book-ular housekeeping, part 1

I was updating my Goodreads bookshelves the other day and I realized that I never did my 2009 Books Read list. I emailed it to myself, at least.

So, with no further ado, here's the list of books I read in 2009. More stats and info follow, as well as the link to the 2008 list. To see the books I've read so far this year, check the right side. If you're reading this in a reader or email, you'll have to come on down. 

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much*
The Yiddish Policemen's Union
Summer at Tiffany*
To Hate Like This Is To Be Happy Forever*
Mermaid Chair
Hospitality Commands
One Big Happy Family
Tyranny of the Urgent
Nine Kinds of Naked
The Peep Diaries*
Busy Woman Seeks Wife
Stolen Innocence
A Gate at the Stairs
Here if You Need Me*
The End of Overeating*
Skinny Bitch
The Inner Voice of Love
What's Submission Got to Do with It?
Such a Pretty Fat
Love and Respect
The Frugal Duchess
Bitter is the New Black
His Needs, Her Needs*
The American Porch
Richest Man in Babylon
Wife Living Dangerously
Good In Bed (a novel)
It's Easy Being Green
Self Help (a collection of short stories)
Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life*
The Marriage of True Minds*
The Amateur Marriage*
Catherine, Called Birdy
Self-Made Man (some, not all)
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society*
The History of Love
Happy Housewives
The Rural Life
Sidetracked Home Executives
The Way We Never Were
Water for Elephants*
Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman*
The Time Traveler's Wife
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
How the Irish Saved Civilization*

*Denotes books I liked a lot

SO. The 2008 list is here for your perusal. In 08 I read 34 books, and I was stoked by this number. I had set aside my reading habit for a while because of the head injury, and 2008 proved a nice, easy way to sort of ease back into the reading lifestyle. Most of the titles were not particularly heady or challenging (most of them still aren't, hah) BUT I was reading, and I was happy about that. 

In 09, I read 50 books. (Only 48 appear above - omitted for personal reasons.) Look at that! Progress!! There are also books that never appear on the list because they aren't the kind of book that you 'read' - cookbooks, pattern books, etc. So I cracked open quite a few more but they don't really count.

So far in 2010 I've read 43 (and a half) so I'm confident I'll have read even more. In the back of my head, I was hoping to reach 52, which would be equal to a book a week. 

For me, reading a book a week is a lot. For some, a book a week is probably not possible, for time/interest/other priority reasons. Other folks probably blow through 150 books a year, easy. Where do you fall?


The Maybe-Minimalism Project

For a long time I've thought about becoming a minimalist. Not a scary owning-50-things minimalist with a mattress, a laptop, and a fridge, sleeping with one sheet and eating a raw diet and having nothing in my life solely for the purpose of bringing beauty on the scene. I always thought of a minimalist as the creepy bald dude who wears only white and entertains himself by chanting and is so focused on simplicity and meditation and becoming one with the air that you can hardly hold a conversation with him.

Right. Not so much me.

In my efforts to pare down the embarrassingly huge amount of stuff in our belonging, I became drawn to blogs about organization, and later, minimalism.

The organization blogs never really cut it for me. There's only so much organizing you can do. My obvious problem was organization, yes, but my real problem was having too much to organize. As Flylady says, you can't organize clutter. And that's so true.

Having too much stuff is frustrating! Knowing I have something but can't find it, or not being able to use closets or entire rooms in my house because they are too packed full of stuff, tripping over things, not having any floor space.... It wears on you. There's the physical inconvenience, which is frustrating enough. But then there's the guilt. Guilt for having so much that isn't used. Guilt for wasting all that money. Guilt for repurchasing things because you cant find the original one you know you bought. Guilt over the CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome) and the fun times you know you're missing. Wasted time, wasted money, wasted energy, wasted life.

That was me for years.

Moving to our current place and having to unpack each and every belonging was the fresh start I needed. Making countless tiny decisions to 'keep, sell or toss' made me feel like I was getting my (OUR) life on track, maybe for the first time ever. We've taken truckloads to donation centers and more belongings leave every couple of weeks.

It's like losing weight, or like coming out of hibernation.

We're moving again next month, and our sum total of possessions will be reduced even further.

We've trimmed so much that at this point that I can see - feel - the benefits. I keep wanting to trim more, and more and more and more.

Hence the consideration of minimalism. And I'm talking pragmatic minimalism, not radical minimalism. I'm married to a collector, after all, and there's only so much I could do away with without landing in divorce court crossing some boundaries. My stuff, however, is under review. Same goes for general house stuff, as long as I consult Brian before tossing.

Whenever I touch something or see something around the house, I wonder how easily I could do without it. Most of my paring down efforts are in the kitchen and in my wardrobe. Those are tough!!

Will I ever have a minimalist wardrobe with 30 clothing items to my names? No, probably not. But I certainly don't need everything I have - wardrobe and beyond.

It's time to change.

I'm going to be giving period updates here among the random whatnot on the blog. I invite you to join me on this journey if you're in the same place. You can do a search for the minimalism tag any time to find posts on this particular topic.

I'm excited! The idea of having less to pack is a nice one!

Up first, clothes. Oy.

(This post is a part of Company Girl Coffee. Click here to play along!)


brief life update

News! We have news!

We're moving! We are leaving our apartment and moving into a house across the street from the church.

It's a little 3br ranch, within walking distance of Brian's job and about a half mile from mine, which is technically also walking distance although it will likely be biked rather than walked by yours truly.

It is partially tiled (yay!), partially carpeted (ick from me, yay from Brian), and partially hardwoods (yay again!). The owner thinks it was built in 1952, and I'd believe him judging by the funny closet built-ins and the sorta-arched threshold from the living room to the back bedrooms.

This is possibly the last place we'll rent before we buy, which also makes me happy.

But you know what makes me the happiest girl in the world?

IT HAS A FENCED BACK YARD. And I have a border collie puppy who has to go outside approximately every 5 seconds.

We'll be landing there just in time for it to get cold. Just in time for us to have a true appreciation for not having to bundle up every time the dog has to pop a squat.

I am so excited. I've been prepping the dogs daily, telling them each morning that in just a few weeks, we won't have to go through this old routine anymore. I can let them out of their crates, not mess with leashes, not mess with commands and fussing and Rory's early-morning hyperactivity...I will just open their crates, they will run, and I will open another door. It sounds like potty heaven, if you ask me.

We are liking the anticipation of moving, talking about the new layout and thinking about what furniture will go where. Redecorating isn't far from my mind, though the budget says otherwise, so for now it's fun to imagine what we'll do 'next year.' In the meantime, we'll have gatherings! Parties at our house! We've never been able to do that before.

Needless to say, stoked.

We take possession on Sept. 24. The heavy lifting of the move will be done on Saturday, Sept. 25. I haven't put a call out to the troops yet, but oh boy is that coming.

And packing, you ask? Well...we have a packing game plan, yet to be implemented....oops. Better get started on that.

Packing will go hand in hand with a new project I've been meaning to tell y'all about, too. So look for more about that on Friday.

In the meantime, happy Wednesday!


undecoratable quilts

Dear Everybody:

I am pleased to present...


My very first quilt!

It is finished, and I am so very happy with it. I am also so very happy to be done with it. 

I really liked most of the process of making it. I don't know if I am now 'a quilter' by any stretch, mostly because decent quilting materials are kind of expensive and I am kind of a miser. But I loved the project, start to finish. I loved the fabric-fondling, and tossing the ideas around, and all the goofs and gaffes in planning, and putting patches together. All in all, a great first experience. 

I can offer but few specifics on this baby. I didn't buy the fabric so I don't know about its origin, but the 'solids' came in a jelly roll and the batiks came in a pack of 20. (Thanks, Cathy!!!!!) I was determined to use the batiks as soon as possible, because I am a little bit obsessed with batiks. 

What I do know: It's a square (90ishx90ish) 9-patch patchwork quilt. The batting is bamboo...Quilter's Dream, I think? and the backing is light blue with a Chinese motif. I'll show it to you later when I make curtains from it. I started the first 9-patch squares back in September, before we even knew we were moving. With the move and the unpacking and the lack of a flat surface, it took me a while to get back into the groove. I finally finished a couple of weeks ago, in July. 

Right now it lives on our bed. It's a big quilt, but it's lightweight. Now that fall is beginning to think about rolling in, and the nights are really cool, it's almost too chilly for this, and soon I'll be changing it out for something a little heavier. 

Now, my question for you is this:

How do you coordinate bedding for something so colorful? 

(As you can see, I went with the off-white sheets and pillowcases.)

I have a kit waiting to become my next quilt. I'm taking a little break from quilting to do some knittingand some other stuff, but it's nice to have my next project lined up. And the project after THAT will be made of some fabrics that my cousin recently sent me from Japan. Because she is awesome. And I am so in love with these fabrics that I am afraid to cut into them. So I need some space between the arrival of the fabrics and the use of them. (Thanks, Jackie!!!!!!!!!)

(They might be sitting on the mantle so that I can admire them all day, every day, by the way.)

So what I want to know is this: what's the latest project you've finished that makes you ridiculously proud?


New York, New York

Last month, Brian and I headed East for a family thing. The 'family' is loosely based in Albany, NY.

I've never really been to New York City, but I have loved the City from afar for a number of years now. (Full disclosure: we had a 4 hour layover in Trenton the summer of 2002, so we took a cab to the City, visited Ground Zero, ate a pizza, and went back to the airport. That doesn't count.)

Brian has said for a while now that he would take me to NYC the first chance he got. And when we headed to Albany in July, he made it happen.

We flew to La Guardia and were picked up late that night by Tim and Katrina, Brian's cousins who live in Brooklyn. We stayed at their apartment that night and got up the next day to spend our 6-ish hours packing in as much of Manhattan as we could before catching a train to Albany.

It was awesome.

Tim showed us around and hit the highlights for us. We went to Times Square, Bryant Park, the NY Public Library (supposedly it has lions at the front of it, but they were being cleaned or fixed or something and the whole facade was covered), Union Square (with the farmers market!) (it turns out I hate wheatgrass) and Battery Park, where we could see the Statue of Liberty, etc. Katrina met us for lunch and we got some pizza (duh) and spent some time sitting on park benches. We did a lot of poking around, really. We poked around the library. We poked around Battery Park. We poked around Union Square. When we weren't busy poking around, we were hauling it to the next spot.

This trip wasn't about tourism. We didn't go to Central Park, we didn't ride to the top of the Empire State Building (but we were close to it!), we didn't see any shows or concerts, we didn't go to the Smithsonian or the MOMA, there weren't any 11pm dinner reservations at happening restaurants. All of those things will happen when we have more time there. (Except maybe for the dinner reservations. You can take the girl out of the budget, but you can't take the budget out of the girl.) We didn't want to be tourists. We wanted to see the city, to see what it might be like to live there. Some of the pleasant points, at least. I still have a 'maybe someday' recurring fantasy about living in the City for a while. At this point I doubt that will ever happen, and that's ok. But I'm not sad to have family there, so I can live vicariously through Tim's blog!

It was really great to get to know Tim and Katrina better. Brian has known them his whole life, but I've only been around them a couple of times each and haven't had much time to get to know them. So that was great.

I took my camera, yes, but I didn't get many chances to take photos. This wasn't a photography trip. And I didn't want to look like a gawking tourist all during my first real trip to the City. So I really only thought about two kinds of pictures: 'portraits' of Tim, Katie and Brian, and 'architecture' for lack of a better term - I wanted to take cool pictures of buildings. All told, I probably only got 20 images total, and after whittling those down, I have about 7 saved from our New York City trip.

I'm only going to share photos of the buildings, here. I forgot to have Tim and Katie sign the release forms. (kidding!) All photos were taken using my Nikon D50 and a 50mm lens.


The building reflected on the left is the Empire State Building. I never found out what the other building is, but it looked church-y and very brown with some gold trim.


The tall building to the far left is the Empire State Building. The guy in the foreground is my husband. I took a bunch of these while we were walking down....6th Ave I think...toward Bryant Park. I was using my 50mm lens and finding it surprisingly difficult impossible to get both Brian AND the entirety of the Empire State in the frame. I was holding my camera down at my hip for this one.

 We had just left the library and were walking down 42nd St, past what I kept referring to as Union Station, which is actually Grand Central. (It's Union Station here in Denver.) The Chrysler Building is probably my favorite New York City landmark, thus far, and I was playing with reflection again. We were walking at medium/fast speed the whole time and the sidewalk was a little busy so I didn't have the time to get the exact framing I wanted. Either way, you get the idea. And it was really cool to be walking this street, watching the reflection move and change in the building to the right, while the building itself loomed larger on the left.


This arch is the Washington Square Arch. You may recognize it from the movie August Rush. And again, that's the Empire State poking out. 

So there you have it. Our trip to New York City.


good moods

Hey y'all.

I am in a good mood right now.

Know why?

I got me some new shoes.

That's right. Check these babies out.

AND, I got them on clearance.

Awwwwww  yeahhhhhhhh. 

Do you have an instant pick-me-up you like to employ when necessary? What are your favorite shoes right now?


dictionary love

So...I am...busy.

At least, I was. Now I'm busy catching up on doing nothing, now that I'm not so busy anymore.

Yesterday evening, I finished reading a book by a man who sat and read, over the course of a year, the entirety of the Oxford English Dictionary. (There's a link to the amazon page over on the right side. And no, it's not an affiliate link, because Amazon still hates Colorado.)

Lest you are not familiar with the OED, trust me when I say that this was no small undertaking.

There are 26 chapters, each one corresponding to one of the letters of the alphabet. Each chapter begins with a little essay, about his experience, or his thoughts, or the value of reading dictionaries (it's actually a lot cooler than you might think!).  

(I think I just heard my brother roll his eyes, 1700 miles away.)

The book is a quick read, a little over 200 pages with lots of 'white space' to make it much less intimidating than the OED itself. The end of each chapter contains a selection of interesting words from the chapter's letter. Those are worth reading too, by the way.

While reading the book, I was struck by something: five years ago, I would have devoured this book. I would have envisioned myself as being just like this man. Five years ago, I used to read dictionaries for fun. I daydreamed about being a lexicographer. I loved defining things, and I really loved etymologies. I saved words I'd come across and try to learn them when I had a spare moment. I looked for OED paraphernalia on ebay. I was likely the biggest word dork any of my friends knew.

And then, I fell down a flight of stairs. And everything changed.

Now, I see SAT words and get that feeling you get when you see a familiar face but can't quite place the person's name, or how you might even know the person to begin with. My 2004 copy of the American Heritage Collegiate Dictionary seems to hail from a faraway land, whereas it used to live on my bedside table and entertain me regularly with fun discoveries of the English language. I find myself mentioning the dictionary class I took in (my failed attempt at) grad school, the 'It's really cooler than you'd think' sentiment now replaced by 'Yeah, can you believe it? Me neither.'

It's as though I'm not the same person. As though I'm talking about my weird cousin, you know, the one who reads dictionaries in her spare time.

Really, though, I'm not the same person I was before the head injury. In a lot of ways, this is a good thing. In others, it's maybe a little sad. I've lost a quirk that used to be a continual source of amusement. There's a piece of me, a benign, even enjoyable, piece of me, that is missing. This has been apparent for some time now.

And I think I might want to reclaim it.

Last night, I pulled my AHD from the top shelf in the guest room and plopped it on the coffee table. I've decided it's going to be my buddy for a while. At least until Brian gets irked by it.

Or until Rory eats it. Whichever happens first.


another comment on how it can't be august yet

So...you know it's August, right?

When did that happen?

Seriously. I feel like such a broken record when I say I can't believe how fast time has flown by...but really, is it seriously August already?

(If you ask my wall calendar, the answer is no, it is still July.)

School supplies are everywhere, with their shiny newness and the hope that comes with the packaging. By the way, have you seen the pencil pouches out there? There are ridiculously cute ones. RIDICULOUSLY CUTE pencil pouches. I might need to get one for myself. (For all those wooden #2 pencils I tote around.) 

There's something about this time of year that makes me feel a little uneasy excited. It's in the air. It's catchy. Little kids are getting all excited to start a new grade - or going to school for the first time. Schedule and teacher comparisons are flying around. Moms are sighing about 'one more week' as their kids drop and throw a tantrum at 10am.

No, really, I have witnessed at least three moms do this in the past 5 days.

Oh, and everything is on sale!

On a more personal, I-don't-have-kids-and-I'm-done-with-school-at-least-for-now level, my workplace is putting on our international conference this weekend. Because I'm hourly, I am under-loading during the week and overloading on Friday-Sunday. I'm filling the time by being on site for VBS, of which I was co-director this year. (Ask me about my thoughts on that later.) So I am definitely keeping the busy-ness spirit, just not in the back-to-school way.

Confession: I've also been baking banana bread. I'm using the Fannie Farmer recipe, overloading on the banana, and skipping the nuts in lieu of white chocolate chips. Amazing. So so so mind-bogglingly good.

Banana bread might have comprised approximately 75% of my dietary intake today. Tomorrow isn't looking any different.

Seriously though, I am jonesing for a new pink eraser.

What was your favorite school supply as a kid?