Sunday, December 10, 2017

Life: It Goes On - December 10

What a quiet week it's been. I wasn't feeling well for much of the week; just a cold and it wasn't the worst cold I've ever had by any means, but I just felt out of it much of the week. I did have dinner with a friend Tuesday night that ended with me getting home at 10:30!

I finished the Christmas decorating on Monday; the Christmas cards are, finally, ordered and will go out in the mail this week; and the shopping is almost finished. Still, I can hardly believe that it will be Christmas Eve two weeks from today!

This Week I'm:

Listening To: Mostly music, a lot of which is from my Spotify play list. It's helping me to be in the holiday mood.

Watching: I stayed up until after two last night (this morning?!) just so I could watch It's A Wonderful Life. It doesn't feel like Christmas until I've watched it and I haven't caught it the past couple of years.

Reading: Not much, I'm afraid to say. Hence, no book reviews this past week. I'll finish The Wife, The Maid, And The Mistress for book club this week and then I'll finally finish Pachinko. Then it's on to The Revolution of Marina M by Janet Fitch which I'm reading with a friend. At 800+ pages, it'll likely be the last book I read of 2017.

Making: I have a pork roast in the oven and will later make chicken noodle soup for later this week. The Christmas baking is in full swing - yesterday was Oreo truffles, today is Bavarian mints and puppy chow. I'll bake cookies in a couple of days so we can FaceTime frost cookies next weekend with Mini-me and Mrs. S. That was so much fun last year; it almost felt like they were with us. Except I couldn't send Mini-me to the steps to calm down which is a tradition that goes back to the years when his brother could get him so wound up he couldn't stop laughing.

Planning: On getting the Christmas cards mailed this week, finishing the the Christmas goodies (spritz cookies and dipped pretzels are yet to be done), and finishing up the shopping for those I need to get gifts shipped of to so those can get mailed this week.

Thinking About: It's all Christmas all of the time for the next couple of weeks around here.

Enjoying: Feeling like I may have won a argument with BG. May have. It will all hinge on whether or not we can find a new rug for our family room. If we can, I get furniture rearranged that I've been wanting done for months. Marriage is all about the negotiations!

Feeling: Like I nailed it at BG's Christmas party on Friday night. It was my first party with the company he's at now and I always stress before hand about what to wear, being in a room full of people I don't know, and having to meet the boss. I wish we'd gotten a picture of the two of us - we looked good!

Looking forward to: Book club on Tuesday.

Question of the week: What are your must-have's for the holidays?

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

#AMONTHOF FAVES - This is how we read

What with the reading slump(s) and the crazy year, I haven't kept a very good record of what I've read  so far this year. Fortunately, that reading slump also means there aren't as many books to keep track of this year so I've taken a quick run through of my blog calendar to grab some quick statistics.

Total Books Read: 55
Written By Women: 43
Written By Men: 12
Fiction: 38
Nonfiction: 17
Diversity: 8
Set In Other Countries: 8
Audiobooks: 8
DNF: 3
Feminist: 4
Mystery: 7

I'm pretty happy with my fiction-to-nonfiction ratio (if I could have finished Grant, I'd be even happier with that ratio). I'm a little surprised by my female author-to-male author ratio; I know I always read a lot of books by women, but I don't think it's ever been this lopsided before. I'm down on audiobooks this year since I've spent the past several months listening to podcasts and music instead of books. Three DNFs is really big for me. Although I'm disappointed that I didn't enjoy those books more, I'm proud of myself for not pushing through them when I wasn't enjoying them. I read well more mysteries this year than I usually do; they were real saviors during my reading slump. I would like to see my diversity reading at a higher number, as well as my feminist reading (although, to be honest, I'm not entirely clear on how I'm defining a feminist book yet).

I'll finish at least four more books this year but that final number will still be well below my usual number of books read in a year. I'm pretty sure I've bought more books this year than I've read!

What have I learned from taking a look at these numbers? First of all, I HOPE I've learned to accept fewer books for review so that I can read what I'm in the mood for instead of having to read on a schedule. Secondly, I want to listen to more books; I'm thinking the library will be helpful with this (time to renew my card). Third, read more of my own damn books. Finally, read more diversely and more feminist book, and continue to increase the number of nonfiction books I read each year.

What did your reading look like this year?

Monday, December 4, 2017

#AMONTHOFFAVES - These are a few of our favorite things

Any one here surprised that on the 4th, I'm already behind on A Month of Faves? I won't keep up anyway; I never do because that requires I spend a lot of time writing posts and we all know that's not going to happen. On the other hand, I'm not going to get a lot of book reviews posted this month, either. So I might as well have something to post!

For the first, our hosts have asked that we post about some of our favorite things in 2017.

In no particular order, here are a few of mine:

Two Dots: I don't actually play that many games but this one has me addicted. To the point where it has cut into my reading. It may be time to take it off my phone.

My bullet journal: I haven't done as much creatively with it this year but I love having a planner that allows me to be entirely freestyle without boxes that I have to try to fit into. To-do lists, calendars, gift lists, party planning, some drawing, and even actual journaling. Now that I've moved to a permanent book, I'm going to be keeping these so be able to look back on in the future.

Gold Bond Healing Foot Cream; My current favorite foot cream. I had my first ever pedicure this summer and it took a whole lot of this stuff to help my heels after that.

Grace and Frankie: My favorite series this year. It's funny, touching, sad. Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin are so good. I can hardly stand the wait for the next season.

The wedding: Of course, my very favorite thing of the entire year was Mini-me's and Miss S's wedding. It was a crazy busy week, I got a little cranky sometimes, not everything went exactly as planned, and was exhausted when it was over. But it was everything the two of them wanted which is all that this mom wanted from the day they announced they were engaged.

What were some of your favorite things this year?

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Life: It Goes On - December 3

We went down to see this year's version of the above. There will be the obligatory of it later in this post. It was a beautiful evening, especially considering that it's December and I only had to wear a jacket, and the lights are beautiful so it was well worth doing. But one of the main reasons I wanted to go downtown was to help me get in the Christmas mood. It's been tough, given that it hasn't been in the least wintery...yet. I don't know who you do it in places that don't really have winter. Anyway, instead of a lovely brass ensemble playing Christmas music or even Santa with his music grinder (I kid you not, we've seen that), they had a old-time rock band playing. And not acoustically. It was very disconcerting and disappointing. So I'm just going to have to create my own festive mood as I finish decorating today. Eggnog and Nat King Cole to the rescue!

This Week I'm:

Listening To: I've been turning on my Spotify songs and just letting them shuffle play. There have been some strange juxtapositions!

Watching: Volleyball, football, The Voice, and, last night, I stayed up late to watch About A Boy.

Reading: See sidebar. Which will probably not change all week. Seems I'm in another reading slump. Or too distracted to focus on reading and too busy spending time writing, calling, and faxing my Senators and Congressman.

Making: I haven't really made anything this week. The Big  Guy's been making dinner or we've been eating out. The only meal I think I made this week was breakfast for dinner one night, including egg clouds.

Planning: On finishing the decorating and ordering Christmas cards today and getting as much shopping finished up this week as possible.

Thinking About: My week's been spent thinking about Miss H has she's been on her trip this week. I'm so knocked out by her fearlessness. She'll be home later today and I will be able to relax; but, I've enjoyed getting to travel along with her via phone and social media. She's had quite a great time.

Enjoying: The stroll through the mall in downtown Omaha and drinks with friends on Friday.

Feeling: Happy to have added a new stocking to my mantel this year for Mrs. S. I'm still trying to find a stocking hook that I like, though!

Looking forward to: Dinner and drinks with a former coworker/friend on Tuesday. NOT looking forward to BG's company's holiday party. I HATE those things!

Question of the week: What are your favorite holiday season activities?

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Witches: Salem 1692 by Stacy Schiff

The Witches Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff
Published October 2015 by Little, Brown, and Company
Source: my copy was a Christmas gift

Publisher's Summary:
The panic began early in 1692, over an exceptionally raw Massachusetts winter, when a minister's niece began to writhe and roar. It spread quickly, confounding the most educated men and prominent politicians in the colony. Neighbors accused neighbors, husbands accused wives, parents and children one another. It ended less than a year later, but not before nineteen men and women had been hanged and an elderly man crushed to death.

Speaking loudly and emphatically, adolescent girls stood at the center of the crisis. Along with suffrage and Prohibition, the Salem witch trials represent one of the few moments when women played the central role in American history. Drawing masterfully on the archives, Stacy Schiff introduces us to the strains on a Puritan adolescent's life and to the authorities whose delicate agendas were at risk. She illuminates the demands of a rigorous faith, the vulnerability of settlements adrift from the mother country, perched-at a politically tumultuous time-on the edge of what a visitor termed a "remote, rocky, barren, bushy, wild-woody wilderness."

My Thoughts:
At the beginning of this book, there is a long list of "characters." It's more than a bit daunting, but absolutely necessary. My book club read The Witches this month and everyone of us, even with that list, had a hard time remembering, when we talked about the characters, if they were the accused or the accuser. And that's because there is so much information in this book and then, all along the timeline, Schiff detours off to give readers detailed histories and character studies of each of the players.

You would think that something that happened more than 300 years ago might not be that well documented, wouldn't you? I thought so. Turns out that 17th-century Puritans were prolific diarists. Heck, they recorded absolutely everything. Everyone recorded everything. Which is how, even though the official transcripts mysteriously disappeared, there were plenty of records still available for historians to comb through. Still, as much as I'm impressed with the amount of research Schiff and her team have done, it can get more than a little overwhelming. This is not a book you'll race through; but then, it's not a book you should race through. Although those who know report that Schiff doesn't break any new ground here, there was certainly a lot of information that was new to me. For example, I had no idea how widespread witch hunts had been in Europe before they made their way across the Atlantic or the extent to which the judges at the "witches'" trials ignored glaring contradictions that would have led any rational person to find these men and women innocent.

Although the book made a lot of best-of lists in 2015, it's not a book without bias and Schiff frequently made modern references that felt a little out of place in the narration. I went into this book with high hopes that it would be a book that would pull me in and keep me reading. In that regard I was disappointed. When I struggled with the book in print, I moved to audio. I had some concerns about being able to stay focused but it turned out that by combining the audio and print, I was able to find the balance I needed to finish the book. Which I liked quite a lot, even though, on rereading this, it sort of sounds like I didn't.