Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A Wednesday list...(in memoriam)

December can feel like being on an express train  -- decorating, gift buying, parties, concerts, movies, traditions, travel. We want to simultaneously slow down and sip hot chocolate in front of our fireplace while gazing contemplatively out at gently falling snow, no obligations in sight; and also wring every last drop of fun and memory-making and glittery sequins out of the Holiday season. But some years, a shift in perspective is forced upon us...

Jeremy's grandmother passed away this week. She was 101 years old. Isn't that amazing? To be honest, I find the idea of living that long pretty exhausting, but think about the perspective one would have living that much life. GG (as the great-grandkids called her) was a teenager during the Great Depression. Her husband had polio. She was a young adult during World War II, and saw her son-in-law off to Vietnam. Telephones to cell phones. Typewriters to computers. Washing clothes by hand to having an automatic washing AND drying machine in your home. Television. 

I didn't know GG very well but from what I did know of her  and what I have learned about her through stories and memories, is that she was a picture of steadiness, faithfulness, toughness, joy, generosity, and fierce love. I wonder if living so much life helped give GG the kind of clarity it takes to live a life that isn't necessarily flashy, but one that impacts generations. 

In honor of GG, this week's list of thoughts is four memories I have of this quietly remarkable woman:

1. She was a gardener -- and I mean, she had a big, store-it-up-for-winter kind of garden. Even when she couldn't manage the garden herself and got help from her daughter, she was actively did what she could to be involved.  I even have pictures from this past June of her shelling peas with my kiddos. 

2. She loved the Dallas Cowboys. Every Sunday you could find her parked in front of her t.v. watching "her boys."

3. She made some of the best peanut brittle I've ever had. In fact, Christmas Eve at her house was a snack-lovers feast: millionaires, peanut brittle, pecan brittle, chocolate dipped peanut butter balls, cookies, peanut butter chocolate chex mix, original chex mix. Everyone else brought the savory snacks, but the sweets were GG's specialty.

4. She LOVED her grandkids and great-grandkids. Anytime one of her grandkids or great-grandkids would walk in the door her eyes would light up. 

Thank you GG for leaving such a legacy of love and faithfulness. Your peace and rest are well-deserved, but there is no doubt you will be missed. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

A Wednesday list...

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Wednesday!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

A Wednesday list...


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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, November 21, 2018

A Wednesday list...

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the rest of the week, friends!

Friday, November 16, 2018

More than just a beverage

Cappucino.

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

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

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

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

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

Capuccino.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A Wednesday list...

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

A Wednesday list...

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

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

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

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

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

What are you reading this week?

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A Wednesday list...

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

A Wednesday list....

1. Life's been out of the normal routine for a few weeks because I was sick and recovering from minor surgery, but I think we're beginning the get-back-in-the-groove process. I think the biggest challenge will be getting back to setting my alarm clock and living that early morning life. When I am disciplined about getting to bed early enough, I really do enjoy waking up before the kiddos to start the day. My goal is to use that time for writing And because I tend to have more creative energy earlier in the day, but getting back on that schedule may take a week or so. Baby steps!

2. It's midterm election time! I spent some time in a waiting room today, and used the opportunity to do a little bit of research on our ballot. I find researching political candidates to be a little bit daunting, but I don't like voting by just by party. Speaking of voting -- I heard someone on a podcast today propose that people approach politics emotionally, and don't realize that voting is an act of decision making. We feel like we're choosing a brand, which leads politicians to act like they're a brand, not decision-makers. While I was already planning to vote, the comment gave me food for thought and inspired me to make my vote count.

3. The Flavia De Luce mystery series by Alan Bradley has been on my radar for years, and I finally picked one up a few weeks ago from the library. I'm about a third of the way through and so far it's as delightful as I wanted it to be. Also in reading news, I recently read Solo, by Kwame Alexander after hearing him do an interview. It's a novel in verse, which is not something I've ever read before; but I have to say I really, really enjoyed the book. The story is about the son of a famous rock star -- who is also famously an alcoholic. After his dad drunkenly crashes his high school graduation, and his girlfriend breaks up with him, he gets into a fight with his sister and finds out he was adopted. His search for his birth mom leads him to Ghana, and on a journey to find peace with himself and his family. I was engaged in the story and invested in the characters right away. The poetry was beautiful and vivid, and I discovered that one of the best parts about a novel in verse is that you can read it in a day!

4. Netflix has been suggesting I watch the movie Ali's Wedding, so while I was sick I finally did! It was a really sweet romantic comedy set in Australia (which, incidentally, inspired me to re-watch Strictly Ballroom. I love that movie!). The main character is the son of Iranian immigrants, and the son of the neighborhood Sheikh. Ali lies about passing his exam to get into medical school, and shenanigans ensue. I also watched the first episode of Salt Fat Acid Heat, a four episode series inspired by the cookbook by the same name and starring the cookbook's author. It was so good! Well, at least, if you like cooking shows starring people who are passionate about food. (pro tip: don't watch a cooking show when you're on a restricted diet).

Happy Wednesday! What are you watching? what are you reading? How are you researching your vote? (Go vote!)

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Poetry break

We finally got our first fall front -- so it actually feels like fall outside! Bring on the sweaters and soups and hot drinks! For your autumn entertainment, here's a (not great) poem about fall in Houston, written a few days BEFORE the temperatures dropped.

Seasons still change

by Amanda Waters

On our street
Fall enters
in its own way.

Not through the air.
Not through a wardrobe change.

Fall enters on the rays of the sun
as the light
shifts.

The days get sleepy.
Summer's party closes down
making room for
cozy light.

Cozy light
gives our weary bodies and minds
a new mood
a new season.

A chance for
reflection
restoration.

On our street
Fall enters
in its own way.








Tuesday, October 9, 2018

A Tuesday list...

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


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

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

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

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

A Wednesday list....

1. Apple pie for breakfast.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A Wednesday list...

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Wednesday!

Friday, September 14, 2018

What Toddlers and Allergies Taught me About Simple Eating

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

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

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

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A Wednesday list...

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 3, 2018

A Monday list...

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Monday!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

A Thursday list...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay cool, everyone!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

A Tuesday list...

1. I've been checking out the band Johnnyswim this week. They are on tour right now with Needtobreathe, and in what's becoming an early-autumn tradition, we've got tickets to their Houston show at the end of September. I'm not real familiar with Johnnyswim yet, but it's always nice to be acquainted with a band when you go see them in concert. Well....I've only listened to one album plus their collaboration EP with Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, but can I just say....I. Am. Hooked. Check out this song to get a taste: Let it Matter

2. I've got some shows and movies to catch up on soon: Anne with an E (I'm cautiously optimistic  after the first season, but they'll need to do a little character damage control with Matthew if I'm going to really enjoy it) To All the Boys I've Loved Before, and the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (a friend said she cried buckets while watching this one, so I'll need to be ready). Funny -- all three of these are based on or adapted from books.

3. The kids enjoyed their first camping trip last week, although they were definitely done after the two days. Heat, humidity, and a couple of very late (for them) nights and early (up with the sun!) mornings wore them out. Me too. It was fun though, and I made sure to take notes for future family camping adventures. Such as: 1. the hammock is a must 2. munchkin-friendly card games are perfect for a little bit of down time 3. bring all the snacks 4. if there's room for bikes, bring 'em.

4. It's the time of summer when I'm itching to get back in the yard and do some work and damage control, but also it's miserably hot. The problem I always run into is that our mid-July trip to camp and after-camp recovery tends to derail what I got started in the late spring/early summer. Plants get puny and wilted...weeds start to take over. We keep the lawn mowed, but that's about it. At this point, I need to either suck it up (and do some yard work in the early morning or early evening when it's slightly cooler), or be content to wait until the hot weather breaks in a few (several) weeks.

Monday, August 6, 2018

A Monday list....

1. We went to the library today for the first time in a couple of months. What's funny about that is that last night I'd added "return library books" to my to-do list for the week, then this morning Christina said "we haven't been to the library in a long time." So off we went to my favorite indoor activity! It's the first time in a long time we've been on a day with no story time, and while I am a committed fan of library story time, it was kind of nice to have a more low key visit. We went early -- so the library was delightfully uncrowded -- and leisurely looked for books, made a librarian-provided craft, played a little with the toys, and then headed home. We also had two poop-in-the-pants incidents, but I'm trying to block those out in favor of the more fun stuff. 

2. We're going on a little two-night, mid-week camping trip with the cousins this week, and I feel a little unprepared but oddly unconcerned about that. I made the food plan for us all, and just need to go shopping which I'll do tomorrow. Then I have a general idea of what I'll pack when the time comes. So really I guess I"m about as prepared as I need to be, because there's no sense in actually packing until the night before or even the morning of. Anyway...it'll be an interesting adventure since the last time we went camping with Christina she was five months old. Hopefully it'll be a fun adventure too. 

3.  We've watched a couple of movies recently that I really enjoyed. The first was Logan Lucky, a heist movie set in West Virginia and North Carolina starring Channing Tatum, Daniel Craig, Adam Driver, and Danielle Riley Keough. I'd heard great things about the movie, but was still surprised at how much I enjoyed it. The heist itself was well-plotted and creative; the characters were interesting, unique, and quirky; the acting was top notch; and the tone of the movie was my favorite blend of witty and heartfelt. The second movie we saw was during a rare trip to the theaters for Ant Man and the Wasp, Marvel's latest superhero sequel. I actually enjoyed it more than the first Ant Man movie. I love Paul Rudd, and have a weakness for self-deprecating and light-hearted super hero movies. 

4. I listened to a podcast today that echoed a thought I'd had a few days ago -- August can be a weird month. It's still summer, but for a variety of reasons it feels like the beginning of back-to-school time. Sometimes that feeling is legitimate -- if you are a teacher who has to go back to work within the first or second week of the month. Or if your school district starts school the first week of August like my friend Lesley's. But if you're like me and preschool doesn't start until the last week of August or first of September, it's sanity-saving to keep a summer-time attitude in the midst of back-to-school displays and sales and commercials. And what do I mean by summer-time attitude? For me, it means slow days, creative hot-weather activities, being okay when sometimes "creative hot weather activities" turns into "let's turn off the lights and watch a movie," and going easy on my personal to-do list because there's not as much alone time in the summer. 

Here's to a few more weeks of ice cream, sprinklers, and summer-break schedules!
Happy Monday!

Friday, July 27, 2018

A Friday list...

Hey there, internet! Long time, no see.

1. July was travel month 2.0. Jeremy and I spent another fantastic week at Sooner Youth Camp while the kids lived the small-town country life at Nana and Grandpapa's house. Then, the kids and I drove up to Missouri to visit my family for the week, while Jeremy headed back to Houston to work for a few days before going to Chicago for Ultimate Frisbee Masters Nationals. The kids and I had a blast in Independence, and managed the 14 hour road trip from Independence to Houston without any major incidents (pro tip: when driving with small children make a pit stop IMMEDIATELY before getting on the Indian Nation Turnpike because that is one lonely stretch of road).

2. Re-entry into "normal" life has gone about as expected, with the most major hiccup coming yesterday when I tripped while running and tore up both of my hands and one knee pretty bad. It's times like this when I notice just how much I wash my hands and pick up my kids. (ouch, ouch, ouch). Also cooking...dishes...showering...

3. We're beginning the potty training adventure with child number two this week. We bought brand new undies and candy for bribes so we're ready to go! I'm just praying it goes more quickly than with child number one.

5. I've read a few super fun books the past few weeks: Alif the Unseen, by G. Willow Wilson; To All the Boys I've Loved Before and P.S., I Still Love You, by Jenny Han; and Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan.

Alif the Unseen is fantasy with a modern setting (kind of like Harry Potter). It's computer hackers meets Middle Eastern folklore and mysticism. I loved the unfamiliar-to-me Middle Eastern setting, and the author did a fantastic job of bringing it to life. Really, I loved everything about this book: from the well-written and nuanced characters to the spot-on dialogue. I couldn't put it down.

The Jenny Han books are the first two in a contemporary YA trilogy about a teenage girl who gets over intense crushes by writing "goodbye" letters to the crushes but not sending them. Except one day the letters get mailed and things get a little awkward and a little exciting too. The books are also about family, friendship, and being brave. Han writes great teenagers that are endearingly annoying and clueless, and love triangles that actually feel realistic. Bonus: the first book has been adapted to a movie by Netflix! I can't wait.

And finally, I've been hearing good things about Crazy Rich Asians for a while, and since the movie comes out in a couple of weeks I thought it was time to jump on board -- I'm so glad I did! It was engaging, fascinating, breezy, and a perfect summer read. The setting and over-the-top (but still realistic) characters steal the show, so it definitely has the potential to be a great movie.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

A Wednesday list...Independence Day edition

1. I know there are a lot of people around the Houston area today who are bummed about today's weather -- rain -- but I have to say, it's been a pretty good day around here so far. Jeremy got to play a fun game of Ultimate Frisbee in the rain, I drank my coffee and cleaned up our screened in porch while the kids played in the mud and rain, I went for a short run (on the treadmill, so not ideal, but I'm still grateful), and now kiddos are napping while the rain is falling and I'm drinking more coffee. Wins all around.

2. I listened to the Popcast with Knox and Jamie this morning (because On Wednesdays we Popcast!) -- Patriotism in Pop Culture. While most of the episode was the delightful fun one expects from The Popcast, at the beginning they mentioned something in their theme set up that stood out to me: the differences between patriotism (good) and nationalism (bad). Here's my paraphrase and personal spin on their point --  Patriotism: being proud of where you're from, and wanting to represent your home country well. Nationalism: loving your country to the point of being aggressive, antagonistic, and dismissive to anywhere else in the world. patriotism: being proud of where your from, and being able to acknowledge the not-so-great things about it while also celebrating those things that are truly great. Nationalism: turning a love of country into idolatry.

All that to say: I'm grateful and proud to be an American. It's not perfect -- but no place is, and I'm proud to live in a country whose citizens can and do work to preserve what's good and change what's bad. I appreciate the sacrifices of resources, time, and life that people have made and still make in order to create a society, community, and home where people have the opportunity to thrive. Everyone from veterans and law enforcement to honorable government leaders to neighbors and teachers and doctors and nurses and families and caregivers, preachers and protesters, artists of all kinds, the guys who pick up my trash and the girl at the grocery store who bags my groceries.

3. On a lighter note, and because it wouldn't be Amanda Loves Words without some talk about books and movies, here are some seasonally appropriate recommendations:

Along for the Ride, by Sarah Dessen - Sarah Dessen writes some of the best contemporary young adult fiction around, and this novel is set in a little beach town in North Carolina. There's nothing specifically about the 4th of July, but it's the kind of book that feels like the epitome of summer.

Time Enough for Drums, by Ann Rinaldi - This is another book written for a younger audience, but it's a great Revolutionary War novel if you're in the mood for historical fiction but don't want to pick up a door stopper of a book. There's a swoony romance, spies, and a heroine who grows and develops in the face of having her ideas and preconceptions challenged.

Lonsesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry - The American West is so iconic, that I had to add this book. It's not an easy, breezy summer read, but it's a book that will put you straight into the middle of a period of American history that fascinates so many. It's rich, detailed, and full of fascinating characters.

The Sandlot - there are actually quite a few options out there in the "baseball-Americana" movie category, but for my money it's going to be The Sandlot. Baseball, kids and summertime, and don't forget the once-a-year night game played by the light of the fireworks.

Armageddon - Jamie Golden mentioned this on The Popcast and I have to agree -- you've got the space program, working class roughnecks, huge pieces of machinery, personal sacrifice, and a very emotional aren't-we-all-glad-to-be-alive montage.

Fresh off the Boat  - A t.v. show about immigrants to America seems like a fitting addition to a Fourth of July list. I haven't watched it yet myself, but I've heard really great things about this show -- that it's funny, thoughtful, well-written, and entertaining. Sounds like it's worth giving a try!

Hidden Figures  and Windtalkers - I mention these two together, because they both celebrate people in our country's history who made big impacts that were largely forgotten.

Happy Independence Day!




Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A Tuesday list, summer thoughts....

Summer is for...

1. Fun movies like action, adventure, and romantic comedies. Because romantic comedies seem to have taken a back seat on the big screen lately, may I recommend these two gems on Netflix: Set it Up, and Man Up

2. A good summer jam. I have let go of any need to be up on current or popular music, but music fills my soul so I'm always on the lookout for the right song for the moment. Currently, Golden Hour by Kacey Musgraves is my perfect summer album. For me it perfectly captures the feeling of sitting on the back porch, lounging by the pool, hanging out at the beach, or going for long drive with the windows down. It's lingering daylight and sunscreen and backyard barbecues. And if I want something with a little more rock-n-roll vibe, Needtobreathe has released a handful of new songs this summer in anticipation of their fall tour. These songs have a 70s feel to them, which fits right into a groovy summer vibe. 

3. Fresh produce and farmer's markets. Give me all your berries and stone fruit and tomatoes and cucumbers and eggplant. We are fortunate that in Texas a lot of fruits and vegetables are in season almost year-round (it's our consolation for the wicked-hot and unending summers), but even down here summer is a bounty.

4. Bugs. This is not my favorite thing, and sometimes it feels like a losing battle. The other night I killed three separate bugs within 10 minutes of walking through my house. 

5. Backyard gatherings. This one hasn't happened much yet. To be fair, in Houston this is actually more of a fall activity so on one's melting or being carried away by mosquitoes, but there's no denying that summer makes me long for friends, music, the sound of laughter, and the smell of charcoal. Something about the lack of school schedules, the lingering daylight, and that's just the way it's always been. Our schedule hasn't allowed for it much, but it's only June. We all know summer in Houston lasts well into October. 

Happy Tuesday!

Friday, June 15, 2018

A Friday list...

1. I'm finally catching up on the second season of The Crown on Netflix. Aside from one episode in the middle that I ended up doing some fast forwarding through (some sex scenes that were too graphic for my taste) -- I just love this show. The costumes, the history, the subtlety, the outstanding acting, the accents...British historical dramas aren't for everyone, but I'm a fan of this one.

2. Last year, Jeremy and I discovered we could fairly easily adapt the classic Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie recipe for our little guy with food allergies, and the results are actually pretty yummy. Last week I decided to bake a batch with the kids, then put most of them in the freezer. The problem with this whole scenario...I am eating WAY too many chocolate chip cookies. The freezer is not far enough. I know they're there.

3. I got inspired at the public library the other day and picked up a book on impulse that turned out to be really delightful and engrossing enough to keep me up too late a few nights in a row (What You Don't Know About Charlie Outlaw). I returned it today and checked out a nice stack for the bedside table. I also have a review book that needs my attention soon, but after that I think I'll try either a British historical mystery (The September Society, by Charles Finch) or a sci-fi book recommended in an article at Book Riot (The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers).

4. We have a family of stray cats that like to hang out in our back yard, and I find it mostly infuriating. I don't have anything against cats, generally speaking, but these like to poop all over our backyard, pee on our grill cover, and this morning they'd dragged a plastic baggie full of chicken bones into our backyard from who knows where. HOW CAN I MAKE THEM GO AWAY!?  (without trying to catch them myself. I'm pretty allergic to cats these days)

5. The kids have recently started to get into playing board games and card games just a little -- Hi-ho Cherry-o is a big hit, Go Fish, and a new one called Hoot, Owl, Hoot. Some days they're more in the mood to follow the rules than others, but I don't push it too hard. I love playing board games, so I'm just trying to do all I can to encourage their interest and make it fun.

6. Anyone else planning on having soccer games on all weekend?

Happy Friday! 

Friday, June 8, 2018

A Friday list...

1. I fully intended to write a blog post on Wednesday, but this week has been fairly exhausting, starting on Sunday with a trip to the ER and overnight stay in the ICU for the littlest munchkin. Everyone is doing good now, but it's definitely taken us until yesterday to get back into the swing of things. We're still adjusting to new medication routines, but I don't feel quite as overwhelmed as I did on Monday.

2. In other news...it's full-on summer weather here, which means two things: hot and humid. It also means I need to get better about getting in most of our outside play time before lunch.

3. I recently watched the show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Netflix, and had an interesting thought while describing it to someone: I told them that it was a really well-written, funny show with a fantastic setting, great costumes, skilled actors, and interesting relationships. Then I said "it does have a lot of language." Later, that phrase struck me as a really funny idiom that at first glance doesn't seem like an idiom. What I meant -- and what many people would understand me to mean -- is that it has a lot of crude/foul/vulgar/off color language, what others might refer to as "bad words." I thought about how in reality the phrase "it has a lot of language" is missing a key word to be perfectly clear. To someone unfamiliar with that idiom it probably sounds like I meant it physically has a lot of words (it does, actually. It's very wordy, but delightfully so). Or did I mean it has a lot of flowery language, silly language, pretentious language, basic language, multiple languages. The wordsmith in me has recommitted to being a little more clear in my communication from now on.

4. I'm knee deep in a re-read of the Anne of Green Gables series (currently on Anne's House of Dreams). I started out reading the first one as a read-along with some friends, and when I got to the end just couldn't quit Prince Edward Isle! I have a middle grade book to read and review next, and I picked up a couple of books from the library, so we'll see what lands next.

5. I'm on a musical soundtrack kick lately. With the right musical, I get a nice cheerful, upbeat, sunny-day listening. Currently on heavy rotation: The Sound of Music, Wicked (always), and The Greatest Showman (even though I haven't seen the movie yet)

What are you listening to? Watching? Reading?

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Wednesday list...five thoughts on re-reading Jane Eyre edition

1.The characters in Jane Eyre are so fascinating, well-written, and fully formed. For example: There are times when Jane is quite rude and judgmental in her assessment of the people she meets; however, she is also generous, loyal, and has a desire to learn and improve herself. Even those characters with less nuance to their personality were still written as people, not caricatures or plot devices.

2. I think it's a common human fault throughout history to view the present day as the pinnacle of thought and understanding. Although Jane Eyre is certainly steeped in Victorian sensibilities and culture (all of the isms -- racism, classism, imperialism), it's also quite modern. Jane could be the heroine of any modern novel -- she's confident, independent, willing to fight back against bullies, unafraid to voice her opinion, and willing to risk everything in order to hold on to her integrity.

3. I loved the unexpected turns that the story took. Because it's been so long since I've read Jane Eyre, it was almost like reading it for the first time, and it's a perfect literary example of the phrase "still waters run deep." For all it's buttoned up and prim wrappings, there is A LOT going on in this story. Abuse, neglect, friendship, love, mystery, deception, near-death experiences, long-lost families, tragedy, and reconciliation.

4. As I'm making this list, I realize that maybe what I liked most about Jane Eyre is the juxtaposition of the conventional and unconventional element; because one of my favorite things is how Bronte writes a story starring people who are not conventionally attractive. She emphasizes that Jane and Rochester in particular are not physically attractive people, and yet readers -- myself included -- are undeniably attracted to these characters. In fact, other characters in the book are attracted to them even as they use physical descriptions like plain and ugly.

5. I'm a sucker for a good book-to-movie adaptation, and as I've never watched a Jane Eyre movie, I can not wait to watch one! I had my eye on the 2011 remake, and my friend Stephanie (who prompted me to re-read Jane in the first place) said that's her favorite.

Enjoy the rest of your week!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

A Wednesday list...

1. Jeremy brought home a trampoline on Sunday. His brother's family is preparing to move overseas and had asked us if we'd like to use it while they're gone. Ummm...let me think about that for a hot second -- yes!! I never really had an urge to have a backyard trampoline, but last year I discovered that anytime we visited someone who had a trampoline, the kids were in heaven. So here we are!

2. Christina's been phasing out naps for a while now, and probably only falls asleep once or twice a week, and over the past month Matrim has started phasing out naps too. He definitely still needs a nap at least two or three times a week, but not every day. My goal has been to transition nap time to quiet time -- i.e., stay in your room for at least an hour and a half and play quietly/read books/etc (no screens) -- partly because it's just really nice to have a tiny bit of alone time in the day, partly because I think it's good for them to have the opportunity for some down time, and partly because it helps give our day a rhythm and structure (because the rest of the time I am a big fan of free play). I'm curious though...what do other people do when their kids give up naps? Do you even bother with a different kind of daily routine? Are your kids in school so it doesn't matter?

3. It's iced coffee season!! (Let's be real...any season can be iced coffee season) By that I mean -summer's creeping in, one 90 degree/80 percent humidity day at a time. Time to make myself some cold brew.

4. I've been thinking about worry lately. I heard someone recently compare worrying to rocking in a rocking chair -- you feel like you're doing something but aren't going anywhere. It stuck with me, because I think one of the reasons I give in to  worry is because it makes me feel like I'm doing something in situations where I have no control. So I've been trying to fight worry with an action -- even if the action doesn't have to do with what I'm worrying about. Cleaning something, praying out loud, reading my Bible, listening to music, going for a walk or run if I can. It's a work in progress and I'm not always successful, but I feel like I'm heading in the right direction at least.

5.A friend of mine and I were talking about Jane Eyre the other day, and how I hadn't read it since high school. She said I needed to read it again so we could talk about it, so I picked it up a week or so ago. It is such a good book, and so thought-provoking. I'll probably have to write a whole blog post on it once I finish. Next on my list is a sci-fi book for review, and maybe some non-fiction just to mix things up a little.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Laundromat musings

Our washing machine broke a couple of weeks ago, so I've gotten to make a couple of trips to a nearby laundromat while we look for a good used replacement. It's been years (and years) since I've done my laundry at a laundromat, but there's nothing like a room full of humming machines and the smell of dyer sheets for a little deep thinking.

Like the thought that sometimes convenience has a hidden dark side: things that streamline time consuming tasks give us more time that we then fill with other tasks or activities, which can lead to a feeling of frantic, frenzied, overworked, and overscheduled. Multi-tasking has become a prized virtue (and it is a nice skill to have to some degree, don't get me wrong), and we forget the value that can be found in doing one thing at a time. I think about a conversation I had over breakfast one day with some women a couple of generations older than me. We were talking about ironing, and someone mentioned how when they were young they still held to that old weekly schedule that looked similar to what Laura Ingles introduced me to in Little House in the Big Woods: "wash (clothes) on Monday, iron on Tuesday, mend on Wednesday, churn on Thursday, clean on Friday, bake on Saturday, rest on Sunday."

Don't get me wrong -- I am extremely grateful for modern conveniences. I'm grateful that I don't have to wash all my clothes by hand, butcher my own meat, or make my own clothes. I'm a huge fan of indoor plumbing, and air conditioning, and vacuums so I don't have to spend hours outside beating the dirt out of my rugs (although that sounds like some good anger therapy right there). But I think that sometimes we're so far away from the lack of our modern conveniences that we're not always aware of what we've traded in to have them. That said, I doubt that anyone at the laundromat with me (except maybe the owner) if offered a free washer and dryer for their home would have said "No thanks I'm good. Using the laundromat really helps me slow down and gives me a break from the busyness of life." Those free in-home washers and dryers would be snatched up in a hot second.

So what's my point? Do I even have a point? (not really -- that's why they're called musings) Maybe...recognize those areas of life where you do have a choice, and if trying to multitask every moment of your life is driving you insane maybe see if there's an area of life where you can choose a different way of doing things. Maybe...remember to be grateful. I'm not always good at that, but gratitude has a significant impact on my mood and outlook.

Oh, and the other thing going to the laundromat taught me: there is actually something pretty magical about all of those washing machines in one room. By that, I mean the ability to wash every single thing AT THE SAME TIME. 30 minutes and done. (Down side -- the enormous pile of clean clothes to be folded after)



Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A Wednesday list...

1. Running is one of my favorite ways to explore a town or city. Last weekend I was in Dallas for a girls' weekend with a couple of friends (a fantastic, relaxing, food-and-good-conversation-filled weekend) and managed to talk myself out the door Saturday morning for a run. We were staying downtown, and I happened to stumble upon the beginning of the Katy Trail Dallas -- an urban greenspace walking/riding/running path. It was a beautiful, shady path with lots of people out for runs, bike rides, and dog walks. Great peeks of the downtown skyline and neighborhoods.

2. I had a brief period of good luck with shopping at online used clothing stores, but it seems my luck has changed. Really, it comes down to not being able to return something. My last purchase -- and the one that has convinced me to stick to buying things I can try on and/or return -- was a pair of jeans. I ad tried on a really expensive pair of jeans a while back that I had liked a lot, but didn't want to spend that much money. So I started keeping an eye out for them used. I thought since I had tried them on I knew the style and size that I wanted. Well, I either didn't quite remember the style correctly, or I bought a cut that was a few years old (you know how brands will randomly adjust the cut sometimes). Anyway...don't like it. I'm going to try to resell them, but regardless, it's a lesson learned.

3. This is a really good article I read several months ago on the dangers of abandoning knowledge in Christianity in favor of a feelings-oriented faith. Both are necessary -- love the Lord with all your HEART, SOUL, MIND, and STRENGTH.

4. Since I'm home most of the time, I listen to a lot of music during the day, and really prefer picking my own stuff in the car too. I buy most of my music through Amazon, and we have Prime which gives me a bigger catalog to listen to, and I listen to Pandora a lot; but the past month or two I've been missing Spotify. I've never paid for a premium account because I always listened on a computer and you don't really need premium if that's the only way you listen. HOWEVER...I've been wishing I could use some of the premium features on my phone or on our Amazon Echo. So...I signed up for premium. Here's what I like about Spotify -- I really like the ease of making playlists. I like their algorithms for suggesting music through their Discover Weekly personalized playlist. I like that if I'm in the mood for a particular song or album I can listen to just that. I like that I can download music to my phone for offline listening. I'm thinking that after a month or two of having such a plethora (one might say redundant) of music listening options, I'll figure out what I actually use the most.

5. Just picked up Songs of Willow Frost, by Jamie Ford. It's by the author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, which I liked a lot, so I have high hopes.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Wednesday poem

It was so much fun to stretch my creative muscles a few weeks ago with poetry that I decided to do it again! So here's another poem to break up your week:

Reflection
by Amanda Waters

The way I walk
The things I do
The words I say
The way I say them
Compressed into tiny
Thirty pound packages.

Mimicry leads me to
Examination
Self-reflection
I’m reminded to
Pause
Think.
I’m reminded of
Imperfection
Grace

Listen
Breathe
And for goodness’ sake
Stay
Calm





Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A Wednesday list...

1. I've rediscovered a love for cutting off jeans that just aren't quite working as long pants and turning them into shorts.

2. I'm going to pass on a little librarian pro-tip: if you borrow ebooks from your library (and if you don't, you should start), one of the problems you might run into is that when they're due, they automatically expire and disappear on your reading device. HOWEVER -- if you turn off the wi-fi on your reading device, you should be able to keep reading it if you still need a little more time to finish it. This information is on my mind at the moment because I forgot to turn off the wi-fi on my Kindle and the book I was in the middle of disappeared this morning. Ahhh!!!!! (What Alice Forgot, by Lian Moriarty. And if you've ever read any of her books, you know how hard it is to stop in the middle). Sometimes, you can just go check the book right back out, but unfortunately for me, there's a wait list. Fortunately, the wait list is not too long.

3. The kids and I planted a few seeds in pots in the backyard last week. Tomatoes, cucumber, basil, rosemary. I've not ever tried tomatoes from seeds -- only seedlings -- so we'll see how it goes.

4. I'm almost done with a mini closet purge. It started when I realized it was time to try and sell my double jogging stroller. I hadn't used it in months -- the kids have gotten big enough that running with them in it is more trouble than it's worth. Anyway, I listed it on Craigslist (still hasn't sold, although I finally have someone interested to come look at it) and that inspired me to list a couple of other items that seemed worth selling and schedule a donation pickup for a big bag of clothes and purses. I love clearing out closets (much to my husbands amusement and occasional frustration), and it's even better when I can maybe make $50 in the process.

5. What I'm reading: the previously mentioned What Alice Forgot, and the mystery In a Guilded Cage by Rhys Bowen. What I'm watching: Superstore, Star Trek: Discovery (almost finished with the first season now), and the final season of The Middle (sadly, not as funny as previous seasons of this show, but time spent with the Hechs is time well spent). What I'm listening to: Dave Barnes.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Reading...Heirs and Graces


t Georgie is a poor aristocrat relying on her connections to get by -- something not uncommon in 1930s Great Britain. When Georgie finds herself at loose ends, she agrees to do a favor for the Dowager Duchess of Kingsdowne Place. The Dowager's oldest son refuses to marry and produce an heir, leaving the family seat in danger of dying out. When the Dowager begins a search for any living relative that could inherit, her detectives discover that her younger son -- who was killed during WWI -- had a wife and son in Australia. The Dowager sends for the previously unknown grandson, and tasks Georgie with helping Jack learn about life as the heir to a dukedom.
In addition to the Dowager and the Cedric -- the oldest son and current Duke -- the Dowager's daughter Irene and her three children are also living at Kingsdowne Place, along with the Dowager's two sisters, a tutor, and some of Cedric's friends. When Cedric turns up dead not long after Jack's arrival at Kingsdowne there are plenty of suspects to choose from, and everyone is quick to point fingers (with the small exception of the Duchess' sisters, who mostly just want to throw seances every night). 

Heirs and Graces is the kind of book that begs to be read in one sitting, with a cup of tea and some shortbread biscuits. It's a solid mystery with a fun and light tone, a delightful heroine, and a vivid setting. It's the seventh in the Her Royal Spyness series, although I didn't realize that when I picked it up at a used book store. Fortunately -- although I'm sure reading the previous books would have added depth to some of the characters and relationships -- I had no problem jumping in at this point in the series. 

Bottom line: if you enjoy your mysteries cozy, or find yourself missing Downton Abbey, give the series a try.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

A (not good) Wednesday poem...

Thank You for Your Time

Introduce yourself
be professional
be conversational.

Summarize
give me the hook
the characters
the plot
the tone
the stand-out, fresh, unique perspective.
But please
for goodness' sake
be brief.

Did someone refer you? 
Have we met?

Don't call your work a bestseller
but tell me which bestseller it's like.
Be confident.
No empty bragging please.

Be cool.

No pressure. 






Wednesday, March 28, 2018

A Wednesday list...

1. I'm visiting an old friend this week -- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Some friends decided to read it in anticipation of the movie adaptation coming out soon. They asked if I wanted to read along with them, and I am all here for it. I loved this book! I started my re-read last night and even just a few pages in I was transported.

2. I've gotten really into Instagram the past year or so, and one of my favorite people to follow is the children's book author Sally Lloyd-Jones. Instagram is all about photos (and sometimes captions), and Sally Lloyd-Jones' feed is partly adorable pictures people send her of children reading her books, and pictures of nature or architecture -- the kind of picture you take when you're out on a walk and something just catches your eye. She lives in NYC and travels quite a bit, and looking at her pictures are like going for walks around the world with your favorite aunt. They fill a tiny corner of my soul that loves finding art in the mundane.

3. Needtobreathe (my favorite band) recently announced a new tour by dropping a new song that you can either purchase or stream on their web site. Go listen to it...

So good, right? They're coming to Houston in the fall, right around my birthday, which is when they've been in Houston their past few tours. It's basically a birthday tradition, and I am NOT complaining. If you haven't seen them live, do yourself a favor and find a tour stop near you and get tickets. I could listen to their albums all day long, and they are even better live.

4. I've got an idea brewing...I know, I feel like I say that every week. And it's kind of true. I'm trying to stay tapped into my creative writing gene, and keep up the momentum I started building last year. It's life giving (and actually...John Eldredge talks abut that in The Journey of Desire, which I'm still reading and still loving). I'm also trying to use the kids' time at Mothers' Day Out to see if I can channel some of that writing/editing energy into extra income. It's been slow going, to be honest, which keeps me in an almost constant state of re-evaluating my efforts and focus. And to be honest again, all this thinking has become my excuse for getting as active in submitting my finished manuscript to agents. I'm finding excuse because if I don't submit my manuscript, I can't get rejected, right?

5. And for a little Wednesday inspiration, here's another quote from The Journey of Desire:
"The kingdom of God brings restoration. Life is resotred to what it was meant to be...For it to be good againis not for it to be destroyed, but healed, renewed, brought back to its goodness...When he announces the full coming of the kingdom, Jesus says, 'Look, I am making all things new!' (Rev. 21:5 NLT). He does not say, 'I am making all new things.' He means that the things that have been so badly broken will be restored and then some."