Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

December TBR

Hello to the end of the year. Or the beginning of the year, if you prefer to go by the liturgical calendar.

Anyway, a transitional time.

This month, I should easily meet my reading goal for the year, and I hope to finish at least one of the reading challenges I have been working on. I’m sure there will be a recap or five later in the month about what I’ve read, what I liked the most, what surprised me, what I learned, etc. 

But for now, the last TBR of 2022.

Book Clubs

Reading Challenges

For my GirlXOXO selection this month, I chose the keyword “night,” so the Calvino classic listed above that Follow the Reader is reading will do nicely. I’m mainly going to focus on one of the challenges because I’m so close to finishing the 52 Book Club Challenge. I’ve started most of the ones that I have left, so the odds are in my favor. 

  • A second person narrative – Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson
  • A book picked based on its spine – The Saturday Book: 26, edited by John Hadfield
  • A book that has an alternate title – The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
  • A book that intimidates you – Welcome Home by Najwa Zebian. Zebian’s Instagram is challenging, in the very best way. I expect that I will have a lot of intense feelings while reading this book.
  • Author published in more than one genre – When the Sky Fell on Splendor by Emily Henry
  • Job title in title – Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Library/Series/Just Because

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It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these posts, but there are several fun things I want to share.

To Listen:

  1. Usually, I’d rather chew my arm off than listen to someone ramble and “um” at me for long periods of time (i.e., most podcasts) (short periods of time are fine – it’s really the prolonged, coulda-been-ten-years-shorter-without-the-fillers monologues that get to me), but the Talkville Podcast in which Michael Rosenbaum and Tom Welling (and various guests) are watching episodes of “Smallville” and giving commentary on them is really entertaining. It will be more entertaining if you were in this particular fandom when the show aired, but I suspect others enjoy it, too.
  2. BILATERAL STIMULATION. So soothing. So engaging. Use headphones for the full (i.e., bilateral) effect.
  3. Tiger D – my friend Sarah’s show on Kuzu on Tuesday nights. You can listen (tonight!) from 8-10 (CST) on kuzu.fm. I’m typically book-clubbing or working during most of it, but I occasionally catch it on the drive home or if I have a rare night off when no articles are due the next day.

To Watch:

  1. In addition to rewatching “Smallville” with Lex and Clark, I’m also rewatching “Alias.” I think I’m at the part where I stopped watching the first time, because so far, nothing in Season 4 is familiar. I still heart Marshall the most.
  2. “The Good Doctor” is good overall. I will watch anything with Richard Schiff in it, so there’s that. I’m not very far in at this point, but it’s interesting enough to keep watching.
  3. And I’m not technically into this yet, as I have not started it. But I trust Maggie’s judgment, and she loves “The Sex Lives of College Girls.” So I may start watching that soon.

To Eat:

  1. It is gourd season. I am in the mood for squashes, and there is a significant pumpkin presence on this month’s meal plan. Specifically, Joy the Baker’s pumpkin muffins and some kind of pumpkin/cannellini bean soup. Maybe also pasta with pumpkin sauce. We’ll see.
  2. It’s also roasted veggie season. Most sheet pan dinner recipes contain some sort of meat, but I just don’t know how they find the room on the sheet pan with all the bounty of fall produce. A pile of roasted veggies (a warm salad, if you will) makes a quick, delicious meal with plenty of leftovers. And it’s a nice balance to the cheese-on-everything I tend to eat otherwise.
  3. Breakfast for dinner has been happening at least four times a week lately. It’s just so easy. I lean toward savory breakfast foods, so we’re talking egg and cheese burritos, frittatas, fried eggs over roasted tomatoes and rice, and toasted egg sandwiches. Happy.

To Do:

  1. NaNoWriMo! I have a new character and a new story, and I like both so much I may turn this into a series. I hope to get most of the first draft of the first book done this month.
  2. Performing with some friends at Rubber Gloves next week. Should be fun! You should come if you’re in the area!
  3. Quiet, quiet, quiet evenings. I remember now what a regular writing practice does for my schedule and my mental health. This has been good for me in so many ways.

What are you into these days?

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November TBR

God bless the library.

October was definitely a mood-reading month. What that means is that I started a lot of books and finished relatively few. So I’m hoping to finish some of those this month, and I’m also participating in NaNoWriMo (coffeesnob is my username, if you are also NaNo-ing and want to be writing buddies), which is why the TBR for November looks short (-er than usual).

Book Clubs

Reading Challenges 

I’m mostly finishing up books I’ve started already for my challenges (maybe this whole year has been chock full of mood reading), but the word I’ve picked for the GirlXOXO keyword challenge is “down,” so I’m going to listen to It All Comes Down to This by Therese Anne Fowler.

Library Books

Just a few I have checked out from the library that I want to return this month:

OK, so the list isn’t short-short. But this gives me things to read when taking a break from writing the first draft of my new novelette (more on this later. Hopefully. We’ll see how it goes.).

Happy November!

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We’re all mad here.

I love costumes. I usually dress up as food (e.g., one year for Halloween, I was a strawberry milkshake), but this year, I am the Mad Hatter. It’s so much fun. The spool sash took forever but is definitely my favorite part of the outfit. One of my coworkers squeals, “You’re so cute!” every time she walks by. I enjoy that.

I can be fairly sensitive and serious, but any chance I get to insert a little whimsy into my life, I jump at it. I love opportunities to be creative, and I notice that I do better mentally when I make an effort to seek them out. To that end, I track creative tasks as part of my ongoing goal-setting for the year. This year, I have eight categories I’m tracking, and while I have specific goals for each (see parentheses below), I try to work most of them in as often as possible:

  • Writing – My writing job and blogging basically track themselves, so I limit this category to other projects, such as poetry, fiction, and newsletter or journal submissions (at least four times a week).
  • Needlework – Most of this is knitting, but I also have been playing around with embroidery and cross stitch (at least twice a week).
  • Piano – I have been working through a book of sonatas, trying to keep my sight-reading skills fresh, but I’m also (slowly) composing a piece. It’s the first song I have written since I busted out “Texas Is the Place for Me” for a piano recital when I was in junior high, but unlike that little gem, this one is strictly instrumental (at least twice a week).
  • Art journal – I have a lush-themed art journal for the year as well as an ongoing scrapbook sort of thing. I also include coloring in this because most of those pages serve as page backdrops or cover art for my various art journals (at least three times a week).
  • Cooking/baking – Is cooking creative? It is the way I do it. Also, have you seen Pie Lady Books? But even if it’s not that elaborate, I like playing around with ingredients and seeing how it turns out (at least once a week, but usually more, especially if I have several free days/evenings).
  • Collaboration – Creative tasks are even more fun with other people. Choir practice and jam sessions are typically how this pans out, but the occasional studio or art party counts, too (at least once but often twice a week).
  • Performance – I usually sing with the choir in service on Sunday mornings, but I’ve been dipping my toe into being on other stages for the last couple of years. I have a performance coming up in the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned if you’re local (at least four times a month).
  • Miscellaneous – Dang, I love a craft project. I like figuring out how to build or make things, especially if I can use them to decorate or accessorize. At any point in time, I likely have three or four projects in process, and the only reason there aren’t more is that I am limited on space (at least twice a week).

Speaking of goal tracking, I would be remiss if I did not wrap up this month of writing about creating a lush life without revealing the specific things I have been trying to put into practice on a regular basis this year. I didn’t set a specific goal number for them; I’m mostly just logging them for informational purposes. There are five main categories that I use to track lush living:

  • Cozy – Big surprise there, I know. This category is super broad. Any day that includes sufficient cozy elements (this category is also super vague) gets a check mark. Mostly, this is an opportunity to reflect at the end of each day on whether I have made time for myself to relax.
  • Pleasure/self-care – Closely related to cozy (and sometimes they do overlap), this category is more for specific self-care actions like facials and getting my hair done and foot soaks.
  • Socializing – If left to my own devices, I will hermit away and hardly ever leave the house. But several things I’ve talked about this month involve actually connecting with other people, so I give myself a little shout-out in my goal chart when I do something social.
  • Journaling – Sometimes this seems like too much navel-gazing (particularly this month when I’m also journaling daily-ish online), but it is vital to my mental health. I’m so much more grounded when I take a little time every day to write my thoughts out. My journals bounce between total stream of consciousness and well-organized, multi-tiered arguments. It’s a wild ride. I may have to appoint someone to burn them when I die.
  • Adulting – For lack of a better term. I tend to procrastinate unpleasant tasks until I am desperate to get them done. This is unnecessarily stressful and counterproductive when it comes to living a lush life. In addition to putting the week’s to-do list in my planner, I give myself credit for each task in my chart, and it’s working so well that I’m going to keep doing it next year.

And that’s the end. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this series of posts on creating a lush life as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them. Hopefully, you found the occasional nugget that can help you make your life a little lusher, too.

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(Disclosure – some of the links in this post get me some sort of bonus if you sign up. No pressure – just seemed right to let you know.)

I’m not sure when I went from viewing shopping as a nice outing to absolutely despising it. But I’m fully entrenched in avoiding it at all costs these days. I have eaten some of the weirdest concoctions for dinner just to put off going to the grocery store another day. Shoe shopping, one of my former favorite pastimes, is nothing but a chore. And trying on clothes? Forget it. I’ve gotten pretty good at guessing if something will fit so I can just grab it and go.

The only type of shopping I still like is browsing a bookstore, and unless I have a few hours to look around, I usually need the motivation of picking up an online order or meeting a favorite author who’s signing their books to get me there.

But luckily, services such as automated shipments and subscriptions exist. They make my life so much better.

I am part of three book clubs – Literati, Fantastic Strangelings, and Happy Endings – that ship me each month’s selection. All the paper goods I used – toilet paper, facial tissues, the occasional roll of paper towels – are on timed shipments. So are most of my toiletries and cleaning supplies. I order coffee and tea online (or pick up supplements at church). I don’t remember the last time I went inside the liquor store, because as it turns out, they will all bring my order right to my car, as will the grocery store (when they manage to get the order right).

I’m looking for a reliable way to have all my pantry staples routinely sent to my doorstep. Do you have a service you like? Leave it in the comments. Pretty please.

Part of having a lush life is finding ways to make tedious chores easier (or outsource them altogether). Subscriptions take so many errands off my to-do list, and I love that.

I’m writing about the lush life this month.

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Now I’m going to take the question about the month-long paid sabbatical and daydream about what I would do if resources weren’t restricted by my current reality.

Most of the month would probably stay the same. I’d still visit friends and family, take day trips, hang out in bookstores and coffee shops, caffeinate significantly, and enjoy having more writing time.

My day trips might turn into longer excursions, though. I’d like to revisit my bookstore or coffee shop road trip idea (still open to guest posts, by the way. Click the link in the previous sentence for details.). Add to my coffee cup collection. I’d also like to spend a week or so in a cabin on the beach, reading and writing and listening to the waves. Or maybe I’d finally cross one of the countries that intrigue me off my bucket list.

Hmm. I might need more than a month.

As long as we’re making wishes, I’d also like a partner who is there for all of it. Well, most of it. I’m still going to need some me time, although probably not as much. Someone who is a good match for me would be one of those rare folks I’m so comfortable with that being with them is almost as relaxing as being alone. I imagine having someone like that to share my everyday life with (sabbatical or not) would up its lush factor a bit.

Because even when I take a week or two off and spend the time the way I’ve outlined here, it’s bittersweet. I haven’t talked about loneliness in a while, but it still permeates most of my days. It’s not as bad as it could be. I’m rich in friendships, and I have good relationships with people at work (which some days, is the only reason I stay). But while friendships are just as important as romantic relationships, they’re not the same. There’s still a specific something missing.

So my lush, unrestricted sabbatical would not just be me and a bottomless bank account. There would also be someone to wake up to and someone in the passenger’s seat, happy to be along for the ride.

I’m daydreaming about a lot of things that make up a lush life this month.

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Actually sitting down to have a leisurely breakfast is one of my favorite parts of any day off.

Prompt from Montana Happy – “If your boss gave you a month-long paid sabbatical, what would you do and where would you go?”

I’m going to take the question at face value and assume current resources, relationships, etc.

If I had a month to do anything, and both my jobs continued to pay me my full salary, I’d use part of the time off to go see friends I haven’t seen in ages. Drive down to Houston to see Maggie and to San Antonio to see Hope. An extra trip to the farm.

I’d also enjoy day trips to local-ish bookstores that are just enough out of the way that I hardly ever have time to go, like Wild Detectives, Deep Vellum, Interabang, etc. Maybe an overnight jaunt with Sarah up to Magic City.

Otherwise, since all the resources I have would still have to be used to pay the bills, I’d probably keep most of the rest of my schedule, which would keep me in town for the most part. But a few things might change. Since I wouldn’t have to get up at a specific time for work, I’d probably get to see more friends’ shows. Driving down to Dallas mid-week (or, let’s be real, even staying out late in Denton mid-week) wouldn’t be that big of a deal. I’d have leisurely mornings and drink a lot more coffee without worrying about whether it will keep me up too late because there’s no such thing as too late when you’re on sabbatical. I’d get to devote large chunks of time to working on several of my WIPs and doing creative things. I’d probably get my house in something closer to order.

Even assuming no extra resources, just thinking of this possibility has relaxed me.

This idea is sounding better and better.

I think I’m starting to grasp what a lush life looks like to me.

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Words, books, and mugs. And bats (because Halloween).

My desk at work is typically sparse and no-nonsense. This is likely a residual effect from working for so long in shared spaces where I didn’t have any personal space that was just my own. But this month, I’ve actually decorated the space, and it makes a big difference in its coziness. It’s still not a great location, but at least I am surrounded by things I love.

My home office is one of my favorite spaces in my apartment. Even when it’s impossibly messy (as it is now, which is why there’s no picture), it’s still cozy. It sparks creativity and excitement about whatever project I happen to be working on. I occasionally take my laptop into the living room because I think it will be more comfortable, but I almost always end up back in the office before my task is complete. I write faster and better in the office.

I think one of the reasons for this is that I have purposefully designed my home office to represent the life I want to eventually have. Once I’m retired from UNT and have more time to write and create (and perhaps actually make a dent in reading my gargantuan collection), I imagine doing so in a place that looks just like this room. So when I step through the door, I can almost pretend I’m already there.

I spend a lot of time thinking about the perfect bookshelf. I lean toward the tall and simple, but I have to admit that I’m mesmerized by the more asymmetrical pieces. I really love the look of them. Maybe I’ll have more of them in my home if I ever move into a larger space. One of my bookshelves is sort of like that. It folds into the corner, and it’s not as tall as the rest, so the top shelf is more decorative with a cute bookend and a large cup and saucer planter.

Imagine an elephant holding up the books on the left. So cute!

I have old coffee cups and mason jars scattered throughout the room, holding everything from pens and pencils to binder clips or bookmarks. My current knitting project sits at my feet by the desk so that I have something to do with my hands during meetings.

And of course, I’m surrounded by books. That alone would make it a hard space to beat.

In seeking ways to create a lush life, it’s been amazing to discover that just tweaking the physical environment is enough to put me in a more extravagant and abundant headspace.

Do you have a particular space that fuels your creativity? What’s it like?

I’m writing about the lush life all month.

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Remember when I was going to post updates every quarter? What an ambitious plan that was.

I love reading challenges. In fact, I love them so much, I’ve got five going right now. I would not have picked up some of the great books I’ve read this year if I didn’t need them to fulfill a prompt from a challenge:

A lot of the prompts, though, just feel like homework. That’s fine occasionally – I am an avid proponent of reading outside one’s comfort zone. But I also get that from my book clubs pretty often, so I’m not sure I need an extra dose of it. I know for certain I don’t need five extra doses.

So I haven’t decided if I’m going to commit to a specific reading challenge next year, or just read for pleasure. I am currently leaning toward reading for pleasure, as I have a lot of books at home that feel neglected as well as a ridiculously long TBR list (curated according to my favorite genres). I may just decide that comfort reading is my focus next year:

  • Cozy mysteries (or mysteries in general)
  • Books about books (collecting them, reading them, writing them, solving mysteries near them, etc.)
  • Books about food (fiction, memoir, magical realism, cozy mystery set in a bakery – I love it all)
  • Romance (but only for characters I like. I will DNF a romance faster than anything if I think a jackass character is unworthy of the person the happy ending trope demands they end up with. I do not need this particular fiction to mirror real life, thanks.)

Also, I’d like to actually read all my book club books (not just the ones I actively discuss in person).

No matter what I decide to do, I know one thing will remain constant. Having a rich, lush reading life will continue to be one of my most treasured priorities.

I’m writing about all the things that make life lush for me this month.

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Day 14 – Nooks

Favorite reading spot

One of my favorite parts of the day is coming home, taking off my shoes (and if I’m staying in for the whole evening, putting on pajamas or loungewear), and settling into my reading chair. I love days when I don’t have anything planned or I at least have a couple of hours to spare before I head out again. That means I get to take a reading break (or a small nap – reading chairs are good for that, too) before supper.

Small, cozy nooks are the easiest way I’ve found to add little pockets of lush to my life. While any nook is bound to become a reading nook for me, it doesn’t necessarily have to be. I like breakfast nooks. Music nooks. Puzzle nooks. I once had a friend who had a tea corner that consisted of a cupboard with a vast selection of tea, a kettle, and a small table and chairs, and she started every morning there with a strong cup of tea and a crossword.

When it comes to creating cozy reading nooks, I bow to the expert – Modern Mrs. Darcy. Let’s see how mine stacks up:

  • The right spot – Most of the year (except during Christmas when the tree is there), my chair sits in the corner of my living room next to the patio door. I love this space because, while I have a lamp behind the chair for extra light, on weekend mornings, just enough sunlight comes through the blinds to cast a soft glow on the pages.
  • The foundation – This blue chair was a hand-me-down from my sister. It’s the first place she heads when she comes over. It’s the perfect size for me. It is firm but comfortable, and it reclines for optimal napping if the mood should strike.
  • The comfort factor – Not only is the chair comfortable, but it’s also easily movable, as is everything around it. I have a small TV tray that acts as a side table, and there’s always a blanket nearby.
  • The textures – The only thing I don’t like about the chair is its texture. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it; it’s just not as soft or lush as I’d like. When I need more coziness, I compensate with a velvet pillow or soft knit blanket.
  • A pop of color – There are pops of color all over the apartment, and the area surrounding the reading nook is no exception. I have a red glass bowl on a nearby bookshelf, and the box where I keep my pens and note tabs is bright pink.
  • The storage – As with most of the apartment, bookshelves abound near the nook. I have a short one where I stack up the month’s TBR selections and a larger one that holds the TV on one shelf but mostly books on the others. Extra pillows are within reach under the coffee table.
  • Signs of life – “Lived in.” That’s a nice way to describe the state of my apartment. As I sit in my reading chair, typing this sentence, I can look to my left and see last night’s tea mug. To my right are the shoes I pushed off as I sank into the cushion. I think I shall adopt this description when I get overwhelmed by the mess. It has a perpetual lived-in feel.

What kind of nooks do you have where you live? What kind of nooks do you want to have?

I’m writing about creating a lush life this month.

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