Friday, December 14, 2018

A Month of Faves: Holiday Wishlist

Hmmm - this one's always tough. You wouldn't think so, would you? I mean, there are things we'd all like to have. But some things just aren't practical to wish for (I'm looking at you, world peace) and other things are out of the question (I don't seriously think that putting a remodeled kitchen on my wishlist is going to serve much purpose). But this is a wishlist so I'm going to dream a little bit big, at least.

1. Silver hoop earrings. I lost one earring from the pair I wore almost every day and I'm a little lost without that option. Yes, I know they aren't that expensive and I could easily go out and buy them myself but I just haven't gotten around to that.

2. A comfortable reading chair that I can curl up in. I've been looking for the perfect chair for months. One of these days!

3. I'll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara. There are, of course, a lot of books on my wish list but this is a nonfiction title I'm really eager to read.

4. The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani. I think this one would be the perfect palate cleanser for me just now after so much nonfiction and so many heavier reads.

5. Another cat.  I'm ready for another buddy around the place and my cat is ready for a companion. The Big Guy's not having it so I don't think this is a wish that's coming true. But it never hurts to ask.

6. A blanket with poms. This is sort of ridiculous. I'm imagining my cat would have a field day with the poms but I just think their so cute!

7. A blanket with sherpa lining. Can you tell it's been cold around here. I want choices for when I want to cuddle up!

8. Black booties. I can picture just what I want. Now to find them in a store.

9. A cream cardigan. Mine is shot and I live in cardigans in the winter.

10. World peace. Oh, what the hell. It's a wish list, right? Might as well go big!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
Read by Maggie Hoffman
Published January 2018 by Penguin Publishing Group
Source: audiobook checked out through my local library

Publisher's Summary:
If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?

It's 1969 in New York City's Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.

The prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in '80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.

My Thoughts:
While the story starts in New York City, Benjamin lingers there only long enough to firmly place the family in their background. After the death of their father,  Simon and Klara take off for San Francisco and Benjamin moves her story forward from there by focusing on one sibling at a time until the date the psychic forecast they would die happens. I'm not always a fan of books where the author has broken up the book in this way. I often feel like I've lost touch with the other characters and more like I'm reading a series of connected short stories. Benjamin makes it work. At least one of the siblings and/or their mother, Gerta, play a role in each character's storyline. I never felt disconnected from the rest of the family.

I'll be honest. As much as I was enjoying Benjamin's writing, early on there was a part that was fairly sexually graphic and I began to wonder where the book was going...and if I was going to enjoy it if it continued in that vein. But Benjamin had a purpose for that and when that purpose was served, she moved on. It was truly the only problem I had with this book. Benjamin does a marvelous job of making her settings come to life. In New York, you can practically taste the custards at Schmulka Bernstein's and feel the heat of the desert. Benjamin has clearly done her research on her settings. What struck my most was the relationship between these siblings, their affection for each other, their annoyance and anger, their guilt.

Most of all, Benjamin makes readers think and you know how much I like a book that makes me think.

If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?

Would it change the way you lived your life? Would you live more cautiously, trying to change things? Or would you live life to the fullest, taking risks? If you knew you would live to 90, would you watch your diet and exercise so that you made sure you were healthy as possible into your dotage? Or would you figure it wouldn't matter and eat all of the bacon and chocolate, knowing it wasn't going to cause you to die prematurely? And what of relationships? If you knew you were going to die young, would you avoid relationships so as to not hurt people? Oh, so many things to think about!

Assuming your book club wouldn't be put off by that section I mentioned earlier, I think there'd be a lot here for a book club to talk about.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A Month of Faves: Routines, Habits and Changes. What Worked this Year and/or What Didn’t

So today's prompt is: Routines, Habits and Changes. What Worked this Year and/or What Didn’t. I'm going to go out on a limb and bet that you already know that I don't have much to contribute to this subject. This might be the year I've least adhered to a schedule and I have no explanation as to why. No one who knows me would ever accuse me of being a "fly by the seat of your pants" kind of gal. But the older I get, the more I feel like I just want to do what I want, when I want. Also, my mind tends to wander these days which makes it hard to stay on task. Some things I did do this year that were changes I made that worked for me:

1. Pack My Lunch. Every. Single. Day. I actually started doing this to help Miss H save money and since I was packing her a lunch it just made sense to pack both of us a lunch (The Big Guy is on his own!). If we've got leftovers, that's what we have. Otherwise, we've done wraps, sandwiches, soup, cheese and crackers, chicken salad - whatever we have on hand. I do not make a point to buy special food for lunches which actually made it easier to keep this up. No more of "well, I guess were out of the special lunch food; I guess I'll just have to run out for a burger." I always toss in some fruit and generally a granola bar for the midmorning pangs.

2. Scale Back On My Bullet Journal. I was spending a lot of time trying to make my pages all pretty. But I don't have time for that. Or rather, I prefer not to take the time for that. Now setting up pages is not so much of a task for me.

3. Create Monthly Tasks. My cat needs her claws trimmed and her fur brushed. My stupid front load washing machine needs to be drained and cleaned. But I could never remember how long it had been since I'd last done those kinds of tasks and I always forgot to put them on the to-do list. Now I do those kinds of task once a month, the first week of the month. They go on my monthly to-do list, then onto my to-do list for the first week and then I try to knock all of them out in one day that week. It's possible the cat actually needs her claws trimmed every 3 weeks but she's just going to have to live with it because this works for me. Besides, she hates having it done anyway so she doesn't mind the wait.

Have you made any changes to your routine this year that worked for you? Created any new habits? What works for you? I'm especially looking for tips on time management. My phone is such a time suck and I just haven't been able to find a way to get in a better routine about using it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Wangs Versus The World by Jade Chang

The Wangs Versus The World by Jade Chang
Published October 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source: my ecopy purchased for my Nook

Publisher's Summary:
Charles Wang is mad at America. A brash, lovable immigrant businessman who built a cosmetics empire and made a fortune, he's just been ruined by the financial crisis. Now all Charles wants is to get his kids safely stowed away so that he can go to China and attempt to reclaim his family's ancestral lands - and his pride.

Charles pulls Andrew, his aspiring comedian son, and Grace, his style-obsessed daughter, out of schools he can no longer afford. Together with their stepmother, Barbra, they embark on a cross-country road trip from their foreclosed Bel-Air home to the upstate New York hideout of the eldest daughter, disgraced art world it-girl Saina. But with his son waylaid by a temptress in New Orleans, his wife ready to defect for a set of 1,000-thread-count sheets, and an epic smash-up in North Carolina, Charles may have to choose between the old world and the new, between keeping his family intact and finally fulfilling his dream of starting anew in China.

My Thoughts:
I've started this review three times and deleted everything I'd typed. I liked this book; I really did. But it's been a month since I read it and I'm having a hard time remembering the details of it that made me like it and the things that kept me from loving it. Back in the day, when I was blogging like I was getting paid to do it, even if I couldn't get a full review written out right away, I'd start a draft and getting some rough thoughts put down. Too bad I don't do that any more, it would really be helpful now. Luckily, I read it on my Nook so at least I do have the things I highlighted! So let's try doing this review this way:

What I Liked:
I'm a sucker for stories about families, especially when they involve a road trip. As a veteran of many a trip in the family station wagon growing up, this book took me right back to those days, to the ways being stuck in that car and sharing experiences could both drive you crazy and bring you closer. When you can relate to a book that way, it's always a point in favor of the book.

Curiously, I actually felt a bit sorry for Charles which helped me care that his journey was a eventually a success and to know that I'd feel bad for him if it wasn't For a guy that had been smart enough to build up an empire to be so clueless about what was going on around him, and for his chances for success, made Charles more likable than rich guys losing it all usually are.

I loved the relationship the siblings had with each other. They didn't always get each other, they often annoyed each other. But they had a bond forged from the loss of their mother. And I enjoyed watching each of them grow throughout the book.

What I Didn't Like:
Ok, maybe "didn't like" is too strong a phrase. Let's say these are things that didn't work for me.

I sometimes felt like Chang wasn't sure if this book was about Charles' journey, or the family finding a way to overcome their loss, so much as it was a story about Saina. Chang spends a lot of time tells us about Saina's experiences as an artist and her fall from grace, as well as her relationships with men. Strangely, I felt less sorry for Saina than I did for Charles which may account for why I got tired of reading so much about her.

But then I felt like Chang also got a little long-winded when she went off with Andrew on his solo expedition. I just really wanted things to feel a little more balanced.

Things That Caught My Attention:
"The only people who still used mules for anything other than entertainment were the mujahideen and the Amish, both lost tribes fighting for the useless past."
I'm pretty sure it would never have occurred to me that the mujahideen and the Amish had anything in common, but it turns out they do.
"He [Charles] wished they [children] could stay hidden away, with the damp, trusting little mouths, until they developed some sort of hard shell impenetrable to drugs or sex or disappointment or any of the thousand poison-tipped arrows the world might aim in their direction."
Yes, yes, yes. Every parent ever can surely relate to this.

My book club read this book. We did a terrible job discussing it but I do believe there is a lot here for a book club to talk about. Family relationships, art, cultures, ethics, the immigrant experience, what wealth does to people. Also, I don't think I mentioned this yet, the book is frequently quite funny which keeps it from getting weighed down with its heavier topics.

Monday, December 10, 2018

A Month of Faves: A Day In The Life

So we're two and a half weeks from Christmas as of this past weekend and before that arrives, I am hosting a dinner party and book club. Plus I'm still finishing up shopping. But...I'm battled the tail end of a cold so I wasn't as productive as I'd liked to have been.

8:30 a.m. - My alarm went off but I'd been up to 1:30 a.m. so I shut it off and thought I'd get a little more sleep.

8:37 a.m. - Well, that didn't work. Time to get up.

8:45 a.m. - First cup of coffee. It's the weekend so there will be at least a couple more cups. I settle in to watch the rest of CBS Sunday Morning.

9:30 a.m. - Breakfast time - bagel with cream cheese and lemon curd. While I'm eating (and having my second cup of coffee), I'm internet shopping. I'm philosophically opposed to Amazon but, damn, I do love free, 2-day shipping.

10:00 a.m. - Time to get busy. I dust the walls on the first floor, then scrub the walls in the vanity, back hall, and kitchen. Can anyone explain to me how some kind of liquid got spilled on the walls in the back hall?

11:00 a.m. - Third cup of coffee. Time to check in on Facebook and Instagram.

11:30 a.m. - Back to cleaning. When I win the lottery, I'm paying someone else to clean my bathrooms! One bathroom done.

12:00 p.m. - Blogging time. Getting my Sunday post written.

12:30 p.m. - Lunch time. The Big Guy made stir fry and I'm here to tell you that sometimes that guy can really shake a pan.

1:00 p.m. - Laundry time. It seems like it's always laundry time on the weekend.

1:30 p.m. - Watered the plants. Two years ago I had two plants. These days I have 15 in the house. I'm always forgetting to water at least one of them.

2:00 p.m. - Repotted a couple of plants. BG hates when I play with plants in the house; I tend to get dirt every where. In my defense, I am also the person who cleans it all up.

2:45 p.m. - I finally get dressed and convince BG to make a Christmas shopping trip with me.

Love the title, love the price!
3:15 p.m. - Barnes and Noble time. We look at games, books, and when we check out we find that we've gotten a "buy one cookie, get another free" coupon.

4:20 p.m. - We buy those cookie: peanut butter cup for me, oatmeal raisin for BG. We'd eat them at the store except we have plans. We're pretty darned excited to have earned another coupon. Guess we'll be back to the store again soon!

4:35 p.m - Did you know that Dunkin' Donuts has lattes and cappuccinos for $2 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. every day through December 30th? I found this out on Saturday, thanks to Instagram. A latte for him, a cappuccino for me.

4:50 p.m. - We've brought our coffee and cookies home for an early dinner, I guess, and enjoy them while watching football.

5:45 p.m. - Because apparently we're old people, and also because we probably need to put something at least nominally healthy into our stomachs, BG gets us some apples, grapes, popcorn, and cheese. This, of course, requires that we continue to just sit.

6:15 p.m. - Time to clean up the dishes. Miss H has been kind enough to clean out her car today. It's kind in that I now know where half of my plastic containers have gone and will finally have some again for packing lunch. This also means that cleaning up the kitchen involves washing all of those containers as well as a half dozen water vessels she's been driving around with.

6:45 p.m. - Shopping time. BG and I spend the next hour online shopping and discussing what we'll get for Mini-me and Ms. S. While I'm at it, I'll be having a text conversation with Ms. S about things they might need/want as well as her visit, today, to my sister's house.

7:30 p.m. - Pretty sure we've hit present gold but it's a bit of a daring choice so we don't pull the trigger just yet. This one gift will require 30 minutes of conversation with no decision.

8:00 p.m. - Time to catch this post up while I can still remember what we've done today. I'm old, you know, and these things pass quickly from my memory.

8:10 p..m. - On the "I'm getting old" front, time to put new insoles into my shoes. This is about as exciting as it gets on a Sunday night, folks.

8:15 p.m. - The dishes got done but the kitchen is still a mess. Anyone else's kitchen the catch-all spot in the house? Everything gets put back where it belongs, then I sweep and mop and cross my fingers that no one spills anything on the floor for at least a couple of days. History tells me that the best I can realistically hope for is 24 hours.

8:45 p.m. - Time to work on the bullet journal for the coming week. I'm happy to see that I won't be carrying much into next week that was on this week's to-do list.

9:05 p.m. - Finally opening a book for the first time this weekend. I'll be reading while I watch football so it's not the most productive time to read but it's better than nothing.

9:20 p.m. - Oops! Back on my phone again. In my defense, I'm doing some Christmas shopping. I have two gifts left now (which I will get this weekend) and some stocking stuffers and then I'm done! Now to wrap them all. But that's for another day.

10:35 p.m. - The football game is done and it's time to do the "end of the day" tasks. One last spin through the kitchen to make sure it's still tidy. Check the cat's water bowl to make sure it's full. Turn off all of the Christmas lights - three trees, the mantle and six sets of twinkly lights. It's worth every minute - I'm so enjoying the glow all around my house!

11:05 p.m. - One last load of laundry in, which I'll toss into the dryer in the morning.

11:15 p.m. - Fill up a glass of water, get my purse, pour out half dozen kitty treats and then we girls head up for the night. Kitty will have her treats next to her bed. Wash face, brush and floss, jump into my jammies (well, maybe not "jump" exactly) and then crawl into bed where I will actually read for another 25 minutes.

11:55 p.m. - Turning out the light, finally. One day I'll learn how to get myself to bed early. Today's clearly not that day.

Well, that could not have been any more dull to read about but I do love a good, lazy day!