Friday, April 17, 2015

My Overflowing Bookshelf

I joined my first book club when I was in Salt Lake City. It was fabulous. Great women. Good book selections and very organized with predictable rules and expectations. In New Mexico I visited a book club a few times. It wasn't quite the same. Last summer, our neighborhood formed a book club & it has been pretty great.
Sure, the dates are unpredictable and we've been stuck in a few book selection ruts. But overall, I am really loving having friends (including several new friends) read the same books. There is nothing better than having someone to discuss a good book with and recommend new reads.
Now that we've made it through almost all the Academy Award nominated films, we are ditching TV time for books. I put several on hold at the library. Of course, they all came in at once.

Here's what's on my bookshelf. I finished a few, but just picked up the others:

The Dinner - Herman Koch. Holy cow. I need someone to read this book so I can discus it. I will recommend for an upcoming book club. Short & powerful.

Ready Player One - Ernest Cline. I think this is young adult. It was part of a collection of library book club selections. We didn't pick it for book club, but I read it anyway. It was described as Charlie & the Chocolate Factory meets the Matrix. I liked it.

Dept. of Speculation - Jenny Offill - This was recommended by a book club friend. From the name, I was expecting a quirky detective novel. Instead, it's a melancholy, poetic book tracing the history of a relationship. Most interesting book stylistically that I have read in a long time.

Night Road - Kristin Hannah - A friend recently loved Nightingale. When I saw this book at my hairdresser's book exchange, I grabbed it. Then, I realized I have another book by this author in my guest room waiting for me to read it. It looks promising.

What She Left Behind - Tracy Bilen - Not our June book club selection. That would be this book with the same name. I got 20 pages in before I realized it is a young adult novel. I like YA, but I wasn't expecting it for this book. A story of a mother and daughter trying to escape a bad situation. This book by the same name is our June selection.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter - Tom Franklin - our May book club selection. I haven't read much, but I think it's a mystery novel set in the south.

The Passage - Justin Cronin - another book club recommendation. This one might be returned & read later. It's big with small print. I'm not sure I'll be able to squeeze it in. But, it looks promising enough to put on hold later.

The Grain Brain - David Perlmutter - all about how diet changes (grains, carbs & sugar) will improve your mental health, improve your blood sugar, decrease your risk of Alzheimer's & lots of other good stuff. Or maybe its about how terrible our current diet is for our brains & bodies. If only it was as easy as it sounds to eliminate these foods.

The Happiness Advantage - Shawn Achor - if you enjoy non-fiction, this is a good read. He has a great TedX talk that introduces his theories. We read this as our January book club selection, but I haven't put it away yet.

Clean - Alejandro Junger - my favorite book about healthy eating. There is a great online support community when you are ready for your 21 day reset.

8 Minute Meditation - Victor Davich - This has been on my nightstand for years. Still hoping to adopt a daily meditation practice.

The Gifts of Imperfection - Brene Brown - another one I keep putting aside. I loved her Ted Talk, but haven't made it through any of her books.

Waiting to for me on the hold shelf at the library:

The Story of a New Name - Elena Ferrante - This is the second book in a trilogy about two flawed friends growing up in Italy. The author has an interesting, wordy style. I read a review that said you aren't sure if you like her writing style, but you can't stop reading. I would say that is accurate.

The Buried Giant -  Kazu Ishiguro - I'm expecting this to be fantasy fiction. Several of his books have been made into movies (that I have not seen). I don't know how this one made it on my library hold list, but I'm looking forward to trying it.  

The Rosie Effect - Graeme Simsion - The first book was cute - though the main character was a bit much. I thought this would come in closer to summer. Feels like a good summer read.

I loved this post about a book challenge for 2015. I've started a new tab to track my progress. Who wants to play along? You can see my book reviews by following the link on the left side of the page "On My Bookshelf".

Friday, April 10, 2015

Curve Balls

I liked setting my 'big 5' goals for 2014. I hit 3.5 out of 5 (not sure how many times I really stepped out of my comfort zone and I only read 2 classic books). But, in general, I am not a big fan of setting resolutions in January only to realize I've forgotten about them by the middle of the month. While I don't have a big list of goals, I came across this chart last fall and thought it would be a great way to track progress in 2015. I was on an exercise roll. I was feeling strong and finally hitting some of the trickier exercises in class. It seemed natural to choose to track my exercise in 2015 to work toward some yet-to-be-selected race.

I was on fire! Do you see that first week? I was on vacation and still managed to work out (including two spin classes). I was unstoppable.

And then, February 28 came along.  One broken foot later, my chart was looking pretty sad.  For the last six weeks, per doctor's orders, my movement has been very limited. It hasn't been fun. In hindsight, I probably should have been doing something - like daily sit ups. But, I didn't. 

I had a small victory this week: 5 miles on the recumbent bike! Hopefully I will be released, for at least modified exercise, at my next appointment. I'm ready to get back on track whatever that means for my body. My chart doesn't look like I expected it to. Resolutions and goals can start at any time. You don't need to the New Year to get things going.
In addition to my daily progress chart, I'm also setting monthly goals for the rest of the year. April is all about decluttering. First stop, Charlie's room. Here's to big things for the rest of 2015.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Let's Catch Up

This blog has been neglected for a few months. My goal is  to start capturing more of our stories - both in writing and in photos - on a weekly basis. Let's start with where we are today.

Reading: The Magician's Lie - enjoyable so far
Mapping: Grocery lists for Easter weekend celebrations
Focusing: On my next conference planning - goodbye Hong Kong, hello San Diego

Watching: Better Call Saul.
Coordinating: Work trips for the next few months.
Dreaming: Of golf season after an epic round at Torrey Pines over spring break

Reading: The Finisher - can't get enough dystopian books
Anticipating: Her second school dance
Juggling: Competitive soccer and gymnastics. It's a full schedule. I am curious what she will choose to do in the fall.

Reading: Everything. 
Planning: Grocery lists for Easter weekend celebrations
Focusing: On penmanship. He's been a trooper with his new tutoring sessions.

Reading: I Survived. The kids love this historical fiction series.
Surviving: A broken arm and no gymnastics or PE until summer.
Enjoying: Lots of hand-me-down clothing choices from Ella & her taller friends

Anticipating: My next set of X-rays. Hoping the boot comes off & I can get back to taking him on regular walks.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Week in the Life

I recently completed my fourth Week in the Life photo journaling experience. My intention is for the project to be a in-depth look at our lives for one week. Seeing how our lives change year-to-year as the kids grow older is really rewarding to me.

Traditionally, I have done the project as an 8.5X11 size. All four years fit in one album and I love being able to flip through all the stories in one album. The kids get a kick out of it too.
This year, Ali offered a kit where your project would be housed in a separate album. Seeing her work-in-progress makes me wish I had gone that route. But, from experience, I know that I can complete this project because I keep it simple.  I ended up using an older template for the base that I purchased before her 8.5X11 option was available. You can see 2010/2013 pages here and my 2012 pages here

Though this is an activity you could do on your own at any time, I prefer to do it with a virtual support group. So, I've followed Ali Edward's dates (which is why I skipped 2011 when we were on vacation). I didn't realize that this year would fall on an incredibly busy work week for me. At the end of the week, I had only a fraction of the number of photos that I would typically take during a single day of this project. But, I made it work - mixing photos from different days to still tell the story of our week.

I kept embellishments minimal this year. On the left is what my image looks like printed.  On the right is a (not well lighted) photo of what the finished page looks like. I added one to two embellishments per daily spread. 

With the white background, the pages look a little off center, but in the album, they look great.

I added numbers to the kids photos to reflect their current age. Charlie refused to get a haircut during soccer season, so he's a bit shaggier than usual.

Friday was Halloween. This was such a crazy year, I didn't even get a single group shot of the kids in costumes.

Less photos and journaling than I had planned for the week, but I'm still happy with what I pulled together.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Let's Eat!

One of the goals I have set for myself is to come up with 52 go-to family recipes.  Do tacos count as a
go-to recipe? If so, I have one recipe.
With school & kids activities in full swing, it was time to start trying some new recipes again. I used the crock pot quite a bit in September, but I still prefer soups in the crockpot to meat dishes.
I promise meal time wasn't as boring at this calendar looks.
I started the Whole Life Challenge mid-month. Many of the dishes are compatible with that challenge.

Here's the family review:

7. The pork carnitas were a pre-made package from Target. They weren't that good. It only served 4 so I threw some shrimp in the pan & they seasoned up nicely. I will try to make some homemade pork carnitas another night (we had this before the challenge so I did not check if it is WLC compatible (but probably not)).

9. I used the Archer's Farm pre-made pizza crusts, Trader Joe's sauce & finely shredded organic cheese. Finely shredded cheese seems to be the key to good homemade pizza.  This was enough to feed me & the twins (not WLC compatible).

10. Balsamic Chicken - one of Nick's favorite dishes. I served this over polenta. Family could have done without the polenta.

11. Italian Beef Stew - the kids really liked this one. I served this over spaghetti squash. Leftovers were served over noodles.

12. Honey Chicken - not bad, but not fabulous. I will probably make this one again (maybe stove top instead of crock pot)(not WLC compatible).

13. We had a Groupon for this meat. The burgers were really good (as were the steaks when we made them).

14. Lazy Lasagna Chili - Nick even commented how the kitchen smelled like lasagna when I was cooking this recipe. I let it simmer for about an hour & so I had to add more water. No surprise that everyone loved this recipe. But, at over 500 calories for a 1 cup serving, it's one I will have ready for Nick on Sunday's when I travel. This comfort food is hard to resist (not WLC compatible)!

17.  Tortilla Soup - everyone loved this. It's a little twist on a recipe I've made before. I forgot the cilantro, but it was still flavorful (not WLC compatible).

21. Watermelon Pico De Gallo - this is so good! I took it with chips to a party, but used it over fish later in the week.

23. Chicken & Rice - this dried out, but the flavors were great (I will dice the mushrooms next time because the kids don't like them). It reminds me of those casserole dishes with a can of cream of mushroom soup (without the can).

24. Chicken & Spinach Burgers - These were pretty good, but they took forever to make. One pound would not be enough to feed our family of 5 (though the kids are small burgers). It was enough to feed everyone but Nick. The onions were amazing.

25. Pork Stew - everyone liked this. It will be great for cold days.

27. Spaghetti Squash & Sausage - The kids loved this one.

28. Skirt steak. I made 4 pounds which was enough for dinner (3 HUNGRY kids, 2 adults and then 3-4 generous adult lunches).

29. Black Bean & Corn Salsa Chicken - I made my own taco seasoning for this recipe rather than using the tasty pre-packaged stuff that is full of additives & flavor enhancers.  The kids ate these in tortillas or taco shells. I ate it plain with avocado.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Kyoto Bamboo Groves

We had fun playing with a wide angle lens in the Bamboo Forest outside the temple grounds in Kyoto. The forest was smaller than I anticipated, and it was strange that cars could drive this road (which is heavily occupied by tourists). I would guess we spent about 30 minutes wandering the road before moving on.
Bamboo Groves
Bamboo Groves
Bamboo Groves
Bamboo Groves
Bamboo Groves
Bamboo Groves
Bamboo Groves
Bamboo Groves

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Kyoto - Arashiyama

On second day in Kyoto we headed to the Arashiyama district. Our first stop was the Ryoan-ji temple and its famous rock garden. We arrived early and enjoyed a quiet visit. But, we made a decision to stay until 9 am when the temple stamp shop opened. 
Our second stop was the beautiful Kinka-kuji temple. I think we took a bus between the temples. By the time we arrived, we were with the crowds.
You can't go inside the temple, but the grounds are pretty.
At this point, we took a taxi to Arashiyama. It was more expensive, but much faster than transferring through public transportation.
Monkey Park Iwatayama
We headed straight to the Iwayayama Monkey Park. It was quite a hike to the top.
Monkey Park Iwatayama
But, it was worth it!
Monkey Park Iwatayama
You get up close & personal with the monkeys. If you want to feed them, you go inside & offer the food through a screen.
Monkey Park Iwatayama
We knew these pictures would be a hit with the kids.
Monkey Park Iwatayama
It was a little hazy, but we had a neat view of the city.
After our visit, we enjoyed a nice lunch on the water. We contemplated renting bikes, but it was just so crowded that we decided just to walk.
Next up, Tenryuji temple.
I loved the gardens here.
After walking the temple grounds, we enjoyed the Bamboo Forest (pictures to follow). It was starting to rain, so we caught a bus to see one last temple.
This was off the beaten path and we had the place to ourselves. We loved the peace & quiet!
The statutes at Otagi Nenbutsuji were added in the 1980s, but we still enjoyed the grounds. After this visit, we took a bus back to town and then took the train back to our hotel for a rest before dinner.