Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Photoaday July!

Thanks to Kelly and SuziQ for the encouragement on twitter. I had started off with my camera hoping to take "real" pictures again but quickly realized that I needed to just do shots with instagram. These were not all taken on their given date. Despite what you all think, I am not super woman. ;)

SELF PORTRAIT (taken in mirror with Canon)





CHAIR (almost as old as I am!)



 BIG (my office building)





BUILDING (note name of school)


SIGN (I couldn't make this up...)

ADDICTION (good thing not readily available here)




9:00.  Almost




 HEART (Kindle cover from Lisa)




 LAST THING YOU BOUGHT (3 years of this fabric)

 CALM (finally)


Whew! How was your July?!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sunday Salon 67 - Book Buzz

Happy Sunday!! I got called out this past week by the Sunday Salon Police for not having posted a Sunday Salon post in a while, so here we are! I've actually been good and writing down ideas when they come to me (at least some of the time). It's just a matter of getting words on screen.


A couple of months ago when I posted about The Night Circus there was a little bit of a discussion in the comments about reading a book before, during, and after the publicity and hype it might be receiving. Thanks to Joy (from Thoughts of Joy) for the post idea.

Bookish Buzz.

As book bloggers we choose whether we take part in the bookish buzz or not. Personally I never paid attention to newly published books before I started blogging. And if I'm really honest I'd say I'm still not entirely interested in what's coming out this fall or this winter or even what's coming out next week. Whether we choose not to take part in the buzz, it is more difficult to ignore the buzz. Especially on twitter.

I am of several minds when it comes to bookish buzz. They're very contradictory. Just warning.

1. I like to avoid hearing too much about a book before I read it. I've discussed this several times and I'll reiterate again that the less I know about a book going into it, the more enjoyable I find the experience. For me it is all about the unfolding and peeling back of the layers to get to the juicy unknown inside.

2. I'm sometimes grateful to have read a book before it has gotten too hyped up. Hunger Games is one of those. I was able to read it without knowing what a Hunger Games was and was able to form my absolute own opinion.

3. But then when all of the Hunger Games hysteria was going on, I kind of wished that I was a part of it. Instead I felt like the old lady in the room.

4. I get really annoyed when I accidentally learn too much about a new book. Accidentally = reading too much crap on twitter. Twitter is tough to ignore--it's easy to see things accidentally (another reason I shouldn't use twitter as my personal sounding board), but blogs are easier to ignore. I'll skip your 5 paragraph book summary every single time.

5. When there is so much buzz buzzing about a book, I want to jump on that bandwagon so quickly my shoes might come off in the leap. Since I read at a snail's pace this rarely happens. And by the time I do get onboard I typically already know too much and the opinions are coming out and they casually sway the way that I feel. And usually not in a good way (ie let down).

6. Thus I try to let a bit of time pass before I read a book that is incredibly hyped. So that the extreme reactions can die down and I can read the book "on my own."

7. But then you're on your own and everyone else has read it except you. Everyone.

8. So the solution is to read the books before the hype? And risk feeling like the old lady in the room? Or wait 10 years until no one cares about the book anymore.

I don't know...but my book club is reading Gone Girl in September and I just don't think I can wait that long. The buzz is extraordinary. Superduperextraordinary. I fear that someone will let something slip (right now all I know is it's a book about marriage and it's all I want to know). Or I fear that it'll be just "meh" after the superduperextraordinary buzz.

Does any of that make sense? It doesn't really make sense to me either.

How do you feel about bookish buzz? Ramble away...

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Stand - Stephen King (Standalong)

This post marks the end of a nine-week readalong of The Stand by Stephen King. Thank you so much to those who decided to Standalong with me. I hope that you'll share your final thoughts on the book in the comments section or via the linky down below.  This post will be a mixture of regular book post and some leading points.

Title: The Stand
Author: Stephen King
Published: 1978/1990; Pages: 1153
Narrator: Grover Gardener
Audio Duration: 47 hrs, 52 min
Genre: Epic Freaking Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5

In Short: At the end of the world as we know it everyone's gotta take a stand.

Why I read/listened: Have always been curious about it but I started looking for The Stand seriously after learning it's one of Debi's favorite books. Knowing that I needed some motivation to actually get to it, I made it one of my 2012 "Things" and then enticed you all to join me. Smooches.

Thoughts in General: Right now as of 10:33 on Thursday night before this post published I liked this book. I wavered between a 4 and 4.5 rating but ultimately went with the 4.5 because I know that a year from now I'll still be thinking about this book. I spent two months with these characters and though I'm so glad to be finished with the book I still want to know what's going to happen next. The Stand is one of those books that will burrow under your skin and become a part of you...whether you want it to or not.

The book is long. Really long. And there are an extraordinary amount of characters (with emphasis on extra). The plot meanders and plods along and unlike some of the other Standalong participants I never felt the pull that I had to know what happened next. But even though The Stand is beastly [and next time I read it I'll opt for the 400 page shorter original], there is such a richness in King's creation that I have never experienced before. I'm not even sure the word "epic" is adequate--the level of detail was incredible and the characters were ones that I came to love and to hate because they were flawed and real. A small part of me wants to say that this book was too long but I'm just not sure that's right. Do you think the book was too long? What would be cut?

Is The Stand scary? Last night when I was heading to bed in the complete dark I felt a red eye on me. I hadn't even read The Stand that day. I literally ran into bed and pulled the covers over my head. But the book isn't truly scary. There were definitely parts that would give me nightmares if I could see them (people mummified in their cars?!) but it's almost more of a psychological kind of scary. Captain Trips seems utterly impossible but is it? Could the dark man reincarnate? Does the center hold? Going into The Stand I was convinced that this book was going to be scary and it wasn't. Not in that way. Yes, I realize that this paragraph makes no sense. Did you find The Stand scary?

Major Spoilers. The ending of the book didn't surprise me in the least. There were too many hints at what was going to arise but I wasn't disappointed either. I'd love to know your thoughts on the ending--were you surprised or did you see it coming. I loved the last two lines and they'll continue to stick with me: "Life was such a wheel that no man could stand upon it for long. / And it always, at the end, came round to the same place again" (1153). So much of this book felt like a good versus evil battle and the common belief is that one must prevail over the other but can there be one without the other? Even as Stu pondered what Glen would say about the Free Zone and the nature of society and the way that it functions hit me. What would have happened if those three hadn't gone west to face the walkin' dude? And since this is a spoiler section, can I just note that I'm royally pissed off about what happens to Nick and Larry? Nevermind the others but really King? Really?

The one quote I marked: The beauty of religious mania is that it has the power to explain everything. Once God (or Satan) is accepted as the first cause of everything which happens in the mortal world, nothing is left to chance...or change. Once such incantatory phrases as "we see now through a glass darkly" and "mysterious are the ways He chooses His wonders to perform" are mastered, logic can be happily tossed out the window. Religious mania is one of the few infallible ways of responding to the world's vagaries, because it totally eliminates pure accident. To the true religious maniac, it's all on purpose" (617).

Bottom Line: Hi guys. Can you all fly to Dallas so we can just get some coffee or drinks and chat about this one? Great! Thanks! I'll even take you two-stepping at Billy Bob's in Fort Worth.

Serious Bottom Line: The Stand is an incredibly rich and complex novel with multi-layered themes and characters. Anyone who tells you differently is full of shit. But beyond being consumed by The Stand for two months, I gained an appreciation for Stephen King as a first time reader of his works. His writing and the story were truly living and breathing and perhaps a bit popculterish but almost unlike anything I've read before. I think I'm too timid to continue reading more King (though I am curious about 11/23/63) but M-O-O-N spells King, laws yes.

A Note on the Audio: When I realized that I wasn't going to be able to reading this bad boy in 9 weeks (yes, I really am that lame), I opted to supplement with the audiobook version narrated by Grover Gardner. It. Was. Fantastic. I did listen on 1.5x for most of the book to keep up my pacing but I loved Gardner's narration. His voice is gravelly, which took some time to get used to, but once I did I knew that he was the perfect choice of narrator. His voice added just the right amount of grit to really make this novel seep into your bones. Through Gardner's narration the book truly came to life and when I had time to pick up the actual book I found that it fell flat in comparison. The time commitment on the audio is huge but I highly recommend it.

Enough of my rambling...I'd love to hear your thoughts:

And seriously--what do you guys think about a #standalong twitter party? Weeknight? Weekend? The only day day that I could commit would be Saturday or Sunday when I'm not working.

Have you read The Stand? What did you think?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Your Local Bookstores: Where in the World Are You Reading?

Thank you to everyone who participated in the first month of Where in the World Are You Reading. We (Lisa, Kelly, and I) are really excited by everything enthusiasm and interest and hope that the meme continues to grow over the months. Also using #wwread on twitter.

July's theme for Where in the World is Local Bookstore

It was a lot of fun to visit the local bookstores but I have to admit that I was a little disheartened by how many folks mentioned not being able to participate because they don't have a bookstore close to them or how their local indie bookstore has recently closed down. I guess I take for granted living in an area where I only need to drive 10-30 minutes in any direction to get to a bookstore. It definitely made me more aware of shopping locally and appreciating being able to shop at a brick and mortar. It also made me wonder how long we'll have that privilege for. Anyway--not to be a sad sap!

So...the links! Links will take you directly to the participants posts. Please pop by and check out the different stores. There's quite a variety!

Even though Ms. Fizzy Jill has some issues with her local bookstore Coalesce in Morro Bay, California (new agey has my skin crawling, too), it is a charming little bookstore complete with new and used books and cozy little corners for reading. But I think it's the Mexican Mochas next door that you must experience.

Suey shared a lovely little bookstore in Salt Lake City, Utah called The King's English. She thinks the bookstore might have been an old house in its previous life and the shop contains many little rooms of books. I love the idea of wandering room to room browsing bookshelves!

I'm terribly jealous of SuziQ's bookstore Powell's in Oregon. Even though her local chapter isn't quite as big as the downtown edition in Portland, it's still pretty dang drool-worthy! Even requires a map to find the used or new books you are seeking. Talk about getting lost in the stacks!

Darren of Bart's Bookshelf allowed us to visit the gorgeous Waterstones bookstore in Bradford, UK. He notes that the building is over 145 years old and the architecture is simply amazing. This one is definitely a bookstore to check out.

Just this past week Melissa of Avid Reader's Musings had a new bookshop pop up close to her.  Indy Reads Books is a fun little shop in Indianapolis that just open its doors on July 13th. And who better than help kick off the bookstore opening party? John Green.

I cheated and shared some pictures of El Ateneo bookstore in Buenos Aires Argentina. It's not local to me but I was there once upon a time and it's local to someone. ;) But seriously--it's the most gorgeous bookstore I've seen (though I think that Darren's Waterstones might be stiff competition!)

Lisa of Books.Lists.Life has a wonderful little bookstore in Pierre, South Dakota--Prairie Pages. While it's a small shop it definitely offers a lot of small town charm and even has a great children's and young adult section. And apparently ponies to catch the Princess's eye.

Li of Book Daze also shared her local Waterstones in the UK but more than just pictures she also shared some of the recent history of the store and it's current market status. From the sounds of it Waterstones is one of the last UK bookchains. Li took many pictures but what I'm most curious about is which Olympic book she'll pick up as a keepsake!

Does your bookstore allow dogs? Apparently Lisa from Lit and Life has a local shop that allows dogs. Better than smoking I say...or maybe incense. As long as one isn't allergic. The Bookworm in Omaha, Nebraska has much to offer, though, especially in the world of book clubs!

Teresa's bookstore The Old Firehouse Bookstore in Colorado looks awesome! It's a refurbished firehouse that sells both used and new books (I'm increasingly jealous of you folks who have the used/new options at your stores). Not sure that it has the old firepole still left in the building though.

A local indie comic book shop? Kelly has an awesome shop within an hour of her in Nova Scotia called Strange Adventures that contains stacks and stacks and rows of comics. Even more wonderful than the bookstore is the helpful and attentive staff. Isn't that one of the bonuses of small bookstores?

Christine brings up some great points about local book stores and the charm and idea of them but the reality that often times they don't have the stock that a main chain bookstore might have. Even though her local book store, The Town Book Shop, doesn't carry what she is normally seeking, it is still a cute little place.  

Larissa brings us to Brussels and Filigranes bookstore. I admit that I had never heard of it before but it sounds like a great place to browse for books and get lost in a good story. Between the atmosphere, events, and bar Larissa describes I'm really not sure what the best part of Filigranes is!

Amanda from A Patchwork of Books takes us to TWO bookstores in the Arlington Virginia area. First is Hooray for Books, a children's bookstore which I deeply wish was close to me so that Elle and I could visit. The second is One More Page Books--Amanda puts special emphasis on the wine and chocolate served in the store.

Alex from The Sleepless Reader shares the neatest bookstore in Belgium called Cook and Book. I mean, really. How could it get any better? The shop looks so inviting and with every turn of the corner there is something new. I'm especially partial to the books on the ceiling!

Valentina from PeekaBook! took us all the way to Italy for Ambasciatori bookstore in Bologna. The store is in an old building and might not look like much from the store front but the inside is amazing with glass windows surrounding the building and three levels of bookish goodness.

Next we visit Hamilton, New York where JoAnn from Lakeside Musing takes us to Colgate Bookstore run by Colgate University. I admit when JoAnn mentioned visiting her university bookstore I thought of a warehouse of assigned reading like the ones I've visited before but Colgate Bookstore is absolutely charming and even multi-leveled with cozy sitting chairs.

And...I shared my local bookstore in Fairview Texas, A Real Bookstore. Still think it's got the best name hands down. Yes, it does have a bar inside but I head there the fourth Thursday of each month for Girl's Night Out Bookclub. I pretty much look forward to it starting the fourth Friday of each month. ;)

Ok, I know...more typing that you want to read so just click on the links and check out the other posts. So many cool places--South Dakota, UK, Texas, Iowa, California, Belgium, Italy, New York, Nova Scotia, Colorado, Oregon, Utah, Indiana, Virginia! Seriously--all over the world. Love it.

Next Thursday will begin round 2 of Where in the World are you Reading. Kelly will be hosting the Library edition! Hope you'll join us!  For a full list of the monthly themes, visit the main meme page.

Happy reading!!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Pin It and Do It: A Pinteresting Challenge Round 2

It's back! It's back!! After a FANTASTIC first round of Pin It and Do It Pinteresting Challenge, I've decided that I can't wait all the way until October for the next round so here we are! I hope that you've got some undone things pinned that need doing!

If you missed #PinItDoIt Round 1, no worries. The challenge is simple: Make something(s) you pinned on Pinterest. Doesn't matter if you pinned it last year or yesterday--and no one is going to split hairs if you pin something just so you can check it off for the challenge. Only counts if done in August.

If you're foggy on the purpose of Pinterest, I briefly discuss in the Round 1 intro post. Of course if you have questions, ask away! And to give you more of an idea of how you can use Pinterest, check out my Pinterest Boards.

Pin It and Do It: A Pinteresting Challenge

The Details (shamelessly the same as May):
1. To participate you will choose your level and then make (or do) that amount of pins during August 2012. Challenge ends August 31st.
2. Report back on your Pin It and Do It success. On August 1st I'll post a linky for you to link up. Ideally this will come in the form of a blog or tumblr post. Or you can post about it on Facebook or Flickr if you don’t have a blog or tumblr. Or create a board on Pinterest for this challenge. If none of the above, report your success in the Wrap-Up Post comments.
3. Anyone is welcome to join. If you need an invite to Pinterest, let me know your email address and I’ll send an invite.

The Levels:
Timid Pinner: 1-3 Pins
Pinterested: 4-7 Pins
Pin Obsessed: 8+ Pins

Some Pinterest Etiquette and Courtesies:
--If you create a pin from a post, make sure you are pinning the true URL of the post and not the main website so folks can easily find the link again.
--When you create a pin, try to include the website in the description of the pin.
--Do not include the entire recipe or instructions in the pin description.
--If you embed a pinned picture on your own blog, make it clear that it is not your original picture--a link back to the original blog post is always appreciated.

And other little tidbits...this does not have to be a food or crafting challenge. Saw an interesting photography lesson? Click! An outfit you'd love to put together? Yup! Organizing idea for around the house? Go for it! A workout Regiment? Kick butt! Really this challenge is endless--you just need to tell us what you pinned and what you did. Make sure to note the original pin wherever you complete your wrapup (or if you do progress reports) to give the originator credit and make the pin easy for others to find.

Sound like fun? Totally stress-free y'all. And admit it--some of you have been collecting pins just for this challenge, right? (ya, me too).

Sign up below and I hope you'll help me spread the word. I'll be using #PinitDoit on twitter.  Starting lines goes up on August 1st but feel free to get an early start if you can't wait.

Happy Pinning! And Doing!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Operation Use My...Ice Cream Maker

Have you guys missed my kitchen antics? Well just in time for the last week of National Ice Cream Month I'm back with Operation Use My Ice Cream Maker!!

Like so many of my other appliances, we received our Ice Cream Maker as a wedding gift. Six years ago an ice cream maker was the epitome of fun in the kitchen (now there are all sorts of baking pans and accessories that I lust for every time I visit a kitchen store). However, unlike many of the appliances in our kitchen that never get used, we have used our ice cream maker...on occasion that is. It definitely doesn't get the love that I think it deserves! Especially since our summer in Texas lasts from April to October.

Now this is operation is going to be a challenge for a few reasons. First, as my friend pointed out when I told her ice cream maker is next--I can't really get creative with what I make outside of frozen treats. Second, this mama has a few pounds that she'd like to ditch (no thanks to all the cooking/baking/operations I've been doing). Usually I bring my goodies up to work but ice cream is tricky that way. I could transport it up here but I can't leave it out for people to grab. Hmmm.

So...what suggestions do you have for using the ice cream maker creatively? I've heard that the ice cream makers can be used to mix frozen beverages and I love this idea! I'd love to try some sorbets and gelatos and regular ice creams (someone tell me the difference between gelato and ice cream please as I hear so many different things...). Regarding the weight, I might just have to couple this challenge with a workout challenge.

I can't decide how long I'll let this challenge go for since it would be crazy and insane to try to make more than one ice cream a week--so at least through the end of August and possibly after Labor Day.

What are your Homemade Frozen Treat tips and tricks?

Every weekend, Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking.  "Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs."  Hope you'll join the fun!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


I forgot to mention we're in Maui this week. Too busy having fun to blog. ;)

Will be back next week. Until then here's the view from our balcony.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mostly Wordless Wednesday - El Ateneo

El Ateneo bookstore in Buenos Aires, Argentina

If you ever find yourself in Buenos Aires, visit El Ateneo--it's an old theater converted into a bookstore. The stage is now a patisserie/cafe and is a wonderful stopping place for tired feet. Visited in 2009 when my sister was living abroad. Another very cool picture here (not mine).

Where in the World Are You Reading? August theme: Local Bookstore. While it's not local to ME, it's local to the Argentines. ;)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Full-Time Working Mom. Rambly Thoughts

Several months ago I received an email from a non-blogging reader who was about to go back to work after an extended maternity leave and wanted to know what advice I had to share. Her questions and pleas and heartache, which I read on a break during work, made me sob at my desk. It took me an embarrassing amount of time to be able to write her back an email in which I confessed that I didn't have adequate advice to share.

I am a full-time working mom--working an hour away from my house. And while this sometimes doesn't feel like a choice, I am fully aware that this is a choice I have made.

I struggle daily with working full time instead of staying at home with my daughter. It is a never-ending conflicting battle but when it comes down to it, this post could be written from so many different angles--the benefits of working, the benefits of staying home, my opinion, your opinion, what society seems to be pushing, etc etc. I think the only thing that matters is that this decision is a personal decision and is different for everyone and different for every baby. No matter how I try to approach this post, the thoughts get jumbled in my head. So, a very rambly view of the work stay home conflict for me (each paragraph is its own so you can easily jump around or skip or whatever).

I am focused and do well with deadlines and goals. Whether they are self-imposed or not. At times I felt lost when I was at home on maternity. Some days my goal was to make my bed and take a shower. These two things got done no matter what but I'm not gonna lie that sometimes brushing my teeth didn't happen until Scott was home from work and I had an extra set of hands.

I've been asked if I worry about missing out on milestones while I'm at work. If I think about this too hard then yes, I do worry. But the first time that I saw Elle take steps was the first time to me. Kind of like if a tree falls in a forest with no one around... I know this is faulty logic but it's not worth driving myself crazy for every single little thing I might be missing during the day.

Some days it's hard not to think about Elle all day long. I've surrounded myself with pictures of her and sometimes I can't help but stare.

Sometimes I say that I can't afford to stay home. This isn't true--we could figure it out if we changed our lifestyle. I'm not going to lie and say that would be easy, though. Eventually I think that we will strive to figure it out, especially when the price of daycare trumps my paycheck.

I get sad when I see all of the things that I could do with Elle if I were at home with her. Story time. Play dates. Swimming. Hanging out reading books together (right--like she'd ever sit still that long). Cooking and baking all day long (double ya right). 90% of the time I don't see Elle until I pick her up in the evenings because she's still in bed when I leave. This is major sad making.

Mentally it was hard for me to be at home with a colicky baby by myself. I was relieved to go back to work and this makes me feel like a bad mom. Now that the babe is older and is able to interact I think staying at home would be easier. But then I worry if I would be able to help her grow as much developmentally as she is in a school setting. I am a hard worker and smart. I do well with my work but how do I make sure that when my work is raising intelligent and well-rounded children that I am succeeding? What if it's not enough?

I know that Elle's teachers care for her but no one loves her like I do. Period.

I'm kind of a homebody (read: very much a homebody) and fear that with staying home I'd absolutely lose touch with a social society. As a stay at home mom this might be my biggest struggle, especially as I love daily routine and can be a bit selfish with my "me time" (read: time when baby naps)

I actually get more done [for me] now that I'm working because I get to work early and take a lunch break. This might also be because I'm not caring for a baby who may or may not take her nap. I have a really tough time letting go of the "need to" while I'm at home and baby naps.

I don’t like having to defend my choice to work. And I don't think that stay at home moms should have to defend their decision to stay home. It's really hard to not want what the other has (for me being home with my baby and maybe some more flexibility in my day; for stay at home moms maybe it's my structure and daily adult mingling--for example), but I'm always wondering how women can strive to be more supportive of one another.

I love my job and I love working. I love my baby and I love being with her. This is just one of those topics that I can't overthink without getting stabby for one side or the other. Reading over the list makes me feel like I'm trying to justify why I am working instead of staying at home. It wasn't my original intention and I don’t feel like I need to prove anything or answer to anyone.

Is this a forever decision? I think that work is good for me and my personality. But I want to spend more time at home and with my kids. A perfect situation might be part time work but that isn't in the cards right now. We'll see. I'll continue to be flexible with what's right for my family. Right now I have to feel confident that this is it.

I'll still continue to feel that twinge of jealousy as moms continue to stay at home, but I'll continue to keep in mind that this is a choice.

So...how's that for a ramble? Any rambling thoughts you want to share?

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