Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Book Stats

How many books read in 2015? - 42, which is 7 less than last year and 10 less than my goal of 52.  This was a hard year of focus for me.  It seemed like I'd sit down and fly through a book in a day or it would take me an entire month.  For some reason, I lost my joy in reading.  I think it has a lot to do with other life crazy things and I think I had a lot of anxiety about some topics I was reading about it and it made it hard.  Reading is emotional and apparently I was a wreck this year!

How many fiction and non fiction? I read 2 memoirs (nonfiction) and 40 fiction.

Male/Female author ratio? 25 females and 10 males (tried not to double count any)

Favorite book read in 2015? this is so hard... I was more generous this year with my goodreads 5 star rating it appears but have tons of 4 stars.  I think my top three that I turned around and recommended to others would be Lucia, Lucia by Adrianna Trigani, The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, and Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlin.  With a bonus 4th of The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney. 

Least favorite? Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella

Any that you simply couldn’t finish and why? Broken Trust, it just wasn't hitting me and I meant to keep picking it up and I didn't.

How many books from the library? 8, which is up 1 from last year.   

How many books read did I purchase? 6 brand new (down from 9 last year, thought I feel like I bought more books ha), 2 were used from the book sales the previous year

How many were gifts? 2

How many borrowed from others? 1

How many were given to me for reviews? 15, up 4 from last year

How many books read on kindle? I read a half book in the Linda Castillo series on the kindle and that is it.  I did purchase a book for 1.99 when there was  sale but I haven't read it yet. And I have a new kindle fire.

Any re-reads? Nope

Which countries did you go to through the page in your year of reading? United States, France, Cuba, Egypt, England, Mexico, Canada, South Korea, Italy, and Germany I do believe.  It's hard trying to remember if characters traveled other places.

Which book wouldn’t you have read without someone’s specific recommendation? Not so much recommendation but for book club, Can you Keep a Secret? and The Haunting of Hill House

Which author did you read the most of? Linda Castillo

What was your best reading month? January I read 5 but a lot of months I read 4.

What was your worst reading month? November.  The only books I finished were the chapter books I read with my kiddo!

2015 Reading Goals - revisited...

1. Read 52 books - Nope, I'm at 42.  And I will not be finishing my last book by midnight.
2. Read a book by Hemingway - I kind of forgot I said this. :p So, no.  I do know which one I will read whenever I get around to it!
3. Read one autobiography - I read memoirs but not really an autobiography.
4. Clear off my shelves. - I did manage this.  I have donated over 40 books. 

2016 Goals
1. Read 52 books.
2. Complete the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge.
3. Read more books that I own and continue donating.
4. Post more on the blog. 

How many books did you read this year? Did you complete your 2015 reading goals? What are your goals for 2016? Which author did you read the most of? What was your most recommended book? Any you couldn't finish?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2016 Read Harder Challenge and other book goals

I will admit that I am not good at keeping goals.  Making them, yes.  I am not accountable to myself.  Even when I make it public.  Last year I know a lot of people who started and some that finished the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge.  Last year, it did not appeal to me at all.  I don't know if it was the categories or just that last year was hard and I couldn't commit to anything. 

2016 is not last year.  It's a new year and a new goal.  I am excited about this challenge and I spent way too much time today looking at my goodreads TBR list and thinking and looking at books on my bookshelves to help me cross off books that I own that I've never read.  A twofer if you will.

So, I still have some categories blank.  I have some that I know I will be able to fill with a book I read to Isla so I'm kind of leaving it up for grabs.  I am sure I may change my mind on some of theses, so my plan is not set in stone. 

The majority of these books are ones I own which is how they got here...

Read a horror book: Shutter Island but I am up for suggestions on this.

Read a nonfiction book about science: The Immortal Life of Henriette Lachs

Read a collection of essays: Me Talk Pretty One Day (I think... )

Read a book out loud to someone else: Pirates Past Noon (Magic Treehouse for the Win!)

Read a middle grade novel: The Last Newspaper Boy in America

Read a biography (not memoir or autobiography): Eight Eight Years with Sarah Polk

Read a dystopian or post-apocalyptic novel: Uglies

Read a book published in the decade you were born:  I can't decide on this one.. I was born in the 80s.. any suggestions?

Listen to an audiobook that has won an Audie Award: Yes Please! by Amy Poehler

Read a book over 500 pages: The Poisonwood Bible

Read a book under 100 pages:  I am going to put an Isla book here or a book I found I own called Abraham and Sarah Todd

Read a book by or about a person that identifies as transgender: Being Emily

Read a book that is by an author from Southeast Asia: First they killed my Father: A daughter of Cambodia Remembers

Read a book of historical fiction set before 1900: The Red Tent

Read the first book in a series by a person of color: Blanche on the Lam

Read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the last three years: Lumberjanes

Read a book that was adapted in to a movie, then watch movie. Debate which is better: Suite Francaise

Read a nonfiction book about feminism or dealing with feminist themes: I know why the caged bird sings

Read a book religion (fiction or nonfiction: The Shack

Read a book about politics, in your country or another (fiction or nonfiction): ???? can't decide

Read a food memoir: Garlic & Sapphires:The Secret Life of a Critic in disguise

Read a play: ??? no idea

Read a book with a main character that has a mental illness: ??? I'm sure I own one but I couldn't easily find one.. not sure..

So that is my plan for this year.  And my usual, read 52 books in a year. 

What are your goals for 2016? Do you plan on doing any reading challenges? Any suggestions for an 80s book? Politics? Mental illness? Any I should change?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Choosing Books

I was listening to a Books on The Nightstand podcast and they were discussing how you choose books and it got me thinking about how I pick books and wondering about how others do too.  I think my process has evolved as technology as changed and as I’ve grown as a reader.  I used to find books solely by browsing shelves in the library, trying to remember the name of an author I’d enjoyed before and sometimes remembering a mention by a friend.  Sometimes I’d check out the lists of books to try out that the librarians had put together.  Or I’d be in Barnes and Noble wandering and doing the same thing.  In college I’d usually pick up books on the 5.95 and lower table just because of price, the cover (gasp) and maybe what it said on the back.  If I read all of it.

I have a back cover reading problem.  The more I know about the book, sometimes I am less inclined to pick it up and read it.  Weird.  Even then, sometimes for book club I may have read a blurb about it but when I get the book in my possession I very rarely read the jacket cover or the back.  I just jump in. 

Now when choosing books I tend to utilize my friend’s on goodreads suggestions.  I’ll scroll through and notice what books they read and usually if they get a 4 star or more  I may read the blurb.  I also will read whatever book is picked for my book club.  I’ve also started using podcasts, mostly the Book Riot podcasts, to add to my growing TBR list. 

I also used to read a lot of book blogs and get suggestions from them.  Now, I don’t get as many suggestions from them only because I rarely sit down daily to read blogs anymore.  When I do catch up, there are only a few blogs where I go all the way back and see what they posted and book blogs generally aren’t the place I go now.

I am weird too in the sense that when books are ALLL THE RAGE, I shy away.  I may read them years later unless book club forces it sooner.  I feel I am more picky with those and tend to not like them for a weird reason but if I wait and read it later when it DOES sound good to me, I usually love it.

What I don’t usually do when choosing books is read the blurbs from other authors.  I don’t really care what another author says about another book. I only look at those AFTER I’ve read and loved a book to maybe get another suggestions on an author or book I should check out that may be a similar taste.

Covers also win me over.  Cheap books win me over.  Authors I’ve already enjoyed win me over.  Books a friend whose reading style fits mine who recommended it usually will win me over.  And if I glance at goodreads and it has generally good reviews, I’ll check it out too.

I have over a 1000 books on my TBR list on goodreads.  I rarely go edit it because I have the best of intentions.  Maybe someday it will resonate and I will grab that book. ;)  I do so badly at reading the books I’ve stocked up on from used book sales that I need to go looking their more often!

I think I’m pretty comfortable in my reading bubble and I know that I’ve struggled a lot in 2015 to read as much as I want so I don’t tend to try out different genres or authors or styles just because I should diversify my reading.  I get the importance of reading diversely but I also understand the importance of keeping something I enjoy, something that I enjoy.

I am going to attempt a reading challenge in 2016.  And I know that I am not good at keeping personal challenges with myself but I am trying for some accountability with my book club friends and I have shelves of books that need to be read.  More on that later.

How do you choose books? How has the process evolved? What is one way to turn you off from a book?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

What's in my Purse?

I love bags.  I used to carry two with me when I was teaching.  A purse and a bag for my stuff.  Then my friend started selling Initials Inc. and I had changed jobs but I was still carrying two bags.  I really don't need to carry two bags.  So I hosted a party because... BAGS!  Now I have a behemoth sized tote that I carry everywhere.  I wish I would have had this idea yesterday, but then again I do not.  It would have been more embarrassing.  I had more trash ha.  So, this is what is in my purse minus the usual 34234 receipts, my water bottle and my planner.  Since I take those out when I get to work every day.  And on another purse note, I think I need to get a purse organizer.  Or maybe I don't really need to carry my life with me.

I like big bags and I cannot lie... It's huge.  I can fit everything in it.  And I am a disaster in a store trying not to knock people out with it ha!
Inside view of my stuff...
All the stuff out of the bag..  You can tell I have a child and I like to read..

up close of my sunglasses.  so glad I splurged on prescription ones this year!
my nerdy gloves.
I think I have too many crayons in my purse.. And I may need to steal these fruit snacks soon! ;)
And, I love these pictures.  I just upgraded my phone over the weekend to a Samsung S6 edge and love it!
Do you carry a big bag? Small bag? No bag? What do you usually carry with you?

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A few random things..

Shamelessly stolen from the wonderful Nora. ;)
Things I’m new to: feeling like an old lady.  I’ve been having feet issues for over a year and I’ve tried different shoes, tried walking differently, stopped working out and overall I’m still having foot issues.  Now somewhat new issues.  It’s really bumming me out and messing up with my life so I know I need to get it under control and will try to make an appointment in January but I kind of need a new family doctor unless I can use the PA I saw last year and get some kind of referral from her to whatever.  Also, my hip.  The last two months my hip has been all weird and sore.  I’m slightly concerned that I’m dying because I’m a hypochondriac but I just keep plugging away. 

Things I don’t understand: Why people support a certain man running for president.  I refuse to write his name in this space.  He is a racist.  He is not funny.  I cannot understand how one can support him and I will be removing those people from my social media life soon because I cannot handle knowing I know people who think that is okay.

Things that make me giggle: my husband and his mispronunciations of everything.  OH MY LORD.  THE man sees beginnings of words and makes up the ending.  Or he totally uses the wrong word for a situation.  He’s been making me laugh for like a week straight now with his crazy.

Things that make me happy: My daughter.  Every day.  <3 span="">
Give me what you got.. What's something new to you? What don't you understand? What's making you laugh/happy?

Friday, November 6, 2015


Man, I miss me some TGIF TV shows.  Step by Step, Hang Time..... I also remember when SOMETIMES I could stay up past 10 to watch a little bit of 20/20.  Ahh.. to have a 10pm Friday night bedtime ha. 
The high of my week was completing the #mileaday challenge every day!! It really took all I had tonight to get on it after the kiddo went to bed.  I had changed into my workout clothes after dinner but we watched a movie, played dominos, legos and ate popcorn.  But I did it.  And I told myself, it's cool, just do a mile and be done, but I ended up deciding to run after walking 7 1/2 minutes and next think you know I did 31 minutes and over 2 miles!
I took this picture on Thursday morning because I knew it was probably my last pretty non snow picture of 2015... good bye warm fall.. 
The low of my week was my babe coming home from school and telling me her little buddy said she didn't want to be her best-friend anymore.  My kiddo seemed okay by it and said they were still friends and they still played but they weren't 'best' friends.  Yeah.  I kinda hate that kid now.  ;)  I did tell her that I didn' think that was very nice and I would find new friends because that's just being hurtful.  She's brought it up a couple times but really seems okay.  Thursday was also rough because it had been 6 years since my grandma passed away.  Then in other child deep thoughts she came out with.. "some people dont' have moms... why?" I didn't end up needing to get into details but it was still sad.
The book I’m reading is I'm trying to pick which book to start so that will be determined over the weekend.  Can't make up my mind if I want mystery or what.
For my workouts, I completed 
  • Sunday – 2 mile walk/run, 10 squats, 25 jumping jacks
  • Monday - 1.5 walk/run, 3 sets of crunches, 3 20 second planks
  • Tuesday – 5 min warm up, 1 min run, 90 second run for 20 total minutes, 15 squats, 30 jumping jacks
  • Wednesday – 5 min warm up, 1 min run, 90 second run for 20 total minutes, 15 squats, 30 jumping jacks, and then 3 sets of weights for arms
  • Thursday – 1 mile walk/run, 20 squats, 35 jumping jacks
  • Friday – 2.09 mile walk/run
The best money I spent was my delicious dinner at Ruby Tuesday's on Thursday.  I had the New Orleans seafood.  It had yummy fish and shrimp with a creole sauce.  Yum Yum.  They did sadly change up their salad bar and I wasn't as in love with it as normal, but still good!  And honestly besides that, Taco Tuesday, groceries and gas I didn't spend any money this week.  Oh wait.. I did make my United Way donation!  That is definitely money well spent!
My plans this weekend include I had a baby shower tomorrow and then I am hoping the weather is at least outside walkable for during nap time.  Then I plan on putting on my sweats and watching football.  Sunday I am making a meal for a friend's family as part of a meal train after a big heart surgery and meeting up with some people for donations for my work's clothes closet for clients and their kids.  I also think I am going to stop at Marshalls and Michaels.  Hoping that works out.  I do need to do a ton of laundry too.  Blech.  And clean the kitchen and bathroom.  And decide on Stitch Fix. 

What plans do you have for the weekend? What are your weekend workout plans? What book are you reading?

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Indecison 2015

While in the shower after completing Day 5 of #mileaday challenge (woo woo) I was contemplating what I was going to post about today.  I knew I also had to try to decide what to do about my Stitch Fix box so I went to go look at my lovely box after my shower.  And I took pictures.

My indecision was helped as I touched and looked at them again.  I really liked my box.  I always like my box.  I've only really been disappointed once but then I got hooked up with my awesome stylist, Heather again.  My problem is always spending the money on alll the pieces.

This is the burgundy Anita skinny jean.  They fit.  They are soft and they look nice.  I'm not like these are the best pants ever.  So I'm pretty sure I will return them. Which stinks because I want colored pants but I just don't think these are the one.  Great color though.
This Lizzy Colorblock sweater is soooooooooo soft.  Like I ate itchy sweaters and this is the extreme opposite.  I really can't wear it to work though because I really only have black pants or blue pants and this is blue.  I could wear it with jeans but I'm also not sure the stripes across the middle are my friend. 
This dolman is probably what I will keep.  It's soft.  It fits and it's light enough I could layer with a cardigan or wear alone.  I have a navy problem lately and stitch fix isn't helping when they keep sending me blue shirts ha.  Then I keep the problem of what to wear them with!!!
This is a market and spruce chambray top which I AM IN LOVE WITH.  But it doesn't fit my boobs and I wish it covered over my butt better.  But I love the neckline. LOVE LOVE LOVE.  I am so sad this can't be mine.
I love this cardigan too. It's sooooo soft.  Love it.  But it's white.  I spill coffee on myself like every day.   I have a 4.5 year old.  It has pockets!!! And plus also it's kinda long on me and makes my butt look bigger.
The style cards.  I love Stitch Fix.  Yeah, it's more money and yeah, I love most of everything and then only buy one thing but my wardrobe is getting better! And my town still sucks for clothes shopping.
What should I do? Do you use Stitch Fix? I have a few more days to think before I check out and I am for sure gong to try on again tomorrow night but I was too sweaty / hot earlier.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

What I Ate Wednesday

Nobody likes a bragger but I'm going to do it anyway.  I'm down 4 pounds since Sunday! Now while hopefully that was because I had out of control bloat and yuck from my period and I wasn't that heavy anyway, it is VERY motivating for me to see success.  A long way to go, but seeing that number going down is such a motivator for me.

This morning I tried out this new instant steel cut oatmeal I picked up last week.  I usually do a quick rolled oats in the microwave but it has not been tasting good to me and I know oatmeal keeps me full longer so I decided to try this as a shake up.  I liked it but I don't think the kiddo did.  Whoops.  She also had orange bell pepper and raspberries from our garden with a glass of water.  I drank coffee. ;)

a little gritty, but okay..
At my desk I sipped on my coffee and drank water while I wrote up a report and then I snuck into a Halloween trail mix bag a coworker made.  It was heavy on peanuts with a few goldfish crackers and even fewer pieces of candy corn.  I ate about half of the bag.
a similar bag because I didn't decide to post this until 10 minutes ago..

For lunch I had a small helping of leftover turkey spaghetti, carrots, celery, orange pepper with dill dip, yogurt, and a handful of chips with more water.
This afternoon I was driving around the country back from a home visit when I really needed to walk because my hip was throbbing and and so I stopped at a small town grocery and walked around and got an avocado to make guacamole with dinner and picked up an Honest Organic Peach Tea to drink on my way home.  It was delicious. 
For dinner since it was still like 70 degrees we grilled.  We told the kiddo that we were having sausages (she claims to hate hot dogs) but really we grilled hot dogs and made chili dogs.  I may have had two.  They were delicious.  We also had some chips and guacamole, peas, raspberries from our garden.
 After dinner we spent five minutes cleaning our bedroom where I was able to convince my husband to sell 5 pairs of pants on a local b/s/t page and donate a pair and donate a shirt.  Woot woot.
Tried on my Stitch Fix box pretties and I am in looooove.  I wish I had all the money to buy it all.  I got an AWESOME chambray top that I had an instant love for but it just doesn't fit my hips or boobs right waaaaaaaaaaah.  It's so pretty.  I love it all.  I know I will send back the cardigan for sure because it's a white color and umm I can't do that much white in an object. I spill my coffee on the daily, plus it's a bit too long.  But it is soooo soft. Major first world problems. I love my stylist, Heather.
Then I read some Pete the Cat to my kiddo, we did some stickers, watched some TMNT, read from our chapter book and she went to bed and I went to the treadmill.  Day 4 #mileaday and I did 1.31 miles.  Woot.
Now we are catching up on the CMAs.  And I am dying laughing at two of my faves Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley.
What yummy things did you eat today? Did you workout? Do you watch the CMAs? What are some of your favorite colored pants?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Today's wins..

1) I reallly reallly wanted a pop today but I was trying to hold out for 4 more pounds before I 'celebrated' with an afternoon pop (a bad habit I've taken up) but it was SOOOO pretty out that I didn't want to head back to my office after a visit yet so I swung by a 7-11 and got a SMALL fountain coke, a cheese stick and smart pop popcorn.  The win is the small coke (not a large) and the fact that I didn't get the snickers that I REALLY WANTED and would have usually gotten.

2) We had planned on eating leftover chicken and dumplings but my kiddo's new shirt came from zulily and it was pretty much our subliminal message all day and my husband called me on my way home for a 'last call' for Taco Tuesday.  We HAD to do it.  I mean it was meant to be. ;)

Awhile ago she was eating dinner at our friends house and they asked her what she thought her parents were eating.. she thought a moment and said, "Tacos! Cuz today's Taco Tuesday!" then she thought again and said, "Oh, bummer!" cuz she was missing out.. or so she thought hahaa. So now Tuesday basically = Taco Tuesday.  The cutest thing was when I showed her this shirt she read it to me immediately!!

So we went and had a fun family time.  The win is that I still got on the treadmill for 1.33 miles! While I don't recommend running after Taco Tuesday, I am glad I did it.  I did a 5 minute warm up walk, then did run a minute, walk 90 seconds for a 20 minute total on the treadmill.  I also did 15 squats and 30 jumping jacks.

3) I really connected today with a client who I hadn't quite made a connection with and that was a major win.

4) I got to start another chapter book with my little bookworm today.  We started, Dinosaurs Before Dark,t he first in the Magic Tree House Series.  I've always success with preschoolers with this series so I can't wait to get her hooked! We just finished, The Giraffe, the Pelly and Me by Roald Dahl and before that we read The Runaway Mouse by Beverly Cleary.  I can't wait until she's a bit older so we can read the Little House series!

What did you have for dinner on this Tuesday? What were your wins today? What chapter books did you read with your parents as a kid?

Monday, November 2, 2015

Five minutes a day keeps mama sane...

I just made a new saying that should go viral and be known for generations.... Five minutes a day keeps mama sane.. Or alternately Five minutes a day makes mama go insane.. either way could break a day I'm sure. ;)

I am so glad that tonight during dinner my HUSBAND was the one who brought up our five minutes of cleaning.  My insanity the other night may have shown through.  So we after we finished dinner we set the timer on my phone and set it work on in the kitchen.

My husband unloaded and loaded the dishwasher, my daughter took art supplies back to the office and put random toys away as well as threw things away for me.  I cleared off the table of random crap and wiped it down, took 3 folding chairs downstairs and put away the random goody bags from Halloween we amassed.  It was not clutter free at the end but it looks better and makes me feel better.

I cheated a bit and did the dishes that didn't go in the dishwasher right afterwards and wiped down all the counters again.

Tomorrow we tackle the living room.  I know it needs to be vacuumed so we will need to work fast picking up items from the floor.  We did a good job keeping it picked up over the weekend but there are Legos and old newspapers that need to be taken care of.

In #mileaday news, I completed day 2! I ran/walked 1.5 miles and then did 3 sets of 15 crunches and 3 sets of 20 second planks. 

yes, another yay I worked out selfie!

My feet were screaming at me this morning when I woke up.  I am fairly certain I have plantar fascitis and I really need to take care of it.  I was doing much better and then I go and move my body again.

I also drank a lot more water today and my head feels clearer and I am not as tired as I usually am on a Monday so I feel good about that.

And one positive of daylight savings? I was able to drive home to a beautiful sky and sunset.  I may not walk at night after work again for 4 months but maybe the sunsets will keep me through.

Do you still get the newspaper delivered? What's your least favorite chore? Did you work out today?

Sunday, November 1, 2015

#mileaday Challenge Day 1 Success!

I promise not to be too annoying this month but I am using my space to help me stay accountable.  I need it.  I knew I had gained weight this month so in typical avoider mode I did not weigh myself.  I made myself weigh in on Nov. 1st to see if I could see progress weight wise this month and I had gained 6 pounds since the last time I weighed myself at the end of September.  For someone who needs to lose, gaining that much in one month is completely not acceptable.  So here's to changes.

Day 1 - 2 miles, 10 squats, 25 jumping jacks

I did it!
I felt good at the end so I almost added in some moves from a challenge some other friends are doing but I told myself to slow my roll.  I need to not be too sore to keep on my own goal.  I have a plan through Sunday and I will add those in for next week.  It may not seem like a lot but from doing NOTHING to this, I feel like it's something. 
I did this on the treadmill and my plan for the day was just to walk but I got bored.  (Though I did finish listening to a podcast (Things You Missed in History Class) and listened to part of another (Undisclosed).  I did run a little.  Probably, 4 minutes worth. And I stopped around the 24 minute mark to do my 10 squats because my legs definitely felt like they needed to change the way they were moving. 
And I know better than to make all the changes at once but my house has been stressing me out lately so I made my husband promise me that the three of us would spend 5 minutes a night (setting a timer) in a certain room each night after dinner to help me feel better.  Monday - Kitchen, Tuesday - Living Room, Wednesday - Our bedroom, Thursday - Office, Friday - husband's office, Saturday - Kiddo's room and Sunday - Downstairs.  I left the bathrooms off for this week because I just cleaned them and told him we would adjust our schedule for the next week as necessary. ;)
Do you ever hit a personal stress level point and all the things need to be done then? I feel like this often and I need ways to not to be like this in all aspects. What workout did you do today? Any challenges you are currently undertaking?

Friday, October 30, 2015

Friday Catch Up!

TGIF! This was a hard week to pull myself out of bed in the morning.  It’s so dark and cold! I’m ready to begin my hibernation (if only!!). 

I had quite a busy October with plans on every weekend.  This is insanity for me because usually we slow down and just watch football and be lazy during the fall.  Last Sunday, my husband and I had tickets on a limo bus for a wine tasting up in Traverse City.  We went with about 40ish people on two buses and got to enjoy a day of wine! It was fun and stress-free but I did mention to my husband a few times that if there was a suggestion box, I had a couple! ;) So that kind of set the tone for a busy week since Sunday is usually my big day of rest.  Needless to say laundry and the house have been a bit behind!
A view from Brengman Brother's winery up in the Leelanau Peninsula

I’ve been listening to a lot of pod casts lately on my way to work and at work and it has spurned lots of thoughts! Hopefully, I will turn some of them into their own posts, but it will depend on time and focus. 

Focus, which is something that I’ve had a hard time with lately.  I just can’t read and stay focused.  I’m sad because it’s made it hard to read for fun and for learning! I’ve gotten into a bad afternoon caffeinated pick me up, which isn’t always a healthy option, obviously!

Which brings me to my November plan.  In January I used a #mileaday challenge as the kick in the pants to get into working out again.  And it was successful.  For the 31 days I got on the treadmill for at least one mile each and every day.  Some days I did more, some days it was all I had.  I soon learned that if I wasn’t doing something every single day, I could go months without doing anything.  For real.  It’s bad.  And since it is starting into the dark and dreary part of the year when I have no motivation, hate the cold and just feel yucky I think November is a perfect time to kick start myself again.  And hopefully start combating the holiday food comas!

So if you would like to join in with me, I’d love to have you! I will post a few updates throughout the month and would love to encourage you if you need it like I do! I will say my fitbit has been a tremendous help but lately even that hasn’t been kicking me in the pants.  I’m hoping that perhaps midway through the month when my legs get used to it again I can add in the 30 day squat challenge because that definitely gave me inches results earlier this year.
 Doing homework earlier this week.. she had to make a puppet of a farm animal.. for those that don't know this is a 'sheep'

I’m looking forward to this weekend because even with Halloween crazy tomorrow, it should be low key.  We are carving our pumpkins tomorrow morning and roasting pumpkin seeds.  Then trick or treating and watching football.  Sunday THERE ARE NO PLANS.  I AM SO EXCITED.  I may stay in pajamas because I did a grocery shopping trip Thursday that may keep us through next week since I haven’t meal planned but I think we had enough stuff in the freezer/fresh stuff I bought! I need to clean and sell some things as I am Christmas shopping.
 my mermaid last week at our local Pumpkin Festival

Oh and speaking of food, last night we thawed and had some of our roasted tomato soup from our garden tomatoes! Just as good (maybe better!) than when we ate it earlier this summer.  We will definitely be making and freezing more batches for next winter.  So soo good.  And I don’t typically like tomato soup.  Thank you, Tiffani Amber Thiessen.  J

Hope all is well with you and you are all as excited for Friday as I am!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Between Gods

Between Gods by Alison Pick appealed to me because I’m always interested in the path people take in their faith/spiritual journey’s.  Which is probably odd to people because I’m not religious nor very spiritual.  But, I’m interested.  In theory, I’d love to have a close community of people to share in.  But, for now, my book club group members are my people, my tribe.

 Alison finds out the family secret as a teenager, her grandparents were Jews who emigrated to Canada to avoid the Nazis.  The rest of their family perished in concentration camps.  Her father was raised Christian and did not know until he was traveling in Prague as an adult and a guide informed him his last name was  Jewish name.  He asked his parents upon arriving home and his mother with sadness and relief informed his dad, “he knows!”

Alison and her dad both have doubts of depression.  Allison explores how this may be caused from her repression/weight of her and her ancestors past.  She embarks on a journey of Judaism and learns a lot in the process. 

It's interesting to me too that she has so much change going on in her life right before she gets married.  It can be such a stressful time anyway, but then adding in the journey of her faith and the obstacles she faces add so much more stress to her life.  I remember thinking to myself that it was supposed to be such a happy time and I was just stressed and ready for it all to be done!

Description: From the Man Booker-nominated author of the novel Far to Go and one of our most talented young writers comes an unflinching, moving and unforgettable memoir about family secrets and the rediscovered past.
     Alison Pick was born in the 1970s and raised in a supportive, loving family. She grew up laughing with her sister and cousins, and doting on her grandparents. Then as a teenager, Alison made a discovery that instantly changed her understanding of her family, and her vision for her own life, forever. She learned that her Pick grandparents, who had escaped from the Czech Republic during WWII, were Jewish--and that most of this side of the family had died in concentration camps. She also discovered that her own father had not known of this history until, in his twenties, he had a chance encounter with an old family friend--and then he, too, had kept the secret from Alison and her sister.
    In her early thirties, engaged to be married to her longtime boyfriend but struggling with a crippling depression, Alison slowly but doggedly began to research and uncover her Jewish heritage. Eventually she came to realize that her true path forward was to reclaim her history and indentity as a Jew. But even then, one seemingly insurmountable problem remained: her mother wasn't Jewish, so technically Alison wasn't either. In this by times raw, by times sublime memoir, Alison recounts her struggle with the meaning of her faith, her journey to convert to Judaism, her battle with depression, and her path towards facing and accepting the past and embracing the future--including starting a new family of her own. This is her unusual and gripping story, told in crystalline prose and with all the nuance and drama of a novel, but illuminated with heartbreaking insight into the very real lives of the dead, and hard-won hope for the lives of all those who carry on after.

I found this easy to read and an interesting memoir / spirtual / religous journey book to read!

Do you enjoy reading memoirs? What books about religion have you read? What are you reading now?

I received this book for review but all thoughts and opinions are my own!

Friday, October 16, 2015

If I had a million dollars...

Well, not technically a million dollars, let's talk $250,000.

I was listening to a Book Riot podcast the other day and they were discussing James Patterson’s announcement that he is putting up $250,000 to give to independent book sellers as a Christmas bonus.  On the podcast they were discussing what they would do with the money if it was there money.  One suggestion was that it should be put in a pot of money that they could access if they had emergency medical issues since insurance for independent book sellers can be super expensive and hard to come by. 

I kind of thought it was interesting to think what YOU or *I* would do if we had the extra $250,000 to use for literacy.

1.        I would put money towards Imagination Library.  Total: $100,000


“In 1995, Dolly Parton launched an exciting new effort, Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, to benefit the children of her home county in East Tennessee, USA. Dolly's vision was to foster a love of reading among her county’s preschool children and their families by providing them with the gift of a specially selected book each month. By mailing high quality, age-appropriate books directly to their homes, she wanted children to be excited about books and to feel the magic that books can create. Moreover, she could insure that every child would have books, regardless of their family’s income. “ – Imagination Library website

 I’ve had my daughter signed up since her first birthday.  I didn’t do it the first year because honestly, we have a ton of books.  We have more books than we need.  As she got older and could get the excitement of getting mail, I signed her up.  However, you can sign your child up as soon as they are born.  Inside the jacket of each book they have reading prompts and activities you can ask/ do with your child.  Such a great program for families who CAN’T afford books.  I’m a huge proponent of early literacy and this is an amazing program.  You can check out the website for more information and to find out if you have it in your area.  The average cost is about $25/30 per year for each kid. 

2.        Find local teachers and ask them what books they need for their classroom.  Total: $100,000

Books are expensive.  It’s hard when you are teaching and you KNOW that to get kids excited about reading you need a broad selection.  It’s hard to keep your stock up to date with new stuff (covers do attract readers, and the look of it came from the 80s, not so appealing!).  To distribute I’d give out checks or ask if they would want the books directly purchased and sent.  (Teachers have limited time!) 

On a side note, I’d definitely suggest if you are a teacher, to have an amazon wish list of books for your classroom libraries that you can share with parents or just for your own knowledge for if you are asked what books your classroom needs!

3.        Give the rest to local school libraries.  Total: $50,000

Money is tight.  School libraries (in MY schooling experience) had even OLDER books than the classroom teacher’s stash.  I’d once again ask if they wanted directly purchased or given money.  But I’d stipulate that all money was put on new book purchases/replacing old books.  If that means you need to donate some books to make more space on bookshelves so be it.  Perhaps, money to be spent on ONE new bookshelf, but let’s excite readers.  Out with the not going to be touched and in with the READ ME books.

Obviously, my way is not THE ONLY way.  Nor is Patterson’s.  It’s his money to do what he wants.  And an admirable way to spend it since he could spend it all on himself!  I want to point out that Patterson also recently pledged $1.25 million to school libraries and has done other money donations in the past.  I’m strictly posting this as a fun, but slightly serious look at how you would spend money to help promote reading/literacy in your community!

How would you spend $250,000 towards reading/literacy? What local resources do you know that help promote reading/literacy? If you can’t name one, I challenge you to do some research today and find out about local resources and potentially HOW YOU CAN help make a difference.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” – Gandhi

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Carrying Albert Home

Oh my goodness. I have never read a book by Homer Hickam before but I don't believe I will make that mistake again! Carrying Albert Home was such a smart funny and entertaining read that I devoured most of it in one evening!

Description: Big Fish meets The Notebook in this emotionally evocative story about a man, a woman, and an alligator that is a moving tribute to love, from the author of the award-winning memoir Rocket Boys—the basis of the movie October Sky

Elsie Lavender and Homer Hickam (the father of the author) were high school classmates in the West Virginia coalfields, graduating just as the Great Depression began. When Homer asked for her hand, Elsie instead headed to Orlando where she sparked with a dancing actor named Buddy Ebsen (yes, that Buddy Ebsen). But when Buddy headed for New York, Elsie’s dreams of a life with him were crushed and eventually she found herself back in the coalfields, married to Homer.

Unfulfilled as a miner’s wife, Elsie was reminded of her carefree days with Buddy every day because of his unusual wedding gift: an alligator named Albert she raised in the only bathroom in the house. When Albert scared Homer by grabbing his pants, he gave Elsie an ultimatum: “Me or that alligator!” After giving it some thought, Elsie concluded there was only one thing to do: Carry Albert home.

Carrying Albert Home is the funny, sweet, and sometimes tragic tale of a young couple and a special alligator on a crazy 1000-mile adventure. Told with the warmth and down-home charm that made Rocket Boys/October Sky a beloved bestseller, Homer Hickam’s rollicking tale is ultimately a testament to that strange and marvelous emotion we inadequately call love.

Elsie is in love with this alligator (get it right, do NOT call him a crocodile) and barely shows any love for her husband if any at all.  Homer gets a little peeved about this so he lays down the ultimatum.  Elsie finally agrees and thus begins the journey of carrying Albert home.  After each tale, it cuts to a time in the author's life when one parent brings up part of the story and then leads into another great adventure. 

I think part of the greatness of this novel is that you want to believe that it ALL happened but you know there had to be some embellishment, right? And the best is that the author grew up wondering the same thing.  I mean I WANTED them to have their experiences with John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway.  I wanted Elsie to have ridden the thunder road.  The only thing that was suspect was the constant running into some dubious characters, Slick and Huddie.

It's such a heartwarming tale that keeps bringing up kismet and the question, Does Elsie love Homer?

I loved the dry dialogue and all the characters.  READ IT!! You will not regret it!

Does your family have any tall tales? Have you read any books by Homer Hickam?

I received this book for review but all thoughts and opinions are my own!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


Reading: Carrying Albert Home

Loving: cardigans

Thinking:  about where my mind went.. I've been so spacey! I blame allergies..

Frustrated: by grown adults acting worse than children.

Feeling:  lots of indecision.

Anticipating:  going to Columbus with my dad this weekend.

Watching: lots of Jon Stewart re-runs.  I miss him! Also, watched Matilda this weekend and it was so cute!

Sad:  that it's so freaking cold and since it was rainy and windy I never went and picked raspberries this weekend from the garden.

Working: on purging things from my house.  I kinda of need my family to go away and let me throw away their crap ha.

Grateful: that I have such an empathetic kid.

Listening: to podcasts for the most part.  Undisclosed, All the Books, Starr Struck Radio (though it annoys me half the time, but the second season has been better in the non-annoying department)

Wishing: that my body would cooperate with me.

What are you currently reading, listening to and thinking?

Monday, October 5, 2015

Here Comes the Dreamer

This novella by Carole Giangrande has a lot of pain and emotion packed into its 127 pages.  It's able to cover quite a time span and tell a full story without the reader feeling like they missed out. 

Description: Alastair Luce is a dreamer, one of three who tell this tale. A Canadian expat in the 1950s, he lives in a New York City suburb with his wife, Nora, a passionate American who misses the excitement of wartime life and finds an outlet -- and a lover -- during the Red scare. Alastair's an artist, a quiet man who paints houses for a living, fears atomic holocaust, drinks too much and worries about his suffering child, Grace. Just before the accident that kills his daughter's best friend Todd, he offers a ride to their teenage neighbour, Claire Bernard. She continues the story as a witness to tragedy, a wry observer of suburban mores and a compassionate friend of Alastair, whose talent and politics she'd long admired. Yet in the era of Vietnam, she's not prepared for his love or his anguish as she marries and leaves for Canada. In Toronto, it's Alastair's exiled daughter Grace who speaks, giving voice to her fury, an artist who works to "burn" the city down with brilliant colour, who resents Claire for hurting her dad, and still grieves the loss of young Todd. Yet Grace, Claire and Alastair are bound together by their history, and a crisis draws their painful stories to a climax. It's then that Grace ventures homeward for the first time, into a startling vision of the unknown.

It's quite amazing that three narrators are packed into this short book.  The first Alastair, is a bit hard to engage with but gives the background of the story.  His ex-wife is a bitch.  That's about the nicest thing I can say about her.  An awful human being.

The second to tell her story is Claire.  She was a teenager when the accident that is THE event of this story happens.  This accident shapes the lives of all the characters.  Claire is kind, smart and the least negatively effected by the tragedy.  She overs clarity (ha) and friendship and has an abundance of patience.

The last to tell their story is Grace.  The daughter of Alastair and Nora.  She has a colorful life story and Robinhood esque tendencies. 

I felt that the beginning was slow but I really related to the Claire section of the book.  I liked that it was shorter and that it felt complete.  The author reminded me a bit of Margaret Atwood.

Have you read a novella recently? Do you read short stories or do you tend to read long novels? What is the best short story you've read?

I received this book for review but all thoughts and feelings are my own!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Accidents of Marriage

If you are looking for a love story, this is not it.  This is gritty.  This is real.  This is tough.  This is a flawed marriage.  There are 'accidents' on all parts, but how they over come these 'accident's will determine their future.

Maddy and Ben have been married for a long time.  They have three children, demanding careers and a secret.  Ben has a temper.  A bad one.  Oh, he's never hit any of them but they've all clenched, braced themselves for that moment.  He's certainly thrown a lot of objects.

Then one day there's an accident.  Maddy's hurt.  It's mostly Ben's fault.  Nothing goes well.  How can they get back what they both remember from the beginning of their relationship? Can they? Is it worth fixing? Are they bad for each other?

They both are not perfect.  They both have flaws.  They both are not connecting in a healthy way.  There was a lot of selfish behavior on both accounts.  There isn't a one person take all the blame situation.

I liked the book in the sense that it didn't romanticize the hard parts.  Marriage is hard work.  You have to be all in, all the time.  It's not happy.  It's very sad.  Very thought provoking.

Description: Accidents of Marriage explores a topic rarely shown in fiction: the destruction left in the wake of spouse’s verbal fury. Ben never meant to hurt Maddy. He never imagined his recklessness would lead to tragedy.

Maddy is a social worker trying to balance her career and three children. Years ago, she fell in love with Ben, a public defender, drawn to his fiery passion, but now he’s lashing out at her during his periodic verbal furies. She vacillates between tiptoeing around him and asserting herself for the sake of their kids – which works to keep a fragile peace – until the rainy day when they’re together in the car and Ben’s volatile temper gets the best of him, leaving Maddy in the hospital fighting for her life.

Randy Susan Meyers takes us inside the hearts and minds of her characters, alternating among the perspectives of Maddy, Ben, and their fourteen-year-old daughter. Accidents of Marriage is a provocative and stunning novel that will resonate deeply with women from all walks of life, ultimately revealing the challenges of family, faith, and forgiveness.

Accidents of Marriage explores a topic rarely shown in fiction: the damaging effects of

a spouse’s emotional abuse.

Have you read any other books by Randy Susan Meyers? In your opinion, re there things too big to forgive in a marriage? How easy is it for you to forgive?

I received this book for review. All comments and thoughts are my own!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Big Stone Gap

“People have often told me that one of their strongest childhood memories is the scent of their grandmother's house. I never knew my grandmothers, but I could always count of the Bookmobile.”  

For the second time this month, I'm posting about a book where I looooved a book by the author so I sought out another.  Also, two days in a row where I post where I was disappointed by the second book after I loved the first.

I read Lucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigiani while we were on a camping trip and I devoured it.  I loved it and I was so glad that I had picked up another one of her books at a used book sale.  I tried starting Big Stone Gap the next day but it was a tad slow so I moved on to something else.  Well, I really wanted to finish it to move it out of the house and so I trudged through it.

“Or maybe when she realized that he was never going to come and rescue her, she did what all strong women do. She found a way to save herself.”  

I've heard many positive this about this author but I just don't know.  It was slow.  It didn't always hold my interest.  It just seemed blah.  It had the ingredients to be a loved book of mine.  Characters that the author invested in.  Small town atmosphere with a family story.  However, it never grabbed me and that made sad, especially since it is the start of a series and we all know I love a good series!

Description: Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, the tiny town of Big Stone Gap is home to some of the most charming eccentrics in the state. Ave Maria Mulligan is the town's self-proclaimed spinster, a thirty-five year old pharmacist with a "mountain girl's body and a flat behind." She lives an amiable life with good friends and lots of hobbies until the fateful day in 1978 when she suddenly discovers that she's not who she always thought she was. Before she can blink, Ave's fielding marriage proposals, fighting off greedy family members, organizing a celebration for visiting celebrities, and planning the trip of a lifetime-a trip that could change her view of the world and her own place in it forever.

Brimming with humor and wise notions of small-town life, Big Stone Gap is a gem of a book with a giant heart. . .

“The terrible things that happen to us in life never make any sense when we're in the middle of them, floundering, no end in sight. There is no rope to hang on to, it seems. Mothers can soothe children during those times, through their reassurance. No one worries about you like your mother, and when she is gone, the world seems unsafe, things that happen unwieldy. You cannot turn to her anymore, and it changes your life forever. There is no one on earth who knew you from the day you were born; who knew why you cried, or when you'd had enough food; who knew exactly what to say when you were hurting; and who encouraged you to grow a good heart. When that layer goes, whatever is left of your childgood goes with her. Memories are very different and cannot soothe you the same way her touch did.”  

I think part of my problem with the book was that there are good legit problems Ave Maria faces but I don't think they were handled properly or details were left out that would have helped.  They just appeared and it just didn't sit right with me.

I loved her friend Iva and maybe if the book had been based on HER, I'd have been hooked.

I will say the writing in the book is good.  She has a way with words and quite a few spots were beautfully written. 

“a dozen...chocolate chip cookies...a pot of coffee, and a good book are all I will need for the rainy weekend rolling in.”  

Have you read Big Stone Gap? Any other books by Trigani that you'd recommend? I'm not ready to totally write her off since I loved Lucia, Lucia!