Thursday, September 29, 2016

Finally Fall

I sweated through my shirt as recently as Sunday afternoon whilst watching a fifth/sixth grade morning football game, but am happy to report that I've since been able to wear my new hoodie/cardi combo every day this week.  Fall seems to be here ... finally.

Here are some autumnal snapshots...
These fall-colored flowers were a hopeful gesture back in early September.  Whadya think of my fancy new vase from a clearance end cap at Target?

Yes, I love my grocery store flowers in fall colors.  And my oilcloth tablecloth, which is especially great in Fall (even though I use it throughout the year).

You can't have Fall without some Friday Night Lights or, in this case, Friday KNIGHT Lights.  My son plays on this field on Sunday afternoons, but I snapped this pic at a Friday night high school game.
I'm no gardener, but I usually manage to fill two pots for my porch.  This summer, I never got around to it.  I redeemed myself, I think, by putting together this little pot of autumnal delight (plus, its twin on other side of porch).  The kale, mums, and pink things were all purchased from a boutique nursery called Jewel-Osco.

When it comes to pumpkin spicery, I'm neither obsessed nor intolerant.  I am always up for testing a new KIND bar though so took a chance on this "limited batch."  I quite enjoyed the Caramel Almond Pumpkin Spice bar.  However, as with many KIND products, I'd love it if they included some more salt on the nuts as I really love the salty-sweet flavor sensation.

Don't hold your breath for apple picking or pumpkin patch photos. 

For now, that's all for Fall. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Oh, Baby -- Bridget Jones's Baby

I went into the first Bridget Jones movie with almost unbearable enthusiasm.  Luckily, I liked the first film v. much and have watched it many times since with true and undiminished pleasure.
I went into Bridget Jones's Baby film with low expectations.  I knew the film was not based upon the latest book, Mad About the Boy*, and the trailer made me nervous.  But it was Bridget and we're old friends so of course I was going to see it.  

Here's the thing though:  I freaking loved it.  My reaction goes beyond "pleasantly surprised" or "way better than I expected."  I laughed out loud, really laughed and possibly cackled, which I don't do enough in my day-to-day life.  And I cried, on and off throughout the film, basically almost every time Mark Darcy and Bridget Jones were together in a scene.  The film is not a tearjerker, but I think I was just overwhelmed by love for these characters and by almost twenty years of investment in their fictional love story on the page and screen.  Also overwhelmed to consider the changes in my own life between the turn-of-the-century (when I first met Bridget Jones) and today. 

Thank you, Helen Fielding.  Thank you, Renee Zellweger.  Thank you, Colin Firth.

I'll leave you with a screen shot of a tweet from @WendiAarons that I wholeheartedly endorse.

Unless your heart is made of ice, go see the movie.

*A film based upon Mad About the Boy would be heartbreaking to watch. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

LFL Spotting in La Grange

I made my first trip to the scout store for the new school year.  I'm destined to be there at least six more times over the course of the year, and I won't begin to bore or bum you out by describing my scouting responsibilities.  Luckily, the scout store is a short, relaxing drive away in the adorable town of La Grange.  I usually treat myself to a visit to nearby Trader Joe's afterward.  Today I discovered another bright spot near the scout store:  a Little Free Library.  
Books Are A Garden of Knowledge.   This LFL is simple, attractive, and conveniently located steps from the train station in La Grange.  I didn't photograph the back, but the LFL is securely bracketed to a lamp post.  Contrasting the LFL I spotted on Hilton Head, there was no "Take a Book, Return a Book" signage on this LFL. 
As I was about to get back into my van with 35 Pinewood Derby car kits and not about to catch a train where I might sit and read, I didn't borrow from this La Grange LFL.  I did pause to consider what book I'd choose if I were in need.  My recent (and late to the party) obsession with the Hamilton musical made me pause and think about Igniting the American Revolution, a title I usually would have skimmed right over.  I noted that the books with Secrets in the titles looked a bit racy ... not really my thing.  Were I in need of a read, I would have chosen Bonjour Kale, a memoir/food writing title about an American in Paris, which I read about somewhere.  Worth noting that Bonjour Kale and Igniting the American Revolution are both Advance Reader Copies. I've heard book people talking about how those copies really shouldn't be sold so maybe LFLs are a good spot for them?   

Finally, speaking of Little Free Libraries, check out what happened next to one of the tiny libraries that my cousin built in her Brooklyn neighborhood ...

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Audible Monthly Credit(s) Report: September

My Audible account refreshes on the 12th each month.  I waited exactly one day to spend this month's audiobook credits.

I chose two audiobooks by authors whose books I had loved as listens in the past.  Rules of Civility by Amor Towles was an excellent listen, and I'm sure A Gentleman in Moscow will be as well -- very high star rating on Audible already.

The cover of Ann Patchett's Commonwealth is gorgeous, and I covet the hardcover for my library.  However, I wanted to listen to Commonwealth because two of Patchett's books are all-time favorite listens of mine.  I can remember walking through Lincoln Park with tears running down my face as I listened to Bel Canto.  Post-partum with my daughter, I remember cleaning my Chicago kitchen counters while listening to The Patron Saint of Liars.  Not sure why the cleaning with a newborn memory is a happy one, but it is.  Maybe I'll walk the Illinois Prairie Path for part of my Commonwealth listening.  

Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Blaume is included in my Audible library screenshot, though I didn't spend a credit on it.  It was a Deal of the Day.  I'm not one for books about dogs or one for actual dogs, but I am slowly trying to open my heart.  I see the writing on the wall and it says:  Your husband and sons desperately want a dog, lady, and eventually you'll give in.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Who's Down with P&P? Every last lady.

Here's a little round-up of some of my semi-recent Pride and Prejudice goodies and goals.

This picture is making me sad because I took it back in June and summer feels so over now.  The Pride and Prejudice zipper pouch from Out of Print was a birthday gift from a dear friend.  I was testing out my son's Kindle earlier in the summer and was using the pouch as a makeshift case.  I've returned his Kindle now and am trying to figure out what's worthy enough to be regularly zipped inside the P&P case.  Certainly nothing lame like receipts or coupons or feminine products.

This photo is even older, taken on my 41st birthday back in March.  Another dear friend had won a Goodreads Giveaway advance reader's edition of Curtis Sittenfeld's Eligible.  She sent it to me after she read it, and I saved it for a birthday treat.  I spent almost the entire day devouring Eligible (and the KIND bar and fountain DC pictured).  Twas glorious to spend the day reading, especially a novel I found familiar and refreshing at the same time.  Some of Sittenfeld's updates worked better for me than others (Mrs. Bennett as shopping addict really, really worked for me), and I had so much fun seeing her contemporary take on this beloved novel.  Plus, Eligible was set in Cincinnati, my hometown, and I had the pleasure of knowing that Elizabeth's running routes in the book were the same as my early twenties power-walking routes (during which I listen to audiobooks, including the Flo Gibson-narrated Pride and Prejudice); the thrill of picturing Mark Darcy (Colin Firth incarnation, obvs) at Skyline Chili; and the delight of seeing a place and book I love intersect.  Thank you, Curtis Sittenfeld, another Cincy gal, for doing the novel and city justice!

Speaking of Curtis Sittenfeld, here's a screenshot of a Sara Sliger's Twitter Feed as she's giving props to Eligible.  Sliger mentions Bridget Jones as a "great modernization" and also references "that Mormon version, which I loved."  How did I not know of the existence of Pride and Prejudice:  A Latter-Day Comedy?  My library doesn't have the DVD, and I haven't figured out if I can stream it somehow, but it's on my to-watch list for sure now.

Terrible photo quality above, but that's what happens when you take a iphone photo at 10:26 p.m.  My friend Natalie, also a P&P superfan, put Jonah Lisa Dyer and Stephen Dyer's The Season on her Goodreads shelf a couple of months back.  I've since seen some positive buzz about the book and decided I'd try it.  Pride and Prejudice reboot (YA, I think?) -- Texas soccer star forced into debutante season.  Tagline on cover:  Debutantes.  Debauchery.  Disaster.  Come on, I have to see for myself.  I'll update you once I've read it.

Any P&P goodies or goals on your radar?  Please share.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Washi Woman

Just scrolled through the pics on my phone and gathered a collection of washi tape craft creation photos.  Featured above is the ye olde washi tape basket.  I find my tape at office stores, craft stores, Target, CVS, pretty much everywhere.  Some is actual "washi" tape and some is decorative masking tape. 

I can't take credit for this idea because I saw it on Pinterest a couple years ago.  The absolute best thing I have ever done with washi tape is wrap my chargers.  They are always disappearing around the house, and the tape helps me righteously reclaim them.  If you're ever on a group vacation, the tape also helps you keep track of your charger in situations where there may be many around.  I'm thinking of rewrapping the one on the far left -- a little too Real Housewives of New Jersey right now.

The great thing about ordering the school supply kit is how easy it is, but my kids are supposed to more or less bring all the loot to school.  So, yes, I purchased several dozen pencils for each kid, but they're all somewhere at school, not necessarily in their backpacks.  All last school year during homework time, I'd find myself thinking, "Why the hell don't we have any pencils around here?"  So this year, I bought several packages of pre-sharpened pencils (you know, in addition to the dozens included in the supply kit) and put some of them in this jar that I decked out in washi tape.  It's in the middle of the kitchen table (aka Homework Central -- actually, no one calls it that).  Not much homework yet, but we're ready.  The cursive handwriting tape is from the Target dollar bins.

I've posted before about how I like to decorate cards with washi tape.  Here's a card for a special five-year old boy.  The number line washi tape is also from the Target dollar bins.

Whenever I post about a lil project or anything crafty, I like to include the disclaimer that I do these projects because I enjoy them.  I get it that many people do not enjoy lil projects or are craft-averse or feel shame or perhaps pride about "not being crafty."  We all do what we do and like what we like. 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Audible Monthly Credit(s) Report: August

Better late than never, I present my Audible Monthly Credit(s) Report for August.  I have a two-credit per month subscription at Audible and the ritual of spending these credits is one that I treasure.  In August, I struggled with my decision a bit and still feel just so-so about my choices. 

I thought I would love Stuart Nadler's The Inseparables, but I just didn't.  There were some nice moments throughout, but the fifteen year-old daughter character was way too wise to be believable.  It felt like Nadler had a bunch of cool details and observations he had been saving up and just used his characters to voice them, even when the proverbial shoe didn't fit. 

I am probably one of the only persons in America who associates Julian Fellowes with novels and not with Downton Abbey.  I've only seen season one.  I've been assured that I will LOVE the series and that I HAVE TO WATCH IT, and I promise that I will.  But for some reason, I just haven't gotten around to it.  I have listened to audio editions of two of his novels though--Snobs and Past Imperfect--and thoroughly enjoyed both.  The reviews of the audio production of Belgravia are very positive so I went for it.  I haven't listened yet, but I anticipate a good experience. 
Right after I had spent my monthly credits, Audible came out with one of there 2-for-1 sales where you can get two books for one credit when choosing from a limited selection of titles.  Whenever they have this sale, there is an option to "purchase more credits," which I had never investigated.  I looked at the list of titles and saw that in included all of Elena Ferrante's Neopolitan novels so I bought three extra credits (the credits are sold in 3s).*  Then, I started remembering that My Brilliant Friend had actually not been a great listen.  I ended up really liking the book, but as a listener who does not speak Italian, I had a difficult time keeping track of all the character names.  So, I spent one of my new credits to purchase Ruth Ware's In a Dark, Dark Wood, which a reader I trust really liked, and Viet Thanh Nguyen's The Sympathizer, which will be one of those books that I will never be in the mood to listen to but will really love once I press play.

As a side note, it looks like the enhanced "new look" of the Audible library that I clumsily navigated when spending my monthly credits did not last long.  Back to business as usual when I bought my 2-for-1 titles. 

*The three extra credits totaled under $35 dollars (can't find the exact figure on the site), about what I pay per credit with my monthly subscription ($22.95 for two credits).  However, I don't want to get in the habit of buying extra credits as I so look forward to deliberating about how to spend the two I have.  It will be nice to have the extras for listening emergencies though!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Present Over Perfect -- Sign me up!

I am a huge fan of Shauna Niequist.  I've read all her books and hope, since we are both Chicagoland moms, to meet her one day.  Her most recent, Present Over Perfect:  Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living, really resonated with me and inspired the following thoughts (that I really needed to think at the start of a new school year).

I am a capable person, a helpful person, a mostly friendly and usually kind person.  I am a person you can count on.  Because I am capable, helpful, mostly friendly, usually kind, and able to be counted upon, I say yes to a variety of volunteer opportunities and mostly succeed in fulfilling my commitments.  I am also creative, organized, attentive to details, and able to troubleshoot and anticipate.  Volunteering allows me to contribute to my community, be a part of the life and happenings of my kids' school and our parish, and to get to know, plus work and laugh with people, mostly women, whom I admire and enjoy.

Great.  It's all great.

At this life moment, I'm a SAHM, a choice about which I'm not particularly tortured.  Me being at home works best for our family right now.  I'm not Christina Applegate in Bad Moms, not on a power trip, not directing frustrated or thwarted career aspirations into Cub Scouts or the Newcomers Committee.  But, I do like the feeling of satisfaction that comes with doing a volunteer project well, being appreciated for it, and being recognized as capable, count-on-able, helpful, creative.  I'm a good girl/teacher's pet at heart and will always love gold stars, extra credit, and atta girls.

Great.  It's all great, or at least good.

I am not great at delegating, especially any job that might be stressful or misery-inducing.  I'm not good at asking for help.  I would love to both be and be perceived as laid back, but I am wired for anxiety and worry.  That's improved with age and wisdom, but still, anxixety is one of my factory settings.  So, when I say yes to things and see them through, the yes is sometimes but not always accompanied by a lot of stress and some real low points.  On multiple occasions, my sons have been near tears before Cub Scout pack meetings.  They feel my stress, know I've been racing around all day getting stuff ready (because I've told them so as I'm losing it while loading the Odyssey) and feel guilty like it's their fault for wanting to be scouts.  My husband has fielded a variety of desperate phone calls from me, needing to be talked off a ledge, when I am frustrated by some technological or logistical obstacle (The cord to the projector won't fit my MacBook!  I need to print these signs and our imaging drum is empty and you can't just buy one at OfficeMax and blah, blah, blah, screech, screech, eeks, eeks, eeks).  Just recently, I spent the morning working on a Power Point (that no one specifically requested and that I insisted on creating) for a volunteer job on the school's Newcomers CommitteeI ignored my kids as I tried to finish up and then rushed to the park for a playdate with incoming first graders, including new school families.  I wanted to make sure all the new families felt welcome, met others, etc.  My daughter mentioned to me several times that she was hot and thirsty and I distractedly directed her to the drinking fountain.  Ninety minutes later, I finally took a good look at her and realized she was grey under her suntan and clammy/sweaty.  Once we exited the park, she revealed that she hadn't eaten breakfast, had eaten nothing all morning except a Twizzler a classmate gave her at the park.  Fast forward fifteen minutes and she is vomiting pieces of Twizzler into a Chick-Fil-A bag and unable to keep anything down until evening.  But, hey, the Power Point was a success and the other first graders enjoyed the playdate!

It's all good until it's not.

It's not good to be busy and stressed in service to others when it turns you into the least best version of yourself--worried, distracted, laser-focused on your to-do list--around the people who matter most to you.  This is commonsense, of course.  MOM 101.  There is plenty to rationally understand about balance and perspective, but, unfortunately, I gain my wisdom in fits and starts and through experience.  Present Over Perfect reviews these lessons in an accessible but powerful way.

Here's the other thing Present Over Perfect does.  This book speaks to those sad fears behind all the doing, hustling, pleasing, and juggling.  Those fears that maybe people only tolerate you because you are capable and helpful and organized and attentive to details.  Megan's not super fun, but she can Evite, Volunteer Spot, and email like a boss.  Not the first person I'd like to have a drink with but she's got Pioneer Day (or the coach gift or the Halloween Party or the Blue & Gold Dinner) under control.  You can see Megan's underwear line through her Costco yoga pants, but she gets stuff done and she'll say yes if you ask her to help.  Don't get me wrong -- these aren't my day-to-day, constant fears.  I have good friends who see me and love me and appreciate me.  But these are the fears and insecurities there under the surface.  The lurking fears look different for every woman--whether you're the dedicated physician or teacher, the reliable caregiver for an ailing parent, or the [insert your story/role here]--but there's that little voice whispering in your ear that without all the hustle and bustle, that without all that you do and take care of, that without all of that busy, you are not enough.  So you better keep going and keep doing in case other people have figured out just how not enough you are.

If you're rolling your eyes, fine, I get it.  I should be so lucky to have this struggle.  But it's mine.  I wish you well in yours, which may very well be nobler or grittier.  If you're nodding your head to any of the above though, read Present Over Perfect where Shauna Niequist says it all way better than I have.  Here are some highlights for me...

"I have left behind some ways of living that I once believed were necessary and right that I now know were toxic and damaging--among them pushing, proving, over-working, ignoring my body and spirit, trusting my ability to hustle more than God's ability to heal" (27).

"I couldn't imagine a world of unconditional love or grace, where people simply enter into rooms because the door is open to everyone.  The world that made sense to me was a world of earning and proving, and I was gutting it out just like everyone around me, frantically trying to prove my worth" (41).

"When you devote yourself to being known as the most responsible person anyone knows, more and more people call on you to be that highly responsible person.  That's how it works.  So the armload of things I was carrying became higher and higher, heavier and heavier, more and more precarious" (41)

"But you can' t have yes without no.  Another way to say it:  if you're not careful with your yeses, you start to say no to some very important things without even realizing it.  In my rampant yes-yes-yes-ing, I said no, without intending to, to rest, to peace, to groundedness, to listening, to deep and slow connection, built over years instead of moments" (49). 

What I'm taking away from Present Over Perfect is not that I need to opt out, nor that I need to further shame myself for all the times when I've failed to be present in my attempt to be "perfect."  My takeaway is that I need to slow down, to mix in some no with my yes, and to remind myself that as a child of God I am always already enough.