Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Friday Morning Book Post

This isn't Friday. It's Tuesday. I did sit down Friday and try to gather my thoughts about this book, but as I wrote, I noticed that my sentences were both choppy and stilted. Honestly, I was bored by my own writing and frankly, it was unreadable. So, I sighed, deleted what I had written, closed my computer, and decided to revisit my Friday book post later that day. I didn't come back.

I really want to have a Friday book post as a consistent part of my blog this year. So, here I am on a Tuesday trying writing again about Packing Light.

I thought about this book over the weekend, but more, I thought about how to write about it.

Allison Vesterfelt wrote an interesting spiritual/travel memoir about her six month road trip to visit all fifty states. She had always had a dream of taking this trip then writing a book about the experience, but she didn't think she'd actually do it until her friend Sharaya pushed her and convinced her to follow her dreams. She probably needed a good nudge because this road trip was just going to be something Allison always talked about but never did.

Dreams are tricky things. The more I thought about her trip over the weekend, I thought about how exhausting it all sounded. I know. Her road trip dream isn't my dream, but chasing down a dream isn't all cupcakes and gumdrops. A fifty state road trip isn't the road to an easy life. It's hard work, but therein lies the fulfillment of the dream. We are happiest, I believe, when we are tackling difficult things.

 There were times that Allison felt trapped in the car and her dream felt less like freedom and more like claustrophobia. They relied on the kindness of strangers and friends for places to stay. It actually sounded more stressful than adventurous, but the thing is, she went! She wrote a book about it! Dream accomplished! 

Probably the most interesting part of this book is Vesterfelt's thoughts about the notion of lightness. To prepare for their trip, both Allison and Sharaya sell most of their belongings to raise money for the trip. It isn't cheap driving around the country for six months even if most of your lodging comes from free by sleeping on friends' couches. Allison realized that there was very little that she needed and the extra stuff just weighed her down.Throughout the book, even if her thesis meanders a little, she focuses her energy on packing light.

 In the end, her journey is really about letting go. There's just something about letting go whether it be mental or physical that's just so appealing. She had to let go of her comfortable life in Portland, take the plunge, and stop worrying that she was making both a  wrong and frivolous decision. She had to embrace the journey while also realizing that life would be different when she returned. She would be different and her trajectory would be different and I'm sure it made all the difference.

It's good stuff. Packing Light is a good philosophy. I'm sure I will work this into everyday life because life can feel heavy sometimes.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Happiness and buying the occasional paperback

Gretchen Rubin inscribing a book for her uncle at the Tattered Cover.
Last night, I had the opportunity of both seeing and meeting Gretchen Rubin at the Tattered Cover Bookstore. She wrote The Happiness Project and her follow-up, Happier at Home and they were both huge bestsellers. I read Happier at Home last year and it made my short list of the best books I read in 2013. Her book has stayed with me since I've read it. I even started reading Rubin's blog over the past year and that really kept the subject of happiness at the forefront of my mind. She's insightful an interesting and she's kept me thinking deeply about happiness and kept it a priority in my life.

So, I didn't really have plans to buy an autographed copy of Happier at Home since I rarely buy print books anymore (sad), but I just couldn't resist buying the new paperback. I check out most of my books from the library or read books on my Kindle these days.

 I really wanted to talk to Gretchen even if only for a minute. I always get so excited to talk to an author. (I know. I'm a total nerd.) After hearing her talk, I though I'd like to revisit her book again this year and that's a rare notion for me. I just don't have much time to go back and re-read books given that my to-read pile doesn't shrink, but there are some books that are really worth it. So, I bought a paperback of Happier at Home and had her inscribe it to Paul. I mean, my husband should read it too. He's heard me talk a lot about this for almost a year.
 Invest in the occasional paperback. Your happiness depends on it.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Friday Morning Book Post

 I love reading foodie books, but this one is unlike any other that I've read before. I'm not sure foodie is even the right word for this. This book is about extreme eating. I'm really only in the first section of this book, but it's not really for the squeamish. This book is about fringe eaters who embrace the revolting and disgusting (well, gross and disgusting by most people's standards). I consider myself an adventurous eater, but compared to these competitive eaters, I look like a person who eats only PB and J with the occasional grilled cheese to spice things up!

I think that this book will touch on many facets of this movement like food history, folklore, humor, and ethics. There's just enough gross to make this book fun.
I received 150 Scandinavian Motifs for Christmas. I really like knitting color work and since my husband is of Norwegian descent, I want to knit something this year with a Scandinavian motif for him. Last year, I knit him a Norwegian Star hat and that was a lot of fun. So, I'm not really reading this book as much as I am just enjoying just looking at it. These motifs are beautiful and simple. I have another Fair Isle motif book by this author. I really hope she publishes a celtic motif book in the future.

My kids are still reading the same books as last week. So, there's nothing really new to report there.

I've been adding books to my Goodreads to-read pile like crazy in the past few weeks. I just saw a list of 16 books that are hitting the screen this year. I perused the list and realized I'd already read a few, but I found a few more books that I just had to add to the to-read list. I might have to add the occasional Friday Morning Movie post.

Go ahead and check out the list!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

New Year's Goals

Do you make New Year's Resolutions? I always thought that I really didn't, but I always think of the new year as a blank slate, a new beginning. I get more hopeful. I start planning. I get excited. I get over-inspired. I think about new adventures. I dwell in possibility.  The new year always has me wanting all kinds of things. Then, I sort of collapse under all my inspiration. That's just the way it is for me.

 It turns out that I do set a lot of goals and I just don't happen to call them resolutions, but that's really what they are.

(I think that the first goal I set this year was my Goodreads challenge.) Goals sharpen our focus. They keep us on track.  I recently read over at Modern Mrs Darcy that you get what you  measure. Measuring your goals is like watching yourself grow. I expect to grow a lot this year and I expect to thrive.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Less than three years ago, my inner control-freak fought desperately against the influx of those tiny little plastic pieces pouring into my house. Luke begged for just one Star Wars Lego set. He told me that if he could have just the one Brickmaster set that he would be completely happy and would never ask for another. I relented not because I actually thought that he would never ask for another Lego set, but because I know Luke. When he gets into something, he dives in completely to the exclusion of every other activity. I've always like his intensity when it comes to his interests in hobbies.

So, he was surprised when he did get that Star Wars Brickmaster set a few years ago. He was pretty sure that I was adamantly against the Lego and I just wasn't going to give in. I know that I unleashed more of his obsession by opening the door just a little bit. Of course, he started collecting mini-figures and then he started making cute little stop motion films with his Legos. We became overrun with Lord of the Rings, Avengers, Star Wars, and Castle Lego sets until the beginning of last year.
As quickly as his obsession started it, it ended. He stopped asking (begging) to go to the Lego store. The other day we found ourselves at the Lego store hoping that they still carried Hogwarts Castle, but it seems that all Harry Potter themed Legos have been discontinued (at least for now). He didn't seem excited about these little plastic pieces anymore and after all my fighting against them, I found myself hoping he would use that gift card that had been sitting in his wallet for almost a year. I hoped he would get inspired to build something and make another movie. He didn't.

I knew that it wasn't about the Legos. I knew that I was desperately just trying to hold onto what's left of my not-so-little boy which is about as easy as finding all those rogue Legos in my house.

Last night, Sam asked Luke if he would help him put together the Lego he got for Christmas. It was nice to see them working together even if it's sad that it's an end of an era for Luke. This is not unlike when I saw his four year obsession with dinosaurs wane or when his obsession with collecting Garfield and Calvin and Hobbes books ended or when he ran out of ideas for his own comic strip.

I wonder what's next for him.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Friday Morning Book Post

My friend, Jenn writes a Friday Morning Book Post and I thought this is something I'd like to try this new year. I just posted a list of my favorite books that I happened to read in 2013, but a Friday round-up of sounds like a lot of fun. I mean, when do I not want to talk about books?

So, we gave Luke a Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas. He was skeptical that he would like reading on an E-reader, but I think he was convinced by how small and lightweight it is. He wanted to read Divergent. I did not get the chance to pre-read this for him. I re-read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire before handing them off to him a year ago, but I simply could not get to Divergent in time. I decided to let him read it without my checking it out first. This makes me uneasy, but I know that I won't be able to pre-read everything for him. So far, he's really liking this totally different dystopian novel that is Divergent. It's on my to-read in 2014. I'm sure that Luke will want to see the movie in March. The rule is that if there's a book version, we read it before the movie comes out. (I didn't do so well with that rule when it comes to The Hobbit.)

Sam and I are taking our time with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It's not my favorite book in the series, but I do love that flying car that Ron and Harry use to get back to Hogwarts after missing the train. I'm not sure if I will continue this series after this book. Sam's only eight and the series gets a little intense after book four. I'm on the fence about reading The Prisoner of Azkaban just yet.
I gave Sam my old Kindle last year. I downloaded Ella Enchanted when it was $1.99 recently. He was reluctant to begin reading it. Unlike Luke, he cares if the main character is a girl. I told him that Luke and I read this a couple of times and we really enjoyed it. I'm sure that I will have to encourage him through the whole book, but I do think he will like it.

As for Tess, She received Vader's Little Princess for Christmas. This book is just hysterical. It's genius and oh, so funny. Don't you just love that Princess Leia's stuffed bear is an Ewok?
The twins got a ton of great board books for Christmas and just in time too. Paul and I are burned out on so many of them. There were a couple of old board books that Paul asked that we just flat out get rid of.  It turns out that we both  really dislike Curious George and we really don't like Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed. Perhaps, we just don't like monkeys?

The twins love reading Boynton's Pajama Time. They have it memorized! In fact, we end reading time with them by reading Pajama Time! They received some of these Cozy Classics for Christmas even though, technically, they're too old for books with only one word on each page. I'm enchanted with Emma. I'm amazed that one can get the gist of Emma in only a handful of single words. So, I might like Emma more than both the twins and Tess.
As for me, I'm settling into a novel titled When Sparrows Fall. I haven't read any Christian fiction in a very long time. Hibernating on my Kindle is The Night Circus.
I'm supposed to be reading Longbourn for my book club at the end of this month. It's the re-telling of Pride and Prejudice from the perspective of the help.
So, that's our week in books!

My Favorite Books of 2013

Can I just say that I love Goodreads? I keep really good records of what I read there. I love seeing what my friends are reading and it's the place to find the next book that I'm going to add to my never-shrinking to-read pile. I've been setting reading goals for the past few years on Goodreads. In 2013, I read 39 books. I had hoped to read 30. After looking over my list for 2013, I realized that it's heavy on YA fiction. 2013 was definitely the year for YA for me. I do love this genre and I will probably continue to add YA titles to my 2014 list.

Today, I'm linking up with modernmrsdarcy.com to contribute my list to the discussion. So, these are the best books that I happened to read in 2013 and not the best published in 2013. So, here goes on my quirky list:

This is probably my favorite book that I read in 2013. The Sea of Tranquility is very mature YA. Here's the first line from my Goodreads review: This novel is heavy, wordy, dense, dark, but yet, compulsively readable.

 This book tells the story of two very damaged souls, but yet this book is full of hope. I can't wait for Katja Millay's next novel.

I'm so glad that I picked up this novel even after seeing the movie featuring Tina Fey. It's another book that's dense and the main character, Portia is a study in meta-cognition. The movie and book differ from each other quite dramatically. I love just sinking into words and Admission let me do that.

I read about this book on Modern Mrs. Darcy. Addie's faith memoir is amazing. Addie tells the story about an all-consuming fire for her Evangelical Christian faith and coming of age in the nineties. She ended up burned out and a little bitter, but she found a way to rebuild her faith on a more solid foundation. I loved that she was so frank about how young heartbreak played into her disillusion with faith as well.

Several years ago, I read Winner's thoughtful memoir about her conversion from Judaism to Christianity. She entered the Episcopal church enchanted. This new memoir is about what happens when the newness of faith has worn off. Her prose is spare, but heavy. Winner's book isn't unlike Addie Zierman's. They both deal with rebuilding faith when the enthusiasm is gone.

Happiness is worth considering. It isn't a selfish pursuit like I had always thought. I admit that I struggled a little bit with the concept of setting out to increase happiness. I suppose, more than any other book I read in 2013, this book made me think deeply about living more intentionally while paying attention, in particular, to self-care.

I bet you didn't expect to see this one on my list! This was the last book I read in 2013 and it was my second time reading it. I don't really have time to re-read books given my never-growing-smaller-pile-of-books-to-read, but I felt compelled to give this one another go since I didn't love it the first time around.

It's amazing how much my perspective changed upon another read. I read it more carefully and I really paid more attention to Katniss's interior thoughts. I know everyone was disappointed in the resolution of the love triangle, but honestly, I read this book differently this time. The book is quite subtle despite the never-ending violence, but if one reads it carefully, one will discover (I think) how much tenderness Katniss had for Peeta all along.

Honorable mentions:

There you have it!
Happiness, Faith, wordy dense novels, and a healthy dose of YA!

I never know what reading has in store for me, but I know that 2014 will take me on another great reading adventure!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Yarn Along for the new year

I love knitting color work, but my tension is still way too tight. I don't know if blocking will save this hat. This hat is a late Christmas present for a friend. I hope that her head is smaller than mine! This is a free pattern on Ravelry called Encircling Ewe. I had to improvise the pattern above the sheep. I had to make it longer because it is just too short before the decreases. I'm almost done and I'm crossing my fingers that I can stretch this hat.
I wanted to post this yesterday for the Yarn Along since I haven't participated in ages, but I was so busy getting our home back in order after the holidays.

As for reading, I haven't really settled on a new book after re-reading Mockingjay. 

Family Portrait

Just thought I should start the year with all of us together. (Photo from September 2013.)

Looking Back, Looking Forward

So, here we are in 2014! I know this will make me sound weird, but I really like even numbers. So, I'm happy to find myself back in an even year. I know. It's a really weird and now you know something quirky about me.

Well, it's time to look back on the year that was. What worked? What didn't? What did I accomplish? What did I learn about myself?

First of all, our Advent got off to a rocky start and it really never got any better. We never really decorated the tree aside from the lights, the star, and some plastic ornaments that the twins couldn't break. Even Luke seemed to understand how sad I was not to bring out the Flower Fairy ornaments this year. December seemed to move at a breakneck speed and like the rest of the 2013, I felt that feeling of barely being able to tread water to keep up. Paul and I realized that we both had health issues in the last quarter of the year and that we should be kinder to ourselves about letting some of our traditions fall to the wayside this year. After I ended up in the ER in September due to a reaction to Percocet for a severe tooth infection, I spent the next few months dealing with the residual pain from a tooth that ended up needing a root canal through an existing crown. Paul finally had his double hernia surgery right before Thanksgiving. Needless to say, neither of us really had the energy this year.

Another thing derailed me emotionally. I moved to Colorado just a little over a year after the Columbine massacre in 2000. I don't live very far from Columbine High School. Sadly, I seem to live in a state that's no stranger to mass shootings. Right before the first anniversary of the Newtown shootings, I started to think about all those parents coming upon another Christmas without their little ones. I just couldn't bear it and I prayed for everyone of those families who'd lost a child on that fateful day in 2012. The day before the Newtown anniversary, though, another shooting occurred here in Colorado at Arapahoe High School. This sent me into a little bit of a tailspin. I can't bear the loss of young life. I just can't. We were at Tess's first Irish dance performance ever on December 21st, when we learned that young Claire Davis had succumbed to her injuries. I started crying while watching all those sparkly bouncy Irish dancers. My heart broke for a girl I never knew and for her family. Is it crazy that I felt so emotional over this? Maybe it's because I have a young child in high school. Don't get me wrong. I don't worry about his physical safety at school, but I guess I can't imagine the agony of losing a child like this. Rest in peace, Claire.

Paul Walker also died this year. He wasn't one of my favorite actors. I saw only a handful of his movies.  I'm not even a fan of The Fast and the Furious franchise. I don't know really anything about him.  So, I'm not sure why his death hit me so hard. Was it seeing someone my age die tragically and without warning? My emotional state has been so fragile in this last quarter of the year for sure. Rest in peace, Paul.
So, the Christmas season felt rushed and crazy and emotional this year, but we did have a very nice Christmas day. We slept in, relaxed, and that was really wonderful. Paul made snowmen pancakes. Those pancakes are becoming one of our family traditions. It was a lovely day.

We took down the tree yesterday on New Year's Day. We used to keep the tree up until the Epiphany, but I just don't want to anymore. I was happy moving into a new year and I want to begin anew and that means putting the Christmas decorations away and clearing the clutter. We'll still celebrate Epiphany without the decorations.

Let's move on to happier things. Okay?

Best of 2013

I went to the movies more this year than I have in a very long time. Paul and I love going to the movies and thanks to having an older child who is babysitting certified, Luke afforded us the opportunity to spend more time together.  Here are some of my favorites this year:

I also read a lot. I read a lot of YA novels this year. I have a best of 2013 post for tomorrow. So, I'll leave books for now.

Things I did and Things I learned:

I continued to knit. I did take a break from knitting, but I still managed to knit two summer shirts for Tess and more hats than I count. I have a crazy goal to knit 50 hats this year. That way, come December I'll have both hats for gifts and hats to sell at the Craft Fair at Sam's school.

I bought both hiking shoes and running shoes this year. I need to move more. It's as simple as that.  I started walking much more and it's life-changing and quite calming. By the way, I bought pink running shoes. I used to love running cross country in high school. That was a long time ago. I'm sure I could love it again. I am sure I will love it again. I mean, I'm not going to go crazy and train for a marathon or anything like that.

I took a break from quilting. I just haven't felt like sewing lately. I have one tartan quilt that's almost ready for the quilter. It's for Paul. Right now, I'm not in the mood for quilting.

Paul and I learned that the kids can stand being in the car for roughly 15 hours! We drove to Virginia last Summer and the kids all did reasonably well for the long two day drive.

I learned that I was CRAZY for thinking that I could easily put 4 kids into one big bedroom! Luke is going to move to the basement bedroom and the twins will move to Luke's current room on the main floor. Sam and Tess will be much happier without the twins in their room. My quest for a guest bedroom was short-lived, but oh well. It's all good. Soon, everyone will be in the right bedroom.

I learned that I've most likely come to the last of my home schooling days at least for now. I spent a lot of time really trying to understand my personality this year. I renewed my interest in Myers-Briggs and learning more about being an introvert. I learned what being introvert means and what it doesn't.I I have come to terms with the fact that I'm really good at home educating only one child at a time. Luke has finished his first semester of his freshman year and Sam is in the third grade. Both are in public school. I am teaching Tess to read, but she will head off to kindergarten next Fall. Does this break my heart a little? Of course! I'm passionately committed to their educations and continuing to read as many books aloud to them as possible. I LOVE reading aloud to my kids. I hope that they will always associate being read to as a form of comfort.

I love learning and education. That hasn't changed one bit. I am much happier understanding that I'm both highly introverted and a highly sensitive person. Sensory overload is quite common here with active and inquisitive twins.There's nothing like truly understanding what makes me tick and what doesn't. Knowing this has made all the difference and most likely will make a huge positive impact on my family going forward.

I learned that I need more help. I hired a housekeeper in the last month of the year. I was extremely reluctant to do so. I had too much pride. I really think I can do everything and I'm limitless, but I can't do everything and frankly, I don't want to. I had to learn to prioritize better and some aspects of housekeeping kept falling to the wayside. I'm sure this will help my outlook in 2014. The whole family will be better organized by simply having help.

I learned that I need way more quiet time than I thought. I seek quiet every day in my loud household. It isn't just a treat to stay up late and read. It's an absolute necessity to restore and recharge.

It's good to set goals. I've already set up my reading challenge on Goodreads. I review every book that I read on Goodreads. So, join me over there too. I also hope to post here at my little blog at least twice a week this year.

I was looking at my sparse posts for last year. I thought I had chosen a word for 2013. I thought it was CALM, but I guess I never wrote that post. My 2013 was anything but calm. Maybe I should choose that word again? CALM. I know I wrote about it somewhere, but I just can't find it. So maybe this year will be the year I finally make the necessary changes to achieve CALM.

                                           Here are my beautiful kids on the last day of 2013. What will I learn about them this year? What adventures will we have together? I'm looking forward to a better year of calm and clarity with these fabulous little (well, mostly little. Luke is 5'8" now).  Can you see the tree without any decorations?

                                               Goodbye, 2013. Hello, 2014!

New Year's Day.  Paul snuggling with James.
                                                HAPPY NEW YEAR FRIENDS!