Tuesday, December 29, 2015

On the other hand...

I could finish the Queen of the Tearling, but I'm having a tough time staying interested and I own it....on the other hand...I could read my library copy of Queen of Shadows, the fourth book in the Throne of Glass series. No contest: Queen of Shadows.

I could take a nap because someone has decided to go back to waking up a couple of times a night instead of spoiling mama with only waking up once a night and right now both children are napping at THE SAME TIME...on the other hand...I could write a blog post which I've been putting on my to-do list at least three times a week for a month. And maybe sneak in a 15 minute power nap after?

I could tell everyone how I've started listening to The Night Circus and I'm already a little in love with it (yes, I know everyone and their dog has read this book already. I'm never going to be up on new books again. Just a heads-up)....on the other hand...there is no other hand. Having this cued up in Audible may be the best thing that ever happened to my housecleaning/running/knitting.

I could get overwhelmed by the number of things I want to do...and the number of things I NEED to do and the fact that it's just easier to do none of it....on the other hand...I could just take one thing at a time, attempt to mix up the urgent with the important/the want with the need, and try to accept when I  can't do everything. And ask for help when I need it.

Yesterday, I finished week 3, day 3 of Couch to 5k. Yay! Running! I'm feeling motivated so far, and now just need to stay motivated enough to add in a day or two (realistically, a day) of yoga during the week, and a little bit of core work to help the running go better (and to help everything go better, really). I'm inspired by the plank these days, especially after my friend Tess posted a link about plank exercises. No other hand here....just an attempt to get my booty in gear. Next up...goals for 2016.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Thursday List

1. Farmyard Beat Farmyard Beat, by Lindsey Craig and Marc Brown is seriously adorable and fun. Even when you are asked to read it " 'gain!" about 30 times in a row. 

2. The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #1)I started Queen of the Tearling last week, continuing my streak of reading books that were popular and recommended to me so long ago I can't remember who recommended it. Haven't gotten very far yet, but so far, so good. And isn't that an awesome cover? The downside to reading the ebook.

3. For most of the years we lived in North Carolina, we had a tradition of sharing a New Year's Day breakfast with our friends (the ones we'd partied with the night before, of course) where we'd all sit around and talk about the previous year and our goals and dreams for the coming year. So I'm in the habit of participating in the traditional end-of-the-year reflection and contemplation, and I've been thinking about it off and on the past week or two. And I'm sure I'll talk about it more some other time, but meanwhile....

4. Now that it's December, I'm ready to embrace the Christmas season! Our calendar is about maxed out on planned activities -- Christmas party, family tree-decorating-movie-watching, cookie exchange, lunch with Santa, and a plan to drive around and look at Christmas lights. Now I've just got to fit Christmas shopping in there somewhere, and we live in Houston so...the lawn really needs to be mowed (thankfully that's Jeremy's job still). And hopefully we'll have time for a little spontaneous fun and/or relaxing on the couch to a Christmas movie or two.

5. And speaking of Christmas movies! I love hearing about everyone's favorite Christmas movies. From Elf to Die Hard, White Christmas (this girl's favorite) or It's a Wonderful Life and all the many versions of A Christmas Carol or Santa Claus or your very favorite made for t.v. holiday cheesefest.

Friday, November 20, 2015


Some days it feels like I'm drowning in alternating seas of snarky cynicism or over-polished commercialism, and that is never more overwhelming than around holidays. Some days I just want to throw my hands up and say "fine! Nothing is good, or worthy, or perfect, so I won't celebrate anything because I'm going to get something wrong, or offend someone, or not offend enough people, or something." But today, I'm going to realize that the only thing I can control is myself, and that change starts with one person. So I am going to ignore the snark on one side and the hype on the other, and reclaim my favorite holiday for the joy that it can bring. 

For me, Thanksgiving is about gratitude and welcome. It's about being present with people you love, or showing love to people you don't know very well. It's sharing food with family, playing games or watching movies, or going for a long walk or hike. Whatever it is you enjoy doing together. It's about sharing a meal with people who have no family, creating a community where you are. It's about reaching out, gathering in, and being thankful. And to me, Thanksgiving is about finding some inner rest -- embracing a season in which nature pauses and just takes a break after a season of working really hard.

It's a potluck lunch with people whose family live scattered across the country, each person bringing their favorite family dish and then getting to enjoy other families' traditions as you share your own. 

It's grilling bratwurst on a balmy day at the beach, when it's just you and a couple of other friends. It's not the number, it's the company.

It's 25 people packed around tables spread in the backyard -- being included in a big family gathering because your family lives far away.

It's aunts, uncles, cousins, and a foreign exchange student from Switzerland. Pie, card games, and some low-key football outside.

It's all-day games, movie marathons, and music. 

It's meeting someone the week before who has no Thanksgiving plans, and inviting them to your home. 

It's sharing, giving, and being grateful. Celebrating sometimes, and sometimes just trying to find any reason to give thanks. It's remembering those who aren't there, and sometimes being a little sad. 

Whatever form your Thanksgiving takes, may you find what you need, give what you can, and enjoy it! 

Reading...I Capture the Castle

I Capture the Castle I have several books that sit on my Kindle that are kind of "backup" books. Books I purchased because I wanted to read them someday, but I want to pull them out when I'm not in the mood for something else, or I've hit a crossroads when it comes to 'what to read next' or I don't have any library books. I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith was one of those books. And I admit that I bought it so long ago, I'd even forgotten what it was about. But sometimes, that's a pretty great experience, and it certainly was with this book. 
I Capture the Castle is the story of a family, a snapshot of their life told through the journals of Cassandra, the middle of the three Mortmain children. It's the mid-1930s in rural England, and the Mortmains are a once upper-middle class family who have run out of money. Mr. Mortmain is a famous literary author whose critically acclaimed book has stopped earning money. Mr. Mortmain sits all day in what is essentially his study or office and reads books or works crossword puzzles. The children's mother is deceased, and Topaz -- Mortmain's wife -- is a former artist's model whose earning potential we quickly discover is small at best. Rose, the eldest daughter, bemoans the family's poverty and longs to find herself a rich husband ala a Jane Austen heroine. Thomas, the youngest, has a scholarship and attends a good school. Cassandra wants to be a writer, and has begun practicing speed writing with the thought of one day training to become a secretary. Stephen, the orphaned son of the family's former housekeeper, helps around the castle, in the garden, and eventually gets a small job at a neighboring farm. The family lives in a crumbling down old castle with a Tudor home built into the ruins. Cassandra begins keeping her journal to capture life at the castle, and ends up capturing a brief period of time in which life changes quite dramatically.

I don't have much to say about this book except it was really just delightful, quietly funny and engaging. Smith does a great job of evoking a sense of place, and I really felt like I'd taken a little mini-vacation to rural England by reading this book. It's a book about family, friendship, romance, and making your own happiness.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Thursday List

1. It is a beautiful day here.

2. Life lesson: there isn't time for all the things. And if there IS time, there isn't energy, or mental power, or emotional power. You gotta choose, and them make peace with your choices. And remember that you can usually choose differently tomorrow.

3. On Tuesday I finished the last of the coffee that my friend Megan sent me from Port City Java.  However, that very same day I got a package in the mail with coffee from GuateJava, which supports the non profit Global Community Works, an organization doing really cool things for sustainable development in Guatemala. This is proof that God is a coffee drinker.

4. I ran on Tuesday. Well, I ran/walked. Couch to 5k, week 1, day 1. It wasn't pretty, but it was awesome. I'm hoping to do day 2 on Friday (it's the next best day schedule-wise). With a little and a littler, I'm not putting too much pressure on myself, but I figure a girl's got to have goals, right?

5. Speaking of goals...I see you sitting over there unfinished novel. I haven't forgotten you, I'll just refer you to #2.

6. I'm anxiously awaiting a few library holds, so I started a book that's been chilling on my Kindle for a while: I Captured the Castle. Haven't made it too far yet, because I was catching up on iZombie (fun show, by the way).

Happy Thursday, friends!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Reading...As You Wish

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride As You Wish, by Cary Elwes with Joe Layden is a must-read for any fan of The Princess Bride, or any fan of film making. With the help of several of his Princess Bride cast-mates, Elwes walks the reader through the entire creation of this classic film. It's clear that everyone involved in this film sees it as one of the highlights of their career, so there's that perfect sense of nostalgia and warmth. It's like a family reunion without any interpersonal drama, just fun stories and lots of compliments. And although that may make it sound bland, it's the drama of the film itself that keeps it from being saccharine. Elwes takes you on a journey, from the casting, to the epic sword fight (who knew that Elwes and Mandy Patinkin practiced six days a week for almost the entire duration of filming), to silly accidents, and the challenges of shooting scenes with the hilarious Billy Crystal (Mandy Patinkin apparently cracked a rib from holding in his laughter). It's really just a delightful book. And it's really great in audio, because Elwes reads it himself, except for the little parts written by his friends, which are read by those individuals: Rob Reiner, Billy Crystal, Robin Wright, Chris Sarandan, Christopher Guest, and a few others. And be prepared: you will want to watch the movie immediately upon finishing this book. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Some reading, a rant, a little randomness....you know, a typical Wednesday, but with alliterations

So, let's start with the reading: I'm actually working on an unheard of TWO non-fiction books right now. Listening to As You Wish, by Cary Elwes, and so far it's as great as one might imagine it to be. A memoir about the making of everyone's favorite modern fairy tale, read in audio book format by Cary and a few of his Princess Bride compatriots. It's making dish-washing much more entertaining. The second book I'm reading is called the 10 Habits of a Happy Mom, by Meg Meeker. Nothing earth shattering here, but it has some good reminders and solid practical advice. (and it's not as hokey as the title sounds, I promise).

Now on to the rant: Daylight Savings Time ends this weekend. I can rant for DAYS on why I hate DST. Not that it ends this weekend, no...I hate that we move to DST in the spring. First of all, the innacuracy kills me. IT DOESN'T "SAVE" DAYLIGHT. IT JUST SHIFTS IT AROUND. There is a finite number of daylight hours each day of the year. That never changes. Which is why I currently get up in the pitch black, even when it's 7 a.m. All DST does is make our sleep and energy levels wonky for two weeks out of the year. And yes, I know that a lot of people like having more time after work/school to do things outside, but is it really worth it? Ask the people in Arizona and half of Indiana what they think. Oh, and the rest of the world. Honestly, I'd be happy to just change the time permanently and be done with it. Or leave it. Either way, the flip flopping drives me batty (as if the excessive caps weren't your first clue).

And for randomness...I got nothing. Except an infant, which is as random as it gets.

 Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Reading...You're never weird on the internet (almost)

You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) If you enjoy memoirs with a light, quirky, funny voice, you'll probably enjoy this book. If you've ever found yourself with a less-than-mainstream interest, you'll probably enjoy this book. If you've ever found yourself a bit of an outsider, or if it took you a while to find your tribe, you'll probably enjoy this book. If you like anything "geeky" -- video games, board games, fantasy fiction, science fiction, comic books, etc. -- then you probably already know who Felicia Day is and you've already read this book. If not...you'll definitely like You're Never Weird on the Internet (almost). 
I thoroughly enjoyed Day's book. I laughed out loud basically at least once a chapter. And while it's certainly wry and witty and funny, Day touches on a few more serious subjects such as her run-in with some of the appalling people of "gamergate" and her near-mental breakdown. But she does so with the light touch with which she writes the whole book. It's light without being frothy, down-to-earth, and like reading a letter from a good friend.

oh, but I do have to say...not ALL homeschoolers (myself included) had her particular brand of kind-of-crazy-and-not-at-all-well-rounded homeschooling. Many of us had/have pretty standard educations.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Tuesday list

1. Today's to-do list has pretty much gone the way of just making it through everyday tasks like keeping up with dishes and hungry kiddos. I did finish sorting through the girl-munchkin's current and next-size clothes to make sure we were ready for the cool weather that we will eventually be getting. But you know...I'm okay with that. Newborn rule number 1: lower your expectations and every day is a win.

2. Coffee. Mmmm....coffee. I'd been taking a break since the boy-munchkin was born, not wanting to challenge his brand new (and seriously gassy) digestive system with caffeine just yet. But this week I've had to take a nursing break due to an antibiotic, so I've been enjoying a little time each day with my old friend.

3. So You Think You Can Dance. Just when I'd gotten a little burnt out on this show I love, they mixed it up this summer just enough to bring me back. I got behind the past few weeks, but have spent yesterday and today catching up. It's been a fun season! I enjoyed the new stage vs. street format, and enjoyed the new judges (we ALL needed a break from the Hot Tamale Train, am I right?) Next fun and fluffy reality competition show on my radar: the return of The Voice.

4. Road trip, part 2. A couple of weeks ago we went to Austin and back for nieces' birthday party. The kiddos did as good as we could have asked on the trip. Three hours there, three hours back (including our stops). Our next adventure will be in a few days when we head over the river and through the woods to grandmother's (Nana's and Grandpapa's) house. Four hours with no stops, so I'm hopeful we can make it in five. We'll see!

5. And because we can't walk away from each other without talking books for a minute: I've got the third Throne of Glass book on loan from the library and will start that hopefully today, I just finished Anne of Windy Poplars in my long-overdue Anne Shirley re-read, and will start Anne's House of Dreams next (one of my favorites!) And I'm savoring my way through Felicia Day's memoir You're Never Weird On the Internet (Almost) (so far, as funny and charming as I expected). And for audio, I've got Summer Night, by Jim Butcher (a Dresden Files book -- as an aside, I've never read a print version of this series because when they're all read by Spike from Buffy, why would I?)

5.2 For anyone who wonders "how is she finding time to read with a new baby and a toddler???" let me just say that boy munchkin likes to eat a lot, and as I'm not yet adept at nursing and walking around, I spend a lot of time sitting. Sometimes I'm chatting or reading to the girl-munchkin, but even if you just count the after-bedtime and middle of the night feedings, that's a good 1-2 hours of potential reading right there.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto

One of the reasons I journal, and one of the reasons I blog is that it helps get the running commentary out of my head when my head just gets too crowded. Basically, it's an alternative to talking to imaginary friends. And when you're currently spending hours a day feeding a newborn, you end up with a lot of thoughts running through your head...of course you also end up with not a lot of energy/hours in the day to write, but we do what we can.

So, yes, newborn. Baby boy, name: Matrim (short "a", like Mat). Not a common name, you're right, but you might recognize it from the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. We're a book loving family. He's quite a cutie, mostly cheeks and lips and wrinkled forehead. Definitely a keeper.

Bringing a new baby home has reminded me that there's only so much preparation one can do for a huge life change. I know that having a newborn and 17 month old will be a challenge and completely change our routine. But there's only so much I can do to prepare for that. I can what-if myself all day long, but at the end of the day anything involving another human being (no matter how tiny) involves a lot of wait-and-see-then-adapt-and-adjust. Some days that's easier than others.

I read an excerpt from Jen Hatmaker's new book For the Love (which...note to self: buy soon) in which she talks about the freedom of 40. And one of the things she has found about turning 40 is less need to justify or excuse one's choices. That really spoke to me, especially as I daily wonder if I'm doing "enough." Women around the world know the struggle to stay out of the comparison game. To feel like every other woman is judging your choices, or judging how competent/not-competent you are. It's definitely a mom thing, but not exclusively -- I felt the need for validation long before I became a mama. One of my life goals is to live free and confident and comfortable with myself. I don't want to wait until I'm 40.

One thing I've learned since the first baby, is how much better I felt the first time I did something that felt normal or routine or part of life that's beyond diapers and milk. So I've been quicker to get dressed in the morning, and we went to church last week, and if I have 30 magical minutes when both kids are napping I might spend 10 of them reading a chapter in a book and 20 of them taking a power nap. Of course, doing normal every-day things is pretty much a necessity this time around with a toddler running around needing to be fed and changed and loved on too. But it's helped mentally and emotionally.

And speaking of reading chapters in books, I felt like a comfort read lately, and am filling that need with some Anne Shirley and Avonlea. I made my way through Anne of Green Gables pre-delivery, and am currently enjoying Anne of Avonlea. It's almost making up for the current lack of coffee in my life. (almost)

So here we are. New reality that changes daily. Beautiful moments and really, really hard moments. Plenty of laughter and cuddles and plenty of tears (not always from the babies either...let's be real). But we press on, grateful for God's grace, family, friends, and always remembering the sage words of Anne Shirley: each day is new, with no mistakes in it yet.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Reading...The Program

The Program (The Program, #1) The modern world is faced with a new epidemic: teen suicides. One in three teenagers in the world of The Program commit suicide. It's treated as an infectious disease, and scientists and doctors around the world scramble to come up with a cure. A few states -- including Oregon, where the story is set -- have implemented the Program, an in-patient treatment where the patients' infected memories are removed and they are returned to society calm, happy, and well-adjusted. At least, that's the theory. And it certainly seems to be working. The Program carefully monitors and watches teenagers for any signs of depression and "infection." Parents are encouraged to turn their children in if need be. But not everyone wants to have some of their memories erased. Not everyone sees these alterations as a good thing. Sloane and James are trying to be careful. Despite the infection of close friends and the suicide of Sloane's brother and James' best friend, the two try to keep each other grounded and stable...long enough to turn 18 in less than a year, when they can be free from the Program's reach. But their grief and the stress of trying to keep it hidden and put on a happy face eventually get to them, and eventually the Program gets to them as well. 
I'm pretty picky when it comes to dystopian novels these days, but this is a pretty good one. It's a little heavy on the teen angst, but I think appropriately and realistically so. I mean, you're talking about a book about teen suicide, grief, the idea of true love, and all the intense, passionate emotions that just come as part of being 17. And I think the book does a good job of highlighting the importance of validating and working through strong and tough emotions, of getting REAL help when needed -- not just forcing people to put on a happy face and say everything is ok. 
I also think the author did a great job of creating a truly disturbing and terrifying atmosphere. I spent a good chunk of this book stressed. out. Worried for our main characters. Creeped out by the Program handler who is clearly smarmy and gross (and yes...proves to be just that). Distrustful of people who aren't as they seem, and horrified by the forced medication and manipulation of the patients. 
Oh, and it's not a stand-alone novel. A few things are resolved at the end, but it's definitely not a fully satisfying ending.  
Bottom line: if you're in the mood for a dystopian novel, this one won't disappoint. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Reading...The Slow Regard of Silent Things

The Slow Regard of Silent Things (The Kingkiller Chronicle #2.5) The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss is a unique novella that is less story and more character study. It's a snapshot in the life of Auri, a minor (if you simply go by page count) character in Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicles. It's not a book for everyone -- if you like plot and action then you may not like it. But if you like really getting to know a character then it's pretty great. If you appreciate words and beautiful writing, it's pretty great. I will say, that it doesn't really stand alone. It's best read if you've read the other books in Rothfuss' trilogy. So...maybe the shortest and least helpful book "review" in history, but it's what I've been up to!

Friday, July 31, 2015

A little creative writing

So, for two days I worked on a blog post relating to a rewatch of Gilmore Girls that I'm in the middle of. And then I realized I kind of hated it. So instead, I'm going to post a little snippet of a potential romance that I wrote when I needed a break from the novel I'm perpetually working on. It should be noted that this is a rough first draft so...it's not perfect, by any means. Enjoy!

Not allowed

Liam O’Donnell lay in his bed across town, doing his own avoidance routine. He listened to the sounds of his roommate Trevyn getting ready for work, and wondered what the odds were that Trevyn would say anything about last night if Liam were to emerge from his hole.

Last night. It seemed like a good idea at the time. A text blast: hey, Beta Radio’s playing downtown tonight, who’s in? It was a week night, but only a few bowed out due to early morning work commitments. Liam had gotten to the bar early, grabbed a drink and sat in the back with his laptop, finishing up some freelance work that was due in a couple of days. A couple of hours later, he glanced up from the screen as he saved his progress and saw Holly walk in the door. Her long, burnished gold hair hung loose around her shoulders. Liam thought she must have come straight from work, since she was wearing a soft orange sweater, tailored gray skirt, and heels, rather than her usual jeans and flip flops. Of course, she looked amazing, whatever she was wearing.

He watched as she stood in the back for a moment, glancing around the bar. A column and the back of the booth blocked Liam from her view, and he debated standing up and waving to her. Things between them since the breakup were usually fine, but definitely more fine in a group of people. Plus, if she couldn’t see him, he could watch her unguarded.

A big table close to the stage opened up, and Holly made her way there to snag it. Just as she was draping her jacket over the back of a chair, the bar door opened again and Trevyn and Elaine walked in, laughing loudly. They waved at Holly and made their way to her, Trevyn gesturing grandly, Elaine still giggling. Trevyn did tell the best stories. Liam stayed put, watching as a few more friends arrived. He watched Holly laughing and hugging everyone, watched as they all ordered drinks and a few ordered food, most having come from work since the show was pretty early. He saw Holly continually glancing around, and Liam told himself that maybe she was looking for him. But he knew, as her gaze occasionally paused on a good looking guy here and there, that she was looking for someone new. Fresh. Different. Holly was a dater – she liked having fun, and she liked to do it with new people. She went on a lot of first dates. Liam and Holly had dated for two months, and it was the longest she’d ever been with the same person.

Eventually, Liam packed away his laptop, slung his bag across his chest, and walked toward his friends. He was greeted with the usual hellos and hugs and backslaps.

“I thought you were getting off early,” Trevyn said, mouth full of chicken nachos. “Where’ve you been?”

Liam patted his bag. “Had some freelance work to finish. Deadline.”

“Well, there are no more nachos for you. You’re out of luck.”

“I’ll survive,” Liam said drily. Trevyn was a bit of a health nut. He played basketball in a weekly game with work buddies, and was in a flag football league. Six-pack abs, rock hard arms…the works. He had a kind of young Idris Elba thing going on, and he joked that he had to eat healthy to keep up appearances. But he had a weakness for nachos. Well, nachos and Britt’s donuts, but at least you could only get those nine months out of the year.

Liam hung his bag over the back of his chair and asked the waitress who’d just arrived for another pint. He leaned back in his chair and looked around the round six-top, at which eight of his friends were crowded around. Trevyn, Elaine, and Mike sat closest to the table, Trevyn and Mike polishing off their nachos while Elaine ate a burger and fries. Then there was Chris, Trina, Hannah, Hannah’s friend Brent, and of course Holly. All of them except Brent had been friends since their freshman year at UNCW. All Yankees lured South by the promise of beautiful beaches and warm weather. Trevyn and Liam had been friends since junior high, and neighbors in a small town in Wisconsin. They'd met Mike and Chris on move-in day. Mike came from Indiana, and Chris from Ohio. They’d all bonded over a love of Mountain Dew and Pepsi (an enigma in North Carolina’s Coke and Sun Drop crowd), and braved the freshman waters together. Trevyn met Elaine and Hannah in his biology class their first semester, and when the six of them started hanging out, they’d brought along Trina and Holly, fellow Midwestern buddies from their orientation group.

After the initial – it’s so nice to have met people with the same taste in music/movies/books/food – there was a brief period of awkwardness where nearly everyone fumbled through some almost hookups, before deciding that they were all better off as a group of friends. Of course, Holly and Liam broke that unspoken code, but that was many years later so the breakup didn’t have quite the same effect it could have in college.

And then they’d all stayed, gotten jobs, moved in. The beach town had delivered on its promises, and no one had wanted to shovel feet of snow every winter or give up year-round access to the beach. It was a pretty common occurrence in Wilmington – come for a degree, stay forever. Bugged the locals, but it helped keep the economy going.

“Hey, gorgeous.” Liam caught a whiff of gardenia perfume as Holly slid into the chair next to me and gave me a hug.

“Hey there,” Liam replied. “How was work today?”

She made a face. “Let’s not talk about that. The newest professor is completely full of himself.” 

Holly had an art history fellowship through UNC Chapel Hill that allowed her to work at UNCW as a adjunct while doing research on her dissertation. She’d been afraid that she’d have to move after she’d been accepted, but the committee had agreed to let her work under one of the professors in Wilmington and just drive to Chapel Hill once a week for meetings and lectures.

Liam raised an eyebrow. “More so than the rest of them?”

Holly smacked his arm. “Yes! Don’t be mean. How about you?” she asked. “How was your day?”

“Long,” he replied. “Mostly client meetings. Dave likes to schedule them all in one day, because he hates himself and the rest of us.”

Holly laughed. “Poor thing. Well, what are you working on right now?”

Liam told her about his projects, noticing as he did that while Holly was certainly listening – commenting and asking questions – her eyes kept up their constant scan of the bar. It was the first thing that started coming between them when they were dating: Liam getting hurt at her seeming innatention. He remembered several fights during evenings out. It still bugged him a little, but he knew he had no right to ask her to stop. Instead, he just cut his work commentary short.

Before too long, everyone was talking with everyone else, but Liam felt like he could only half concentrate on the conversation because the other half of him was acutely aware that Holly’s chair had migrated closer and closer to his. That her left side was pressed against his right side as she leaned into the group’s conversation, gesturing to make a point. She laughed at something Brent said – Liam hadn’t heard the joke – leaning even more into Liam, her left arm now resting across his back. He wondered if he could shrug her off without making a scene, maybe get up and go to the bathroom. But as he was wondering this, the band took the stage, and the low bar lights got a bit lower. Liam felt stuck. He didn’t want to get up now, he didn’t want to make a scene – and extracting himself from Holly would do that, he knew from experience – but his nerve endings were lit up, and he wasn’t allowed to feel that way anymore.

The band was fantastic, as usual, and Liam tried to concentrate on the music. Not on the smell of gardenias, or the silk of Holly’s hair against his jaw as she rested her head on his shoulder. Not on the feel of her skin as she wrapped her arm around his. He caught a few of his friends eyeing him, Trevyn giving him a pointed look that said buddy, just pull out, you’re embarrassing yourself. As if it was that easy. It should have been that easy. And no, when the music was over and everyone stood up to head home – work night after all – he should have followed Trevyn out the door. Not said “Okay” when Holly said “I’m wired! Let’s go walk along the water.” Not let her wrap her arm around his waist as they walked out the door and along the boardwalk. It’s not that he didn’t enjoy her company as they walked mostly silent along the moonlit river. It’s that he enjoyed it too much. That when he walked her to her car and said goodnight, all he wanted to do was wrap her in his arms and kiss her senseless. And that wasn’t allowed anymore.  

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Reading...One Plus One

One Plus One
Why hello there, internet. Long time no see. Apologies for my absence....I was busy being sick...and then getting ready for camp. And probably just kind of being lazy a few days in there too. It's hard to get back in the groove when you've gotten out of it. 

Anyway...while camping in the sweltering heat with a bunch of teenagers for a week may not sound like everyone's idea of a vacation (it was awesome, by the way!), I did do one traditionally vacation-y thing last week: I read a book! A whole book, start to finish. 

You may remember how much I loved Me Before You. After I finished it, I just wanted more Jojo Moyes, so I immediately placed One Plus One on hold at the library, and it conveniently became available just before camp. I'd say it's not as technically well-written as Me Before You, but it's every bit as enjoyable. Jess is a single mom struggling to make ends meet and care for her doesn't-fit-into-this-small-town-slightly-goth-but-very-sweet stepson and her quirky and maths-crazy daughter (who perhaps has a touch of Asperger's? It's never really gone into in the book, but could be a possibility). Ed is a wealthy programmer and tech geek who is getting ready to go to trial for insider trading. He's laying low per lawyer's instructions and Jess is trying to get her daughter to a Maths Olympiad in Scotland. Jess and her friend -- who work as house cleaners -- have been cleaning Ed's coastal house for quite a while, but their first in-person encounter doesn't leave much of a favorable impression. When Ed happens to come along when Jess's plans get derailed, he offers to give her, the kids, and their huge dog Norman a ride to Scotland. 

One Plus One is a love story, a family story, a story about finding your tribe, about optimism and disappointment. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A (very random) Tuesday List

1. I've been thinking about running today. There are several things I miss about running -- remind me that I miss running when I'm getting back into it and complaining every step of the way -- but today what I miss is is that whole-body-tired-muscles-wrung-out-but-in-a-good-way feeling.

2. Have I mentioned how much I love iced coffee in the summertime? Mmmm...hits the spot.

3. I'm waiting for some holds to come in at the library, so in the meantime I've been in the mood for a reread. Specifically Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. Have you read it? Fantastic.

4. Some lovely friends from church told me the other night that they want to play with Christina for an afternoon to give me a break. What a treat! I can't decide if I want to take a long nap, putter around the house alone, or go out and get a pedicure and maybe do a little solo shopping. I'm leaning toward the latter -- it's really hard to reach my feet these days.

5. Less than two weeks until Sooner Youth Camp! For one week I won't be the only one in the room sweating! (everything they say about pregnancy in the summertime is true)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Reading...Me Before You

I remember reading a lot of good reviews of the book Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes when it came out a few years ago. Somehow, it never made it into my hands then, but when I came across the ebook on sale, I snatched it up. Over the weekend I finally started reading it...and could not put it down. It's engaging, extremely well-written, thought-provoking, funny, and very sad.

Louisa (Lou) is a 26-year-old woman living in a small English town with her parents, her grandfather, her younger sister, and her sister's 5-year-old son. She has a boyfriend of six years and a job she loves at a cafe. It's a quiet life, but she's happy. Her life is shaken up when the cafe where she works closes. Job prospects in her small town are slim, and eventually comes down to a choice between pole dancing and becoming a caregiver/companion for a quadripelegic. Although neither is all that appealing, she takes the caregiver position. It's a six month assignment, and pays remarkably well. She shows up on her first day expecting an elderly client. Instead, she meets Will -- 35, beligerant, sarcastic, unhappy, and sometimes downright mean. She decides it's going to be a long six months.

Will used to live a big life -- head of an international corporation, world-traveler, adventurer, lady-charmer. He worked hard and played hard, until one rainy morning he crosses the street and gets hit by a motorcyclist. In an instant, his life shrinks to the size on his chair, his small house, and his almost constant pain and discomfort. Will refuses to accept a life that's different, to move forward and make the best of things. He views his life as a prison, and one that will only get more painful and restrictive as time goes on. Will has decided that he has only one choice that is still his to make -- the choice to live or not. And after a failed personal attempt at suicide, he's made an agreement with his parents -- six months and they'll take him to a clinic that performs medically assisted suicides.

Despite being so different, eventually the two hit it off. Lou is quirky, clever, bubbly, and transparent. She's one of the only people who Will feels treats him honestly, not walking on egg shells or making all of his choices for him. During their six months together, Will begins to open Lou's eyes to the world beyond their tiny town, and pushes her to go after what she wants, and not settle just because it's safe and comfortable. Lou brings light and laughter into Will's life, practically forcing him out of his house and reminding him that there's life beyond his four-walls. It's an unlikely relationship, but the two begin to care about each other very much.

But life doesn't always have a happy ending, and Me Before You doesn't either. At least, not in one sense. Instead, like life, the ending is...complicated.

This book deals with heavy, fairly controversial stuff. But it also has friendship and family and love. It's being made into a movie (which comes out this year or next) and the author is working on a sequel.

Bottom line: it may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I thought this book was great.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Thursday list

Rejoice! This list is not nearly so random as my last one.

Me, hubby, and the one and a half kiddo live in Houston, Texas. Technically, we live in unincorporated Harris County, meaning we have no mayor/city council/town selectment/etc., and the county is our local government aside from the government-like Independent School Districts (which is what really defines the communities in the unincorporated areas of the county). So, we live in the Klein Independent School District, and our address is Spring. But to make it less confusing, just say we live in the Northwest Houston 'burbs. Hubby and I lived about five miles away from our current house for three years after we got married. Hubs grew up in the Klein area, but I was (and still am) a Missouri girl living in a Texas world. That said, I've come to appreciate a lot about my adopted state, and this gigantic, sprawling, mega-metropolis we call home. And as we've been back almost a year now, I'm starting to remember and re-aquaint myself with some of the things I like...and don't as much.

Four things I really enjoy about living in (the Northwest) Houston (suburbs):

1. Diversity. Even out here in the 'burbs, there are a lot of people who don't look like me, or talk like me, or have the same background as I do.

2. Proximity to...a lot. There's a lot to do in Houston. A lot. Museums, NASA, concerts, theater, sports, the zoo, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, cultural enrichment, shopping, eating. If you're up for a drive, Galvaston isn't too far away, and for us, Lake Conroe or Huntsville State Park are pretty close too. I'm the first to admit that I don't take advantage of it all, but I feel lucky to have it all at my fingertips.

3. Food. Maybe I want this to be it's own category because of the crazy pregnancy appetite, but the bottom line is if you can't find delicious food in the Houston area, then you just aren't trying hard enough.

4. Confidence. Houston is not a perfect place, by any stretch of the imagination. But Houston doesn't pretend to be anything it's not, and doesn't act like it's got anything to prove. In a lot of ways, that's refreshing. Sometimes problematic? Sure. But I like that kind of confidence but not arrogance is something I appreciate in people -- why not an environment that encourages it?

Now, before you start thinking maybe I've spent too much time being brainwashed...here are four things I dislike about living in (the Northwest) Houston (suburbs):

1. It's a swamp. Seriously. Houston's population didn't take off until the invention of air conditioning. This should be a red flag, people. The climate is sub-tropical. So basically, we're talking humidity and bugs. Sure, you can grow beautiful tropical plants and year-round produce. But seriously, so. many. bugs. And sweat.

2. Sprawl. Houston epitomizes U.S. tendency for urban sprawl. This tendency isn't entirely surprising if you think about it: the U.S. is huge. The national identity was formed by people seeking freedom and space and independence. There's space...why not use it, right? So, I get why so many U.S. cities are built/designed/evolve this way, but it's not my favorite.

3. Abysmal mass transit. This is closely related to point number 2. Closer to the center of town, I think the bus system is a bit more functional and practical. And a lot of people use the commuter buses around this area. But residents in the 'burbs just don't care about mass transit. They don't need it, and they don't want it, and they wouldn't use it. I think this is a little short-sighted and narrow-minded, but I'm in the minority here.

4. Pedestrian un-friendly. Again, closely related to sprawl and transit. Thankfully, our neighborhood itself is great -- sidewalks, trees, safe pedestrian access to the elementary school, neighborhood pool, community center, and park. But once you leave the neighborhood, you're going to need your vehicle. I understand why it's that way -- this has a lot to do with that whole unincorporated county thing, as well as the whole it's-hot-as-heck-out-here -- but I adore living places where I can walk or ride a bike to at least a few things like the pharmacy, grocery store, library, and maybe a restaurant or two. I will say that there is currently a really nice paved trail that is a little more than halfway done that runs along Spring Creek not to far from us. The trail currently runs connects a few parks, shopping centers, and a public library. Not ideal, but at least there are some active-minded folks around here!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Reading...Throne of Glass

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1) One of my very bookish (seriously, this guy reads like a book a day or something) friends recommended Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas quite a while back (the book is a few years old, after all), then hubby read it, and I finally got around to reading it this past week. This book is so much fun, y'all. It's action-adventure fantasy of the doesn't-take-itself-too-seriously variety: a cruel, possibly wicked king-turned-emperor, a gifted and snarky teenage girl assassin, a too-handsome-for-his-own good prince, a serious and honorable (and handsome, duh) captain of the guard, a competition among thugs, assassins and heavies, and forbidden magic.
Celaena Sardothian, formerly the most famous and notorious assassin in Adarlin, was betrayed and sent to a prison camp where she is beaten and half-starved and nearly broken. Then the crown prince of Adarlin shows up offering her a deal: his father is holding a competition to choose a personal assassin -- a "King's Champion." If she competes as the prince's champion and wins, she will sign a contract with the king for four years, after which she will earn her freedom. It's an opportunity too good to pass up, although the competition and life in the glass castle don't really turn out quite as she expects.

There are times when I had to roll my eyes at a bit of cheesiness, and a few times I wanted to slap the characters upside the head because WHY DON'T YOU SEE WHAT'S HAPPENING! There is a love triangle -- not my favorite kind of romantic plot device -- but it doesn't distract from the rest of the story, so it didn't really bother me. For me, the strength of the book is in it's fast-moving and fun plot, and in its characters. I love Celaena. I love that she's sarcastic and smart-mouthed. She's arrogant and full of herself, probably because she's the best at what she does and knows it. She's a bad-a$$ assassin, but also a teenage girl who loves clothes and luxury and shopping and looking pretty. Her heart yearns to fly free, but she keeps it caged up.

This book is fun, although there is still plenty of blood and fighting and one or two legitimate monsters. Bottom line: solid action fantasy with a great main character.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A Wednesday list

1. We have a new (to us) car! A 2012 Mazda5. It's described as a "mini mini van." So it looks like a car, but has three short rows. The middle two seats are regular seats, slide forward and back, and our 6 ft. plus friend said they're very comfortable. The back two seats are best for kids or maybe adults if you aren't going very far. They fold down when you don't need them to give you lots of cargo space. We found a manual transmission, which is fun to drive again. I'm having to get used to not riding up so high (previously...I've been driving our truck around for the past few years), but parking is so much nicer now! Also carrying groceries home. ;)

2. I'm listening to Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch on audio right now. Have you read the Gentlemen Bastards series? This is the third book, and it's so good, y'all.

3. Hubby and I are finally getting around to watching the final season of Fringe. Fun (and creepy...and delightfully stressful) stuff.

4. Zucchini bread pancakes! Delicious. And a different way to use up all that fresh zucchini laying around in the spring and early summer.

5.  I've hit another tired spell -- call it not going to bed early enough consistently, pregnancy, restless (i.e. teething) sleeper, whatever -- so the writing is slow going these days, mostly because I either don't have the brain power or I desperately need a nap (and since said munchkin wants to be on the computer whenever mommy is...well, so far nap time or bed time is the best time for writing. Not complaining -- this season is what it is and each season is beautiful in its own way. I'm just going to keep tortoising my way along this writing journey and one day I'll hopefully end up with a completed novel. And then I can start on the next!

Thursday, May 21, 2015


Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1) I've heard a lot of people rave about Cinder, by Marissa Meyer, and its sequels Scarlet and Cress, but until recently I'd held back reading them. Possibly out of some kind of strange stay-away-from-the-hype rebellion. Regardless, when my Facebook book group picked it to read, I was excited for the excuse to get it from the library.

Cinder, as you can probably tell from the title, is a loose retelling of Cinderella. We have a girl who is worked like a slave by her guardian and the guardian's two daughters. Although one daughter is friendly and kind. You have a handsome prince, and a ball. And....that's about where the similarities end. Cinder is a cyborg, fused with machine parts when she was 11, with no memories of life before. She lives in a future New Beijing, where she's a mechanic with dreams of escaping her life of servitude. Citizens in New Beijing are thinking about three things when the book opens: the Prince's annual ball, the currently incurable epidemic that plagues earth, and the unwelcome visit of the queen of Luna (the colony on the Earth's moon, populated by people who have evolved into a race with science-that-looks-like-magic, and can create glamours and influence people's minds). Cinder meets the prince when he comes to her to get an android fixed, becomes an unwilling then willing test subject for scientists looking for a cure for the disease, and becomes far more involved in Lunar-Earth politics than she'd like to be.

The story is fun and fresh, although I saw the "twist" coming a mile away. I'm not sure how surprising it's supposed to be, but for me it wasn't at all. Aside from that, the story is well-crafted and fast paced without being rushed. I like the world she's created, and while Cinder is clearly the beginning of a series, it's also a great and complete story on its own.

But one of my favorite things about the book is the character of Cinder. She desperately wants freedom, and just wants to be left alone. She's put in positions to be bold and daring, but she wants none of it. She's a true reluctant hero, but as the story progresses she finds the courage and character to do what she needs to, even at great embarrassment and personal cost. In my opinion, this makes her one of the bravest heroines I've read about in a while. And while there is some romance, this first-in-the-series doesn't have a happily ever after...yet. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Bottom line: a little bit fairy tale, a little bit sci-fi, and a lot of fun

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


It starts out fairly predictably: a small, special notebook. Possibly with a key. Each entry beginning with "Dear Diary." In my case, it's full of angst....but not because my life is all that dramatic, but because my pre-teen self doesn't see the need to write about the mundane aspects of life. I have yet to discover the beauty in capturing the ordinary.

As I become less of a pre-teen, I am no more disciplined and my pages reflect that. I spend more time writing (melo)dramatic stories than writing about real life. Those days where I absolutely must take pet to paper, it's generally because of a build up of emotion that desperately needs an outlet. I am angry or sad or extremely excited.

Post-college, I have a brief unemployed period where I decide that I should spend that time usefully -- as in developing some writing discipline. And there is born my writing journal -- a place to ostensibly do writing exercises, start stories, and essentially journal fiction (which is what I love). That...didn't last long. Like most people, I struggle with self-discipline, and any writer will tell you that the number one thing you need to do to be a successful writer is get your butt in a chair (or on a couch, or whatever) and write.

In my 20s I begin what seems to be a lifelong quest for the perfect "system." You might ask why. Why has journaling become so important to me? so necessary to "figure out." Partly because of the romantic writer within me who feels like "real" writers journal. There's the narcissist who likes to act like she's the star of her own novel or movie or t.v. show. But more than that, there's the practical reality that I have experienced the joy of journaling, the benefit for me personally in getting things out of my head and onto a piece of paper (or computer screen...whatever). My writing benefits (practice putting pen to paper) and my mental health benefits. Now, this search for the perfect system is not limited to journaling, by the way. Cleaning, cooking, Bible study, exercise...I have fallen prey to the myth that the perfect system or tool will make whatever it is I want to do regularly effortless. I am learning that a good system can make things easier....but the only thing that is effortless is inertia.

But low and behold, somewhere along the way I settle into a rhythm of journaling that works for me at this moment in my life -- 1. No pressure. If I go weeks without journaling, so be it. 2. One notebook. Everything jumbled together: creative writing, rants, exclamation points, lists, goals, dreams, planning, prayer lists, notes from a lecture or class, notes FOR a class. Right now, this is what works for me, because I finally identified what journaling is for me at this moment in time: it's my way of keeping my brain organized, of processing information, of documenting things I don't want to forget, of getting those pesky thoughts out of my head, and occasionally giving in to a momentary burst of creativity.

Do you journal? Why? What works for you?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Tuesday list

This is the height of randomness today, but it's just where my brain is at!

1. Family came to visit this weekend to celebrate the munchkin's first birthday. (how has it been a year again?). We had a full house and fun was had by all! Of course, now the munchkin wonders why there aren't 2 or 3 people to play with at all times.

2. 22 Weeks. I figure it's about time to mention that I'm expecting another baby -- due September 9. So if my posts seem....slightly disjointed I can blame baby brain AND pregnancy brain!

3. Which leads me to this: let's talk about cravings. I haven't had any weird cravings, but I am extremely susceptible right now to suggestion in the area of food -- if a character on a t.v. show is eating something that looks yummy, I want. And once I get a hankering for something I can't. make.it.stop until I've had some. Ice cream, check. Potato chips, check. Melty cheese, check.

4. Breyers Gelato Indulgences really are very good.

5. Going out to a movie this weekend, and so far none of the theater's near us have their schedules for Friday and Saturday posted. So weird.

6. In knitting news, I started a Christmas stocking and discovered that I really kind of dislike knitting on double pointed needles. Oh well! It seems like it'll go pretty quickly. Relatively quickly.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Reading...Red Rising

Red Rising (Red Rising Trilogy, #1)Darrow is the Helldiver of Lycos. A miner in the depths of Mars, Darrow and his fellow "Reds" harvest the mineral needed to terraform and colonize Mars. Their world is a harsh one, but it's the life they were born to, members of the lowest caste in a strict caste-based society ruled by Golds. But Darrow's wife Eo dreams of a better life, a life with more justice, more freedom, more choices. She dies a martyr in a simple act of rebellion, after urging Darrow to fight for better. Still reeling from his grief and anger, Darrow is kidnapped by the Sons of Ares, a rebel group intent on fighting against the caste system and rule of the Gods. He learns that the world he thought he knew was nothing but a lie intent on keeping the Reds docile slaves. But the rebels have a plan for their angry young miner: turn him into a God and send him to the Institute that trains the Peerless Golds, the elite among the ruling class. Put himself in a position to lead a revolution, not just a rebellion. So Darrow becomes what he hates, his rage fueling him as he enters the Institute, a glorified war game whose purpose is to teach and harden the best and brightest of the soft aristocrats. Darrow begins to learn that life as a Gold is more complicated than he thought. He makes enemies and even friends, and learns that their "school" isn't all that it seems. And in the process becomes truly Peerless.
It was an interesting experience reading this book. As I told my book group, at times I was simultaneously bored and glued to the page. To be fair, dystopian fiction in general isn't really my jam, but I thought maybe it was more than that, so I tried to break it down a bit. The things that didn't work for me: the writing at the beginning felt a little flat and one-note. It's very dramatic and supposed to be heartbreaking, but I just didn't feel it. And it took me a while to really get interested in Darrow as a character. I felt at the beginning that he was just kind of a one-note guy. Talented and handsome and angry and abused. Blah, blah, blah. BUT...ultimately, the were a lot of things that did work for me: For one thing, if Darrow was kind of a flat character for me at first, some of the secondary characters that show up began to breath life into the world, and they began to make Darrow more interesting too. In addition, I really enjoyed the world that the author created. The authors nicely sets up the evolution for this reality -- you can see how the world got from point A (our reality) to point B. The world is heavily influenced by the structure of the Roman pantheon and culture, which I found creative. I also liked the plot, and it's the plot that kept me going past my initial ho-hum reaction. It was exciting and dark and brutal, and I just really wanted to know what happened. Which means I'm definitely going to get my hands on the next book Golden Son.

Bottom line: a solid dystopian novel with an exciting plot and interesting world. Definitely worth a try.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Reading...Bird by Bird

A friend of mine recommended Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott many years ago, and I see it pop up frequently on what-to-read-if-you-want-to-be-a-better-writer lists. And there is a reason, because this book is fantastic. I was probably a chapter in, and already thinking "why did I not read this sooner!" It sat on my shelf for almost 10 years, and I kept kicking myself for not picking it up sooner. 

In this book Lamott shares with readers what she teaches at her writing workshops. She shares what she's learned over decades of writing, essentially saying this is what works for me and for most of the other writers I know. She starts at the beginning, discussing the craft of writing, the work of telling stories. She talks about writing as a vocation, a calling -- and how that affects life and relationships and how writers see themselves. She talks about why we write, about the lure of publication, but how we need to write for more than just that. 
This is the first book of Anne Lamott's that I've read, but I want to go to the library and grab everything she's done. She's funny, gracious, generous, and sarcastic. 

Bottom line: if you're a writer and haven't already picked up this book, do yourself a favor. If you're not a writer, you might just enjoy it anyway!

Monday, April 13, 2015

No accounting for taste

Sometimes, it seems like there's a book (or author, or series) that everyone seems to rave about and I just can't bring myself to join the club. But I've learned there's no need to apologize for that -- not everyone has the same taste, and not every book is for everyone. There are a lot of things that might turn me off of a book: the writing style, the plot, and yes, even the characters. I hesitate to admit that these days, particularly because apparently there's a lot of discussion out there on "unlikable" and "likable" characters in fiction. Stacked and Book Riot  have both written or hosted thoughtful posts on the subject. And I get where they're coming from, especially when people use the "unlikeable" label on a character in a way that continues to put unfair pressure on young people (girls in particular) to be "perfect." 

That said...

Sometimes in real life, I just don't want to spend time with a person, and sometimes I don't want to spend time with a fictional person either. And I get what this author is saying when she points out that reading books with characters we don't like can help us to be better human beings. It can help us stretch and grow and maybe even be a little more compassionate. And I often read books with characters I don't like (on a side note: does anyone agree that there's a difference between "characters I don't like" and the current use of "unlikable character"?). But in that case, there's something else compelling about the book that keeps me going. Sometimes, even that so-called "unlikable" character is compelling enough that I want to read about them. 

But sometimes, I just don't want to spend time with that character/characters anymore. There is nothing about the story or secondary characters to keep me interested, and I just respectfully walk away. And you know what? I'm not sorry about that. Yes, I feel bad for not liking your book, but there are probably a bunch of people out there who love it. And that's awesome. It's just that sometimes I feel the need to tell people: it's okay to not like a book. It's okay to not like a character in a book. And it's okay to decide to spend your time somewhere else.

Monday, April 6, 2015

A Monday list

Today is a list making day. We went out of town this past weekend and got in relatively late last night. So today's a catch-up and make lists kind of day. My to-do list is growing ambitiously long, but maybe I can keep some momentum this week. All that to say, that I was going to post something witty and clever tomorrow, but in the spirit of the day I thought it seemed an appropriate day to post a nice little list of things that are making happy today:

1. Weddings. Our Easter weekend travel was to attend the wedding of a dear friend. It's the second wedding we've been to in the past month or so (this being the start of wedding season after all), and I just love weddings. Saturday's event was lovely, sweet, intimate, and personal. It was a privilege to share the weekend with our friends-who-are-family.

2. Easter pictures. Following some advice in Accidental Creative, I've been trying to make my social media use more minimal and deliberate (for example: check Facebook only once a day for a set number of minutes instead of mindlessly throughout the day), but I can't stay away from all the adorable Easter weekend pictures of friends and family. Spending time celebrating spring (new life), fun, and happy times with friends or family is, in my opinion, a fitting way to celebrate Christ's resurrection. Bring on the joy!

3. Iced coffee. I busted out the Toddy brewer last week and made a batch of iced coffee. It's warming up here in South Texas, and I've been craving iced coffee like nobody's business.

4. A washer and dryer at my house. Sometimes, it's the little things. Although, one could argue that this is a big thing. I'm always thankful not to have to go do laundry somewhere else, and it's something that's stuck in my mind today.

5. Technology. I often have a love-hate relationship with technology, but after a wonderful (if too short) visit with out-of-town friends or family, I'm always reminded about how great it is to have so many ways to keep in touch with people who don't live in the same town or city.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Blog reading

Several weeks ago I posted about some book blogs that I enjoy reading. So today, I thought I'd sit down and mention some favorite non-book blogs. The funny thing about that -- I realized how many non-book blogs I visit occasionally, and how few I read regularly. I started thinking about how much I enjoy the blogs I do read, and how maybe I should broaden my blog-reading horizon (except who has time for that?). That said, here are a few of my favorites that I visit on a regular basis:

Run Tess Run
Tess writes about running and yoga and her family and just life in general. She is funny and smart and I feel like reading her blog is like sitting down and having chat over a cup of coffee.

Erin is a busy lady! She's a teacher, business owner, knitter, and seamstress. So I always love to get a little peak into what she's up to. Plus, our husbands have the same name

The Listener
Lorie writes amazingly thoughtful essays. I'd try to pin down what they're about, but they're about all kinds of different things. Self-doubt, holidays, memories, exercise, job hunting. Basically she talks about things that are on her mind, things she observes, things that catch her attention.

Lottie and Doof
Full disclosure: I have only made and probably only will make a few recipes from this site. But it is gorgeous, and the recipes I have made from it are amazing. If you love food blogs this is a great one.

Homesick Texan
Yummy, yummy, yummy. That's all there is to it. A word of warning: read this blog with snacks handy, because it will make you hungry.

Smitten Kitchen
Speaking of hungry....I don't visit this site all the time, but it is a great resource for recipes of all kinds. Mostly, I've used it for pies, but everything looks amazing.

Alpha Mom
Great resources from a variety of contributors. There's something for every parent on this site. And if you need a laugh, check out the Pregnancy Calendar. Hi.larious.

Jen Hatmaker
Thoughful, funny, warm. She's even more fun to follow on facebook. Now I just need to go read one of her actual books.

Looking at this list, I see I could definitely use some variety. So I'm open to new reading! Got any blogs...about anything!... that you enjoy visiting on a semi-regular basis?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Reading...Bright Before Sunrise

Bright Before Sunrise Bright Before Sunrise, by Tiffany Schmidt, is an all-it-takes-is-one-day-to-change-your-life stories. 
Brighton Waterford has, in her own words, turned "behaving into a science." Since her dad died when she was 12, Brighton has made it her job to make her dad proud by being nice...by joining the clubs he joined...by doing all the things she should. And it isn't until she spends most of one evening and late into the night with Jonah Prentiss that she realizes how superficial, bottled up, and lifeless she's truly become.  
Jonah Prentiss is a baseball rock star whose life is shattered when his mom has an affair with his physical therapist, getting pregnant, divorced, remarried to the therapist, and moving Jonah to the posh suburb of Cross Point in the middle of his senior year. Jonah is angry at his mom, angry at her new husband, angry at his dad (who blamed Jonah for the divorce and moved to Florida), and simply biding his time until he can leave the soulless streets of Cross Point for college...and anywhere else. Until he ends up spending most of the evening and late into the night with vanilla-ice-cream Brighton Waterford, and discovers that maybe there is something great in Cross Point after all. And maybe it's time he accepted his "now" and lived life moving forward, not backward. 
And, of course, there's chemistry and sparks and swoon. But it's about beginning a relationship where the two people challenge each other and bring out the best in each other. It's a well-written story with two dynamic protagonists. The story takes place over the course of one day and night, and definitely lends itself to being read all at once. I have to say that even I was able to devour it in about a day (I may have stayed up past my bedtime to finish). 
Bottom line: if you're in the mood for a quick, fun read or some well-written teen romance with great characters and hidden depth, pick this one up.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Five points to Gryffindor

Well, the never-ending scarf is finished! I probably could have made it a bit longer, but overall I'm pretty happy with it. Hopefully the recipient will be as well!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Today, we interrupt our (not at all) regularly scheduled programming to talk about something that I am currently obsessed with. It's not a t.v. show, it's not a book, it's not a movie, not a web site, not a blog (which reminds me I need to do another blogs-I-like post), not a band....no, but it's something pretty aweseome.


I'm going through what I've decided to term the Season of Cereal. What should I have for breakfast? Cereal. Time for a snack? Cereal. Don't feel like cooking dinner? Cereal.

I tend to go for non-super-sugary cereals, so things like Cheerios, Rice Krispies, Kashi GoLean, Raisin Bran, and Grape Nuts are currently in the rotation. It's like comfort food I don't have to cook. Easy on the tummy, so good at any time of day. A little protein, a little carbs...perfect. Throw some berries or bananas on top...extra perfect.

It's perhaps not the healthiest habbit, but hey, I could be eating ice cream and at least cereal is usually fortified with a few vitamins and has some fiber in there too. I'm sure I'll outgrow this phase soon...or not. :)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Reading things

I think I've pretty well broken-recorded the fact that my reading pace has slowed at the moment, but I'm still finding time to breeze my way through the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews. I think I'm on book five right now, and still enjoying them. I keep telling myself I should take a break and read something else, but one book just flows so seamlessly to the next. Hubby did the same thing when he read them a few months ago, so I shouldn't really be surprised. 

I've also just put Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch on my phone to listen to when I need a little kitchen-cleaning/cooking/knitting/walking entertainment. It's the third Gentlemen Bastards book, and I've neglected reading it for too long. These books are so great, in case you haven't read them.

After the successful (eventual) reading of a non-fiction book this year, I've decided to pick up another non-fiction book to work through. As a bonus, this goes along with what I learned in The Accidental Creative about being intentional in your consumption of media/entertainment/inspiration. So, Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott will take up residence on my bedside table. I've had this book for years, and it's always one recommended to writers or aspiring writers. I'm a little embarrassed to admit I haven't read it yet, but that will soon be remedied! 

Happy reading!

Friday, March 6, 2015

A Short Friday List

Today, I'm excited because:

1. There's sunshine! I actually like rain and rainy days, and don't really mind gray days (in fact, I've been known to wish for a rainy day now and then). But for some reason the past few weeks of cloudy and sometimes rainy weather have gotten to me. Maybe it's the difference of being a stay-at-home mom. I miss my neighborhood walks! Regardless, it's a treat to see the sunshine today.

2. I'm making an apple skillet cake this weekend. We're celebrating my mother-in-law's birthday, and I'm making an apple cake that is so good! Apples and butter carmelize in the bottom of a cast iron skillet then you pour a spice cake batter on top and bake it all to deliciousness.

3. I ordered a new tea kettle today! I love my electric tea kettle, but the automatic shut off is no longer shutting off, and I'm pretty sure if I don't replace it I'll burn the house down one day.

4. I am so, so close to finishing my scarf project that I started last fall. A friend of mine asked me to knit a Harry Potter Gryffindor scarf for his fiance. I found a really cool, very authentic-looking pattern and I realize I'm a slow knitter, but it's taken me a lot longer then I thought it would to finish. I've got my next project scoped out -- sadly not finishing my current works-in-progress, but starting some Christmas stockings. Since I started knitting I've had a dream of knitting Christmas stockings, and now that there's a little one in the mix, it feels like I should get on that. Maybe I can at least have her stocking done by Christmas!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Reading...Accidental Creative

The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment's Notice A good friend of mine who knows how I struggle with maintaining consistency in my writing recommended The Accidental Creative, by Todd Henry. Henry's definition of a "creative" is pretty broad: anyone who makes a living with their mind. "Every day, you solve problems, innovate, develop systems, design things, write, think, and strategize." As anyone who falls into this broad category of creative can testify to, it's impossible to be excellent and in top form one hundred percent of the time, yet we often put undue stress on ourselves to do just that. Our job is dependent on our ability to produce, and the default is often to just work harder, or longer, or try and muscle our way to success. 
In The Accidental Creative, Henry seeks to give people an alternative way of working, to help them develop a rhythm to work and life that creates an environment in which creativity can thrive. Henry takes a whole-life approach to this rhythm -- what we do away from work has an incredible impact on our work, and our work has an impact on our ability to enjoy the rest of our non-work life. The book starts out identifying problems inherent in creative work, then lays out the components and method to developing a life rhythm to foster creativity, excellence, innovation, and ultimately creative satisfaction.

Although this book is targeted to people who are creative for a living (which I am not at the moment), there are a lot of principles, tips, and ideas that I think anyone can benefit from. Henry talks about being intentional with our time and relationships, being proactive rather than reactive. He advocates making time to check in with ourselves on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis, evaluating upcoming projects, events, and goals so that we can plan ahead and be prepared.

Bottom line, this is a well-written, thoughtful book about opening up creativity in our lives and going after what you want. Hopefully I can begin to apply a few of the activities and principles he lays out soon.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Reading...Magic Bites

Magic Bites (Kate Daniels, #1) Magic Bites is the first book in an urban fantasy series in which magic has reasserted itself in the world, pushing technology to a place of little importance. A world in which man's industrial and technological achievements crumble uselessly, in which creatures that go bump in the night are just a matter of fact. 
Kate Daniels is a member of the Mercenary Guild, making a living fighting more unsavory magical creatures. She's practical, tough, smart-mouthed, and kicks some serious ass. Kate likes to fly below the radar, and hides her own magical powers to keep herself safe. When her guardian is murdered, Kate heads to Atlanta to find the killer and get vengeance.

This is a great book, and as I've already read the second as well -- Magic Burns -- I think it's safe to say I'm going to enjoy this series. First off, there's a really interesting world going on here. It's are world, but full of magic. In this reality, magic and technology sit at opposite ends of a pendulum, and thousands of years of technological dominance have been replaced by magical dominance. Sometimes the tech is "up" -- anything technological like cars and phones and electricity work. Sometimes the magic flares and the vampires grow stronger, baddies get badder, and were animals (because it's more than just werewolves, you know) have a harder time staying under control. The reader is put right in the middle of everything, so at first it's a bit jarring. But Ilona Andrews does the gradual world building well, and it makes for fewer info dumps and a faster pace. The story(ies) are tightly written, part mystery and part action-thriller. There's a good bit of blood and guts, but nothing over the top. There's also a dash of romance, but at book two it's basically some molasses-like sexual tension.

Finally, I really love the characters. Most of them start off in a certain mold -- you have the aforementioned kick-ass heroine, you have the alpha male -- literally, since he's the alpha of the Pack, you have the sort-of and very reluctant sidekick, and various other side characters depending on the story. But while they may start off as tropes, Andrews breathes life and individuality into each character. And even over two books the characters have movement -- you'd be missing something to read the books out of order, because you get to know the characters a little better each time.

Bottom line: if you're in the mood for well-written, fast-paced, engaging action/mystery and don't mind some make believe and magical creatures, pick up these books.

Friday, February 20, 2015

A Friday List

It's pretty common in the blogosphere to see bloggers post fun lists of things they love. Like my friend Tess who posts Sweet Lists on her blog (which you should read, because Tess is sassy and funny and thoughtful). I'm not with it enough to really create lists at regular intervals like that, some days there are just little things that are making my day and who doesn't love to share happy things? 

1. A cup of coffee from Port City Java.  Technically, a cup of coffee I made from Port City Java beans given to me by a lovely friend. Because sadly, there is no Port City Java in Texas. 

2. Sanuk shoes. These are seriously comfy shoes, y'all.

3. The Middle. Funny stuff. I'd seen a show here and there in the past, but just recently started watching it regularly on Hulu. 

4. Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, Beta Radio. I love music, but I have never been on the edge of what's new and cool. So, the whole world is probably like "oh yeah, Drew Holcomb. Old news." But I just recently discovered them and it's fantastic. My kind of music. Beta Radio is a band out of Wilmington, NC, where we lived for 10 years. Fun fact: I even worked for a while at Port City Java with one of the members! And my good friend Doc designs posters for them. But aside from all that connection....they just make good music. Guitars, banjo, lovely harmonies. 

5. A cast-iron cicada from France.  What? you ask. My friend Sonya sent me a delightful cast iron cicada to hang on my wall. It's about five inches long, and fantastic. I've hung it next to the window above my kitchen sink, and secretly hope it will not only make me smile and think of Sonya, but will scare away roaches, ants, spiders...all those delightful South Texas bugs that I wish would stay out of my house.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Reading...Ruin and Rising

Ruin and Rising, by Leigh Bardugo is the third and final book in her Grisha trilogy. It's Russian-inspired fantasy with magic, politics, and romance. The third book is a great ending to the story, with high stakes, intensity, and just the right amount of happy in the ending.

Overall, I really enjoyed these books. You might remember a brief mention a couple of months ago when I posted about good books for winter reading. And indeed, one of my favorite things about Leigh Bardugo's writing is her ability to create a vivid atmosphere and sense of place. There were a few things about the books that aren't necessarily my favorite tropes: for one thing, the main character is the classic plain-girl-is-actually-super-powerful-and-awesome-but-always-thinks-of-herself-as-less-than. I'm not going to lie: in the first two books I found Alina to be pretty whiny and reactive, but she steps up quite a bit in the third book and finds her agency. The second not-my-favorite part of the books was the love triangle -- two of them in fact! But it didn't bother me that much, because both of them actually made sense in those situations.

Despite my mostly lukewarm feelings for Alina, I loved the other characters Bardugo created. I particularly thought that the Darkling was a great character, a nuanced villain that is more than just a foil for the main character.

One final note: I listened to both this book and the second in the trilogy, and I highly recommend them in audio format if you're in the mood for an audio book. The narrator does a great job bringing the story to life.

Bottom line: a great ending to a solid fantasy trilogy

Monday, February 9, 2015

A little creative writing

Previously....I posted a chapter from something I'm working on right now.  In honor of a little writing spurt I had last week...and because I'm reading a non-fiction book right now and it takes me a lot longer to read nonfiction...here's another chapter from the same novel. This is a flashback to when the two characters George and Rosalee were young, the summer they met.

George and I had been hanging out for almost three weeks. The waitresses were starting to wink at me every time we came into the diner for coffee. Neither of them ever asked what we wanted anymore. Coffee for both of us, whatever fruit pie was on special for me and whatever cream pie was on special for George. We’d spent a couple of afternoons listening to records at my house – with the bedroom door open, and the boys running past the door ever few minutes or so. Probably under orders from mom. We’d talked on the phone at least every other night. I could tell George was bored, but I think he was also enjoying my company too. There were other girls to be bored with, and he didn’t seem too interested in making a lot of friends in town.

I’d just gotten home from babysitting, and was flipping through a magazine, laying on the floor in front of a fan, trying to cool off from a few hours of playing outside. I heard a knock on the door and contemplated just ignoring it, figuring it was the mail man with a package or a salesman or Jehovah’s Witness. But, I got up anyway. Mama would be horrified if I was home and didn’t answer the door.

I was glad I did.

“George!” I said, a smile forming on my face. “What’s up? Why aren’t you at work?”

He leaned against the door jam and his smile showed off his dimple. “Uncle Jim kept talking about the great swimming hole around here today, and I told him it was cruel and unusual punishment to keep talking about it on such a hot day, and not letting a guy experience it for himself. It was a persuasive argument.”

I smiled back. “You are pretty persuasive.”

He reached out and lightly took my hand. “So, I’m betting you know some good places to swim,” he said. “You want to show a guy around, or do I need to use my persuasive powers on you too?”

Not likely, I thought. But I tried to play it a little cool.

“Nothing to do right now,” I said, only slightly distracted by his hand still holding mine. “And you’re right about it being crazy hot.”
“Well, then,” he said, still smiling. “I’ve got shorts in the car. How much time do you need?”

I grinned, squeezed his hand and started backing up. “You know where the downstairs bathroom is. I’ll be five minutes,” I said. “And I’ve got a cold coke in the fridge I was saving for later. First one to the car gets it.”

The words were barely out of my mouth and I was running up the stairs. I heard George laugh and his feet thunder down the porch steps. I couldn’t keep the grin off my face. Running into my room, I threw open the top drawer of my dresser and unearthed my swim suit, a plain dark blue bikini that Betty talked me into getting on sale at the department store last time we went into Springfield. I ripped off my clothes and tugged on the suit, thankful that the top was a halter style and I didn’t have to mess with tying fussy strings. I pulled on the cut-off shorts I’d just taken off and ran across the hall into the bathroom, grabbing a towel. My sunglasses and sunscreen were in my bag, sitting down by the front door from babysitting. I raced down the stairs, trying to think if I needed anything else.

I got to the bottom of the stairs just as George was walking out of the kitchen with the coke in his hands.

“Confident, are we?” I asked.

He smirked and glanced between me and the front door. I lunged for my bag and my keys and George lunged for me, his arm wrapping around my waist and swinging me away from the door. I squealed.

“No fair!” I gasped. “I’ve got to lock the front door!”

We were both laughing hard as he set me down on the front porch, his arm still firmly around my waist.

“This truce only lasts long enough for you to lock the door.”

I was still laughing as I fumbled with the key, but eventually we heard the deadbolt click into place. The skin on my waist suddenly felt a rush of hot air, and I turned, leaping off the porch after George. I was seconds behind him, and threw myself into his side, and knocking him off balance just enough to make my lunge for his car count. My fingers brushed the hot metal and I turned, triumphant, to find George standing very close, his face still creased in a smile and his eyes crinkled from laughter. We were both sweaty and breathing hard.

“You, Rosalee, are one of a kind,” he said. He held up the bottle of coke between us, then rested the cold glass against my neck. I shivered.

“I have to say, I kind of figured this was mine. But you earned it,” he said.

“You’ve met my brothers, right?” I said. “They are their own full-contact sport.” I reached up and wrapped my hand around the bottle, my fingers overlapping slightly with his.

“If you’re nice, I’ll share,” I said.

“I’m always nice,” he replied. He let go of the bottle and reached around me, unlocking the passenger door of the car so I could get in. My body was trapped in the space between his and the car, his eyes never left my face as he turned the key. I found myself staring at his mouth. He winked, I blushed, and he was walking to the driver’s side. I stood frozen for a second, then shook my head and climbed in. I set the bottle in the cup holder, stuffed my towel in my bag, and set the bag on the floorboard, then picked up the coke and twisted off the cap as the engine roared to life.

“Which way?” George asked, looking at me with another smile, this one sweet and friendly.

“Left at the end of the driveway,” I replied, taking a long drink. The pop was cold and fizzy and sweet and pretty darn delicious. I pulled it away from my lips and offered the bottle to George.

He raised an eyebrow. “Sure?”

“Yep. Take it. It hits the spot.”

We were quiet on the drive, passing the coke back and forth while I gave him directions. In ten minutes we were on the bumpy gravel road that led to the spring. The trees along the road made shadowy patches on my bare legs and arms as it filtered through the trees that occasionally brushed along the side of the car. It was only two miles, but you had to take them slow. I didn’t mind though. We’d left the radio off, and I just enjoyed the peace. The sounds of the birds and squirrels, the crunch and hum of the car, the warm breeze blowing my hair. By the time we’d gone the two miles and pulled into the clearing, it felt like we’d entered into the remotest pocket of the world. George parked the car and turned it off. We gazed for a moment at the spring-fed pool. The grass sloped slightly down to the water on our side. To the right, some huge rocks under a big oak tree made a perfect diving board and rope swing platform. Trees and undergrowth crowded around the water, except for the narrow stream that rushed off toward our left. I loved this place.

“Does it feel as great as it looks?” George asked, turning toward me.


We opened our doors and walked toward the water. I kicked off my sandals and set down my bag. George shoved off his own shoes and pulled his t-shirt off over his head, and I have to admit I took advantage of the few seconds in which his face was covered by the shirt to admire his lean muscles. I turned away, and reached down to slip off my shorts, although I hesitated, aware of George right next to me and suddenly feeling a little shy.

Don’t be silly, I scolded myself. You go swimming with boys all the time. I quickly dropped my shorts, pulled off my t-shirt and ran toward the big jumping rock. I could hear George laughing behind me, but I didn’t slow down or turn around. I jumped up on the rock and without slowing down ran off the edge, tucking my knees up to my chest and closing my eyes just before hitting the deliciously cool water. I let myself sink, enjoying the refreshing water, the peacefulness, the weightlessness – before kicking my legs and reaching my hands toward the surface. I broke through the water, tilting my face up slightly so the water would push my hair way from my face.

When I opened my eyes I glanced around for George, and found him standing on top of the rock, grinning at me.

“Well, what are you waiting for,” I said as I treaded water.

“Didn’t want to accidentally land on top of you,” he replied as he grabbed the rope. He walked backwards until there was no more slack in the rope, then bounded across the rock. As his feet left the ground he let out a whoop, sailing almost all the way across the creek. He hung on to the rope as it hit its peak, then just as he started to swing back toward the rock he let go. I laughed at his gigantic splash, and turned my head away from the spray instinctively. A moment later, George’s head popped up so close to my own that I jumped, startled at how quickly he’d swam through the water.

“Boo,” he said.

I laughed and smacked his shoulder. “Smart-aleck.”

He grinned. Surrounded by the blue sky and blue water, his eyes were brilliant, deep and mesmerizing. His shaggy hair was plastered to his forehead, dripping water down his cheeks. A few pieces of hair clung to his cheekbone. I wanted to reach out and push the hair off his face. The thought made my insides flutter. I wasn’t experienced with boys at all, but I knew that a gesture like that would be a statement of some kind, a silent acknowledgement that maybe I was open to something more than friendship. But I thought maybe I was okay with saying that.

My fingers softly – but with no hesitation – skimmed the top of George’s cheekbone, carrying the wet hair off his face. I let my fingers run through his hair, my hand coming to rest on his shoulder for a moment before slipping off into the water again.

Uncertainty hit me belatedly, and I opened my mouth to fill the silence with something funny. But before any words emerged George’s rough hand slid around my bare waist, the other hand cupping the back of my head, tangling in my own wet hair. And then he kissed me.

My insides melted and my skin sizzled. His lips were soft, but firm, asking questions that my own mouth answered enthusiastically. I stopped thinking and became a mass of sensations. The gentle pressure of George’s hands…the feel of hot skin and cold water and sunshine on my back…the cinnamon taste of his mouth. I wrapped my arms around his neck and his hand on my waist became an arm wrapped around me, our bodies pressing into each other.

When George eventually pulled back, I opened my eyes to see his blue ones still inches away from me, their corners crinkled slightly in a smile. I moved my arms and tried to pull away, the rational part of my brain slowly waking up and wondering what in the world had just happened, but George’s arm remained firmly wrapped around my waist.

“Well,” he said.

“Well,” I replied.

As I searched for something not stupid to say, George’s head suddenly dipped slightly, and the arm not wrapped around me snaked behind my knees. I yelped as he scooped me up, then squealed as I found myself launched out of the water. I landed in the water with a splash and emerged laughing.

“Oh, it’s on now.”