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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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(photo credit)

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 –