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Archive for the ‘Joy’ Category

Day 18 – Food Memoirs

No, I haven’t pilfered some of these from the library. They were bought legitimately through a library sale. But if I were ever going to steal a library book…it might be a food memoir.

In my main collection, fiction and nonfiction stay mostly separated (to the extent that they can – fantasy and reality often overlap in life, so I suppose it’s inevitable in books). On my foodie shelf, though, memoirs and novels about food and its influence on the world cohabitate with reckless abandon.

I enjoy all kinds of books, but when I am looking for something comforting and decadent, rich and nourishing, I go for books that talk about food. Whether its a food writer by trade telling tales of all the wonderful places where they’ve eaten delectable things, a cook sharing some of the wealth of their knowledge, or a favorite celebrity talking about what food means to them, I am riveted.

This is a fairly new preference of mine. The first food writer I remember reading was Ruth Reichl. I can’t remember if I started with Tender at the Bone or Comfort Me With Apples (I mean, those titles alone. Come on.), but I greedily started the second right after I finished the first. I couldn’t get enough. She talked about learning to cook and her years as a young food writer, including many of the people she met along the way. Danny Kaye’s lemon pasta is still one of my comfort food favorites.

I understand the way food weaves into a story on a fundamental level. Most of my own stories and strongest memories are tied to a taste or a smell. The scent of melting chocolate reminds me of Thanksgiving (both happy and tumultuous) with my family. I once broke down sobbing at the farmer’s market upon discovering cream crowder peas, much to the chagrin of the kind farmer who pointed them out to me and innocently asked, “Have you ever tried them?” I explained (between gasps) that I hadn’t had them since my grandma – who used to grow them in her garden and had died recently – made them. He listened to me ramble, a little misty-eyed himself, and I’m pretty sure he snuck an extra quarter pound into my bag.

My most recent acquisition is Stanley Tucci’s Taste. I planned to save it for November, when I’m tackling The Joy of Cooking as my joy selection, but I’m not sure I can wait that long. Never mind that I will watch or read anything Stanley Tucci ever does (have you seen him make a Negroni, because you should), or that I’ve daydreamed more than once what it might be like if Stanley Tucci were my boyfriend. The way he comes to life when he talks about food is irresistible. I am really excited to tuck into this book.

No matter what kind of memoir you like – adventure, romance, quiet reflection – I bet there is a food memoir you’d like. Here are a few lists with great selections if you’d like to try:

Have you had the joy of a food memoir yet? Which one is your favorite?

I’m writing about books this month.

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Day 2 – October TBR

The TBR list grows exponentially. As much as I’m reading these days (for example, I finished 15 books in September), I still don’t usually make it all the way through my monthly TBR list. I’m ok with this. I look at these lists more as a “I’m going to start these books this month,” which is a better portrayal of what actually happens. This is how I get 40 books on my “currently reading” list on Goodreads, because I start them and then don’t take them off until I either finish them or decide I’m not interested enough to do so (rare, but it happens). 

So here are the things I’m interested in starting this month:

Joy

The joy selections this month are books I meant to start in past months but haven’t quite yet:

Community Reading

This section used to be reserved strictly for book club selections, but I find that the same spirit of camaraderie exists in less structured book discussions. So I’m also including things that I and a few book-loving friends are passing around (and thus gushing about together), things I’m reading for work, etc.

Additional Reads

These are books I’m may start/finish because they’re the next up in a series (big fan of series – more on that later in the month) or because someone is waiting for them so I have to take them back to the library soon or simply because it’s spooky season so I’m in the mood for witchy/gothic/horror/suspense themes.

It’s also likely that I’ll keep bingeing the next Phryne Fisher mystery (Greenwood), Cork O’Connor mystery (Krueger), or the latest Paisley Sutton or Harvey Beckett cozy (Bookens), and I may finally finish Braiding Sweetgrass (so good!) this month. 

What are you reading this month? Let’s gush about it together!

I’m talking about books for 31 days (and – let’s be real – the rest of my life).

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31 Days of Books

I have loved books all my life. If you had asked different family members when I learned to read, you would probably have gotten a variety of answers. Mom would confirm that it wasn’t until I started first grade that I really started reading on my own, but grandparents, aunts, uncles, church nursery workers, and babysitters would have sworn that I started earlier. As soon as I could sit up and hold them, I could entertain myself for hours just by flipping through the pages of my favorite books. I even tricked MeMaw into thinking I could read when I was about three years old because Mom had read the Little Golden Book version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to me so many times that I could not only recite it from memory but also follow the words with my finger and turn the pages at the right time, just like she did. 

One of the clearest ways I find joy is through reading. I definitely have my preferences, but I’ll read almost anything, particularly if I have people to talk to about it. I am insatiably curious. If I don’t think I’m sufficiently informed on a subject, I may Google it first, but that’s mostly to find books on the subject so that I can delve more deeply into the topic. A cozy evening at home alone usually involves a comforting beverage and my latest fiction obsession. For what it’s worth, I think that would also be a great date. Bring your book, I’ll bring mine, and let’s see where this goes. Or let’s bring each other books that we love. So many possibilities.

I track my reading, not only through monthly TBR lists that I post here but also by rating the ones I finish through Goodreads. I set a yearly goal, and this is the first year I’m actually ahead of schedule (by 15 books!). This month, I’m going to be talking about different aspects of my reading life each day. I am likely to gush about books and genres I particularly love, give tips for reading more, proclaim my adoration of book clubs, and talk about what I look for in a bookshop or reading nook. Unlike my other 31 days series, I don’t have a set rhythm for general topics. I’ll just post thoughts in the order that they come to me and keep the master list here. Hope you enjoy it!

Day 1 – Favorite September Reads
Day 2 – October TBR
Day 3 – How I Track My Reading
Day 4 – Your Book Club Personality
Day 5 – First Book Club of the Month
Day 6 – Contemporary Romance
Day 7 – How To Read More
Day 8 – Five Favorite Bookish Apps
Day 9 – The Joy of Shelfies
Day 10 – Not a Competition
Day 11 – Books for Celebrating National Coming Out Day
Day 12 – Where I Read
Day 13 – Poetry
Day 14 – Favorite Children’s Books
Day 15 – 5 Books About Books
Day 16 – Library Book Club
Day 17 – Reading Cookbooks
Day 18 – Food Memoirs
Day 19 – Church Book Club
Day 20 – Foodie Fiction
Day 21 – How I Get Out of a Reading Rut
Day 22 – Five Authors I Will Always Read
Day 23 – Reading for a Cause

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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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Beautiful view on a farm outing with friends

I look forward to Joy the Baker’s summer bucket list every year. It’s typically a mix of places to go and things to learn and/or make, and it’s inspiring. Because summer tends to be a busier time for me, I am expanding my timeframe into fall (and really – the rest of the year). So this is my remainder-of-2021 bucket list. Doesn’t quite have the same ring but…oh, well.

  1. Get some ducks in order – Some of my goals are just reminders to get/keep it together enough to be healthy or at least not completely derail any progress I’ve made in various areas. To that end:
    – Pay off personal loan (last payment due in September!)
    – Carve out time to get back into Pilates practice
    – Make eye exam and yearly physical appointments
    – Write, edit, and submit a short story every month
  2. Take a trip with friends – Okay, so I’ve already done this one. We went to Colorado for a few days in June, and it was magnificent.
  3. Get a new (to me) car – Watson is showing signs of unreliability, and I want to trade her in before her upkeep starts costing more than a car payment would. My first car was a hatchback, and I’ve wanted another one ever since, so I’m looking at gently used options in the area along the lines of a VW Golf or Kia Soul.
  4. Take an overnight bookshop trip – I’ve been musing about going to Magic City Books in Tulsa for a while, but I think my next long-distance bookstore venture is going to be to Nowhere Bookshop in San Antonio. They’re opening for real to the public on Monday, and I think a leisurely drive down there in October would be a great way to break in a new ride.
  5. Choose a new planner – I do love my Simplified Planner, but the siren song of Papier’s daily planner beckons me. I have had separate goal and meal planning calendars for the longest time, and the idea of having everything in one book is so appealing. Also…there are so many cover designs to choose from. *salivates*
Although there’s certainly nothing wrong with this cover…

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I read Laundry Love by Patric Richardson and Karin Miller in almost one sitting. It is delightful. I knew I would love it because I love doing laundry. I find it soothing and comforting, and it was wonderful reading the thoughts of someone who clearly enjoys it just as much as I do.

Of course the book is full of great tips, but it also contains quite a bit of insight on the textile and fashion industries. The way it places this simple, personal chore into the larger context of environmental and labor ethics is right up my alley. Yes to preferring natural fabrics over synthetic ones because they breathe better, are better for the environment and won’t melt before your very eyes if you accidentally spill nail polish remover on them (not that I’m bitter, acetate). (I’m definitely still a little bitter.) Yes to saying no to fast fashion whenever possible (which is almost always, even on a tight budget). Yes to washing and pressing that wool blazer at home because you know how to do it right. Yes to extravagant musings about the laundry room of my dreams (I have drawn floor plans) right alongside a list of the perks of the laundromat. There are even family recipes at the end because it would just be unfair to mention the downside of favorite foods (i.e., staining) without also sharing how delicious and thus completely worth the mess they are. If I were to write a book about this favorite household task of mine, it would look a lot like this.

Of course, I have comments.

Longevity

One of the benefits the authors listed of taking proper care of your clothing is that it lasts longer. At one point it was mentioned that if you care for it well, a garment should endure 50 wash/dry cycles. I realize they were likely making a conservative estimate, but since I’m not the writers and am thus not at risk of losing book sales by making extravagant claims, I’ll go ahead and do so. If you follow the advice in this book on not only caring for your clothes but also choosing pieces that are made to last to begin with, you should get way more wash/dry cycles out of them and keep the clothes you love for as long as they fit.

For example, I still have and frequently wear a skirt I bought at a thrift store in my mid-twenties. Aside from the occasional seam reinforcement or elastic replacement, it is still in great shape two decades and hundreds of washes later. Buying well-made clothing doesn’t have to be expensive. I doubt I spent more than $5 on that skirt, and it’s lasted forever. It’s just a matter of learning how to spot good quality.

Fabric Softener

I typically add a little bit of vinegar (i.e., 1/8-1/4 cup) to each rinse cycle, and that sufficiently softens clothes, towels, linens, etc. It even reduces static a little, as does using wool, silicone, and/or aluminum foil balls in the dryer, or air drying my clothes. But if I want to completely eliminate static (and I absolutely do), nothing works like fabric softener.

I know it’s bad for the environment. I know it’s bad (yes, even the free and clear kind) for humans.

I KNOW.

I also know that it’s the only thing that saves me from thousands of tiny electrocutions every time I roll over in my peppermint-scented lightning sheets at night. It’s the only thing that keeps me from flashing my ass to the world when my skirt rides up on the walk from my car to the office (PSA: I have no qualms about showing some skin. I just want it to be my choice, not my clothing’s).

I would be delighted to find a tip or trick that does what fabric softener does. I would love to eliminate it from my laundry routine. But to date, every tip I’ve tried has failed me (have a tip? Feel free to share. Bet I’ve tried it, though.). Until there is a real solution that actually works, I will continue to use fabric softener sparingly.

Multiple Wearings

The tips for refreshing fabrics so that you can wear them multiple times between washes? Great advice. Unless you live in Texas in the summer. Then you get a pass. I mean, if I only wear a sundress to go to the farmers’ market and then come right home, I will give it a vodka spritz and air it out before hanging it back in the closet to wear again. But if my outfit goes through a whole day in the Texas heat of walking a couple of blocks from my car to the office, walking a few blocks to and from lunch, walking back to my car in the late afternoon, and then running whatever errands or attending whatever meeting I have that evening, I’m going to give it a proper wash before I wear it again. It’s earned it.

Texas folk, you don’t have to be a hero. Please be advised that it’s perfectly okay not to walk around in clothes that are holding a collective three days of the August-in-Texas meat sweats that have accrued since the last time you washed them. There’s not enough vodka (for spritzing or otherwise) in the world to combat that.

To conclude, I really love this book. I look forward to referencing it for advice and entertainment in the years to come.

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July TBR

I was fortunate to spend a few days last week basking in the cool air of Colorado. A brief reprieve from the intense Texas heat with people I adore. This week, I was back in it (although it’s been rainy and a little bit cooler – a tiny mercy) and back at work. The choices below are defintely leaning toward my typical summer reads (adventure, mystery, fun, etc.) this month.

Book Clubs

Books About Joy

This month’s joy selections focus on finding joy in ordinary life (even daily, seemingly dull things). I need this reminder during the summer when my automatic modus operandi is just to get through it.

Library Reads

These are the main books I want to finish and return to the library this month, although I suspect there will be more by the time the end of the month rolls around. I’ve been on a reading frenzy lately!

What are you reading this month?

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Resting

I think Sunday Me was a little overwhelmed at this week/weekend’s calendar.

After about a month and a half of being back in the office, I am settling into old routines. I’m getting used to commuting again (I forgot how much audiobook listening I get to do when I drive more often). I’m also relearning how to balance social time with colleagues and task time while on the clock (I tend to lean too heavily toward task and neglect the social). I sorta forgot how to people in person.

Some of the old routines that are creeping back up need to stay gone, though. Procrastinating housework and fun things until the weekend so much that my to-do list is so long by the time it arrives that I don’t ever actually slow down to rest is a habit that I could stand to keep in the past. My tendency to say yes whenever possible (so that people will be happy? so that I can pride myself on fitting another piece into my puzzle of a schedule? who even knows why?) needs a tighter leash when I can’t do everything from home.

I need to remember to guard my down time a little more consistently so that I maintain the restfulness I need to function well. Sometimes this looks like relaxing plans with friends (relaxing plans = not in public, maybe in a pool or with drinks, maybe we just read in the same room) but mostly it looks like actual alone time where I can nap or read or create or even do some repetitive/regular household task without interruption.

I also am having my regular jealousy about other people’s summers where they are free to go do things while my schedule remains busy, but this year I am making myself free to do some things, too, even though this is not typically an easy time of the year for that to happen at my job. I want to do at least one summery thing each week, even if it’s something small. This week, I got to swim, and that was nice (don’t remember the last time I swam but my swimsuit definitely no longer fit so it must have been quite a long time ago). I look forward to my first snow cone and first really good peach of the season, too. That’s as far as I’ve gotten on my “favorite things about summer” list. That list is super short. I’m not summer’s biggest fan, but I’m determined to squeeze whatever joy I can out of it.

Shameless crowdsourcing – What are your favorite things to do in the summer?

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Once again, I have a library problem. Or I’m a problem to the library. At any rate…I also have a solution.

So I was doing really well, only checking out a sensible number of books at a time that I could reasonably expect to finish before they were due back at the library. Just a little thing like having to schedule a time during their limited hours to pick them up was all it took to curtail my habit of going on a reservation spree and taking out more books than I could possibly hope to finish that quickly. But now that the library is back to normal hours and operations, and I can just pop by and pick up everything I’ve put aside at my convenience, I’ve reverted back to old practices. I wish I could tell you that the stack above represents even a fourth of the books I have checked out, but…no.

This month, I’m weaning myself off again. I’m never at a loss for something to read. I have four apps with books and audiobooks I can read from my phone. I also have hundreds of books in my personal collection at home. So there’s no reason I need to hold on to the library’s copies that someone else could be enjoying. I’m going to read my books for the clubs I’m in and my joy selections for the month, but other than that? Working on this stack of library books so I can get them back where they belong.

[One could argue that I could just return the books without reading them and check them out later when I know I have time for them, but one would receive a derisive scoff as a reward for this helpful suggestion which would then be completely ignored.]

Book Clubs

Joy Books

We’re going a little meta this month. These joy books actually deal with joy as a subject.

Library Books

These make it back to the library by the end of the month.

Pride Month!

Of course, I will also be reflecting on my favorite books written by LGBTQIA+ authors and/or starring LGBTQIA+ characters in my local library’s monthly book discussion. If you want to explore this genre, some of my favorites can be found on these lists.

What’s on your TBR list for June?

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May TBR

This month’s reading plan includes a few that I didn’t finish from last month that I’m meandering my way through, but the new reads list is shorter this time. It’s starting to feel like summer again here, and my summer reading usually veers off the intended path. I want to keep up with book club selections and my joy project while still keeping some space for whatever delights intrigue me.

Two such delights are already on my radar:

  • How To Eat by Nigella Lawson – The one that started it all. I love how Nigella Lawson writes about food. I can’t believe I’ve never read her first book before.
  • Hanged by a Thread by ACF Bookens – The third in this series by one of my favorite cozy mystery authors. I’ve already pre-ordered my ebook for mid-month.

I have five book club selections for the month. My group that meets the first Tuesday of the month is reading something I’ve already read for another book club, and I liked it but I am unlikely to read it again in the next few days. I think I remember enough of The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek to discuss it over wine. The others include:

The main joy project selection this month is Joyful Militancy by Nick Montgomery and Carla Bergman (with an intro by Hari Alluri, whose poetry I really like). Resistance often seems so heavy, so I’m interested in the ideas of these experienced activists who urge readers to find joy, friendship, curiosity and other wonders in the work. And, because art and activism often go hand in hand, I’m continuing to work through Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit and The Collaborative Habit.

What are you reading this month?

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