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June TBR

I am just back to work today from a fantastic (one might even say luscious) almost-two-week vacation. I got to go to the farm, visit friends I haven’t seen in a while, and shop at Daiso for the first time! Today, I’m glad to see my coworkers, and my inbox is not too outrageous. But I have to tell you – having to be places before noon is bullshit. Highly overrated. 0/10. Do not recommend. Other than my mild, justified melodrama over being anywhere but my armchair and doing anything other than nursing a French press of coffee this morning, though, I’m pretty excited about the month ahead. 

Vacation time also let me make a decent dent in my backlist TBR. I finished 16 books, which isn’t quite my personal record, but it’s close. I’ll talk more about my favorites from May either tomorrow or next Friday, but for now, let’s look at the plans for June!

Book Clubs

Reading Challenges

And yay! The Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide is here! Several books I’m already excited to read are on it, so I’m going to start with at least these three:

Lush

June is the month when summer tries to sucker me into liking it. I mean, it’s a pretty good month. Bountiful produce, temperatures not quite as hot as they’re going to get, work not quite as frenzied as it’s going to get, fun Pride events, etc. My reading challenge and lush selections this month are a rampant revelry in meet-cutes and beach reads and nature essays and travel novels. Some of my favorite comfort read categories.

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This post is for the schedule nerds. Those who mark “set up new planner” as the last thing on the to-do list in the old planner. Those who put the release date for next year’s edition of their favorite planner on their calendars as an actual event.Those who send out the office invitations for fun events that everyone else misses because they’re buried in a mass email that no one else reads.

My people.

It’s also for people who are curious about what reading for 24 hours in three days looks like. Spoiler alert – it involves way more sitting than you imagine. Plan active breaks and audiobooks you can take on walks or listen to while cleaning. All types of reading count. Not all my 2-hour blocks of reading will be done sitting down.

This is the tentative schedule for my retreat this weekend. I say “tentative” for two reasons. First, I find that I follow a schedule more easily when I give myself permission to veer from it (i.e., don’t view it as set in stone or something I have to do). Having to do things is a lot of pressure for a weekend that’s supposed to be fun, and if I need a more extended break, there are several things that I may decide to do that aren’t on the schedule. Also, my focus has been shit lately, so a certain degree of playing it by ear may be necessary. Shorter, more frequent breaks may become the rule.

Second, individual pockets of activity may be shifted depending on how much of my to-do list I get done before the weekend officially starts. For example, ideally, I will have time to make the Earl Grey shortbread dough tonight so that all I have to do tomorrow afternoon is bake and box the cookies for cookbook club. If that doesn’t happen, though, I have allowed space for this task to cut into Friday’s proposed reading time without derailing the whole read-24-hours plan just as it’s getting started.

I started planning my schedule by putting specific activities during the breaks, but I think breaks will work better if I leave them flexible. So just know that a break without a specific activity listed next to it may involve one or more of these things:

  • Dancing
  • Doing Pilates
  • Switching out/folding loads of laundry
  • Washing dishes
  • Tidying something that’s been visually harassing me out of the corner of my eye while I’m trying to focus on what I’m reading
  • Journaling (writing or art)
  • Taking a walk
  • Eating a snack

I also have potential reading times that I’m not including in my planned hour count. This gives me even more flexibility just in case I go rogue (a very real possibility). Additionally, I have planned 26 instead of 24 reading hours, just in case. So there’s a lot of wiggle room.

Friday, April 29 (8.5 hours)

12a-2a – Going to get it started at midnight, per my usual habit (2 hours)

10-11:30 – Leisurely wake up/scroll social media/have breakfast/watch an episode of Boston Legal or Arrested Development

11:30-2 – Read (2.5 hours)

2-2:30 – Make shortbread dough (or another break activity if that’s already done)

2:30-5 – Read  (2.5 hours)

5-5:15 – Check personal email/social media

5:15-6:45 – Bake/box shortbread for cookbook club. Listen to audiobook while baking (1.5 hours)

7-? – Cookbook club

?-bedtime – Potential reading time (or just go to bed early because carbs and wine)

Saturday, April 30 (10 hours)

10-11:30 – Leisurely wake up/scroll social media/have breakfast/watch an episode of Boston Legal or Arrested Development

11:30-1:30 – Read (2 hours)

1:30-2 – Put lasagna in slow cooker for evening

2-4 – Independent Bookstore Day Festivities at Patchouli Joe’s or read (potential 1.5 hours + break)

4-6 – Read (2 hours)

6-7 – Dinner/break/TV/social media

7-9 – Read (2 hours)

9-9:30 – Break

9:30-11:30 – Read (2 hours)

11:30-12 – Break

12-2 – Read (2 hours)

Sunday, May 1 (7.5 hours)

10-11:30 – Leisurely wake up/scroll social media/have breakfast/watch an episode of Boston Legal or Arrested Development

11:30-2 – Read (2.5 hours)

2-2:30 – Break

2:30-5 – Read (2.5 hours)

5-5:30 – Eat sandwich or salad

5:30-? – Attend private concert event to which I will definitely take a book and sneak in at least an hour of reading (1 hour)

?-bedtime – Read (1.5 hours, or however many are left at this point)

It’s likely that I’ll post updates on Instagram or maybe here (if I have actual commentary about how it’s going) throughout the readathon. Whether you are reading or spending time with family or working or doing a little bit of everything this weekend, I hope you have a good one!

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Readathon Retreat!

Do you ever put aside a large block of time just to read? Isn’t it decadent? I occasionally take my own extended reading breaks, but I mostly do it when I participate in online readathons. I love these events, but my planning and execution usually goes like this:

  1. Get SUPER excited and exclamation-pointy about it when I read the save-the-date post months in advance!!!!!!! I’m going to read so much! I’m going to catch up on the TBR for the whole year!! I’m going to read for 24 hours straight!!!
  2. Put it on the calendar (in ALL CAPS!!!!)
  3. Promptly forget about it.
  4. Remember that I’m doing it (and was super excited about it) when I make my daily to-do lists for the week in my planner the Sunday before it’s scheduled.
  5. Get excited again!!!!
  6. Spend the week stacking up more books next to my favorite reading chair than I could feasibly read in a month, much less a weekend. Post pics of it on the Instagram, acknowledging the impossibility of the task I’m setting myself up for in writing while secretly believing that somehow I really can perform the bending of space and time that it would take to finish all those books during the readathon.
  7. Drink a strong cup of coffee on the Friday night it starts (because I’m fried from the workweek but feel compelled to start the readathon at the moment it officially begins – usually at midnight). 
  8. Read for a good 2-3 hours (typical for any Friday night, although most weeks I definitely start earlier than 12:00), and finally give up and go to bed when I notice that I keep nodding off and thus have been re-reading the same page for the last 20 minutes.
  9. Wake up late Saturday morning. Briefly and half-heartedly mourn the lost hours of reading I’ve missed in a sigh-oh-well but also not-sorry, well-rested fashion. Have breakfast and a vat of coffee while watching an episode of whatever show I’m currently bingeing to give my brain time to wake up and start doing that following-a-plot thing.
  10. Read for an hour or two.
  11. Get a sudden wild hair to do the laundry/dishes/sweeping/cleaning/Marie-Kondo-ing my bedroom or whatever task that I have inexplicably decided I need to accomplish immediately (this can last anywhere from half an hour to early evening). I may listen to an audiobook while I’m doing it if the activity is fairly mindless and not too loud.
  12. Read for an hour or two more. 
  13. It must be time to eat something, right? I should eat something. And watch another episode of my stories.
  14. Scroll through social media while trying to convince myself that, technically, memes and captions are a type of reading.
  15. Read a little while (i.e., less than an hour) longer and then go to bed. 

If the official readathon lasts into Sunday, repeat the pattern above, only with more frequent and longer interruptions because I usually go to church to sing with the choir and have at least one meeting in the afternoon and often spend a few hours on my writing job in the evening if my teams have a lot of work they need to be finished.

Well, Dewey’s  24-Hour Readathon is this weekend, and real talk – it may turn out a lot like that. And that’s ok. That is still an enjoyable, relaxed weekend, and I still get to read a lot. I’d like to make it a real retreat, though. More on that in a minute.

For you morning people, Dewey’s is a good readathon. It starts at 8:00 a.m. EST on Saturday, April 30 (that’s 7:00…on a Saturday…for those of us in the Central time zone. I can 100% guarantee I won’t be awake and reading at that time unless I happen to still be up from the night before.). For the rest of us, I (and also the staff of Dewey’s) give us full permission to adapt the schedule to fit whatever we want. Just watch the Dewey’s Instagram for the day if you want to be a little social about it.

My personal goal for this weekend is to actually read 24 hours total but stretch it out over Friday-Sunday. Inspired by this post, I am preparing to succeed by doing the following things:

  • Take Friday off work (both jobs) to get a good head start. This also gives me during-the-workday time (i.e., the best time) to go grocery shopping for easy-prep, retreat-ish foods if I haven’t managed to make it to the store before then. I already have to go to the store tonight because I am out of coffee (How, though. How did I not even realize I was running low? I must really need a break.), so hopefully all I’ll need to pick up later in the week is bread, fruit, or other easily-perishables.
  • Take Sunday off, too. Have a real weekend. Reserve the right to change my mind Sunday morning if I’m restless or I really like the songs we’re singing in the service.
  • Make a personalized schedule for my readathon. Ok, that gets some !!!!! That’s just as exciting as reading all weekend! It allows me to plug in planned breaks for cleaning, cooking, eating, doom scrolling, etc., with specific stop times. It also takes the non-reading but still bookish activities I will be indulging in into account. For example, this particular retreat will include making cookies from Eat this Poem for our cookbook club on Friday. I may go to Patchouli Joe’s for Independent Bookstore Day on Saturday, but I’m not committed to actually attending in person because 1) I want it to be successful and thus crowded but also I hate being in a crowd and 2) isn’t every day Independent Bookstore Day for me? Depending on how lovey I feel about the schedule when I get it finalized, I may post the itinerary here for fellow planner nerds to enjoy.
  • Meal plan with an abundance of snacks and cozy beverages. I’m currently thinking croissants or toast with butter/jam (maybe an egg) for breakfast, sandwiches/charcuterie for lunch, and delicious things I can slow cook in the Crock Pot all day for supper. This would also give me lunches for the next week, so that’s an extra bonus.
  • Create a big, impossible book stack like the one above, all of which I am likely to start and none of which I may actually finish that weekend. Or maybe I’ll include books I am close to finishing that I started a while ago and put down for a practical (i.e., ran out of time/needed to finish something else/etc., not because I wasn’t enjoying it) reason. Perhaps a mix of both, as well as some shorter books I can read in one sitting. I still have a couple of poetry collections I planned to read this month but haven’t yet, so those will probably be included, too.

If you’re participating in Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon (or just doing your own self-designed reading retreat someday soon), I’d love to hear about your experience. Do you plan ahead? Do you wing it? Which do you enjoy more?

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Spring/summer at the farm

Making to-do lists to match my yearly theme always delights me. This is especially true when my word of the year is something like “lush.” In the spirit of Joy The Baker’s summer bucket lists, I’ve been musing about the next few months.

I’ve decided that my lush summer starts now. As I was reminded by Tsh Oxenreider’s newsletter this morning, the pursuit of beauty is important, especially in hard times, so why wait? Also, let’s face it – the weather in Texas basically thinks it’s summer from April-September anyway. And to my amazement and mild chagrin, April is LATER THIS WEEK.

The first step is to find some things to drop so that I have the freedom in my schedule and the energy to do the fun stuff listed below. I’ve already been practicing. My typical response to busyness has been to tough my way through something, even if a pounding headache or sensory overwhelm or exhaustion from panic attacks or some other not-at-all-subtle signal is telling me not to. I have been really good at paying attention to those signals lately, though, and canceling things when I need to. Sure, I’ve missed some things that I wanted to do. But you know what? The world did not end, and I got the rest I needed. Then, I got to actually enjoy the next thing I wanted to do instead of having to trudge my way through it, too. Ultimately, I hope that listening to my body better looks like not making too many plans in the first place instead of having to cancel them, but baby steps.

Here are some snapshots of how I want my lush summer to look.

Plants

Despite my angst about the heat and the pollen, this is a great time of the year for plants. I never met a fruit I didn’t like, but in-season (and I cannot stress that distinction enough) spring/summer fruits—specifically, blueberries, peaches, apricots, and cantaloupe—are my favorites. I have a small space for some containers on my porch, but most of my produce during this season comes from farmers’ markets.

  • Buy fresh produce and/or seeds from Denton Community Market (opening day for the season is this Saturday yay!)
  • Plant tomatoes and basil and all the random seeds I have in my containers 
  • Go to a pick-your-own flower/fruit/veggie farm. Perhaps one of these?
    Wow! U-Pick Farms – veggies
    Gemini Peach and Rose Farm – peaches, roses
    Green Valley Gardens – flowers 
  • Keep fresh flowers (carefully chosen, because allergies) on the table and around the house
  • Repot the office plant and perhaps pick up another new green friend or two along the way

Food

  • Try a new local restaurant. Osteria il Muro is the one I have in mind, but spaces are super limited. Maybe I’ll be able to get a reservation someday.
  • Make sun tea and lemonade
  • Buy cold brew from Coffee Hog once(ish) a month (yes, I could make it myself. But will I?)
  • Snow cones!
  • Make ice cream (or at least an icebox pie or two, which frankly is more likely than dragging out the ice cream maker. But hope springs eternal.)
  • Test some of the updated recipes for my Epic Meal Planning and Feast projects

Events/Travel
(if the aforementioned improved minding of my schedule allows, of course)

  • I’d like to take a small road trip if I can make room in the budget for it. San Antonio to see Hope and Nowhere? Beach getaway?
  • Attend a summer festival (or two). Maybe these?
    North Texas Lavender Festival (June 26-27) – TX-Ture Farm
    North Texas Book Festival (Aug 20, 3-7pm) – Greater Denton Arts Council
  • Visit the family farm once a month
  • Hang out at a winery with friends
  • Enjoy afternoons/days on the Denton, McKinney, and/or Gainesville square(s)

Social/Miscellaneous

  • Pool time with friends
  • Girls weekend with Maggie and Michelle
  • Lounge around in bookshops
  • Continue my cleaning streak by cleaning out closets and actually taking donations where they need to go
  • Redecorate or organize one small space in the apartment each week

What do you love most about warmer days? Anything you’re looking forward to?

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March TBR

I finally finished bingeing (is it really a binge, though, if it takes you the better part of a year?) Once Upon a Time last month. The final season had a mostly different cast, and I was not a fan of one of the new actors in particular, so it took me a little more time to get through it. But I kept coming back because Alice (in Wonderland but she’s “been to lots of places”) was one of the key characters in the last season. I loved her part in the storyline as well as Rose Reynolds’s portrayal of the character.

So this month, in addition to tracking down the Once Upon a Time in Wonderland spinoff, I’m prolonging the Alice magic by re-reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. As I love all manner of tweaks and retellings, I may also read one or several of these:

I’m open to other Alice/Mad Hatter/Queen of Hearts/Wonderland retellings, of course. Fortunately, there are so many. Hit me with your faves. 

Book Clubs

Reading Challenges

Most of the books I’ve read so far this year have completed prompts on my challenges. A proper update on how each one is going is coming in the next few weeks, but these are the ones I’ve picked out specifically for this month.

  • Read Harder – Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust (queer retelling of a fairytale)
  • Girlxoxo – The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh (keyword: beautiful)
  • 52 Book Club – The Maid by Nita Prose (we’ll try this January book club selection again to fulfill the prompt “published in 2022”) 
  • POPSUGAR – The two original Lewis Carroll selections listed above (from the advanced section – a duology – although I do have a lot of duologies on my general TBR list)

Lush Reads

A nice blend of challenge and comfort.

Additional Options

Mostly books that need to go back to the library soon but also some long-standing TBRs.

What are you reading this month?

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In no particular order…

  1. The Rural Diaries by Hilarie Burton Morgan – I grew up on a farm, and my parents still live there, so I get to go back and visit frequently. I am drawn to any story about farm life and making it work. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have the resources of two successful actors to fall back on, but I digress. Actually, that’s not a digression. This book is a good example of how much work it takes to make a farm functional, even if you have a lot of resources. She also charmed me with various instances of finding things and causes they loved and throwing all their excess money at them rather than just buying more stuff for themselves. I really enjoyed that.
  2. Wintering by Katherine May – I took so many notes on this book that I’m not sure I can summarize them. Instead, I leave you with some of my favorite quotes (lifted shamelessly from Goodreads because I’m wintering and reserving energy for other things because…just read the book):
    – “If happiness is a skill, then sadness is, too…[that] is wintering. It is the active acceptance of sadness. It is the practice of allowing ourselves to feel it as a need. It is the courage to stare down the worst parts of our experience and to commit to healing them the best we can. Wintering is a moment of intuition, our true needs felt keenly as a knife.”
    – “Here is another truth about wintering: you’ll find wisdom in your winter, and once it’s over, it’s your responsibility to pass it on. And in return, it’s our responsibility to listen to those who have wintered before us. It’s an exchange of gifts in which nobody loses out.”
    – “Doing those deeply unfashionable things—slowing down, letting your spare time expand, getting enough sleep, resting—is a radical act now, but it is essential.”
    – “Winter is when I reorganise my bookshelves and read all the books I acquired in the previous year and failed to actually read. It is also the time when I reread beloved novels, for the pleasure of reacquainting myself with old friends. In summer, I want big, splashy ideas and trashy page-turners, devoured while lounging in a garden chair or perching on one of the breakwaters on the beach. In winter, I want concepts to chew over in a pool of lamplight—slow, spiritual reading, a reinforcement of the soul. Winter is a time for libraries, the muffled quiet of bookstacks and the scent of old pages and dust. In winter, I can spend hours in silent pursuit of a half-understood concept or a detail of history. There is nowhere else to be, after all.”
    – “Much to my regret, I have yet to befriend a robin.” (ME TOO I HAVE THIS SAME REGRET)
    – “The right to sing is an absolute, regardless of how it sounds to the outside world. We sing because we must. We sing because it fills our lungs with nourishing air, and lets our hearts soar with the notes we let out. We sing because it allows us to speak of love and loss, delight and desire, all encoded in lyrics that let us pretend that those feelings are not quite ours. In song, we have permission to rehearse all our heartbreaks, all our lusts.”
    – “Now my evenings have the consolation of mugs of emerald-green tea made with fresh mint. It’s not so bad, but the time seems to stretch, and I’m finding myself in bed by nine, perhaps earlier if I can get away with it. It’s a profoundly unsociable way of living, but it gives me those clearheaded early mornings in the inky dark, when I light candles around the house and relish two straight hours when nobody can make any demands on me.”
    – “That’s what humans do: we make and remake our stories, abandoning the ones that no longer fit and trying on new ones for size.”
    – “They say we should dance like no one is watching. I think that applies to reading, too.”
  3. How To Do Nothing by Jenny Odell – Do you sense a theme? The title is a bit of a misnomer, because it advocates actually doing quite a lot. Just…things that are important and not necessarily the things that society/patriarchy/capitalism and other such nonsense wants you to believe are important. Is it possible that when you can truly stop doing those things you may have time for the things that matter most to you? I hope so.
  4. Loveless  by Alise Oseman – “Give your friendships the magic you would give a romance. Because they’re just as important. Actually, for us, they’re way more important.” Oh, the young adult angst! Perfectly captured. Reading this book was like listening to my students/customers. I had never read a rom-com with an ace main character, and it was lovely. I particularly enjoyed the parts that illustrated the impact and importance of friendships.
  5. Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade – I only read this because it is the first in a series brought to my attention by a Happy Endings Book Club selection from a few months ago (I have a habit of only reading series in the order they are written if possible, so the book I received as part of my subscription had to wait). I’m so glad I started with it! It’s basically a fandom fantasy wherein the fan meets/befriends/falls in love with the celebrity. It reminds me of good times on the MRMB (Michael Rosenbaum Message Board). Now I’m excited to see what happens with Alex and Lauren in All the Feels

What have you enjoyed reading lately?

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Bookcore

I thought I had to take another picture for this post. But then I looked through my phone and discovered what I really had to do is just narrow the selection.

With my focus on joy last year and my exploration of lush this year, I’ve been thinking a lot about my aesthetic, not just in my home but also in my personal style. Once upon a time (like two decades), a friend commented that I dressed like a cartoon character. I tried to protest but then looked down at the black t-shirt, oversized green cardigan, and bright blue pants I was wearing. Ok, he had a point.

That may be the time in my life when I loved my look the most. It was mostly pieces in solid colors tempered with a lot of black, as it coincided with my goth “phase” (which, let’s be real – I never really grew out of. It’s a fun look that I still often enjoy breaking out today).

Then I read this article about bookcore (i.e., dressing like people who frequent bookstores). And I am fascinated, enchanted, and enthusiastic. Of course, this is my look. There’s not really one distinct thing that sets it apart (although the writer gives some key elements to look for toward the middle/end-ish). But looking at the pictures at the end, and reading through the whole piece, I think my particular brand of bookcore looks something like this:

  • Layers – Depending on the season, my trusty pea coat, sweaters, t-shirts, scarves. I particularly enjoy the suggestion of “a questionable hat.” After reading this article, I may have to start wearing blazers again (throwback to my early teaching days). Layers allow me to adjust to the store’s temperature so that I can spend a while there and still be comfortable. Speaking of comfort…
  • Low-heeled boots or other comfy footwear. I don’t know that I can commit to ugly shoes, but I do enjoy something with some support.
  • Knit skirts/tunics/dresses with leggings – Again, comfort is key. I technically own a pair of jeans and one or two pairs of trousers, but I don’t remember the last time I actually wore real pants. And why would I, when there are leggings? Real pants are so uncomfortable with their hard seams and lack of give. Also, they cover up my cute boots.
  • Backpack and/or tote bags – For my everyday bag, I need something that I can wear – leaving my hands/arms free for book browsing – that can also hold a book if I know I’m going to be standing in lines a lot that day and will need something to read. And I have so many tote bags, but I also use them regularly. Nice to think of them as an actual part of the look.

Bookcore definitely has taken over my home, as there are shelves and/or stacks of books in every single room. When you basically live surrounded by books, it just makes sense to dress the part.

I may have to do some reconnaissance this weekend to see how well I match the local bookcore aesthetic. Do your local bookstore patrons have a particular style?

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Lush

My word for 2022 is LUSH. It’s the sort of word I feel compelled to type in all caps and use italics for emphasis. I like that. This is gonna be fun. 

According to Merriam-Webster, the word LUSH means…

  1. “…having a lot of full and healthy growth”

I often come to the new year feeling as if I haven’t quite finished exploring the word for the previous one. In a way, this makes sense. Growth is continual, lifelong, etc. I wanted my word for 2022 to acknowledge that. My first thought was “nourish.” I wanted to look forward and continue to grow in all the things I have learned these past few years. I want to continue to have experiences and read books that explore joy, but also that feature hope, wild, alive, lucky, fun, true, and other core values.

But LUSH encompasses my underlying goal better. There is an implied immoderate quality to this word. Not just growth but a lot of growth. An abundance of growth. A fullness. All the growth I can possibly squeeze into this little pocket of time and space. Maybe I should add “rest” to that list above so that I remember that it, too, is important. Overworked and stressed out does not fit in with a lush lifestyle. Healthy is a vital part of the definition.

  1. “…covered with healthy green plants”

I am currently looking for a place in my apartment to put a huge Poinsettia that I bought in honor of my MeMaws for the Christmas season at church and gazing fondly at my faux Christmas tree. I don’t even want to think about what’s happening in the office with The Little Juniper That Could (but if I did want to think of it, I might confess that I fear its days are numbered. RIP, probably). On the porch outside, my briefly successful tomato plant has long given up the ghost (but that’s not my fault – that’s just on account-a it being not summer), but the flowers that died when I was caring for them have resurrected now that I’ve stopped doing anything, which seems unnecessarily petty of them.

When it comes to plants, I have great plans and motivation but little success. I’m going to take this part of the definition literally. My goal? Have a live, thriving plant in each room. Also, flowers on the table make me happy, so I’m going to make more of an effort to do that more often.

Don’t think I didn’t notice that they snuck in “healthy” again. I see what you did there, M-W.

  1. “…having a pleasingly rich quality”

I love this turn of phrase. Yes, I would like this to describe my life. In many ways, it already does. But wouldn’t it be amazing if just about every aspect of my life had a pleasingly rich quality? I think so. Let’s delve deeper into how to make that happen this year.

  1. “…lavishly productive: such as…”

…fertile. NOPE. Unless we’re talking about a fertile bank account. Or garden. Or birthing a book and an album. Otherwise? Nope, nope, nope.

…thriving. That would be lovely. Not just to make it through but to flourish. 

…abundant/plentiful. Are we talking about books? Trips? Friends? Coffee? Peace? Love? Kindness? Cash? To all of the above I say yes.

…prosperous/profitable. I could definitely handle a little prosperity. Let me go submit some more applications and write some more articles. What I would really like? Get paid for the work I already do in my spare time (and that I actually enjoy) so that I can ultimately spend more time doing it and also still have a place to live. #CapitalismIsTrash

…savory/delicious. I’m not sure if this means enjoying more savory and delicious things or recognizing how savory and delicious I am. Either way, I’m on board.

…appealing to the senses. As a sensory sensitive person, this is a welcome goal. Too much of my time and energy are spent having my focus derailed by extraneous, irritating sounds or that smell that NO ONE ELSE CAN SMELL BUT IT’S THERE I’M NOT IMAGINING IT BECAUSE IMAGINARY THINGS DON’T MAKE ME SNEEZE. Finding ways to better navigate (escape?) consistently assaulting environments would be grand.

…exuberant/profuse. With vigor and vitality, and without restraint. There are some areas of my life that could definitely use this treatment.

…opulent/sumptuous. Oh, gosh I love these words. Also known as rich, luxurious, lavish. Splendid. And ostentatiously so. These words make me want to crawl right into a cozy bed with scandalously soft fabrics and pillows of the exact right firmness. Or a warm bubble bath with a glass of wine and some good cheese. 

And finally, speaking of wine…

  1. “…intoxicating liquor” or “…a habitual heavy drinker”

I mean, it’s not a goal, per se (although my limoncello, while mostly delicious, could use some tweaking). But if it happens, it happens. Here’s to enjoying life a little more and worrying about what all could go wrong a little less. Just as long as I remember to hydrate.

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Food and wine with friends is always a good day.

The prompt for today is “best day of 2021,” so I thumbed through my planner to find the best day. I was already up to five by April, so I just decided to go top ten. In order (somewhat) of occurrence:

  1. Inauguration Day (January 20) – I am not a person who believes that political leaders (particularly milquetoast, capitalist, and/or status-quo-y ones) are the answers to our problems. I suspect that in order for someone to make it to the highest offices in our country, they’ve probably had to (and will continue to) compromise a lot and do some pretty shady things that likely do more to add to our problems than to solve them. When I vote, it’s typically for the least objectionable person who could actually win whose future speeches are the least likely to inspire me to damage whatever screen I’m viewing them on. But I enjoyed Inauguration Day. I enjoyed hearing Amanda Gorman share The Hill We Climb, and I loved watching her capture the day on Instagram. The Bernie memes still make me laugh. It’s just a day to take a breath, and it was nice to do so.
  2. Spiderweb Loves You – This virtual performance on Valentine’s Day was a poem I pieced together from text conversations with Maggie and Michelle. As with our conversations, topics ranged from favorite TV moments to the stressors of the day. I love them both a lot, and I love that Spiderweb gives us a specific space each year to love on the people who are important to us.
  3. Birthday celebrations (technically spanned more than one day, but let’s be real – there are no rules here) – Between visiting Texas Tulips and having lunch with Tammy, wine/coffee/pastry/book shopping, dinner and hangout with CM and Sarah, an All Booked Up outing with Sarah and Joan, and new shelves and delicious early dinner with Steph, Nathan, Tammy, and Matt, I was especially well loved on the days surrounding my birthday in March.
  4. Wine and pizza at Fortunata with Kim and Beth – It was the perfect evening. Friends, food, wine, live music that we definitely sang along to, getting out of the house. Such a lovely time with two of my favorite people and some of my favorite simple pleasures.
  5. Denton Community Market – Maybe I went on opening day? The day I’m remembering was at least one of the first days in April that it was open for the season. I usually avoid DCM early on (let the crowds thin out and the summer veggies show up), but this year I was excited about it. At any rate, my favorite DCM day was the one where I saw (and hugged!) so many friends in person whom I had mostly just seen virtually for the past year.
  6. Maggie and Michelle weekend!!! In late May, Maggie and Michelle came to see me! It was so exciting. We ate delicious things, chatted, and watched TV for a long, luxurious weekend. I miss them so much. The weekend was so fun we decided that it needs to be a yearly(ish) ritual.
  7. In-person gatherings – My Cookbook club, church book club, and Follow the Reader are meeting in person again! We started getting together again about mid-year, and it’s been so nice. 
  8. Spiderweb at the farm – One of CM’s friends has a farm nearby (with sheep! And donkeys!), and we were invited over to lounge in the pool, enjoy the outside and make art a few evenings during the summer. It was an amazing little mid-week reprieve. 
  9. Colorado trip! I actually took a vacation this year. I went with Spiderfriends to a cabin in Colorado where we hiked (well, they hiked. I mostly wheezed and stayed at the cabin), read, played games and enjoyed each other’s company. It was nice to take a real break (from both jobs!) for a few days.
  10. Spiderdead – So many of my best and most memorable days include Spiderweb Salon. I really love these people and the community we have together. I got to help share a friend’s poetry during our yearly grief ritual, and it was a great experience. It was my first time performing on stage at Rubber Gloves, so that made it special to me, too.

The fact that 2021 holds so many best days for me indicates that I had a pretty good year. It hasn’t always felt that way, so this was a nice discovery.

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Sweater weather…if only in my apartment

One of my favorite posts I’ve read this month is Kaitlin Curtice’s autumn checklist. As seasons change, there is often an anticipation or rush or dread (depending on what the particular upcoming season tends to do to me), but the transition almost always includes a slight change in habits to accommodate whatever lies ahead.

I keep a standard list of tasks that I know I need to do on a regular basis for my life to feel somewhat put-together or fulfilled or happy or joyful. It is divided into general categories, and I track specific tasks within each category by color-coding so that I have a record of how often I do them (or how long it’s been and thus how I might want to work it in the next few days). The list I’ve been working with most of the year includes things you might expect:

  • Creative outlets (work on a knitting project, cook a meal, write, read, and play piano)
  • Movement (dance, kickboxing, run/walk, Pilates, and strength training)
  • Basic self-care (proper hydration, good food, and socializing online or in person)
  • Housekeeping (cleaning bathroom, doing dishes, taking out trash, doing laundry, and tidying)

As I enter fall, I look for ways to add more coziness and connection to my days. I like the idea of adding fun social outings to the mix so that I don’t isolate too much while also safeguarding the untasked downtime that I know I need for maintaining decent mental health by not packing my schedule with more meetings and obligations that try to pass themselves off as a social life. That was a long sentence that basically boils down to remembering that my social/solitude balance is important.

My reading habits also tend to change as the days get shorter and the weather grows cooler. I don’t always read more in the fall and winter but I do tend to choose more things in my comfort zone, which includes a lot of mysteries and gothic literature and magical realism and foodie fiction/memoir. You’ll see a lot more about my reading habits in October during this year’s 31 days series (more details coming on Friday).

Fall self-care looks like:

  • Warm beverages, cozy blankets, and books
  • Listening to records
  • Re-bingeing comfort shows (currently – Bones and Suits, but I’m about to start Once Upon a Time over and maybe actually watch the whole thing this time)
  • Restful weekends with minimal commitments
  • Coffee dates
  • Making big vats of soup
  • Sitting around fires

Do your self-care practices change with the seasons? If so, how?

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