really good thing. I also thought the tone of season 2 was much more similar to the tone of the book, which I liked. The characterization continued to be a bit of a mixed bag: Anne, Diana, Gilbert, Ruby, and the newly introduced Miss Stacy were just a delight and spot on in my opinion. I had mixed opinions about the portrayal of Marilla, Mrs. Lynde, Matthew, and the Barrys. And I CAN NOT STAND how the show has changed Billy Andrews' character (turning boring, hardly ever mentioned person into an awful bully). The biggest down side to me with season 2, is that this particular adaption continues to be very heavy handed in some of the themes and modern interpretations in a way I just think is unnecessary and takes away from the beauty of L.M. Montgomery's subtlety.

Now, To All the boys I Loved Before was a fantastic book to film adaption, and an absolute delight from beginning to end. It's the kind of funny, heartfelt, sweet, yet also thoughtful teen rom-com that I know I will watch again.

5. I'm currently reading a book for review that's partly interesting and partly boring, but not long so that's good. And I'm in the middle of a really fascinating, interesting book called The Orchard, by Yochi Brandes. I stumbled across it on the New Books shelf of the library. It's an translation from Hebrew -- Brandes is a bestselling Israeli author  -- which is not what I usually gravitate toward, but this book has sucked me in. It's historical fiction, set in Israel shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. It's realistic fiction, but the storytelling has a touch of fairy tale quality that I really dig.

Stay cool, everyone!