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Happy

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Coffee with friends = ❤

It seems like cheating to list happiness as a core value, so I’m not going to do that. While I’m sure that there are some people who don’t value happiness, I think most people probably list “happy” as something they’d like to be or as something they enjoy being. It also seems to be what a large corner of the self-help market tries to help us achieve. I don’t know how good most of us are at getting there without work.

I just finished Gabrielle Union’s audio version of We’re Going to Need More Wine, and a line stood out to me. “When you’re in a place where you don’t know what makes you happy, it’s really easy to be an asshole.” That makes a lot of sense to me. The times it’s easiest to be mean are the times when I’m in a fog or a funk and can’t find a way to get myself out of it. So for those times, I’m just going to leave this list of things that make me happy.

  1. Having dinner with people I love. Whether I’m having friends over or being invited over as a guest or eating with family, I love sharing meals with people. I like cooking for people and seeing them enjoy it. I also like not having to cook. Feeding people and being fed may be one of my love languages.
  2. Reading. That is, most reading. Occasionally, I will trudge my way through a book that tries to eat my soul, but most of the reading I do is relaxing. Even if it’s challenging or outside my typical comfort zone, those challenges energize me.
  3. Fresh, ripe peaches. They save the day during my least favorite season. All the oppressive heat of summer is worth it when I see peaches at the farmers’ market.
  4. Doing laundry. I know it’s weird. But I find it so soothing. I think it’s the sound of the dryer. Sometimes I wait to pop the last load in the dryer until I go to bed, just so I can go to sleep to the sound. I also enjoy that the ratio of effect to effort is larger with laundry than with other chores.
  5. Seeing something beautiful when I walk into my apartment. Whether it is a vase of flowers on the table, the Christmas tree lit up, or just an uncharacteristically neat living room, it immediately puts me at peace.
  6. A wide, open sky. Wine and sunset, coffee and sunrise, country drive or road trip, rain or shine. The sky is my favorite part of nature.
  7. My dad telling stories about his dogs. It’s Dad at his most animated. I think it makes him happy, too.

What would be on your list?

 

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What im into

What I’m always into

I’ve had a productive January. Even by my typical January standards. What I’m mostly into this month is how well my point system I set up to help me meet goals is working (perhaps more on that later this month – I’m pretty nerdily excited about it). I set my resolutions, and they’ve been going well so far:

  1. Reading – I’ve read 9 books toward my 100-book goal. I may be imagining it, but Goodreads seems shocked that I’m one book ahead of schedule. My month did include my second round of participation in the 24in48 Readathon, but I would have been on schedule even without it. My favorite two were The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence. I now need to read every book in this list.
  2. Reading long books – I am starting Don Quixote again this weekend. I’m going to try to finish a long book every four months this year. I may have to rewatch The Newsroom while I read this one.
  3. Finishing Fishbowl manuscript – My Fishbowl draft is trudging along, somewhat aimlessly at this point but at least steadily. I am consistently moving in random directions, which I suppose is pretty fitting, given its narrator.
  4. Editing Epic Meal Planning – I have added a few pins to my Epic Meal Planning board, and this month, I am testing some of the recipes on the board. Next month (March), I want to start testing my own recipes on friends.
  5. Learning Spanish – I have tired of Duolingo (perhaps I just need a break), and I have started going through my old Spanish textbooks. I find taking the old route to work through exercises methodically helpful.
  6. Taking a solitary writing retreat – I have looked into rental beach cottages and train trips. Vaguely. I will be more excited about it once I have enough saved up to take the trip. Or if I find a really good deal. Or if I just decide I’m going to hole up in a hotel room and write for a weekend.
  7. Visiting coffee shops/wine bars – Oddly enough, this is the one that got away from me this month. Double down in February? I think so.
  8. Building up emergency fund and paying off debt – I’m ahead of schedule here, too. I like the momentum. If I keep up this rate, I may get to add another goal before year’s end.
  9. Improving my health (specifically, my gym attendance) – I have teamed up with a friend to go to the gym 3 times a week. Consequently, I have been to the gym more times this month than I went last year altogether.
  10. Trying new recipes – I made jambalaya from scratch for the first time this month. If I had known how easy it was and how much better it is than anything I’ve made from a box, I would have done this years ago.

Aside from resolutions, the thing I’ve been into most is saving time.

  • My friend Michelle introduced me to Instacart, and it’s fantastic. Basically, someone does your grocery shopping for you at your local store and brings it to your house. If you want to try it, I think my code for $10 off and free delivery with your first order is still good – click here or use code STERRY1EB1CF.
  • I also am loving Grove. I set up delivery of home products, and they come to my door. What I appreciate is that it gives me a heads-up email so that there are no surprises when I inevitably forget it’s time, and I can skip delivery any time. If you want to try it and also want $10 off your first order, click here.
  • Speaking of home products (my apartment is so dusty and I’m over that – can you tell?), I am super excited to receive my first Norwex order. I had a party, and I scored quite a bit of free loot, even though my orders only reached the lowest level. I think I’m most excited about the Envirowand. Beware, dust! My friend Brenda is a consultant, and she loves doing online parties. You can peruse the catalog here – contact her if you have questions!

I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer – come share what you’re into!

 

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The clock has stopped. A glass of wine has been poured. My laptop is making a weird frog-like noise (probably because it’s been on idle for most of the day) that’s oddly soothing. Unless it crashes. (Please don’t crash.)

I’m 10 hours shy of my goal, but looking back at the weekend, that’s not at all surprising. I left home too often. Then when I returned, it took me a while to get back into my reading rhythm. The fourteen hours I spent reading, though? Still bliss. So I’m happy.

Things I learned this go around:

  1. Hey, self – if you actually want to read 24 hours in two days, maybe don’t go do other things. Stay home. And don’t plan extra things to do at home, either (like taking extra SEO assignments when I actively planned – meaning, wrote “Don’t take SEO assignments” in bold, serious letters in my planner – not to). Except…
    a. If I just want to read a lot one weekend and also do other things, that’s okay, too.
    b. I’m not mad about the $35 I earned this afternoon, either.
    c. I made it to the gym and actually used the weight machines in a non-haphazard fashion (i.e., actually paid attention and worked out every major muscle group). So *pats self on back*
  2. While cozy romance mysteries are not my usual cup of tea, they are a delicious treat every once in a while.
  3. My hands smell like faux basil. I need to never buy this hand soap again. This doesn’t have much to do with reading, except I washed my hands to get the oil from the popcorn off before switching from audio book to tangible book. And now, an hour and a half later, the odor is still so strong it’s distracting me. Hey, does anyone local want some basil hand soap (now that I’ve talked it up so nicely)?
  4. I love decorating books so much. They make me want to clean and rearrange everything and also go to yard sales. Not on reading weekends, though. *whispers* I totally would have hit a yard sale or two yesterday morning if I had started with The Nesting Place.
  5. Gabrielle Union is delightful. And I am glad that the audio book allowed me to get some laundry and dishes done.
  6. AUDIO BOOKS TAKE SO MUCH TIME TO GET THROUGH.
  7. When you are making beef stew, don’t get so engrossed in the audio book you are listening to that you use chicken stock instead of beef stock. They are not interchangeable. The result is still perfectly edible but odd. I do not recommend it.

I hope your weekend was lovely, regardless of what it entailed.

 

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Prompt: “For this challenge, we want to see the first book on your shelves, and the last book on your shelves.”

My shelves are arranged in a mostly logical fashion. My first couple of bookshelves hold fiction, which is organized by the author’s last name. Watership Down, therefore, is the first book on my fiction shelves.

After fiction, the next bookcase houses collections. It includes some fiction – short story collections, plays, and fiction series. It also includes poetry, essay collections, and letters.

The nonfiction case is organized by general topic. It’s not Dewey Decimal specific, but it’s pretty close. It’s also outgrowing its allotted area, so it may be time to start shopping for more bookshelves (YAY).

The last bookcase holds food books. Their arrangement is probably the most practical of the categories. On the top shelves are foodie fiction and memoir. In order to land on these shelves and not on the fiction or nonfiction shelves, they must contain at least one recipe, because this bookcase is right outside my kitchen. Until I move again, there will probably come a time when the top two shelves have to move to the library, as there’s only room for the one bookcase on that wall.

The bottom shelves hold cookbooks, organized somewhat by category, but mostly just by size. Smaller tomes go on higher shelves and larger ones (like the giant collection from Gourmet pictured above) go on the bottom. Because physics. And, to a lesser degree, because it just looks better.

What’s first and last on your bookshelves? How do you arrange them?

 

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The goal for this weekend is fun reading. I’m going to tuck into some romance/mysteries, read a couple of memoirs, a little bit of poetry (I’m going to try to read the side in Spanish first, a baby step toward my resolution), and decorating books, which I love almost as much as cookbooks.

Not pictured in the stack – one of my Audible selections when I get tired of sitting and maybe a little trip down memory lane with the Boxcar Children.

Are you participating in the Readathon? It’s not too late to join. You can still win prizes even if you don’t finish the whole 24 hours.

Friday Five3

I started off the week with a fever (even though that seems like 42 days ago), and it didn’t get a lot easier from there. I think it might have been a rough week for a lot of people. So here’s a little rough with a lot of levity.

  1. I went through every damn emotion reading Rachel Denhollander’s testimony. Be advised – it’s super intense.
  2. This post is sad in that their dogs passed, but I want to give this company all my money, which doesn’t make sense because I have no pets. Who has a pet I can buy stuff for?
  3. Up until this moment in time, Pun Husky was my favorite famous husky. Now this little nugget gives P.H. a run for his/her money.
  4. I have a hard time picking my favorite animal re-names. I’m torn between Judgmental Tree Frog and Regular Boring Normal Turtle.
  5. Jason Momoa is joy personified.

This weekend, you’ll be hearing a lot from me as I embark on my second 24in48 Readathon. It’s not too late to join (in your own house).

Chronicle

“…if he were still alive and I told him now that I wish I could preserve the older memories, erase what they have been replaced by, he would tell me that to be a witness to history is a burden for the chosen.” Yasmine El  Rashidi‘s novel, Chronicle of a Last Summer, is a different sort of coming of age novel. It’s less the coming of age of the narrator and more the coming of age of a country. El Rashidi takes us through three different summers – 1984, 1998, and 2014 – of the narrator’s life growing up in Cairo.

The narrator is a little younger than I am, and it was interesting to see how much the state of the world, even across an ocean, tempered our worldview in very similar ways. Even as small children, we were given quite a bit of responsibility and freedom to explore while the grown ups talked about grown-up things – things we were intentionally kept from knowing. Our childhood was a swirl of independence and oblivion.

In the beginning, I wished I knew more about Egyptian history and politics. I know some of the basics, but I felt like the 6-year-old narrator, left out of the adult conversation. This was one of my favorite aspects of the novel, because it shows how well the author portrayed the mind of the child, drawing the reader into her world and cloaking what was going on around her in exactly the same way she was experiencing.

This first sections was where some of the most beautiful moments with the characters happened. As the novel progressed and the narrator grew older and more aware of what was going on around her, we lost some of the elements that one typically associates with deep characterization. Instead of moments that revealed strengths or weaknesses, personality quirks or depths, these things were replaced with caricatures of each character’s political stance (or lack thereof). This choice stripped the characters of some of their humanity but gave us such musings as “Is the silence of objectivity and being an observer, witness, the same as complicity?” and their subsequent development. While it allowed the richness and complexity of Egypt to shine through, it made it harder for me to maintain interest in the characters themselves.

Overall, I enjoyed the novel, and it has sparked my interest in hearing more of her perspective on her country, which you can hear in this reading here and also in her nonfiction work, The Battle for Egyptwhich chronicles the 2011 Egyptian revolution.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

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