Friday, July 22, 2016

What I Read in May

In May I finally settled in to my new home in the Pacific Northwest and got acquainted with my new local library with tons of branches across the city and apps like Hoopla, Zinio, and the 3M Cloud Library which allow me to download music, audiobooks, magazines and e-books without ever leaving home. This allowed me to read even more books.

How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran Since I was busy moving in April, I didn't get to start April's Our Shared Shelf book club pick until May. I didn't love the previous book club selection, so I was excited to read Caitlin Moran's book which promised to be funny and feminist. Although I couldn't relate to her stories about being a mom (since I'm not a mom yet), there was a lot that could relate to, several laugh out loud moments, and in the end I wished Caitlin was one of my best friends.

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero  One of the headaches of moving to a new city is job-hunting. I'm not usually one to pick up a self-help book, but when I was browsing the online audio-book shelves on Hoopla I decided to listen to You Are a Badass for some motivation. This was a good self esteem booster and I still catch myself telling myself "you are a badass" several times a week.

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson The May Our Shared Shelf book club read was one part memoir, one part academic feminist theory, with a bit of a love story mixed in as she talks about meeting, falling in love and living her life with her partner who is gender fluid. This book seemed very poignant at the time I read it because the news was full of stories about people boycotting Target stores over their transgender bathroom policies. The pacing of this book made it difficult to follow at times, but I felt like I gained valuable insight into the LGBTQ world and the people that love them and it helped re-affirm my belief that love is love.

Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfilment by Tal Ben-Shahari This book had been on my "To Read" list for several years- since the author talked to Jon Stewart about positive psychology on The Daily Show. So when I saw the audiobook on Hoopla, I decided to give it a listen. I learned a few tips on being happier and it re-affirmed a lot of my values.

The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales by Franz Xavier von Schonwerth I was interested in creating some artwork based off of fairy tales, so finding this book of newly discovered fairy tales was fortuitous. Yes, there were a few stories that were similar to other classic tales like Cinderella and Thumbelina, but most were tales that I had never head before- leaning more towards Grimms fairy tales than Disney.

Bee and Puppycat, Vol. 1 by Natasha Allegri I discovered this comic book series via Hoopla (which is the best way to read it IMO because one book contains interactive links to songs via YouTube). The cutie pop drawings tell the story of Bee, a lazy, indulgent, unemployed young adult that can't seem to get her life together. When she takes in a stray creature named Puppycat she gets connected to an intergalactic temp agency and together her and Puppycat completed odd jobs. Such fun!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

What I'm Listening To: PJ Harvey at Glastonbury 2016

It's safe to say that I'm a little bit homesick for my former home in England. Last summer I avoided the crowds and streamed Glastonbury on my BBC iPlayer while painting and knitting and this year I found some of the sets on YouTube. PJ Harvey's set was the one I wanted to see the most this year and she didn't disappoint. Check out her performance of "This Glorious Land" below. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

When Good Ideas Happen (But Someone Else Had The Idea First)

Has this ever happened to you? You suddenly are struck with a great idea to create something and you're totally jazzed about it and then you Google it and learn that somebody has already done it. 

Earlier this month I discovered that the Joy of Painting is on Netflix. I loved watching Bob Ross and the Joy of Painting on my local PBS station when I was little. I used to stumble across it on the weekend like it was a happy accident and I'd be transfixed until the show was over. I'd also recently read a lot of facts about Bob Ross's life- like he used to be an Air Force Master Sergeant in Alaska and he painted at least 3 versions of every painting he did on the show (See more at Mental Floss). So, naturally I dove in and started watching the shows again on Netflix and, being a painter myself, I thought to myself "what if I sat down and attempted to paint all of Bob Ross's paintings myself". I was jazzed!

A few days later I was browsing on the internet to try to find some more art shows to watch, when I found this article from the Huffington Post about a lady who is painting along with all 403 of Bob Ross's The Joy of Painting series. 


I know there's nothing really stopping me from going ahead and painting through the television series myself, but it doesn't seem nearly as novel after learning that someone else has already done it first. 

Time to think up some new ideas. 

Saturday, July 9, 2016

What I'm Listening To: Titus Andronicus- 'A More Perfect Union'

Hello, everyone! I'm back in The States and last weekend America celebrated its Independence Day. I personally celebrated by enjoying some BBQ, local beer, some classic American films, and the most patriotic music I could find. 

One of the songs I listened to on Independence Day was 'A More Perfect Union' by Titus Andronicus (who's band name will always make me think of "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt"). The song's lyrics feature: quotes from Abraham Lincoln, a smattering of Bruce Springsteen references, and references to Civil War songs. You can't get much more patriotic than that!

P.S. In case you're wondering, yes, I also listened to the theme song from Team America: World Police on the 4th of July. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

What I've been Reading in February and March


A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith I'd been eyeing this book on my library's book shelves for several weeks and finally decided to pick it up, and I'm so glad I did. It's a great "slice of life" story about a girl coming of age in poor, turn of the century Brooklyn. It's nearly an autobiographical tale based on the author, Betty Smith's, life and it left me wondering if Mrs. Smith would recognise her old neighbourhood today?

The Color Purple by Alice Walker In January I mentioned that I decided to join Emma Watson's feminist book club called Our Shared Shelf on Goodreads, and this was the book selected for February. I knew a little bit about the story, but had not read it before and was excited to see what made this story such a classic.It's a story of enduring terrible and unfair circumstances, learning to accept and love oneself, and learning to accept and forgive others. I loved it!

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien I originally attempted to read The Hobbit when I was in high school, but I never made it past the prologue. However, my husband encouraged me to give it another go, and assured me that I would like the story if I skipped past the prologue. He was right- I liked it better than the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff One of the perks of working is a school is that teachers are constantly giving old classroom supplies away. I picked this book up out of a pile of books a 1st grade teacher was giving way. This book compares the themes found in the Winnie the Pooh stories to Taoist philosophy. It was probably too complicated for the 1st graders, but I found it very interesting.

All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks This was the March book selection for the Our Shared Shelf book club and it's probably one I would not have read otherwise. The book is a series of essays and strong opinions discussing What is Love. It was a challenge to get through as I didn't agree with all of her opinions and I found her style a bit preachy.

FYI: I didn't read any new books in April because I moved, so my next reading post will have my May and June reads. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

What I've been Reading in January

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah Like Anthony Doerr's book All the Light We Cannot See, The Nightingale is also a modern historical fiction novel set in France during World War II. This book follows the lives of sisters Vianne and Isabelle and is as equally gripping and thrilling as Doerr's book.

Locke & Key, vol. 6 by Joe Hill I have a huge fan of Joe Hill (aka Stephen King's son)'s graphic novel series, Locke & Key, and in January I finally finished it off. The series concludes in the ultimate battle of good vs. evil. I read it all in one sititng!

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem In January I decided to check out Emma Watson's feminist book club called Our Shared Shelf on Goodreads and this was the first book selected. While I enjoyed Steinem's stories about life on the road and found them to be inspiring, I also found the book's episodic writing style to be a bit disjointed and hard to follow at times.

Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue I stumbled across this book at the library and decided to read it before the Academy Award nominated movie came out. For those of you who don't know, the book is told from the perspective of a 5 year old boy who has been held captive in a room for his entire life. I thought the book is WAY better than the movie!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

MMD 2016 Reading Challenge

Hello friends! You all know that I love reading and I love a good challenge! This year I discovered that Modern Mrs. Darcy has come up with a simple and easy reading challenge for those of us who want to add a little bit of structure to their book selection, but don't want to feel pinned down. Plus, it's totally doable because there are only 12 books on the list (that's only 1 book a month).  

I'm in, are you?

Make 2016 your best reading year yet with this reading challenge. It’s simple and doable, but provides the structure you need to approach your reading list with intention in 2016.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

What's Making Me Laugh: Dame Judi Dench on The Tracey Ullman show

In case you are unaware, Tracey Ullman is back on the BBC in The Tracey Ullman Show, a 30 minute sketch comedy show with brilliant impressions, poignant political humor and tons of fun. By far my favorite sketches on The Tracey Ullman Show are the ones where Ullman plays Dame Judi Dench, a national treasure, who is always up to no good. 

Check out a few Dame Judi Dench sketches below. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

What I've Been Reading Catch-up: October- December

Although I've fallen a bit behind on updating what I've been reading, rest assured that I've still been reading. Today I thought I'd catch you up on some of the books I read from October through December 2015. Don't worry, a January post is coming soon!

After You by Jojo Moyes  Since my husband and I listened to Me Before You on Audible last year, we decided to listen to the sequel this year. The story picks up on Louisa Clark's life after the first book. Like most sequels, this book isn't quite as juicy as the first book, but it was still fun to re-visit old characters.

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway In September I travelled to Paris with my BFF, so I wanted to read a book about Paris life on the train. This book is about British and American ex-patriots in the 1920s who travel between Paris and Pamplona in pursuit of love, leisure and bull fighting.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell I picked up this book because I was such a huge fan of Eleanor & Park, but this has got to be my least favorite Rainbow Rowell read to date. This story follows Georgie, a wife, mother, and T.V. writer who is at the end of her marriage, but finds a way to communicate with the husband she fell in love with years ago via the telephone.

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King   I was looking for something a little spooky to read in October near Halloween, so of coarse I picked up a Stephen King book. This book is the first in a detective series trilogy about a serial killer and the retired cop who aims to catch him. This book had an air of familiarity to it as it referenced a real life serial killer from my home town. The story was gripping and I couldn't put this book down.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova   This book had been on my reading list ever since the film came out last year. I found this story to be fascinating, tragic and horrifying. Warning: you will probably think you and everyone around you has early on-set dementia when reading this book.

The Martian by Andy Weir   My husband and I had to listen to this book on Audiable before we watched the movie. Unfortunately, we took our time listening to the book and missed the theatrical release and had to wait to watch the film on video at home. I definitely think the book is better than the movie.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton   Unsure of what to read during my Winter Break from work, I borrowed this book from my husband's bookshelf. This book follows an 18 year old bride in 1600s Amsterdam whose distant new husband gives her a miniature cabnet of their home which changes her life. This book's story was slow initially, but once it got going it was full of all kinds of twists and turns.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell   Do you love the Harry Potter series? Did you love Elenaor & Park? Then you will love this book! This was my favorite book at the end of 2015.

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Best of 2015

Last year I wrote that I wanted to travel in 2015 and I did travel quite a bit! In 2015 I visited four countries (Belgium, Ireland, France, and Spain), I travelled to Scotland on my own, and I saw a whole lot more of the English Countryside. 

This year there will be even more travel in my future as I hope to visit Germany, Northern Ireland, and Finland and see even more new places within the UK before I make my BIG MOVE back to The States later this year.  

Overachieved My Reading Goals

I was struggling at times to keep up with the Beautiful Mess book club in 2014, so I set an achievable goal of reading 15 books in 2015...and I ended up reading 47 books! I followed along with the Beautiful Mess Book Club until it puttered out, and then I went on to read several books that I hadn't yet read on my home bookshelves, and some other recommended reads. 

Top Five Reads of 2015
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

What I Made in 2015
2015 will best be known as the year I got re-focused on drawing and painting. Over the summer I joined up with not one, not two, but three different local Urban Sketching groups (and then I joined another in the fall) that get together at a designated location once a month to draw. I also continued to work on Virtual Paintout drawings and I started doing some acrylic paintings. One of my friends from high school challenged me to an art exchange in the fall and I went mental with it! 

I also did a bit of knitting this year, although not as much as in previous years. I knit 5 bears for the Mother Bear Project, I sent some knitted bunnies to the Woolen Woods Project at Radcliffe County Park in Notthinghamshire, and I knit a few Christmas presents for my family, friends and myself.

Early in 2015 I learned about the Thread of Life cross-stitch project hosted by Sharon Mossbeck and I was able to stitch up a piece that was shown at Bank Street Arts in Sheffield in November and will be shown again at Cromford Mills in April 2016. 

Top Five Music Posts

Top Five Funny Posts

Top Nine on Instagram

Ho Hum
  • Exercise- I was off to a great start with sticking to my fitness goals in 2015 by blocking off some time to exercise after work each day. But as my workload increased (as well as multiple incidents of me forgetting to pack my gym clothes), working out at the gym was replaced with reading/ vegging out at the library. I might give this goal another go in 2016.
  • Capsule Wardrobes- I spent a lot of time de-cluttering at the start of 2015 and I had a lot of fun creating hypothetical "capsule wardrobes," but I had a hard time sticking with them because a) I didn't sew or knit as much as I planned/ wanted to. b) I found it hard to limit my daily clothing choices when there's so much to choose from. 
          I did take away some good lessons from building capsule wardrobes. I do plan to continue making capsule wardrobes on Pinterest to focus my clothing shopping/ making, and I'll continue to focus on quality over quantity by shopping for higher end and vintage pieces instead of High Street/Fast Fashion.

Happy New Year!


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