Monday, February 25, 2013

It's Monday! And Revisiting Little House

I was SO TICKLED to pieces when I saw that Lisa from Books, Lists, Life was hosting the Little House on the Prairie Read-a-Long (#LittleHouseRAL).

My first encounter with Laura Ingalls Wilder's work was WAY back in 6th grade. Our reading teacher assigned Little House in the Big Woods. I was absolutely taken with the book. In particular, I fell in love with the minute details of everyday life in the big woods. How Pa trapped and prepared meat (smoked, salted, hung), or how Ma made butter, complete with coloring from carrots boiled in milk.

It was the small, everyday details that really transported me into the life of this family. I've re-read the book several times over the years, but somehow I never completed the entire series! That's one of the reasons I latched onto this read-a-long. It's high time I read the whole thing.

And I can honestly credit Laura Ingalls Wilder's book for instilling a love of historical fiction in me. I am absolutely fascinated with the way people in times gone by lived their daily lives. Other books that have appealed to me with their historical detail:

And so so so many others. But these were the first to come to mind. I read The Red Tent and Pope Joan 12 years ago if that gives you any inclination of the impact they had on me. The Red Garden was much more recent and equally powerful.

So, in getting back to the Little House books, I'm looking forward to more detail in some different settings. The university library's copy of Little House on the Prairie was missing in action this past week, so I grabbed it from the city library over the weekend.

My re-read of Little House in the Big Woods was record-fast last week. It only took me two days, and it would've certainly been even quicker if I didn't have to work or sleep. :)

Probably my favorite question from Lisa's discussion was:
Do you think kids today like the books as much as we did? As much as our parents did?

I don't know enough children who have read this (since me) to answer. However, this idea of generations moving away from this time period is an interesting one to ponder. My grandparents raising their own family in the 40s and 50s were farmers. They told me stories of doing things "the old fashioned way." And they told me stories of how their parents and grandparents functioned. I think that gave me an appreciation and a familiarity with the time period in these books that other kids and future generations will not have as time marches on.

There will still be plenty of kids who seek out books of this nature and are fascinated by prairie life and homesteads and all of that. But they just won't have the experience as close to them. I think they will find the everyday lifestyle and methods of preserving and hunting and providing for one's family far less believable, maybe?

Did you read the Little House books when you were a kid? Do you think these books hold up to today's young reading audiences? 

Currently reading, and almost finished with:

And I've already been reduced to tears. FYI.

Hosted by the AWESOME Sheila of  BookJourney

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Books Hurled Themselves Into My Library Bag

I can't be held responsible...

The closest library to my house is the Greenville City Library. As such, if you live outside the city limits, it's $20/year to join the library. It's obviously worth it, as the library card pays for itself after one or two hardback checkouts. I went on Saturday and renewed my membership with the intention of picking up Karen Russell's new release, Vampires in the Lemon Grove. This is a short story collection, and since I enjoyed Swamplandia!, I figured I'd give it a go. I am absolutely in love with the title.

While I was there, I was reminded of why a small city library can be AWESOME. If there are new releases to be had, they're in far less demand. The bigger city I moved away from in 2011 usually had a humongous wait list on anything critically acclaimed or garnering any amount of buzz. Not so much with my little city library. I picked up Ian McEwan's Sweet Tooth. While I was there, I also saw Louise Erdrich's The Round House, Jamie Attenberg's The Middlesteins, and a bunch of others that have been popping up all over the blogosphere. I limited myself to the two literary fiction titles and the children's books below in an effort to actually READ these before they're due back in a couple of weeks.

Another reason I went to the library in the first place was to pick up Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie -- the next book in Lisa's Little House Readalong. I finished a re-read of Little House in the Big Woods this past week, and I'm excited to jump into the next book. I'm not sure I've ever actually read this one.

While I was looking for Little House, I ran across Brian Selznick's Wonder Struck. I really enjoyed The Invention of Hugo Cabret when I read it several years ago. I also think it's integral for me to have some quick, readable, make-so-progress books in my stacks to keep my mojo going. I think this one fits the bill perfectly. 

Finally, A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na has an owl on the front! That's what got my attention, but it also looks like a fun book to read with Greyson. We'll try it out tonight and see how he likes it. :) 

What have you been reading this weekend? Any new library acquisitions or purchases? 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

8 Today

My blog turns 8 years old today. Thank you for still reading. It means the world. 

Also, LOOK WHAT'S HAPPENING!!!! Our first event of 2013 over at The Estella Society is a read-along of OUTLANDER!!!! Be sure to join the convo on Twitter with the tag, #NakedJamie

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

How to Be a Woman -- Need Help?

Image credit. 

Caitlin Moran is a British broadcaster, TV critic and columnist at The Times, where she writes three columns a week: one for the Saturday Magazine, a TV review column, and the satirical Friday column "Celebrity Watch". Moran is British Press Awards (BPA) Columnist of the Year for 2010, and both BPA Critic of the Year 2011, and Interviewer of the Year 2011.

And I totally ripped that off of Wikipedia because I didn't know Caitlin Moran before I read How to Be a Woman. Now I know a lot about Caitlin Moran. How she feels about boobs and lingerie and p0rn and abortion and relationships and feminism and stuff. I know about her career and her past relationships and I know how she came to be a feminism today -- in the fifth wave. 

Let's just put it out there, shall we? How to Be a Woman is a damn fun book. It was a joy to read often making me cackle in public places and snork in the company of strangers. This mostly happened when I was stuck in the car dealership and actually had some unadulterated time to spend with Moran and her life and her beliefs. It was the quiet time together that made me really like this book. Dipping in and out of it willy nilly wasn't such a winning way to go (that's how it started out).

What we have here is basically a memoir of Moran's life, loves, and experiences all wound up in practical feminism. Moran is not Germaine Greer -- who she writes about a few times throughout the book. Moran's subject is what feminism means today in what some people label a "post feminist world." Malarky she says! 

And this is exactly what some readers will dislike about this book. Some will say it's not serious enough. Too fluffy, too personal, not militant or aggressive enough. But it was enough for me. Feminism, for me personally, is wanting to still be considered equal to men, and not feeling pressured to fulfill typical roles or associations tagged to women. If you like uncomfortable lingerie, go for it. But one shouldn't be expected to get a Brazilian by the nebulous "they" to be considered attractive. 

See? Practical feminism. A do-what-you-want, live-how-you-will approach to sisterhood. Don't be bitches to each other, don't tear each other down, live and let live and live long and prosper and stuff. I think it's the way most women think and live now. That doesn't mean it isn't feminism. Wear the bra or burn it. Just do what makes you happy without PRESSURE. 

This book is not without controversy or hot topics, though. It's not an all-too-nice vanilla-ville memoir. The chapter on abortion laid me out flat. In tears, quivering chin, in public. It's on issues like these that Moran's real writing chops show through, even though her take is not going to be popular with everyone. This was a gritty, honest, ugly chapter. In short, it's about her decision to abort her third child. She has two girls, she got pregnant a third time, and she could not imagine her life going through it all again. She could not imagine the pain of it, or the putting her life on hold again, or the sleeplessness and hormonal hell and emotional reeling. She could not be a parent again. Her husband agreed, and she went through it. She describes the procedure itself in graphic, matter-of-fact terms, and despite the ugliness she felt in the procedure, she still believes she made the right decision for her life. That had to be a hard thing to write. 

For her honesty, I applaud her endlessly.

Is this book for everyone? No. Did I enjoy it? Heck yeah. Will definitely read Moranthology

Snuggle (and a high five) -- Skewer

Pub. Date: July 2012
Publisher: HarperCollins
Format: ARC
ISBN-13: 9780062124296
Source: Passed along from a friend.

Monday, February 18, 2013

It's Monday, and I Read Some Stuff!

Hosted by the ever-awesome Sheila of Book Journey.
Good day, lovelies! How was your weekend???

Mine was super-fab. David came up on Thursday evening and TOTALLY surprised me with an awesome home-cooked meal of chicken-fried steak, gravy, scalloped potatoes, hoppin' John (black-eyed peas, tomatoes, peppers), and a BEAUTIFUL cherry almond cake with his grandmother's hot fudge sauce. He also threw in roses, chocolate covered strawberries, and good hugs because he is a Valentine's Day god.

We had a fun, laid back weekend. We saw a horrible movie (Beautiful Creatures), drank some margaritas, and attended a birthday BBQ. Fun fun fun!

I've also done a spot of reading over the past week -- and you all know that's been in short supply. I'm feeling more of an urge and more of an acceptance that I may have to start and ditch several titles before something "sticks."

First I finished up Caitlin Moran's How to Be a Woman while I was stuck at the car dealership getting a new battery and some recalls fixed. It's amazing what unadulterated free time AWAY from home can incite one to do! It wasn't at all hard to sink into a book when I was staring at a bunch of strangers and creepy salespeople.

You can expect a full review of this one coming up soon.

I'm currently reading from a short story collection called Corsets & Clockwork: 13 Steampunk Romances edited by Trisha Telep. I started it sometime last year, read a few stories, and it wasn't striking the right note with me, so I laid it aside. When I was having trouble choosing a new book recently, I decided some stories might just do the trick to shake up my reading. I was right, and I'm enjoying it much more this time. I'm dipping in and out of it before bedtime, and during daily downtime.

I just finished a story I liked a lot called "Code of Blood" by Dru Pagliassotti. It's set in Venice and is a retelling or a steampunk take-off of a Napoleonic invasion of the city. While I'm not an expert on the time period by any stretch of the imagination, I did enjoy this story of a brave young heroine set on saving her home and family from invaders. That just never gets old, right? And of course, there was romance. I find the romance portion of this collection the weakest part of it and think I might've enjoyed some more straightforward -- sometimes romanceless -- steampunk instead. But whatever. I can overlook it when the romance is underdeveloped or cheesy;  I'm really more interested in the atmosphere and the twists on more traditional tales.

Next up...and y'all are gonna think I'm CRAZY. And I just might be.

Trish of Love, Laughter and a Touch of Insanity along with Melissa of Avid Reader's Musings (link below)  are hosting a Vanity Fair Readalong (#YoureSoVain). Heather and I attempted this one as a buddy read last year sometime, and I think we both flaked pretty quickly. I think that was on the heels of our highly successful Madame Bovary buddy read, and it was just too much of the same time period all squashed together. I'm hoping I have better luck this time, though if it doesn't click I won't put too much pressure on myself to finish. The important thing is to read enjoyable selections and KEEP READING. 

Header over to Melissa's blog to officially sign up!

So what have you read lately???

I still need to download and whip through Me Before You by Jojo Moyes for my book club next week. Think I can do it??? The premise doesn't really blow my skirt up, but I WANT TO DISCUSS with my friends!!!! 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Monday, February 11, 2013

Reading Slumps and Life Changes

I am not reading.

Not really. Like 15 minutes here and there really isn't READING. So here's the sitch...

  • Work ate my brain. It's busy, but not ridiculous. But I still find myself preoccupied.
  • Potty training ate my brain. Greyson is back to full-on potty training including leaving puddles all over the house. He's also decided he wants to sit somewhere *on* me at night now instead of allowing me time to read. I enjoy the snuggles, though, so no real complaints. 
  • My 30s ate my brain. I am just like my mom was in her 30s. My days "off" are consumed with cleaning, organizing, errands, house fixer-uppery, which y'all already know. So, yeah. That continues. 
  • Health ate my brain. I fell off my good eating wagon for a week or two. This is due in large part to a lack of weekend planning on my part. If I don't plan/cook on the weekends, our weekday food is crap. 
I need one very noticeable thing. A book to jump-start my mojo. 

These are in the running.

I'm also coming up on my 8-year blogiversary. All that means is that I've been blogging a long dang time and it's inevitable that we go through changes. I foresee this blog becoming much more varied in its content: more weight loss, more real food, more gardening, more mom stuff, more decor, more books! Books aren't going anywhere. But the truth of the matter is that there are a lot of things I care about besides books. I potty train a lot more than I read. I grade papers far more than I read. I write press releases more than I read. I tend to my house and my son far more than I read.

It's only fair that I take some pressure off of myself and blog about what keeps me excited about blogging. 

In short, anything I want. 

So I guess this is just a quick heads up that if you're only interested in books, the content you'll find interesting here will most likely be more spread out. Until I started reading faster, that is! I hope most of you will stay for the ride. I've always been interested in staying connected with my online pals here, but I'm also concerned with staying true to myself and letting the blog be a continual reflection of my life and interests. 

So here we go...

Thursday, February 07, 2013

On the Homefront: The Weekend's Progress

Ohhh y'all. We're really cookin' now. This January Cure thing is crankin' right here in February. Updated, finished items from this past weekend are highlighted in blue.

1. Make a list of projects in each room
2. Set up the Outbox
3. Weekend Chores: Buy Flowers,  Vacuum/Mop everything, Stock Green Cleaners, Use Outbox 
4. Sit in unusual places, observe problematic room parts, take apart and rebuild mentally
5. Select one project from the list
6. Choose a piece of art to frame
7. Choose a date/time for a get-together, send out e-invites
8. Weekend Chores: Clean kitchen and de-clutter/organize as you go; find a recipe and make an enjoyable meal; buy flowers
9. Create and use a “landing strip” – buy floor mat for doorway, coat hooks/hangers, landing strip (kitchen table)
10. Work on Goal Project
11. Media Fast
12. De-clutter books and media
13. Weekend Chores: flowers, and bedroom including a purge of drawers (!!!) 
14. Get Files in Order (refer to e-mail to know what to keep)…get a file box! Set up a schedule for dealing with mail/bills.
15. Clean up cords!
16. Clear up and clean out bathrooms/medicine cabinets 
17. Living room lighting
18. Weekend: Flowers, clean up living room, clear out the Outbox!
19. Catch up and take an “after” photo! Pic of goal project.
20. Hang artwork.
21. Speedy spruce and surface clean.
22. Shop for get-together goodies.

So, yes, I set up my Outbox. The idea here is that you plunk things into it that you think you'll want to leave the house. Having them in the Outbox gives one time to peruse whether or not they'll really leave. This is not really a problem for me, as I generally don't have too much of an emotional connection to stuff (except owls and books). Currently in my outbox: a lamp with a short in it, and some other little stuff. They will go, I'm just waiting to add some more OUT items before I lug them to the thrift shop to give away.

I intended to add some donatable clothing to the box this past weekend, but most of the clothing leaving the house is damaged in some way or just plain old. So sadly, most of it went straight into the trash.

Outbox! See!
One of the bigger projects I tackled this past weekend was related to the master bedroom. I think most moms will deal with the majority of the house before they address their own space. I'm no different in that regard. My bedroom has undergone a pretty dramatic transformation from June to now, but Greyson's room was much higher on my priority list. It's been a slow progression with the addition of some furniture pieces, unpacking lots of random boxes, and organizing. 

This is from right after I moved in. My bedroom is comprised of a bedroom set I inherited from my grandparents. I love the look of the headboard (even though it's not attached to the bed in this pic...ahem!). But all there is of this set is a bed and chest of drawers. It left a lot of open space in the beginning. 

You can also see my "problem area" in the pic above. BOXES! My bedroom at my mom's house was so full of STUFF and sentimental items from growing up; it's taken a really long time to go through all the stuff and figure out what should stay and what should go. I still have a few lingering boxes, but it's gotten much better in recent weeks. 

This is my master bedroom now. Bigger bed that actually matches the size of the headboard (Queen...still not attached!). Curtains, bookshelves, and an entertainment center have also made this very large, long room much cozier. And additional storage is never a bad thing. 

This is just a lightly different angle. You can see the pretty bookshelves much better. :) 

This is obviously the side of the room I've ignored. My ultimate goal is to shift the chest of drawers to the empty space between the bathroom door and the main door to the room (see all that white space?). I will make the corner where the chest currently resides into a reading area by the window. 

And these are what's left of the boxes. I found some GREAT pics of Greyson that I need to frame and display ASAP. These boxes are mostly stuff that lived in my previous office. I need to distribute all the things throughout the house and bring some of the things to my current office. 

The big item on the to-do list for this coming weekend is to paint at least one wall of the bedroom. A very sweet friend and her husband passed along some light turquoise paint that matches the turquoise accents in my comforter. I don't know if I can handle a whole room of turquoise, and generally I'm on the fence about "accent walls," but I'm gonna try it and see how it goes. Anything is better than dingy white walls. 

Other to-do's left for this room:
  • Hang some artwork/photos for heaven's sake (short term)
  • Hang curtains over the "dead" window behind the bed (short term)
  • Area rug (medium term)
  • Reading nook (long term)
I also spent a good bit of time cleaning bathrooms this weekend, I did quite a bit more steam mopping, and I did a quick surface clean of everything so it stays nice and doesn't go back to its former messiness. Adding storage for Greyson's toys and making his room his own space has REALLY helped keep the rest of the house in order. 

The toy storage solution was pretty simple. I just added some cute fabric boxes to the bottom shelf of the bookcase in my office. I need to do a purge of his small toys but I haven't gotten quite that far yet. 

I also followed The Cure's suggestion to grab some flowers. They really do make it feel springy when you walk in the door. My budget probably won't allow me to buy flowers every week, but I do intend to get some more green into the house with some potted ivy and such. 

Going into this weekend, I have far less deep cleaning to do and far more prettifying. Which is fun! 
  • Hang framed degrees in my office
  • Frame/hang art in Greyson's room and the office (two piece in particular that bibliophiles will love!)
  • Declutter my office desk
  • Paint the bedroom accent wall
  • Clear away the final boxes of junk
  • Paint the living room entertainment center (will probably end up on next weekend's to-do)
  • Put the couch cover BACK ON! I've been putting this off forever. 

Sunday, February 03, 2013

The Sunday Salon -- On Reading and Laziness and Whatnot

It's been a great weekend! How about yours?

I spent Friday evening being a sloth. I ate Italian food, drank some libations, and fell asleep early. Saturday was more productive with some general house cleaning: steam mopping, cleared up some lingering boxes from my move (7 months ago), made laundry detergent, and I finally, FINALLY brought my dog over! She's been staying with my mom since I moved in June because there are very large, loud dogs on either side of this house that had me a little concerned. The yard is fenced but it's chain link, and I wanted to see how sturdy and dependable it is. And I wanted to get Greyson and I settled in. I've done all of those, so it was time to get Ms. Daisy Miller here for a test run.

She looks right at home, wouldn't you say? 

So far, so good! She just finished a stand-off with the Boxer puppy next door. That was a sight to see!

So sprinkled in amidst all the stuff, I have been reading. I'm still plugging along at Caitlin Moran's How to Be a Woman. It's a funny book, but I still find some parts slow. I am supremely interested to finish and review it because it's been a while since I've read something of the Women's Studies and Feminist category and there's been some argument about where this book fits in (if it fits in), etc.

I'm also itching to re-read one of my all-time favorites: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. The time is coming that I will attempt my first vegetable garden! My friend Susan will be helping me engineer what she promise are nearly-foolproof raised beds. I've also been researching best practices for gardening in northeast Texas. It's a very different proposition from what Kingsolver undertakes in her book, but I found it really inspiring the first time I read, so I hope it stands up to a re-read. 

Finally, I think I'll be ready for a short book soon. I've been scanning my shelves for shorties, and I think these will be in the running soon:

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier - First encountered this one in grad school. I've wanted to read it forever, but it keeps getting pushed aside and then it was in storage. 

The Awakening by Kate Chopin - I've enjoyed Chopin's short stories, but this one always seems to get pushed aside, too. 

The Body Artist by Don DeLillo - Haven't read a thing by DeLillo. We'll see!

OH, and that wasn't finally. Forget that finally. I have this book in my future because it's my book group's next pick...

While I'm trying not to buy books, if I can't get my book club's choices from the library, I will be a'downloading. :) 

What are you doing/reading/thinking about reading today?

Images by Freepik