Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A Wednesday list

1. It's rainy and cold here today. I don't even mind the rain too much since it brought with it some cooler temperatures. Of course, that also means that as soon as I finished brewing our typical 1/2 pot of coffee this morning I thought to myself...probably should have brewed the whole pot.

2. Thank goodness for public libraries. I have always been and always will be a public library fan, and while the one closest to us is closed for post-flooding repairs, the one we've been going to in the meantime has a fantastic children's department. One library-related thing saving my sanity these days is the plethora of book recommendations from the staff. In my head I spend lots of time at home perusing books and reading reviews and requesting the perfect list. But in reality, I rely on the once-a-week email recommendations I get based on the kids' ages and theme preferences, and on the display books at the library. I love the display books because I can browse and be spontaneous without digging through the stacks. Three cheers for librarians!

3. I'm finally giving in this week and shopping for a new pair or two of running shorts. I love the ones I have, three out of five pair don't have a draw string waist band, and the elastic is super stretched out, which makes for too much tugging during a run. I didn't feel like shopping at a store, so I bought some online and we'll see how they work.

4. Got my Christmas morning cinnamon rolls in the freezer yesterday Mmmm..... It's become one of those things that really makes me get in the Christmas spirit. I use The Pioneer Woman's recipe (minus her glaze/frosting) with just a couple of tweaks, and it hasn't let me down yet.

5. I read these verses this morning and they've really got me thinking today:
"I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of the world. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds." II Corinthians 10:3-5
 A perk of my chronological Bible plan is that I end up reading large chunks of the Bible at once, entire letters, for example. I'm struck in Corinthians (the second letter, in particular) about how as Christians we are to be separate from the world -- not physically, but in our hearts and in the overflow of our hearts (our actions and behavior). I think Christians often interpret this in outward ways, but the above passage is, in my opinion, a strong example of how our separateness is about way more than how we dress, what media we consume, what we do or do not eat or drink. It's about our worldview, the very foundation of who we are, about what's in our hearts. THAT is what's really going to set us apart from the world (see: I Corinthians 13). While that applies in so many ways, this example of essentially how we fight/disagree really seems appropriate right now. "We do not wage war as the world does" -- leveraging hate and human power and anger and discord -- our weapons "have divine power to demolish strongholds." Our we fighting the right enemy? Are we speaking in gentleness and humility and compassion (not to be confused with weakness). Are we recognizing spiritual battles for what they are?  Food for thought.

Cheers! (It's the rainy English weather talking)

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A Wednesday list

1. We did the travel for Thanksgiving thing, and it seems like at the beginning of every trip I have a why are we doing this??? moment. Kids are cranky, it feels like there's snacks and activities and water bottles flying everywhere. Nothing feels natural or easy. And then...it clicks. Everyone adjusts and adapts and relaxes and it's all good. Reminds me that like a lot of things, being comfortable with travel takes practice. The more you do it the shorter those why moments become.

2. Let's talk Christmas shopping. I skipped Black Friday, and seriously I never regret skipping Black Friday. Now, I have taken advantage of Black Friday sales a few times, but usually it's a social occasion for me. A friend or family member suggests it and asks me if I want to go along, and I do, because misery loves company...I mean...in my opinion shopping in general is more fun with a friend. J did take advantage of a few online sales on my behalf, so it wasn't a total boycott.

3. Who out there observes Advent? Last year I learned that the Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones can be read easily for Advent, and I really enjoyed doing that. I discovered this year that the publishers put together some free Advent materials specifically to go along with the JSB, so I'm excited about downloading them. I attempted my Advent reading with C last year, but the JSB was a little too old for her. I'm thinking this year she might enjoy going through it with me a little more. Growing up in a church tradition that didn't follow the liturgical Church calendar, Advent wasn't something we payed much attention to, but I've been exposed to it a bit more over the past few years  though and it's really helped me enjoy the Christmas season a little more, helping me tune out the excess of noise that can crop up during this time of year.

4. We got to have a dinner out with some old friends while we were up in Missouri, and they took us to one of their favorite restaurants. The best part of the night was spending time with old friends, but the food itself was A.maz.ing. The restaurant had a classy, sophisticated vibe and it was also kind of fun to feel like a grownup -- something that doesn't always happen chasing after preschoolers. We also found out this restaurant has a location in Houston (the Galeria, natch). I'm filing it away for a date night in the future.

5. I finally read Finish, by Jon Acuff and it is truly a gem. It's a follow-up to his book Start: a research team approached Acuff after he started his 30 Days of Hustle course, and wanted to study the participants -- what made them successful at the course or not. What they found was that a surprisingly small percentage of those who start goals/projects/ideas actually finish them, and this book looked at that research to give super practical and proven ways to help someone get from start to finish. The best part is that the whole premise of the book is basically how to make things easier, that success isn't always dependent on your ability to work harder or more, but to make projects or goals easy and even fun. Brilliant! It's a quick, funny read (it's Jon Acuff after all)  that will inspire you and help you to finish what you start. Speaking of reading...I also read a book by Dave and Neta Jackson -- Grounded -- over the past couple of weeks. They're the authors of the Yada Yada Prayer Group series which I read ages ago and enjoyed. It wasn't ground-breaking or earth shattering, but Grounded was entertaining, cozy, and a good mix of easy-going and thoughtful. It's definitely what I'd call a "message" book, but the Jacksons typically do a good job of balancing storytelling and sharing a word from God. Since we've spent a lot of time in the car, I also started listening to Bands of Mourning, by Brandon Sanderson. It's the last book in his Mistborn series. I've been on a podcast kick for so long it's been nice to get into an audiobook again. And speaking of Brandon Sanderson...I'm going to start Oathbringer this week.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Giving Tuesday -- Shevet Achim

I'm not sure how long Giving Tuesday has been a thing (the conclusion to a long weekend of buying -- Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday) but I am 100 percent on board with it being a thing, and this year I'm going to put a word out there for one of my favorite non-profit, goodwill organizations that could use any year-end donations you're in the mood to give.

Shevet Achim is an organization in Israel that works to bring children from neighboring areas-- Kurdistan (Northern Iraq), Syria, Gaza and others -- to Israel to receive life-saving heart surgeries. Shevet Achim arranges everything necessary for travel, provides housing and care for the children and their caregivers while the children wait for surgery and during their post-hospital recovery period before going home, and pays the fees necessary to the hospitals and doctors they partner with. More than that, Shevet Achim provides community for children and families during a stressful time. The all-volunteer staff at Shevet Achim live out the love of God in a hands-on, practical way. The community at Shevet Achim is a piece of the Kingdom of God here on earth, and in their interactions with Kurds, Arabs, Christians, and Jews, the community of Shevet Achim are true peacemakers with no agenda but caring for the vulnerable and loving others.

So here's where financial partners come in: it takes funds to feed and house volunteers, children, and their caregivers. It takes funds to secure visas and travel arrangements. While the doctors and nurses who operate on and care for these children generously donate their time, hospital resources cost money. There are a couple of ways to donate: a general donation or a donation toward the care of a specific child. Why not get a few friends, family members, or coworkers together and pool your money to fund a child's heart surgery?

Jeremy, my Dad, and I spent a week as guests at Shevet Achim a few years ago, and I can say that the people there are the real deal. This is something you can feel good about donating to, now or any time of year. Bookmark the site if you're not in a place to give right now, but might be in the future. If you missed the link above, here it is again:

https://www.shevet.org/

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Wednesday list

1. Homemade Chex Mix in the house! Now if I can just keep from eating it all before Jeremy gets home.

2. Brandon Sanderson's Oathbringer released yesterday (the third in his Stormlight Archive series). It'll probably be a few weeks before I dive in (and since I hit up the library for some unneeded books last week, I have plenty to occupy me in the mean time), but I'm looking forward to it. Fall seems like a good time of year to dive into a doorstopper fantasy novel.

3. Still working on the shawl I started at the beginning of October. It's my first foray into lace knitting, and I've unsurprisingly (for me) had to backtrack several times. At first it was mostly frustrating, but now I'm reminding myself about how much I'm learning and how much practice I'm getting in. Let's hope I can keep that perspective...and finish before the cool weather is gone!

4. Speaking of yarn arts -- my friend Stephanie and I are planning knit/crochet weather scarves next year. We have seven different colors of yarn that each correspond with a 10 degree temperature range. Each day of 2018 we'll knit/crochet two rows that correspond to the high temp for that day. At the end of the year, we'll have one colorful, LONG, fun, wearable memory.

5. I had a feeding-people-at-your-home realization the other night (I'd say entertaining, but that makes me think fancy dinner party, and no one's fancy dinner partying around here). One of the best ways to make hosting someone for dinner relaxing and enjoyable: fix food that can mostly be prepped before people come (and cleaned up). Here's two examples: chili or other soups, make your own pizza bar. Everything can be prepped ahead of time. Clean up after eating is minimal. So you get to spend more time with your friends! Win, win, win.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A Wednesday list...

1. Last week I read Maggie Stiefvater's latest YA novel All the Crooked Saints and it is fantastic. The story of a family who helps people face their own darkness but ends up getting lost in their own. It's a story of love, hope, family, courage, and honoring the past by forging a new future. One of the things that really struck me reading this book was how it felt like no word was wasted -- every word specifically and deliberately chosen. So fantastic.

2. Jeremy and I went to see Thor: Ragnarok yesterday I absolutely adored it. It's getting rave reviews and that is no accident. Amazing action? check. Pitch perfect performances by everyone from the small cameos (Matt Damon!) to the lead actors and actresses? check. Delightfully unconventional superhero soundtrack? check. Comedy? check. Brothers united against their evil big sister? typical family drama but with super powers and set in space. The perfect mix of the absurd and the grounded? check and check.

3. At the movies we saw a preview for Marvel's upcoming Black Panther (introduced in the last Avengers), and I have one thing to say: sign. me. up. That movie looks amazing.

4. Speaking of previews....thanks to a glut of commercial viewing watching the baseball World Series (Go Astros!) last week, I got to see a lot of previews for a new January show called 9-1-1 starring Connie Britton, Peter Krause, and Angela Bassett. I'll say it again: sign. me. up. Fingers crossed it's good because I love all three of those actors/actresses.

5. I've got a pretty annoying cough this week, meaning my return to a normal post-baseball (go Astros!) sleep schedule has been interrupted by lots of attempting to sleep, but not so much actual consistent sleep. Fortunately, we're stocked up on coffee and Earl Grey (today's afternoon treat in honor of the cooler weather and gray skies).

6. Next on the book and viewing docket: Finish, by Jon Acuff. Black Wolves, by Kate Elliott, and Stranger Things 2 (which we started finally this week).

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Reading... Girl in the Blue Coat


Girl in the Blue Coat Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse is a fantastic historical fiction novel set in Amsterdam during World War II. Hanneke, like many people in Nazi occupied countries, is simply doing what she can to protect herself and her family. Her personal form of rebellion is selling sought-for items on the black market, such as extra meat, coffee, chocolate, and cigarettes. When a client asks Hanneke to help her find someone close to her who has disappeared, Hanneke resists, not wanting to get involved in anything personal, anything more dangerous than her small-time black market delivery. However, her conscience gets the better of her and she starts to look into the girl's disappearance, and gets pulled into broader resistance efforts. As she begins to learn more about the missing Jewish girl and her life before the Nazi occupation, she begins to face her grief and guilt over the death of her boyfriend. 
Girl in the Blue Coat is poignant and heartbreaking. It's a quiet story, but one with tension and stakes that feel very real. I enjoyed getting to read a story set in Amsterdam, someplace I'm not familiar with, and a somewhat non-traditional setting for a World War II novel. The author also does wonderful job with the characters, particularly Hanneke. I felt like I got to go on a journey with Hanneke, one that felt organic and realistic.

Bottom line: a thoughtful and also suspenseful historical fiction novel, perfect for picking up during cold weather.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

A Thursday list

1. I made a command decision this weekend that even though we hadn't quite landed into fall weather yet, it was soup season darn it, and I was going to start making soup. I love soups/stews, mostly because it can be an inexpensive, easy way to make a meal with tons of flavor and lots of good-for-you stuff inside. Can you make expensive soups/stews full of stuff that isn't quite so healthy but delicious? Of course. But the beauty of soup is that there are so many options! This week's soups: chili (obviously), Italian sausage and chickpea stew, and butternut squash soup.

2.So, I think I mentioned recently that I started a new knitting project. Well, knitting means one of two things: audiobooks or television. I haven't started any new audiobooks lately, but I have been enjoying the return of This is Us, Superstore, and The Middle. My latest Netflix watch has been Longmire, and I'm really enjoying it. It's based on a book series, which Jeremy has read. I read the first book several years ago and liked it, just never got around to picking any more up. They're essentially police procedural mysteries, but the small-town Wyoming setting gives it a unique flavor. The setting is almost like a character, and the show does a good job of translating that. And as far as the show goes, the actors are really top-notch, so it's worth a watch if you enjoy mysteries, small-town settings, or the American West.

3. You know what makes for a great day? Noticing that you have enough rewards on your Starbucks card for a free drink. Yay!

4. Last year I decided to try reading the Bible through chronologically this year. A couple of friends had done it in the past and really enjoyed that kind of read through. While I usually enjoy an in depth study now and then, I felt like I was past due for a good big-picture, broad view reading of the Bible. The Bible app I use (YouVersion) has a chronological plan so I didn't have to buy anything or do any special research. It just tells me what to read every day. I've loved it! It really helps keep things in context, especially the prophets. Everything feels like part of a whole, not just isolated books or chapters or stories. Highly recommend doing a chronological plan at least once in your life (maybe more than that!).

5. Finally picking up All the Crooked Saints today! I had a review book I was plowing through last week, so All the Crooked Saints has been sitting on my table calling to me (the review book, incidentally, was actually a pretty interesting sci-fi book -- C Square. It leaned pretty heavily on the science part of the science fiction, and on philosophy and characters. It was a little rough around the edges, but not bad for an independently published book).

Until next time!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Wednesday list

1. I've come to another spot in my current knitting project where I need to try and fix a mistake. I've never used lifelines in my knitting, but I definitely thing this project is going to be one that needs one. Once I fix this mistake I'll be getting into the lace section and something tells me my current method of winging it won't be quite as reliable.

2. The weather has finally, finally cooled off a little bit. It's all relative of course -- this is Houston after all -- but I've been relishing the cooler mornings and evenings and lower humidity.

3. I recently discovered the artist Ellie Holcomb (and didn't realize until I heard an interview with her that she's the wife of Drew Holcomb of Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors) and I am really enjoying her newest album Red Sea Road. That and The Lone Bellows -- another new band discovery -- are on heavy repeat these days.

4. I've gotten three birthday books the past couple of weeks! The Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner (nonfiction), Black Wolves by Kate Elliott, and All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater. Now the only problem is picking which one to start first! (This is not actually a problem. I mean...it'll still be hard to pick, but it's the best kind of problem).

5. One thing I inherited from my Granny is a love of pens and pencils. I started bullet journaling this year -- which is proving to be a pretty consistent form of journaling for me -- but it also means I'm hyper aware of my writing utensil situation. Anyway, I just bought some new pens and I'm loving them (Bic Atlantis Exact).

Have a great Wednesday, everyone!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Wednesday list

1.Texas A&M v. Alabama. Jeremy and I got the chance to go to College Station with some friends to see the game. My very first "big" college football game, and I have to say, despite the loss it was a great game and a lot of fun (Alabama is the number one team in the country...so we were prepared for the point spread to be much larger. But the Aggies fought hard). I don't watch a ton of sports on tv, but I love live sporting events.

2. Mascara. I've decided I'm just going to claim my go-to brand as Cover Girl. I'm not a big makeup person, but I do wear mascara every day. I'm also prone to "ooh, shiny!" moments anytime I see someone recommend mascara, whether it be a friend, a magazine article, or someone on Instagram. But lately, I just keep coming back to Cover Girl. I think I'm going to re-claim an inch of my limited amount of decision making brain space and just stick with what I know works at the price point I like best.

3. Smoothies. I've finally convinced the kids that they like smoothies. It took them a few tries to get used to the consistency, I think. But now they are hooked, which is nice for two reasons: 1. It gives us another healthy snack option and 2. I can jump on the eat-more-greens-by-shoving-them-in-smoothies bandwagon. It's a good bandwagon.

4. I recently read the book The Wedding Shop, by Rachel Hauck on the recommendation of a friend, and it was a really nice book. It's a back-and-forth romance -- one story set in the 1930s, one set in present day, and both connected. I like those kind of stories, but my only complain with this one was that I wanted more of each story, particularly the present day. It may also be worth noting that it's my preferred kind of Christian fiction: it's all about telling a good story, not beating the reader over the head with a message. The Christian and faith aspects are just woven in as a realistic part of the characters' lives.

5. The next book on my fiction list is a new one I picked up by Kristin Higgins, one of my favorite romance authors. I've also a bit back logged on my non-fiction books. I need to read a few more chapters in Business Boutique, need to read Finishers, by Jon Acuff, and Audacious by Beth Moore. So many books, so little time...

Monday, October 2, 2017

A Monday list

1. It's one of those Mondays that just feels weird. Time seems to have no meaning (how is it 2:30 already? Yet I'm sure 5-7 p.m. will feel like a hundred hours), and we get to wake up to another horrific tragedy. I've got a case of the Mondays, but not in the usual sense.

2. My grocery spending has gone up the past few months, and I just can't put a finger on it because for the most part I'm shopping the same way, the same stores, etc. Maybe the kids are just eating more? I really don't think so, but it is possible. Or maybe I'm not shopping as frugally as I think I am? (that seems like the obvious answer). Whatever the reason, it prompted me to spend a lot of time researching lentil recipes. Fun fact: there are a lot of recipes that substitute lentils where you would traditionally see ground beef, like Shepherd's pie, chili, tacos...

3. I listened to a bonus deep dive episode of The Popcast with Knox and Jamie podcast. They delved into ABC's T.G.I.F. from the 80s/90s. You remember...Full House, Family Matters, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Boy Meets World, Perfect Strangers, etc. It's a great episode about the evolution of tv, some of the best and worst shows to appear in the T.G.I.F. lineup, and lots of fun facts. Plus classic Knox and Jamie hilariousness, obviously.

4. My laptop is being weird today. Not amused.

5. I just started Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty and and just a couple of episodes away from finishing the first season of The Crown on Netflix. I am OBSESSED with that show. Really good and so fascinating. I've never been more than casually intrigued by the British royal family, but the show makes me want to go out and do a bunch of research.

6. I discovered a relatively new and definitely new to me coffee shop just around the corner from my neighborhood. It's super cool, and clearly run by people who love coffee and know their stuff (you can get coffee brewed in ways I've never even heard of). I think they might be Turkish? Turkish coffee is billed as their specialty, although you can get all the standard espresso drinks, cold brew, and other brewed coffee (Chemex, Aeropress, siphon, and the aforementioned ways-I've-never-heard-of). Anyway, I'm excited to spend a lot of my writing hours there, plus maybe a few date nights too. We can bring books or card games and pretend we're dating in college again.


Monday, September 25, 2017

Reading...Exit West


Exit West In Exit West, by Mohsin Hamid, we meet Saeed and Nadia two young people living and working in an unspecified Middle Eastern city in a time somewhat close to now. They meet in a night class and begin a romance just as their city begins to fall apart around them, plagued by the violent struggle between the government and militants. As avenues out of the city close off and the fighting begins to become less of an occasional occurrence and begins to affect their own every day lives, they hear rumors about special doors. Doors that lead to places around the world. People are reported to be able to walk through a door in a bar in Mexico and walk out of a door in a random house in Australia. As the militants work to secure all of the doors in the city, smugglers help people escape the violence as long as they can. Saeed and Nadia decide to leave when they get the chance, leaving behind all they've ever known. They walk through their first door and find themselves in a migrant camp in Greece, what becomes merely one stop in their journey as they become part of a global time of upheaval and change.
In many ways, Exit West feels like a quiet, contemplative story. We see things through the eyes of two people and their relationship. What draws two people together? What makes them stay with each other? How does a relationship change in times of stress? In other ways, Exit West is a big story, exploring themes of migration and societal upheaval. Why do some people stay in hard or dangerous places and circumstances? Why do some people go? Why do some people see new circumstances as a chance to change and grow while others cling to pieces of their past or identity? What happens in a world where people can travel from one place to another almost instantly? How do ideas of community and country and identity change? What happens when the world starts shifting in a way and at a pace that causes some to see impending apocalypse while others see salvation?
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I enjoyed the characters, the story, and the quiet yet thoughtful and contemplative storytelling. I enjoyed the touch of magical realism and the juxtaposition between ordinary, everyday lives and big themes and questions. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

A Monday list

1. I'm procrastinating on a chapter I need to finish on my novel. Which, seriously, I know I've been saying since the spring is almost done...but it's really almost done. I think now I need to do a little organizing work, which may be distracting me from finishing this chapter and one other that I know for sure I need to write. But I also need to see where there are gaps in the story. What I thought I told, but didn't. I need to wrap up the ending -- put a bow on it and all that. I really hate writing endings though. And by hate, I mean...I'm not good at it. Even ending blog posts is often a struggle.

2. I joined a knit-a-long on Instagram this month. It's a gorgeous lacy shawl pattern and wool-silk blend yarn by Treasure Goddess (the knit-a-long is sponsored by her and The Sexy Knitter). A lace shawl is something I've never done before, but something I think suits the climate of Houston a little better than some other knitting projects. Plus, the group knit aspect of a knit-a-long makes it more fun and gives me a good place to ask questions if/when I run into a tricky part.

3. The kids and I went to the Tomball Farmer's Market on Saturday, and had a great time. It was a little hotter and more humid than I would have preferred (not abnormally so for September, sadly), but we got some yummy looking produce, grass-fed beef, popsicles, and locally roasted coffee beans that I haven't tried yet but am really looking forward to. We also ended up stopping at a little splash pad on the way back to the car, which was probably the highlight for the kids.

4. I keep obsessively checking the weather waiting for another break in the heat and humidity. It's better than it was a month ago, but we had such a nice week or two earlier in the month (right after the hurricane) that I'm anxious for a return of those cooler and dryer mornings. Oh well! I'll survive.

5. I just started a new book today (I finished one this weekend, but I'm planning on writing a review of it later so I won't say much about it here). It's fantasy, and one that I'm reading for review. So far I'm only in the prologue, but my first impression is....I hope they tone down the overwriting a little. I'm also trying to decide if I want to dive into an audio book this week since listening to an audio book is a lot of fun to do while knitting -- which I'm doing more of, per number 1. A couple of people have also recently recommended tv shows that sound really good. I know I don't actually have to pick one or the other, but sometimes it's nice when watching/reading time is limited to not feel quite so pulled in too many directions.

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

When 1 + 1 does not equal 2

Information is everywhere, and you can access information in almost any way you can imagine. As a librarian, I'm predisposed to think this is a great thing. As a librarian, my mind also jumps to all the complications of a seemingly endless and easily accessible well of information. How do you know what's reliable? How do you get what you need easily and quickly? What's the best format for a particular piece of information? How do you preserve it, organize it, make it available? How do you decide what's worth keeping (and organizing for that matter)?

When I became a parent, the one thing I knew was that I didn't know anything. I was eager to learn and eager for information. Pregnancy, giving birth, taking care of a baby, raising a human being. I knew next to nothing, and my first instinct was to want to know as much as possible. And anyone parenting in this age of information will tell you that there is just so. much. advice. out there. You could go broke buying baby books and child rearing books, and all of them are going to contradict each other. Add to that blogs and web sites and parenting articles published in nearly any online publication imaginable. Add to that the way parents used to get advice: friends, neighbors, parents.

It's a lot. And sooner than I expected, I stopped my never-ending quest to have the perfect amount and blend of parenting knowledge. For one thing, it's overwhelming. But what I've begun to realize is that the overabundance of parenting advice and information can lead to the assumption that there is one right way to do things. One perfect formula that will give you the results you want. Only one problem with that:

Kids are people too.

Crazy concept, I know, but when I can remember that my kids are little human beings, it helps me to keep a little perspective. Perspective when the kids are tantruming...or fighting...or reaching milestones at their own pace....or taking their time with potty training....or not sleeping the way I think they should sleep. Kids are people too, and those little personalities (or big personalities) and preferences and thoughts and desires result in a lot of variables. Is seeking advice a good thing? Sure. But I've realized I'm a whole lot happier if I spend less time reading about what everyone else is doing, less time looking for "expert" formulas and more time loving on my kids, praying for them, and just getting to know them and finding out what makes them tick.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

A Wednesday list

1. I finished Buried Heart, by Kate Elliott this week. It's the third in her Court of Fives trilogy (I wrote a review of the first one here). I very much enjoyed Buried Heart, both as a story in its own right, but also as the conclusion of the trilogy. I was a little worried at one point that Jessamy (the main character) was about to do some things completely out of character, but in the end she was true to herself and the ending was very satisfying. Overall, I thought Elliott did a fantastic job of creating a rich and vibrant world for this trilogy, characters that were compelling enough that I cared what happened to them even if I wanted to smack them upside the head more than a few times, and a plot that never dragged or felt forced.

2. Kiddos start Mother's Day Out this week (we're calling it pre-school because it's easier to say and close enough). Should be a fun adventure!

3. We had cool front move through today and it feels FANTASTIC outside! We played at the park this morning and couldn't have asked for better weather. Probably should have taken advantage of the good weather for a run...but there's always tomorrow!

4. I'm reading a ghost-busting middle grade novel right now -- it's for a review web site that I'm going to start contracting with on occasion. $15 to write a short paragraph review and post it on Amazon and Goodreads. It's my first one, and part of me feels a little weird. There can be a stigma that paid consumer reviews (those posted on sites like Goodreads and Amazon) aren't "real," because there's a temptation to be falsely positive, but I've been instructed to be honest, and as long as that's the case I can't think of anything unethical about it. Plus, it'll be good experience to be able to add to my freelance writing resume.

5. Once I finish the paid-for review I've got a couple of library books to dig into -- Exit West by Mohsin Hamid and Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman, a sequel that I keep forgetting I haven't read yet. We'll see if I can read them before they disappear!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A Wednesday List....Hurricane Harvey edition

It's been a weird few days. Maybe you've heard about the catastrophic weather event happening in South Texas? To recap: Hurricane Harvey, hitting the coast at a category 4 and moving very slowly inland where it decided to camp out over Houston and dump record breaking levels of rain on the nation's fourth largest city -- a place that is prone to flooding under normal circumstances. Thousands stranded and displaced. We have been very lucky -- our neighborhood got some high water in the street, but houses remained dry. Streets and buildings and homes not far from us are flooded, but we are okay. Of course, it's the kind of few days that generate a lot of thoughts to process, and you all know how I like to best process things...

1. I've mostly spent the past four days feeling extremely grateful. Grateful that my family was together and safe, that we had power and water and food and even a luxury like working Internet. I've been thankful for first responders, community volunteers, meteorologists, and friends and family who check on each other. And a special shout-out to the two meteorologists to run www.spacecityweather.com, providing factual, current, non-sensational updates and forecasts. 

2. While there have been some disheartening accounts of people behaving badly, it's been inspiring to see and hear people rallying around each other and reaching out to neighbors in a very broad sense of the word (have you heard about the Cajun Navy? Yeah, that's just pretty awesome). Stressful circumstances can bring out the worst in people, but they also bring out the best too. 

3. There's nothing like a natural disaster to remind you that your not in control. It's an exercise in trusting God and leaning on Him. 

4. Along with being out of control is that feeling of being helpless. Of watching heartbreaking news footage or hearing the reports of damage and flooding and knowing it's not over by a long shot, but knowing there's nothing you can do at this moment. But sometimes one of the best ways to help is by staying out of the way and not adding to the chaos (especially when you've got two toddler/preschoolers in to think about). So I wait, knowing that one day the sun will come back, and opportunities will pop up for me to get my hands dirty, and I simply pray that I will see them and jump in with both feet. 

5. It's hard to think about life beyond the twilight zone bubble, but I know we'll get back to regular day-to-day life eventually. We'll stop watching too much tv (sorry kids). On a side note, I didn't finish the book I'd started which surprised me a little -- we've had a lot of extra down time, but not as much with keeping routines somewhat normal for the kids, plus I'm rewatching Friends right now too -- but I'm about halfway through Buried Heart, by Kate Elliott. Things are getting good!

5. I've been really touched by all the friends checking in on us, some I expected to hear from and some I didn't. Each text or message was a real bright spot. 

Please keep praying for Southeast Texas, and hug your loved ones today!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A Wednesday list

1. We have family visiting from out of town this week! I always love family visits, especially when they are long enough to be leisurely.

2. The littlest munchkin turned 2 yesterday (thus the family visit). It surprises me every time I think about it! But I hear that's how it goes with kids. He's a pretty cool kid (even with the beefed up toddler emotions). He's funny and silly and affectionate and joyful.

3. Reading-wise: I read Girl on the Train recently. More accurately, I read the first two-thirds and skimmed the last third. I was spoiled on the ending, and while that doesn't always mean I don't finish a book, sometimes it does. Overall it was was a pretty good mystery, but not my favorite. After I finished it I shopped my own bookshelves and finally picked up a book someone had given me to read several years ago. I gave The Heart is a Lonely Hunter a solid chance, but it's going to be a DNF for me. Party of my problem may have been the writing style -- it was written in the forties and the phrasing and style felt a little clunky -- but nothing really sparked my interest enough to keep going. It wasn't really depressing, but definitely leaned toward melancholy. I have a guess that any book written post WWI and pre-WWII probably leans that way, and if I were feeling scholarly I might seek out a large sample size of books written during that time and put my theory to the test (I mean...think about Hemingway). But I'm not feeling all that scholarly so....

4. I picked up Buried Heart, by Kate Elliott, the third in a trilogy I'm looking forward to finishing. I'm also slowly working my way through Business Boutique by Christy Wright and would like to get started on my pre-release copy of Finish, by Jon Acuff. Naturally, with all these books I want to read, I'll probably waste time re-watching episodes of Friends on Netflix.

5. I'm pretty much over summer. Let me rephrase that: I'm over sweating and trying to keep my house from being run over by bugs. However, the reality of living in Houston is that we've still got a ways to go. So I'll say it and take a deep breath and then accept reality and try to find some silver linings (like the nice long growing season in Texas and the plentiful and cheap fresh and delicious produce). Because there's no point in getting too worked up over something that you can't change.

Monday, August 14, 2017

A Monday list

The past two days I've felt alternately angry, sad, and helpless in the face of hateful, racist, violent words and demonstrations. I know that the rally in Virginia isn't an isolated event, just a large and high profile one. It's a heartbreaking reminder that there are people who, for whatever reason, have let hate and anger and fear take root in their hearts. Who don't believe that we are all created in God's image, and that our differences are what make our world interesting. It's a reminder that people all over the world believe the answer to their problems is the existence of someone else -- someone "other" -- in the same space. We see this conflict played out time and time again, but it gets no less devastating. So here's my list for today, the things I'm reminding myself...

1. Pray. Pray like I BELIEVE it. Pray that people's hearts would change in the way that only Jesus can change them. Pray for Christians to be bold, compassionate, loving, and humble.

2. Pay attention. Pay attention to any opportunity I have to be a light in this dark, dark world. Maybe that's reaching out to a neighbor, giving time or money to organizations already fighting the good fight, teaching my children one day at a time to be loving and respectful of all people, or speaking out if I hear someone saying things that are hateful.

3. Follow Jesus to the best of my ability, in the circumstances I find myself in. The reality is that I will do more good occupying my own space well than in fretting over what I can't do at this moment. Am I loving my neighbors well? Do I see an opportunity to bless a friend struggling with grief, to take a meal to a sick neighbor, to be kind and friendly to that kind of weird person at church who is feeling lonely and outcast?

I think I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the fact that I don't know what it's like to have such hatred focused at me, and because of this words often fail me. I don't want to spout platitudes or be condescending in an effort to mean well, but what I will say is that I am sorry, I am angry, I hurt for you, and I can't imagine how you're feeling. I hope I can live my life in a way that is the opposite of hate.

"By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the worlds' goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth." I John 3:16-18

"Save, O Lord, for the godly one is gone; for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man. Everyone utters lies to his neighbor; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak. May the Lord cut off all flattering lips, the tongue that makes great boasts, those who say, 'With our tongue we will prevail, our lips are with us; who is master over us?' Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan, I will now arise,' says the Lord; 'I will place him in the safety for which he longs.' The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on teh ground, purified seven times. You, O Lord, will keep them; you will guard us from this generation forever. On every side the wicked prowl as vileness is exalted among the children of man." Psalm 12

Monday, August 7, 2017

A Monday list

1. I took a big dream baby step today: I bought a domain name! Because I'm not in the mood to reinvent the wheel, www.amandaloveswords.com is now mine, all mine! And after way too much reading and a few attempts to make things harder than I needed to, I redirected the domain to this existing blog. One day I may try to develop an online portfolio -- which would require a bit more of an advanced web site than a simple blog -- but in the meantime, I think the simplified domain name looks a little more professional when I'm trying to do writer/editor/proofreader-type networking.

2. I've been in the mood for a true rainy day, and got my wish this morning. Granted, because it's August in South Texas that means that it's going to feel like a literal jungle outside, but it is what it is.

3. I started The Girl on the Train this weekend (the book). It's not the kind of mystery/suspense novel that I usually gravitate toward, but a friend read it and passed it on, and if someone I know physically hands me a book to try, I am more inclined to at least give it a go. (which reminds me that it's been at least three years, maybe more, since my friend Rita gave me a couple of books to read, and I still haven't cracked them open yet. Oops. Of course, one of them she said she didn't like, which isn't exactly motivating).

4. July seemed to last forever, but now I'm wondering how we're a week into August already. The kids are going to be starting a two-day-a -week Mother's Day after Labor Day, and there are a couple of other things going on that first week of September. So I think the forward-thinking-looming-deadlines-giant-list-making is taking my gaze off of the every day here and now.

5. Last week the kids and I checked out a little local used book store that's just a few minutes from the house. They had an adorable little kids section with big floor pillows and a little table and chairs, and now Christina keeps asking to go on a "bookstore adventure."  Because I was trying to manage the kid chaos (and explain to Christina the difference between borrowing books from the library, which we do every week, and buying books from a bookstore) I didn't really look around the adult section too much, but it seems to have a pretty decent variety, especially for a small store. I'm looking forward to making another trip soon.

Happy Monday!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Reading...The Martian

The nice thing about reading popular books a few years after they're published (and after the movie adaptation comes out) is that there's no hold on the libarry copy and you can read it right away! I'd heard good things about The Martian by Andy Weir from both science fiction and non-science fiction fans. When it popped up as a recommendation on Overdrive (an app to download ebooks from your local public library) I checked it out, and really enjoyed it.

The book is essentially a stranded-on-a-desert-island survival story, but with a lot more science. Mark Watney is an astronaut who gets left behind on Mars when he and his crewmates are forced to evacuate their mission early due to a dangerous sandstorm. Mark is assumed dead -- which is how he gets left behind -- but it turns out he survives the storm very much alive. Mark is a great character -- likable and believable, like someone you'd want to hang out with back home. So it's easy to get invested in what's happening. It really felt almost like reading a memoir of what happened to a real person. The secondary characters filled their roles well -- real people who were worrying and working to get Mark home.

You can tell that the author is a scientist -- or at least a big fan of science and space travel. There's a lot of science as Mark explains in his log what he's doing and how he's doing it, and lots of insights into rockets and astrophysics and all the things necessary to space travel. While there are a few times where I -- who doesn't know a whole lot about science or physics or math -- got a little lost in the numbers, it didn't hinder my enjoyment. Occasionally I just kind of skimmed over those parts, reading enough to get the gist of what was going on. But for someone who really digs science, I'm pretty sure they would find some of the more detailed explanations a nice addition to the story. And i do think it lent a lot of realism to the story, grounding it in reality and making it seem -- like I mentioned above -- like it could be based on a true story.

Bottom line: great read, and I'm ready to see the film adaptation

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Tuesday list

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Wednesday list

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

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

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

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

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 30, 2017

A Friday list

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

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

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

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

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

 Happy weekend!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Thursday List

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

2. Potty training.

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Watching...Anne with an E

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Wednesday list

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A Wednesday list

1. Recently finished At Home in the World, by Tsh Oxenreider. It's a travel memoir about a family of five who spent a school year traveling around the world, and I really enjoyed it. It's conversational, thoughtful, and full of gratitude. It made me want to travel, but also made me feel like it's okay to be a homebody sometimes. And it's not just a travel log or list of cool things the family got to see and do. It's more about self discovery, family, relationships, stepping out of your comfort zone, and longing for the familiar.

2. I'm a big Date Lady fan (my cousin's wife owns the company, but I'd be a fan anyway. It's delicious, award-winning stuff), and today tried one of their new products for the first time: Coconut Caramel Sauce. I am in LOVE. Y'all. I can't even with how good it is. The coconut is subtle, and the date-sweetened caramel is not too sweet. It's good on fruit, on ice cream, in coffee, on a spoon.

3. Apparently today is Global Running Day! I ran 3.18 miles to celebrate. Don't know if it's the humidity or what, but the runs have felt hard the past couple of weeks. I'm hoping my body stops rebelling soon.

4. I've been trying out new personal care products by Akamai Basics. The idea behind Akamai and their products is "personal care, radically simplified." Plus, everything is natural and organic and full of ingredients that are good for your body. Anyway, they have three products: a 3-in-1 bar, toothpaste, and skin fuel (an oil-based moisturizer). It's a subscription based company, so you get your box of goodies every two months, and you can customize the box as needed. I love the toothpaste. It's pretty reasonably priced for that kind of all-natural, organic, etc. product, so I'll probably keep buying it. It tastes a little weird at first, but it makes my mouth and teeth feel amazing. The skin fuel is nice and light. Right now, I use it in my hair, after I shave, and basically how I'd use lotion. The 3-in-1 bar I am torn on. 3-in-1: body/shave, face, hair. I like it as a soap/shaving cream replacement. My skin feels clean, but not dry, and it really does work well in place of shaving cream. It's fine on my face too (see: not dry). But it's the hair that I can't decide on. My hair feels clean but...different. I think it's the feeling you get if you don't wash your hair often, or don't use shampoo when you wash (people who wash with baking soda or other non-shampoo washes). Basically, I think it's just my hair returning to a more natural state. So, it feels clean...but also dirty? I think it LOOKS fine (at least, no one's told me it looks dirty), and I can go longer between washing, it, which is awesome (except, that when I'm running I wash it anyway, because -- sweat). So again, I'm torn. One day, I love it, then next, I hate it. And honestly, I'm overthinking it, which is ironic, since the whole idea is to make my life SIMPLER.

5.  I've got a library book sitting on my table and a stack of old advanced reader copies I've been meaning to read since I worked at the New Hanover County Public Library. My goal the next few months is to make my way though those and a few other library book sale purchases that have sat on the shelf unread for several years. I admittedly tend to get distracted by shiny new things (see: library book sitting on table), but I recently read one really good one, and put one unfinished in the donate pile that I just couldn't get into.

Happy Wednesday!


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Reading...A Study in Charlotte

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro is a delightful re-imagining of Sherlock Holmes. Imagine that James (Jamie) Watson and Charlotte Holmes are teenagers whose family legacy goes all the way back to the infamous Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson. Imagine that Jamie and Charlotte are teenagers, and finally meet at a Connecticut boarding school where murder and attempted murder bring them into the thick of what one might consider a fated partnership.

There are many adaptations, re-tellings, and twists on the Sherlock and Watson story, and this one more than holds its own. I liked the idea of Holmes and Watson being real people whose families are connected for generations. You get a modern day Holmes trained in deduction and science and logic from birth, a teenager who consults with Scotland yard, but who's family legacy also includes a bit of neurosis, emotional detachment, mental illness, and drug addiction. I like that you get a Watson who is an aspiring writer, whose youthful fascination with the story of Charlotte Holmes turns into a genuine -- if unconventional -- relationship and deep bond.

There are other small gems in the story: Jamie's dad, Charlotte's brother, a couple of boarding school friends and one genuinely caring dorm mother. There are a lot of bits of humor and levity, just enough to offset some of the heavier elements like Charlotte's drug addiction and an (off camera) instance of sexual assault.

All in all, a great read if you like mysteries and boarding school and fated if slightly unconventional relationships. An especially great read if you like Sherlock Holmes.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Reading...Strange the Dreamer

I've decided that Lanie Taylor is basically a wizard. You know the story-within-a-story where the things an author writes come true? Taylor's writing is that way -- just magical. She writes captivating stories set in fantastical worlds that I can see unfurling across the page. Taylor's writing is lush and decadent. In the hands of a different author, it's the kind of writing that might seem overwrought, but Taylor's stories are the perfect vehicle for that kind of evocative prose -- they're fairy tales.

Strange the Dreamer is the story Lazlo Strange, a boy orphaned by war and raised by dutiful but somewhat uncaring monks in the city of Zosma. He finds solace in his imagination, and in stories. And for Lazlo, one story stands out above all the rest: the story of Weep, the legendary unseen city across the vast desert called the Elmuthaleth. Caravans full of stories and marvelous treasures would entice the countries on this side of the Elmuthaleth. Adventurers would set out to attempt the dangerous dessert crossing, but none returned, as outsiders were forbidden in the Unseen City and put to death. But two hundred years ago, all the caravans stopped coming, and people began to forget about Weep. For Lazlo, it was the story of all stories, a mystery that captivated him so much it helped him earn his nickname "Strange the Dreamer," and just a little bit of ridicule among his eventual colleagues at the Great Library.

Until one day, a company of legendary warriors from the Unseen City rode into Zosma, and everything changes. Lazlo is given the chance to accompany the Tizarkane warriors and the scholars they've recruited to help them solve a mysterious problem in Weep. It's the adventure he's always dreamt of, and one that will give him more questions than answers.

Strange the Dreamer is a story that lives in the gray areas -- where good people do bad things, where centuries of oppression and torture breed hate and fear, and where sometimes there is no clear path forward. It's a story about hoping and striving for the best, but sometimes having to face the worst.

Clearly, I loved this book. It's a duology, and I can't wait for book number two! But, I realize fairy tale-esque fantasy isn't for everyone. But if that IS your jam (or you are open to trying it) here's an excerpt from the book that I think represents it really well:

All his life, time had been passing in the only way he knew time to pass: unrushed and unrushable, as sands running through an hourglass grain by grain. And if the hourglass had been real, then in the bottom and neck --  the past and present -- the sands of Lazlo's life would be as gray as his robes, as gray as his eyes, but the top -- the future -- would hold a brilliant storm of color: azure and cinnamon, blinding white and yellow gold and the shell pink of svytagor blood. So he hoped, so he dreamed: that, in the course of time, grain by grain, the gray would give way to the dream and the sands of his life would run bright. 
Now the bird. The presence of magic. And something beyond the reach of understanding. An affinity, a resonance. It felt like...it felt like the turn of a page, and a story just beginning. There was the faintest glimmer of familiarity in it, as though he knew the story, but had forgotten it. And at that moment, for no reason he could put into words, the hourglass shattered. No more, the cool gray sift of days, the diligent waiting for the future to trickle forth. Lazlo's dream was spilled out into the air, the color and storm of it no longer a future to be reached, but a cyclone here and now. He didn't know what, but as surely as one feels the sting of shards when an hourglass tips off a shelf and smashes, he knew that something was happening.
Right now. 
 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Every mile counts


Travel survival skill: sleep when you can, where you can.
Nailed it.

This post was inspired by a book launch campaign from Tsh Oxenreider with the release of her new book At Home in the World (which I just started reading). I'm too late for the official launch-week "party," but I figure it's never to late to talk about something that's occupying brain space and capturing my interest!



I’ve always enjoyed traveling. Maybe it was the frequent trips to visit grandparents a few hours away. Or being an avid reader, visiting numerous places through the pages of books. Or maybe it was the two week road trip my family took when I was nine, driving from our home in Missouri to Michigan, Niagra Falls, New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Tennessee, and Atlanta. Maybe it was seeing my Dad come home from a trip to China, full of stories and excitement from experiencing a new culture and connecting with people from across the globe. Aside from those few experiences, my family’s travel was mostly limited to trips to see grandparents and great-grandparents. But we took advantage of opportunities when we could:  a trip to Spain with my Dad in high school. A senior trip to England and Scotland. A family camping trip through Oklahoma and North Dakota. And those experiences planted the seed of wanderlust, a desire to travel and see and experience other places.  Fast forward a couple of decades, I've logged more miles and continued to take advantage of seeing new places when I can. The travel bucket list just keeps growing, and my husband and I slowly get ourselves into a position to continue see more of the world.

These days, any kind of dream factors in two sweet kiddos – a three year old and a one and a half year old. Travel is on my mind lately because I recently listened to a couple of podcasts talking about travel, in particular traveling with children. One constant theme: to have kids who are good travelers you just have to ….travel. Like most things in life, if you want to get better at something, or if you want it to be easier, you have to practice. At first, I thought to myself: well, better get busy planning family trips! And then the other day, as I was packing suitcases for a weekend trip to visit cousins in Austin I realzed: this was the sixth time in the past six moths that I’ve packed suitcases for a trip. A two-legged trip to Missouri in December to visit family, followed immediately by a vacation in North Carolina in January, a week in the country with the grandparents, followed two weeks later by a week in Florida (Disney World!). Back to the grandparents’ for Easter, the aforementioned last-minute trip to Austin, and most recently a weekend road trip to Oklahoma  for a half marathon. And there you have it: practice. And I realized, practice doesn’t have to be glamorous. Travel doesn’t have to be glamorous. Maybe it’s “just” going up to Nana and Grandpapa’s, but that’s still learning to be comfortable away from home. Maybe it’s “just” a trip to Oklahoma, but it’s still experiencing something beyond your neighborhood (and for a three year old from Texas, Oklahoma is probably pretty exotic). It’s getting used to flying, riding, and watching. It’s getting to a point I can pack for three in an hour (30 minutes if it’s just an overnight). It’s knowing what things I’m so thankful I packed, and what things just took up space.

It’s family together time, it’s (mostly) a lot of fun, and it’s growing travel and life skills one mile at a time.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Reading and listening

1. This post could accurately be titled "A Monday list" but I'm feeling a little rebellious this afternoon.

2. A few days ago I just finished listening to the podcast "S-town." It's a seven episode podcast by the producers of Serial and This American Life. It's like listening to a short novel, or creative memoir. I saw it described somewhere as a "true life Southern Gothic," and I think that's applicable. If you like stories about people and how we're all a little more complex below the surface, then you may enjoy this story. I say may, because unlike most novels, "S-town" doesn't wrap up in a nice tidy package. It starts out as one story, and turns into something else. But it is fascinating, and creative, and you'll want to talk about it.

3. Right now I'm reading Good Faith, by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. It's a thought-provoking look at how to navigate those the intersections when Christian beliefs collide with opposing beliefs. It's goal is to give people insight into how to hold fast to convictions, while still loving their neighbors and treating people who disagree with respect and kindness. In a culture where it seems that disagreements always lead to fighting, and where everyone is divided into "us" and "them," this book seems exceptionally timely. So far, I'm really enjoying it. Some of the things they talk about aren't rocket science (listen to people before speaking, for example), but it's presented in such a way that makes it resonate and sink in just a little more. And there are a few ideas that create a bit more of an "a-ha!" moment.

4. We've got a date night planned for this month. Nothing too exciting: dinner and a movie. BUT, we're trying out a restaurant called Q-shi, a barbecue/sushi fusion, that we randomly saw featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives . Sounds a little weird but also a little awesome. Then, of course, we'll be headed to see Guardians of the Galaxy 2.


Happy Monday!



Monday, April 24, 2017

A Monday List

1. I keep forgetting today is Monday, because it really feels like Tuesday. Yesterday, the kids and I stayed home because both kids were pretty snotty. I thought it might be allergies, but a feeling in my gut sent me to the pediatric walk-in clinic and sure enough -- Christina has an ear infection and pink eye. All that to say -- yesterday felt more like Monday. So I'm already trying to catch my bearings this week.

2. I went to Half Priced Books last week ( I LOVE that store) and bought a couple of books, one that I'd already had on my radar, and one spontaneous-I-liked-the-cover purchase. I may end up regretting the spontaneous purchase, but we'll see.

3. I probably won't write a whole post about it, but I ended up reading the first book in the Hugo Marston mystery series (I'd accidentally read book six, The Paris Librarian, a few weeks ago). I liked some parts of that first book -- The Bookseller -- a little better than The Paris Librarian, but some parts less. I think oddly enough, my least favorite parts of the books are the main character. He's a little bit....too perfect, I think. But I like the mysteries, the way the author writes Paris as a character, the supporting cast. So, I think I'll probably return to Hugo Marston when I'm in the mood for a good procedural/detective novel.

4. Chili for dinner tonight. I could have chili every week. In winter, in summer...whatever, whenever. So good.

5. iZombie and The Amazing Race are back! (I'm a few weeks late in proclaiming this, I know, but it's been a bit busy around these parts). I was trying to describe iZombie the other day, and thinking about how with some shows with a "thing" -- like zombies -- the "thing" is really a vehicle for the storytelling (like Walking Dead -- it's not really about the zombies) That's kind of true with iZombie too (although...it's also pretty heavily about the zombies), and I was thinking -- well, it's a procedural mystery show, but funny sometimes, kind of like Veronica Mars, but with zombies. Which duh, makes sense, since it's made by the same person. Anyway...I loved Veronica Mars, so no surprise iZombie hits a sweet spot with me. And of course, Amazing Race will always have a special place in my heart, even though I'm not having much luck staying caught up since I don't have CBS All Access (or cable, etc.).

Happy Monday!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Blog reading

It's been a while since I posted links to blogs I enjoy reading on a semi-regular basis. I kind of think of blog reading like magazine reading -- some place I can go to read short(ish) articles about things I find interesting. When I've just got a few minutes, or an attention span too short to read in whatever book I've got, magazine and blog reading is a nice option. My blog reading is kind of all over the place lately: previously, I followed and regularly read quite a few library and book-related blogs as part of my job. Naturally, that consumption has slowed down a bit in the past couple of years, and since I'm not getting paid to perform readers' advisory at the moment, my blog reading has diversified a bit (although I'm always going to gravitate toward book blogs, naturally). Plus, I switched feed readers a while back (which is my favorite way to keep up with blogs) and quite a few blogs got lost in the transition, so I'm building up my list of go-to reading again. In no particular order, here are three blogs that I'm particularly digging these days:

1. http://monicaswanson.com/
Monica Swanson (the "grommom") is an author, wife, and the mom of four boys. She and her family live in Hawaii, homeschool, and surf a lot. Her blog is in the genre of what I'd call "mom blogs." She writes about parenting, homeschooling, healthy eating, and life on the North Shore (which....seriously, all her gorgeous pictures are worth following by themselves!). I discovered her when she was a guest on a podcast, and stuck around her web site because I was drawn to her laid-back, friendly, conversational voice. She clearly values relationship with her kids (who range from upper elementary to teenage), and I'm always trying to soak up examples of building and maintaining family relationships.

2. The Lazy Genius
Y'all, I really feel like The Lazy Genius and I could be friends in real life. This web site and blog is run by Kendra Adachi, and the premise behind Lazy Genius, is "being genius about the things that matter, and lazy about the things that don't." Identify the things that matter most to you (TO YOU being the operative words here), and don't waste valuable energy on things that aren't really important. On this blog you'll find posts on everything from making friends to cleaning, shopping at Aldi and cooking, to books, reading, and a March Madness Bracket of Guys. It's sometimes serious, sometimes fun, and always enjoyable.

3. Forever Young Adult
Unlike the other two blogs, this a site I've been following for a while. What started out as a site that posted reviews of YA books has evolved into a site for all the best parts of YA and YA-adjacent media -- books, movies, tv. It's still a great place for book reviews, and a lot of fun too.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A Tuesday list

1. Barry's Irish Breakfast Tea. Backstory: a former coworker Aimee told me about this tea when we worked together at the Pender County Public Library. She had been to Ireland several times, and discovered this tea -- which she had only ever found in Ireland. She took a trip to Ireland while we were working together, and brought back some Barry's, which she generously shared a bit with me. I never knew I could love just a simple black breakfast tea so much. Fast forward: I happen to glance at the tiny "British" section of my local HEB grocery store and practically do a happy dance when I see my beloved Barry's. HEB is the best, y'all. The. best.

2. The Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon and Half Marathon is coming up soon! This is significant to me because I'm signed up to run the half. I'm excited because it's my first half since before the kids were born. Actually, I think it's my first race, period since then. Training is a different animal this time around. A lot more people involved and a lot more logistics to work out when it comes long (i.e., time consuming) runs. It's been good though. It's felt good to push myself physically again, to get back into a running groove. I will say I am looking forward to not juggling all of those logistics. Hats off to my running friends with kids who are training for something most of the year. And hats off to an extremely supportive husband who helps me manage those logistics by doing things like getting the kids ready for church on Sunday mornings and keeping air in the tires of my jogging stroller.

3. Finished Rivals in the City, which was a delight from beginning to end. I didn't have anything specifically lined up to read next, so I'm flailing a little bit today. I have a lot of choices and a lot of books on my to-read list, so it's mostly a matter of just figuring out my mood. Which is easier said than done. On the non-fiction front, I am in the middle of Good Faith, which is really good and really thought-provoking. I'll have a lot more to say about that when I'm finished.

4. Bought Christina's birthday present yesterday and I'm super excited about it. I stole the idea from my parents and a gift they bought my niece -- a ukelele. C LOVES to pretend to play the guitar, but right now she just uses our Rock Band guitar. I liked the idea of giving her an actual instrument, just in case she really likes it and wants to learn to play as she gets older. Bonus: if she ends up not caring one day, she can just pass that instrument on to her mama. Double Bonus: I found a red one. And anyone who knows C probably knows it's her favorite color.

5. Anyone else feeling bereft on Tuesday nights these days without This is Us? Just me?

Happy Tuesday!



Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A Wednesday List

1. My post-vacation hangover (travel hangover, not alcohol hangover...just to clarify) isn't as bad as I thought it would be. I think part of that is the fact that it really was a relaxing vacation. Did I get enough sleep? Of course not! There were conversations to have and games to play! But stress level was minimal, and I definitely left feeling mentally, emotionally, and spiritually recharged. Plus, my first two days back I had fun activities scheduled with Houston friends, so that helped soften the blow of being back to "real life."

2. The weather today is AMAZING. Mid seventies, low humidity. It's the kind of weather you forget happens in Houston when it's the middle of July and the tropical weather -- mid to upper 90s with high humidity -- has you sweating under a heat blanket with no end in sight. Definitely not taking it for granted today.

3. I'm in the middle of reading Rivals in the City by Y.S. Lee. It's the fourth book in The Agency series, a Victorian mystery series starring a young female detective. It's a really fantastic series. The Victorian setting is clearly meticulously researched, and beautifully and artfully portrayed -- there's no dry, historical exposition, in other words -- the mysteries are solid, and the characters are people you want to get to know more. I'm moving a little slow on finishing this book because of vacation and then real life catch-up activities, but I'm enjoying it just as much as the first three.

4. Speaking of vacation (I know...jumping around here), even though we didn't travel to someplace exotic, just getting out of town and going someplace new stirred my travel bug a bit. Then listening to two different guests on The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey talk about traveling and traveling with their families (kids) really fanned the flame. I'm busting out the white board today to start brainstorming our family travel bucket list. Because A) if you don't plan for it, it won't happen B) I need to be able to research, look for deals, and know how much money to save up for trips and C) a little dreaming is good for the soul!

Happy Wednesday!