Read any good books? Vol. 1

My taste in books is rather eclectic, to say the least.  As long as it’s not gory or scary there is a good chance that I’ll eventually be in the mood for almost any genre.

My defaults are always biographies and historical fiction though.  And because this has been a downer year for my family I’m not interested in being saddened by books these days.  This first volume of RAGB is quite the mix as you’ll see below.

A little self-help(ish), historical biographies, and a favorite famous person bring you this volume’s reviews.

At Home With Madame Chic.  I’m a fan of Jennifer Scott and her Ten Item Wardrobe so I was excited to get my hands on her newest book.  I did something a bit different (for me) and downloaded the Kindle version because that was the least expensive way to buy it at the time.  (I believe that there are now used copies going for less than the Kindle version).  I enjoyed spending a few hours reading tips on how to make everyday life more exciting by dressing well, using the best of everything that we have, decluttering and being in the present moment.  If none of that sounds particularly enthralling to you then skip this book.  There is nothing groundbreaking and probably very little that is especially French about the tips found in here.

Given the year that my family has had I enjoyed the emphasis on making each day special, particularly because we never know how many days we’ll have.

On the negative side I felt that the book was poorly edited in a few places – twice we’re told that Ms. Scott bakes two cakes at once and freezes the second one for later.  On the other hand, parts of this also felt over-edited and less in Ms. Scott’s voice than her previous work.  I don’t read many books that fall into the “Self-Help” category but the introduction was VERY HEAVY with self-help talk and really turned me off. Maybe people looking for just that kind of thing will be more receptive to it.

Someday, Someday Maybe?  Gilmore Girls is my favorite show ever and I’m not afraid to admit that the sole reason I picked this up was because it was by Lauren Graham.  It’s the story of a struggling New York Actress at the beginning of her career.  It was another super quick read and gets bonus points for the 90s references.

The Greatest Generation.  Tom Brokaw’s collection of vignettes of the World War II generation and their experiences before, during and after the war.   I love this period in history, Tom Brokaw and biographies so I’m not an unbiased reviewer here.  But if you’re looking for something approachable for learning about WWII, read this!  The individual stories are only a few pages rather than the crazy dense chapters that are normally found in history books.

Fall leavesI noticed on the drive into work this morning how most of the trees in my area have already lost at least some of their leaves. And a noticeable percentage of the trees are already completely bare. It’s a foreboding sign, really: Winter Is Coming. I live in an area with long, harsh winters and though I’ve never looked forward to winter (Christmas: yes; Winter: an emphatic NO) I am hoping for an attitude adjustment this year. I want to look forward to and embrace everything that Winter means.

Winter means long nights and short days. It means dangerous driving, long commutes and winds so cold that you can’t feel your face. But it also means the holidays are here, (and, paradoxically) fewer activities to take you away from your home, heartier meals and a slowed-down pace.

My distaste for winter weather has everything to do with the fact that I find the other three seasons more enjoyable. But there are things worth looking forward to in every season, winter included. I’m choosing to get excited and fill myself up with anticipation of things like sledding, cookie baking and chili and beer nights. The difficult commutes, scary cold temperatures and lack of sunshine will all come around again this year but I’ll deal with those issues as they arise.

In no particular order here are a few things about Winter that I am looking forward to:
– taking the time to become a more skilled knitter. I’m ready to move past the super-beginner basics and knit things that aren’t straight lines. Socks, here I come!
– making the most delicious soups and stews
– enjoying being at home without feeling the pressure to make plans or to-dos
– trying the new seasonal Starbucks drink. I can’t get behind salted caramel or chocolate anything, but I think there is an eggnog or gingerbread latte (?). Maybe both.
– holiday parties. any excuse to get dolled up is a good one!
– Christmas morning.  It’s everything to do with the tradition and nothing to do with the gifts…okay, maybe a little to do with the gifts.

I do believe that the difference-maker this Winter will be my changed attitude.  And I’m hoping to have a lot more fun!  I’m not expecting to have a new favorite season – Spring will always hold a most special place in my heart – but here’s to disliking Winter a whole lot less!

Technology fast

This post is hopefully going live on Wednesday, but it was actually written last Sunday. While I may be popping in to check comments I’m going to be less accessible by technology this week.

That’s right – I’m on a technology fast, starting with this week. Sunday evening I read a few chapters of the book I have on my iPad and then locked it up (set it in the cabinet) for the week. I’ve been thinking a lot about just how much time I spend in front of a screen and think that a break is a very good idea. I have a smart phone, so I’ll still be able to check email and respond to texts/messages but it’s an old phone and the internet is slow so there isn’t much temptation to just sit and surf the internet.

Now, to be clear: I think technology is a fantastic thing. It allows me to have a zero minute commute about three times per week. It allows my husband to complete graduate school while hardly ever stepping foot on his campus. (While that may sound like a negative, we appreciate the mobility. And he has the option to attend classes online or in-person and we love the flexibility that gives him – and us.) Facetime is the coolest thing- we can see the people we’re talking to! For a couple that lives away from their families it is seriously sweet to have that option.

But I have found myself wasting more and more time behind a computer screen. I have books I want to read, chores that I want to complete and some extra errands I need to run. I obviously cannot give up computers entirely because I work on one every day but I am giving up my personal use for the week. Stepping away for a bit will hopefully allow me to do those things.

And in closing let me acknowledge that five days is a super short amount of time. I get it. This isn’t a diet or a quick fix. This is a break for a bit to recharge and get my behavior in check. By the time you read this I’ll be back before you know it!

No more pumpkin for me!

Hello there. Today I thought I would do something a little bit different from my usual and link up with a sort of virtual coffee date. If you’re a regular around here and want to join in with me, come link up – we can be newbies together! Let’s sit for coffee and have a chat about what’s been going on in our lives.

So if this is a blind date, my name is Sara and I’m the tall one with dark hair and a sweater since it’s already cooling down quite a bit where I live.  Now the first thing you’d notice if we sat down for coffee is that I’m not ordering anything pumpkin. But you love seasonal drinks, you’d say if you knew me well. And you would be right – except that they came out so early this year that I have already tired of them. So I’ll just have a light roast with cream.  And let me get yours for you, because I’m going to be the heavy friend this time around and it’s the least I can do.

In response to the “how are you really” question, I’d admit to you what I’ve finally admitted to myself – I’m stressed. I’m letting myself feel stress and feelings from earlier this year and I need to do something about that. One bad day at work (which, in the grand scheme of things was not a totally awful day) really pushed me over the edge. It has been an extremely tough year for me and my family and we’re focused on taking things one day at a time while counting down to 2015.

Though, so not to end on such a somber note I’d tell you that there has been an unexpected blessing in all of the bad that has been this year: my entire family is exiting this year with a newfound respect for the fact that life is fleeting and that family is absolutely the most important thing there is. Making our mark on this world is important as well…and the material stuff not so much. We’re all much better at appreciating the beauty in each day than we were a year ago.

And friend, I would probably ask you about the holidays. They’re inching closer and closer. Halloween will be here before we know it and then Thanksgiving and the winter holidays. My family celebrates Christmas, but I would love to hear about your family’s traditions regardless of what you celebrate. My family is at an interesting turning point in terms of holidays…we kids are now all grown-ups and married or partnered off. So even though there aren’t grandchildren in the picture yet the holidays are both more complex and more enjoyable than they were a few years ago. We’ve brought new people into the fold and it’s the perfect time to establish new traditions. What’s your favorite?

Lastly, virtual friend, I would tell you that I’m new here. New to this linkup and pretty new to this blogging thing, even if I have archives that go several months back. My presentation is hardly the most polished – but I’m working on that. Hopefully you’ll take me as I am (isn’t that why we’re friends) and I can put some nervousness to rest.

Thanks for listening to my blubbering on.  Have a really wonderful weekend; I’ll see you around again soon.

Fall capsule wardrobe updates

I figure that we’re halfway through my fall capsule wardrobe at this point. By late November I’m sure I’ll have pulled out most of my winter items…especially because we’re expecting a really cold winter this year. First, a few numbers:

13: The must number of times an item has been worn. Those are my shorts and yes I’m tracking what I’m wearing, although I’m not perfect about shoes and coats.

9: The number of items that have yet to be worn. (A few are too heavy for the weather we’ve had…hence the number of wears my shorts have gotten!)

4: The number of capsule items that I’m guessing will wear out by the end of the season.

3: The items that are leaving my capsule – one is being donated (jeans) and the other two are being put away for spring/summer.

3: The number of non-capsule items that are leaving my wardrobe.

2: The number of clothing items I’ve purchased during this capsule (two tees)

My jeans are being donated because they just don’t fit me. They’re from a brand that’s (mostly) aimed at teenagers and though they’re my size and technically fit, they just don’t look very good on me at all. Oh well. They were $7 from a resale shop and I’ll be bringing them back there this weekend. I have apparently accumulated some SuperCash at Old Navy so I’m intending to hold out on buying new jeans until the next time I can use it. I threw another dress into my capsule to replace the jeans and a button down that I put away for the winter. The shirt makes sense for fall, but looks best tucked into a pencil skirt. Given how infrequently I wear something that dressy to my current job I decided to set it aside for the season.

I pulled three sweaters from my non-capsule to eliminate as well. They are all a few years old and were purchased before Tall sizes were as common as they are now, so they’re all juuuust too short. Two of them are being donated and the third is going to my sister because she has been eyeing it forever.

I know I write a fair amount about my wardrobe on here and this whole concept of a capsule, but dressing this way doesn’t take up nearly as much thought or time as my blogging about it may make it seem. I like writing this process down because I read several other blogs about it before I started my own capsule. Getting dressed in the morning is a breeze. There have only been one or two occasions in the past six months where I had to stop and pause to think about what I was going to wear for a certain event. I’ve found that removing the excess from my wardrobe has made me much more certain about what I like to wear.

Because fall is such a short season where I live I have already decided what will be in my winter capsule. Several things will be repeated but there are a few dressier items (holiday parties!) and very warm items that will be coming out. I think that as soon as I have new jeans I’ll put up pictures of what’s in that capsule. But for now I’m enjoying wearing the heck out of 3/4 length sleeves and ankle length pants!

Target blanket scarf!

I had a crappy work day Monday. Like seriously one of the worst in a long time. It left me crying in my car at lunch time and deflated on my drive home. I didn’t want to worry my husband about it because he’s got plenty on his mind between school and his own job and at the end of the day… it wasn’t a huge deal. But I walked in the door and he just looked at me and said “you’ve never looked like you need a hug more than now” and well, he was right.

Because of crappy day Monday I was home a lot later than usual on Tuesday and he had already gone into his studying lair. But I found this (!!!) on our kitchen table with a little cheer-up note. What can I say … he’s the best!

 

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Day in the life: September 2014

I’m in the midst of doing a “time study” of my days and in doing so I decided to record my activities for a day. I have no idea if anyone but me will find this interesting. I work full time as a researcher/editor (not as exciting as it may sound) but I’m at home two or three days each week.

Initially it was tough for me to figure out a good routine whilst home – but now that I’ve been at it for a few months I like how things are looking. If you’ve ever done one of these, let me know! I would love to read about what your day looks like!

6am – My husband has already been up for about 20 minutes at this point but now that the coffee is made and he’s showering/clomping around our room getting ready I’m up. While he gets ready for work I’ll clean the kitchen (if we didn’t do so the night before) and surf the ‘net for a bit.

6:40 – Husband is in the kitchen now too and getting his food ready for the day. Neither of us are ready to eat breakfast at this point so he’s packing everything for his office and I’m having coffee and chatting with him until he leaves around 7.

7:10 – Home alone; time for my own shower and getting ready. Even though I’m working from home I still get ready and dressed every day because 1) I do occasionally get called into the office on a “home” day and 2) I feel more productive.

8:35 – I’m dressed, ready for the day and have just gotten back from a walk with the dog. As usual, I’m still not hungry yet so I pull my work stuff out and get set up at our kitchen table. Work begins at 9, regardless of where I am.

9:00 – On the dot, I tune into a call with the boss who has been working from another location for a few days. She gives out new assignments and then we get started working for the day.

11:10 – I realize that I haven’t eaten yet so I make myself some eggs and tea and step away from the computer for about 20 minutes. Call my sister to ask about whether anyone has offered to host Thanksgiving yet.  (The answer is no!)

1:25 – Because I’ve finished the project I had yesterday I decide that it would be a good time for my lunch break and I step away agin for about 45 minutes this time.  When I am at the office I try to time lunch so that I can eat with at least a few coworkers.  At home I just break in between assignments and do something like call a friend (or the mother) or do something around the house while listening to the radio so I can rest my eyes a bit.

2:15-5:00 – Work work work until a call with the boss at 5.  This is unusual, but she wanted to call at the end of the day to check on my progress.  I’m guessing this means my assignment is for a higher-profile client than usual.  We decide that I’ll put in two more hours of work tonight to guarantee I’ll finish it during the next workday.  We hang up and I call the husband who says he’ll be home about 6pm and asks for leftovers for dinner.

5:30 – I lost 15 minutes in there…checking personal email and news, I think.  I get dinner ready (which means reheating leftovers and making a salad).  I take care of most of the household chores on days that I work from home because I don’t have a commute to deal with.  When we’re both out of the house we split food prep and clean-up more evenly.

6:00-6:45 – Husband arrives, we eat dinner right away and he takes the dog out for a quick walk.  When he comes back inside we clear off the table so he can do homework and I can put a few more hours in.

9:12 – I’ve done a little over two hours of work and emailed an update to the boss. I shut down the computer and pack everything up because I’ll be going into the office tomorrow.  The kitchen is clean, my husband is still doing homework and the dog is sleeping so I’m going to relax with a book.

10:00 – Relaxing over; I’m going to bed.  I’ll be up at 5 the next morning to get a run in before work.

 

And that’s the day.  My commute isn’t long at all and I don’t generally have to work in the evenings so not much changes from this summary.