Archive for the ‘Home’ Category

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!

Read Full Post »

It’s Staff Appreciation Month at my job, and I’m choosing to be appreciated in the form of taking a lot of fun classes and a lot of time off. Yay – more time to read!

Book Clubs

In my Rise and Shine book club this month, the theme is science and technology, so I’m mostly gathering suggestions rather than choosing a specific book to read. I mean, I have some science fiction recommendations…but I’m not sure that’s what they mean.


I start compiling these posts two or three months in advance, so there’s plenty of shifting by the time I actually post it. And by shifting, I do mean the occasional “no, on second thought, I don’t really have any interest in reading that at all” but mostly “hey – I want to read that, too!” And thus the TBR expands. This section was four books…until the last couple of weeks.


I have multiple Girlxoxo selections for this month, and they are all from the collection at home. 

Have you read anything exciting lately? Tell me about it!

Read Full Post »

To Tammy on her Birthday

Today is my sister’s birthday.

My first forever friend.

The person with whom I have the most inside jokes.

My “we can fight but if you so much as look at her unpleasantly I will end you” person.

I’m very protective:

(and not at all trying to make her kiss her elbow because MeMaw told me that if she did, she’d turn into a boy. I don’t know where you heard that vicious rumor.)

We grew up here:

With these people:

Lots of room to run, play, make mud pies, stage wedding ceremonies for our cats, chase the dogs, and swing until we threw up.

One of the things I love most about Tammy is her exuberant enthusiasm for all things joyful.

Like good teas from Equal Exchange.

Or a day to binge-watch Disney+

And getting her hairs done.

And Christmas.

And making sure the dogs are clean.

And marrying this guy.

I love our coffee (and sometimes pie) outings.

(KIMZEY’S. It took me this whole week to remember the name.)

She’s the person I call if I need cake and don’t want to eat it alone.

She’s the first person I call when I have good news, because she’ll be even more excited for me than I am. She’s the first person I call when I have bad news, because she already has a plan.

She is passionate, principled, warm, funny, organized, curious, responsible, and diligent.

I’m so blessed to have her as a sister.

I love you, Bock. Happy birthday!

Read Full Post »

[Not really related – just happy treats I forgot I had and found at my desk this morning.]

Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, is this week. 

I have observed Lent since my early 20s, long before I was a member of a liturgical church that celebrates in seasons. I’ve practiced fasting from certain foods and activities, reading a book or study designed for the season, committing to certain service projects for 40 days, etc. I particularly love this piece from Tsh Oxenreider on why Lent is good for us. All of the ways I have observed Lent have been meaningful for me in some way, and I’m glad for the experience.

Being a part of a church that actively observes the season, though, makes my focus more communal and less personal, which is also nice. We have weekly soup suppers together and a mid-week service. For a couple of the years I’ve been part of this church, the communal observance was all I did, and it was enough. 

With home as my theme for this year, a personal observance also seems in order. Part of the way I’m doing that this season is by checking in with ongoing goals, figuring out what’s working and what’s not, and adjusting as needed. This, of course, is a helpful practice in reaching long-term goals regardless of your religious leanings.

Incorporating the solitude that I need with the life that I want is sometimes messy. February has been intense but good. I’ve been a part of three performances this month. Three! I think that’s more times than I performed in all of 2022. And I have at least two more performances coming up in April that I’m excited about. 

I like performing, and I want to keep doing it, but that means adjusting in other areas so that I don’t burn out. I’ve had to be extra vigilant about safeguarding my alone time, and I’ve had to be very strict with myself about boundaries between work and personal life. The time-outs have been useful because with so many performances comes extra practice and before I know it, I’m out of clean socks or spoons. Or worse – coffee. 

So some of my short-term goals for Lent are about continuing with this year’s focus and resolutions, which were intentionally designed to help me find a good balance between all the things I need and want to do so that nothing gets too far off track. Specifically….

  • Two extended time-outs a week – This resolution (taking one long break a week) is going so well. It’s the primary reason I was able to perform three times in a two-week period without losing my mind. It’s so effective, I’m expanding it, at least for the next 6-7 weeks (and maybe longer. I suspect longer). A couple of large blocks of time a week are helpful for giving myself the breathing room to be at home in my own life and experience all that it has to offer.
  • Tidying – Being physically at home with an open schedule more often makes me more aware of things there that need tending to. I’m not sure when tidying became less of a chore and more of a joy, but I’m grateful for that. I suspect it had a lot to do with Marie Kondo’s approach and the example she continues to set about paying attention to what gives you joy and focusing your time and energy on those things. When I know the results of work will be so pleasant, the work itself seems less like an overwhelming drudgery and more like just the way I’m taking to get there. For the next few weeks, I want to spend at least five minutes tidying a different small area of my apartment every day to make it more functional and cozy. 
  • Fun at work – OK, so my work situation is not great. But March is staff appreciation month, which is my favorite month of the year at UNT, and it’s a reminder that even if something is necessary but not a good fit, it still doesn’t have to be a total drag. During Lent (and hopefully beyond), I want to do one fun thing at work a day. Whether it’s taking a long walk across campus, decorating my desk, or attending a Hula dancing program (which I am absolutely signed up for), I want to learn how to make the most of it as long as I’m here.
  • Money issues – Two of the main reasons money makes me so anxious is that I don’t make quite enough to cover my needs plus a few small joys on a consistent basis, and I am acutely aware of how quickly the little I do make can be reduced or consumed if I’m not (and even sometimes when I am) constantly vigilant about it. To ease some of this pressure (ideally – I’m so very, very anxious), one of my goals for the year is to identify some way each month that I can either make or save more money. That’s been going fairly well, but now that I have a taste of cutting back, I’m no longer wanting to limit it to one a month. So I’m going to rip the bandage off and create a bare-bones budget that I can imagine actually sticking to. I hope to work out the kinks in March-May so that hopefully I have a better budget in place at the start of the summer. I expect that there will be tears as I let go of some things that I enjoy but are just too much right now but also hopefully some relief as, ideally, it will free up some funds to take care of other things I’ve been neglecting.

Setting weekly creative goals, reading a whole lot of books, and strength training are all seeing regular progress, so I’m just going to keep doing what’s working there. 

If you observe Lent, I hope you have all the time you need this season. If you don’t observe, I hope you have a wonderful next few weeks that are as stress-free as possible. And I wish a good day to all!

Read Full Post »

You may remember Michelle from the approximately 2,342 times I’ve mentioned her over the years, or at least from her cameo on Tuesday’s post:

Today is her birthday, and I’m so happy she was born.

We met on the MRMB (Michael Rosenbaum Message Board – ah, fandom), where I knew her as ravenluvslex (raven for short, which is still the name she’s listed under in my phone). I met Michelle when I still had my first blog on livejournal (RIP). We traveled to Kansas City together to meet up with other fans where no one turned out to be a serial killer and we sang happy birthday to Michael Rosenbaum’s face on a cake.

We also met back before I carried a phone that takes pictures everywhere I went, so most of my documentation of our early days is in writing or in a picture album somewhere. Or on videos taken by other fans that we don’t really need to see.

I still have a lot of pictures of her sticking out her tongue (see above and below).

(Aw, orange couch)

(aw, Bochy’s)

There are so many things I adore about Michelle.

She’s always up for a good time.

She lets us take group pictures of feet even though she hates them (feet, not group pictures, to be clear). 

She loved going to the club as much as I did.

(It’s not blurry. It’s ARTSY.)

(We should go again sometime. I promise to only spend a minor portion of the evening crying about the old place.)

She gave Nelly Cat a great life.

(Aw, Nelly Cat. *pets*)

She helps me locate Billy Boyd when necessary (the world is just better knowing that somewhere, he is).

And sends me pictures of her face when I tell her I miss it (which is even better than Billy Boyd).

She also made this super cute kid:

I love Michelle’s passion, her compassion, her boldness, her humor, her honesty, and her insight. I love that we have just as much (or more) fun together binge-watching TV and sharing delicious snacks as we do going out. 

Michelle/Raven/Rupert, I love you. So, so much. Happy birthday, friend.

Read Full Post »

February TBR

This is Day 3 of this year’s (hopefully only) Icepocalypse. So far this week, I’ve slept in, talked to my mom and dad on the phone, made biscuits, submitted several articles for my writing job, started cleaning out the coat closet, and done some strength training. Right now, I’m cozied up with a cup of tea in my most comfortable chair. We have already received notice that the university is closed tomorrow as well. 

I’m so glad I bought coffee on Sunday.

I have also finished three books and plan to finish two more by the end of tomorrow. So I’m making an early dent in this month’s list!

Book Clubs

An issue that I vaguely foresaw when I made my reading goals this year is where to categorize the ongoing massive overlap of titles. Technically, everything in my collection that I haven’t already read is on my to-be-read list. That’s why I own them – for reading. So really, they’re all TBR. And I’m never sure whether to include ebooks and audiobooks as part of my TBR or my collection. I mean, I have purchased them, but I still think of them as TBR, as they’re not physically in the limited space of my home, with their own spot on the shelf. 

I guess the deciding factor is “Can I loan it to you (without violating the stingy fine print I agreed to when I signed up for the subscription)?” Collection – yes. TBR – probably not. So there we go.

Of course, all of this is a moot point this month anyway, because except for three of the books listed above that I will own as soon as they arrive, I’m focusing solely on the TBR.


I have a lot of library books out, and they’re all just sitting there on my shelf, begging for attention. Reminding me that someone else could be reading them if only I wasn’t selfishly hoarding them (someone else could also put a hold on them if they really wanted to let me know they’re dying to read them right away, so it’s possible this is all just a problem I’ve made up in my head). When Rory Gilmore chastised herself for not taking a book back to the library on time because it robbed someone else of the pleasure of reading it that week? I felt that. Anyway, this month is going to be a heavier focus on reading through most of those and getting them back into circulation where they belong. Fortunately, they’re all on my TBR list (which is why I checked them out to begin with), so I can do this without it pausing my goals for the year.

I’m so excited about this month’s reading list. Never fear, library books – I’ll be with you shortly!

Read Full Post »

I recently rearranged part of my living room because, once I put my Christmas decorations back in the closet, I couldn’t bring myself to move the recliner back to that corner. I like it where it is. So instead, I moved the small table with my record player over. 

It works better there. It’s easier to access, and I use it more often now that it’s not hidden behind the couch and a bookshelf and some throw pillows.

Eventually, though, I want this whole wall to be tall bookshelves, so it and the records will need to move to one of those. I’m running out of space for records anyway. And I want more bookshelves on the opposite wall. Get rid of the couch. Add reading chairs and a lamp in its place. My plans just snowballed from there.

This small move inspired me to take pictures of all four of my main rooms – living, dining, office, bedroom. That way, I have “before” pictures. 

But y’all. They are a MESS. The picture above is literally the only one I’m willing to post on the intrawebs. And I’m annoyed with it, too, because why is the diffuser in the middle of the floor. Ugh.

I get used to the clutter when I live in it every day, but looking at it in a picture that I am considering showing other people makes it more real to me. On the one hand, that’s moderately motivating enough to inspire a few tidy sessions in the days that follow. But once that motivation passes, it will most likely just leave me overwhelmed and make me even more hesitant to ever invite people over. 

I keep reminding myself that this is a process. But it’s difficult to stay optimistic because I know not only my vision of what I want it to look like but also how very, very many steps it’s going to take to get it there. I yawned and daydreamed about taking a nap just typing that sentence. 

So maybe I’ll delete most of those pictures, and I’ll wait to take new ones until I have visual confirmation of having completed one of the steps toward my end goal (like the picture above). Proof of a small move in the right direction is more likely to inspire further plans and their enthusiastic execution than thorough documentation of my overall chaos.

Read Full Post »

The year is starting off pretty strong, and I’ve already enjoyed most of the books I’ve read. Here are some brief thoughts on my reading thus far.

For the main list of book titles I’ve read for this challenge, see this post.



Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke – I do like a mystery novel. This was the first in a series, and the main character is interesting. I’ll probably read more of them, since it left a little teaser at the end. Well played, Locke.


The Castlemaine Murders by Kerry Greenwood – This is the 13th of the Phryne Fisher series, and it’s one of my favorites. It introduces Phryne’s sister, and I enjoyed their dynamic a lot. 









Writers & Lovers by Lily King – I enjoyed this whole book – the story of a struggling writer who also works at a restaurant, etc. – but it really picked up toward the end. So much that I almost gave it 5 stars. But I recognize that it probably appeals to me mostly because I am a (usually) struggling writer, so it doesn’t quite fit the “everyone should read and love this book” category. The writing is good, and the chapters are short (in case such a factor is as helpful to your attention span as it is to mine). 


Lucky Turtle by Bill Roorbach – I gave this one four stars on Goodreads because it kept my attention and was a decent story, but in my heart, it’s only 3.5 stars. I just wasn’t that invested in the characters until the very end. Solid audio selection, though – great reader!




The Opposite of You by Rachel Higginson – This was a quick read. Foodie romance. Slow burn. I wouldn’t quite call it open door – maybe…door slightly ajar? Maybe a little awkward to listen to on a road trip with people you don’t know that well (or maybe a good way to get to know them real quick)? Anyway. The main character occasionally got on my nerves and it was a little too knight-in-shining-armor in certain parts for my taste, but a fun romp overall.









A World of Curiosities by Louise Penny – I adore this whole series, but this is easily one of the top five for me. It takes us back to the first case Gamache and Beauvoir worked together.




Welcome Home: A Guide to Building a Home for Your Soul by Najwa Zebian – I’ve been wanting to read/avoiding reading this one for a while because I knew I’d want to be in the right frame of mind to give the topic the appropriate attention. I really love Zebian’s Instagram account, so I generally knew what to expect from the book. A lot of things hit home for me, and I’m grateful for some of the tools I walked away with.

Read Full Post »

This is not a commercial for the products pictured above. I was just excited about a bathroom storage solution that I will actually maintain on a daily basis. I really like the idea of a cabinet I can close and hide things away in, but in practice, I know that’s just code for “place I can stuff random crap and pretend I’ve tidied.”

When I read The Organized Home, I was finally able to wrap my mind around an open shelf that 1) holds everything I use on at least a weekly basis and 2) still looks presentable. The best part is that I was able to repurpose the bookshelf by my reading chair that was overflowing and replace it with a bigger shelf that was taking up space in my dining area but mostly going unused. Twin wins for two rooms!

I mean, the book had already won me over when it became clear in the first 20 pages that it’s really just a manifesto on how to shove more bookshelves into your home (my design philosophy in a nutshell). But all it took was one gorgeous picture of a bookshelf in the bathroom to spark the idea, and now the space that has been the bane of my existence since I moved in has stayed organized for over two weeks with absolutely no extra effort on my part. Incredible.

I loooove design and organization books. Because their goal is to make spaces more aesthetically pleasing, their covers are almost always gorgeous. I’m a sucker for a beautiful cover, so it’s inevitable that I will pick them up. And then I start thumbing through, and I get excited about some of the ideas, and ooh – there’s another book, and isn’t the color scheme on the front lovely? Before you know it, design books make up half my library stack that day.

I always think, “Oh, this book is mostly pictures – it will be a quick read.” Ha. No. The actual reading part? Sure. But I am constantly making notes as I go through, jotting down ways to improve some spaces in my home that aren’t quite working for me. And once an idea takes hold that I can apply to my apartment with little to no expense? Forget sitting still enough to read. I’m up and rearranging or revamping, and the rest of the book will have to wait until I’m satisfied with the progress.

I tend to go ahead and buy the ones that match my personal style, because even if some of the ideas in them aren’t useful the first time I read them, I know I will circle back to them later. In the meantime, they look so pretty on the shelf or coffee table.

Do you love design books? What are some of your favorites?

Read Full Post »

January 2023 TBR

New year, new reading goals! I’m excited about becoming more familiar with the books on my shelves as well as (slowly) whittling down my massive TBR. Here’s the plan for January.

Book Clubs


First, I’m finishing up Welcome Home by Najwa Zebian. It’s a great reminder to be true to myself (and also to figure out what that means in the areas where I’m still a little fuzzy on the subject). 

For many people, home means family. I still refer to the farm where I grew up as home, because even though I haven’t lived there for almost thirty years, the people who brought me into this world, whose influence shaped a lot of who I am, are there. And I feel at home at my sister’s house. I know where things are and how it runs and what’s expected of me there. 

I also have a circle of chosen family – people I know I can call on and count on at any time. Maggie, Michelle, Sarah, Steph. Then there are others in the circle from Spiderweb and church and work who would definitely have my back in a fight (not that I am in such situations very often…at least physically). As someone who lives alone, I have to make more of an effort to see my family – both biological and chosen – than those whose family is in their house, and the older I get, the more I value relationships with people who seem to put as much effort into them as I do. Text Me When You Get Home by Kayleen Schaefer focuses on female friendships, but I expect that the concepts expand across gender, and I am excited to tuck into it!


I know I said 3-4 selections, but my TBR is soooo large. I’ll calm down in a few months. Probably.

  • Series – Having never read anything she’s written, I already like two things about Diana Xarissa. First, her last name will let me check off the letter X on my alphabet reading challenge. Second, all the series she’s written are titled in alphabetical order. For example, the Markham Sisters series starts with The Appleton Case, then The Bennett Case, etc. I will probably read those at some point, but this month, I am intrigued by the first book of her new series, the Midlife Crisis Mysteries, which was released in November, called Anxious in Nevada. I am also happy to report that it’s my turn with the library’s copy of the latest Inspector Gamache mystery – A World of Curiosities by Louise Penny – so I’ll be reading that one, too.
  • General fiction – I have this one marked with the notation “read without knowing the premise.” Intrigue! So while I’ve linked you to it, I have obeyed Past Me and not read the blurb. This should be fun. As an added bonus, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler also contains one of GirlXOXO’s January keyword prompts (all), so it’s my selection for this challenge.
  • Memoir – Dear Bob and Sue by Matt and Karen Smith, has been on my list ever since I heard my friend Lois talking about it. It’s a series of letters the authors wrote to their friends while they were traveling to all 59 national parks.
  • Food memoir – I’ve thumbed through the library’s copy of Sobremesa by Josephine Caminos Oria, and I may just end up buying it before the month is over. It looks like everything I love in a food memoir.
  • Essays – I have been a fan of Laurie Notaro since The Idiot Girls’ Action-Adventure Club, although it hurts my feelings a little to notice that it came out 20 years ago. I feel like she and I have grown up together, so I’m excited to hear her take on middle age in Excuse Me While I Disappear.


For the past year (or three?), any time I’ve put a book on a monthly TBR or was given it as a gift, I moved it to one of the shelves in the living room so that I had easy access to it. Then I put it back where it belonged when I finished it. As a result, I have quite a few books lined up on my living room shelves that I meant to read but didn’t (and thus haven’t made it back to their usual home). So I’m going to read a few this month that I’m still just as excited about as when I first planned to read them. 

  • Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi – This book was planned to fulfill one of the prompts for last year’s POPSUGAR challenge (set in Tokyo, a sister city to New York), and it’s one of the first books I ever bought at Patchouli Joe’s
  • Writers & Lovers by Lily King – I can’t exactly remember how this one ended up on this shelf other than I really like the title and the cover. My best guess is that I ran across it when looking for books with the word “winter” in the title (Lily King also has a book called Five Tuesdays in Winter) for last year’s GirlXOXO challenge.
  • A Place at the Table by Susan Rebecca White – Knowing my love of foodie fiction, Michelle gifted this to me a while ago. It’s one of the ones I pick up and read through when I just have a few minutes, so I’m going to actually finish it this month. Hey – another book to discuss at Rise and Shine! I really am going to try not to dominate the conversation. I promise.

What book are you most excited about reading next?

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: