Saturday, January 13, 2024

Another Year Ends

I will refrain from commenting on how fast the past year seemed to go, as that appears to be the pace of life. In December I wrapped up my first pottery class, bringing home nine completed pots. Everyone in my class commented on how productive I was, but you know me - have to get my money's worth! My goal was to learn and practice as much as possible, with little expectations for the finished products. My vessels just ended up how they did. They are all fairly small and I plan to give most of them away. I have already signed up for and started my next class, which is completely student-led. There are students of all levels, so everyone picks their own projects and asks for help when they need it. I'm working on some mugs now and hope to make some larger items that can be actually used in kitchen. Then I'll have to take a break until next fall, as flower season is upon us.

I also finished another pair of shortie socks. I almost always have a sock on the go because they are so portable and the project fits so comfortably in my hands. I've gone beyond the point of needing any new socks. However, I will continue to make them because I love the process. I did make a slight mistake when I neglected to change the toe color on one of the socks, but I don't care at all, and it's very likely the toes will never even be seen, tucked inside my shoes.

We had our first snow in December, the first in over 18 months! It didn't last long, but the kids were excited to finally have enough to play in. As an adult, I am well experienced in the annoyances that snow can bring, like shoveling and cancelled school. The transformation to the brown landscape is worth it though, right? It makes winter seem like a destination rather than something to get through on our way to spring. Despite predictions of a snowy winter by all the local weather forecasters, I am doubtful we'll ever go back to consistently snowy times.

While waiting for a kid attending a birthday party, I unexpectedly came across this bookstore overflowing with character. Once I started browsing, I quickly found it overwhelming, but it was still fun to search for treasures. In the end, I didn't find anything special enough to be worth buying.

Christmas happened - this was the first year that the kids were old enough not to receive any oversize plastic gifts, and I was overjoyed. There were many craft kits gifted which I am hoping will at least last a month.

After Christmas we headed to my parents' house in Virginia. I always enjoy walking in their neighborhood, which includes a lake and a marina with a marshy feel, heading out to the river, the bay, and eventually the sea. At some point I need to figure out a way to get my hands on a kayak!

I have been seeing dehydrated citrus decorations all over the internet for a few years, and I finally tried it. And, I probably will not again - it took TEN HOURS to dry the oranges in the oven. They turned out brownish in the end because I kept turning up the heat in an attempt to speed up the process. I made a garland with some dried strawflowers and am happy with how it turned out. If anyone knows a better way to try oranges, let me know!

I love the feeling of a new year and the opportunity for a reset. In the past I would have been thinking about my accomplishments from the past year and figuring out a way to be the most productive and efficient going forward, but my mindset is shifting. I don't have any goals for the year, other than to keep doing the things I enjoy. It seems that many of my fellow bloggers are doing the same thing! 

I don't have any goals or schedules in mind for this blog, so I'll just be posting as the whim strikes. More and more I find myself wanting to experience my life instead of writing about it. I do want to share the beauty I can capture, so be assured there will be a deluge of flower pictures as usual.

Happy New Year to you all!

Thursday, January 4, 2024

Read in December 2023

At the beginning of the month I decided that I wanted to break my all-time reading record of 101 books in a year. So, I went to the library and scanned the shelves for the thinnest books I could find. This turned out to be a fun exercise and led me to pick up several books I wouldn't have otherwise. If I didn't like them, then the time commitment would be low. I did it: I read 115 books in 2023!

Because there are so many, I'm doing brief reviews and ranking the books by how much I liked them. I'll be back soon for my 2023 Reading Wrap-Up!

You Could Make This Place Beautiful by Maggie Smith

    An absolutely gorgeously written memoir about the author's divorce

Dancing At the Pity Party by Tyler Feder

    A sensitive and raw graphic memoir of the author's mother's death at a young age

The House At Riverton by Kate Morton

    A very Downton Abbey-type feel. All of Morton's books are so readable and immerse you in the past.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

    A re-read to celebrate my age being the meaning of life (if you know, you know). One of the funniest books I have ever read!

Into the Planet by Jill Heinerth

    Heinerth is a cave diver: yep, swimming into tight caves filled with water. Everything she does is so incredibly dangerous you will be screaming "WHYYYYY?" constantly.

So Late in the Day by Claire Keegan

    Three brilliant short stories. I don't know why there isn't just one Claire Keegan book containing all of her stories and novellas in one. I'm sure it's just a way for publishers to make a profit!

Fire Story by Brian Fies

    A graphic memoir about the author's home burning down in a wildfire. 

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

    Following the collective lives of Japanese women immigrating to the US in the 1920s (I think?), this short book has no named characters and is told in the first-person plural. The structure was creative, I learned a lot, but I probably would have become annoyed if it had been a longer book.

The House of Doors by Tan Twan Eng

    Set in the early part of the 20th century in Penang, we follow the author Somerset Maugham and the family that he's visiting. Beautifully written with a strong sense of place.

The Life-Changing Manga of Tiding Up by Marie Kondo

    Nothing new if you've read Kondo's other books, but it's a cute illustrated story about a woman who is helped by Kondo to clean up her apartment.

The Christmas Appeal by Janice Hallett

    I didn't realize this was part of a series, so I missed a lot of background on the characters. The whole story is told in emails and texts. The mystery wasn't engaging but there were tons of funny lines.

Look at the Lights, My Love by Annie Ernaux

    A memoir entirely about superstores; relatable because we've all experienced what these places are like!

The Young Man by Annie Ernaux

    Truth be told, this should not be considered a book. It's an essay about the author's affair with a man much younger than herself. Well-written and insightful.

In Light Years There's No Hurry by Marjolijn van Heemstra

    This reminded me SO MUCH of Enchantment by Katherine May. There is even an identical scene! Read if you are very into outer space.

Going Zero by Anthony McCarten

    A fun thriller about 10 people who are in a contest to disappear for 30 days - if a big-brother-type corporation can't find them, they win 3 million dollars. I liked the strategies that the contestants tried, but about 2/3 of the way through the book jumped a big 'ol shark.

It's Lonely At the Center of the Earth by Zoe Thorogood

    A graphic memoir about dealing with depression - can someone please write a memoir about kittens and ice cream?

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman

    A short novella about a man with dementia and his grandson. Heartfelt but a little on the cheesy side.

Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide by Isabel Quintero

    I had never heard of Graciela Iturbide before, who is a Mexican photographer. Her work is interesting, but the book is written in an avant-garde way that lost me.

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow

    Not exactly a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, involves some other dimension travel(?) where somehow cellphones still work. 

Commute: An Illustrated Memoir of Female Shame by Erin Williams

    A graphic memoir about some hard subjects (alcoholism, sexual assault). I found it to be too much, too explicit, too intended to shock. [I'm ranking books based on my enjoyment of them, not on their merit, so you might connect with this one. Definitely these subjects shouldn't be silenced.]

Whew! Even reading through this list made me tired. I won't be repeating this level of reading for a long time. January is already shaping up to be a slow and steady month. Happy New Year everyone!