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wire

“The reason we still are engaged with the show today is because it really expressed the most important role of art, which is the form where we reflect on what our values are, decide what they are and then act on them.” – Wendell Pierce, as quoted in All the Pieces Matter: The Inside Story of The Wire by Jonathan Abrams.

Die hard fans of The Wire will love this book. People who have never heard of the show might want to watch after reading it (although why anyone would read if if they hadn’t seen it is a mystery. And maybe they shouldn’t read too far, because spoilers). Then there are those of us who fall in the middle.

This book is a slow read. Abrams basically conducted a lot of interviews and then transcribed them, cleaned up the verbal fillers a little (which I appreciate), and pasted them into a manuscript. That’s the majority of the book. As a writer, I find this lazy. As a fan of the show and many of the actors on it, I found it interesting to hear their take on the show in their own words.

In a way, this format is a nod to The Wire itself. The show gives us a view of the cracks in society from a variety of angles and perspectives. The book gives us what the show meant (and still means) to the people involved in it who came from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives.

The saving grace of the book was that it showed how The Wire did what art is supposed to do: to challenge, to provoke, to activate. I knew the show’s writing was good, but I didn’t know how intricate the research process had been or how involved in the city the cast, crew, and production became while filming it. Abrams’s interviews give the reader a behind-the-scenes look that was intimate and unique, and I’m not sure that a more narrative style of writing would have pulled that off.

I received a copy of All the Pieces Matter from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

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“All sorrows are less with bread.” – Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

To prolong the celebration of Michelle’s birthday, we spent a morning at Quixote Bakery Cafe in Richland Hills. It took us a minute to find it. We were looking for a pink house, but there were several pink houses. The Facebook page has a picture with a bicycle on it, but I presumed the bicycle belonged to a patron. Turns out, it does not. It’s an adorable part of the outdoor decoration, and the cafe just gets cuter as you walk in.

As the name suggests, the decor is a visual ode to Don Quixote. There are many drawings on the wall (which you can purchase). There is paraphernalia that relates to various scenes in the book. The wi-fi password is a nod to Dulcinea. I was utterly charmed.

The menu is a pretty standard bakery menu, but the pastries are not standard bakery fare. They are fresh and delicious. We originally ordered two croissants but hastily returned for more and continued to gorge ourselves. I recommend doing the same (but only if you have time for a nap later). We finished with a cream puff and their creme brulee. Heaven.

And now the part you’ve all been waiting for. How is the coffee? I was prepared to receive a mediocre cup, because usually when a shop excels in one area (i.e., the delicious baked goods), something has to give somewhere else. Not so at Quixote. The first sip was the perfect complement to the chocolate croissant I was in the midst of devouring. They use locally roasted beans (Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters, if memory serves me correctly), so their coffee is as fresh as their food.

The owner and the staff are friendly and unrushed. They seemed to delight in taking the time to answer my questions. I think I even noticed a twinkle in his eye when he was describing the coffee. My people.

If you are near Glenview Drive in Richland Hills, stop in for a snack at Quixote. You won’t be sorry!

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perfect

I expected to either love or hate this book. I like good satire, but it is an art. It’s hard to land in that sweet spot between utterly unfunny and abrasively condescending. And when the book is billed as being reminiscent of The Onion, my skepticism kicks in. I’ll be the judge of that, book.

So I was surprised when my general response to The Babylon Bee’s How To Be a Perfect Christian was, “Heh. That was kinda funny.” I expected a more extreme reaction.

Throughout the book, the authors give updates on how you are doing on your journey to become the perfect (tongue-firmly-in-cheek) Christian. It was mildly humorous. I get that continuity is the bedrock of good storytelling, but unless you have somewhere new to go with a joke at every turn, it’s really only funny the first time.

There were a few snarky sucker punches that, in the context of their chapters, were well timed. Of course, I lol-ed at this one:

“The church cafe is like an inferior version of Starbucks, which is already an inferior version of real coffee shops.”

And how many of us who have attended a charismatic missions conference have not at least once thought something like this (if you have been to such a conference and swear this never crossed your mind, I direct you to Revelation 21:8):

“Is the backup singer speaking in tongues or is she just improvising absolute gibberish? That’s between her and Jesus.”

My favorite section was the part on deciphering Christianese:

  • “I’m just waiting on the Lord right now,” is code for “I am still living with my parents.”
  • “I really feel like this is God’s will for my life,” means “I’m sick of people pointing out the glaringly obvious flaws in my life plan, so I’ll just slap the handy ‘God’s will’ label on it to silence the wisdom of my critics.”
  • And my personal favorite – “We just invite your presence into this place now, Father God,” as a subtle message to the congregation: “None of you heathens were clapping during that last song. Get it together, people.”

Overall, this was an enjoyable read for someone whose experience in the Christian church has been mostly not terrible. If you know (and more importantly, have been hurt by) too many people who proselytize the works-based righteousness satirized within, I recommend passing this book by. It’s probably too soon for this to be funny to you now (or maybe ever). I also do not recommend it for those who equate praying with talking to an imaginary friend, because (spoiler alert) the wrap-up at the end might be too Christian-y for you.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from Blogging for Books.

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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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