Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Book Day - February 2018

Dear Fellow Book-Lovers, 

Before I get to my January book reviews let me tell you that my oldest friend Megan Westfield has a new book, Leaving Everest, coming out this month! [I say "oldest" because we've known each other for 25 years, not because she's old, although that we've known each other for 25 years does me me feel pretty old.] It's a new adult adventure/romance set at Mount Everest. Go check it out!

As usual I'm linking up with Steph and Jana for Show Us Your Books.

Here's what I read in January:

1) The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden. This is the sequel to one of my favorite books from 2017, The Bear and the Nightingale, and I was not disappointed. This is a fantasy series set in medieval Russia. I realize that's not everyone's cup of tea - I don't often read fantasy books either - but if that appeals to you then I highly recommend the series, and am eagerly awaiting the final installment. It's pretty different from the first book - set in Moscow vs the countryside, with a little less of the fairy tale element, and many fierce battles - but the characters (and oh! how I love these characters - Vasya, Morozko, Solovey, Sasha) are the same.

2) A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny. Another great installment in the Chief Inspector Gamache mystery series! I really liked this one. Of course these are murder mystery novels but what I really love about them is depth and complexity and evolution of the characters. This one was set partially in the idyllic small town of Three Pines and partially at the police training academy which was an interesting and different venue.

3) The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman. This is the prequel to the popular 2003 book (and subsequent movie) Practical Magic, which I'd now like to re-read as it's been many years. It's about the Owens siblings (Franny & Jet, the aunts from Practical Magic, and their brother Vincent) growing up in New York City in the 1960's and learning about their magical heritage. I liked it but I didn't love it, which I realize is typical for me with Alice Hoffman's books. There is something... distant, lets say, about her writing style. I always feel like an observer. I don't fall in love with the characters. I don't think about the book after it's over. For me, her books are always good - well-written with interesting and different premises - but never great.

4) Glass Houses by Louise Penny. This is the last book that's been published in the Gamache mystery series and so now I am resigned to waiting impatiently with the rest of Penny's fans for the next to come out. This series gets better and better with (almost) every book. [#7 and #10 were not my favorites.] The characters are so well developed. There are some really complex ethical issues in this book and a very exciting conclusion.

5) Running: A Love Story by Jen A. Miller. This is a memoir of running and relationships throughout the author's 20's and early 30's. Her experience overall was very familiar to me - I am just about the same age as the author and like her I was athletic throughout childhood but didn't love running in my early 20's, a decade which we also both spent navigating various dysfunctional relationships. I did enjoy this book although more so the running aspect because reading about running (my two favorite things!) helps to keep me motivated.

That's all! What have you been reading lately?

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Currently - February 2018

Today I'm linking up with Anne for her monthly "Currently" prompts.

Here's what I am...

{FINISHING} My personal tax return, and we're getting a refund - YAY! Now it's time to do approximately 328 tax returns for other people.

I signed up for another three-month subscription to Lillypost for children's books. Mostly we rely on the library but it's really fun for the kids to get a few boxes every once in a while and it's helped up gradually build us a home library of fun books to fall back on.

I'm also thinking about signing up for the 1canoe2 "Hi-Five" greeting card subscription. Alexandra gifted me the inaugural month [Thank you!] and the cards are so cute. I do like to send greeting cards for birthdays and other random occasions so it would be nice to always have some on hand, and it is more affordable than the fancy ones that always catch my eye at the grocery store.

{WISHLISTING} These adorable red shoes from Boden. I will probably end up buying them in more-practical black but I'm waiting for a sale.

{WATCHING} Not much, but I did recently enjoy The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. It's funny and the characters are great but I also LOVED the costumes.

{HEARTING} These adorable and delicious heart-shaped sugar cookies with Nutella glaze from Sally's Baking Addiction.

That's all! What are you [fill in your choice from above] this month?

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

In Review: January 2018

Here we are! The first month of 2018 is over. Let's see what happened:

By the numbers - 

     - Running: 75.5 miles
     - Strength/HIIT: 9
     - Yoga: 3, I wish I could go more but it doesn't fit in my schedule very well.
     - Books: 5
     - Meditation: EVERY DAY! (10 minutes via Headspace)
     - Piano: 18/31 58%
     - Average phone usage per day: 38 minutes


Baking projects: 
     - Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cookies
     - Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
     - Oatmeal Toffee Cookies
     - Triple Cinnamon Scones

Favorite dinners this month:
     - Loaded Baked Potato Soup
     - Wild Rice & Veggie Casserole <-- With peas instead of celery.
     - Chicken & Dumplings
     - Roasted Vegetable Winter Crumble <-- Loved this one!

Budget -

It didn't feel like the best month from a budget standpoint due to: car maintenance AND car registration, quarterly HOA, and Swede's ballet class registration all being due at once. We did cancel our TV though which will save $$$ in the coming months.

Some things I bought this month: a new mug (on sale), a tunic (hasn't arrived yet), a frame to put up a cute freebie print from Lillypost in Abel's room, a chore chart for Swede, the race fee for the Snowman Stampede (in Feb), tickets to the ballet (also in Feb), and two birthday presents.

Good things - 

Reading stories to Abel at bedtime is one of my favorite times of the day. I love how much he has started to love books. He is talking so much and his sweet little voice is so adorable. He calls zebras "ze-bees" and his most common phrase is "I do it!"

Swede's ballet class started up again and so my mom and I take Abel for a weekly stroll up and down Main Street to window shop and often stop for a hot chocolate at the Animas Chocolate Company.

I have a new favorite candle scent - B&BW Vanilla Spiced Pear.

Happenings - 

I put my name in the NYC marathon lottery! The odds are pretty slim though.

Jonathan and I had one night out at Brew Pub & Kitchen. My current favorite there is The Salad - bacon, butternut squash, goat cheese, and pepitas. I should try to recreate it at home for some reason salads never taste as good to me at home as in restaurants.

We went to our neighbor-friend Cora's 2nd birthday party. Swede and I met up with her friend Clara for preschool storytime at the library. I went out to lunch with my friend Diana at Steamworks.

It snowed once, a couple inches. Swede loved it! Abel did not.

Thoughts - 

It's strange that when Swede was Abel's age we had a two-month old baby. How did we / does anyone manage a toddler AND a newborn?! I do occasionally (or often? somewhere in between the two) long for another sweet squishy baby but generally I do find this stage (moving into KIDS versus babies) to be more manageable than previous stages with two children. It might actually be more difficult (since they are both so active & opinionated versus a sleepy & mostly immobile baby) but I feel more settled into this stage of life (aka less frazzled) which equates to easier.

That's all! What's next in February? Lots and lots and lots of work. Valentine's Day! And hopefully some more snow as this winter has been by far the most dry in the 10 years I've been in Colorado.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Five Favorites - January 2018

It's been a long time since I've done a "Favorites" post - Last August to be precise! So I thought it's time for me to share some things that I've been enjoying lately.

1) Headspace - One of my goals for 2018 was to be more mindful, so I've started doing a 10 minute guided meditation via Headspace every day. I really like it and am surprised at the impact of just ten minutes. I am more aware and mindful throughout the day, or at least I'm catching myself more often when I'm completely checked out of the current moment.

2) Shutterfly - This is the fourth year that I've been making an annual photo album in Shutterfly. I was so excited to order and receive my 2017 book earlier this month. I update my book with new photos every few weeks throughout the year so it doesn't get too overwhelming.

3) Christmas Tree Skirt - I am the worst at buying things out of season although I know that's the best time for good deals - I want to be able to use it NOW! - but I did pick up this adorable Christmas tree skirt on super-sale from The Company Store. Only ten months until it'll be in season again!

4) Green Smoothies - I am so late to the green smoothie bandwagon but I've finally hopped aboard. I struggle to eat enough vegetables so it makes me feel good to get in some leafy greens early in the day. My favorite is simply milk, frozen banana, peanut butter, and spinach. Sometimes I'll add berries although then it becomes a less appetizing sludgy brown color. Swede really likes these too!

5) Books about Running - I'm currently reading Running: A Love Story but Jen A. Miller but some other favorites are My Year of Running Dangerously by Tom Foreman, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami, and The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb. Reading books about running helps me stay excited and motivated when I might otherwise be in a lull (often in wintertime with no races on the horizon). I subscribe to Runners World for the same reason.

That's all! I'm linking up with Fairytales and Fitness and Running on Happy for the Friday Five 2.0 and with Meet at the Barre for Friday Favorites.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Thoughts on "Self-Care"

It seems that everyone is talking about "self-care" lately. I can't say that I ever even acknowledged the term before a year ago. Am I really out of the loop (quite possible) or is this the new big thing? Not that taking care of yourself is a new thing, but the focus on it seems new.

Side Note: I have to tell you that for some reason I can't stand the term "self-care" although of course I agree with the concept: taking the time you need to do what you need to stay healthy - physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.

My favorite "self-care" strategy is tea & a book during nap time on the weekends.

I read this article recently - This Is What 'Self-Care' Really Means by Brianna Weist - and it made me wonder about the self-care movement, because it does seem that "self-care" seems a whole lot more like "escape" these days. Or at least the version of "self-care" that is poised to become the next multi-million consumer trend, as if we can only relax with the "right" supplies.

I'm not saying it's a bad thing to take some time out for a bubble bath, a scented candle, a glass of wine, a pedicure - I enjoy all these things! - but it's more than an occasional indulgence, and it's often the less pleasant but necessary tasks required to build a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.

As Weist says:
Self-care should not be something we resort to because we are so absolutely exhausted that we need some reprieve from our own relentless internal pressure. 
True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don't need to regularly escape from. 
And that often takes doing the thing you least want to do.
When I read this article I was reminded of a comment from Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson, which I read a few months ago:
I do feel regularly worn out, anxious about my abilities, and caught in cycles of comparison and perfectionism. For years, I've heard that the solution to such stress comes from setting up boundaries, finding ways to be productive, cultivating gratitude, and scheduling "me" time." For years, I've believed that finding rest comes from both simultaneously learning to let it go and keeping your act together. For years, I've thought that my sense of peace depends entirely on me.
The premise of Anderson's book is based on Matthew 11:28-29 - "Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest" - which of course sounds great! But I think the second half of the verse if often forgotten - "Take MY yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Oh... So I have to DO something to get this sense of peace? And it's that I need to accept that God is God and I am not.

What resonated most for me from this book is the idea that if we are so exhausted, if we are constantly in need of escape via "self-care" strategies that provide temporary relief, perhaps the problem is that we are slaving away under the wrong "yoke" - Maybe it's societal or personal expectations for how life "should" be that have lead to over-commitment and under-appreciation.

Unrelated photo except I love how peaceful Swede looks.

Here is what "self-care" looks like for me personally: 1) Daily exercise and reading - Nothing makes me twitchier faster than not having the time to run or to read. 2) Eating healthy but not too healthy - I don't like to deprive myself. 3) Staying true to my priorities - AKA deciding what I DO care about and letting the rest go. 4) Trying to avoid the comparison trap and the tyranny of the to-do list - Probably my biggest challenge! 5) Realizing that the best route to peace is through God.


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

2018 Race Calendar

One of the things I miss about living in a city is having more race options. I considering skipping this post for 2018 because it's pretty much the same few local races I do every year, but I thought I should at least write down my general plans and goals. The biggest of which is that I want to run a new-to-me race, and possibly a marathon, although it won't be later in the year so I haven't made a final decision.

First, I am heading up to Denver in late February for work so I'm going to run the Snowman Stampede 10K. I have done a version of this race (either the 5-mile, 10K, or 10-mile) six times in the past so it's a familiar course but I'm excited to be able to do a race earlier in the year. Even when I'm not in tip-top shape I enjoy races and they help me stay motivated to keep training.

During the summer I plan to run my usual three local races - the Narrow Gauge 10-Mile in May (although it will be a new course this year which I'm curious to see), the Steamworks Half Marathon in June, and the Thirsty 13 Half Marathon in August.

Steamworks 2017

I've identified various new-to-me race and possibly marathon options in October-December but I'm not going to make the final decision for a while. Some of the possibilities are The Other Half in Moab or the Duke City Half in Albuquerque in October, or the Tucson Marathon, the Rock & Roll San Antonio Marathon, or the California International Marathon in Sacramento in December.

I'm linking up today with ErikaPatty, and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run. Another running-related goal I have for 2018 is to write more about running here on the blog. When I started this blog a couple years ago I was planning for it to be much more focused on running, but the past couple years haven't been that exciting from a running standpoint due to mostly treadmill miles and the same few races every year. Hopefully I can find more to say and join in with more running link-ups this year!

That's all! Runners: What are your plans and goals for 2018?

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Book Day - January 2018

Book Day! As usual I'm linking up with Steph and Jana for Show Us Your Books.

Here's what I read in December:

1) The Long Way Home by Louise Penny. 3/5 stars. This is the 10th book in the Chief Inspector Gamache mystery series set in the idyllic small town of Three Pines in Quebec. This one was good enough but not my favorite in the series. It was a little slow-paced, focused on my less-favorite characters, and didn't seem the move forward the series as a whole at all.

2) Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa de la Cruz. 2/5 stars. I love Jane Austen but I think I prefer spin-offs versus re-tellings. I spend too much time comparing to the original. But in this case when I tried to read it as a stand-alone book I realized the plot and characters make no sense at all without acknowledging that they are being forced into the P&P mold.

3) Loving My Actual Christmas: An Experiment in Relishing the Season by Alexandra Kuykendall. 3/5 stars. This is a week-by-week memoir of a Christmas season in which the author makes a conscious effort to slow down and enjoy the festivities. I didn't like it as much as her first book (Loving My Actual Life) because I don't think I get as overwhelmed and/or stressed by the holiday season as some people - Doing all my shopping in November definitely helps with that! - But there were a few good points.

4) The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny. 4.5/5 stars. This is, obviously, the 11th book in the Gamache series. This one I did really like! There was much more tension and a sense of urgency that kept me interested to the very end. It seems to open up the potential for a new long-term plot that will span multiple books.

5) The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson. 4/5 stars. I didn't expect to like this book as much as I did. I thought it would be fluffier, and while there is humor and the overall tone is fairly light, it does address serious issues regarding race in the South. Set in a small town in Alabama, it's about family secrets old and new, sisters, and superheros.

Abel's Book of the Month: Little Excavator by Anna Dewdney. He loves this one! [Unsurprising given his obsession with construction vehicles in general and digger trucks in particular.] It's cute and fun though, so I don't mind reading it over and over.

That's all! What have you been reading? Did you set a reading goal for 2018? I'm going for 52 again - One book a week is a pretty typical pace for me although I sometimes manage more.