Monthly roundup

Monthly Roundup: September 2019

Welcome to October!

For real, though, how is it October??? I just sat down to write September’s post! This whole year has just gone by at rocket speed…

This has been the first full month of my daughter being in school full-time, and it’s been interesting. I’m still at home and will be for the foreseeable future, and I’m kind of getting into a little bit of a routine, which is nice. I have a lot less free time than I figured, though, since I still have SO much to do. It’s not bad, though, and I have a new reading-related category to add to this month’s monthly post. I’m enjoy my quieter days, that’s for sure!

I’m still ridiculously behind on blog stuff, though. I’m really hoping that once it cools off, things will settle down around here and I’ll be able to jump back into the book blogging world a little more. For now, it’s all I can do to get posts written (as you’ll see!).

Anyhoodle, let’s get this recap started!

What I Read in September 2019

  1. Shadow of the Titanic: The Extraordinary Story of Those Who Survived by Andrew Wilson

2. Good and Mad: The Extraordinary Power of Women’s Anger by Rebecca Traister

3. Ribsy by Beverly Cleary (no review, read out loud to my daughter)

4. The Suburban Micro-Farm by Amy Stross

5. The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by Melinda Gates

6. Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds

7. Reading Behind Bars: A True Story of Literature, Law, and Life as a Prison Librarian by Jill Grunenwald

8. Winnie l’Ourson by A.A. Milne (no review, more on this later)

9. City Farmer: Adventures in Urban Food Growing by Lorraine Johnson

10. The Sparrow Sisters by Ellen Herrick

11. Just Visiting by Dahlia Adler

12. The Polygamist’s Daughter by Anna LeBaron (review to come)

13. Gated by Amy Christine Parker (review to come)

14. Without a Prayer: The Death of Lucas Leonard and How One Church Became a Cult by Susan Ashline (review to come)

15. Socks by Beverly Cleary (no review, read out loud to my daughter)

16. The Silence Between Us by Alison Gervais (review to come)

Only slightly better than last month! I’ve still been ridiculously busy, so not as much reading time as I would have liked (and barely any reading time some days!) Bring on the colder weather where I can huddle under a blanket and just READ!!!

Reading Challenge Updates

I’m not currently participating in any reading challenges, but I’m already looking forward to these starting up again in the new year!

State of the Goodreads TBR

Currently, my Goodreads TBR stands at 77 books! Some of the books I had placed on there last month were cookbooks, which I checked out of the library and went through, then took off my list, so that helps to explain the slightly reduced number. Also aiding in TBR reduction is the fact that eleven of this month’s books came off my TBR list. Yay me!

Books I Acquired in September 2019

The only book I brought into the house this month was a copy of Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody, which I bought with a Barnes and Noble gift card. I’ve actually gotten a tiny bit of writing done this month, but not a ton, and not with any regularity. Possibly when the weather turns…

Bookish Things I Did in September 2019

I was able to go listen to author David Grann (author of Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI) speak at a local school.

I didn’t want to be rude and snap a picture when he was speaking, so here’s a pic of the stage with the cover of his book as backdrop.

I feel so lucky whenever I get the opportunity to listen to authors speak! There’s a bookstore semi-local to me that often has authors come speak; I need to follow their schedule more carefully. They’re a bit of a drive from me, though, and with needing to pick my husband up from the evening train, being at the bookstore on time might be a bit of a stretch…

Current Podcast Love

I’m currently going back and forth between Cults on Parcast (seriously, it’s starting to feel like everything’s a cult, haha! There are so many more out there than I ever imagined. What the heck, humanity???), and Behind the Bastards (no, seriously, what the heck, humanity????), which I’ve absolutely fallen in love with. The host, journalist and author Robert Evans, reads a script of his weekly research on a terrible, terrible person from either history or modern days, going in depth as to exactly why and how that person was/is awful as he reads to a comedian or fellow podcaster who is coming in cold and knows little about the subject. It’s funny, it’s entertaining, it’s educational, it’s full of incredulous swear words… I’m learning so much from this podcast and it’s seriously fascinating in its depth and breadth of information.

Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge

New category!!!

So, now that my daughter (who is my intense child, the one who makes a bid for my attention every three seconds and has sizzled my brain into a charred, shriveled crisp) is in school full-time, I have some quiet time- most days, anyway- to sit and read some of the things I’ve been putting off because they take more brainpower to get through, and who has that when you’re answering questions about unicorns and responding to “Mama, I’m done pooping!” every other minute? I was never able to finish college, which is a major sore spot for me, so it’s really important to me that I keep learning and keep expanding my world in an intellectual sense. And so my afternoons, after I finish dinner prep, are spent in a reading-and-study session, with books from my own shelves that I’ve wanted to get to for ages.

We’re a bilingual, French-English family (my husband bringing the French via his Belgian-born self), and in the past, I’ve always tried to read at least one book in French every year. Last year, I did this at night and got through Harry Potter Γ  L’Γ©cole des Sorciers (the first Harry Potter book). But then my husband wanted to watch a bunch of stuff on Netflix with me, so there went my quiet reading time, and I only now got around to reading my French book for the year, grabbing Winnie l’Ourson by A.A. Milne off of my French shelf (Winnie l’Ourson being, of course, the French translation of Winnie-the-Pooh). I did a chapter almost every day, writing down unfamiliar words and then plugging them into Anki, a flashcard app, so I could memorize them. It feels good to be back into language study! Winnie l’Ourson is adorable in both English and French, although I have to say that I found French-speaking Eeyore an entire passive-aggressive pain in the ass. πŸ˜€

Along with improving my French, another of my goals for my alone time is to improve my Norwegian, especially my grammar, so I’ve started slowly working my way through Norsk, Nordmenn Og Norge by Kathleen Stokker and Odd Haddal (Norwegian, Norwegians and Norway). This is a hefty tome of Norwegian grammar and vocabulary. I’m on my fourth trip through the Duolingo tree and use that mainly to keep my skills fresh every day, but I’ll be using this book to build more on what I’ve already learned. I’m hoping to find enough time this winter, too, to finally watch season 4 of Skam, a fabulous Norwegian TV series that follows a group of teenagers through their high school drama. I adored seasons 1-3 and just never got around to finishing it.

In heavier English-language reading, I’m twenty chapters into A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. This book has been sitting on my shelf for years and I’m so grateful that I finally have the ability to delve deeply into it. It’s an intense read, shining light on perspectives in American history that we’re never taught in school (for real, I have never, EVER said WTF so many times in one single book. Most pages have something that makes me drop at least one F-bomb; for instance, when a multi-millionaire wrote his son a letter, urging him to pay a fee in order to have someone else drafted for the war in his place because “there are other lives out there that are worth less.” DUDE. WTF!!!). I’ve read quite a bit of history over the years since I left school and am still aghast at how horrible we can be to each other. If you haven’t read this illuminating book yet and you have the time and mental space for it, I highly, HIGHLY recommend it.

I’ll finish A People’s History…probably around the end of the first week of October (I try to read a chapter each day, but there are some days, like when my mother comes up to visit, that I don’t get to it), and after that, I’m going to finally tackle Les MisΓ©rables by Victor Hugo in full (in English!). I got through about 400 pages when I was in high school, and then abandoned it during one of Hugo’s long rants on Napoleon. This time, I’ll complete it. I’ve already glanced through my copy, which is 1463 pages, and I’m planning to read around 30 pages a day (give or take, depending on how close the next chapter or nearest break is). I can read 30 pages at a time of anything, so while this will be a lengthy read, I have faith in myself that this will be the time I complete it.

I’m excited about this new project and look forward to sharing with all of you the new things I’m working on each month. This will, of course, be subjective to school vacations and whatnot; maybe I’ll move my more intense reading to nighttimes then. Who knows. πŸ™‚

(Also, I may change the name of this section if I come up with a better one…)

Real Life Stuff

September was, as always, a busy month, but we’re settling into new routines around here. My son is busy with school and choir commitments; my daughter is making new friends and this upcoming weekend will attend her fourth birthday party since school began! I’m busy running after both of them, of course, but I try to spend most mornings working on a household project of some sort, before moving on to preparing dinner and my afternoons with my personal Read Harder Challenge. The shelving units we had in the kitchen were bowing, so we replaced them with heavier metal shelves, which I put together and then switched out all our stuff. That took almost an entire school day (SO MUCH CLEANING to go along with it), and my thighs were killing me afterwards, but the shelves look so much neater and better now. And I spent another two hours folding the FOUR BASKETS of my husband’s clean laundry that had been living on my bedroom floor for MONTHS (yes, I’m laundry-shaming my husband!) and tidying up his shelves. The bedroom looks so much bigger now without four heaping baskets of laundry on the floor! πŸ˜€

October’s going to be another busy month. A local university is putting on a performance of Cabaret, so my mother is coming up and we’re going to see that. My son has Homecoming (his girlfriend’s dress is so pretty!), and his choir will have two shows (both of which my mother will come up to see and she and I will spend the day together, which is always wonderful). I’m going to see a documentary put on by the school system’s parent education group, my mother and daughter and I are going to go to a local craft/Scandinavian fair that we visit every year, my daughter’s school is putting on a huge Halloween bash, and then we have Halloween itself (my daughter wants to be something she’s calling a Rose Fairy Princess, and she was amenable to the idea of my doctoring up one of her dress-up dresses with fake flowers, so I’ll have to find the time to do that). Will there even be any time to sit down and read, much less blog? And then we’ll start in with the holidays…

I’m exhausted just thinking about it! I’m about ready for the snow and cold of January and February at this point! πŸ˜€

How was your September? How did your reading go? Do you find you have more time to read this time of year, or less?

Happy reading, and may your October be beautiful. πŸ™‚

Monthly roundup

Monthly roundup: August 2019

Welcome to September!

Summer is winding down, and the kids are either back in school or are headed that way. Hard to believe the summer went by so fast, but it does every year, doesn’t it? I barely had a single chance to catch my breath this month; I spent so much of the summer getting all the appointments made that my daughter needed before starting kindergarten (doctor, dentist, eye doctor- dentist had to be cancelled TWICE due to illness, and eye doctor took multiple attempts to find glasses that fit her), getting the house back in order from being sick all spring, preparing for vacation/vacation/getting the house back in order from being gone on vacation, etc. We had so few days to just relax…and now whoooooosh, summer’s over! So it goes.

It took me most of July and a good part of August to get caught up on my reviews (and I’m still a few behind); I did nothing at night but write out two and sometimes three reviews, for about a week and a half, so my list looks a little smaller this month than usual- less reading time! But that’s okay. Let’s get started with this recap.

What I Read in August 2019

  1. A Serial Killer’s Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love, and Overcoming by Kerri Rawson

2. Henry and Ribsy by Beverly Cleary (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

3. Kindred by Octavia Butler

4. The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan

5. Shakespeare Saved My Life by Laura Bates

6. Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex, and Intimacy by Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi

7. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

8. Titanic: Voices From the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson

9. A Different Time by Michael K. Hill (review to come in September as part of a blog tour)

10. Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali (review to come)

11. Henry and the Clubhouse by Beverly Cleary (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

12. Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (review to come)

I think August has been my slowest month yet, reading-wise! That’s a combination of using my nightly reading time to catch up on reviews and having less time to read during the day as we tried to cram in all the necessary back-to-school activities. I’d hope that my reading would pick up in September, but I’m not sure that it will, since I have a TON of projects that I’m trying to get done around the house. Eight of these books were on my TBR, though, so that’s eight books down!

Reading Challenge Updates

I’m not currently participating in any reading challenges, other than trying to tame the beast that is my TBR.

State of the Goodreads TBR

Uhhhhh…

About that.

My Goodreads TBR currently stands at 89 books, up from 80 last month. I CAN EXPLAIN!!!

So, now that my daughter is a little older and can be kind of trusted not to throw herself in front of a passing truck if we blink while we’re outside with her, we’ve started ripping up some stuff in the yard in order to use the land more wisely. My husband tore down a giant ugly fir bush, and I raked up all the crap left behind (and toted it to the backyard; we’ll eventually burn it), and we’re going to turn that (sizable!) patch into a native flower garden in the spring- although right now we tossed down some kale seeds in hopes of a late kale crop. Once my back calms down a little bit, I’ll be out there with heavy-duty work gloves, ripping out old, sad cacti and other various spiky weeds so we can plant stuff in those spaces. All that is to say that I put a bunch of books on urban farming and growing food on my TBR, so that’s why it exploded the way it did this month!

Books I Acquired in August 2019

I received a copy of A Different Time by Michael K. Hill for a blog tour! Other than that, I don’t think I brought any books into the house this month. πŸ™‚

Bookish Things I Did in August 2019

No real bookish events, but my husband did get me a new Kindle Paperwhite for my birthday! My elderly Kindle Keyboard had been having issues for about a year already, so this was a fabulous surprise. I haven’t even had the chance to use it yet, because I’ve had a steady flow of physical books, but as soon as I get these cleared out, it’s Kindle time, baby! Check out my gorgeous cover:

Current Podcast Love

After floundering a bit, I discovered Cults on Parcast, with Greg and Vanessa, whose voices are SO soothing that it would sometimes take me five or six tries to listen to an episode, because I would just fall asleep (and I’ve seen other people talk about that as well!). Cults is super fascinating and freaky, a look into often deadly religious groups, a few of which I’d heard of but (to their immense credit, because this is one of my biggest pet subjects) most of which I hadn’t. If you’re at all interested in cults and seriously weird religious groups (SERIOUSLY weird, like dudes claiming to be God or Jesus on earth, and the followers who actually take them seriously and hand over their teenage daughters to this guy because they’ve totally bought into it instead of running away screaming like most people would- SO many stories like this), give this a listen, I really felt like I learned a lot.

I listened to all the back episodes that Podbean offered, and today, I started listening to Behind the Bastards, a podcast about some of the worst people in history. So far, it’s really interesting and I’m looking forward to delving into it more next week (after the long weekend, when the kids are back in school).

Real Life Stuff

PHEW.

My son is now a senior in high school (so he’s ridiculously busy), and my daughter officially started kindergarten! The first three days were half days, but this past week was full-day. She has two friends from her gymnastics classes in her class, she made another friend who sits next to her, and a girl in first grade who was in preschool with my daughter when she was 3 remembers her and seeks her out on the playground all the time, so no worries there. She’s pretty tired when she comes home, though, which has led to some…rather screechy evenings around here. Poor kid. It’s a long day for five year-olds.

We live about a mile away from the school, so in the mornings, I walk her there and walk her back. If the weather is okay and I don’t have to pick my son up, I walk to pick her up and then we walk home. During school hours, I’ve been trying to find a balance between getting done all the BAZILLION house projects that I couldn’t do with my daughter interrupting me every three seconds and taking some time for me, and all that is to say that I’ve had some days with step counts like this:

Remember when I said my back hurt? Yeah. That’s a lot of walking.

So what have I been doing? The first few days were half days, so that didn’t leave much time to get stuff done, but come Monday, even though it was raining, I was bound and determined to start tackling my Hoarder-style garage. It’s looked like this pretty much since we moved in 4.5 years ago; after falling out there late last fall, I swore I would tackle it once my daughter went to school. Before:

Yeah. I felt exactly as embarrassed as you think I would every time my husband opened the door- and this is after I’d already done a little cleaning (albeit in the back right corner, not really visible in this picture). UGH. After 2.5 hours of absolutely disgusting work (combined with the 30 minutes I did earlier, on a different day), here’s the not-yet-finished-but-looking-better result:

I stopped working at this point because A., my back was entirely done, and B., both the garbage can and the recycling can were full to the top. My plan is to work on this on the days before trash pickup days in order to leave *some* space for household trash throughout the week (although we’re lucky if we have a single bag most weeks, along with some smaller bags from when I scoop the litterbox; the majority of our food-based garage goes into our compost, and I try to recycle as much as I can). The right side of the garage is going to be a little more difficult; it’ll be a lot of heavy lifting and I’m not sure how my back will take to that, but I guess we’ll find out when I get to it! The project isn’t complete yet, but I’m ridiculously happy about how it’s turned out so far. I’ve been out to that freezer probably fifteen times since I did this and didn’t have to worry ONCE about falling- whereas before, it was a constant worry, and like I said, I fell last fall, which is a huge concern with my bad back. So yay for me. πŸ™‚

I’ve also organized all my cabinets, my drawers (including vacuuming them out), and my kitchen island; I cleaned out the coat closet (and ripped up the dry-rotted mat that sat in front of it and scraped all the pieces off that had stuck to the floor, GROSS) and cleaned off one of my daughter’s bookshelves in the living room. And since I had space, I organized everything out in my garage freezer (the only things I could stand stocking up on are corn and spinach…). We bought new shelves for our kitchen, so once my husband puts those together, I’ll be busy reorganizing my pantry goods, so I’m looking forward to being able to do that!

What’s next? I need to clean out the laundry room again; it’s not too bad, but could stand a little reorganization and a sweep for cobwebs. My daughter’s room is getting a complete overhaul; that’ll take at least one full day, and possibly more. After the garage is totally done and I clear some stuff out of the yard, I’ll have more time for myself, and then I’ll get started on some ME projects. πŸ™‚

Speaking of which, my Blue Blanket Project (or what I’ve started thinking of as my Frozen blanket!) is coming along, slowly but swimmingly:

If anyone is interested, I’m using this pattern. It’s a nice, mindless project to work on while watching something with my husband or visiting with family.

So that was my August! Not as much reading going on as I would’ve liked, but such is life sometimes, and I’m looking forward to a long, cold winter of plowing through book after book after book this school year. I have no idea how long it will take for me to clean up the yard the way I want, or when I’ll actually get the garage finished- this is all both weather-dependent and my back-dependent, but I’d rather tackle those completely and quickly, so I can stop thinking about them! πŸ™‚

I wish you a lovely September, full of great reads and beautiful weather no matter where you are. How was your August???

Monthly roundup

Monthly roundup: July 2019

Welcome to August!

My goodness. July absolutely got away from me. I’m ferociously behind in regards to book reviews (to the tune of…*checks Goodreads* ELEVEN BOOKS), and I’m completely feeling like a hamster in a wheel. Not the hamster who’s trucking along nicely, making the wheel turn and turn, mind you. No, I’m the hamster in the back, flopping along and never quite able to get itself situated and upright while its furry little buddy trots happily in front without a care in the world. I’ve been desperately trying to take care of everything in real life (house, laundry, errands, cooking, etc) while driving my son places and keeping my daughter entertained by taking her to the park and other fun summer places, and I’ve started a few other projects around the house, along with exercising more regularly. All of this means I haven’t had much computer time lately!

I’ll get back up to speed, though, I promise! The kids go back to school in twenty days, and I’ll spend some of my alone time getting caught up here, so keep your eyes peeled for an eventual onslaught of reviews. πŸ™‚

So let’s get started on this recap, shall we?

Books I Read in July 2019

  1. Flames of Glory- Patricia Matthews

2. Leaving the Witness: Exiting a Religion and Finding a Life- Amber Scorah

3. Ramona’s World- Beverly Cleary (no review, read out loud to my daughter)

4. Eyes On Me- Rachel Harris

5. Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women- Nura Maznavi and Ayesha Mattu

6. Internment- Samira Ahmed (review written, will be posted tomorrow)

7. Better Than Homemade- Carolyn Wyman (review to come)

8. I Believe In a Thing Called Love- Maurene Goo (review to come)

9. Henry Huggins- Beverly Cleary (no review, read out loud to my daughter)

10. The Emergency Teacher: The Inspirational Story of a New Teacher in an Inner City School- Christina Asquith (review to come)

11. The Drowning of Stephan Jones- Bette Greene (review to come)

12. Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others- Barbara Brown Taylor (review to come, LOVED THIS!!!)

13. All the Rage: Mothers, Fathers, and the Myth of Equal Partnership- Darcy Lockman (review to come)

14. Waiting for Tom Hanks- Kerry Winfrey (review to come)

15. Henry and Beezus- Beverly Cleary (no review, read out loud to my daughter)

16. Their Pretend Amish Courtship- Patricia Davids (review to come)

17. Awkward- Svetlana Chmakova (review to come)

18. Icebreaker- Deirdre Martin (review to come)

19. Burma Chronicles- Guy Delisle (review to come)

Numbers-wise, that’s not a bad month! So much of my reading has been done outside the house this month, either at the park or at a library play area (on those super hot days); I finished two books on vacation (and DNF’d two others that just didn’t work for me); three were read-alouds to my daughter. I don’t see any patterns in here, necessarily; a bunch of these books, however, were from my TBR pile, so yay for me on that. πŸ™‚

Reading Challenge Update

I’m not currently participating in any reading challenges, other than the constant challenge of taming my TBR. Speaking of which…

State of the Goodreads TBR

Remember last month when I said I couldn’t seem to get my Goodreads TBR below 80 books?

80 is the magic number, because 80 is where my Goodreads TBR sits at this very moment! The book I’m reading right now is from that list, though, so I AM trying!!!

Books I Acquired in July 2019

These were acquired from a used book sale last weekend (everything you can cram into a bag for $10; my husband and daughter also brought home some treasures). I was pretty happy to find the copy of Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, as she was recently added to the list of authors coming to speak to my community this school year! I’ll definitely get that one read before her appearance (the date hasn’t been announced yet, so I have time).

My friend Sandy mailed me two ARCs; I’ve never read Alisha Rai before, but I’ve been wanting to, so I’m pretty excited about The Right Swipe! Tracey Garvis Graves’s The Girl He Used To Know was a bonus in the book envelope; what a nice surprise! Thanks, Sandy! As soon as I get to the store to buy an envelope, I’m shipping her my copy of Burma Chronicles by Guy Delisle. Bookish friends are the best. πŸ™‚

My mom gave me Such a Perfect Wife by Kate White, which she had just finished and said it was good, so I’m looking forward to that. And then…

A few weeks ago, I recalled an author I’d read when I first moved to Tennessee (as in, as soon as I got my library card, after rushing there from the DMV with my brand new Tennessee driver’s license, I picked her book up off the new books shelf!). Jerramy Fine’s Someday My Prince Will Come: True Adventures of a Wannabe Princess is an adorable tale of her infatuation with royalty, romance, England, and the intersection of all of those things. She had retweeted my review of that book (this was something like ten years ago!), and I was wondering what she was up to these days when I happened upon In Defense of the Princess: How Plastic Tiaras and Fairytale Dreams Can Inspire Smart, Strong Women (sadly, at the Dollar Tree). Since I have a daughter who somehow fell in love with all things princess and wears a crown or a tiara almost everywhere we go, I figured this was some sort of sign, and the book came home with me. I’m very much looking forward to reading this!

Not pictured: yesterday, I grabbed a copy of Out of Africa and Shadows in the Grass by Isak Dinesen from the thrift store, where I stopped to grab my daughter some water bottles for school. This was on an old want-to-read list, and it’s piqued my interest again after reading Circling the Sun by Paula McLain.

Bookish Things I Did in July 2019

The only thing I can think of is the book sale I mentioned earlier. It’s the one held by an association that uses the profits made from the sale to fund college scholarships for women. I’m on their mailing list (which is dangerous!), so I was happy to show up, browse, and bring home a sack full of books. As I was perusing the general fiction table, a guy next to me reached for a copy of Alaska by James Michener, and of course I had to gush, “That’s an incredible book.” He kind of laughed and said that it was his favorite book, and he always looks to see if a copy he finds in the wild is better than the copy he has at home. I suggested he also read Hawaii (he said he owns it and that’ll be his next read); he mentioned (I think it was!) The Covenant, but it might have been Centennial! It had a C in the title! Either way, I think I own both of them and definitely need to read them. James Michener has long been a favorite of mine and I need to read more of him. It’s always nice to have a bookish conversation about a favorite author with a complete stranger. πŸ™‚

Current Podcast Love

I finished up all the episodes my podcast player (I use Podbean) would load; sadly, it only went down to like Episode 212, out of 361 episodes. I’ll continue to listen to new episodes in the future, as I love this podcast!

I’ve also been catching up on episodes of What Should I Read Next? with Anne Bogel, another podcast I absolutely adore. This one is SO dangerous to the TBR, though (one of the books I have checked out from the library right now ended up on my TBR list because of these episodes I’ve been listening to lately!). If you’ve never listened to this, I highly recommend it. Fascinating guests with awesome life stories and excellent reading lives, great book suggestions, and Anne is a wonderful, charming host.

Real Life Stuff

The biggest highlight of the month was the kids and I going to Branson, Missouri with my mother. We usually travel somewhere with her every year, and she’s so much fun. She likes to GO, so we ended up doing a TON of stuff while we were there. We visited their downtown area and went through a bunch of the shops, visited the mall, sunburned ourselves half to death swimming at Moonshine Beach, visited Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museum and the Titanic museum, rode the Runaway Mountain Coaster and the giant Ferris wheel, rode the rides at Silver Dollar City, splashed around at the White Water water park, swam in our resort’s indoor pool, we took a road trip and ate at Lambert’s Cafe, Home of the Throwed Rolls… I’m probably still forgetting a few things! There’s very little downtime when you’re on vacation with my mother! πŸ˜€ (And the only place my back really gave me trouble was the Titanic Museum, since standing without moving is difficult for me. As long as I’m walking, I’m okay, though my back might spasm- that’s normal. Painful, but expected, so it’s not a huge deal.)

Finally, a roll of toilet paper big enough! The world’s largest roll of toilet paper, at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum, Branson, MO

But even though there was little downtime, I still managed to work out three of the days we were there in the resort’s gym. I *really* let my exercise routine slack this year, being sick for so long, and as a result, I wasn’t happy with the way some of my clothes were fitting, so I made a commitment before we left that I was going to get back in better shape. And so far, I’ve been doing awesome. I do yoga on the days we’re home, and in the evenings I’ve been walking either three or four miles. When it gets too cold and dark to walk, I’ll go back to using my exercise bike in the bedroom, along with yoga. It feels good to be doing something good for my body again (especially since- guess what?- we got sick AGAIN. My daughter had a runny nose and a cough and some congestion on our last day, and of course, since she spent a few days coughing directly into my eyeballs, I got it, too. I never felt too run down with this one, though, so I’ve still been trucking along!).

I also purchased the best pair of socks in the world:

I am 1000% ready to sob my eyes out at A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood, the Tom Hanks movie about Mister Rogers, in November!!!

My husband and I have, of course, watched all of this summer’s season of Stranger Things, and now we’re going through this final season of Orange Is the New Black. And just before we left for vacation, I started on this (and continue to work on it while we watch at night):

Now, usually, I’m a knitter. I’m not the world’s greatest crocheter, and I haven’t crocheted more than a few hats for my son since before my daughter was born (crochet uses up way more yarn than knitting does, so I choose my crochet projects carefully). But I was struggling to figure out what to do with this HUGE skein of variegated blue yarn my mother-in-law gave to me (she’s a knitter). It’s this weird texture and difficult to knit with (which is exactly why she gave it to me! We had a good laugh about that this weekend), and finally, I realized that I have SO much blue yarn that I should just make a huge blue blanket, and thus, the Blue Blanket Project was born. I dug up a bag full of different kinds of blue yarn, some full skeins, some scraps, and I’ve been working on it while we watch TV and visit with family. Might as well get something else done while you’re sitting there, right? I’ll keep crocheting until it gets big enough or I run out of yarn, whatever comes first. πŸ™‚

August will be an interesting month. My birthday is coming up on the 5th (last year of my 30’s!), we’ve got a playdate with a friend we haven’t seen for a while next week, and then on the 21st, the kids go back to school!!! My son will start his senior year in high school, and my daughter will traipse off the kindergarten for the first time. His last first day, her first first day. Bittersweet, but exciting for both of them, and exciting for me! My daughter goes a half day for the first three days, and then on Monday, she’ll go full day, all the time. I have SO many projects I’m looking forward to doing, including cleaning out my seriously-you-guys-it-looks-like-Hoarders garage, ripping out huge parts of awfulness in my yard (cactuses! Whose idea was it to plant cactuses in this yard? We’re in the Chicago suburbs, for cripes sake!!!), overhauling my daughter’s room, cleaning out all my cabinets, cleaning and organizing my closet… I have a huge list of projects that I’m planning on working on, and then I’ll focus more on the stuff I want to do, like reading, writing, learning new things/studying old things, spending more time with my sewing machine, etc. Who knows, I may even get to watch a movie here and there- I haven’t watched TV during the day that didn’t involve animation for five years, so all of this is pretty exciting for me. In the two years between my son going to public school for the first time after homeschooling and the birth of my daughter, I was home full-time and was never, ever bored, so I’m really looking forward to all of this. πŸ™‚

And that’s about it for me this month! I wish you all a happy and productive August, full of great reads, low-priced books, and book reviews that flow easily from your brain onto the computer. How was your July???

Monthly roundup

Monthly Roundup: June 2019

Once again, a month is ending, and I’m sitting here going, “Holy crap, where did it go???”

No big surprise. I was sick for so long that quite a few months blew right past me. Thankfully, I’m feeling MUCH better lately, and because of that, my reading time has definitely gone down, as I’ve been busy playing catch-up with all the many things I wasn’t able to do when I was sick or taking care of my sick kiddo. And there’s a LOT of it, but that’s okay. Everything in good time. πŸ™‚

We had a nasty start to the summer, weather-wise. Rain, rain, more rain, and weirdly chilly temperatures- up until about 9 days ago, I still wore a cardigan when I went out to do the grocery shopping. And just like that, the weather turned this week and we now need the air conditioner on, because the temps have gotten into the low 90’s. Make up your mind, Midwestern weather!!!

But let’s get down to the more important business at hand: BOOKS.

Books I Read in June 2019

  1. American Prison: An Undercover Reporter’s Journey Into the Business of Punishment- Shane Bauer

2. Big Rock- Lauren Blakely

3. Second Chances- Lauren Dane

4. The Idea of You- Robinne Lee

5. The Solace of Water- Elizabeth Byler Younts

6. Living More With Less- Doris Janzen Longacre

7. Mandy- Julie Andrews Edwards

8. Muslim Girl: A Coming-of-Age Story- Amani Al-Khatahtbeh

9. Tikka Chance on Me- Suleikha Snyder

10. Stalking the Divine: Contemplating Faith With the Poor Clares- Kristin Ohlson

11. Raising the Griffin- Melissa Wyatt

12. On the Outside Looking Indian: How My Second Childhood Changed My Life- Rupinder Gill

13. Ramona Forever- Beverly Cleary (no review, read out loud to my daughter)

14. How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids- Jancee Dunn (no review)

15. The Wrong End of the Table: A Mostly Comic Memoir of a Muslim Arab American Just Trying to Fit In- Ayser Salman

16. Flames of Glory- Patricia Matthews (review to come)

17. Leaving the Witness: Exiting a Religion and Finding a Life- Amber Scorah (review to come)

I figured my reading would slow down once summer picked up, and sure enough, this is my slowest month of the year so far. Still not bad, but that’s what happens when you’re finally able to crawl off the couch and start hosing down the house and working on projects you’ve been putting off for months due to being sick. Not necessarily a bad thing, though. πŸ™‚ Eight fiction, nine non-fiction; that’s more non-fiction than I expected, especially given that I end up reading more fluffy stuff when I’m feeling crummy.

Reading Challenge Update

I’m not currently participating in any reading challenges. It’s a reading free-for-all!

State of the Goodreads TBR

I’m adding this as a new category here this month in order to be better accountable for my reading!

Goodreads is where I keep my TBR list; it’s so convenient to be able to hit that want-to-read button. Currently, my Goodreads TBR list stands at 81 books. It seems impossible to get it below 80; the second it gets close, all the other book bloggers conspire against me and start posting amazing reviews and I’m all, “Oooooooh…”

Books I Acquired in June 2019

Slow month for buying books, but I’m okay with that, as I also need to focus on reading things from my own shelves. I did, however, win a copy of If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann, from a blog tour (and dang it, I seem to have deleted the email that reminded me which blog it was! If it was yours, let me know in the comments and I’ll give you credit and link back to you. Thank you!), so that was awesome! I love the cover.

Bookish Things I Did In June 2019

Would you believe not much? I had a scheduling conflict with the library book club, so that was out. There was a used book sale, but the more I thought about it, the more I figured I didn’t really need to go. I already have a zillion books on my own shelves that I desperately need to read, so I saved money, saved gas, saved wear and tear on the car and the environment, and I stayed home. I did grab my son and his best friend and make them walk to the library with me one night, though. It’s about a 3 mile walk, round trip, so that was good exercise for all of us, plus both the boys checked out books (my son’s friend recently got a library card for the first time- he apparently really got into reading The Martian by Andy Weir, to the point where he was excitedly texting my son with updates on what he’d read, which is awesome, and he decided he wanted a library card! It always makes me happy to hear about someone finding a book that makes them enjoy reading. Rock on, Seth!).

I did participate in TheWriteReads’ Ben Galley blog tour, a first for me! If you missed my first chapter review of Bloodrush, check that out. πŸ™‚

I’ll miss the library book group discussion in July as well, since we’ll be out of town. I’m halfway through my fourth sheet of ten books for the summer reading program (you can only fill out five!), so hopefully I’ll finish this next month. Must find more time to read!!!

Current Podcast Love

I’m still digging Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. This past month, I’ve enjoyed interviews with Thien-Kim Lam from Bawdy Bookworms, Alisha Rai, Bea & Leah Koch of The Ripped Bodice, Beverly Jenkins, Jennifer Lohmann of NoveList (check your library website for access!), and two absolutely hysterical live shows recorded at the Romantic Times convention. There’s always something fascinating in this podcast; three of the authors I read this month came from suggestions mentioned in one or several episodes. (It’s a TBR killer, for sure!)

Real Life Stuff

Busy, busy month. In the beginning of the month, I was still in recovery from the sinus infection that wouldn’t die (I ended up needing two rounds of antibiotics to finally send it packing; I’ve still got the accompanying cough), and then I had an easily-fixable-but-still-painful issue with my left ear the next week! I’m just going to pack up and move into my doctor’s office; it would make life a lot simpler… Fortunately, we’re all on the mend right now. I’ve gotten a little bit of energy back and have done a few projects around the house that I’ve been putting off due to feeling like garbage, so that’s a start. I’ve got two blog posts to write up yet that I missed out on when I was sick, so to the people to whom I owe posts, they’re coming!!!

My daughter had her pre-kindergarten eye exam and we found out that she’ll need glasses to correct the astigmatism in her left eye. We had to visit a different optometrist to get her fitted with properly-fitting frames, since her head, face, and nose are so narrow, but they’re in and we’ll be picking them up this morning!

My son was away from home for over a week, attending both his Madrigal retreat and then getting dropped off at a week-long summer music program at a university downstate. He celebrated his birthday (17!!!) while at the Madrigal retreat, and the concert his group put on when my mother and I picked him up from the music program was beyond phenomenal. One of the kids who had a solo in one song is apparently going to be on America’s Got Talent, from what my son said. My son seems to have learned a lot from the session, and I’m so thrilled that he had the opportunity to go (I’m also happy he’s home, I missed him!).

July’s going to be another busy month. We usually attend the 4th of July parade in my sister’s town, and at the end of the second week, the kids and I are traveling with my mom to Branson, Missouri for a week. We usually go somewhere with her every summer, and Branson is a new destination for us. My mom loves to get out and explore new places, so this will be a fun trip. That will also mark the cut-off point for my daughter: no more naps! She still naps in the afternoon most days, mainly because she’s often up before 6 am and we all need a nap after that! But with full-day kindergarten coming up, she’s got to learn how to function without a nap, so we’ll have a month to adjust before she’s off to school.

And that’s it for June! How did you do this past month???