Posts Tagged ‘silliness’

atozsurvey-1017x1024-297x300I saw this survey on my pen pal Jaclyn’s blog (it was originally created by Jamie), and thought it looked so fun. I love books and I love surveys – put ’em together and it’s perfection.

Author you’ve read the most books from: L.M. Montgomery. Anne Shirley, Emily Byrd Starr, Sara Stanley, Jane Stuart, Pat Gardiner – I love all her heroines. And Madeleine L’Engle – lots of her memoirs, books on writing and faith, and young adult novels.

Best Sequel Ever: Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery – even better than the original. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which breaks the series wide open. Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos is a fabulous companion to the original, Love Walked In.

Currently Reading: I’m revisiting Dorothy Sayers’ mysteries featuring Lord Peter Wimsey and his love, Harriet Vane. It’s been nine years since I first read them and I love them even more this time around.

Drink of Choice While Reading: Tea – either black flavored with spices and citrus, plain black tea with milk and sugar, or decaf/herbal (at night).

E-reader or Physical Book? Physical books. Always, always, always.

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated In High School: Someone kind and slightly nerdy. Remus Lupin? Atticus Finch? The usual handsome, confident heroes in books would have been too intimidating to shy teenage me.

Glad You Gave This Book A Chance: I was a Harry Potter skeptic for a long time. Once Val convinced me to try them, the books became some of my favorites. And Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand was utterly, unexpectedly spectacular.

Hidden Gem Book: The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice – a sweet, wise and witty story of two friends in 1950s London. No Children, No Pets – a fun summer tale, one of my favorite childhood books. Cynthia Voigt’s books about the Tillerman family (Homecoming, Dicey’s Song, etc.). Anne Fadiman’s brilliant little collection of bookish essays, Ex Libris. And Susan Hill’s wonderful bookish memoir, Howards End is on the Landing.

Important Moment in your Reading Life: I took a World Literature seminar during my senior year of college that exposed me to a dozen books I’d never have read otherwise – most of them powerful and heartbreaking. That class shifted my perspective in all kinds of important ways. And Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water was my “back door” introduction to her work. I later wrote my master’s thesis on her memoirs, and I have learned so much from her.

Just Finished: Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers; The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg; The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey.

Kinds of Books You Won’t Read: I’m not really a sci-fi or western fan. Also: no erotica or trashy romance novels.

Longest Book You’ve Read: Les Misérables, which I finally tackled this year (after many years of adoring the musical) and loved.

Major book hangover because of: Hmmm…I don’t know. My shelves and to-read stacks offer enough options that I can get past a book hangover pretty quickly.

Number of Bookcases You Own: Six. Three in the dining room, two in the bedroom, one in the guest bedroom. (Plus one built-in, and piles of books all over the place.)

One Book You Have Read Multiple Times: I’m an inveterate rereader – I reach for the Anne of Green Gables series, the Harry Potter series, The Lord of the Rings, the Mitford series, my Advent book, and other favorites regularly.

Preferred Place To Read: Curled up on the sofa in my living room; in bed; on a park bench with a hot drink. I can’t say I adore reading on the subway, but I do a lot of it during my commute each day.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read: There are many, but I wrote this summer about a phrase from Madeleine L’Engle’s A Circle of Quiet: “I really and truly believe in God with all kinds of doubts.”

Reading Regret: So many books I’ve yet to read – but this isn’t a regret, it’s a possibility!

Series You Started And Need To Finish (all books are out in series): Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey series; the Chronicles of Narnia.

Three of your All-Time Favorite Books: This whole survey is a love letter to my favorites – but I adore L’Engle’s A Circle of Quiet, Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos, and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

Unapologetic Fangirl For: Harry Potter; Betsy-Tacy; Anne of Green Gables; so many other favorite series.

Very Excited For This Release More Than All The Others: Can’t pick just one. I can’t wait to read Ally Carter’s United We Spy, Elizabeth Wein’s Rose Under Fire, the latest Royal Spyness mystery, the latest Bess Crawford mystery, Kerstin Gier’s Emerald Green, and the new Jhumpa Lahiri novel.

Worst Bookish Habit: Piling up the to-be-read stacks until they teeter; specifically, going crazy at the library when I already have a dozen or more books waiting at home. I have no self-discipline in a library.

X Marks The Spot: Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book: The Count of Monte Cristo (on the fiction shelf).

Your latest book purchase: Have His Carcase by Dorothy Sayers (can’t get enough of Wimsey & Vane).

ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late): I stayed up far too late recently rereading Gaudy Night, Busman’s Honeymoon and Strong Poison (all Wimsey-Vane mysteries).

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yellow tulips longfellow appian way spring

  • When I successfully hand- or machine-wash an article of clothing labeled Dry Clean Only, saving on present and future dry-cleaning bills.
  • When I schedule a haircut, dental appointment or other nagging, grown-up life admin item.
  • When I return all my library books on time.
  • When I keep a plant alive through the winter.
  • When I put together an outfit of which my fashionista sister and mother would be proud. (This often involves at least one piece of clothing or jewelry given to me by one of them.)
  • When I have a successful phone conversation with someone I don’t know. (There are few things I dread more. Sometimes I actually pray for people not to answer the phone.)
  • When I pull off a new, complicated recipe or knitting pattern.
  • When I finish a difficult book.
  • When I send off a well-written book review. (Extra points if it’s a review of a difficult book.)
  • When I successfully navigate a new city, particularly if I do it by instinct.
  • When I buy a gift for someone and they love it.

What makes you feel absurdly, disproportionately, proudly accomplished?

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What’s On Your…

cream cowl knitting magazine real simple still life

Ali Edwards and Lindsey of A Design So Vast both posted their versions of this list recently, and I decided to post my own. I always love these glimpses into other people’s everyday lives. Feel free to play along on your blog, or in the comments. (Above: what’s on my coffee table.)

Here’s what’s on my…

VANITY | I don’t have a vanity. But on the top of my dresser (which serves a similar purpose) are my CD alarm clock, two bottles of perfume, a bracelet with a red double-decker bus charm, my watch (when I’m not wearing it), and assorted earrings in a heart-shaped pottery dish (a gift from my friend Abi).

PERENNIAL TO DO LIST | Mop the kitchen floor; do the laundry and dishes; purge my closet; write more.

REFRIGERATOR SHELVES | Asparagus, milk, leftovers, butter, assorted yogurts, spinach, several kinds of cheese. (In the pantry: cereal, chips + salsa, Girl Scout cookies, baking ingredients.)

ITINERARY | A trip out to the Berkshires (western Mass.) soon, to celebrate my husband’s birthday. A folk concert in early June. Thinking about how to celebrate our fifth (!) wedding anniversary at the end of June.

FANTASY ITINERARY | Oxford. Always Oxford. Also Paris, Italy, NYC, Hawaii, and time with my family in West Texas.

PLAYLIST | I don’t listen to music at work these days (I work in an open-plan office). But at home while we cook dinner, it’s Kate Rusby, Grace Pettis, Frank Sinatra and various jazz compilations (including a five-CD one bought long ago on Portobello Road). And on Sundays there is a lot of a cappella singing.

NIGHTSTAND | Vanilla sugar hand lotion from Bath & Body Works, Burt’s Bees lemon cuticle salve and honey lip balm, a lamp with a red base, a constantly rotating stack of books. 

WORKOUT PLAN | Guilt, mostly, for not getting more exercise. Contemplating a return to yoga, or an attempt at running.

IPHONE | I don’t have one, though I admit my seven-year-old flip phone will need to be replaced before long. Still can’t decide if I want a smartphone or not.

TOP 5 LIST | Time with my husband; good books; singing with friends on Sunday nights; my nephew’s smile; the change of seasons in the Boston area.

BUCKET LIST | Go back to many wonderful places I have loved; visit many more new places; write a book; raise a family; be brave.

MIND | The mixture of grief and hope so prevalent in Boston right now. Where to find cute, comfortable shoes for spring. Birthday gifts for my husband and nephew. Juggling multiple freelance assignments (a happy problem). Starting my balcony herb garden. Lots of life admin items.

BLOGROLL | The Wednesday Chef; Micha Boyett; Modern Mrs. Darcy; Pink of Perfection. (And so many more!)

WALLS OF YOUR FAVORITE ROOM IN YOUR HOUSE | A photo of my husband and me printed on canvas; a photo montage of my time in Oxford; three red maple leaves pressed under glass; a small landscape painting bought in Spain. A red shelf with a few treasured books on it.

LIQUOR SHELF | Don’t have one. I’m not much of a drinker, though I enjoy a glass of sangria or white wine once in a while.

LAST CREDIT CARD STATEMENT | Stitch Fix; Brookline Booksmith; Darwin’s; the pharmacy; the grocery store.

SCREENSAVER | Don’t have one – though my work computer background is a joyful, colorful burst of tulips.

TV EVERY NIGHT | We only turn on the TV on Mondays to watch Castle, or to dip into Friends (my very favorite) on DVD.

What’s on your…?

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More than that, actually. My mom’s birthday is today, my sister’s is next week, and nearly every day I get a birthday notification or two on Facebook. But on Friday night, we gathered to celebrate these four ladies:

Jan bdays 005

Jan bdays 008

Gerilyn, Abigail, Katie and Kelsey (from left to right above) all have birthdays this month. When we discovered this fact at our New Year’s party, we decided to have one big birthday bash. And it was a hit, if I do say so myself. (Birthday crowns courtesy of Abi’s class of preschoolers.)

There were two kinds of enchiladas, spicy tortilla soup, pulled pork, a big bowl of guacamole, three different birthday desserts, a pot of mulled cider, and plenty of tea. There were hilariously awful first-date stories and flickering candles (birthday and otherwise). Later, there was a truly incredible game of charades. And all night long, there was so much laughter.

Since moving up here two and a half years ago, J and I have often felt isolated, lonely and far from home. We miss our families, and the community of friends we built in West Texas. (We are ever more thankful that Abi and her husband Nate, old and dear friends, ended up here with us.) We are working to build new friendships, but it is often a slow process. Forging community takes time and effort, and it’s difficult in a city where many people don’t stay long.

But on Friday night, our apartment rang with voices and footsteps and shouted guesses during our charades game. We hugged and snapped photos and sang “Happy Birthday” and told stories and laughed and laughed some more. And when we fell into bed after midnight, exhausted but happy, J and I agreed: it’s wonderful to have friends in our home. It’s wonderful to have community here. Our circle is small, but precious. And we are grateful.

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I have a friend who hates to use anything up.

She hangs onto remnants of certain items for years: sheets of scrapbooking stickers, favorite bottles of lotion or body wash, scented candles. When I helped her move a few years ago, my other girlfriends and I nearly had to stage an intervention to convince her to throw away some of that 90-percent-used stuff. It wasn’t that she’d never used it: rather, she enjoyed it so much she was terrified of running out. She perceives a kind of scarcity in the world, at least of these small, often limited-edition luxuries.

I don’t hang onto odds and ends with quite the same tenacity. But I do sometimes freak out if I perceive a scarcity of something I use frequently, which is not easily replaceable. Most recently, it involved journals.

Toward the end of August, I had nearly filled up the Compendium journal I’d found at the Booksmith and realized I needed to begin nosing around for a new one. When I did, I had trouble finding just the right one, which I define as medium weight, lined paper, softcover (the hardback ones are bulky), about 6″x8″ (those pocket ones are cute, but they don’t last me long), with a charming-but-not-twee cover. (My arbitrary list of qualities, of course, created the perceived scarcity in the first place.)

Coming up empty, I signed onto the Compendium website and ordered five journals, reasoning that I would thus be stocked for several months, and I would save on shipping if I ordered them together. (Compendium did not sponsor this post. They don’t know about me, or how panicked I can get when I think I might be running out of journal space.)

Although I still had a bit of room in my current journal, I then panicked that the new stack might not arrive before I took off for Texas to attend my high school reunion. So I did the only sensible thing: I went to Paper Source one more time, and scored a three-pack of lined notebooks from Rifle Paper Co.

Of course, the journals from Compendium arrived right before I left town. I had eight journals to choose from.

journals notebooks stack

Ridiculous, no? I laughed at myself, and then reminded myself to be grateful that I even have this problem. A stack of eight gorgeous journals is a true embarrassment of riches. (I am, fittingly, embarrassed to be telling you this story.)

I have since filled up one of the Rifle Paper Co. notebooks and am happily scribbling away in one of the Compendium journals (sprinkled with travel-related quotes). The stack of spare journals waits in my desk drawer, a comforting promise of abundance, and also a reminder not to take myself quite so seriously.

What about you? Do you use things up or hang onto them? Do you panic when you’re running out of (or about to be running out of) something you love? And do you tend to see the world as a place of abundance or scarcity? I’m especially curious about this last one.

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April (in case you hadn’t heard) is National Poetry Month, and on Fridays this month I’ll be featuring some of my favorite poems. I thought I’d kick things off with some original performance poetry from my old friends the Muppets:

Totally worth watching to the end. It’ll crack you up.

Who are your favorite poems and/or poets?

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Missing my mojo

My writing mojo seems to be on vacation lately.

Usually I don’t get too worked up if this happens for a day, a few days, a week or two. Sometimes after pouring out lots and lots of words, it’s best to stop and relax a while. To bake, spend time with friends, knit, watch a little fun TV, do something with my hands rather than always working with my brain. And, eventually, the sly muse comes slinking back, tiptoeing around the corner in her red shoes, offering a handful of ideas like bright pebbles she’s picked up in her ramblings elsewhere.

But lately she seems to be on a longer break, perhaps holed up in an Oxford bookshop or strolling along the Seine in a coat the color of smoke. (Of course – it figures – she usually runs off to the places I dream of running off to. And she’s invisible, you see, so she has the freedom to go wherever she likes, at will.)

Meanwhile, I’m stuck back here in the sometimes-dull routine of the daily 9-to-5, struggling to pick up the pen or bring myself back to the keyboard in a non-work context. I took a step back from daily blogging in January to free up some creative space, and while the muse and I spent a lot of time together those first weeks, I’m now scrambling for enough ideas to post three times a week. I’m reading lots of great books – fiction and memoir, young adult lit and nonfiction – and I’m still managing to turn out regular book reviews. But my mojo seems to have fled, taking most of my ideas with her. I can’t seem to start a longer project to save my life, and that nagging fear about not being a real writer is back with a vengeance.

Does this ever happen to you? And how do you coax your mojo back when it seems to disappear?

(Partly inspired by Sonia’s post about her knitting mojo, last month.)

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On our way to church last Sunday, J and I wondered why the car ahead of us was stopped at a green light, until we saw this:

geese, Boston, Canada, spring

I’m not sure if these guys came all the way from Canada, or were just on their way from the Fens back to the Charles River, but it made our whole morning to watch them waddle across the road.

Also, the ducklings in the Public Garden (who, if you didn’t know, are the stars of Robert McCloskey’s wonderful book), are ready for St. Patrick’s Day:

ducklings, robert mccloskey, st. patrick's day

Happy Friday, all. I don’t think the balmy temps of the last two days (67 degrees! In early March!) will last through the weekend, but I am looking forward to some quiet time at home and some time with friends.

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Every winter, I go on a serious Earl Grey kick. I’ve written before about how my tea-drinking habits shift with the seasons – I tend to drink lighter, fruity teas in the summers and dark, spiced blends in the winter (switching to lemon-ginger if I have a cold or sore throat). But for some reason, each year from January to about mid-March finds me reaching for the Earl Grey (I have three kinds in the tea cabinet right now). It’s strong, dark and warming, but somehow that bright hint of bergamot lightens things up, making it the perfect cuppa to warm and inspire on a wintry day. (And a huge peanut-butter-chocolate-chip cookie from Bread & Chocolate doesn’t hurt either.)

Besides, ever since Shanna reminded me that it’s his favorite, I think of Captain Jean-Luc Picard when I make a cuppa.

What warming drinks do you reach for on winter days?

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I’ve made no secret of my love for Castle – the show that blends crime-solving drama with relationship tension and hilarious one-liners. J loves it almost as much as I do – so it’s no surprise that it was a Castle Christmas at our house:

Striking a pose

If you can’t tell, the apron reads “I really am ruggedly handsome” – one of Richard Castle’s classic lines.

And it’s not bulletproof (like the vest it mimics), but I do love my new shirt:

Happy New Year, friends. I’m still savoring the joy of 9 days in Texas with family and dear friends-who-are-family – but I’m glad to be back in Boston, and in this space. More soon.

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