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Archive for the ‘Friday Five’ Category

“Home wasn’t a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.” – Sarah Dessen, from What Happened to Goodbye

In exploring the concept of home, I’ve noticed that certain things stand out to me. For the rest of the year, a few of our Friday Fives are going to focus on books and think pieces that have sparked reflections about some of those things. 

  1. Shawn Smucker’s piece On the Road Again – “Now that I”m 46, homesickness is more of an ache for the place and the people where I belong, where I fit.” I spent most of last weekend on my parents’ farm, with a brief stint at the cousin’s place to attend a graduation party for his oldest child who is now an actual grown-up. [Aside – WHAT. I swear he was just born a minute ago.] It was so good to catch up with the extended family I came from, and we’re going to need to do that more often. I also really love coming back to Denton after a weekend away, though. Walking into my messy apartment where everything is mine and is just where I left it gives me a special kind of peace.
  2. The Secret of Poppyridge Cove by Rimmy London – Should you use an inheritance to buy a great house that comes with some land and a private beach entrance but that is also possibly haunted and/or frequented by a (maybe) serial killer? I know the “responsible” answer to this fantasy scenario is probably no, especially when the money is not all in the bank account quite yet, but then I had to keep turning up the volume on this audiobook to hear it over my upstairs neighbors and their cute dogs committing the grievous act of walking across the room in their own apartment, so WHERE DO I SIGN?! I am inspiring/torturing myself with a lot of books lately that revolve around the act of buying a home and making it yours (even if there are bumps and possibly corpses along the way). I liked both this one and A Traitor at Poppyridge Cove, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.
  3. The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg – I’m not saying that, when I retire, I’m going to put everything in storage and just drive until I find the town and house I want to live in, but this book makes a good argument for it. I really enjoyed it. Yes, as a couple of the online reviews state, it does read a little bit like a Hallmark Christmas movie (minus the Christmas). But there are so many poignant moments about grief and friendship and delicious food and community that it might have well had my name in the title because clearly it was written for me.  It wasn’t just finding a place to land that helped the main character through her grief but also remembering to find joy in small, ordinary pleasures and with the people who showed up alongside her. I could use that reminder myself from time to time. 
  4. I love the way Christie Purifoy writes about place. In this guest post, she pursues the answer to the question, “What if our homes could be places that bring us back to life?” I love being at home, but sometimes I’m overwhelmed by the sheer volume of things I want to get done there. I get started with one project and then have to work or be somewhere else, so it takes longer than I would like to make a dent or a difference. But at other times, I look out my patio door at the tiny garden that is thriving, or I sit in my office among my books and glance up to see one I’d forgotten I had, and I’m filled with gratitude for this little space of mine. More of these life-giving moments, please.
  5. How To Keep House While Drowning by KC Davis – This is the book I didn’t even know I needed right now. Usually with advice-laden books, I take notes because 1) that’s my best learning style, and 2) I want a succinct list of highlights to review later. I didn’t do that with this one because it’s short and I own it so I just decided to tab the pages. I have so many tabbed spots. It’s the tabbing equivalent of highlighting the whole book. But at just over 150 pages (if you include the appendix and the acknowledgments), it’s so rich in information. My favorite takeaway is that care tasks (whether for home or self) are morally neutral. You are not a better or worse person/adult based on how much you get done. I want this lesson to permeate my whole life this year. I already know it in my head but my heart and soul take a minute to catch up.

I’m very much looking forward to an easy weekend. Rest. Recoup. Also, dishes and maybe dusting. Putting some of those principles from Davis’s book into practice.

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This is the second closedown day/summer move-in weekend at work. This one is a little slower than last week, so I figured an update was in order. I know that to everyone else it’s Saturday, but I definitely woke up to an alarm and I’m wearing shoes and sitting at my desk at work, so it’s Friday in my heart.

This week’s edition includes recipes of things I have been tinkering with and a few books I have finished in the last couple of weeks. Enjoy!

  1. One of my book clubs met last Tuesday, and we usually each bring a snack or some type of food to share. The snack I brought this month was margaritas. My go-to recipe is one I found in one of the Sweet Potato Queens’ books (I believe it was The Sweet Potato Queens’ Book of Love), because it’s four ingredients I can pour together, stir, and call it a day. Well, I like Triple Sec in my margaritas, so my version is technically five ingredients. And the grocery store didn’t have frozen limeade on Monday night, so I used the Simply Limeade, and now I have a new favorite way to make them that’s not quite so syrupy sweet. Anyway, combine 12(ish) oz. each of tequila and/or triple sec, Corona (or a Corona-esque beer – they’re actually better with Sol if you can find it), 7-Up (not Sprite or any other lemon/lime drink – it makes a difference), and frozen limeade (or Simply Limeade that you’ve slightly frozen). Stir, serve, and enjoy. It’s the perfect hybrid of frozen and on-the-rocks margaritas, and it is potent
  2. I’ve been dabbling with no-churn ice creams, and I took two flavors to Cookbook Club last Friday – Nigella Lawson’s no-churn coffee ice cream and Eric Kim’s no-churn Scotch ice cream. In related news, I enjoy boozy ice creams. And the no-churn is so easy to make (it’s essentially frozen whipped cream). This may become a habit. Cottage cheese ice cream is the next experiment.
  3. The Seven Stones: The Seastone by Robb Arbuckle – This is the first book in a new middle-grade series, and it’s a pretty standard good vs. evil, magical academia trope. It incorporates a lot of mythology and elementals and historical references, so it’s also pretty ambitious. I’m interested to see if many of those things will become significant to the plot of the series or if the author will focus on a few of them to tighten the narrative (I can see clear arguments for both, depending on what the author wants the story arc to be, so this interest is curiosity rather than criticism at this point). It made me want to read more of the story, so it was a successful first installment!
  4. I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver – This was my second time reading this book because I recommended it for my church book club. I loved it just as much the second time (and listened on audio, which is also good). The main character is nonbinary, and this is the story of their coming out and finding the people who love and support them. Deaver does a great job of showing the anguish and self-doubt that often accompanies this process. I wanted to fight everyone who hurt Ben throughout the book.
  5. The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman – I really love the Thursday Murder Club series. I was feeling puny Sunday so I was not up for much else but lying about and drinking tea and reading this book. I started and finished it that day.

Added bonus – a morning routine is so important, and this kid is going places. But not until he’s had his morning lemon and honey constitutional.

I hope your weekend is going well!

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Hello, friends! We are heading across the street for lunch today because it’s staff discount day in the cafeteria and also because there are empanadas there. We are going a little early because it’s Reading Day at UNT (i.e., no classes are held), and we want to make it to the cafeteria before it is teeming with the students who are hopefully using this small break before Finals Week to sleep in and catch up on some rest.

It’s also Cinco de Mayo (i.e., the reason for the empanadas, probably). Please consider supporting local Mexican-owned businesses (particularly if they make tasty drinks because yay Friday) or donating to one of the following organizations:

I’m so happy it’s the weekend (soon). Here are five things I enjoyed this week:

  1. As an aspiring older female writer, I’m excited that people are seeking them out. Keep seeking, folks. I’m coming. Also, I love all the books listed in this article that I’ve read (e.g., if you haven’t read Lessons in Chemistry, you’re missing out), and I expect that June’s TBR is going to include some of the ones I haven’t.
  2. An excerpt from Maggie Smith’s memoir You Could Make This Place Beautiful. Have you read Goldenrod? I’m so glad she wrote it. 
  3. Carrie Fisher is being honored with a Hollywood Walk of Fame star, which was appropriately announced on May 4.
  4. Nigella Lawson’s Cook, Eat, Repeat is the audiobook I’m currently listening to. Nigella reads it herself, and I love how her humor comes across not only in her words but in her voice. I wouldn’t usually listen to a cookbook (and honestly, I skipped right through the recipe for black pudding meatballs just like I would if I were reading through the print copy because the description was already sufficiently vivid and…yuck), but I am enjoying this one. I’m going to need the print copy, though, because I’m now craving some of these foods. Just not the meatballs.
  5. And finally – I have jumped on the Substack bandwagon. Eventually, I want the paid portion (which is not active yet, so everything that’s there can be perused for free) to be an opportunity to share some of the fiction I’m writing. But for now, I’m having fun musing about how to be/feel like/identify as a writer when you have multiple jobs/gigs, a full-time job, children, volunteer work, high-maintenance pets, or other time-consuming responsibilities. I’m currently posting once a week on Wednesdays, so subscribe if you want to hear more!

I hope you get a chance to do something fun today. Have a good weekend!

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This week’s recap is going to be a little different. As you know, it’s National Poetry Month, and I’ve read a lot of poems! There were a few collections that were just meh for me and one that fell so flat that I couldn’t even bear to make it through, but I finished and enjoyed most of the ones I planned on:

I have also been bookmarking poems to share with my beloved Follow the Reader friends. I only shared a few snippets that night because I’m misfiring all over the place this week, so transporting from the page to my brain to my mouth is hard. But here are five of my favorites from the month:

  1. “A Song for the Status Quo” by Saeed Jones (Alive at the End of the World) – This whole collection is amazing. I also like this interview about his work. 
  2. “The Noisiness of Sleep” by Ada Limón (Bright Dead Things). I love the concluding line – “I want to be the rough clothes you can’t sleep in.”
  3. Elizabeth Wilder (Balefire) – “There is not much I trust so wholeheartedly as the musty-scented pages of a book.”
  4. “Perhaps the World Ends Here” by Joy Harjo (Weaving Sundown in a Scarlet Light). Of course, the line about coffee charmed me – “Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children.”
  5. To continue the celebration of poetry (does it ever end, really?), I’m currently reading and enjoying Clint Smith’s Counting Descent

And finally, a little something to start your weekend off right. For your aural enjoyment, half an hour of Tom Hiddleston reading poetry. You’re welcome.

Have a good one, friends!

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Tomorrow is my dad’s birthday (and also Earth Day). And the phone call I make to him may be the only thing I do tomorrow. Last weekend and this week have been full of fun things, but at this moment, the keyword there is “full.” I need a day. Well, I need a month. But I get a day, and I’ll take it.

Speaking of fun things, here are a few exciting happenings that are coming up soon (like, tonight soon) and a couple of books I had feelings about.

  1. Tonight! Our duo (Sarah and I), They Say The Wind Made Them Crazy, is playing at Rubber Gloves. In fact, the whole show is going to be great. If you’re local, hope to see you there!
  2. Dr. Devon Price’s book Laziness Does Not Exist has been on my TBR for a while, so I’m delighted that this program about creating adaptable educational environments to make them more accessible is coming to UNT next week.
  3. Spiderweb is hosting an open mic night at Rubber Gloves next Tuesday. I haven’t decided if I’m going to read one of the pieces I’ve been working on or just observe, but it should be a good time.
  4. Where the Rhythm Takes You by Sarah Dass – What this main character needs is a sounding board. Someone she will actually confide in (as she already has many people she could confide in if she could put aside her pride long enough to do so). Because I wasn’t prepared for it to be me. Oh, I tried. I listened sympathetically as well as I could. Several times, I said (yes, out loud – you’re welcome, neighbors) that she should stop being clueless (you know things have to be hella obvious if even I pick up on them) and just have a conversation with the dude. Or her father. Or her best friend. Or maybe find a nice grief counselor. But alas, she could not hear me as we are both fictional in each other’s worlds. So instead, it was hours of repetitive whining about not knowing where she stood with other people, particularly the guy. I believe the audiobook reader captured the character’s voice perfectly. Unfortunately, her voice is super melodramatic, which grated on my nerve, because it’s hard to sustain constant, invested empathy, which is what seems to be expected when Every. Word. Is. Stressed.  Even when she’s just walking somewhere and sees someone in the far distance she has even the slightest twinge of beef with for any reason, it was told with Big Feelings. It is especially difficult when the character’s main conflict is her own stubborn insistence on making assumptions and thus constantly getting in her own way. It seems like I didn’t enjoy it, but I didn’t have any trouble finishing it. I did have to take a nap when it was over, though.
  5. One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus – We read this YA selection for our church book club, and we all seemed to like it a lot. The plot moved along at a good, steady pace, and I found myself rooting for (almost) all of the characters. I would have five-star loved this book in junior high/high school, but it was thoroughly enjoyable even in my jaded adulthood.

What are you looking forward to the most this weekend/upcoming week?

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This week has been an experiment in balancing fun and rest. I took both Tuesday and Thursday nights off. Tuesday was very restful. I came home, laid down on the bed to cool off for a minute, and woke up four hours later. I got up, ate a bowl of cereal, watched an episode of Veronica Mars, and went right back to sleep. Last night, however, I couldn’t slow my brain down, so although I technically took the night off, I can’t really say it was relaxing. I finally just gave up and worked on a project I need to have finished soon.

Wednesday, we painted rocks at work (fundraiser for We Care We Count). That night, we worked on a percussion part that we’re doing on Sunday before choir practice, and then I got to go to this month’s Molten Plains at Rubber Gloves. The show was phenomenal. 

Tonight is cookbook club. I’m taking a lasagna skillet because I don’t have time to make a full lasagna in the slow cooker, and it is now officially too hot to turn on the oven in Texas.

Here are five things I enjoyed this week:

  1. A list of the best bookstores in every state that I found on Pinterest led me down the rabbit hole until I also found 13 beautiful bookstores I need to see. I like having lists like these in my proverbial back pocket just in case I find myself in one of these cities with an afternoon to kill. You never know.
  2. The Spite House by Johnnie Compton – The audiobook was great and appropriately creepy. It’s not scary in the jump-out-and-get-you way, but rather a slow, eerie burn, which is the type of scary I prefer. The fact that I could only listen to the last half of the book during the day is a testament to its spookiness. The story was well-told and moved along really smoothly.
  3. Balefire: Poetry for the End of the World by Elizabeth Wilder – I took a poetry class several years ago from Elizabeth, and it was so helpful. I enjoyed this collection. One of my favorite things about it is the spare use of language that marks every word as intentional and full. Added bonus – it’s free today on Amazon! I’m not sure how long that will last but grab a copy if you can.
  4. This is a succinct synopsis of some of the best advice I’ve heard about pitching to a literary agent. Just in case you or anyone you know is interested in that kind of advice. In related news, I’d be a great literary agent. *ponders*
  5. I love this piece on how to fight for your library, particularly as many are being threatened with defunding for simply operating as libraries are meant to operate.

Tomorrow is a busy day. I have book club at the library (we’re discussing paranormal fiction) in the morning. Then I have lunch with my friend Karla and a birthday party for another friend afterward. I’m practicing with Sarah during the evening for our performance next Friday. May definitely need a nap and a whole lot of downtime on Sunday. I took Monday morning off because we were going to go to the club, but we postponed that outing. Am I giving up my morning off? Absolutely not.

I hope you have a fun and relaxing weekend and find that beautiful, elusive balance!

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It’s my mom’s birthday! She is officially an octogenarian! She’ll be so excited that I told the internet that. 

And happy Good Friday to those who observe. Although…is “happy” the right adjective there? Happy death of our Lord? Yay, crucifixion? Congratulations on the commemoration of Jesus being murdered by the state under pressure from an angry mob? 

ANYWAY.

Hi. It is Friday – the end of the work week – and that is something to be happy about. 

  1. I never know what to take for Easter brunch at church. Side dish? Breakfast casserole? Something I can make the day before? Nothing but a healthy appetite because I already am going to be there as assisting minister at the 8:30 service and contrary to my personal feelings/raising, I don’t actually have to do everything? Heavily leaning toward the last one, but have not completely ruled out blueberry monkey bread as an option.
  2. I am enjoying Camp NaNoWriMo. I’m working on my essay collection of to-do lists for complicated days. I set a goal of 10,000 words for the month, which averages out to a little less than 350 per day. Totally doable.
  3. Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley – This book was so good. I listened to the audio, but I may buy the hard copy because I can see myself re-reading it. What most stood out to me was the perfect pacing – it was fast enough to hold tension and keep the story moving but slow enough to build suspense. It felt like it was happening in real time. 
  4. Weyward by Emilia Hart – I liked this one a lot. It was just the right mix of dangerous and cozy. The book follows three generations of women who have a specific power, and the way they use it is quite satisfying. The audio reader was great – she made it super easy to distinguish between the three characters telling the story.
  5. As I’m pondering ways to make my apartment cozier (i.e., stuff more bookshelves and reading nooks in there), I often stumble across lists like this one. My current project is figuring out a way to divide the living room and dining area without making it feel cramped. I am considering getting rid of the big table. Maybe. I’m going to move things around and see how they work.

I hope you are having a good day and have an even better weekend!

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Happy Friday, friends! I took Monday off as a continuation of my birthday commitment to do absolutely nothing but what I want for a few days, and it was nice. I made a pasta salad, which I’ve eaten all week for lunch (and sometimes also dinner – it makes so much), and binge-watched Veronica Mars most of the day. It was great.

Having a four-day week this week was also nice. We should do this always. Well, always until I retire. Then it’s “I do what I want” all day, every day.

Here are some things I’ve run across this week. Enjoy!

  1. This list of tips on how to read more was written in more pandemic-y, home-alone times, but they’re still applicable. My favorites are the ones that lean toward “read what you like and ignore the haters” and “schedule reading time like an appointment/job.” I also find that connecting with other people over books makes me want to read more and also introduces me to fascinating new things I wouldn’t have read otherwise. Also writing reviews/reflections helps. You know what? All of these tips are solid. Take the ones that sound like they’d be useful to you if reading more is on your vision board.
  2. I love everything about this column, included in Roxane Gay’s Audacious Roundup (which you should also follow). I especially like the shout-out to Marcella Hazan and the story about Nonna eating peppers out of the jar. I’m excited to see future updates. 
  3. In working through my Audible library, I ran across something I picked up a couple of years ago – Courting the Wild Twin by Martin Shaw. It reminded me of some of the discussions we had in performance classes in grad school, with lovely moments such as “Myths are a secret weapon. A radical agency for beauty in the age of amnesia – an agency far beyond concept and polemic.” I enjoyed the nostalgia. Lots of connected-but-still-badly-in-need-of-more-editing tangents, so maybe the print copy would have been an easier read than the audio.
  4. We had our annual Equity and Diversity Conference here yesterday, and it was probably the best one I’ve attended. Hina Wong-Kalu was my favorite speaker. 
  5. And finally…they had me at “Stanley Tucci.” A peek inside his pantry was just what my week needed. Also, I’m 100% in favor of pasta for breakfast.

I hope you’ve had a great week and have an even better weekend!

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The bats continue their festive seasonal costume choices at the office.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! AKA, the eve of my birthday. I’m off work today to rest up for the festivities tomorrow and I’m looking forward to my video chat with Maggie and Michelle tonight. But I wanted to drop in and give you some of the goodies that I’ve enjoyed in the last couple of weeks.

  1. I love the St. Marin’s series by ACF Bookens, and Hardcover Homicide is the first one I listened to on audio. I think I would have enjoyed that version better if I had listened to the series from the beginning. It’s hard to start audio versions on the 9th book – I already have voices in my head for the characters at that point – but it was a good reading. Anyway, the whole series is great fun, and I love how these characters have developed throughout it. Also, be prepared to add to your TBR list with every book. It will make you long to hang out in your favorite local bookstore or library even more than you already do. I look forward to reading the next one, but maybe I’ll order it in print this time.
  2. Speaking of things to add to the TBR, the 2023 longlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction has been announced. 
  3. Big Swiss by Jen Beagin – Oh, the wit! I really enjoyed this book. The characters are off their rockers and do some things that are ill-advised and sometimes downright startling. But there are also some really sweet moments and, while the main character stressed me out for a large portion of the book, I still found her likable. 
  4. I think one of my mini-goals for April is going to be focusing on creating a less stressful home environment. Specifically, I am targeting my dining area. I’ve currently dedicated the large table to getting the plants started for my patio garden for the summer (or let’s be real – as long as it lasts), but once they’re planted properly outside, I don’t want the space to just clutter up again. Ideally, I could buy some nice flowers to motivate me to keep it clear, but experience tells me that won’t deter me for long. It needs a purpose other than the surface I hurriedly clear off on the rare occasions I have more than two people over for dinner. I am considering turning it into a reading nook/project area, but I haven’t decided exactly what that looks like.
  5. If you are interested in fine-tuning your people skills, research shows that reading fiction can help you do that. As a former communication professor, however, I can verify that it’s probably NOT a good idea to send that link to someone and say, “If you would just read this and do what it says, we’d get along so much better.” That’s probably not helpful. Probably.

I hope you have a great weekend!

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One thing I really love about this month is that my birthday is on its way, so I get a lot of emails with coupons and freebies. I will faithfully delete countless emails I don’t read all year just to get these treats. 

Here are some other things I have loved recently:

  1. Birds of America by Lorrie Moore – This was our February selection for Follow the Reader, and we spent most of the time talking about it just reading exquisitely written lines from the stories. My favorite story was a tie between “Which Is More Than I Can Say About Some People” about the narrator’s trip to Ireland with her mom and “Terrific Mother” set in a children’s cancer ward. Moore writes deeply flawed characters really well, and each story elicited a strong emotional response.
  2. A Hole in the World by Amanda Held Opelt – Opelt’s own experience of grief after her miscarriages and the sudden loss of her sister (Rachel Held Evans) led to her desire to learn about grief rituals, and this book is the result of what she learned. It sits in the uncertainty of having more questions than answers and cycling through both grief and joy (sometimes at the same time). It was the perfect read for Lent, and I can see myself buying and re-reading it when grief is heavy. 
  3. I’m in the market for new sandals. The weather has been springy, and the selection in my closet is sparse. I am considering these or these. Maybe these. I tend to lean toward black footwear (practical – hides dirt, goes with everything), but I’m feeling shiny lately. I may need shoes to match. Thanks for the birthday coupon, DSW!
  4. I need another baking pan like I need a hole in my toe, but THIS IS SO CUTE. I COULD MAKE BUTTERFLY CAKELETS. Now, whether I would is another story…
  5. A love letter to libraries. This piece made my NYT subscription worth it this month.

I hope March is treating you well so far. Have a good weekend, friends!

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