Category Archives: Everyday Stuff

My Year in Books – 2017

year-in-booksEven though we still have a few weeks left in 2017, Goodreads was kind enough to send my ‘Year in Books’ review. I made a conscious effort to read more widely this year and I think it shows. I also did very few reviews and focused on reading for pleasure, and I’m happy to say that my overall satisfaction with what I read reflects that.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Number of books read – 56
  • Number of pages read – 18,708
  • Shortest book – Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson
  • Longest book – The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
  • Number of books with 5-star ratings – 15
  • Favorite fiction book(s) of the year – The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach and My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent (I can’t choose!)
  • Favorite nonfiction book of the year – Just Kids by Patti Smith
  • Percentage of fiction books – 84%
  • Percentage of nonfiction books – 16%
  • Percentage of male authors – 35%
  • Percentage of female authors – 65%

If you want to see the whole list, feel free to check out my Goodreads page.

What about you? What were some of your reading highlights and accomplishments for 2017?

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A Day in the Life of a Work-from-Home Mom

I’ve always had in mind to do a “day in the life” post but something (oh yeah, life) kept getting in the way. My motivation is partly because I love reading these posts myself and mostly because I am in a situation at the moment where most of what I do is unseen. Ever since we moved back to France from the U.S., I’ve been continuing to work for my U.S. employer remotely.

Working from home has its advantages and disadvantages, the main advantage being that I can be available for the kids and home stuff during the day, and the main disadvantage being that THERE IS NOT ESCAPE AND I AM SO ALOOOONE. So for this post, I chose to document a day that represents the best and worst of this dual existence. Wednesdays are half-days for schools in France, so while I have my mornings to myself,  I have the afternoons with our two daughters. Here’s how it goes:

5 a.m. – Woken up by the cat wanting his breakfast. Cat fed, I go back to sleep.

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Kitchen table: where I start the day.

7 a.m. – Up for the day. Get daughter no. 1 off to the bus and school. Eat some leftover pear cake for breakfast and have a cup of coffee.

8 a.m. – Get daughter no. 2 off to the bus and school. Sit for a few minutes to check emails and news of the world (SAD!) Say goodbye to husband as he leaves for work.

8:30 a.m. – Spend some time doing chores around the house. Dishwasher unloaded and loaded, laundry gathered and started, beds made and general straightening of the house. Unclog shower drain and decide whole shower needs to be scrubbed. Wash hands several time to remove yucky shower drain smell and subsequent bleach smell.

9:30 a.m. – Spent too long on chores so now starting work a bit late. Make some progress on a project.

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Home office: where I should be working.

11:30 a.m. – Make lunch–Lentil and Swiss Chard soup. Feel very good about using some of the veggies from the CSA box.

12 p.m. – Laundry is done so hang it up outside on the line to dry.

12:30 p.m. – Realize daughter no. 2 should be home by now but isn’t; check videophone only to see her at the gate holding back tears. Realize power outage last night reset videophone which wasn’t turned on so I couldn’t hear her ringing the bell. Open gate and proceed to cover her with guilty hugs and kisses. Remember this is the same child who once asked me what she should do if she woke up one morning only to discover our corpses and feel even more guilty.

12:45 p.m. – Daughter no. 1 comes home and we all eat lunch together.

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Music school: where I wait.

1:30 p.m. – 3 p.m. – Daughters no. 1 and 2 have activities at the music school, so we drive into town and I drop them off. While they’re in class, I run by the grocery store to pick up a few things and pass by the recycling center to get rid of the three bags of recycling in my trunk. Daughter no. 1 finishes and we stop by the library to get the next volumes in the manga series she is reading.

3 – 6 p.m. – Drop off daughter no. 2 at a friend’s house to work on a project. Daughter no. 1 and I head home for a few hours of relative peace and quiet. I get some work done, finish the laundry, and make banana bread pudding using an old baguette and overripe bananas. Daughter no. 2 returns and I prepare a hasty dinner while getting ready for my dance class. Leave daughter no. 1–the teenager–in charge.

6:45 – 8:15 p.m. – Drive to my African dance class in which I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get my body to override my brain (the struggle is real). Get invited to a birthday party the following evening and despite instant introvert urge to respond, “Heck, no!”, I smile and say I’ll be there. Feel very good about social efforts despite squicky feeling in stomach.

8:30 – 10:30 p.m. – Home, snuggle with girls before sending them to bed for the night. Husband arrives and we recap the day before he retreats to his office and I retreat to bed with a book. Manage to read a few pages before snoozing…

So there you have it–way more than you ever wanted to know about a day in my life. You’ll notice there was no mention of blogging, as that usually has to wait until the weekend. Any of this seem familiar to you?

The Summer Wrap-Up

monthly-wrap-upIt’s pretty clear from our weather this week–rain for the first time in months and cooler morning temperatures–that summer may officially be on its way out. I can’t say I’m too disappointed. We had such a hot, dry summer that I’m ready for a taste of fall.

The kids are back to school, the activities and appointments are starting up again, and life goes back to its regularly scheduled programming. We made the most of our summer, though, with the kids spending a month away from home with various relatives and my husband and I taking a couple of fun trips to music festivals.

Over the summer I also did a lot of reading, finishing eleven books in July and August. Amazingly enough, they were almost all really good (with only one stinker in the mix):

  1. Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta
  2. The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter
  3. When Breathe Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
  4. Glaciers by Alexis M. Smith
  5. Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith
  6. The Reason You’re Alive by Matthew Quick
  7. The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson
  8. Blue Monday by Nicci French
  9. Heroes of the Frontier by Dave Eggers
  10. The Circle by Dave Eggers
  11. Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham

My favorite new discovery of the summer was Alexis M. Smith, whose writing is just beautiful and impossible to put down. The new Matthew Quick and Joshilyn Jackson books are both wonderful (those are auto-buys for me), and I enjoyed getting into Dave Eggers’ writing.

The only one that really didn’t work for me was ‘When Breathe Becomes Air’, the autobiographical story of a young doctor who dies of stage IV cancer. His story is tragic, of course, but I didn’t gain any particular insights from reading it other than thinking he made some very questionable choices about how to spend the last years of his life. The book garnered a lot of praise and so it must have worked for some readers, but it didn’t for me.

Other than reading, I’ve also been working on crossing off some of the items on my 40×40 list. This month I’ve (finally) found a daily yoga and meditation practice that works for me. As some of you may know, I’ve been doing yoga for years but have struggled with making it a routine, made even more difficult now that we live in the country and I don’t have a local class to attend. I’ll write a longer post about this topic soon as I’d like to share with you some of what I found.

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Wishing you a lovely September and peaceful transition to the autumn season. Happy reading!

Currently…

currentlyHello out there!

Loving: Working in the garden, learning as I go, and seeing (some) progress. The little yellow flowers on my cherry tomato plants are making me particularly happy.

Thinking about: The next step. I’m finishing up my job for my U.S. employer and trying to plan what’s next for me, professionally.

Anticipating: A weekend in the countryside with friends in early June. We’re planning to hike, cook, and catch up after several years of not seeing each other.

Watching: I just watched ‘Anne with an ‘E”, which I enjoyed despite the controversy of remaking a beloved show. It felt different enough from the original for me to appreciate it for itself. I have to say, though, that I hated the plot twist in the last episode and hope that one is settled quickly in the next season.

Listening to: Audiobooks–I just finished ‘As You Wish’ by Cary Elwes yesterday on Trish’s recommendation. I’m looking forward to listening to Phoenix’s new album that comes out in a couple of weeks.

Eating: I made my first risotto from scratch last night, and I have to say that it turned out absolutely delicious. It was much easier than I anticipated, just time intensive.

Wishing: That technology had advanced to the point where I had a self-driving car that I could program to take my children to and from various activities and appointments while I stay home to get stuff done. It would be such a life changer. Come on car companies, get on it!

Hope you’re having a lovely week!

Currently…

currentlyIt’s Sunday night and the week ahead promises to be a busy one, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. This is the last week of a big project for work and also the last week before my kids’ holiday break from school, so fingers crossed that a week from now we’ll all be heaving a sigh of relief. Santa’s on his way…

Loving: The sunsets as seen from our back yard. They’ve been so beautiful this week.

Thinking about: The upcoming holidays. It will be our first Christmas in France after two years away, so we’ll get a chance to catch up with family we haven’t seen since our return. Also, my oldest will be turning 13. I almost have a teenager! Yikes.

Anticipating: Pulling out our Christmas box and decorating the new house. (Yes, I know we’re late. It’s hard to get motivated because we won’t actually be here for Christmas, but I still want to make the effort). I love this time of year.

Watching: ‘The Good Wife’. I never watched this one while it was on, so I’m catching up on Netflix. I love Alicia but don’t understand the attraction to Will. Really? Peter is much sexier, in my opinion. I also hope she and Cary get to be on the same side again soon.

Listening to: Podcasts while I work. Do you have any favorites that you can recommend? It really helps on days when I’m stuck doing tedious tasks.

Eating: Nothing special. The girls and I were supposed to have a sushi date this week but the restaurant was closed. Boo.

Wishing: That my daughter’s fever would go away. She woke up with one yesterday morning and I’m just praying it doesn’t end up being pneumonia again, as she’s prone to getting it and at this time of year it normally knocks her out for a week or so. Not this week, please.

Hope you’re having a lovely weekend!

The November Wrap-Up

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About a year ago I stopped blogging, and that was absolutely the right thing for me to do. Since then, we found out my husband’s company was closing their Atlanta office, we debated staying in the U.S. or going back to the job that was waiting for him in France, and we ultimately decided to move back.

We returned to France in July, and life since then has been a whirlwind. We looked for a house, lived in a temporary apartment while waiting, then finally closed on a house and moved in early October. The girls started new schools and I adjusted to working from home (temporarily) until I can look for a new job. We started over, again.

Starting over is something we have some practice doing, although it never really gets easier. I tend to go into survival mode until the worst of the stress is behind me, and I think I’m just finally starting to come out of that. I’m feeling more like myself than I have in a while, and I truly think this move will end up being the right thing for us. Transitions are hard, though, especially for an introvert. I turn to reading as an escape, so I’ve been doing a lot of it these past months.

In November, I finished four books:

The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley

A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

I enjoyed all of these, though the last two were probably the best of the lot. Pretty Girls is a solid Slaughter book–if you’ve read her before, you know what you’re getting. The two Kearsley novels were not bad but not great, either. The Shadowy Horses feels like an early novel, and A Desperate Fortune is better written but really dragged for me, particularly in the sections that were set in 1700’s France.

As I’m slowing starting to feel settled, blogging again feels right. I don’t know if this will be a long-term thing but I’m glad to be writing again, for now.

Wishing you a magical December and a very happy holiday season. Happy reading!

The (October and) November Wrap-Up

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I’m a reading machine! Clearly, posting only once every two months is doing wonders for my reading habits, if not my writing ones.

It’s been a busy couple of months in my non-reading life as well. I started a new job mid-October which is going well so far. My commute is almost an hour long, which means I have plenty of time to listen to audiobooks.

In October and November, I manage to finish eleven books:

  1. A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson*
  2. The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
  3. Sunny Side Up by Jennifer Holm
  4. The Accident by Chris Pavone
  5. Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo (audio)
  6. Lottery by Patricia Wood (audio)
  7. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell*
  8. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (audio)
  9. Looking for Alaska by John Green
  10. The Orchid Affair by Lauren Willig
  11. Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith*

Three of these were five-star reads for me (signified by *), which isn’t too shocking considering they are some of my favorite authors. I probably enjoyed Carry On the most, however, simply because it completely surprised me. Having read Fangirl and not been crazy about the Simon Snow parts of that book, I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with a book all about him, but I did. Rowell’s take on the ‘Chosen One’ was hilarious and touching and much more thought-provoking than I expected. So, so good.

My least favorite read this month, hands down, was Gone Girl. I waited a long time to read this much-hyped book, and I wish I had never read it at all. Getting in the car everyday and turning on this audiobook made me a little sick, and I wish I had just stopped listening rather than feeling that I had to finish it. What a depressing read. This may be my least favorite of the year.

I finished an item on my 40×40 list this month as well–I took my girls camping! We had the best time and I hope I won’t have to wait until I’m officially 40 to do it again. So much fun.

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Hope everyone has a great December and end of the reading year!