Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

The best thing about that sake was the bottle.

I love design books, websites, and social media accounts. They’re so visually satisfying. Even if they don’t reflect my personal style, I love seeing what people do with their spaces (or the spaces of others who have paid for their services). For example, I could watch videos of Anna Page’s New York apartment for hours. It’s so soothing. 

In my lush fantasies, I know exactly what I want in a home. When I’m daydream shopping for houses, the ones that stick out to me are those that have large, open kitchens, a nice backyard (swimming pool preferred but optional), a small additional kitchenette/wet bar (especially if there’s an upstairs), and an extravagant laundry room. I once saw a laundry room with an overstuffed chair and bookshelf in it, so now, of course, I need it.

For many, home is their social center. I’m not sure that’s the case with me. I prefer for my home to be a bit of a getaway from social activity most of the time. But even if I’m the only one who usually sees it, I still crave good design and order. I want nooks – for reading, napping, daydreaming, creating, snacking. I like ceramics and glass – bowls made by local artists for our annual Empty Bowls luncheon and makeshift flower vases in the form of white pitchers, wine or sake bottles, and Mason jars. I enjoy soft and luxurious fabrics. I adore art made by beloved friends. Kitschy items with nostalgic stories attached. Good lighting.

My main home design strategy, though, is to be surrounded by books. Decorating is just another term for acquiring more bookshelves. At one point, there was a meme going around with a home layout that was a small kitchen, a small bathroom, and the rest of the space was labeled “library.” It was meant as a joke, but I would definitely live there.

According to Meik Wiking (The Little Book of Hygge), every home should also have a hygge emergency kit. If I were to catalog mine, it would look something like this:

  • Unscented candles
  • Good chocolate
  • A robust selection of teas
  • A full wine rack
  • A shelf of cozy mysteries or foodie fiction/memoir or this month’s TBR selections next to my favorite reading chair.
  • Comfort TV or movies (my frequent go-tos are Pushing Daisies, The Good Place, Gilmore Girls, Chocolat, and Under the Tuscan Sun)
  • Good bread with Irish butter, goat cheese, and/or homemade jam 
  • Warm socks and blankets
  • Journal
  • Soothing playlist or records

Just reading that list makes me want to cancel everything for a week and stay home.

I’ll finish up tonight’s post with a few books about design or making a cozy home that I’ve either enjoyed or are on my design TBR list:

My Hygge Home by Meik Wiking

The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

A Room of Her Own: Inside the Homes and Lives of Creative Women by Robyn Lea

For the Love of Books: Designing and Curating a Home Library by Thatcher Wine and Elizabeth Lane

Apartment Therapy by Maxwell Ryan

Spark Joy by Marie Kondo

Why Design Matters by Debbie Millman

The Kinfolk Home by Nathan Williams

Wonderland: Adventures in Decorating by Summer Thornton

Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith

I’m writing about all things lush this month.

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Favorite trip to date – Cape Cod

It seems that a lush life would involve travel to some extent. I’m pretty much a homebody, but I do like to get away occasionally. I’m not a packed itinerary, see-all-the-sights person (on account-a I believe vacation should be a change from my usual pace, not just the same busyness in a new location), but if I’m at a place for a week or more, a couple of main attractions are nice.

My favorite trip to date was the week I spent with a few friends in Cape Cod. We rented a cottage and cooked most of our meals. In the morning, we woke leisurely. Those of us who got up earlier had coffee and some sort of pastry, usually from dessert the night before, while we read or journaled or stared at the trees. Later in the morning, once all of us were up, we had brunch together and discussed what we would do that afternoon. We spent an afternoon at the beach where I read Like Water for Chocolate in one sitting. We had tea in Sandwich, and drove up to Provincetown one afternoon. In the evenings, we made or went out for supper and had many wines (observe a selection of the week’s corks above). Sometimes other friends joined us; sometimes it was just the three of us. It was perfect.

A proper vacation for me is something super laidback. If there is a schedule involved or activities for which one could be considered on time or late, I’m probably not interested. I want to eat delicious food, drink copious amounts of adult beverages, and have coffee at irresponsible times of the day. I am hardly ever spontaneous at any other time, but on vacation, it’s a requirement.

Of course, vacations also require money, so I don’t take them that often. When I do, it’s usually somewhere in the U.S., and I typically drive. Sometimes the vacation portion is only a part of the trip because the main reason I’m going is for a retreat or conference. I do have a running list of places outside the U.S. I’d most like to see:

  • Italy
  • Lisbon
  • Denmark
  • New Zealand
  • Argentina
  • Nepal

Perhaps someday.

But that doesn’t mean life can’t be lush with smaller trips. I like day trips to bookstores that aren’t necessarily local but are within reasonable driving distance. Discovering new bookstores and coffee shops is one of the reasons I’m fond of road trips. I also enjoy visiting friends and family, and I want to find time (and funding) to make these trips more often.

I’m writing about ways to make my life more lush (lusher? I think it’s lusher) this month.

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Workplace Hygge

Once I started exploring what it means to have a lush life, the word cozy kept coming up. And the more I started searching for cozy things, the more I kept running into posts and books about hygge. For those unfamiliar with the term (and clearly not on Pinterest, because it is all over Pinterest), hygge is a Danish concept that takes cozy to the next level. In addition to embracing comfort, it also includes elements of warmth, well-being, and connection.

I’m way down the hygge rabbit hole, so it’s likely to come up a few times this month. If you want a quick and charming crash course, I recommend The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking. Today, I’m giving you a brief overview of the five dimensions of hygge he outlines, which are essentially ways you can experience the phenomenon through your senses. Everyone’s preferences are going to be different, but I’ve included examples of mine. This is a particularly useful exercise for me, as I am easily overwhelmed by sensory input. It’s good to intentionally make note of the ones I enjoy.


Food is a big part of comfort, and the Danes know this. They have a whole pastry named after their nationality (which I really need to try in Denmark, I think. You know, to get the full experience.). When I think of cozy food, things that are familiar and satisfying come to mind:

  • Soups with a side of crusty bread
  • Eggs and toast
  • Oatmeal with dried fruit and maple syrup
  • Stir fry/warm salads
  • Peaches, nectarines, and apricots (really any fresh fruit, but those are my faves)
  • Antipasti – any combination of cheese, bread/crackers, pickles/olives, maybe salami or fruit
  • Burgers
  • Potatoes in any form. Particularly if there is also cheese involved.

There are also specific flavors that fit in this category for me. I love coconut and caramel and peppermint (not all together, though). And of course, a nice cup of coffee or hot tea increases the cozy factor of any activity.


I love rainy day sounds. Not just the rain but the things I like to do inside when there’s a storm outside. The tink of knitting needles. Soft instrumental music, particularly piano and/or acoustic base. Pages turning as I read. The washer and dryer running. Small sipping sounds as I try to drink my cup of tea before it’s cool enough to do so (this is the only eating/drinking sound I like at all, btw. All the rest are gross and upsetting. This is a hill I am prepared to die on.).

One of the reasons I find coffee shops so comforting is the combination of sounds coming from behind the counter. Kettles boiling. The clinks and clunks of the espresso machine. Coffee dripping and pouring. It’s very much what I imagine Heaven must sound like.

Also…when cats ekekekekek. That’s some good ASMR right there.


Coffee. Vanilla and butter. Citrus. Tomato or pea plants. Fresh bread. Food smells, basically, are my favorites.

The other scents I think of as comforting are those that remind me of a particular time, place, or event. For example, the very specific smell that hits me when I open up Mom’s Christmas cabinet where she stores all her decorations. It’s sort of like an apple/cinnamon smell but not quite.


One of the first things I did after I chose the word lush for my theme this year was to buy new bed linens. There was nothing wrong with the ones I had, but they were getting a little worn and scratchy. [So, I guess there was something wrong with them. I just feel wasteful if I get rid of something before it’s absolutely unusable (no worries – they have been refurbished into decorations/costumes).] I love flannel sheets, and I use them all year long. I also bought a comforter that is slightly weighted (not too much! Most weighted blankets are too much!), which helps me fall asleep. I like drinking out of glass or ceramic receptacles. I will drink out of metal or plastic or paper cups, but it’s just not the same.

I think I’ve gotten to the point where I absolutely refuse to wear hard pants. Jeans, slacks, anything that you have to button/zip? Not interested. I don’t even know that I own any such thing anymore. My daily attire is all dresses and skirts with either shorts or leggings. Comfy shoes that are designed for long hours roaming bookstores. Sweaters and other layers just in case the temperature suddenly changes because Texas. Bookcore for life.


I’m going to go into this more when I talk about having a cozy home later in the month, so I won’t dwell now, but muted lighting (I’m in the market for lamps), candles, and twinkle lights are my jam. I love dark, rich colors (and yes, classically eccentric is a good name for my preferred decorating style). In pictures or movie scenes or art, I prefer slow-moving ease to bustle. I favor open sky and beaches over woods or forest. I need intentional blank space in decorating, too.

What makes you feel cozy?

I’m writing about lush life this month.

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Almost every scenario I can think of that signifies the word lush has books in it somewhere. Either I’m sipping a coffee and reading a book or packing books to take with me on a trip or traveling specifically to one place just so that I can go to a particular bookstore. Or simply carrying a book around with me just in case I get a free moment to tuck into it. As detailed in last year’s 31 Days series, a life without the joy of reading is really no life at all to me. 

Here’s what I am planning for my lush reading life to look like this month.

Book Clubs

I’m talking about books with a lot of people in October (I mean, even more than usual). This month’s list includes my usual 6-7 selections plus some extras because Martha Wells is going to be in town at Patchouli Joe’s mid-month, and also there’s a discussion group about one of last month’s (month before?) book club reads at the same bookshop the next night, so I want to finish it and the next 2-4 (they’re pretty short) in the Murderbot series. I’m also reading a book with our Neurodiversity Professional Network at work. Plus, two different book discussion groups through the public library (my usual one and then another new one that meets at local bars) are talking about psychological thrillers/mysteries this month, and I couldn’t decide which book I wanted to read, so I narrowed it down to two. 

Reading Challenges

The list above is enough to keep me busy, but I’m still intent on finishing most of my reading challenge books this year (stay tuned for more about this later in the month), and there’s Dewey’s readathon coming up later this month, so I’m not daunted by a long reading list for October.

  • POPSUGAR – The way I decided which two thrillers to read for the library discussions was that they both meet certain prompts for this challenge. Strangers on a Train (sorta) meets the prompt of a train, plane, or cruise ship setting, and The Guest List features a party (i.e., a wedding).
  • Book Riot’s Read Harder – a horror novel by a BIPOC author – The Good House by Tananarive Due, and those from last month that I haven’t quite finished yet.
  • GirlXOXO – The keyword I chose is “witch” – A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. 
  • The 52 Book Club – Finally finishing up the book that’s been on my TBR the longest – The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. I’m also getting really close to finishing this particular challenge, so that’s exciting.

Just Because

I got excited about these and can’t wait to read them…so I’m not gonna.

What are you reading this month? 

I’m writing (and practicing) the lush life this month.

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Surprising Favorite Read

Near the beginning of the year, I checked out a book at the library on someone’s recommendation. It was called Forget Prayers, Bring Cake: A Single Woman’s Guide to Grieving. I kept taking it back and checking it out again rather than just reading it. I was skeptical for three reasons:

  • Cutesy (almost flippant?) title for a discussion on grief? I get that people cope in different ways, but that’s…not mine.
  • Singling out singles is a necessary point of this discussion, and I can confirm that there are challenges with grief that are specific to not having a partner, but gendering it rubs me the wrong way.
  • The cover design is absurd (click the link above if you’re curious). You’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but we all do it, and I judged this one HARD.

I’m so glad I finally read it.

This is the best book I’ve read on the practicalities of dealing with grief and building a support system specifically for the process. It’s the perfect combination of memoir, guide, and comfort. As someone who incorporates tasks into emotional processing (i.e., simply talking or crying it out without a physical energy release often makes the situation worse for me), I appreciate the checklists and suggestions.

As my parents are getting older, we are having more conversations about what they want to happen, how we take over the farm as seamlessly as possible, and how it all gets paid for. Just having the conversations are emotional, and it’s helpful to acknowledge and process those feelings as they come, but it feels weird to future-grieve. This book gave me the validation and permission I didn’t know I needed, and Gerson’s kind-but-direct approach gave it to me in exactly the way I needed it.

I know I usually list five books that I enjoyed from the previous month, but this one stood out so far beyond the rest. This may be my favorite book I’ve read thus far this year.

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This is my favorite third of the year. Soon, it will be sweater and boot weather. Well, not SOON soon – this is Texas, after all – but relatively so. I wore layers today anyway. I will usher in fall through sheer force of will. I already have half my costume ready for Halloween. I. Am. Ready.

This is also about when I start thinking about goals for the upcoming year. My favorite planner is going to launch this month, and I think I already know what my theme word for next year is going to be (Maybe. There are a few contenders, but one has a sizable lead). But before that happens, I have some goals to finish up this year. I’m posting a series about what I’m learning about living a lush life in October, and I really want to finish most of my reading challenges. So here we go!

Book Clubs

A couple of my book clubs are starting spooky season early, and I approve. Actually, a couple of my book clubs lean toward spooky almost perpetually, so really, this is not a big shift.

Reading Challenges

  • Modern Mrs. Darcy’s (Summer) Reading Challenge
  • The 52 Book Club
    • Book with an alternate title – The Golden Compass (or, as it was originally published in the UK, Northern Lights) by Philip Pullman 
    • Author published in more than one genre – I’ve enjoyed her adult novels (romance? Chick lit? Anyway, steamy stories I really enjoyed), and now I’m going to try her YA sci-fi. When the Sky Fell on Splendor by Emily Henry
    • Book longer than 500 pages – The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
    • A book picked based on its spine – The Saturday Book: 26, edited by John Hadfield. See the book next to the bottom of the stack in the picture above, and if you think the spine is something, you should click on the link and see the cover. This may be the acquisition from Booked Up (RIP?) of which I am the proudest. 
    • Job title in title – Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon
  • Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge
    • An award-winning book from the year I was born – Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
    • The book that’s been on my TBR list the longest (and still is there….even though I meant to read this back in January…) – The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
    • A book whose movie or TV adaptation you’ve seen – Good Omens by Neil Gaiman
    • Winner of the Women’s Prize – The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki
  • GirlXOXO Keyword Challenge
    • Keyword: Salt – Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia
    • Literally any of the ones I haven’t finished yet from previous months.
  • POPSUGAR Reading Challenge
    • Social horror book – Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon
    • Sapphic book – Delilah Green Doesn’t Care by Ashley Herring Blake
    • Book title that starts with the last letter of the last book read (a somewhat difficult category when you read several books at the same time – also possible/probable that I’m overthinking it) – Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (cross-post from Read Harder – starting after The Final Girl Support Group)
    • #booktoc rec – Happy Hour by Marlow Granados
    • Two books set in twin cities – the Tokyo book complementing my earlier NYC read (The Personal Librarian) –  Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

What are you reading this month?

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August has flown by in a blur! Here are my five favorite reads from July, and one book that I just couldn’t finish.

  1. All Systems Red by Martha Wells – I LOVE MURDERBOT. I am so grateful to my library book club buddy who recommended this series. They’re short books, so I’ve already finished three of them. If you like sci-fi along the lines of AI, you will probably love Murderbot, too.
  2. Finlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano – So funny. I really liked the main character, and I’m looking forward to the next in the series. I linked to the print copy, but I listened to this one on audio, which was excellent.
  3. The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking – That settles it. I just need to move to Denmark. This book links cozy living (just one part of the Danish practice of hygge) with happiness. I suppose if anyone knows a thing or two about how to live a happy life, it would be the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute. A very charming book.
  4. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood – Did you really have any doubt that, when I said I was reading a book by Margaret Atwood, it would be on this list? My library book club’s theme for August was climate/environmental fiction, and this is the first of a dystopian trilogy that fits that genre. It’s so well-written, and the story really held my attention. I’m about to start the second one soon.
  5. Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes – This book took me the whole month to read. Usually, when that happens, it’s because I am having a hard time slogging through. But in this case, I took my time because I just wanted to savor it. While the movie focuses mainly on the main character’s love life, this memoir is a love letter to Italy and the life (and house) she and her partner built there. When I’m through moving to Denmark, a villa in Italy is up next.

And now for the one that I could not finish. I love a story with a bookish theme. Usually. And Kate Bromley is a good writer. But Talk Bookish to Me started questionably and just got worse. I only made it about 50 pages in before I couldn’t take it anymore. The main character seems nice enough. She’s a well-meaning doormat. While I find this personality characteristic a bit frustrating, I can usually handle it, because they are usually surrounded by other characters who are actually decent people who want the best for them and thus help them realize their worth and grow a backbone and live both happily and confidently ever after by the end. Not this one. Her bestie is an AWFUL friend. Just the worst. Slight spoiler, but for the record, if I ever tell any of you of someone who acted shadily, lied to me, and broke my heart, the correct response when he is suddenly and surprisingly back in my life is NOT to look for ways to throw us together so that he can DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN. I didn’t like this guy from the start and, after reading online spoilers (once I had flung it to the ground one too many times to want to pick it up again), it sounds like my initial impression was correct. Only read this book if you like stories where dishonest, manipulative tools get everything they want.

Any books you liked (or really disliked) this month?

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August TBR

Last month’s reading plan got a little off the rails. Some of the library selections that I’ve been waiting on for a while became available, so I jumped at the chance to read them and get them back for the next person waiting in line. 

I’ve started this month with a few books I am finishing from July (The Lonely City, The Maid – which is really for book club this month anyway – and A Field Guide to Getting Lost), but then I’m diving right into this list. As I’ve been transferring my massive TBR to a spreadsheet, I realized I needed a whole tab that’s just various series I am reading/want to read. I read something on it every month anyway, so I’m just adding it as a section here this time.

This month comes with a lot of audio selections, too. August is typically a busy month at both jobs, leaving less time at home to wind down enough to sit still and read, so audio will be helpful. Also, I’m visiting my parents later in the month, so I’ll have several hours of listening time in the car.

Book Clubs

Reading Challenges



Still summer. Still hot. You know what’s fun to do in the summer that I always forget to add to my summer bucket list? Read. Especially when the alternative is leaving home to do literally anything else. So I’m going to bask in the last books in Ali Smith’s seasons collection and a book about more books I will inevitably need to read.

Excellent. Now all I have to do is finish a book a day. That’s doable, right?

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I’m cheating this month. I refuse to narrow down my choices to five. One might argue that it’s my own rule and I can break it or change it however I like, and that’s what I’m doing. Instead of choosing just five of the books I read last month to gush over, I’m going to gush over three books separately and then talk about the five favorites from a particular genre.

Agatha of Little Neon was Follow the Reader’s selection last month. The main character is a nun (sister? The distinction was made in the book, and I think she’s a sister, not a nun. I was that day years old when I learned this.), and the overall theme was friendship and its quirks. It was easy to relate to her, especially those moments when she felt like part of the group but also an outsider. My favorite line from the book was “It’s my belief that many men sleep too soundly at night.” Same, Agatha.

I gave Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris five stars on Goodreads. I was utterly charmed by this book. I’m a sucker for good, character-driven stories. It was quirky and witty and a delight to read.

Of course, I want to listen to Viola Davis narrate her memoir Finding Me. I would listen to Viola Davis read a grocery receipt. This book broke my heart and made me cheer. Parts of it are hard, but she’s a fantastic storyteller. Highly recommend.

Summer is the time for beach reads, which for me can mean anything from foodie fiction or books about books that I can imagine myself finishing in a few hours while drinking a mai tai and listening to the waves to a story that actually has the beach as a setting. In other words, my definition is fluid at best. They usually include a little bit of romance and/or sex, and they typically have happy endings (but not always). These were the five summer/beach reads that I really enjoyed last month:

  1. By the Book – This story has two things going for it right off the bat. Jasmine Guillory, so you know it’s going to be good, and it’s a Beauty and the Beast retelling that focuses on story crafting. Adore.
  2. Book Lovers – Um, if Emily Henry writes steam this well in every book, let me go read all of them right now. This one is also about the book industry, and it was fantastic.
  3. The Love Hypothesis – Olive is me (socially, at least). Now all I need is to plot a fake relationship with an attractive, available, brilliant guy so that he can go ahead and fall in love with me.
  4. Instructions for Dancing – A meet-cute through ballroom dancing? Yes, please. Also, fair warning and generically spoilery – per her usual, Nicola Yoon will rip your heart right out with this one.
  5. Meet Cute – This book makes me want to work on my own collection of short stories that I’ve started (or…one of the three that I’ve started…). I really loved most of these selections and found a couple of new-to-me authors whose work I’d like to explore.

Tell me the one (or eight) books you’ve really loved recently.

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July TBR

Welp. Definitely summer. July is here, and I want nothing more than to stay inside and not be out in all that nonsense. It’s a good thing I have plenty to read.

There are a lot of books this month, but some I have started already and many of them are pretty short, so hope springs eternal. 

Book Clubs

Reading Challenges


The selections this month focus on finding lush moments in daily life. They’re also research for my 31 Days series coming in October (specific topic TBA).

La Dolce Vita Weekend(s)

Speaking of living lush, I have a stockpile of books from multiple genres about the sweet life in Italy. I’m going to take at least one weekend this month to binge and cook out of them. Right now, I’m planning on that weekend being July 22-23, as I will be participating in Dewey’s Reverse Readathon that Friday and Saturday, but don’t be surprised if I block off the weekends before and after it as well. After a trip to our new-ish Italian market, first, of course.


These are a few just-because books I’ve been wanting to read for a few months, so here we go.

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