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Archive for the ‘Seasons’ Category

December TBR

“Ruth knew that books had power…” From Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman

If you ask me what my favorite month is, I’ll usually say, “October.” The weather starts cooling off, and spooky season is nigh. Fall/winter fashion is my favorite. Or I might say, “March,” since that’s the month I was born, and what’s better than that?

But December holds a special place in my heart. I’m not a fan of the busyness of the holidays or commercialization in general, but I must admit that I adore some of its side effects. Suddenly, there are twinkle lights everywhere. My favorite coffee company usually has some pretty good sales and it’s finally cold enough in Texas that I can stock up on their chocolate without it melting (yes, even with the ice packs). The church year in my tradition begins with Advent, which is my favorite season in the liturgical calendar. 

And best of all, I always have at least one week of the month off from work, which means extra reading time. Here’s how I plan to spend it this month.

Community Reads

Joy Reads

Seasonal Reads (Advent/Wintery/New-years-y)

I’ll probably also finish up some of the many books/series I’ve started in previous months. I hope you’re reading something delectable that you can’t put down!

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Whew. The holiday season is approaching at a breakneck speed and I am not sure I’m ready. There are a few things I’m looking forward to, such as our mid-week Advent services, the solo I get to sing the first Sunday of January, and the twinkly lights of the Christmas tree, but for the most part, I’m already tired and over it. Here are some things that I enjoyed this week while trying to coax myself into the holiday spirit.

  1. Speaking of spirits, I have toyed with the idea of a wine Advent calendar for years but this may be the year it actually happens. A little celebratory libation to end each day and trying out some new wines? I think so.
  2. Some people love turkey, dressing (or stuffing, if you prefer), and other holiday standards. My favorite holiday foods are the pies. I would eat every single one of these. Except the pot pie, because yuck. But otherwise? Yum.
  3. Earlier in the week, Maggie and I had this exchange:
    Maggie: You know what I forgot about? FoodGawker
    Me: …..
    Me: !!!!!!
    Me: OMG ME TOO
    So I have spent a good portion of time this week strolling down Memory Lane by scrolling back through my saved recipes and remembering all the tasty treats I enjoyed courtesy of this site. Wow, at one point I really did think I was going to make my own cheese. I appreciate my former self’s ambition. That’s adorable.
  4. “I want to line the whole place with bookcases. Then I want to paint them green, because that is the proper library colour, and then I want to fill them with books and be happy for ever.” Life goals.
  5. If you’ve already done your gift shopping…I’m jealous and also do you want to do mine, too? No? Really? You’re just going to sit there and be smug with your I’ve-finished-my-shopping-already face and leave me to suffer? Well, ok then. But if you haven’t finished and want to order things in time for Christmas or your holiday of choice (or January birthdays…I don’t know your gifting habits), Sarah Bessey curates a gift guide that features places that do good in the world in some form or fashion.

What are some things (internet or otherwise) you’ve seen this week that you loved?

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“You know what made The Girl on the Train happen? Book clubs.” Damn right, we did. (From Emily Henry’s Beach Read)

This month has been a lot of fun for me. I hope you have enjoyed the series. I hope you have been able to relate to a few of the things I’ve said and that you are inspired to find the perfect book club for you. Whether you enjoy reading audiobooks in your car, thumbing through ebooks in the line at the market, or cuddling up with a cup of tea and a novel in your favorite chair, I can’t wait for you to find the next book that makes you come alive.

As seasons change, I notice that I look for books that have elements of wonder and magic. It fits right into my own rhythms that our theme for November’s meeting at the library is magical realism. I think I’ll be picking up Morgenstern’s The Night Circus and other similar books that people who know my reading style best have recommended. As the days darken, I long for things that feed my imagination, and I think it’s clear from this month’s posts that few things do that as quickly and thoroughly as a well-written book.

I am currently five books away from meeting my yearly goal, so as we get ready to head into another new year, I’m going to be thinking about whether keeping up this momentum is feasible or if I keep the same goal again just to show myself it’s not a fluke.

Let me know if you read any of the recommendations that I made this month, and tell me what you thought of them!

I’m not great at goodbyes, so it’s fortunate that I have no intention of ending my chatter about the books that I am reading and loving any time in the near future. I’ll just see you later this week when I post my November TBR list and my five favorite things I read in October.

In the meantime, happy reading, friends!

Click here to see the whole series list.

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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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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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The tree is officially up and plugged in. And that’s it. No decorations yet. Just twinkly lights. Happy.

Our small group on Monday night talks about the lesson for the next Sunday, so my appetite for Advent has been whetted. Although Advent is one of my favorite seasons, December is not usually my favorite month. It’s usually too busy. That is not the case this year, though. Events are either canceled or virtual, and I think most people have (more than usual) an attitude of just making it through to the other side.

Students have already started leaving for break, since UNT classes are going completely online for the rest of the semester. They’re welcome to stay here, but they also have the option to go home and stay with their families for the holiday season, and many have chosen to do so. Can’t say that I blame them.

This December, I have a little more time. Rather than add extra things to it (with the exception of a blog series – more on that next week), though, I’m going to focus on savoring things I enjoy.

Cozy mysteries (just re-read Publishable by Death by A. C. F. Bookens this weekend, and it was just as much fun the second time around).

The above-mentioned twinkly lights. Just staring into them. Also candlelight is nice. More sparkly-lit rooms, please.

Soups and toasted sandwiches.

Baked goods of just about any kind. Sweet, savory – I love (most of) them all.

Dancing. Stretching. Dancing again.

Playing old records while sipping warm beverages.

Practicing hope. Practicing love. Practicing joy.

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“Poets manage to get into a couplet what I struggle to achieve in an entire book.”
– Louise Penny-

March is the best month (my birth-month), but April is easily in my top five. Never mind that spring is trying to murder me. Never mind that the end of the semester is drawing nigh, and the students (and admittedly, all of us, too) have the -itis. Never mind that I don’t have a free weekend until mid-May. All of that pales in comparison to the fact that April is both National Poetry Month and Jazz Appreciation Month.

I mean, that’s really every month with me. But others are more intentional about enjoying both this month, which gives me more opportunity to enjoy poetry and jazz with them.

One of my book clubs is reading and sharing poetry all month. We are having at least three poetry gatherings at a local coffee shop to read together and share our books, which seems like the very best outing I can think of.

So far I have started Don’t Get Your Hopes Up/Moon Woman by Courtney Marie and Fatima-Ayan Maliki Hirsi (two of our local poets) and When Angels Speak of Love by bell hooks (not pictured – reading a digital copy). Beautiful verses set a lovely tone for the whole day.

Then at night, I spend an hour or two listening to records as I wind down for bed. I’m looking forward to Arts and Jazz Fest at the end of the month. If you’re in Denton, you should check it out!

“eden all would abandon
to not be alone”
From the collection When Angels Speak of Love by bell hooks

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The Advent/Christmas tree is up. It has pockets.

Advent started yesterday, and as is my (recent…within the last few years) custom, I put my Christmas tree up on the evening of the first day. All those little knitted pockets are pieces of a deconstructed Advent calendar, and each will hold a small task for each day (which I will distribute among them tonight). I love the practice of daily calendar, whether the surprise inside is a memory, a quote, a fun task, or a chocolate.

But there are other things I’m skipping this year.

I seem to get worked up over how busy this season is. I’m worried that I won’t have enough time to do the things I want to do (i.e., drive around and see Christmas lights, go to parties, etc.) and also still do the things I need to do (i.e., jobs, shower, etc.). My calendar is overloaded from the excess. I can’t look at it too long (which is sad, because you know how much I love my planner), or I get anxious.

None of that this year. I’m skipping the worry. Yesterday, our pastor preached a sermon on the foreboding apocalyptic text for the first Sunday of Advent, and the point he made was that this is a season not of either/or but both/and. The world is awful and everything is bleak and ending and there is joy and love and hope and peace. I love that. I’m embracing that this month, and that leave no room for worry. I’m going to do what I must and what I want, and at the end of the month, chances are good that I’ll still be standing despite (or possibly even because) all of it.

The trick is this: I’m also skipping anything that doesn’t fall into those two categories. If I neither need nor want to do something, I’m not gonna. I’m skipping obligation. I know – the holidays are a dangerous season for that. But yesterday, I also skipped our congregational meeting. I didn’t mean to. I meant to go – set my alarm and everything. But when I woke up, I was so hungry. I knew there would be donuts at the church, but donuts are only nourishing for the soul, not the body. I knew if I didn’t eat real food, it would affect the rest of the day. So I stayed home a little longer and did just that. Nothing bad happened, and I got to start the day right.

More of that this season, please. The expected busyness with a few cracks where the light can get in.

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This month went by super fast! There was one tree at the beginning of the month in the lot where I park at work that had shed all its leaves (as if to say, “Come on, you guys – it’s time! Don’t be late!” I feel like that tree understands me.), but now they’re all turning/shedding. And I love it.

November has been busy, but happy busy. I had a minor writing delay when my laptop crashed, but my sister and brother-in-law gave me one of theirs, so I’m back on a roll, and just in time for the holidays! Here’s how the month went.

What I’m into reading or listening to:

  • Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram is a gem of a book. I love the perspective and the sweet friendship he forges when he goes to see his family.
  • I’m getting through Anna Karenina. I recognize that I’m in no position to critique a translation from Russian, as I do not know a lick of Russian, but I’m going to critique it anyway. I’m liking the story line and character development, but I frequently run across a passage where I think, “I bet that was beautiful in Russian. Too bad this phrasing is awkward and awful.” I may check a copy out of the library and see if that goes better.
  • I attending the UNT Jazz Singers’ fall concert/CD release party and picked up their new collection called A Thousand Nights. Highly recommend.

a thousand nights

What I’m into doing:

  • A Club Pilates location opened in Denton, and I am obsessed. I love Pilates on the reformer machines! If you’re in or near Denton, and you’re curious, you can take a free, 30-minute intro session.
  • Our Housing holiday party was fantastic. It was beautiful, the food was awesome, and they gifted everyone with a free ham or turkey. As you can see in the picture at the top, I couldn’t decide what to drink. So many choices. I made them all.
  • I enjoyed Thanksgiving with my family. We only made four kinds of candy this year (one didn’t make it into buckets because it was only a small batch). I only suffered a minor burn, which is better than I usually do. I think my family actually enjoys the chocolate-covered salted peanut or pecan clusters I make to use up the excess chocolate more than they like the actual candy.
  • Speaking of chocolates, I refreshed our fair trade stash at church and put out a table with samples of chocolate, coffee, and tea. Hopefully the information I collected there can help guide our purchases better so that the products get bought before they go stale.

What I’m looking forward to:

  • There is a coffee crawl scheduled next weekend, and I’m very excited about it. It’s a fundraiser for the Explorium (a children’s museum in Denton), and I am happy to drink coffee to support them.
  • I’m also very excited about Christmas break. I am looking forward to having that time off.

What are you into these days?

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Favorite thing about summer. FAVORITE.

Fresh peaches that practically burst when you touch them. Snow cones. Festivals and retreats and reunions. Lounging and reading. Air conditioning (because it’s already dabbling in triple digits here and Lord have mercy).

Ah, summer.

I don’t have to talk myself into fall and winter. I have made my peace with spring being my least favorite season, because allergies.

But the people looooove summer. And I just…don’t. But I also know how annoying it is to me when people complain about winter (just…shhhh. Let me enjoy the five minutes a year I’m not in a constant state of sweat and nausea in peace). Therefore, in the interest of not being the gnat swarm at everyone’s picnic, I decided to follow Joy the Baker’s lead and make a summer bucket list.

I know the purpose of a bucket list is typically accomplishment, and there’s an element of that in here. Mostly, though, this is a list of the things I’m looking forward to doing this summer.

  • Finishing Fishbowl. I’m super close to finishing my first rough draft of a full-length novel. Like…within-the-next-couple-of-weeks close. I’ve been playing with this manuscript for so long that I can’t imagine it being finished (well, the first step of finished, anyway). And it may expand in the editing process later, as I have pesky notes of a side view, and I’ll have to read it through to know if that’s a distraction or an important part of the story. But the bones will be written. So, so soon.
  • Road trip to Virginia to the writers’ retreat where I will be presenting my workshop. There are still spaces available, and you can read about it and register here.
  • Leave the house on purpose at least twice a week for fun. Not because I have work or errands or a meeting. Just to join civilization. It’s not something I need to do every day, but life is richer when I get out regularly. Summer is an easier time to do that.
  • 3rd annual Hemingway party. There may be dancing this year. There will definitely be alcohol and mixers and lots of food.
  • 24in48 reading challenge! July 21-22. Sign-ups are coming soon. I’ll keep you posted.
  • High school reunion in July.

I also need to settle into a better daily rhythm with the things I know that feed my soul. I started off well in January, but the goals have sort of fizzled. No, that’s an understatement. My resolutions tracking sheet (post forthcoming) is a desert. As most of the resolutions I set are activities designed to help me maintain balance and sanity, it makes sense that I have been scattered (tidy euphemism) as of late. I’ve been in survival mode for about three months. I know that there are other factors involved, so getting back to stability is not as simple as checking things off a daily to-do list, but the things on the list can help.

What are you doing this summer?

 

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