Monday, October 23, 2023

Read in September 2023


September was full of fabulous reads and two duds. Read on to find out which is which! 

The Postcard by Anne Berest: This was an engaging, well-written novel that takes place during WWII with the author's own family as the inspiration. The characters are real people and you can even see pictures of them online, which made the whole story even more heartbreaking. The story is structured in an interesting way - I recommend this one to everyone!

Sorry I'm Late, I Didn't Want To Come: One Introvert's Year of Saying Yes by Jessica Pan: Unlike Yes Man, this book actually involved saying yes to opportunities. As an introvert, some of the things that Pan does are downright terrifying: stand-up comedy! Improv! Networking! She learns and grows along the way, which makes for the best type of memoir. If you are an extrovert you may not totally get this one, but read it to see how the other half lives.

My Murder by Katie Williams: In the future, those who have died can be cloned exactly and be given their life back. The main character of this book is a young victim of a serial killer who starts to question the circumstances of her murder. The premise of the book was clever and there is a twist I was not expecting.

The Whispered Word by Ellery Adams: I read the first book in this series and liked it enough to pick up this one, but was disappointed. It's like the author heard "cozy mystery" and then went over the top with the cozy to the point where it became ridiculous. Everyone is always eating "comfort scones" and sipping hot drinks from mugs with witty sayings. The main character is "bibilotherapist" which is not even a real thing; at one point she assists a man with a hording disorder by "prescribing" him a Marie Kondo book. Eye-roll.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby: This is a memoir by a former magazine editor who, after suffering a stroke, is "locked in" to a completely paralyzed body. His mind is intact, and the only way he can communicate is by blinking one eye. The situation is horrifying. Even if you've seen the movie made of this book, I suggest reading the book because it's beautiful (and they also changed the story for the movie.)

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer: I love a good adventure memoir, and this one is a classic of the genre. Krakauer was a part of a deadly expedition to Mt. Everest in 1996. I did find the book a little hard to follow though because of the barrage of names and locations. I never was 100% sure who a person was or exactly what happened. Also, stay away from these mountains, everyone!

The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff: If you've seen the show Bad Sisters, this is the book version that takes place in India. Everyone thinks that Geeta murdered her husband, and her friends start asking her for help getting rid of their abusive husbands. The topic is heavy but this book is oddly funny. The characters have the best lines! A great read.

Tell Everyone on This Train I Love Them by Maeve Higgins: I checked out this audiobook purely because it was in the humor section and from the cover, it seemed that would be the case. This book was not humor. I'm not even sure what it was, not really a memoir either. It was mostly just an Irish lady trying to explain police shootings and American politics to Americans. She seems to be very down on this country but also wants to become a citizen? This book doesn't add anything new to these discussions.

The Memory of Animals by Claire Fuller: A global pandemic (sound familiar?) is raging and a group of test subjects have assembled at a hospital to test the newly-created vaccine. Before the test can really get underway, the pandemic spirals out of control, killing almost the entire population. The small group of survivors is left at the hospital. There's also some weird stuff about an octopus and a machine where you can relive memories. I love Claire Fuller so I really liked this book; but if you are not a fan of her work, then this book might be too much.

After Work: A History of the Home and the Fight for Free Time by Helen Hester and Nick Smicek: Fair warning on this one, this book is written like assigned writing in grad school. Almost every sentence is cryptic in an academic way and that sort of annoyed me. The focus is on how even with advances in technology, we still are burdened with so much work outside of work: child raising, cooking, laundry, cleaning, etc. The reasons for this were the most interesting part of the book. It has a lot to do with rising expectations and the movement of tasks from specialists onto individuals. (For example, you used to have a few sets of clothes, and sent them out to be laundered; or your job was in a laundry. Now, everyone has way more clothes that need to be washed frequently, and we do them ourselves in our own homes.) The solutions outlined in the last chapter sounded amazing, but completely discount that people are PEOPLE and honestly, will eventually ruin everything.

Friday, October 6, 2023

September Update

After a hot, dry, humid, and busy summer, things started to let up a bit in September. The second half of the month brought cooler weather, and the lessening of gardening chores meant there was more free time for exploring. We had the most amazing rainbow in the backyard, a full arch! It didn't last long but we all ran outside to enjoy it while it was there. 

The light is changing. Cora sat on the couch long enough for me to take this photo, but don't let it fool you, within a minute she was back setting up horse jumps all over the floor. We got a new couch! After the previous one being abused for 14 years, I did a ton of research and found my dream couch. It's a beautiful color (more forest green than how it looks in the picture) and it's high enough off the ground that cat toys and dust can't hide away for years underneath it.

So far the cat has stayed away from scratching it - he just scratches the carpet instead, but that's fine, because the carpet was 10% of the price of the couch. I've always thought of rugs as disposable in our house, because eventually they become so ruined by cat claws, spills, and scissors-wielding children that they need to be replaced. This is not the season of life for wall-to-wall carpeting.

I love working from home so much. I have a beautiful home office with lots of light, and cozy bookshelves, plants and candles. I have an adjustable desk and can move around during meetings while wearing comfy pants. I get super grumpy on the days I have to go into the actual office, which is dark, gray, and cold. I come home exhausted and headachy. Ugh! Ideally I'd have a fully remote job, but after 13 years with the same company, it's hard to walk away from the benefits and responsibility I've earned over the years. If anyone has ideas for making office life better, let me know!

Inspired by Karen I deadheaded my marigolds and made this garland. It was so pretty! Unfortunately it lasted less than 24 hours, and I found all the flowers lying in a pile on the ground. I didn't use thick enough thread, so I'll have to try again with better supplies.

I dry as many extra flowers as I can throughout the year. There are so many beautiful crafts you can do with them, but you know... time. I sell them as dried bouquets and they do pretty well. These flowers are from last year and still going strong. Most of the dried flowers sold in craft stores have been dyed or otherwise chemically preserved.

The kids and I went to the local community fair, which we do almost every year because it's close by and free. I didn't enter any knitting this year because I haven't finished many projects. It's Mary's life goal to win a blue ribbon though, so she got all kinds of ideas about what she wants to make for next year. Because it's a small local fair, the competition is not... fierce. As long as she can follow through, she has a good chance of getting that ribbon. Also: miniature horses!

We also went to an RV show. Now, we have no intention of buying an RV. The ones that can fit 4 people are too big and expensive, and I do not want a house-on-wheels to maintain. They are basically playhouses, so the kids LOVED them. They pretended that they lived in one and cooked fake dinner. If you haven't seen an RV lately, they are NICE. Some of them have multiple bedrooms, bathrooms, and SECOND FLOORS. Inexplicably they seem to all be designed in a "farmhouse" style. Oh, and the most expensive one we saw cost $230,000!!!!

Motivated by my relatively quick finish of my last quilt, I continued on to working on my last remaining quilt in progress. This one is made up of t-shirts, and if you can't zoom in to see, most are at least 20 years old. I have another t-shirt quilt that I made of even older shirts (circa 1996) that I've used for so long that it's literally falling apart. I had to completely replace the binding a few years ago. This one should be equally cuddly. I don't have any scraps big enough to do the sashing and backing, so I had to order some fabric, along with batting. I am trying to whittle down my fabric collection as my tastes have changed over the years and I want to make room for the new. A big scrap quilt is likely needed to finally use everything up.

At the end of the month I had my real vacation: a relaxing trip with my friends to what we have started calling the "craft cabin" (although it's a different rental house every year). This year we went to the mountains in Virginia. The view from our balcony was stunning, if cloudy most of the time. The quiet and birdsong made me fall in love with this place - I will definitely be back to this area. 

I could stare at this view all day. It was wet outside the majority of the time, but I made sure to sit outside as much as possible. And the fall weather made it seem extra cozy inside.

We made candles! It was fairly easy and I plan to keep an eye out for interesting containers at thrift stores to fill with wax.

The house was marketed as "ski-in", which obviously we couldn't do, but that meant we were a walkable distance to the ski slopes. The resort runs the lift for mountain bikers, but it was closed that day, leading to a very quiet and lovely walk. Can you see the brown mountain bike trails crisscrossing the slope? Going down one of these must be terrifying. Most of the runs require full-face helmets and displayed all sort of concerning warnings. (This is also why I don't ski!)

I hope everyone is having a lovely fall. I find that transitional seasons give me the most energy, meaning lots of projects planned for the future; but who knows when they will actually get done. The fun is the planning! Wishing you all beautiful weather and fabulous reads!