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!