Tag Archives: reading

Christmas memories

I hope you had a lovely holiday season! We were lucky enough to spend this Christmas break making memories with both Joe’s family in Council Bluffs and my family outside Chicago. I love days when you can stay in your pajamas as late as you like. (Because sleeping in isn’t really an option these days, with a toddler who wakes up before dawn.)

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Here are a few favorites from 2015: 

Seeing the stocking I finally sewed for Emmett hanging from the fireplace. I bought the Christmas fabric forever ago (October 2011?) at a shop in Dubuque but didn’t have my DIY act together together in time for his first Christmas. I pieced and quilted it over Thanksgiving with my mom, and used this free pattern and tutorial to base the shape.

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Cooking a Polish family favorite with my father-in-law. Joe’s family feasts typically feature golumpki, a dish of ground beef and pork and onions and rice rolled in a steamed cabbage leaf. This year, Joe’s mom had to work and Joe was hung over resting all morning, so it was up to me and Stevo to fire up the stove. I really enjoyed making these! I didn’t take photos because, well, my hands were covered in raw meat, but you can watch Martha Stewart make them with her mom in this video.

Playing  Suspend at both family parties. My niece Mia got Suspend for Christmas and brought it over in the morning. Such a fun multi-generational family game! You have to figure out how to hang and dangle the metal pieces without them falling. Kind of like Jenga.
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Reading for pleasure. There are few things more relaxing for me than getting lost in a good book. I downloaded Station Eleven, my next book club book on the Kindle app this time, so I could read in the car during the nighttime drives. The interwoven story lines are gripping.
Handmaking gifts is always a favorite, although unfortunately I didn’t do very much this year. (I did sew new pillowcases for my mom using the APQ sewathon roll-up pattern.) Emmett got lucky in this department, though. My brother made him the IKEA-hack learning tower so he can be a kitchen helper. And my mom and aunt made a way-awesome “quiet book” together! I can appreciate the hours and hours they spent on it:

I have a few days off and a to-do list a mile long, so blogging is the perfect procrastination. I’m hoping to put down words about motherhood at 18 months, because everything feels different as we’ve hit new developmental milestones.

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Liking lately

I’m in denial about this whole summer-being-over thing, although once I unpack my sweaters, I’m sure I’ll change my tune.

Here are a few things I’ve been into:

To eat: A few friends hosted “Meatfest” last weekend, a backyard barbecue with insanely good smoked meats and a smorgasbord of sides. Great weather, better people. I asked Joe to make this roasted potato salad with shaved fennel and salsa verde, a killer potluck-pleasing dish he’s mastered. It’s for real.

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To read: I felt compelled to go to the library the other night, and made it to the Forest Avenue branch just before it closed for the evening. I’d never been there before, and the selection isn’t huge (they seem to cater to the ESL population that lives in the area), but this Sticks banner between two big tree sculptures made me smile.

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I picked up “The String Diaries” and raced through it this week. I can’t rave about the prose itself, but it’s a fast-paced thriller that reminded me of Gone Girl in ways. It has elements of the magical, but it uses one of my favorite techniques of bouncing around time periods and intertwining plots.

To make: Truth – I basically showed Joe this project and he made it for me. I have a huge empty wall in my office that’s been aching for artwork these past six months, and when I saw this, I felt like it would be a cool installation piece. Just a big frame, chicken wire, staples, spray paint, spacers and paper strips.

{photo via Sugar & Cloth}

{photo via Sugar & Cloth}

The project is by Sugar & Cloth, but I first saw it linked from Going Home to Roost. I have yet to get the paper and cut strips for it, but I might treat it like a gratitude journal, curling up messages of thanks as a daily meditation. I’ll probably post something to Instagram once it’s up in my office.

 To conquer: Emmett and I ran out first 5K together last week. DMU did a Friday evening run from campus, down around the sculpture park and back. We definitely didn’t PR or anything, but it was my goal to at least jog the whole thing, and I followed through. The kid didn’t even break a sweat.

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Nicole and Everett also ran, and Mollie and her daughter, Kaydin. I’m really starting to feel like part of the DMU community. It’s crazy to believe next week marks six months in my role there.

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Stop scrolling

When I’m tired, it’s really easy for me to kill 45 minutes curled up on the couch, tapping away at my phone, re-checking Instagram or Facebook. I wish I had more time to read, or work on projects, and then I realize I do – I just threw away an hour mindlessly scrolling away. I think I’m going to just shut my phone down after 7 or so a couple nights a week to just completely eliminate the itch.

I’m almost finished with “The Most of Nora Ephron,” a collection of news stories, essays, a  novel, a play, screenplay and magazine pieces by the late writer.

The Most Of Nora Ephron

I appreciate her personal, chatty style, and have found it interesting to see how her life experiences recycle throughout her work. Certain themes – food, marriage, divorce, infidelity, Jewishness, etc. run throughout all of the pieces, and certain anecdotes show up multiple times in some form or other.

It’s a brick, but a quick read. It was a good book to bring on our road trip to Saint Louis – short chapters or at least easy spots to leave off and pick up. I’m sad I missed my book club’s discussion, though!

Last night I actually used the sewing machine that I had sitting in a corner of the dining room. It felt good to sew and accomplish something tactile after spending hours at the computer. I mean, these sweet fabrics are hard to resist.

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What are your weekend plans? Joe got an invite to a Winefest event where he might meet Lynne Rossetto Kasper! Otherwise, we don’t have much on the docket aside from babysitting and maybe swinging by CelebrAsian.

 

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I’m a scaredy cat

I’m a pretty big scaredy cat when it comes to creepy, haunted things. (Or, let’s be honest, certain films for children. It took me until I was 28 to get through E.T. without hiding under the covers.) A few years ago after watching Amityville Horror (the newer version that features lots of Ryan Reynolds being sexy) with friends, I made Joe come outside and walk me from our car to the apartment, 10 yards away. I blame it on my overactive imagination.

So I probably shouldn’t have gotten hooked on True Detective, the HBO show everyone’s been raving about. It centers around some occult murders, which felt just real enough to completely terrify me. We’d finish an episode before bed and I’d be checking behind my back whenever I’d take Wilbur out on his nighttime walk.

I mentioned this to my cousin, who is also a fan of the show, and he said the trick is to have a “palate cleanser” show or piece of entertainment to put a buffer between the scary thing and sleep. My palate cleanser has been a fun book Andrea loaned me: Where’d You Go, Bernadette.

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It has been on my list for ages, and is a quick, funny read. The title character is a (fictional) cult figure in architecture and her husband is a genius at Microsoft who has the fourth most watched TED talk. Lots of the humor pokes fun at the nerdy stuff I geek out about, so I’ve really enjoyed it. If you’re looking for a beach read, it’s in paperback!

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To-read

The other day I had a note from a friend who finally read a book I’d recommended something like nine years ago. It’s funny how books can sit on a shelf and find us at the right time, isn’t it?

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Book Journal image via Julianna Swaney

A few books I have on my to-read list:

A White Wind Blew. Picked this up from Beaverdale Books the other day at the suggestion of a friend. Maybe I’ll nominate it to my book club next week. I have a feeling my dear friend Sophia, a classical pianist, could get behind it.

Dr. Wolfgang Pike would love nothing more than to finish the requiem he’s composing for his late wife, but the ending seems as hopeless as the patients dying a hundred yards away at the Waverly Hills tuberculosis sanatorium. If he can’t ease his own pain with music, Wolfgang tries to ease theirs—the harmonica soothes and the violin relaxes. But his boss thinks music is a waste, and in 1920s Louisville, the specter of racial tension looms over everything.

When a former concert pianist checks in, Wolfgang begins to believe that music can change the fortunes of those on the hill. Soon Wolfgang finds himself in the center of an orchestra that won’t give up, forced to make a choice that will alter his life forever.

Set against a fascinatingly real historical backdrop, A White Wind Blew raises compelling questions about faith and confession, music and medicine, and the resilience of love.

Someone Could Get Hurt. My cousin loaned us his copy, which is awesome because I’m always linking to Dadspin articles.

No one writes about family quite like Drew Magary. The GQ correspondent and Deadspin columnist’s stories about trying to raise a family have attracted millions of readers online. And now he’s finally bringing that unique voice to a memoir. In Someone Could Get Hurt, he reflects on his own parenting experiences to explore the anxiety, rationalizations, compromises, and overpowering love that come with raising children in contemporary America.

In brutally honest and funny stories, Magary reveals how American mothers and fathers cope with being in over their heads (getting drunk while trick-or-treating, watching helplessly as a child defiantly pees in a hotel pool, engaging in role-play with a princess-crazed daughter), and how stepping back can sometimes make all the difference (talking a toddler down from the third story of a netted-in playhouse, allowing children to make little mistakes in the kitchen to keep them from making the bigger ones in life). It’s a celebration of all the surprises—joyful and otherwise—that come with being part of a real family.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. I always want to read the books elephantine recommends. Although am I the only person who has no interest in The Goldfinch? I LOATHED The Secret History.

Two doctors risk everything to save the life of a hunted child in this majestic debut about love, loss, and the unexpected ties that bind us together. “On the morning after the Feds burned down her house and took her father, Havaa woke from dreams of sea anemones.” Havaa, eight years old, hides in the woods and watches the blaze until her neighbor, Akhmed, discovers her sitting in the snow. Akhmed knows getting involved means risking his life, and there is no safe place to hide a child in a village where informers will do anything for a loaf of bread, but for reasons of his own, he sneaks her through the forest to the one place he thinks she might be safe: an abandoned hospital where the sole remaining doctor, Sonja Rabina, treats the wounded. Though Sonja protests that her hospital is not an orphanage, Akhmed convinces her to keep Havaa for a trial, and over the course of five extraordinary days, Sonja’s world will shift on its axis and reveal the intricate pattern of connections that weaves together the pasts of these three unlikely companions and unexpectedly decides their fate.

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Reading right now

What’s on your 2014 reading list? I’m currently laughing out loud at Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman. One of the front blurbs calls it “The British version of Tina Fey’s Bossypants,” which I can kind of see because it would probably sell a lot more copies than “sidesplitting feminist manifesto.” The book is also incredibly smart, I think, in its treatment of sexism and body image, etc.

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It’s full of British cultural references and foul language, and I keep chuckling to myself as I read it, which is making it an annoying bedtime book for Joe. He is wading through Herman Wouk’s War & Remembrance which I bought for him at a garage sale because we both loved The Caine Mutiny. His book is like a bazillion pages and not hilarious. Sorry, love.

After this, I should really get started on Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, which is my lady book club next pick.

Shorter interesting things:

There’s the New Yorker  profile of Pope Francis, which is currently available in full online. The profile paints Pope Francis as someone who’s evolved over time. I went to Catholic school for 13 years (which I like to joke is the right amount of time to cure someone of Catholicism), and there are a lot of redeeming qualities about Francis’ message and attitudes toward the papacy. Plus, the cover image made me smile in a major way when I pulled it out of the mailbox:

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I read this NPR story about a movement to build subdivisions around farms instead of golf courses. In love with this!

Did you know there’s a posthumous Maurice Sendak book?

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Ladies, unite!

No offense to the guys, but sometimes a girl has to kick back with her ladyfriends. I had an awesome time last Friday getting together with my new book club. It took us an hour of chatting and munching on appetizers before we even sat down to discuss the book (“The Age of Miracles”). Once we did, the conversation swung between smart commentary and good laughs. Plus, there was pizza and homemade apple hand pies. Our next book is Elizabeth Gilbert’s “The Signature of All Things” in case you’d like to read along! (I wanted to read “My Notorious Life,” and hopefully I’ll have time over the holidays to dig into that next.)

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If I didn’t feel so guilty about always leaving Joe and Emmett to go to various meetings and whatnot, I would totally sign up for knitXmidwest. Hopefully there will be a next year! The awesome women behind Hill Vintage & Knits and the totally rad Jen Geigley of makeXdo are putting on this two-day knitting and crochet retreat.

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If I were to go, I might try to have someone walk me through making some ridiculous baby head gear. My friend Gina sent me a link to this Cabbage Patch Kids inspired hat and as a child of the late ’80s, I got a good laugh out of it.

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Emmett might need a baby beard beanie.

Last ladything: The TEDxDesMoines TEDxWomen event is on December 5! We’ve got some fun speakers lined up. I’ll leak two of them here:

Beth Howard, the pie ambassador who also lives in the American Gothic House, will give a talk. It sounds like she might also do a pie-prep demo, too!

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Drake Professor Renee Cramer will give a talk that addresses the celebrity baby bump in a way US Weekly never would. You can read her thoughtful convocation address from this fall here. There are some good thoughts about striving to impress and intentions that are meaningful for non-students, too.

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We haven’t made ticketing live or anything, but will soon! This is just a sneak peek because I like you all best. Hop over to “like” the TEDxDesMoines page to stay up to date on everything!

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