Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Yarn Along

 I'm still knitting. The knitting bag is overflowing with mostly unfinished hats. I'm working on three very distinct hats: The Dustland Hat, the Woman's Hound-Tooth Hat, and the Camden Cap which involves knitting over a piece of plastic to make a brim. I've also learned a new technique to make my stranded knitting much less tight. I'm getting a lot of practice on the Hound's Tooth Hat.

This is the Hounds Tooth hat picture from Knit Simple Magazine. 

I just started Diary of a Wimpy Kid today. It's going to be a quick read. My oldest son, Luke and I thoroughly enjoyed the first two movies. A while back, my husband checked out the first movie from the library. I almost sent it back to the library without watching it, but then Luke and I sat down to watch it. We both found ourselves unexpectedly laughing out loud.

My eight-year old son, Sam likes anything comic-y. I am not very well-versed in the whole graphic novel genre. He recently finished the entire Calvin and Hobbes canon. I started to worry that he would lose interest in reading if I couldn't find more age appropriate graphic novels. Diary of a Wimpy Kid features a middle-schooler named Greg. Sam is in third grade. He went ahead and read the first book, but I am just not sure if the entire series is appropriate for him. So, despite having seen the movies, I'm jumping in and I'm reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Who knows? I may just get sucked into the entire Wimpy Kid series!

For more yarn tales, click on over to Ginny's.

My kind of fan fiction

I recently listened to a Bookrageous podcast about fan fiction the other day. I hadn't really ever considered fan fiction other than what my son Luke tells me about the ever expansive universe that is Star Wars. I prefer my Star Wars to contain only Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia. I really don't care about the back story of Boba Fett. I don't want anyone messing with the Harry Potter universe, but yet there is all kind of fan fiction about Hogwarts. There's fan fic that imagines Harry Potter without the epilogue in the final book. I originally thought that fan fiction was really relegated to the world of DC and Marvel Comics and science fiction geeks, but I learned something. There is fan fiction for everything! What is fan fiction? It's stories written by fans about characters or settings of the original work.

So, I may not be comfortable with all the re-imagined universes of other favorite books and characters, but I'm excited about almost all Austen-inspired fiction. I suppose I prefer a re-imagining of the original tale vs. a story that moves Austen's characters in a different trajectory. Longbourn, a recent book club selection has a shifted narrative of the story. While the elements of Pride and Prejudice remain the same, it's vantage point is from the help.

This is my recent book club selection. It's Pride and Prejudice from the perspective of the help. Think Downton Abbey meets Austen. 

So, I realized that I'm steeped deeply in the world of Jane Austen Fan Fiction. I never read Austen in either high school or college, but shortly after graduating from college, I realized what I had been missing. The first Jane Austen novel I read was Emma. I remember being delighted by the Gwyneth Paltrow's Emma  in 1996.

  Are you surprised that it wasn't the Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice mini-series that made me mad for Austen?
I'm pretty sure this is the reason that most women decided that Austen was irresistible. It's this iconic Darcy-in-a-wet-shirt scene.

 Emma was the reason I fell in love with all things Jane Austen in the first place. I proceeded to read all her novels and collect multiple editions of Pride and Prejudice and Emma.

Can I just say how much more I prefer Mr Knightley to Mr Darcy?
                                         Then, there were a slew of Austen-inspired movies.
As if!

Fox Books. F-O-X.

Mark Darcy!
This adaptation of Pride and Prejudice transported to India is just lovely.

The Jane Austen Book Club. The movie is WAY better than the book.

Just when you didn't think we needed another adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, we kinda did and while not fan fiction, I'm sure this new movie rekindled the Austen imagination. So, in 2005, a feature length P&P was released and guess what? The new Mr. Darcy grew on me. 

The trend continues today. Last weekend, I watched Austenland based on the novel of the same name by Shannon Hale. Remember, I'll read anything Austen-related. (Well, almost anything.) I remember thinking that the book was just so-so, but I thought it might make a delightful movie. As it turns out, the movie is so-so as well, but it did make me think about how much Austen has impacted our culture.

When Austenland landed in theaters several months back, my friends and I made plans to go to see it wearing Regency gowns. It never happened, but that doesn't mean I haven't paraded around Bath, England wearing a Regency gown during the Jane Austen Festival. Because I have! Yup. I'm that girl.

Anyway, I'll continue to read a lot of Austen-inspired fiction. I have read two (yes, 2!) YA novels that re-imagine Pride and Prejudice in the modern high school. Of course, you're dying to know the titles so that you can read them too, right?? Right? Okay, it might just be me, but these books were cute and just fun.

I have a whole shelf dedicated to Austen-related fiction on Goodreads. Check out my Austen-pastiche shelf.

So, yes, I love fan fiction. I just happen to love my particular brand of fan fiction.

Friday, February 21, 2014

There should be gold medals for speed watching the Olympics

Meryl Davis and Charlie White win Ice Dancing Gold!
Are you  watching the Olympics? I am. Lots of it. I blame my recent exhaustion on watching the Olympics every night. I will fully admit that I can watch maybe three luge runs before they all look the same. Without the excitement in the announcer's voice, I would never be able to tell you that this luge run is .087 of a second faster than the last luger.

I'll watch a couple of Skeleton runs and think about who these crazy  people are who decide to slide head first at nearly 80 miles an hour! I watch speed skating and slope style snow boarding! I do a lot of speed watching, but I always stop and settle in for the figure skating. All of it.

I used to hate ice dancing. It was weird, over-the-top, theatrical, and there were no jumps. I wanted to see Axels not Twizzles. I mean, seriously. Twizzles? This year, I liked the ice dancing the best. I hadn't realized that ice dancing had changed over the last decade. (The last Winter Games I watched were the 2002 Salt Lake Games where figure skating was fraught with cheating and scandal. Remember the double gold medal in pairs figure skating? The French judge?)

I think the reason that I'm watching so much of the Olympics is that I missed everything from both Torino and Vancouver.This was the period where we didn't have network TV. We watched everything via Netflix streaming and movies from the library. I didn't feel deprived, but it turns out that I've missed a lot. So, when Paul added Aereo  this year giving us the opportunity to watch TV online, I was enthusiastic. Very enthusiastic!

My husband did not anticipate my enormous enthusiasm for the return of network TV to my house. I've never been a TV person and I'm still not, but I'm happy to be back to engage the culture in real time.

Next up? The Oscars!!!

Friday Morning Book Post

I read a quote on Melissa Wiley's blog this week and it just so resonated with how I read that I have to quote it here:

 I have eleventy-thousand books queued up, so naturally I decided to reread Middlemarch. (I’ve given up trying to figure out my capricious reading whims anymore. If a book insists it wants to be read, I read it.)
Melissa just nails it! I'm never going to get to all the books on the to-read pile. I don't even try to have some systematic way of tackling them. Unlike the rest of my life, I just give in to all of my fleeting reading fancies. I simply just read and follow any rabbit trail that I can.

No matter how much I try to organize my reading, I give into my reading whims all the time too. I'll be in the middle of a book when another book presents itself and my fickle reading self will put down that book and pick up another. My reading habits are random, disorganized, and often times irresponsible. I should be reading my book club book (The Goldfinch), but I'm rebellious that way.

Yesterday, I started reading Stolen on my phone. Melissa Wiley announced that it was pretty cheap on Kindle and it was a book that she still thought about. Some books completely slip out of my mind once I'm done with them, but there are those precious few that linger within in my thoughts long after I've finished them and moved onto something else. So, if Melissa says the books sticks with her, I'm hoping for the same thing except I think this book may be a little on the haunting side.

Stolen is considered in YA, but already I can tell that it's the kind of YA that is just at the edge of that Emerging Adult label. It's dark and edgy. It involves a kidnapping and well, possibly Stockholm Syndrome.
It's not fun reading, but it is compelling and even though the subject matter is serious, heavy, suspenseful, I can tell that this book might be one of those that lingers.

By the way, I'm still reading all the stuff I was reading in last week's book post!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Twin Tuesday

Liam and James

I've wanted to add more pictures of the twins here on my blog and Tuesdays seem like a good day for this. They boys are growing and changing so quickly that I need to capture them a little better. I don't think that I will always photograph them together. Sometimes, even I forget that they're not a set, but unique individuals who happen to look alike. Here they are on Christmas Day looking like the identical twins that they are.

A Long Wintry Weekend

I'm not really sure why last week felt extra arduous. I suspect that the whole family was experiencing some burnout and then Tess got sick. The week even ended on a Thursday. There would be no school on Friday, Valentine's Day, making President's Weekend four days instead of three. I had some loose plans for the kids. I planned for some ice skating at Evergreen Lake and maybe some snow shoeing, but then the twins came down with the cough and fever as well. Paul took Sam swimming and he cut his toe badly on something sharp in the pool. Our plans were sidelined. As much as I look forward to weekends, they're not always relaxing.

As an extreme introvert living in a noisy crazy house, there is little time for the quiet I crave all day. On Saturday, I elected to take Luke down the hill to the library so that he could spend a good chunk of the day getting his homework all up to date. It wasn't exciting or anything, but going to the library was calming and refreshing for both of us. The weekend unfolded slowly and I could feel the day moving at a less stressful pace. We both agreed that we may need to make our library date a weekly thing. In the quiet of the library, he realized he could concentrate better than at home and he was less distracted. Well, of course he was less distracted! It's quiet in the library (contented sigh).

On Sunday night, I took Luke to see The Book Thief before it leaves the theaters. I've realized that I cherish one-on-one time with each of my kids. I get to see them outside of their siblings and I discover a whole other side to each of them.

Paul and I were able to carve out two mini-dates this past weekend. After we put the Littles (Tess, Liam, and James) to bed on Saturday night, we left Luke in charge of Sam and headed to a late movie.We find small pockets of time whenever we can. On Monday, we spent a couple of hours at the local Starbucks just talking.

We talked about how hard it is to come up with an activity that's appealing to all the ages in the house. We talked about how I feel every emotion that each of my children feels. All.the.Time.We talked about managing stress. We talked about how our time with Luke is dwindling. We talked about turning points.We talked about boredom and routine. We talked about vacation this year. It sounds so trite, but it was wonderful not being interrupted for more than five minutes. Again, I could feel time moving more slowly. It actually seems weird when time isn't flying by. I'm not even sure if it feels comfortable for time to move slower, but I welcomed it.

Paul treated me to breakfast in bed all weekend. He knows that after making breakfast and packing lunches for the kids all week, the last thing I want to do is cook more eggs on Saturday. So, he took on weekend breakfasts a long time ago. He lets me sleep in, brings me breakfast in bed, and then leaves me alone for a little while longer. It's Heaven and he makes a great poached egg.

Don't get me wrong. The weekend was still loud and somewhat chaotic, but I realized that there was still some peace tucked into a lot of its moments. I did get to relax and I did get to waste some time. I wasn't really productive, but I created little events for the kids and I realized that the weekend doesn't have to be perfect.

It just has to be relaxing. For the whole family.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Twitterature-February 2014 edition

So, yeah, I didn't get to my Friday morning book post. I blame the Olympics. I've been staying up way too late speed watching the Sochi Games. I watch a little of everything, but I watch all figure skating. Last night, it was nearly midnight when I finally went to bed after watching the Men's Long program final. I couldn't just fall asleep right away and despite the hour, I read for another half hour.

So, in lieu of my Friday Morning Book post, I'm linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy today and I'll talk about what I've been reading in a Twitter-like style.

Unveiling Grace is Lynn K Wilder's memoir of what happens when she discovers that the Jesus of the Mormon world is quite different than the Biblical Jesus.

Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea is the atmospheric coming-of-age novels of life in Maine. I'm not too far in this novel just yet, but I'm so excited about novels that have a clear sense of place.

The Goldfinch is queued up on my Kindle. Can I read it in time for my March 7 book club??

Pride and Prejudice- I'm always reading this one to my twins and my five year old daughter. My twin boys can recite this one by heart. They can name all of Lizzie's sisters. They know who Mr. Bingley is. They know who Mr Darcy is. They can tell you about Longbourn, Netherfield, and Pemberley. This is my favorite board book ever! I am going to have to buy another copy since mine is getting ragged. It's amazing how the entire story of Pride and Prejudice can be distilled into a delightful counting book for the pre-school set.

Ken Libbrecht's Field Guide to Snowflakes: If you have a passing interest in the science of snowflakes, this is a wonderful small guide to understanding how snowflakes form. The photography is amazing.

What have you been reading lately?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Friday Morning Book Post

Book pressure. Do you have it?

 I feel pressure all the time. I know it's entirely of my own doing, but nevertheless, I still feel it.
 I have books (700 page books!) to read for book club. Well, I don't have to. I want to, but I have other books that I have to read quickly because I can't renew them. I am now reading two books to Sam. His school has an all-school book club every year and this year, the selected book is The Incredible Journey. This is a book that I didn't read as a kid myself. I'm not even sure I've seen the movie. So far, I'm enjoying reading this book to Sam and we're still reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I'm inundated with reading, but that's a good problem.

Right now, I'm reading Unveiling Grace by Lynn Wilder. Most people know that I'm fascinated with Mormonism. I'm fascinated by their strange doctrine and their secretive ceremonies that somehow are supposedly compatible with Christianity. I've read many memoirs about the FLDS, but this time I wanted to concentrate on the mainstream LDS Church.

This book is about how one family found their way out of Mormonism. Lynn and her husband entered the Mormon church in 1977 after missionaries knocked on their door. I didn't even know that those missionary boys could be successful with their door-to-door proselytizing. I guess the church wouldn't continue to do it, if it didn't work though. It's a works based religion that has just enough Jesus to sound Christian. After decades in the church, Lynn found enough cracks and fissures in her faith to lead her away from Joseph Smith and to a very different Jesus. The Jesus of the Bible.  It's truly fascinating, if a little overly detailed.

Luke is reading 1984 in his English class. I remember reading this my senior year in English. I bought this book in the Kindle edition for Luke. He's still adjusting to reading on a Kindle. Luke should like it. He's living in an age where almost all the YA fiction right now is dystopian.

As for Tess, she is really enjoying Don't Wake the Royal Baby
This is the cutest book. The new royal baby just can't sleep with all the noise in the palace. It's adorable. The queen even takes the royal baby on a plane ride and then parachutes out with the baby to get him to sleep. The illustrations are delightful and it's one of my little girl's current faves.
That's it on the book front this week.  See you next week with more book adventures.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Concrete Goals

I spent most of January pondering how I am going to make 2014 better than 2013. I wrote a post about resolutions in January, but it wasn't very concrete and largely, I took all of January to gain some clarity on what I want to accomplish this year. I also spent time thinking about what I'm into right now.


This is really my area of expertise. It's a crazy gift. I wouldn't characterize myself as having awesome spacial skills when it comes to maps, but when it comes to organizing the home, I'm amazing. Yep. That doesn't sound humble at all and it isn't. If they gave out gold medals for organizing closets and spaces, I'd win every time. Call me. I'll help you with any organizing project.

For some reason, when it comes to organizing, my spacial skills really kick in. My mind can mentally assess, re-arrange, purge, and visualize the final product in a few short minutes.

We began the year in crazy purge mode. I've found that whenever I feel overwhelmed in any capacity, the first thing I want to do is lighten my load of stuff. We have seven people in our house and as much as things are donated and tossed constantly, it never seems to make much difference (at least in my mind). I started reading Clutter Free With Kids on my Kindle recently. Honestly, I've read all the books on living simply and reducing clutter. I know most of the tricks, but sometimes you need to read the advice again because you just get motivated. Once your'e motivated, you'll realize that you'll be happier setting limits with stuff.
Here's the deal: Your kids, despite what they think, are just plain happier with less stuff. A while back, I read the book Simplicity Parenting and that book changed the way I saw how the accumulation of stuff related to parenting.

This week, I spent some time in the bedroom that currently has four children. I put on Mickey Mouse for the Littles (Tess, Liam, and James). I then proceeded to be ruthless in their bedroom. I threw away broken toys. I put things that never really held their interest in a donation box. I made sure not to throw away treasures, but with less stuff around, it's easier for my children to find their treasures.

The thing is that purging is an on-going process. I'm always re-evaluating whether we need to keep something. This process helps me not get too attached to anything.

Staying organized in my small loud home is definitely a concrete goal for 2014. That's really the kicker, isn't it? Keeping things organized once you've done the work. It will be an on-going adventure and hopefully, I will teach my children not to hold onto things too tightly.


I need to pay attention to everything I do to live well and intentionally. I realized that a nebulous goal can only take you so far.

I added a Habit tracker app to my phone. I don't know why I never considered this before. Modern Mrs Darcy says you get what you measure. That means paying attention. Happiness guru, Gretchen Rubin has had me thinking seriously about how our habits add or detract from our overall happiness.

My doctors have told me avoid gluten for years. So far, I've been obstinate and rebellious. Aside from my general thyroid issues, I have no real difficulties with gluten. So, the whole gluten thing has just made me angry for so many years.

 So, I added the MyChain app to my phone to give up gluten for a month to see if it really makes a difference. Every day that I avoid gluten, I add a link to my chain. The whole goal is to avoid breaking the chain. So, in some ways, it's like a game. I realized that I could not rely on my own will to avoid gluten, but a simple app on my phone has me finally obeying my doctors. Clearly, I needed something outside of myself to comply. I'll have to investigate that further, but that's a subject for another day. I think this app will be useful for other habits I'd like to change as well.

The Return of TV to my home

This isn't really a goal to watch more TV, but I have to say since we've been without TV for about six years, I'm happy to have the return of network TV to my house in 2014. It's just time to re-enter TV land for a while.

When we moved into our home at the end of 2005, we had an antenna that served us well. We got the major networks with a few extras like TLC where I indulged in countless episodes of What Not to Wear. Then, a snow storm knocked that antenna off the house and I deemed it way too dangerous to consider putting it back. We decided that we'd live without TV for a while. We definitely weren't going to pay for Dish or cable.  I'm not anti-TV, but I'm definitely in the category of less screens, more books. We added Netflix streaming and well, we weren't deprived, but when it came to the Oscars, Golden Globes, Olympics, etc., I was constantly asking my best friend to tape things for me and honestly, I hate missing some of these collective cultural events.

I bought a new TV for my husband for his December birthday/Christmas. We added Aereo which lets us have access to the major networks again. I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to the Oscars and the Olympics this year.

I'm also watching a show of which I don't usually have interest. I'm watching American Idol. Even if we had TV in the last few years, I'm not sure that I'd have watched, but I'm watching now and it's because of this guy:

I love Harry Connick, Jr. I must have at least twelve of his albums. In fact, one of the first CDs I ever bought was the soundtrack from When Harry Met Sally. He's smart, funny, and well, honest to these aspiring singers. I'm excited about Wednesdays nights and it's a show in which we can include our oldest son. He wasn't very interested in it at first, but I think even he's caught my Harry Connick, Jr. enthusiasm.


I want to dress better. I don't think I dress badly, but I definitely dress boring. I've had a uniform of sorts for years. It's jeans, long sleeve (usually deep teal) shirt, and black vest. I've been wearing my Dansko clogs for at least 8 years. I'm not giving up my Danskos, but I do need some sprucing up.

I don't really like clothes shopping and out of desperation, if I need something, I end up at Kohl's or the Eddie Bauer Outlet, and sometimes even Salvation Army. I tend to choose the same styles over and over just in different colors.

I pay incredible attention to color and I choose colors carefully. I even had my colors done a couple of years ago. Yes, I'm a Baroque Winter. My color palette is replete with deep jewel tones. Sapphires, Rubies, Emeralds. The colors are inspiring, but my clothing choices, sadly, are not.

So, this year, I'm going to try StitchFix. This is an online styling service. You mean I don't have to go out and shop? Somebody else will do it for me? Fabulous. Sign me up. I'll keep you posted.


Weekends have been largely a time when everyone sleeps in and catches up on sleep and then we get up to catch up on work around the house. This year, I want to have more leisure time with the family. We already work hard around here and work isn't everything. We need family time and more of it. Our time with Luke is dwindling quickly. He's a freshman and his high school years are going to slip by rapidly. I want everyone to have good memories while we're still all together.

Books I can't wait to read

At the heart of setting definable goals is living intentionally. I'm always thinking about how my time is limited. I have to set boundaries and priorities. I stink at this. I think I can do everything. I want to do everything, but just like I want to set limits with our physical stuff, I need to set limits elsewhere and paradoxically, it might mean a fuller life after all?

Survival mode is where I found myself when I brought my twins boys home from the hospital in October of 2010 and sadly where I stayed since. They're three now and I now need to phase survival mode out of our family identity.

There's a theme here, right? It's time to get back to living well for my whole family.

Then there is this:

I'd like to have a sort-of movie club this year with some of my movie/book loving friends. That means more reading, more books, and more movies too.

It's going to be a full year and I'm ready.