Wednesday, December 5, 2018

A Wednesday list...

1. I am elbow deep in Christmas cards at the moment although funnily enough, not my own. My brother-in-law and his family are living overseas working with Syrian refugees, and I agreed to mail their Christmas cards since it's so much cheaper. Because they are missionaries, their Christmas card list is...long, to say the least. But, I'm looking at it as their Christmas present. My goal is to have their cards mailed next week so I can get our cards in the mail. I know some people get stressed out by the idea of sending Christmas cards, but it's a tradition I love and one of the few that I prioritize.

2. I was in the mood this week for a cheesy Christmas movie (think Hallmark-type) and I tried one out on Netflix, but I really should have just stopped watching it halfway through. So. Boring. And I have a high tolerance for cheesy Christmas romantic comedies, but this one was just too much. (too little?). I need a good palete cleanser. I'm watching my beloved White Christmas with my friend Stephanie this weekend, so I may bust out While You Were Sleeping. And speaking of Christmas movies...I took the kids to see the new Grinch in the theater last week. It was really good! I liked that it really felt like just an expanded version of the book and original movie, not something completely different. All the key elements were there -- rhyming narration, a three-size-too-small-heart, the precariously balanced sleigh full of stolen Christmas that is saved at the last minute, Max the cutest dog.

3. Season 2 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is out today! I'm so pumped! Now I just need to know when the next season of Sneaky Pete is going to be making an appearance.

4. I've been floundering in my reading lately. Part of the problem is that I'm trying to finish knitting a gift hat for a friend, so I'm spending more of my evening hours doing that instead of reading. Part of the problem is I'm dividing my attention between two books (Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings and Muse of Nightmares, by Laini Taylor). Fellowship is a library book, and I've had it checked out for WAY too long, but it's not...riveting reading. Interesting enough that I haven't given up on it, but not a page turner. And I'm mostly concerned if I get too deep into Muse of Nightmares I won't sleep until it's finished (I'm tempted to save it for our long road trip to Missouri for Christmas).

5. I'm loving Christmas music season. Pandora has some great Christmas stations that are getting heavy use these days at our house.

Happy Wednesday!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

A Wednesday list...


1. I spent all morning yesterday cooking. A photographer friend who is in a super busy season right now asked if she could pay me to make her a weeks worth of meals to keep in her refrigerator and then to reheat during the week. It worked out pretty well because I made the recipes big enough for our family to also have this week's meals done. I even ended up with a couple of meals in our freezer. So, while it was definitely work (so. many. dishes.) I was also basically getting paid to make my own food! And the rest of the week will be easy-breezy. I have to credit my friend Nicole with helping me be efficient and organized during the cooking process -- several years ago she organized some freezer cooking parties, and we learned how to most efficiently cook multiple meals at one time. Plus, I've watched her schedule prep for big holiday meals in a way that is quite the thing of beauty (that is, if you love detailed organizational plans...which I do).

2. I've started thinking that maybe it's time to have a garage sale. I'm usually a get-rid-of-things-in-the-moment person, rather than save-everything-until-I-have-enough-for-a-garage-sale person. So I end up doing a lot of donating, or selling the occasional bigger item on Craigslist. But right now I have just enough things I'm wanting to get rid of that it makes a garage sale seem almost possible. I'd save it until I have more...except our garage is too full to handle much more storage at this point. I'd try to sell it on those community facebook groups...but that always feels like too many steps. Maybe I need to realize that if selling stuff online feels like too much work, a garage sale may also feel like too much work. Honestly though, what turns me off of posting stuff online is taking and posting pictures. Blah. I'm just too lazy.

3. I was looking through a Target ad yesterday and there's a whole spread with "retro" gift ideas, including....a portable cassette tape player. I'm sorry, what?! Guess I should have kept my Walkman (it was a fantastic yellow, in case anyone was curious). I probably shouldn't be too shocked, after all I did add a record player to my Christmas wish list this year. Although, I think part of the appeal that records still have is the actual difference in sound -- some people prefer it. Is that why a cassette is appealing all of a sudden? Or is it just people's fascination with things that are old? Is it the kind of fascination that stems from a place of curiosity (wow, that's so different! so weird!) and fascination with things that are "exotic", or is it a desire for a seemingly simpler time? Am I overthinking this Christmas ad? Most definitely.

4. I blew through Skyward, by Brandon Sanderson over the long weekend. It's real good, y'all. It's a sci-fi novel (I'd classify it as  accessible sci-fi) with a fast-paced, interesting, and well-developed story; a teenage heroine with anger issues; some interesting supporting characters; and a broken-down spaceship with a snarky and sarcastic AI. In addition to the well-crafted story, I think this book's biggest strength was the journey that the main character went on through the book. I love good character development.

So here are my questions today:
Would you be more likely to pay someone to cook for you, or get paid to cook for someone else?
Are you a garage sale person, online selling person, a donate everything person, or a keep everything person?
Do you still have any cassette tapes or a cassette tape player?


Wednesday, November 21, 2018

A Wednesday list...

1. Happy Thanksgiving Eve! Some people will spend the weekend with family, some with friends, some by themselves, some relaxing, some working, some feeling grateful and happy, some feeling sad or heartsick. Whatever the day and the weekend hold for you, I hope you find a moment of grace and peace.

2. I usually run on Tuesdays after I drop the kids off at preschool, but they were off this week for Thanksgiving. Since I had a late night Monday and didn't want to get up early enough to run before Jeremy went to work, I was facing a treadmill run -- I'm grateful to have a treadmill, but it's not my favorite way to run. Instead, because it was such a beautiful morning, I got creative: the kids rode their bikes up and down the street in front of our house, chasing me while I ran. When they wanted to take a break I did squats, lunges, push-ups, and planks. So it was a good workout, plus I was playing with the kids!

3. Speaking of late nights...Jeremy and I went to a Brandon Sanderson book signing Monday night. I always enjoy a book signing. It's fun to meet authors and to hear them talk about their books or the craft of writing. And when there's a crowd -- like at this event -- it's a fantastic place for people watching. One thing I thought was particularly fun at this signing was the number of upper elementary/middle school-aged kids in the crowd. Sanderson has a pretty popular middle grade series (starting with Alcatrez Versus the Evil Librarians) in addition to his adult and YA books, so it was fun to see parents and kids together.

4.I devoured Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo last week, and it was a mostly satisfying end to the story that began in Six of Crows. I really enjoyed returning to an expanded and even more fleshed-out world of the Grisha; and I appreciated that despite being in the same world Bardugo told a completely different kind of story from the Grisha trilogy. The characters in the Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom are criminals -- street thugs and gang members -- but with vastly different backgrounds. Are they good people doing their best in bad circumstances? People who just made some poor choices in their life and can't find a way out? Or are they truly just bad guys? The story itself is a series of heists and cons and plays for revenge -- think Oceans 11 but with magic and a lot more violence.

5. Up next -- The Road Back to You, by Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile; Skyward, by Brandon Sanderson; and YOU GUYS I JUST REALIZED TODAY THAT THE SEQUEL TO STRANGE THE DREAMER IS OUT! The hardback was on sale today so I snagged that as fast as I could. I feel like I am really out of touch with new books coming out, but I guess that's okay since there's only so much time in the day to read them anyway. I'm also realizing as I write this, that I really need to get back into listening to audiobooks. I've got a couple of knitting projects I want to work on, and I could get a lot more reading done if I did it while knitting.

Enjoy the rest of the week, friends!

Friday, November 16, 2018

More than just a beverage

Cappucino.

Espresso, a little bit of steamed milk, and that perfect thick layer of rich and creamy foam.

The first espresso-based drink I remember was in college at Midnight Oil, a coffee house in a literal house. It was the perfect oasis on the edge of campus, full of art and light and cozy old couches. A big front porch for the days you just couldn't stay inside. My first latte, full of sugar and flavor, with a hint of independence and deep thoughts.

My first cappucino, handed to me by a barista in Italy, where I also got my first introduction to the delightful experience of stovetop espresso full of milk, paired with bread from the corner bakery and a think  layer of Nutella -- also, my first Nutella. This memory lane includes afternoon siestas in the foot of that beautiful geographical boot, marked by chilled afternoon espresso -- strong and black and sweet. The Southern Italian cousin of sweet tea.

The first time I made my own cappucino I stood behind the counter of a coffee shop in a North Carolina college town, just a quick 10 minutes to the beach. Married, no kids, and itching inside percieved expectations. The hum of the espresso machine, the caramel of the crema, and the hiss of steam in the stainless steel pitcher of milk. Learning to make foam not just bubbles, and learning to recognize the sound of milk steamed to just the right temperature.

Italy, London, Israel, Texas -- forget Coca Cola, capuccino is the universal language.
The sound of people and cars and motorcycles. The smell of concrete, asphalt, cigarette smoke, salty ocean air, hot milk and toasted bread. Plucky guitars, raspy voices, low-toned pianos. Laughter, fingers on keyboards. The shh-shh of pages turning and no one talking, and the warmth of the person next to you.

Capuccino.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A Wednesday list...

1. I think we may have finally recovered from shifting our clocks last week. I loathe Daylight Savings Time. Actually...let me be more accurate: I loathe changing between DST and Standard Time twice a year. I won't go on a full rant about why I think it's a ridiculous practice, but I will just say that last week my kids and I were a lot more tired than usual. I know correlation is not causation, but I'm just happy this week to feel like my biological clock is not slightly out of whack.

2. I got to get out of town with a bunch of women from church last weekend. Several good friends, a few friends I was happy to get to know better, and a few acquaintances/near strangers that were a delight to talk to for the first time. It's become an annual thing, all started by one person who casually asked a few moms with toddlers: "would y'all be interested in a girls' trip?" Is there any woman out there who ISN'T interested in a break from every day life now and then, especially with friends? One of the things I look forward to about this weekend especially is that there's no agenda. You can come and be social, play games, get out of the big house we rent and do things, see things, stay up all night watching movies, whatever! Or you can take naps, go for a run, curl up in a corner with a book you've been wanting to read and do nothing else all day except maybe have lunch and drink a lot of coffee. Making friends and building friendships can be hard as an adult, and I always appreciate any opportunity to invest in relationships.

3. If you know anyone who is connected to foster care involved in any kind of adoption process, you know that it's a world that fill your heart and break it to pieces, and sometimes all of the above. It makes it that much sweeter when families finally get the news they've been hoping for, and we got word this week some friends of ours had their adoption finalized after a long and frustrating process. Praise God!

4. I'm back to trying to read three books at once (this is something I used to do all the time growing up, but is much more difficult these days). Six of Crows ended on a bit of a cliff hanger, and the sequel (Crooked Kingdom) was available on Overdrive (e-books for public libraries), so of course I HAD to start it. I'm reading a memoir for a paid review, and I need to finish that this week. And the co-host of one of my favorite podcasts wrote their first book which came out this week: The Wondering Years, by Knox McCoy. So clearly, if you need me anytime in the next two weeks I'll be reading...something.

5. Look up Child, by Lauren Daigle and the soundtrack to A Star is Born have been my go-to music listening the past couple of months -- like everyone else in the world -- and while I am still definitely enjoying those albums, I need something else in rotation before Christmas music season starts. What are you listening to right now?

Happy it's-finally-sunny-here Wednesday!


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

A Wednesday list...

1. I hope everyone voted either yesterday or during early voting if that's an option in your area. I read a really thoughtful article yesterday (link: here) that talks about storytelling and the power of words in framing a person's worldview and shaping our thinking. The author relates his point to politics and voting, but I think there is some interesting food for thought that is relevant beyond just voting. Here's one of my favorite (long) quotes:
I am a Christian person, so I think of the Gospel in precisely these terms. The world gives us a million false and contradictory stories about the nature of reality, and each of us (for our own reasons) believes a few of them. (Nobody could believe all of them). The Gospel comes along and says, “Forget about all those other stories. Here’s the story you’re actually living in.” And in the truest story, you don’t have to be afraid, or proud, or self-indulgent, or self-protective. You don’t have to be right. You can say “Oh, what a fool I’ve been.” Then, for the first time, you can stop being such a fool. You don’t have to be the boss. You don’t have to be a victim. You don’t have to jealously guard whatever power you have managed to consolidate. You don’t have to find your sense of self in your race or your gender or your social class or your political leanings. You don’t have to be the hero of the story. You don’t even have to be the main character.

2.  In January, a friend and I embarked on a year-long crochet project. Mine: a weather scarf, hers: a weather blanket. The idea came from various other creatives around the internet and goes something like this: we picked several different temperature ranges and assigned different colored yarns to each range (below 45: purple, 45-55: blue, 55-65: teal, etc.). Every day, we check the high temperature for that day and crochet one row in the corresponding color (she crochets one round of a granny square for each day) and at the end of the year we'll have a scarf (or blanket) that represents the temperatures for the entire year. It's been a lot of fun (except for weaving in all.those.ends), and I'm excited to enjoy the finished product in January. An unexpected side affect is that it kept me crocheting/knitting throughout the year, pushing me through the slumps that typically come in the summer. So when fall came around this year and the itch to knit got stronger (as it typically does that time of year), I already had a little bit of momentum going to help me jump into new projects (or pick up old projects that I abandoned temporarily in frustration -- looking at you lace shawl)

3. I did some birthday shoe shopping yesterday and in typical fashion I went with one practical (a new pair of Converse sneakers because mine that I wear all the time are falling apart) and one splurge on a pair of leather flats that are so soft and pretty. The store didn't have my size in stock, but I was able to order them, and I can't wait for them to come in! I'm a little bit worried that they'll stretch out too much (that soft leather), but we'll see.

4. The kids and I made a field trip to Half Price Books on Monday. I was on a mission to find one or two C.S. Lewis books -- which I did! -- and I always check for books in the Anne of Green Gables series that I don't have in my collection yet (and I found one!). Of course when the kids asked if they could buy books I couldn't resist saying yes, so overall the only thing that would have made it better is if they'd had a book by Mary Robinette Kowal in stock.

5. Speaking of reading (of course)...I'm in the middle of Six of Crows and it's been fun to return to the world of the Grisha. I've got a couple of non-fiction books I'd like to start soon, and Brandon Sanderson has a new book out, a science fiction novel called Skyward. I'm a little behind on my Sanderson reading, but this new book has really sparked my interest.

What are you reading this week?

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A Wednesday list...

1. J and I finally jumped on The Good Place train, and oh my goodness this show is so funny! I haven't started the current season (season 3) yet, but the first two seasons are on Netflix, and it has most certainly disrupted my sleep habits the past week. It's creative, clever, and the actors just inhabit their roles to perfection.

2. Sunday afternoon I laced up my running shoes for the first time in three and a half weeks. It wasn't the most glamorous run (and it included a hefty amount of walk breaks), but it was the perfect afternoon to be outside and it felt good to move again. I'd had a goal this year of running another half marathon. That didn't work out (the race I wanted to run sold out before I registered), but my research did reveal three spring half marathons in the greater Houston area, so I have something local to choose from and training will fall within the right time frame -- i.e., when it's not blazing hot and when the kids are in preschool two days a week.

3. Today is Halloween. I'm going to admit something here, something that's a bit of -- as Knox McCoy would say -- a spicy take: I don't really like Halloween. What's a bit spicy about my particular opinion is that my dislike is not for religious reasons -- I don't think it's "the devil's holiday" necessarily. It's mostly because I'm lazy and honestly don't see the point. In the past I've occasionally gotten excited about a costume party, and made an effort and it felt fun and then...it felt silly. I've never made my kids adorable and creative costumes. I love looking at other people's creativity in costume creating and executing, but when I try to get in the spirit of things myself my energy fizzles and I just feel...conspicuous, pointless, and tired. I also really hate scary and/or gory house decorations, but I could overlook those (literally) if I just didn't feel kind of Grinch-like about all the rest. I'm not against it enough to try and dampen your Halloween enjoyment or excitement -- it really can be a chance to stretch those creative muscles -- but I'm personally not going to muster the energy. I like carving pumpkins. That's about it. Otherwise, I'm sort of...aggressively lukewarm about the whole thing.

4. It occurred to me this morning that I've made two pies in the past three weeks. Why is this worth mentioning? (well, is anything on here worth mentioning? That's another blog post) It made me realize that somewhere deep inside, I equate making pies with the beginning of fall. Don't get me wrong -- I will make pie any ol' day of the year. You can make pie with seasonal offerings throughout the year. It's not as connected to the season as something like soup or stew, but for some reason the changing of the season from summer to fall makes me want to bake pies. I'm not going to complain about it either.

5. I started three new books this week. It's too many to start at once, but I'm participating in a readalong and two books I've had on hold at the library for months became available. The readalong is Howl's Moving Castle, by Diana Wynn Jones -- young adult fantasy, considered a classic by many. The library picks are Reading People, by Anne Bogel (host of the delightful What Should I Read Next podcast), a non-fiction book that explores all different kinds of personality tests and typing systems; and Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, a Russian-inspired fantasy-heist novel set in the same world as her Greisha trilogy (which I loved). We'll see which one gets finished first!