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Friday Fun! (August: Yoga and Gratitude)

September 3, 2014 2 comments
My view reading next to the Charles River (including my book, of course!)

My view reading next to the Charles River (including my book, of course!)

Hello my lovely readers!

My, it’s been quite a busy summer for me, and August is always the busiest, as anyone who works in post-secondary academia will tell you.  On top of students coming back to campus and teaching orientations, I also started a new project at work and took on more responsibility in another one.  In my personal life, my partner and I threw our first party together, which was a smashing success, and I finished out the month with some vacation time to get to go to the track with him again, something that I always really enjoy.  It makes me so happy to get to see him race and also camp out and be in sunbeams all day on top of it!

Two things I’ve discovered this month that I’d like to tell you about.  The first is something you may have heard of, MyYogaPro.  Basically MyYogaPro features videos done by Erin Motz (one of my favorite online yoga instructors).  The videos both break down poses step-by-step for you and also feature full-length programs, organized for various goals (flexibility, power yoga, backbends), progressing from easy to advanced.  Even better, you earn badges for completing videos, which makes it like achievements in a videogame but for doing something physical.  You can register for lifetime access for only $45 right now.  I know this sounds a bit like an ad, but no one asked me to talk about MyYogaPro.  I chose to sign up for the account, and I’ve found it really has enhanced my yoga practice.  I’m learning and progressing in a way I never have before with yoga.  I’m quite passionate about how the website enhances home practice.  If you’re into yoga, if you’ve dabbled your toes but never got serious, or if you’re brand-new to the concept, there’s something for everyone.

The second thing I’ve discovered that I’m really enjoying is an app called Gratitude 365.  It gives you a notebook page every day to put down however many things from that day you want to that you are grateful for.  It also lets you attach a photo to that day.  You can password protect the app if you want.  You can both view a snapshot of your last few days and a calendar of all your pictures.  It also keeps track of how many days you’ve journaled for and your average number of gratitudes.  A lot of people talk about how taking a moment to be thankful each day enhances mood and reduces stress and anxiety, but even if that’s not your goal, it’s a great little journaling app that is easy to use in the day-to-day.

In spite of being so busy this month, I still managed to read 5 books.  I currently have a back-log of three book reviews, so they should keep coming at a steady pace.  I also created a new cross-stitch pattern. The test stitch is completed, I just need to hoop it for the recipient and create the pdf pattern.  Keep your eye out for it.  It’s geeky!

My partner is always wonderfully supportive during my most stressful month of the year, and I honestly think his support is part of why I handled this August with as much relaxation tossed in as I managed to grab, whether that was sneaking in 10 minutes of yoga, journaling gratitude, going for walks together, laughing at old Twilight Zone episodes, or reading outside flopped on a blanket together.  When I think about my August, I don’t just think about the stress, and that’s quite the gift.

Happy reading, everyone!

 

Friday Fun! (May: MLA Chicago and Boston Calling)

May 31, 2014 Leave a comment

Hello my lovely readers!  You may have noticed the blog was a bit quieter than usual this month.  That’s because I had my annual conference for work, and I extended my Memorial Day three day weekend into a five day one.  The month was so incredibly full of both good and stressful busyness, I’m kind of amazed I managed to blog at all!

Image of a sunset over a lake. Buildings are right on the water's edge.

Lake Michigan at sunset.

Every year for work I attend the Medical Library Association’s annual conference.  This year the conference was in Chicago.  I’d never been to Chicago before, and I made sure to make the most of my limited free-time to see the city!  I walked through Millennium Park and got a selfie in the bean, went to American Girl Place on the Magnificent Mile (and bought a mini version of the Native American doll, Kaya), and went to Navy Pier.  I also checked out the Chicago History Museum and got to see items that were melted in the Chicago Fire, such as marbles.  I walked through Lincoln Park and went to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum where I got to hang out in a butterfly conservatory room.  None landed on me, but I got some great pictures! My partner’s sister and her husband live in Chicago, so I went and had dinner with them at a Chicago style hot dog restaurant that actually had vegetarian hot dogs.  Score!  They also took me to see Lake Michigan, and I was blown away by how soft the sand is and how the lake is so large it looks like the ocean.  I guess they don’t call them the Great Lakes for nothing!  I know that sounds like a lot to squeeze into the amount of time I wasn’t at the conference, but I am the queen of getting a lot of sightseeing done in a short amount of time.  I pre-plan, using Pinterest and its great maps feature, and plot out routes and timing so I can get everything in.  Plus, in museums, I only check out the exhibits of greatest interest to me.

Of course, the main reason I was in Chicago was for work.  I attended the conference, listening to many excellent plenary speakers, as well as presentations by various librarians and library students on their projects and papers, and networked with vendors at the opening event.  This year I was an official blogger for the poster sessions.  You can see my blog posts here.  Our library director also took us all out for Chicago style deep dish pizza.  While I enjoyed the deep dish pizza, it was a lot like lasagna without the pasta, I can’t imagine eating it more than a few times in my lifetime.  I still prefer the thin crust brick oven or thick crust New England styles!  When I got back to Boston, I taught a library skills class and presented a poster at an education event on my work’s campus.  After all of that work, I took my five day Memorial Day weekend!

A stage surrounded by blue signs with a dog in a suit and the words Boston Calling. A band is on the stage and a large crowd is in front of them.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros performing at Boston Calling.

The reason I took the long weekend was because my bf and I wanted very much to attend Boston Calling, Boston’s live music festival.  My favorite band, The Decemberists, and his favorite band, Built to Spill, were both playing, as was the band that sings our song, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.  The festival was Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday.  It’s held in the center of Boston, at Government Center, on two stages.  The architecture there is very brutalist, and the entry to the festival had signs up denoting male and female.  We figured out later the signs were just telling you if the person doing the wanding was a man or a woman, it wasn’t intended to split up the crowd along gender lines, but the whole thing felt quite dystopian when we arrived and lent the concert a pretty damn cool vibe.  I had such an incredibly wonderful time at the festival, I can barely put it into words.  Hearing Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros sing our song live was stellar.  I had seen The Decemberists once before, but not as up close as I got at this concert.  It was raining when they came out, which, if you know their music, gave the performance such a perfect atmosphere.  They sang both old and new songs, and it was just amazing.  I also really enjoyed watching my partner’s favorite band, Built to Spill.  They have amazing guitar skills, and their fans are of the cool head bob variety, so it was the perfectly chill performance for the sunny, relaxing day.  When we weren’t at the concert, we went a long motorcycle ride and grilled for the first time this season.  It was a great vacation!

Just because I’ve been busy doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading.  I finished seven books this month, three more than usual, but only managed to review two of them so far.  Definitely be prepared for an onslaught of reviews in the next couple of weeks!

I was also too busy for stitching most of the month.  I would have stitched on my trip to Chicago, but fellow cross-stitchers and embroiderers stated that, even though the rules don’t say you can’t have a sewing needle, a lot of the times they get confiscated.  I didn’t want to risk it.  Once my vacation was over, I picked it back up again.  I’m working on the second item for the Foraging New England line, and it is almost done!

Happy reading!

Friday Fun! (April: Busyness and Hiking)

View of Boston city skyline

The view of Boston on our hike.

Hello my lovely readers!

April was such a busy month, I can actually hardly believe it’s over already!  It’s always a busy month for me at work, as I help organize and run an annual event on-campus.  In addition this month, we also welcomed a new program to our campus, so the library was very busy putting in the groundwork for supporting students studying that new subject area.  I also submitted my first-ever poster abstract.  So busy!  On top of this, the weekend of my work event was the same weekend as the first motorcycle race weekend of the season for my partner.  He was incredibly busy prepping for the races.  Instead of just the normal getting everything running again after the long winter, he also was prepping a new (to him) race bike to be track ready.  Since I couldn’t go with him for the first race weekend, I wanted to send along something nice, so I made him a pie and cookies for carb-loading at the track.  I honestly found the baking to be stress-relieving and really enjoyed it.  I’m happy to report both the work event and the first race weekend went well!

In spite of the busyness, we were able to squeeze in quite a few hangouts with friends and dates for ourselves.  One of our dates was to hike a local trail on Easter Sunday.  It was gorgeous weather in a month of a lot of iffy weather.  I always find it so refreshing to get outside and in the woods, and even more so with my boyfriend.  We saw lots of jack-in-the-pulpits and also got a great view of Boston.

My stitching slowed down a bit this month, although I did release the first design in a new line–rhubarb in foraging New England.  The rest of the patterns for the line are designed but they still need to be trial-stitched! I hope to release at least one of them this month.

I read and reviewed four books this month, sticking to my overall goal of one book a week.  I’ll be happy if I manage to stick to that during my upcoming even busier month of May! In my own writing, I’m still working away whenever I have the time on my new book idea, writing background short stories.  The typewriter my bf got me for Christmas is coming in really handy, freeing me of distractions.

Happy reading!

Friday Fun! (March: Ostara and Concert)

March 29, 2014 1 comment
A swan swimming on the edge of a river.

A swan on the Charles. It let me get this close to it!

Hello my lovely readers!

It’s my pleasure to be able to wish you all a happy spring!  I am so excited for the lighter days and warmer weather, although we definitely are still having a few cold ones here and there.  My partner and I celebrated Ostara (spring equinox) with an after-work walk on the Charles River, a special dinner, and presents of course.  We were surprised to spot three swans on the Charles during our walk.  It’s not common to see swans on the Charles, so it was a nice surprise.  Plus, they let us get very close to them!  For Ostara dinner, we made deviled eggs, salad with pickled turnips and homemade honey mustard dressing, and homemade handcut fries.  I had a pina colada with it, and my partner had hard cider.  Delicious!

Even though we’ve been together for over a year and a half, my partner and I had never been to a concert together.  We finally changed that this month when we went to see The Dum Dum Girls live.  They’re a band my bf is a fan of, so I hadn’t listened to them prior to the night.  They put on a great show, though.  Kind of surfer/rocker chick style music.  Plus their outfits were really fun.  I left the concert wanting one of their albums, which I think marks it a success on their part.  We had a blast going to a concert together, and I’m pumped to go to more!

In shop news, this month I released a new line (Miffy / Nijntje an adorable little bunny from children’s lit), and I made my first sale (my Sriracha pattern)!

I posted six book reviews this month and read five books.  I unfortunately got a bit bogged down in a stroke of bad luck of three mediocre reads in a row, so I didn’t end up with time to read a Mental Illness Advocacy Reading Challenge book or an accepted review copy 2014 book this month.  I plan to make up for it next month so I can stay on track!

I’ve been dialing back in my fitness along with the gradually lengthening days.  I’m doing more yoga and calisthenics, and aiming to lift heavy once a week.  Hopefully next month I can ramp it all up a bit more.

I hope you all are enjoying your springs! Happy reading!

Book Review: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (Series, #2) (Audiobook narrated by Will Patton)

February 13, 2014 2 comments

Red-tinged image of a face with the author's name and title in smoke-like white letters over the top.Summary:
Danny Torrance didn’t die in the Overlook Hotel but what happened there haunts him to this day.  Not as much as the shining does though.  His special mental powers that allow him to see the supernatural and read thoughts lead to him seeing some pretty nasty things, even after escaping the Overlook.  He soon turns to drinking to escape the terror.  But drinking solves nothing and just makes things worse.  When he sees his childhood imaginary friend, Tony, in a small New Hampshire town, he turns to AA to try to turn his life around and learn to live with the shining.

Abra is a middle school girl nearby in New Hampshire with a powerful shine.  She sees the murder of a little boy by a band of folks calling themselves the True Knot.  They travel in campers and mobile homes, seeking out those who have the shine to kill them for it and inhale it.  They call it steam.  They’re not human. And they’re coming after Abra.  Abra calls out to the only person she knows with a shine too, the man she’s talked to before by writing on his blackboard.  Dan.

Review:
A sequel that takes the original entry’s theme on overcoming your family origin and ramps it up a notch, Doctor Sleep eloquently explores how our family origin, genetics, and past make us who we are today.  All set against a gradually ramping up race against the clock to save a little girl from a band of murdering travelers.

The book begins with a brief visit to Danny as a kid who learns that the supernatural creatures exist in places other than the Overlook, and they are attracted to the shine.  This lets the reader first get reacquainted with Danny as a child and also establishes that the supernatural are a potential problem everywhere.  The book then jumps aggressively forward to Danny as a 20-something with a bad drinking problem.  It’s an incredibly gritty series of scenes, and it works perfectly to make Dan a well-rounded character, instead of a perfect hero of the shine.  It also reestablishes the theme from The Shining that someone isn’t a bad person just because they have flaws–whether nature or nurture-based.  That theme would have been undone if Dan had turned out to be an ideal adult.  It would be much easier to demonize his father and grandfather in that case, but with the way King has written Dan, it’s impossible to do that.

The way Dan overcomes both his drinking and his temper, as well as how he learns to deal with his shine, is he joins Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).  In contrast to his father who tried to quit drinking on his own, Dan attempts it in a group with accountability.  This then shows how much easier it is to overcome a mental illness with community support.  I appreciated seeing this.  I will say, however, that some of the AA talk in the book can get a bit heavy-handed.  Some chapter beginnings include quotes from the book of AA, and Dan can sometimes seem a bit obsessed with it when he relates almost everything to something he learned or heard there.  AA definitely plays a vital role in many people’s recovery from addiction, and it’s wonderful to see that in a work of fiction.  However, it would have been better for the reader to see the role of AA more than to hear quotes from AA so often.

The big bad in this book is a band of supernatural creatures who were once human and still look human.  But they change somehow by taking steam and go on to live almost indefinitely.  They can die from stupid accidents and sometimes randomly drop dead.  The steam is acquired by torturing children who have the shine.  The shine comes out of their bodies as steam when they are in pain.  They call themselves The True Knot.  This troop is a cartoonish group of evil people who try to look like a troop of retirees and some of their family traveling in a camper caravan.  The leader of this group is Rose the Hat–a redheaded woman who wears a top hat at an impossibly jaunty angle.  I was pleased to see Rose written quite clearly as a bisexual.  Her sexuality is just an aspect of who she is, just like her red hair.  Seeing a bi person as the big bad was a delight.  Her bisexuality isn’t demonized. Her actions as a child killer and eater of steam are.  She is a monster because of her choices, not because of who she is.   I alternated between finding The True Knot frightening and too ridiculously cartoonish to be scary.  I do think that was partially the point, though.  You can’t discredit people who seem ridiculous as being harmless.

How Abra is found by The True Knot, and how she in turn finds Dan, makes sense within the world King has created.  It doesn’t come until later in the book, though.  There is quite a bit of backstory and build-up to get through first.  The buildup is honestly so entertaining that it really didn’t hit me until after I finished the book how long it actually took to get to the main conflict.  So it definitely works.  Abra is a well-written middle school girl.  King clearly did his research into what it’s like to be a middle schooler in today’s world.  Additionally, the fact that Abra is so much older than Danny was in The Shining means it’s much easier for the reader to understand how the shine works and see a child, who understands at least a bit what it is, grapple with it.  This made Abra, although she is a child with a shine, a different experience for the reader who already met one child with a shine in the previous book.  Abra is also a well-rounded character with just the right amount of flaws and talent.

There is one reveal later in the book in relation to Abra that made me cringe a bit, since it felt a bit cliche.  It takes a bit of a leap of faith to believe, and I must admit it made me roll my eyes a bit.  However, it is minor enough in the context of the overall story that it didn’t ruin my experience with the book.  I just wish a less cliche choice had been made.

The audiobook narrator, Will Patton, does a phenomenal job.  It was truly the best audiobook narration I’ve heard yet.  Every single character in a very large cast has a completely different voice and style.  I never once got lost in who was speaking or what was going on.  More importantly to me, as a New England girl born and raised, is that he perfectly executes the wide range of New England accents present in the book.  Particularly when he narrates the character, Billy, I thought I was hearing one of my older neighbors speak.  I could listen to Will Patton read a grocery list and be entertained.  Absolutely get the audiobook if you can.

Overall, this sequel to The Shining successfully explores both what happened to Danny Torrance when he grew up and a different set of frightening supernatural circumstances for a new child with the shine.  This time a girl.  The themes of nature, nurture, your past, and overcoming them are all eloquently explored.  There is a surprising amount of content about AA in the book.  It could either inspire or annoy the reader, depending on their mind-set.  Any GLBTQ readers looking for a bi big bad should definitely pick it up, as Rose the Hat is all that and more.  Recommended to fans of Stephen King and those that enjoy a fantastical thriller drenched in Americana.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Audible

Buy It

Previous Books in Series:
The Shining, review

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Friday Fun! (January: Freezing Cold and Baking)

February 1, 2014 1 comment

breadHello my lovely readers!  I hope all of your new years started off well.

I’m sure most of you are aware of the intense cold snap that hit the United States this month, and Boston was certainly no exception.  There were a few nights where, even with our heat cranked all the way up, it still wasn’t exactly what you’d call warm inside our apartment.  The few times it did warm up, we got snow.  In fact, the month rolled in with quite the blizzard.  I got to get some exercise in shoveling out our steps and portion of the sidewalk, not to mention my boyfriend’s car (obviously, this was a joint venture).  With it being so cold and me having a 30 minute walk as part of my evening commute home from work, I’ve had to get creative in how I bundle up.  My dad had bought me some fleece-lined tights, and those have become my base layer.  So cozy!  Like wearing your jammies under your work clothes (but looks professional).  However, when I tried to get more, I couldn’t find any for less than $20 plus shipping, so I’m stuck washing them a lot.  Thankfully, today was our first warm day in weeks (43 degrees F!!) Yayyyy

Since it’s been so cold, and also since my dad gave us a Kitchen Aid for Christmas, I’ve been doing a lot more baking.  Basically anything that will let me run our oven for justifiable reasons, since that heats up our studio apartment.  I’d been struggling with getting my bread to come out right, so when we visited my dad back at Thanksgiving, he went over the process with me and caught two errors.  First, I wasn’t letting the yeast grow enough before adding the flour (I’m an impatient person), and second, I wasn’t kneading it long enough.  Well, the second problem was easily addressed with the Kitchen Aid.  The first was addressed by setting a timer with a set amount of time to wait before adding the flour.  My first loaf done with these tweaks and the Kitchen Aid came out perfect!  I was very excited.  Another recipe I finally perfected this month was vegetarian Thai red curry.  I read a tip that combining soy sauce with seaweed replicates the flavor of fish sauce better.  I also started using full fat instead of low fat coconut milk.  It came out much more authentic.

Coming up on the blog this month, I’m hoping to read another one of my 2014 review copies and offer up another giveaway (enter the one currently running if you haven’t had the chance yet).  I’m also hoping to read another book for the MIA Reading Challenge.  I’m glad I already got one read for the challenge and enjoyed it!  I’m also hoping to make an announcement this month of another project I’m working on, but I need to finish up some behind-the-scenes work first.

Happy reading!

Friday Fun! (December: Michigan for the Holidays and NYE in Boston)

January 2, 2014 2 comments
A disassembled Model T at the Henry Ford Museum.

A disassembled Model T at the Henry Ford Museum.

Hello my lovely readers, and a happy 2014 to all!

Everyone’s always busy around the holidays, and I certainly was no exception.  I cross-stitched six presents and made homemade fudge for a bunch of folks as well, in addition to everything else that comes with this time of year.  My partner got us a lovely tree that we got to decorate with both of our ornaments for the first time.  We had an early Christmas together, because the week of Christmas, we went out to Michigan to see his family.  The drive from Boston to Michigan took us 13 hours, and the drive back took about 12.  We had a lovely vacation with his family, and I was made to feel 100% welcome and part of the family.  It was truly a lovely Christmas.

I’d never been to the midwest, so while we were out there, my bf made sure I got to do a bit of sightseeing.  My favorite excursion was to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn.  Henry Ford invented the assembly line, in addition to starting to the famous Ford car company.  The museum featured displays of cars through time, the history of racing, the history of airplanes, the history of trains, and the history of manufacturing in America.  It also had a display on the history of Civil Rights in the US, as well as a display showing key items from the different decades of the 20th century.  The museum also has the Dymaxion House. A model house made in the 1960s as a fully automated house of the future. Only two were ever made.  In addition to all of these, there was also a special display of Presidential limousines, including the one JFK was shot in.  There was so much amazing US history.  We spent five hours in the museum and still didn’t see it all.

We got back to Boston and spent some time just relaxing at home, and then we got ready for New Year’s.  We decided to go out to see the First Night activities and the early fireworks.  Boston has one set of fireworks at 7 and the other at midnight to allow for folks who want to be inside earlier to still see a display.  First Night featured a lot of interactive art this year in the Common, as well as a parade, ice skating performances, and the typical ice sculptures.  The fireworks display was actually better than the 4th of July ones I’ve seen the last couple of years.  Then we went home and had a quiet dinner in just the two of us.  I’d spent the day making gnocchi from scratch, plus homemade sauce and cheesey garlic bread.  I loved the combination of seeing the festivities and getting to celebrate inside in the warmth just the two of us.

Coming up on the blog this month, I’ve got three books from 2013 that I still need to write reviews for.  I’ll also be announcing what 12 review copy submissions I decided to accept for 2014, and I’ll be doing my reading stats 2013 post, as well as a round-up of the best reads of 2013.  I also have five more cross-stitches to show off to you guys.  It should be a busy month here.

Happy reading!

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