Monday, February 20, 2017

A Monday list

1. I'm re-watching Freaks and Geeks on Netflix right now, and I keep forgetting how many now-famous people are in that show (perhaps they were famous then too? Not to me, at least). Yesterday, I saw an episode with Matt Czuchry AND Shia LaBouf.

2. I don't wear much jewelry these days since I'm not going out to a job every day, so the past year or two I've basically developed a rotation of a few of my favorite things. A few pairs of earrings and a few necklaces. I'll mix it up now and then when I have reason to accessorize, but when I travel especially, I tend to take just a few things. Well. That backfired. Because somehow either in the last leg of our trip home in January from Winter Travel Extraveganza, or in unpacking chaos, I have lost my absolute favorite pair of earrings and one of my three favorite necklaces. The earrings are more replaceable -- I bought them myself, and I know where to get another pair. Just have to give myself permission to spend the money again. But the necklace was a gift from my friend Katie who lives in Phoenix. So not only did I love it because it was cute and trendy and went with literally everything, it had sentimental value as well. Are these big problems in the grand scheme of things? No. But it's still a bummer. I'm still hoping they'll turn up somewhere in my house eventually.

3. Vacation is almost a month away now and I still feel very unprepared. Part of that is that it's Monday. On Mondays I either feel like I'm stuck in a sinkhole with a pile of things to do on top of me, or I feel like a productive superwoman. Today is option A. But it'll get done.

4. Just started learning a new game yesterday: Tak. A game that appears in Patrick Rothfuss's Name of the Wind, and one that a game designer decided to create. It's really great. Simple, but complex.

5. Went for a run in my neighborhood yesterday and almost ran into a skunk. I'm sorry, what? Thankfully it stayed on its own side of the street.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Reading...Court of Fives

It's been a while since I read a book by Kate Elliott, and after finally sitting down with Court of Fives I'm kind of kicking myself for putting it off so long (so long, in fact, that I remember adding this to my mental to-read list back when it first came 2015).

Court of Fives is the first in a young adult fantasy series set in an East Asian and Pacific Island- inspired fantasy world. Jessamy is one of five daughters, in a family that is both highly regarded and looked down upon. Her father is Patron-born, and a decorated Captain in the military. Her mother is Efean, a "commoner." It is illegal for Patrons and Commoners to marry, and Jessamy and her sisters are seen as disgraceful. Not only are they girls -- highly honored in Efean cutlure, but looked down upon in the Suro (Patron) culture -- they are "mules." But Jessamy's father loves her mother and their daughters and cares for them and protects them as best he can.

Jessamy has one goal in life -- to play the Fives, an athletic competition that combines strength, speed, balance, strategy, and mental sharpness. She trains in secret, but dreams of one day being able to compete.

When disaster falls upon her family, it's her skill at Fives that ends up saving herself, her mother, and her sisters. It's this skill and passion that introduces her to Kalliarkos, a Patron of extremely high standing, with whom she forms a friendship, despite unanimous disaproval. Now, Jess is caught up in political schemes beyond her control, a pawn in games she isn't even aware of. And it's through this turn of events that she begins to get glimpses into the history of her mother's people, glimpses that lead her to believe that maybe the history she's been told isn't exactly the whole truth.

My enjoyment of Court of Fives can be summed up like this: I immediately bought the second book once I finished it. Kate Elliott builds the most amazing worlds, and it's always fun and interesting and exciting to spend time in them. Her plots are layered and detailed, and I really enjoyed the complex -- i.e., interesting and realistic -- relationships between the various characters. Jess is a bit exasperating at times, but who isn't?

Bottom line: well-crafted YA fantasy well-worth your time

Thursday, February 9, 2017

A Thursday list

1. Just started reading The Court of Fives by Kate Elliott. Pacific rim- inspired fantasy fiction and so far I'm digging it.

2. It's officially training time for the Oklahoma City Memorial Half Marathon! It's been a few years since I've trained for anything, and I'm excited. Slightly apprehensive since there are a lot more things to factor in when scheduling my time, but my goal is just to finish, so the bar isn't set too high.

3. I've had a bad luck streak with technology lately and currently using an old backup phone until my new one comes in. It's helping me see what apps and other smart phone features I really use and miss when they're gone. Interestingly, I've really backed off blog reading lately, and notice it especially with the lack of feed reader app (and the switch to a new feed reader). I think it's a combination of size of my free time blocks and the pace at which my brain currently absorbs information. Which also makes me think of...

4. quest lately to find a consistent and reliable way of consuming news. I don't actually want to rely on Facebook and Twitter headlines. But takes a change in my reading habits that just hasn't happened yet. But I think these days with so much news and opinion and information (and misinformation) flying around, I'd be better off being at least semi-well informed. But, I've never been a news junkie and have no desire to be. I guess I want to consume news in the most efficient way possible, and not let it consume my time.

5. I've been trying kombucha recently and I like it! In a perfect world I might even brew my own, and while the little bit I've read about it makes it seem easy -- or at least, not hard -- it just seems like one more thing to start and keep up with, and maybe....I'll just buy it on occasion. I need a local friend who brews it. That's my solution for everything  really -- have friends with interesting hobbies that are different from mine! (like when we were living at the beach: don't go through the work of having your own boat....just have good friends who do).

Happy Friday-eve!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Reading...The Undoing of Saint Silvanus

The Undoing of Saint Silvanus The Undoing of Saint Silvanus is Beth Moore's first foray into fiction, and I really enjoyed it. It's a little bit of a mystery, a little bit of a family drama, and a little bit of redemption story. It's set in New Orleans, and centers around the family and residents of Saint Sans, an old church turned boarding house/apartment house. Jillian, a young woman living and working in San Fransisco, gets a call from her estranged father's family letting her know that her father -- an alcoholic living for the most part on the streets -- has been murdered. Despite her mother's objections and her own misgivings, she heads down to New Orleans for the funeral. Jillian has a pretty big chip on her shoulder as the story starts. She's searching and lonely and subconsciously not really happy with her life (although she would tell you differently). The story and mystery and well-crafted, and the characters are a delight to spend time with -- even Jillian, as much as I wanted to smack her a few times. The real strength to this novel though, is the style. Beth tells the story like a classic Southern storyteller, rich in detail, sly commentary, and human observations.

Bottom line: a really good read.

Friday, January 27, 2017

A Friday list

1. The munchkins and I took advantage of cool weather and a brand new zoo pass today and went down to the Houston Zoo for the morning.  I love having annual passes to things like the zoo, amusement parks, or museums because there's no pressure to see ALL THE THINGS in one day. We enjoyed being outside, saw some animals, and learned a few things about the best way to take two very independent toddlers to the zoo (hint: just stay a couple of hours because who has the energy to constantly say "this way. over here. this way. stay with mommy" all day long). C did pretty well, but M is definitely 17 months old and still figuring that whole thing out. I trired a little backpack leash we have with him, but it was...unsuccessful at this point. We'll try again.

2. I got into the habit of using a blog feed reader when I was working as a librarian and keeping up with lots of book and library blogs, and it's something I still do to some extent. I'm going to try out a new feed reader though, because I kept having trouble with the app on the old one.

3. New running shoes came in the mail today!! And I signed up for a spring half marathon yesterday. The Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon (and half marathon). I'm a little nervous about starting to actually train for something, but I need a little shake up in my running routine.

4. I do pretty well most days at just going with the flow when it comes to M's food allergies, but today I just really, really want to order pizza for dinner, and that's a no go for him. Maybe I can fudge something for him and he won't notice that he's eating something different and can't have bites from our plate. Or maybe I'll find some motivation to cook dinner. We'll see!

5. Started The Undoing of Saint Sylvanus this week, and so far am enjoying Beth Moore's first foray into fiction. J and I also started watching Stranger Things (finally, right?) and even though we are only three episodes in I am hooked!

Happy Friday, y'all!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Two books and a movie

It was a good weekend for stories at my house. First, I finished The Shadow Throne, by Jennifer A. Nielsen (third book in The Ascendance trilogy) and was a solid, satisfying ending to this fantasy trilogy. I'm not going to say much about the plot so as not to give away any spoilers, but I can tell you that this trilogy's strength lies in its tight pacing, great characters, and the various relationship dynamics. There may be a little romance in the books, but the story doesn't hinge on that, which was refreshing. And while the story itself isn't groundbreaking, it told a familiar story in a fresh voice and felt like the best kind of comfort food.

I also devoured A Tangle of Gold, by Jaclyn Moriarty, another trilogy conclusion (The Colours of Madeleine -- apparently this was also the weekend of trilogies). I can't say enough how much I enjoyed these books. For one thing, worldbuilding is unique and magical, grounded in reality, but a slightly bent and colored reality. Second, it's just a good story, and as the story unfolds, I kept telling myself "this isn't what it seems" or "this has to mean something" and "wait a second..."  The author does a good job of gradually pulling all these teasers and hints and glimpses into focus throughout the trilogy, and in this book in particular. It's also a book with characters that started feeling like friends. I appreciated how the characters grew and developed and learned and weren't stagnant. The books are fun, but with depth and substance, and basically, these books are delightful. I didn't want it to end and I wanted to hang out with everyone in it forever.

And finally, Sing Street. Y'all. This movie. I seriously wanted to watch it again as soon as I finished it, although preferably with a friend to share the experience. Sing Street has been on my radar for a while, and I'm so glad I finally pressed play. It's set in 1980s Dublin, where we meet Conor, a 15 year old boy who loves music. When the movie starts out he's been sent to a new school. It's rougher than his old school, and he runs into bullies both in his peers and in the school administration. He meets Raphina -- older, mysterious, edgy, and gorgeous. He tells her he's in a band and wants to use her in a music video so he can get her number. When she says okay...well, then he's got to start a band. The movie is about music, friendship, growing up, finding your voice, falling in love, heartbreak, hope, family, and taking chances. It's a coming of age movie, a brother move, a friend movie, a romance. (And for real: the number one relationship of this movie is not Conor and Raphina, it's Conor and his older brother Brendan. Such a great and unexpected part of the movie (on a side note: I kept thinking the actor looked like a cross between Chris Hemsworth and Chris Pratt). In addition to the brother story, I think all the supporting characters just really elevated the whole film. No matter how seemingly small a part, each character was exactly pitch perfect. Eamon, Barry, Ngig, Penny and Robert and Ann, Brother Baxter....all of them, just super solid. Anyway, I loved this movie. Loved it, loved it, loved it.

Monday, January 9, 2017

A Monday list

1. My first list of 2017! Umm...ok first blog list. I have already made at least two to-do lists. Three. Three to-do list. One for the day on Friday, one for the month, and one for our upcoming vacation in March. I really like lists. The other day, my two year old -- who loves paper and pens and pencils -- had a piece of paper and a pencil and said "I need to make my list." Where does she come up with this stuff? (she says sarcastically)

2. First run of 2017 -- Saturday, home in Houston, podcast on, and was actually cold. Not as cold as it is where my running friends live in Pennsylvania, Nebraska, and Michigan...but I had to bust out my hat and gloves, for sure. Not my best run, to be honest, but the sun was shining and I moved for 3 miles (40 minutes. Yes, I'm slow) and it was great!

3. My word of the year this year is "present." I want to embrace my present, the things I like and the things I don't. I still want to set goals and go after them, but with an attitude of contentment grounding me. I want to be present in ever day -- with my family, my friends, my neighbors. Now, my children are already reminding me that in this season of life, "present" also includes "flexible." My little people like to play havoc with my sleep, so I'm trying to remember to roll with it. Would I like to set the goal of getting up 30 minutes early each day to write or run? Sure! But when the kiddos spend the hours of 3:30 and 7 a.m. taking turns waking up, that's not going to happen. I make the time when I can. Does this mean that for this (tired) routine-loving girl those "me" things or projects may not happen as often as I'd like? Maybe so. But I guess it gives me something to work on.

4. Brought some Port City Java coffee home from Wilmington. Ahhh. In addition to adding a bit of deliciousness to my coffee cup, it makes me feel a little more connected to the dear friends we got to see while we were out there visiting over New Year's.

5. I'm reading The Shadow Kingdom by Jennifer A. Nielsen right now, and have a library copy of A Tangle of Gold by Jaclyn Moriarty waiting in the wings. Also trying to catch up on my favorite podcasts and still leisurely reading Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequest. I've been reading that one for a while, but it's not one I feel the need to rush through.

Happy Monday!