Reading update, August 2014

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Wow, only six months since my last post! …. I have been reading in the meantime, really! I am happy, though, to finally be doing a monthly reading update. These days I’m working full-time, so my blogging and reading time has been somewhat reduced. My pace is somewhat slow but I always look forward to the time I have before bed when I can read uninterrupted.

I actually haven’t finished a book this month, but I’m in the middle of a few – 

The Secret Lives of Codebreakers: The Men and Women Who Cracked the Enigma Code at Bletchley Park, by Sinclair McKay

This is the book I’ve made the most progress with lately, but I have to admit it’s falling a little flat of my expectations. I think a book on the actual history of the code breaking work at the Park would be a bit more interesting and engaging. That said, it does give interesting snapshots of life in Britain during the war, which we Americans don’t always hear much about in school. 

The Happiest Toddler on the Block, by Harvey Karp

This is the first book I’ve read on dealing with a toddler and though some of the book is rather cheesy, I think it would be helpful for anyone who needs some encouragement and simple advice during toddlerhood. I like that he recommends being empathetic first; it’s a concept that has helped me many times with my own sweet, temperamental toddler.

A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson

I simultaneously love and dislike this book. I love it because I really enjoy Bill Bryson’s style and I think he’s very good at making innocuous subjects engaging. But the fact is that I don’t love science all that much, and that is what this book is really all about. So, while I enjoy the book when I read it, I really have to be in the right mood for it, and it’s a long book. Hopefully I’ll get inspired to finish soon!

The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection, by Robert Farrar Capon

I love books such as this one – they bring you back to the basics of preparing, cooking, and eating food, which is a subject that easily becomes overwhelming and complicated if you let it. Capon’s ability to combine food and spirituality as the subject of the book is unique and very special. 

 

What’s the best thing you’ve read lately?

Twitterature February 2014

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Well, my month has completely gotten away from me, and blogging has slipped to the wayside. I still wanted to do a Twitterature post, though – sharing my most recent reads and my progress towards my 2014 reading goals. Here we go!

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

I became familiar with David Sedaris through the NPR program This American Life. I love Sedaris’ storytelling and sense of humor and this book made me love him even more. I especially enjoyed the chapters about living as an expat since I could relate to it. I’m so glad I finally read this after having it on my list for a really long time!

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Willy and I watched the film adaptation of this book about a year ago, so I was familiar with the story, but reading the book has helped me understand the film so much better. I find myself very engrossed in this book whenever I read it, and I think having seen the film, I have a very clear mental imagery of everything that happens in the book. It’s a great piece of fiction that leaves you with a lot to think about.

Why Have Kids? A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness by Jessica Valenti

I grabbed this from the New Nonfiction section at the library and was intrigued by the title. The author provides a critique of how we view motherhood in the US and what we can do to create happier parents, mothers and relationships. I appreciated hearing the parenting perspective of someone who has the rights of women in mind, and reading the book has helped me to think through and articulate some of my own thoughts on the subject.

And that’s all for this month! Currently I have read only 7 books towards my 50 book goal this year, but I’m not too worried. There were a few books that I started and had to get back to the library before I could finish them, but I wasn’t making much progress with them, anyway. I just brought home a new library stack today and am excited to start reading!

What have you been reading this month?

deciding on joy

“We are inclined to think that when we are sad we cannot be glad, but in the life of a God-centered person, sorrow and joy can exist together. That isn’t easy to understand, but when we think about some of our deepest life experiences, such as being present at the birth of a child or the death of a friend, great sorrow and great joy are often seen to be parts of the same experience.

Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it everyday. It is a choice based on the knowledge that we belong to God and have found in God our refuge and our safety and that nothing, not even death, can take God away from us.”

–Henri J.M. Nouwen, Here and Now

(this inspiring quote was copied directly from Emily at chatting at the sky)

I admit that I often choose sorrow and negativity over joy these days. The knowledge that I am God’s doesn’t often spring to mind first, though it does come eventually. So instead of choosing joy in the face of discouragement, I choose self-pity. I believe the worst. I eat my feelings, or at least, I justify what I want to eat by how I’m feeling. I see what’s lacking instead of what is abounding. I sometimes choose to feel alone instead of opening up. And it’s no way to live.

I need to go back to where I’ve been and rediscover the knowledge of being loved and accepted by God, and let that influence how I feel and what I do. I have let myself believe the lie that I’ve become a cast-off, an ill-fitting piece – much like the clothes in our garage that have sat in boxes for the past two years: in a dormant, in-between stage that currently has no end in sight. They are still “ours” but are unable to currently be used. How long will I lie in wait, rather than realizing I still belong to God, no matter how imperfect I am for the moment?

Make me joyful, oh God. I long for moments of joy, affection, generosity and playfulness. Let me choose that even when it’s most difficult. Let me not believe the lies: that I don’t belong, that my cards have all been played, that I’ve made the wrong decisions. Let me delight in the little things even in the midst of frustration and sadness.

3/52, 4/52

These past few weeks have had quiet moments, busy moments, stressful moments and relaxing moments. I’m so glad that, in this season of waiting on jobs to come through and things to work out in heading back to Korea, we’ve been able to spend time with friends here. It’s a blessing to have friends here who we’ve known for a long time, and who also have kids who Eleanor loves being with.

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Can you tell we’ve been baking a lot lately? This is post-brownie-bowl-licking.

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Eleanor’s favorite pasttime: washing dishes. It’s always a good way to get her to do some independent play.

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Eleanor’s grandpa took these pictures of her “working” on something in the garage recently. We’ll see if she grows up to be a tinkerer like her dad and grandpa.

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Twitterature, January 2014

my current to-read pile from the library

my current to-read pile from the library

Lately I feel like I’m in a stage of “my eyes are bigger than my plate,” but with books instead of food. I spent most of the last two years unable to get English books for free or cheap, so now that I’m in a town where I have a library card, I’m going a bit wild. I’m also thrilled to have discovered that there is a very good e-book borrowing system called Overdrive that is now available both in my parents’ city and my husband’s parents’ town. I will be using that more once we move and I can’t borrow paper copies anymore, but for now, I’m really enjoying perusing the library stacks and feeling an actual book in my hands when I read.

Here are some of my most recent reads. If you’d like to share what you’ve been reading this month, feel free to link up, as I’m doing, at Modern Mrs. Darcy, where Anne hosts a Twitter-style (short, concise descriptions) book-sharing event. I’ve totally been stealing reading ideas from this link-up, but this is my first time to participate!

My January reads:

The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap: A Memoir of Friendship, Community, and the Uncommon Pleasure of a Good Book – Wendy Welch.
If you’re a used bookstore lover and an Anglophile, you’ll probably enjoy this book. Thick with Scottish references, anecdotes of small town life, and some very quaint writing. So far I’m loving it.

The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien.
A classic that I had to read again after seeing the most recent film by Peter Jackson. I really enjoy reading it when I’m in the mood for fantasy, but sometimes it’s a bit hard to get into. Some of my favorite scenes from the movie are really enjoyable in the book as well – mainly the journey through the Forest of Mirkwood and the escape downriver from the Kingdom of the Elves (but as I thought, some of the film’s content was lifted from other books besides the Hobbit!).

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail – Cheryl Strayed.
I love real-life travel and adventure books and heard great things about this one. In my opinion, this book is as much personal memoir as it is the story of hiking the PCT, some of which I didn’t really enjoy reading about. The writing was crafted well but I wanted more on the actual travel experience. I recently read Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods about his journey on the Appalachian Trail and found that book more to my liking.

An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace – Tamar Adler.
If you’re interested in learning to use and re-use ingredients, cooking simply and deliciously, and you can overlook the prose that sometimes drags on too long, you really should read this one. Ms. Adler has a lot of interesting things to say about food and cooking, but the instructive bits of the book spoke to me the most. I’ve totally been inspired to create new meals from old ones, and to cook things ahead of time to use later (though I haven’t done that too much yet).

Someday, Someday Maybe – Lauren Graham.
I’m a huge Gilmore Girls fan, so I wanted to read this novel by the actress Lauren Graham. The story is about an actress in NYC who’s struggling to make it in show business while trying to stay attached to her roots and who she’s always been. It’s not the kind of book I’d read normally and in some ways it reminded me of The Devil Wears Prada. Still, it was fun to read. I usually gravitate towards nonfiction these days so I enjoyed zoning out while reading this book.

Have you read anything great lately?

52 Photo Project: 1/52, 2/52

I’ve been wanting to participate in the 52 Project for a long time, but have been waiting until the first of the year to do it (and even now, I’m late starting! Oh well, better late than never). If you’re not familiar with it, the basic premise is to post a portrait once a week for a year; at the end of the year, you will have a collection of weekly photos taken of your subject and – if you desire to be taking photos regularly – a tangible goal met.

I’m planning to use Eleanor as my subject, of course. Maybe this will keep her grandparents happy, too!🙂 This first week will be a two-week catch-up. Though I would love to be using our DSLR every week, it may not happen, so I suppose that iPad photos are better than nothing. Hopefully if taking photos becomes a habit, I will be more inclined to get out the nice camera when I want a picture.

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First week of the year! We enjoyed playing with her new Christmas toys and still having family around the house post-holidays.

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enjoying using her new window markers to scribble on the glass

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cleaning her face after we made a batch of pancake mix

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the “reading basket” I made to keep her occupied while I folded laundry

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we don’t really do bath toys much, because she much prefers bowls and cups

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Grandma’s house is full of fun kitchen toys that Eleanor loves

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this is the expression I get when I say “smile!” … lovely, isn’t it?

-linking up with The 52 Project at Practising Simplicity

January goals, and some for 2014

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The way that people feel about goal-setting is really intriguing to me, especially at this time of year. There are obviously many people who make New Year’s resolutions that will not be met. There are some people, like my husband, who do not do it, nor ever will, simply because they will set a goal and accomplish it on their own terms, not because of a date on the calendar. Then there are people like my dad, who have an intrinsic goal-setting instinct that easily drives them to accomplish what they set out to do. This, I cannot relate to at all, but I find it quite admirable.

Personally, I have spent a lot of years feeling that I’m the kind of person who shouldn’t set goals, because I know I will fail. (Lacking self-confidence much, there?) However, my last few years of life have helped me become more aware of what I can do well in terms of setting goals. I’ve been learning that big, lofty, unspecific goals will probably not be met. Making small, achievable, slow steps is the best way to move toward those larger goals that I have for myself.

A few January goals that I have:

– Find a special way to serve someone once a week. Right now we’re between jobs and living with my in-laws, which means that I really have lots of time that I could be bringing someone a meal, watching a friend’s kids, physically doing a task for someone who needs help, etc.
– Organize my in-law’s fridge and freezer. I’ve been working my way through the book An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler, and it has inspired me to do things like prep veggies at the beginning of the week, use up old food that gets overlooked or thrown away, and eat leftovers in new and interesting ways. I highly recommend it if you’re needing some inspiration in the kitchen!
– Organize ALL THE THINGS in the garage. Nearly all our American possessions reside in the garage here, and in the name of minimizing and only keeping necessities, we have a goal to go through and reorganize all of it. We probably have about one or two months left before we leave the country, so the sooner we start, the better!
– Get a job. We’re planning to head back to South Korea to teach English for one or two more years. Our paperwork for acquiring visas is finally almost complete, so we can finally start to look for jobs that will start in February or March. We’re praying that both my husband and I will find good jobs – always a challenge when you are doing it while living half a world away. However, we’re more confident now than when we did it two years ago. I’m thankful that we have some idea of what we’re getting into.

A few goals that I have for 2014 in general, but specifically to be started in January:

1. Reboot my exercise habit. Last year I did a Couch to 5K program religiously for a few months, and it helped me slim down and have a regular exercise routine. Now that it’s gotten cold, I’ve stopped running. We also came back to the US after living in Korea for two years, where we didn’t have a car and walked everywhere. We’re planning to move back to Korea in the next one or two months, so I know that my daily movement will increase once I’m working and walking again, but I still need to get a regular exercise routine going again. Mostly I’ve just been lazy. I received a Fitbit Flex from my husband for Christmas, so I’m planning to use it to at least reach 10,000 steps every day. I still need to decide if and how much I want to run, or if I want to primarily do strength training. I have a great app for bodyweight training that I need to put to good use again.

2. Planned posts for my blog. I think that I want to set at least one or two weekly themes for posts so that I can be posting more regularly. At the moment I want to do a weekly photo post, and I might do one related to what I’m currently reading, too. If all goes well, maybe I can add more later. Baby steps, baby steps!

3. Keep reading what is interesting and engaging. Near the end of 2013, I made a big effort to reboot my love of reading and I haven’t looked back. I’ve found that instead of wasting lots of time on Facebook or my reader feed, I’ve culled my online activity and spent my time with books instead. Right now I have a huge list of stuff to read and not much done, but that’s okay. I’ll catch up someday! I’ve set a goal of 50 books and hopefully that will be pretty attainable.

4. Reconfigure recipe storage. For the last two or three years, I’ve used the web-based subscription service Plan to Eat to store recipe files and reference them when I’m cooking, but for some reason, it hasn’t worked well. It’s handy for storing online recipes but not that great visually, and it’s a lot of work to input recipes from cookbooks. I’m pretty sure that I want to just use a three-ring binder with clear pages that can store print-outs and photo copies, but I want it to be nicely organized and visually pleasing. I’m picky about what I like, so hopefully I can find or make something sooner rather than later.

I’m hopeful that this year I can be more intentional about setting my own goals and accomplishing them. The last two years have been quite focused on raising our daughter, and it’s obviously been a time of big transitions for our family. Now that she’s almost two, my days are much more predictable, and having a set routine will make it easier to accomplish the goals I have. At the moment, we’re working on getting back over to Korea to live and work for another year or two, so it might be awhile before our routine is established.

Honestly I have no idea what our year will be like, but I’m hoping it will hold a lot of goodness, and grace.

– I’ve linked up my January/2014 goals at The Tiny Twig and Creative Home Keeper –