Thursday, December 13, 2012

100 Books in 2012

I did it! Last night I finished my 100th book of 2012. Although I haven't kept up with blogging every month what I read, I thought I would finish posting the list, just for closure's sake. (These are the books I read from May to December - January through April is already posted.) I'll put a star next to the ones I especially recommend, and then I'll do a list at the end of my top 12.

May - 8

*The Kind Diet - Alicia Silverstone
Christina Cooks - Christina Pirello
*Binocular Vision - Edith Pearlman
The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway
Fast Food Nation - Eric Schlosser
The Magician's Assistant - Ann Patchett
*Breathing Lessons - Anne Tyler
*Train Dreams - Denis Johnson

June - 9

*The Newlyweds - Nell Freudenberger
*Born to Run - Christopher McDougall
The Uninvited Guests - Sadie Jones
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
Ladder of Years - Anne Tyler
Digestive Wellness - Elizabeth Lipski
Viva Vegan! - Terry Hope Romero
*The Tiger's Wife - Tea Obreht
*The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks - Elizabeth Lockhart

July - 8

Run - Ann Patchett
*Forks Over Knives
Teach Your Own - John Holt
Here's a Penny - Carolyn Haywood
James and the Giant Peach - Roald Dahl
The Whole-Brain Child - Daniel J. Siegel
Drop-Dead Healthy - A.J. Jacobs
Homeschooling Your Child the First Year - Linda Dobson

August - 3

*The Element - Sir Ken Robinson
The Slipping Down Life - Anne Tyler
Vinegar Hill - A. Manette Ansay

September - 9

Angela's Ashes - Frank McCourt
The Hand that First Held Mine - Maggie O'Farrell
The Starch Solution - John A. McDougall
It's Here Somewhere - Alice Fulton
Winnie the Pooh - A. A. Milne
To the Rescue: The Biography of Thomas S. Monson - Heidi S. Swinton
Little Bee - Chris Cleave
The Know-It-All - A.J. Jacobs
*If Morning Ever Comes - Anne Tyler

October - 15

Loitering with Intent - Muriel Spark
The Shoemaker's Wife - Adriana Trigiani
Let Them Eat Vegan - Dreena Burton
No Children, No Pets - Marion Holland
*The Postmistress - Sarah Blake
*The Lacuna - Barbara Kingsolver
*The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and My. Hyde - Robert L. Stevenson
The Tin Can Tree - Anne Tyler
Moving in His Majesty and Power - Neal A. Maxwell
*The Uncommon Reader - Alan Bennett
Breakfast at Tiffany's - Truman Capote
*The 100-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared - Jonas Jonasson
*Daring Greatly - Brene Brown
*The Book of Jonas - Stephen Dau

November - 10

The Painted Veil - W. Somerset Maugham
The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint - Brady Udall
*The Secret Scripture - Sebastian Barry
*The Good Earth - Pearl S. Buck
The Life of Our Lord - Charles Dickens
The Death of Ivan Ilyich - Leo Tolstoy
A Charlotte Mason Education - Catherine Levison
More Charlotte Mason Education - Catherine Levison
Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Preschool Years - Elizabeth G. Hainstock
Searching for Caleb - Anne Tyler

December - 4

*Clean Home Green Home - Kimberly Delaney
*A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
*Gift from the Sea - Anne Morrow Lindbergh
*The Book of Mormon (obviously I'll put a star by this one! :) )

I feel so accomplished. I think this is the first New Year's resolution I've ever made and kept all the way to the end, so it's a big deal for me. I couldn't have done it without Andrew - he filled in the gaps that I sometimes left in domestic duties while I was busy reading. He was totally supportive and never once complained that I was reading too much - even when sometimes I was.

I learned a lot from all these books - how to be a good writer, for one, and also how to be a bad one. (Probably my least favorite book was The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani - don't read that one, it was very poorly written. Sorry to be rude.) One of the main things I've learned and that I'll keep with me forever is that there are so many different ways to live life. I used to feel like my way was the only right way, but I think now I'm less judgmental of other people's choices. (Hello, vegan homeschooler, it's a good thing I learned that lesson!) I don't know exactly what book taught me that lesson, but as I reflect on the year as a whole that's one thing that emerges to me.

It was fun to type the titles again. I was amazed at how clearly I remember where I was while reading it and things about the book. I won't be reading as many books in 2013 - I have a new goal for this next year. Now that I have read 100 books, I'm going to write a book of my own. My goal is a page a day to have a full novel by the end of the year. Stay tuned for updates on that. (In my twice annual blogpost.)

And now here's my list of my favorites of the year!

Top 12 Books of 2012

Digging to America - Anne Tyler
Persuasion - Jane Austen
State of Wonder - Ann Patchett
The Snow Child - Eowyn Ivey
Breathing Lessons - Anne Tyler
The Newlyweds - Nell Freudenberger
The Element - Sir Ken Robinson
The Uncommon Reader - Alan Bennett
The 100-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared - Jonas Jonasson
The Book of Jonas - Stephen Dau
The Secret Scripture - Sebastian Barry
The Good Earth - Pearl S. Buck

Sunday, July 1, 2012

June Highlights

 We went to NM for a visit and had a blast! The kids especially loved swimming and playing with cousins.
 We celebrated our 6th anniversary by eating a delicious meal at the Kennebec Cafe in the mountains of CO.
 We went to UT so I could reunite with some of my favorite people in the world. All us old friends from OK met at Olive Garden in Salt Lake and caught up. It was the best time I've had in a long time - I love these girls!!
 I started running. I got awesome new shoes and was consistent in my 3 days a week...until injury struck again. Shin splints (AGAIN) and a strange pain in my left foot. Despite my efforts to be careful and start slow. Bah. But I signed up for a race in UT at the end of July, so I'm not done yet!
 Family movie night! We do this usually every Friday, and it's so much fun. It usually involves homemade pizza and a treat.
 A visit from the Webbs!
 A delicious meal (with Perry and Christi) at Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill. Umm...probably the best meal of my life. I'm not usually one of those nerds who take pictures of my food at restaurants (Andrew and Perry both mocked me when I pulled out my camera), but honestly I didn't want to forget this meal. Just looking at this picture makes my mouth water. (Is it sad that two of my highlights involve food? If I were totally honest, I'd admit that food is involved in most highlights of my life.)
 A visit from the Allreds! Seriously the best part about living here has been all our visitors. We LOVE it!! We went to the jump place in town and had a blast.
We took the kids to the theater to see Brave, and it was worth the wait. I bought the soundtrack yesterday and love it!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

My Reading List: April

So thrilled to have a hardback, brand new Anne Tyler book to call my own!

Slowly but surely, I'm blogging all my books. It might take me until 2014 to record all this, but oh well. One thing I do like about doing it a bit late is that I get to think back about the books and remember them! Like catching up with old friends. :)

Big thanks to those who commented (esp. Trevor and Sherry, you guys are the greatest!). I have added your books to my list!

April was my slowest reading month of the year, including those months I haven't blogged yet. I only read 6 books. Which, for normal life, that would be pretty good. But for 100-book-a-year-life? Not so hot. Thankfully I had March's 12-book cushion to carry me through.

Little Women - Louisa May Alcott. I read the Beginner's Classics version of this book several times in my younger years, but never the full one. It was just a fun classic to read. I was familiar with the story (and I'm sure you are too - if not, please read it!), so I just got to enjoy it. I am looking forward to reading the younger version to Eva!

Night - Elie Wiesel. This was a book club selection that I was thrilled to read because it's been on my to-read list for years. This is a memoir of a Holocaust survivor, and it's just heart-wrenching. Sometimes I feel a little overwhelmed by Holocaust stories - there are so many of them, and they are just so devastating. But this book was beautiful. He did a great job of placing the events in a religious context and asking the question, "Where was God?" It got me thinking quite a bit about why something so atrocious was allowed to happen and reflect on how it would affect my faith if I were in that situation. Wonderful book.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love - Raymond Carver. This is a short story collection. My teacher at UNLV was close friends with Ray Carver and talked about him all the time, so I thought it would be worth reading. It was and it wasn't. I'm not a huge fan of short story collections because I can't figure out a good way to get through them. Reading them one after the other doesn't offer much in the way of story continuity, but it is nice to sink in to the language of the author a bit. Carver's writing is incredibly...I don't know the word. Bare? Says everything it needs to say in the shortest number of words. It's amazing, really. But when I look back on the book, I can only remember a small handful of stories. Most of them - I'm being honest here - ended with me feeling left out. Like I'm the dumb one who doesn't have the intellectual capacity to connect with these characters. But really, I think it's just timing. I'm plowing through things here, not necessarily spending a ton of time on everything. So I'd say it was worth reading because it's Raymon Carver, but probably best read in smaller doses.

The Patron Saint of Liars - Ann Patchett. I loved this book. It's Ann Patchett's first novel, and the story is set in a Catholic home for unwed mothers in Kentucky. The main character, Rose, comes there pregnant (although she is married) and planning to give up her baby. But when the baby, Cecilia, is born, she changes her mind and stays there for many years, trying to run away from her past. This was my favorite book of the month - I highly recommend it.

The Giant's House - Elizabeth McCracken. After reading Ann Patchett's The Getaway Car and reading about her friendship with Elizabeth McCracken, I wanted to read one of her books. This one looked interesting and it was a National Book Award Finalist in 2006, so I picked it. It's set in the 1950s in a small town in Cape Cod. Peggy Cort is a librarian who meets James Sweatt, a boy with giantism. It's the story of their slightly strange but kind of sweet relationship. Amazon says, "Two misfits whose lonely paths cross at the circulation desk, Peggy and James are odd candidates for friendship, but nevertheless they find their lives intertwined in ways that neither one could have predicted. And as James grows -- six foot five at age twelve, then seven foot, then eight -- so does Peggy's heart and their most singular romance."

The Beginner's Goodbye - Anne Tyler. This is Anne Tyler's newest book. I preordered it and anxiously awaited its arrival in my mailbox. I cannot believe this woman is over 70 years old and still churning out novels. Stellar ones, at that. This is the story of Aaron, who loses his wife Dorothy when a tree crashes into their living room and lands on top of her. He works at his family's publishing business where he writes beginner's manuals - kind of like how-to books. Over the course of the novel, he learns, after his wife starts reappearing to him, how to say good-bye. It was a sweet story and typical Anne Tyler - ordinary person in an ordinary situation, but so well-written that I feel like I turn into the character myself. Obviously, I recommend this book.

Also, I want to apologize to anyone who is totally annoyed that I'm only posting about books. It's just where I'm at right now as far as blogging goes. :)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My Reading List: March

Reading Atonement at the Springs Preserve playplace

I have fallen so behind on posting my books! But don't worry, I haven't fallen behind on the actual reading part, which is more important, wouldn't you say? Thanks everyone for your comments and suggestions. It's always better to have a recommendation when searching for a book!

March was my record reading month so far - I read 12 books. I wish I could sustain that kind of reading, but unfortunately it's something that ebbs and flows a bit. I'll be lucky if I get 8 this month!

Middlemarch - George Eliot - This one has been on my list since college when one of my professors mentioned he was reading it. It's LONG. But I really liked it. It's a classic, and I love George Eliot (I read Silas Marner in high school and love it - I would recommend that one too!)

The Snow Child - Eowyn Ivey - This one was a birthday present from my husband. I was a little nervous about it, I'll be honest. I had read a review on it in the Costco Connection magazine and had decided against it. But I totally loved it. It's the story of an elderly couple who haven't been able to have any children, and they build a girl made of snow who comes to life. It's based on the fairytale. It's set in Alaska, where my sister had JUST moved when I read it, and it's beautiful. I fell in love with Mabel, the female protagonist, and it made me want to fly to Alaska immediately. (Also, to visit Lindsay.) I highly recommend this book. It's a little bit of modern fairytale magic.

The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald - How have I gotten to age 28 without having read this book? No, I take that back. I was supposed to read it in high school, but I don't think I read the whole thing. It was a quick, short read, and it was way better than I remembered. I won't summarize the plot because probably everyone in the country has read it!

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant - Anne Tyler - Oh wow, Anne did it again. I LOVED this book. It was a little sad, as many of her books are. It's the story of the Tull family, who is abandoned by their father and find a way to keep going by not really acknowledging that it happened. My favorite character, Ezra, opens a restaurant (hence the title of the book) and hosts repeated attempts at family dinners. It's beautifully written, of course. Probably my favorite book of the month, and in my top 3 Anne Tyler books.

Atonement - Ian McEwan - I read half this book a couple years ago but never made it all the way. This time I was determined to finish it, as I had borrowed the edited version of the film from my in-laws and wanted to read the book before watching the movie. Maybe a poor motivation, but it worked. :) I liked the book, but didn't really care for the movie. This is the first McEwan book I've read, but I'll definitely read another. The writing was beautiful, although the story doesn't have the happy ending I wanted. It's about a girl, Briony, who sees a strange interaction between her sister Cecilia and their gardener's son Robbie. She imagines it to be something it's not and sets in motion a turn of events that changes everyone's lives forever. She writes the book (fictionally, I mean) as "atonement" for her "sin."

Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert - This is the book that started my downhill slope. It really put a damper on my mood and I didn't like it at all. I know it's a classic and there is value in it, but it just made me feel yucky. As far as classics go, this one was not my favorite. Similar to Anna Karenina but not as good. I was sick to death of adultery by the end.

Them - Joyce Carol Oates - I had been wanting to read a Joyce Carol Oates book and there are about 200 to choose from. She's an incredibly prolific writer. I found this interview of her online somewhere and the interviewer asked where she as the author would recommend someone start reading her work. She gave two choices: Them and Blonde. I chose Them, I guess because it was older and the idea behind the book was intriguing. JCO was teaching a writing class and met a student who told her her strange life story, and the book is based on that student's writings. Maybe it was because I had just read Madame Bovary, but I really didn't like this book. I finished it, but I felt like I was dragging myself through every page. It was incredibly depressing. Maybe I should have read Blonde? Anyone have any JCO suggestions?

Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck - Once again, how have I not read this yet? Unlike Gatsby, this was never required reading for me in all my education. So I'm really glad I took it into my own hands and read it, because I loved it! I read Winter of Our Discontent in college and loved it - Steinbeck is a master. I was another short one - I read it in one sitting before bed one night. I'll make sure my kids read this before they finish high school if nobody else makes them. It raises some important questions.

How it All Began - Penelope Lively - This was a recommendation from Ann Patchett's website. And I hate to say this, but I think she recommended it because the author is a friend of hers. Because honestly, I didn't like this. It was pretty immature writing and just kind of ho-hum. The idea was a good one - exploring how people's lives are all connected - but the execution just wasn't great. It was also written by a British woman (I think) so some of the references were over my head. Oh well.

The Getaway Car - Ann Patchett - Reading this book was like coming up for air after being stuck underwater for too long. Totally refreshing and wonderful! It was short, and it's a "writing book," and it was JUST what I needed. No adultery, no depression, just great little stories and some excellent advice. I love Ann Patchett.

The Jungle Book - Rudyard Kipling - Another Ann Patchett recommendation. Clearly, I put a lot of stock into what that woman says, and for good reason! This was way better than the Disney movie. You all know the story, but it goes beyond that. There were a couple different stories in there, and they were all excellent. I didn't even feel childish reading about talking animals.

Chloe Cooks - Chloe Coscarelli - This is a cookbook. It might seem strange to put a cookbook on my list, but I decided it counts. I read it from cover to cover (I often do that with cookbooks I love) within a few days, so I read it. It's a vegan cookbook, and it's great. The photography is amazing. After a few months of testing, some of the recipes aren't as good as I would like, but it was worth buying. Random, but there you go.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Our April update

It's been a pretty eventful week! Last Tuesday we took the kids hiking. It was the first time since high school I have been hiking and enjoyed myself, so it was a landmark day. Both because I am in better shape and I'm not pregnant and because the kids are getting old enough to do fun stuff like that! It was a perfect day.

The next day we left (sans Andrew, again) to Utah for Cami's graduation from BYU, and then to Idaho for Kim's baby Eliza's blessing. It was a great trip. The kids fell in LOVE with my aunt's house, where we stayed, and were literally crying and begging to go back the rest of the time. I told Leighton we could go back for his birthday. Their backyard was paradise - trampoline, swingset, slide, dog, and cat. What more could the kids ask for?

 My parents came from TX for the weekend as well, and it was so fun to be all together. I was missing Linds something FIERCE!! It just wasn't the same without her there. Christmas will be awesome.
Idaho was a blast too, although I took no pictures. We went to Rexburg, where I met Andrew and part of my heart still lives. I was thrilled to walk the campus and reminisce to myself. So many memories, most good and a few bad, but I sure love that town.

We went to the sand dunes, where Kim rented a 4-wheeler and we all took a spin. (I was mocked for my extreme-slow speed, but I'm not exactly an adventurous spirit when it comes to motor vehicles. Or anything, actually.) The kids got completely FILTHY playing in the sand and lake, alternatively, and their clothes were caked. They all 3 fell asleep on the way back to IF, so they obviously wore themselves out in a good time.

Sunday night I stayed with our dear friends the Noyes back in Utah, who are pretty much like family. It was a quick visit but so much fun. Our kids are all getting married to each other someday, so if for nothing else we have to keep the relationship alive. ;)

We came back home on Monday, to a spotless house and a bored Daddy. He cooked us a yummy dinner that night and we were so glad to be back. And just in time to start our new school year bright and early Tuesday morning!

Yes, we're officially homeschoolers. Possibly nerdy, but I absolutely love it. We found out we'll be moving in the fall, so I decided to start our academic year a little early so we can take our break when most kids go back to school. We just finished our preschool year 2 weeks ago, but who needs a summer break anyway? We get pretty bored around here without our list of books to read. :) We use Sonlight and I can't say enough about how wonderful it is. If you are even considering homeschooling, please look into this company! It's absolutely the best. Just 2 days into our kindergarten curriculum and I've already learned a few things myself!

So there's our little update. We're happy to be back home in the swing of things, as they say.

Oh, and also, my sisters' cooking blog is back in gear as well. If you need some recipes, head on over and check it out. My recipes are all vegan (I'm a vegan homeschooler; I may be losing a few friends here...) but my sisters' have more "normal" stuff. Let me know what you think if you take a peek!

Friday, March 30, 2012

My Reading List: February

Another month of reading to report. I'm a little behind, obviously, since March is almost over, but here's my February reading!

On Writing by Stephen King. I absolutely loved this book. I had heard great things about it from everyone I know who's read it, and they were right. It was good advice and good stories at the same time. It's a writing book, not a novel - it's perfect for anyone who wants to be a writer!
Steel Magnolias by Robert Harling. This classic movie that I've loved my whole life actually started out as a play! I was working on a story about a group of women and wanted to read this a inspiration. I was pleasantly surprised that the movie follows the original dialogue verbatim. It was quick - probably about 50 pages or less - and fun. Made me want to watch the movie again, and I could hear Sally Fields' and Dolly Parton's voices in my head the whole time!
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. Oh, Anna Karenina. She became a household name during the almost 2 months it took me to get through this almost 900-page monstrosity. Eva would say, "Are you reading Anina Karenina again?" Inevitably, I was reading it all the time trying to be done with it. I'm proud to say I finished it and can add it to my list of major accomplishments. It was worth reading, although a little lengthy.
Celestial Navigation by Anne Tyler. My monthly dose of Anne. This one did not have the ending I wanted. I read it through quickly and was sitting in my room at night on my bed when I finished it. After reading the last paragraph with utter disbelief, I threw the book on the floor and said, "Seriously, Anne??" But of course, since it was Anne Tyler, it wasn't a disappointment in the long run. After I had time to think it through, I agreed with the ending. It made sense, although it wasn't "happpy" in the traditional sense. It's the story of a handicapped man (never says exactly what his handicap is) and his strange relationship with a woman. That's a pathetic blurb, I know. But I recommend it, despite the ending. (I have yet to read an Anne Tyler that I would NOT recommend.)
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Sprout. This is actually a collection of short stories, which was a first for me in my reading life, all involving in some way the character of Olive Kitteridge. The writing was beautiful, I loved the characters (especially Olive), and I put Elizabeth Sprout's newer book, Amy and Isabelle, on my to-read list because I loved her writing so much. I definitely recommend this book. 
A Room with a View by E.M. Forster. Another classic purchased in college with lofty intentions and a future of collecting dust on my bookshelf. It's short, though, and I thought after Anna Karenina, I could do ANYTHING. I finished reading it in line at Disneyland and enjoyed it - anything you can read in the happiest place on earth has to be pretty good. It's set in England in the late 1800s, I think, and is about a girl named Lucy who "faints into the arms of a fellow Britisher when she witnesses a murder in a Florentine piazza. Attracted to this man, George Emerson--who is entirely unsuitable and whose father just may be a Socialist--Lucy is soon at war with the snobbery of her class and her own conflicting desires. Back in England she is courted by a more acceptable, if stifling, suitor, and soon realizes she must make a startling decision that will decide the course of her future: she is forced to choose between convention and passion. The enduring delight of this tale of romantic intrigue is rooted in Forster's colorful characters, including outrageous spinsters, pompous clergymen and outspoken patriots." Thank you, Amazon, for that summary. It is incredibly painful for me to try to sum up a book in a few sentences. Anyway, if you like reading classics, this is a good one.
Persuasion by Jane Austen. Poor Jane must sit up in heaven and look down at the masses clamoring over Pride and Prejudice and want to scream, "I wrote other books, you know!" Sometimes I want to scream that for her. I took a class in college solely on the works of Jane Austen and was able to broaden my Austen horizons considerably. Thankfully, because Persuasion is my favorite one, surpassing even the untouchable P&P. It's short and wonderful with just the happy ending you want and all the suspense (will he? won't he?) that you expect from a good love story. I HIGHLY recommend this book.
Divergent by Veronica Roth. This was our book club selection for the month and I was skeptical at first. I don't mean to be a book snob, but deep down I am. I took it to CA (on my Kindle) and ended up reading 95% of it lounging on the beach, which is the perfect way to read anything. This is similar to Hunger Games - it's that type of a book. Although the writing wasn't anything to sing about, I actually really got into the story. It's YA fiction, so the story is intense and easy to follow. The sequel is coming out May 1 (Insurgent) and I do plan on reading it.
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. I think I have a definite THING for authors named Ann. My first Ann Patchett book was Bel Canto, in college. Literally, I read the first paragraph and started crying, it was so beautifully written. (Could have been hormones or being 19, I know, but it REALLY was good.) Andrew bought State of Wonder on his Kindle while he was in Iraq and didn't like the ending, so I was slower to get to it because of his discouraging comments. When I finally did read it, I wondered why I had stopped reading Ann Patchett. I need her in my life. And I didn't hate the ending. The next day (!!) I saw Ann Patchett on the Colbert Report and fell even more in love with her. Since then I have started following her blog and requesting everything she recommends at the library. I just may have to make an Ann Patchett book a monthly treat too!

9 books in February, including some pretty good reading on family vacation - I was pleased with the month.

I was thrilled after my January post when a couple people asked me about Anne Tyler books. Stacey borrowed one and I had one sent to my poor sister Lindsay, who just had a baby. In Alaska. I told Andrew it's worth all the work of posting (including those dumb little pictures) if one person reads a book I recommended. Sorry my little blips about the books are so totally pathetic - I'm not trying to do a real review, more of just a list. (If you want to read REAL book reviews, visit my friend Trevor's blog. Seriously? It puts my ramblings to shame.)

If you read anything on my list, please let me know how you like it! I'd also love any recommendations. 100 books leaves a lot of room for extras on the list!

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Fancy Party for a Birthday Girl

Eva turned 5 this past week! We threw her most successful birthday party yet, I think. It was a Fancy Nancy party (if you haven't read that book to your little girls, you MUST) and wow, was it fancy. We had a tea party outside (al fresco, as Nancy taught us), all make-upped and accessorized out. Even me.

Fruit with chocolate sauce, cookies, and a beautiful cake made by, as Eva explained, "my babysitter's mom."

We had great weather and it was this fancy girl's dream party. In the days since the party, she has not put down her new pink purse or stopped wearing a necklace or two. Getting fancy is part of her daily routine now, and no outfit is complete without a few accessories. I may have created a monster, but she sure is a cute monster!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

My reading list: January

This year I set a goal to read 100 books. I need to average between 8 and 9 books a month to reach this, which means I am constantly reading something.

I've been able to keep up by carrying a book with me EVERYWHERE. The bathroom, the kitchen, every time I leave the house. While the kids ride bikes, I sit on the driveway in a lawn chair reading. (As pictured above.) I read during quiet time, I read while I'm eating. I haven't yet figured out how to read in the shower. When we went to Disneyland a couple weeks ago, I read while standing in line and lounging at the pool. I read in the car, but only when Andrew's driving.

It's a goal I have thoroughly enjoyed striving for, which is more than I can say for my goal to lose 10 more pounds. In case anyone is interested, here is my list for January - I'll post February's soon.

 Cloak by James Gough. This book is written by the son of a friend in stake choir. It's his first novel, and she invited me to her book club where the author would make an appearance and answer questions and whatnot. I was thrilled to meet an author and her excitement about her son's book was contagious. I bought it on my Kindle and it was a fun, quick read. It's a story about a boy named Will Tuttle who lives in a bubble and comes to discover this whole other world of half animals, half humans. It's a YA novel, and the plot was imaginative and fun. The author himself is a very cool guy, and I'd recommend this to anyone who wants a fun book that feels like you're watching a movie as you read!
The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. I read this book all the way through in one sitting while I was bedroom bound the day before a colonoscopy. (You may read between the lines to understand that one.) It's a memoir, and therefore the true story of the author's life. It was sad, but also illuminating. It made me think differently about homeless people. It had a strange hopefulness at the end that made it more refreshing than depressing.
 Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. I bought this book in college (thanks to Trevor) and it has been sitting on my shelf unread since then. Over 7 years. I finally buckled down (my 100 books has to include 30 classics) and read it, and I was glad I did. It doesn't need much of a review from someone like me, but I'll say it was worth reading and I wish I'd read it 7 years ago. Although I did have a fresh appreciation for it after a life beyond college.
Digging to America by Anne Tyler. Oh, Anne Tyler. She is my absolute, number 1, all-time favorite author. She is my answer to that famous get-to-know-you-question, "If you could have lunch with one person, living or dead, who would it be?" I adore this woman and her writing. Every one of her books is my favorite. I can't say enough about her. Someday, I hope to be able to write a book that approaches her awesomeness. If and when I write a novel, it will be because of Anne Tyler. This particular one (I'll be reading one of hers every month - it's like candy that I'm trying to space out to savor more) is the story of two families who each adopted baby girls from China. One family is American, the other is Iranian. It's about what it means to be American and it's a fascinating perspective of a "foreigner" into American culture. Like all her books, this one is set in Baltimore. READ THIS BOOK. It's awesome.
 Private Life by Jane Smiley. Last year I went to the Vegas Valley Book Festival and dragged my children to a reading by Jane Smiley. She's a household name for us, and occasionally Eva will say, "Remember Jane Smiley?" I bought this book there but didn't get the chance to have it signed since my ticking-time-bomb-children ran out of steam before the end of the talk. This is her newest novel I believe, and the characters were vaguely based on Jane Smiley's grandparents. It was an insightful look at marriage through the eyes of the wife, Margaret. I also have A Thousand Acres on my list, which was a Pulitzer Prize winner by Jane Smiley.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. This is a non-fiction book about Henrietta Lacks, whose HeLa cells have given rise to countless scientific discoveries. I read this one for my own book club. It was an interesting story, although parts of it were a little too scientific for me. It's manageable, though, for non-scientific types like me, and definitely worth reading.
Little Children by Tom Perrotta. This cover is slightly pornographic, so don't look too close. Sorry, it's the only copy Amazon had. It's not the one my library carried ,which was an innocent green with a flower or something. :) This book was recommended to me by my creative writing professor at UNLV - he said Tom Perrotta had a great way of writing about children, which was relevant to me in my pursuits. The writing was good and the story was interesting, but I wouldn't recommend it to many people just because of the subject matter. Basically, it's about adultery. I gleaned from it what I needed, so there you go. :)

I only made it to seven in January, so I had some to make up for. But I didn't set my goal until halfway through the month, so I wasn't in as big of a rush.

Also, I should make it clear that I'm not trying to do justice to these books through my poor reviews - just give a basic list of what I read with a few tidbits. I hope to inspire someone to read a little more with my efforts at putting all this info on the WWW, and that's about it.

You think you don't have time to read until you start looking at all the dead moments throughout the day. You'd be surprised how much you can read by cutting out some TV time and carrying a book with you.

P.S. This makes it sound like I neglect my children something fierce. I don't, at least not entirely. We still do preschool every day, they eat healthy meals, the house remains somewhat clean, and they seem to still be happy, well-adjusted human beings. Of course, I couldn't do this without the total and complete support of my awesome husband, who makes it possible for me to sit and read more than my fair share.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Conquering the To-Do List

Days like today make me wonder why I bother making lists of things to do each day. I have a blackboard in my kitchen where I write the things I want to remember to do. It gives me satisfaction to see things crossed off, although rarely do I get the pleasure of crossing everything off.

This morning I woke up and sat up in bed to read from the general conference Ensign - it's what I do when I need a break from the scriptures. (I'll probably be struck down for saying that, but it's true.) I heard Dean playing in his crib and suddenly remembered that I'd noticed he'd taken his pants off last night and was sleeping in just a shirt and a diaper. I instantly knew why he was so quiet and not crying to get out - he'd found something to entertain him. I ran in there to find him laying down, singing a song with poop covered hands and a leaking brown diaper. I cleaned up that mess and put him in the tub just in time to find Leighton awake with a pee-soaked bed. He forgot to put a Pull-up on last night before bed and I, obviously, forgot to make sure he remembered.

I pulled the sheets off the bed - good thing it's Monday and it's the day I wash the shets anyway - and started a load. Andrew had left steel-cut oats cooking in the crock pot, thank heavens, so I didn't have to cook breakfast. I dished up our daily mush, complete with agave, almond milk, and a dash of cinnamon. Dean, however, was not pleased with his serving. He screamed and flung it angrily all over his newly-bathed self and the kitchen table. Mush is possibly my least favorite thing to clean up, as it gets all slimy and, unlike rice and couscous, doesn't get any better with letting it dry out. I took away his bowl and began the 30-minute battle: Dean's attack on breakfast, on the kitchen table, against poor one-man-army me, defending all our bowls amidst screams and tears.

Finally everyone was fed and dressed, preschool was finished for the day, and my list was ready to go on the chalkboard. We are doing our annual spring cleaning this month, which includes a complete overhaul of every room in the house. Last week was living room and toy is the dreaded kitchen. I wrote it on the list with fear and trembling, but I was still determined to get it done. (With Andrew's help, of course.)

The first step, after breakfast dishes, was to start the oven on self-cleaner, which always gives me a horrendous headache but is a necessary evil. I left the kids to watch a movie while I ran upstairs to shower, thinking naively the house was secure for a few minutes of peace.

I came downstairs 20 minutes later to Dean jabbering on about something and "Uh oh" while pointing to the kitchen. Eva said, while still sitting serenely on the couch, "Mom, Dean broke a jar. You better go look." The jar of quinoa was shattered on the floor and the cursed little brown beads were scattered in every corner of the kitchen. I somehow managed to clean it all up, only having to physically remove Dean back to the living room three times. As I turned off the vacuum hose, Dean came up jabbering again and holding out his little chubby hand covered in blood. Apparently he had tried to clean the broken glass up himself. I washed him off and glanced at my to-do list with a sigh. 10am and no closer to checking anything off.

So I wrote "shower" at the bottom of the list and checked it off with a smile. Maybe I should also check off "clean up poop," "clean up pee," and "clean up broken glass and quinoa."

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Today I had the pleasure of reuniting with a friend from our Oklahoma years, and it made me remember all sorts of people I loved in all the different places we've lived.

I'm not one for keeping in touch with people, and not one for blogging, as you may have noticed. I had almost given up on blogging completely - in fact, I had. But after my friend left this evening, I thought, "Why not?"

So here I am, with no commitment to continue regularly but just a desire to share our most recent (decent) family picture with all of you and say hi. I'm no good at keeping in touch, but if you read this blog (read in the past tense, since there are no present-tense blog posts to read) then I just want to say hello and thanks for being my friend. Maybe I'll stop by here again sometime.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A week in New Mexico

We just got home from a trip to visit our family in New Mexico. It was a great trip and we loved hanging out with people we love. The kids had a blast with cousins especially. On our last night, Eva said as I put her to bed, "Mom, thanks for bringing us to Mammy's house. I love it here." It was so sweet.

We got to see the new dealership, which had incredible lighting. Maybe it could double as a photography studio. If only Eva could manage to put her face in a suitable position...she can't seem to decide what to do.

Dean bonded with Isaac. Two cutest boys on earth.

Leighton thought he was pretty funny making a hat out of his Burger King box on the way there. Long roadtrip notwithstanding, it's always worth it to see our family!
Posted by Picasa

Friday, April 29, 2011

Stuck in the house? I have the solution for you.

Okay, I just used that title because I really wanted to tie in this unrelated picture of Dean. He LOVES the dollhouse and the other day he apparently wanted to move in there. At least learning to climb the stairs won't be a problem, as he's holding them in his hand.

Here's the real deal: I want to tell you about our TV situation. We don't have cable. We don't have dish. But we still watch all our favorite shows every week.

We have a Roku. I might say this ranks in our top 5 best purchases of our married life. We can stream all sorts of things on it. We use our Netflix there, of course, and we also have a Hulu Plus account. I found that my Picasa Web albums can be linked there, so I can have up a slideshow of all the pictures on my blog going on my TV. We have an Amazon video account where we can order movies for about $5 if we're too lazy to go to Redbox and we want to watch something new. (Also, their customer service is EXCELLENT with Amazon video - once we ordered a movie that had trouble streaming, and they gave us our money back automatically. I didn't even have to call or anything.) We listen to all our Pandora stations on there - it's great to have music coming from our TV in the middle of the house instead of a computer in a back room.

Last night I discovered possibly my new favorite feature. It's called The Gymbox. Now instead of doing the same workout video all the time (as much as I love Jillian), I can get new videos every week. This morning I did my first one...a TREADMILL workout. Hello? That is SO genius. I have a treadmill, but I'm not a runner, so I never use it. Now it's like I have a trainer to tell me how to use my treadmill. She tells me what my incline and speed should be at and leads me through hills and sprints and whatnot - things I wouldn't figure out on my own. Walking and a bit of running. It was an awesome 30 mintue workout. There are a million categories on there - kickboxing, yoga, dancing, strength's awesome. I'm on a free guest pass right now, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to upgrade to the membership ($10 a month, I think) so I can continue to get new videos.

I also found last night that all the major news stations do a little recap of the day's news. ON a free station, of course. This is becoming a must for me as I NEVER watch the news and have to find out about all major news through the grapevine, way delayed. (Like Japan - I embarassingly didn't even hear about that tragedy until a week later. You'd think I lived under a rock.) No excuse for that in this decade, right?

There are all sorts of stations you can download, most of them free. Games, kid drawing's awesome. And it's not like the TV is on all the time - it's what you want to watch, when you want to watch it, and it's way cheaper than a cable bill with DVR.

Obviously I'm not being paid to tell you about this, but I just wanted to pass along the info. Get a Roku if you don't already have one (I just saw they are now only $60!! We got ours for $100 a couple years ago. Still worth the price.) and discover all the awesome things you can do. We use ours dozens of times a day - for working out, music, distraction for the kids, and relaxing for me. In the words of Kip, I love technology - especially my Roku.