A Month In the Life of a Book Glutton

The past few weeks have been great for reading, not so great for blogging.

Have you ever gotten that feeling of anxiety that comes with not knowing what to read next?  That sneaking fear that maybe there aren’t any good books left?  You know it’s an irrational fear, but you can’t quite dismiss it?

I’ve had the opposite problem lately.  So many fun books, most of them good, all of them enjoyable (not terribly deep, you’ll have to go elsewhere for that).  Its been like pigging out at an all-you-can-eat buffet minus the indigestion and bloat.

Here’s what I’ve been reading:

1. Oxygen by Carol Cassella.  Sort of a John Grisham medical malpractice/mystery story told from the doctor’s perspective rather than the lawyer’s.  A bit too Jodi Picoult-ish in its metaphor after metaphor after cheesy metaphor (Hallie and I will have to agree to disagree about Ms. Picoult).  Still, a real page-turner.  Recommended.

2. Following Polly by Karen Bergreen.  I picked this out on the recommendation of Jenny McCarthy via Jim Gaffigan.  I’m glad I did.  It’s chick-lit but ten times funnier and wittier than most.  Also not as dirty.  A really really really fun read.

3. Perfect Is Overrated, the author’s follow-up novel, was also entertaining but not as funny.

4. Speaking of Jim Gaffigan, I read Dad Is Fat.  It’s laugh out loud funny in parts.  In other parts the jokes are not so fresh.  But my takeaway is that I love the Gaffigans.

People treat having a kid as somehow retiring from success. Quitting. Have you seen a baby? They’re pretty cute. Loving them is pretty easy. Smiling babies should actually be categorized by the pharmaceutical industry as a powerful antidepressant. Being happy is really the definition of success, isn’t it?

This by the supposed author who explained, “My wife and I, we write everything together.”  So yeah, I’m pretty sure Jeanne wrote that.

5. Heaven Is for Real by Todd Burpo.  I tried to read this with an open mind.  It’s an interesting story, short and easy to read.  Well, easy to read except the heart-wrenching account of what the little boy and his parents went through when he was deathly ill and repeatedly misdiagnosed.  (They had to sit in the doctor’s waiting room, with their dying child on their lap while the doctor finished his lunch.  My stomach clenches up just thinking about it.)  As for the rest . . . did the little boy really see Heaven?  Are his parents telling the truth?  Does it matter?  I don’t know, but I rather hope it’s true.  Regardless, it’s interesting and told in a simple, narrative, non-preachy way.

6. Kate: The Future Queen, by Kate Nicholl.  This book led me on a journey of self discovery.  I discovered I’m not as big a fan as I thought I was.  At least, not a fan as needs all this information.  Too much who vacationed on which secluded island when with whom.  Blah.  I skimmed a lot of it.  Just tell me what she wore.  Also, I like William less and respect Kate less for the way he led her on forever and ever and ever.  Still, I wish them well and hope they stay fabulous.  Also, Kate’s mother, Carole Middleton is a self-made millionaire who started out putting together children’s party favor bags in her garage.  You rock, Carole.

7. Cheap: The Shockingly High Price of Discount Culture, by Ellen Ruppel Shell.  An interesting title, no?  It’s written like a dissertation, though.  Way way too much information.  I skimmed.

8. When You Eat At the Refrigerator Pull Up A Chair by Geneen Roth.  Sort of a lite version of Women Food and God.  Just okay.

And most recently, I’m working on How Children Succeed by Paul Tough and When Hell Was In Session by the recently-deceased, Vietnam War hero Col. Jeremiah Denton.  It’s taking some effort to get motivated to read the latter, since I’ve been attached too more . . . bubbly . . . subject matter.  But I shall persevere.  (Or not, and crack open The Rosie Project, which I just picked up at the library.)

I’m linking up with Jessica the Spicy Housewife for What We’re Reading Wednesday and Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy for Twitterature.  And, I’d like to link up with Hallie for Five Favorites Wednesday.  I’ll make books #1, 2, and 4 my favorites.  Plus Rules of Civility, that I wrote about last week, is my fourth favorite.  And having lots of books to read is my fifth favorite for the week!  There, five!

How about you?  What have you been reading?

 

A Movie I Hate

that I’ve never seen, advice I won’t take, plus other midnight ramblings:

 

1.  Here’s a little something for you:

Two of my favorite things: .gif images and Pride and Prejudice

2.  There are lots more of both herebut

3. I loathe the “new” Pride and Prejudice* movie with a passion.  The one with Keira Knightly.  Hate it.  Really can’t stand her acting.  Looking at her gives me the heebie geebies.  Does she have a sinus problem?  Can she not breathe through her nose?  Why can’t she close her mouth?

I don’t know her as a person so probably she’s perfectly likable in real life.  (Trying to avoid being uncharitable here . . .)  But in movies ugh.  And what little I saw of the new movie really was not true to the book.  The characters’ restraint is what makes the emotion in the book so compelling.  And the “new” movie does away with most of the restraint.  From what I saw.

Like I said I didn’t watch it.  Just a few bits and pieces.  I’m very fair and thorough that way when I form my opinions.

4. In happier news, my sister  Lizzie had her baby!  They are both doing well.  I don’t know how much more I’m allowed to tell.  Anyway, I’m pretty excited.

Speaking of younger siblings doing things one already has done . . . .

5. Advice: I used to dole out a lot of it.  I also used to think I needed to take every bit of advice that came my way.  Now, I’m pretty much done with advice.  This article quite humorously discusses the reasons why.

The U.S. is addicted to advice. Americans honestly believe that someone out there knows how to fix all our problems. . . . Why, then, are so many of us miserable, bankrupt, overweight chain smokers with horrible, illiterate kids? The advice was out there.

Certain family members might roll their eyes at my asserting I’m through with giving advice.  I guess I should say: I’ve cut back.  I’ve come a long way.

6. And speaking of . . . uh . . . kids.  Kids!  I saw this little statistic about vaccines.

Apparenly, parents who are disinclined to get their kids vaccinated are even less likely to get their kids vaccinated after being given a pro-vaccine spiel.  Makes perfect sense to me.

My kids are vaccinated (tho on a delayed schedule), but I detest the info sheets the doctor’s office hands out from the Center for Disease Control.  My friend calls them “idiot sheets,” and I think that sums it up perfectly.  “Hmm, you obviously think I’m dumber than dirt.  So what all are you not telling me?”

7. I’m always wired after book club and tonight is no exception.  Multiple hours of socializing! With multiple people at one time!  I love it but it’s a lot for my reclusive system to handle.

Happy weekend everyone!  Click over to Jen for more quick take posts.

 

*The “new” P&P was made almost nine years ago.  #Ifeelold

Rules of Civility: The Book That Wrecked My Blog

Well, that and a few others . . . .  I don’t know if you’ve missed me, but if you have, maybe it’s some consolation that I’ve been hermitting away reading a lot of great books?

I finished Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles last night.  (I picked it up after Anne listed it as a “book worth binge reading.”  She’s right, and I did.)   It left with me that familiar, bittersweet, sad-but-satisfied little ache in my stomach. A clear sign of a good novel.

 

In a nutshell (as summarized on the author’s website),

Rules of Civility tells the story of a watershed year in the life of an uncompromising twenty-five-year-old named Katey Kontent. Armed with little more than a formidable intellect, a bracing wit, and her own brand of cool nerve, Katey embarks on a journey from a Wall Street secretarial pool through the upper echelons of New York society in search of a brighter future.

On the surface, Rules  of Civility draws to mind The Great Gatsby.  Most of the reviews focus on Towles’ glittering depiction of Manhattan high society in the late 1930s.

To me, however, Rules of Civility felt more akin to I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, with its themes of first love, loss,growing up, and moving on.  I think, at heart, Rules of Civility is a coming-of-age novel, even though the protagonist is twenty-five and not the classic ingenue.  (I suppose Great Gatsby is a coming-of-age story of a sort, so perhaps it’s not an either/or comparison.)

There’s a lot I could write about what I did or didn’t like about the book and its protagonist.  And I question whether it’s as accurate a portrayal of the era as it’s made out to be.  Regardless, it’s a gem.

If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.  And if you’ve read both Rules of Civility and I Capture the Castle, I’d really love to hear your thoughts.  (Toward the end, of Rules of Civility has the line, “I have hoped; I am hoping; I will hope.”  I Capture the Castle ends with the line, “I love. I have loved. I will love.”  Could that possibly be a coincidence?  C’mon!)

 

Linking up with Jessica for What We’re Reading Wednesday!

 

 

Marital Bliss in the Land of the Walking Dead

1. This post was supposed to be all about how I’ve turned over a new leaf in life. For the past four weeks I’ve focused on balancing my hormones, reducing stress, and practicing awareness. I’ve cut out coffee (again), done yoga and deep breathing, and cut down big time on my internet usage.

And then.

2. I was up with one or both of the girls last “night” from 3 am on. I won’t bore you the details, except

MY CHILDREN HATE SLEEP!
WHY DO THEY HATE TO SLEEP?
WHY WHY MUST THEY HATE SLEEP SO?

WHAT’S SO BAD ABOUT SLEEP?

WHY WHY WHY MEEEEEEEEEEE?

3. The 2-year-old woke up for good at 5-friggin’-thirty (daylight savings time!!!!)  asking for “num num” and “watch Pooh.” I gave her milk and then tried to get her back to bed until the five-year old woke up.

Fine. Whatever.  Everyone’s watching Winnie the Pooh.  Is it a matinée or the late late late show?  Who cares?

I roused Pat and left for my adoration hour.

4.  But first I stopped for a Dunkaccino.  I’d been so good for all those weeks and I felt like a zombie and I just needed a Dunkaccino.

5.  And then my day seemed to turn around.  Around 7:30 am the sunlight came in through the window and streamed down on the monstrance, and it was a heavenly sight of gold and light.  I came home energized and upbeat with a spring in my step.  (Nothing like going off caffeine for 3 weeks to make a Dunkaccino real effective).

A few hours later . . .

6.  I went into Pat’s office to make a joke about the sleeping situation and 0.3 seconds later it turned into an exhaustion-fueled, sugar-crash induced argument about how to solve the non-sleeping nature of our household at night.

Relationship experts often say to use “I” statements when you argue.  Avoid accusations.  Just describe how you think and feel.  This, supposedly, is less combative.

That’s a bunch of crock.  I’ve tried it.

Honey, sweetie pie.  Whenever you open your mouth I just feel like I married a mean, arrogant jerk.

This just pisses them off.

7.  The better advice: just let your spouse win.  Let him be right, even if you know he’s wrong.

And that’s what I did.

After several rounds of arguing, I rose above, took my lumps, and let Pat have his way.  We’re trying his half-baked plan tonight.

He’ll get up with the girls all night.

Jerk face.

 

 

{Linking up with Jen!}

Five free exercise routines for the faint of heart

and the weak of body.

Guess what y’all?  I’ve been exercising!  A little!  And that’s a lot more than I was exercising before!    Here are some workouts I like:

1.  10 Minute Fat Blasting Circuit from Fit Sugar.

hate cardio, so I went for this because I figure, I can stand anything for ten minutes.  It’s mostly low-impact, keeps your heart going, and targets the lower body.  It’s touted as the  Victoria’s Secret Model workout . . . or something like that. Blah.   I don’t even know why, though, it has nothing to do with Victoria’s Secret.

2.  10 Minute Yoga for Happiness routine.

This one is cheesy, but it really does improve my mood.

3.  Do yoga with me:  I like this whole website.

This is a good, 30 minute beginner’s yoga routine; mainly stretching with just a bit of strengthening.

This is similar, but about 45 minutes.

I recently tried going up to intermediate level with this 45 minute “foundations in flow” routine.

It was . . . humbling.  Ahem.  But good.  I’ll be going back to it.

4.  This 25 minute pilates routine is supposedly a beginner’s class.  Apparently, I am more beginner than a beginner because it kicks my tail.  But I’ll be coming back.  I can tell it’s what my muscles need.

5.  Finally, this “deep release for the lower back and hamstrings” doesn’t burn many calories, but it’s a great stretching routine.  It feels great and is relaxing.  Highly recommended for those with low back problems.

 

I’m linking up with Hallie for Five Favorites.  Thanks Hallie!

 

Five Favorite Children’s Authors & Illustrators

1.  My girls have been loving the Penny books by Kevin Henkes.  I find his stories and illustrations just charming.

Illustration by Kevin Henkes

Reading these got me thinking about other author/illustrators of children’s books we love.  They include:

2. James Mayhew:  My girls love the Ella Bella Ballerina books.

3. Ben Hatke:  I’ve followed his artwork on his blog for a long time, and it is just delightful (as are Ben and his wife and daughters, whom I have the pleasure to know).  Truth be told, I haven’t read the Zita books to my girls yet; I think Girl 1 is just now getting to the point where she could follow it.  My 9-year-old brother really enjoyed them, and I’m looking forward to reading them to my kids.

Zita the Spacegirl

Did you know books have trailers nowadays?  Check out the Zita spacegirl trailer.

4.  Arnold Lobel: His Frog and Toad books are favorites from my childhood that I’m rediscovering with my girls.  I love his wry little observations on life.

funny-frogs-eat-story-sad

Also, I’m realizing my marriage works because, although I’m like Toad, my husband is like Frog.  (Inside joke, sorry.  You’ll have to read the books.)

A delightful claymation series was made out of the Frog and Toad books a few decades ago.  You can watch them on You Tube.  So cute.  (They’re included on this Curious George DVD.)  I think my girls are put off by Toad’s gravelly voice, but I love it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhYh1eZh1Ew

5.  Richard Scarry: Another favorite from my childhood.  Beware the newer spin-off’s.  Not as good. Go for the originals, like the Please and Thank You Book.  It made me the joy and pleasure I am to be with today.  ;-)

The only downside is that his books are sooooo long.  But they’re worth it.

Linking up with Hallie for Five Favorites and Jessica for What We’re Reading Wednesday.  Thanks ladies!

Old Navy Spring 2014 In Review

Plus a bit o’ Lands’ End and Athleta.

Girl 1 and I made a trip to Old Navy not long ago.  Here are some highlights.

The fit and flare jersey dress (first spotted on Ain’t No Mom Jeans):

Old Navy fit and flare dress

I think this will be my go-to summer day dress (the kind I was hoping to find at Boden).  Unfortunately, it is not very forgiving of the cortisol baby I’m carrying around in my midsection.  (The picture doesn’t show it, b/c I’m sucking in my gut with all my might. )  So I went up a size (XL), and found it more flattering in the midsection but too big in the top and armholes.

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So, I bought the XL and plan to have it taken in up top.  It’s counterintuitive to bother getting alterations on a cheap, Old Navy dress.  But I wouldn’t think twice about getting alterations for a pricey special occasion dress I’d only wear once, so why not drop $20 on something I probably will wear dozens of times?  That’s my thinking.

The black and white is cute, also, but washes me out, I think.

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This dress on the other hand:

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Hospital gown chic.  No thanks!

 These cotton sweaters are similar to the polka-dotted one I got from Old Navy over a year ago, which I’ve worn and worn and worn again.  So I have high hopes.  I went with the anchor print.

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I ordered a tall just for kicks, and wow, it’s tall.  Never mind.

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This sweater was blah and not flattering.  (Surprise!  It’s even blah and unflattering on the model.)

Old Navy v neck cable knit sweater, women's

A silky, drapey top paired with skinny jeans is a good look, generally, I think.  But I just wasn’t feeling it with this top:

Old Navy women's printed crepe top

This top is pretty.  I might have gotten it in white, but the back is very sheer (“slub knit” is always the tip-off, isn’t it?).

Old navy lace front slub knit top

I ordered this skirt online and I love it.  The stretchy panel on top is flattering.  The fabric is very lightweight, so I wouldn’t wear it without a slip or a shaper.  Still, it doesn’t cling the way I was expecting it to.  I might get wild and crazy and order it in a color other than dark blue.  That’s right; I just might!  (I also tried this similar skirt from Lands’ End, and the ON skirt won out.)

Old Navy fold over jersey knit skirt

Girl 1 found a dress she likes.  She’s worn it almost every day, usually along with this cardigan (unbuttoned and tied in front, ’cause that’s the way we roll).  I wouldn’t mind a bit more material up top on the dress.  She’d prefer wearing a strapless ball gown to preschool.  This is an acceptable compromise.

Old Navy girls' floral print maxi sun dress

Real quick, I love this cardigan from Lands’ End.  I had looked for something similar in cut to my old pink cardigan that I’m wearing to shreds.  I ordered the cardigan in a M.  It’s held up in the wash so far, ‘though I’ve laid it flat to dry.

Lands End womens cable knit v neck cardigan

I also am loving my puffer vest.  I’m tempted to buy more colors.  (You’re a minimalist, Laura, remember?  You’re a minimalist.  Come on.)  But, it’s back up to $35 after being on sale for under $20.  So maybe I’m not as tempted.

Lands End core down puffer vest

Aaaaand, I think this will be my skort for the summer (in a Tall).  The ones I wore last summer were just a bit too flowy for my tastes.  I’m hoping to recoup some $$ on eBay.

Okay, I hope you were edified . . .  or something . . . by all that.  Thanks for reading!

Dressing Up A Whole Month of Sundays

 

 

 

 

 

Plus an example of how a camera is more honest than a mirror.

This is what I wore today:

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Let’s just skip the week before, but the week before that I started out with this:

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It looked okay in the mirror.  But taking a picture (before Mass, which is unusual), made it clear that the belt wasn’t working.  It kept slipping down on the slippery material.

So then I tried this (a bit school marmish, that is to say, more so than usual):

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This is what I settled on:

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And the week before:

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I haven’t had much fun dressing for Mass lately.  I’ve put on what Heather calls a “winter layer.”  Anyone else put on a winter layer?  Never do I feel those extra five pounds so much as when I put on a pencil skirt.  Ugh.

It just now occurred to me: Lent comes at a good time, doesn’t it?  Right at the end of winter, when it’s time to shed our winter layers and get outside and move and stop drowning our wintertime blues in chocolate and chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese. . . . Oh, that’s just me?  Ahem.  Anyway.

Here’s to Spring!

And to Fine Linen & Purple!

 

Straight, Skinny, or Boot? A Pear’s Denim Dilemma

My favorite jeans are half off today, making them about $35.  I think I’ll order another pair.

This is an interpretive dance showing how much I love these jeans.

This is an interpretive dance showing how much I love these jeans.

LOFT’s curvy fit straight leg jeans: they’re super stretch and comfortable, but they don’t stretch completely out of shape until about the end of the second day.  They’re snug enough to fit into boots without (too much) bunching at the knees.

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All the same, I don’t think they’re a great look for me except with boots.  They create what others have called a “triangle” or “piano leg” out of my bottom half.  “Straight leg” jeans are a misnomer if you’ve got a full hip and thigh area.  If jeans really go “straight” from your hip down, then you’ve got a wide or trouser leg jean.

I really dig the look of a trouser leg pair of jeans, or a bootcut that isn’t too tight in the thigh and knee.

Boden wide leg jeans

I haven’t quite found the perfect pair for me (these look promising but I’m waiting until they go on sale).

It rankles the minimalist in me: needing two cuts of jeans, one to wear with boots and one to wear with flats (and possibly another, longer pair to wear with heels). Especially as certain tops may work with one cut of jeans and most definitely not work with another.

But I’m aiming to have two great pairs of each cut and deal with it.

How about you?  What’s your favorite style of jeans?