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Archive for the ‘Joy’ Category

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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Resolving 2021

I’m participating in December Reflections, a challenge issued by Susannah Conway every year, and many of the prompts are things I want to include in my musings about how 2021 went. So I’m going to wrap up the end-of-year review now and leave the rest of the month to post specific moments that stand out.

This was one of those years that some resolutions really took off while others did not. I listed five main goals at the beginning of the year:

  1. Read 120 books.
  2. Write 300,000 words for my copywriting job.
  3. Make spaces in my home “more inviting.”
  4. Build a steady practice for art/music/dance/creation.
  5. Pursue joy.

I definitely exceeded the 120 mark for books. It’s only December 2, and I’m already at 128 for the year. This is good news beyond just meeting a goal. It means that, for the most part, my focus and time management have been pretty consistent, all things considered. 

I did not meet my word count goal for my copywriting job, and I’m at peace with that. I feel like the person who made that goal was basking in some vacation time and also maybe looking at a new pair of boots that would be easier to justify buying with a little extra cash on hand. One thing I’ve learned by making resolutions is that the most realistic goals are not set when I’m in the midst of enjoying time off. That self forgets she has a full-time job and gets super ambitious. Dreams are great, but so is not having to work 60 hours every week. A reasonable schedule. That’s the real dream.

Regarding the cozy spaces in my apartment…I mean…maybe? Sort of? The goal was a bit vague overall, so whether or not I met it is also vague. I did get two cute bookshelves from Steph that make the living room look better, and I made the office a more workable space. I still don’t have people coming over regularly (and frankly, I’ve enjoyed the reprieve), so I don’t have a lot of motivation to tidy. I organized the office better so that Maggie would have a place to sleep when she and Michelle spent the weekend in May, and I got bored and rearranged my bedroom during Icepocalypse. My home still doesn’t look the way I want it to most days, though. The changes I did make have given me so much joy, though, that I will likely make more specific goals for next year.

I have probably written more this year than the previous two or three years combined (not counting my copywriting job). I am also collaborating with my friend Sarah on an album. I have not quite reached the lofty 25 hours of practice a week that my former self was going on about (lol when? When would I do that? What was I thinking?), but I have definitely made more room for and progress on creative pursuits this year.

I loved having “joy” as my word for 2021. I read quite a few delightful books on the subject, and even on bad days there are usually moments of light and longing and…aliveness (dare I even call it hope?). I’m sure I’m not done with the word, but I’ll talk more about that in depth later in the month.

I hope this year has been a good one for you so far, and I hope you have a lovely December as well.

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November TBR

13 is a weird number of books to fit into a square, but I didn’t want one of them to feel left out, so here you go. Look how happy they all look in yellow.

I am going to tell you what books I’m reading this month, but first I want you to go read/watch this post. I love Jenny Lawson so much. If you feel the need to order a book today, might I suggest Nowhere?

I’m still finishing up some things from October, but I have book club tonight, so I will at least finish Greenlights today. If you’re interested, go with the audiobook, because Matthew McConaughey reads to you (if you like that sort of thing).

Book clubs:

Joy:

  • The Joy of Cooking – originally self-published by Irma Rombauer (assisted by Marion Rombauer Becker) but since updated and renewed and loved on by a slew of et al. The specific copy I have is an older version, but I don’t remember which edition.
  • Taste by Stanley Tucci

Independent Reads:

What are you reading this month?

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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
Day 24 – Strangelings, Happy Endings, and Nowhere
Day 25 – Surrounded (Minor Thesis on a Dream)
Day 26 – In Praise of Audiobooks
Day 27 – Memoirs
Day 28 – Follow The Reader
Day 29 – Five Books That Inspire Me
Day 30 – For the Love of Bookshops
Day 31 – Final Thoughts

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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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