Five Things: Blurry End of March Edition

Today makes me believe that Spring might stick around. Yesterday was Easter and today the sun is shining. I can see the merits of starting the calendar year in early Spring rather than January 1 for sure. This afternoon I had time to take George on our long walking loop. The other walkers and I kept beaming as we passed each other – the sun, the sun! The girls came home from school and immediately turned on the hose (it’s 58 degrees). Classic.

March has been a bit of a blur. A lot going on and it’s been cold and gray and rainy.  More so than usual. There have been bright spots however. I went to Portland for a book meeting and had a wonderful dinner with RaChelle at Bollywood Theater. Nana turned 88 and Chris and Mendy had such a lovely party for her. Michael Scofield visited for a few hours on a couple of different days.

easter shenanigans 3 easter shenanigans - 6day before easter egg hunt day before easter egg hunt

Easter was lovely. We had an egg hunt the day before at Grammy & Papa’s house with cousins. The girls had such a good time. Telfer worked most of the weekend and after the egg hunt, I hit a wall. I was so tired! I decided to read my novel instead of preparing for Easter brunch. It was a good decision. Brunch still happened, everything tasted delicious and the mood was warm and easy. We went to church and then had brunch at our house with the usual suspects (C&M, Nana, Duerre family, Liz & friend). Note: I have been making this fritatta recipe for ten years now. It’s very good.

preboarding activities me + cate

Last weekend we took the girls whale watching in Port Townsend. Cate is doing a research project on whales which served as the the impetus to go. It was such a fun day! The four of us hadn’t spent a whole day together in too long. We watched a gray whale for about an hour – it was mesmerizing. He would break the surface a few times, spout water, his tail would come up and he would head down to eat at the bottom of the Sound. Repeat. I could have watched him all day. I think the girls secretly loved the hot chocolate on board the boat best of all.

back half of the shop. sigh. upstairs @ browsers bookshop
shop! sherry took this!
The shop is looking wonderful. We replaced the back floors a couple of weeks ago which was such a big job. We moved all the books and shelves off the floor on Saturday night, Telfer and his friend Tony put down the new floors all day Sunday and an employee and I put everything back late Sunday night to open again on Monday. We took the opportunity to move around a bunch of shelves and sections and I have to say it has made a huge difference. Everything is looking cohesive and open and bright and welcoming. We are also making progress with our upstairs space. The table and chairs were delivered right before the floors were finished. We are hoping to have groups start using the space in the next couple of months. We will also host a Browsers-run book club as well – probably our first meeting will be sometime at the end of May. Any ideas for the first pick?

sweet georgie pooI am about 100 pages away from finishing A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I have not been able to put this novel down and when I have, it’s impossible for me to stop thinking about it. I have actually had a Jude-infused dream. The novel is roughly about four college roommates making their way in New York after graduation. Jude is the central character and as the story progresses, it becomes clear he will never escape the trauma of his past. I have rarely been so moved or devastated by a novel. I am not sure if this is a convincing sell but if one of the reasons to read literary fiction is to develop a sense of empathy and compassion, this is a novel to read.

Today I finally faced the fact that Cate has conference week the rest of the week (she gets out at 11:45 – tell me, what is the point of this? Why not get conferences over with Tuesday and Wednesday and give everyone Thursday-Friday off?) and then Spring Break next week. Sigh. I think it will be easier next year when both girls are on the same schedule. Then I will plan to take the entire week off if possible. One more year of cobbling it all together. I meant to leave off on a less cranky note…

Five Things on a Wednesday Afternoon

I set my alarm for 6:20 this morning with the plan of hitting the treadmill first thing. Except I set my alarm for 6:20 PM. So when my employee showed up early this afternoon, I walked around the lake listening to Patti Smith’s haunting and lovely M Train. It’s one of those books I wish would never end. It’s a chilly, raw day that almost feels like November instead of March. But then I look up and I see the faint hint of pink life in the trees and know we are on the cusp.

It’s now late on Wednesday afternoon and I am working away. Later tonight, Telfer and I are meeting Chris and Mendy for dinner.  This month I am hoping to launch both a shop email newsletter and a new commerce website. Customers will be able to buy (new) books on our site and have them sent to the shop (free shipping) or their homes. I will be able to talk about books here or on the shop website and the links will go to our site rather than out to Powell’s or the nefarious Amazon. I am hoping to modulate my tone on the Amazon subject but a year and a half in small business has been eye-opening to say the least. But I promise: I will keep my preaching to a minimum.

Quick trip to Boise

Remember how I chose the word “open” for 2016? When a professor at NNU asked me to serve on a new Women in Leadership Initiative I immediately dismissed the idea. I am not a leader. Yes, I own a small business and yes, I graduated from NNU and yes, I care about first generation female college students, but no thank you. Then I remembered my word and the fact that I responded in the exact way that prompts the need to even have a Women in Leadership Initiative in the first place. So I went to NNU last Thursday. It was a one-day trip and such a delight. The meeting itself was fascinating and I reconnected with one of my very favorite professors from fifteen years ago. It’s such a strange feeling to sit in a familiar place and talk to an admired professor but now you are both adults. It’s a lovely thing. My Anna picked me up after the meeting and we had a quick bite before she dropped me off at the airport. I was home by 8:00 PM and got to say good night to the girls before they fell asleep. Yes for staying open to new possibilities and adventures and experiences.

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Telfer and I are watching the documentary series Making a Murderer on Netflix and I am completely, utterly gripped by the story and all of its themes – class and deep prejudice, small towns and the justice system. I am also committed to not googling the case until we finish watching the series so I really don’t know what happens in the end (although I have a good guess). The story in a nutshell: Steven Avery is convicted of rape, maintains his innocence, serves 18 years in prison and then is released after DNA evidences clears him. He gets out of prison and begins to piece together a life. And then Teresa Halbach, a young woman is murdered and all evidence points to Steven Avery as the murderer. The series covers the first crime and Avery’s trial for the murder of Halbach. All with a Wisconsin accent. Telfer and I can’t really binge watch anything because of Telfer’s meeting and call schedules but we are more than halfway through the ten episodes. I love television right now.

improved bathroom at the shop

Reminder: this is what the shop bathroom looked like before. Telfer and our friend Tony remodeled the bathroom at the shop late one Friday night a few weeks ago. The transformation is astonishing. Jane has long been afraid of this bathroom – she locked herself in one morning at the shop and had subsequent nightmares of the toilet overflowing on her. It looks so much better. It’s amazing what a little work and a trip to Ikea can do.

So my favorite I took a series of photos of Telfer at Vic’s, a local pizza joint with lovely light earlier this week. He had been using a headshot on his work email and other places that I just thought made him look too old (and with a weird neck). He went with a different photo in the series but this is my clear favorite. He is probably telling me a three point plan to make something good even better. I love him.

The Days of Abandonment. Elena FerranteOne of my customers and a colleague of Telfer’s told me NOT to read The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante. But after reading (and adoring) The Neopolitan Novels, of course I didn’t listen. I can see though why she didn’t want me to read it – a woman about my age, nearing 40, is abandoned by her husband for a much younger woman, leaving her with two young children and few prospects. This is an intense novel, almost like reading a fever if that makes sense. But hopeful in the end and there were moments that I could sense the beginnings of Elena, the narrator of the Neapolitan novels.

these two...   classic move
C&J at the Science Fair
Oh JaneAnd finally, the girls. How can I not? My mom took the top two photos of Cate and Jane in the red dresses she bought them. Classic C& J moves. Cate participated in her first science fair last week – she and Daddy created a colorful solar system model that you can see in the background of the photo. And lastly, Jane being Jane. Love these two.

Five-ish Things on a Friday Afternoon

I love our new letter board sign from Letterfolk. The quote possibilities are endless although yesterday I found out the hard way that the letters are in fact, finite. I ran out of “T”s on a Mary Oliver quote and then out of “I”s on a different quote. I selected a shorter Pinterest quote in a huff and ordered another set of letters.

It’s Friday afternoon and I have had the shop staffed all day which means I can enjoy my newly cleaned off desk upstairs, tackle my to-do list and keep an eye out on everything. I feel like the Wizard of Oz, or at least very important, up here. Most customers don’t realize I am up here and yet, I can see and hear everything.

upstairs room!

Construction on the big room upstairs is mostly finished. We are still installing handrails and a few other finishing details like hanging heavy curtains over the doorways and fixing the second skylight. On to the fun part of lighting and decorating. I think I have said this before but we are planning to put in a small kitchen area and a long table for events and small groups. It’s going to be beautiful and I think the obvious next step for the business.

bullet journaling / shinola

Have you heard of the Bullet Journal? This week I have been trying it out in my new Shinola journal (we stock the journal at the shop in case you want one). These Muji pens are also my current and longtime favorites. So far, so good. I think it works for my brain. I am still very much a pen and paper person and have struggled to figure out exactly what works for me. I love how flexible and personal this system seems to be AND I love that you don’t have to have anything but a regular notebook or journal. Curious to know if anyone else has tried it…

love these two
sister hug

My parents were here from Sunday through Wednesday and we had a really good time. And of course I did not take one picture of them with the girls. Telfer made us an amazing Valentine’s dinner and my parents hung out with Cate on Tuesday as she didn’t have school. A long side note: This is the last year that the girls will go to different schools. Can you imagine one drop-off and one pick-up? I estimate that I spend 40-60 minutes a day on Jane’s drop-off/pick-up alone. I could use that time. At Jane’s school, holidays are a big deal. There are parties and tons of sugar and special movies and celebration. Another side note: a parent actually brought TWINKIES for the kids in Jane’s class for a birthday celebration. Jane thought it was a kitchen sponge! Cate’s school, on the other hand, does not celebrate holidays. No sugar, no decorations, no fuss. You can imagine that this causes friction. We have had a lot of talk about fairness (or the flawed concept of fairness) at our house this last week.

all ready for v-day party

This was Jane’s outfit of choice for her Valentine’s party last week. It’s too good not to show off. Cate and Jane both worked together to create the details (down to the bun in her hair). Both my girls are fond of stripes.

four seasons in rome by anthony doerr

I am having the best reading year and it’s only February. At the bookseller conference that I went to last month the attendees were asked to bring a backlist favorite (basically any book that hasn’t been published within the last year and is still in print) and swap with each other. I took The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson to share and I picked up Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World by Anthony Doerr. The subtitle is a little silly but I loved the book. Accepting a writing fellowship, Doerr and his wife and six-month-old twin boys (!) move to Rome for one year. It’s such a fascinating account of a year in another culture, parenting young children, and the process of writing. The novel Doerr is struggling to work on during his fellowship year is of course All the Light We Cannot See. The reader knows all about the success the novel will have eventually have – it’s a fun construct and there are some really lovely moments in the book.

I am hoping for a quiet weekend. The girls have a pajama party tonight at our gym (Indian takeout and Netflix sounds just about right). Telfer is working most of the weekend and I am hoping to keep the girls at home as much as possible. We are going to putter and bake and do little projects together. Happy Friday friends!

Happy Sunday

I have cinnamon roll dough rising this morning. The bowls are set near the warmest spot in our house, on the mantle and above the fire, and when they are baked we will take them to a Super Bowl party at Luke & Sherry’s later this afternoon. Sherry is making the chili, I am making the cinnamon rolls. There’s going to be quite a few children (!) so I am making two pans, one with pecans, one without. It’s a beautiful day and the girls are looking forward to playing outside with their friends. This is my first football game of the season and I am not sorry to say that I am looking forward to the halftime show more than the actual game. I am also bringing along several magazines and a few cookbooks for good measure. What’s wrong with me?

persephone books

Heads-up, I have a new collecting passion: Persephone Books based in London. They are beautiful in person. In the last year and a half probably five have come into the store. The first one I resisted and let it sell in its own time (the one that got away). If I took home everything that catches my fancy I would be in real trouble.  If anyone is going to London soon I might hit you up…

Here’s the blurb from the website:
Persephone Books reprints neglected fiction and non-fiction by mid-twentieth century (mostly) women writers. All of our 115 books are intelligent, thought-provoking and beautifully written and are chosen to appeal to busy people wanting titles that are neither too literary nor too commercial. We publish novels, short stories, diaries, memoirs and cookery books; each has an elegant grey jacket, a ‘fabric’ endpaper with matching bookmark, and a preface by writers such as Jilly Cooper, David Kynaston and Elaine Showalter.  

upstairs work at shop

The upstairs remodel at the shop is coming along. I am ready for the construction phase to be over. It’s been so noisy and dusty. This is definitely our slowest time of the year so it has made sense to get this part of it done. The painting and the floors should be finished by the end of the week and then we can move onto the fun part. We are putting in a small kitchen and a long table with chairs. The upstairs will mostly be used as event space – for book clubs and small signings as well as private events. We are hoping to NOT charge groups to use the space with the expectation of gaining a loyal customer base. I am taking the long view here. You can’t quite tell from the photograph but it’s going to look beautiful. More pictures later this week. I have some great before photographs too.

Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey

I finished Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith (recommendation from Nancy) about a week ago and I loved. I have so appreciated and desperately needed the voices of Sarah Bessey and Nadia Bolz-Weber in the last few weeks. Bessey’s opening two sentences completely resonate:
“Once upon a time, you had it all beautifully sorted out. Then you didn’t.”

Yes. There’s so much here that’s worth talking about but I am holding onto this one thought at the moment: “No one talked about how the places where we live matter to our spiritual formation, how we are shaped by our communities, our rootedness, our geography, by our families, and by the complex web of connections and history that emerge only by staying.”

Yesterday, we spent a couple of hours at church in the late afternoon saying goodbye to a young family moving to Arizona. This family holds a place in my heart – they have dealt with such loss and grief. I love them. Our imperfect community came together bringing homemade cookies and decaf coffee and lemon water to say goodbye and just to be with one another. The adults chatted and my girls ran up and down the main hallway of the church again and again with all their friends running along next to them. This has to be enough for me right now. For the hope of continued connection and history.

First of February: Happy to be Home

This was my desk early this morning when I sat down to do my book order. I had to balance my laptop on a pile. It looks a little better tonight but mostly the piles have been distributed to other parts of my home office. Today was my designated dig out day, it may turn into more of a dig out week.

me + curious george

I attended the American Bookseller Association’s Winter Institute in Denver on a scholarship last week. I almost went last year and am so glad it did not work out. I was so not ready last year. Even now, it was like drinking from a firehose. I made good connections, learned so much and have actionable next steps. I brought (sent) home many advanced reading copies and bookish tote bags. Such fun. I love getting away from my daily life for a bit but after four days away I was more than ready to come home.

kitchen goggles....

Anna came for a long weekend the day after I came home from Denver. We had planned many months ago to see Geraldine Brooks at Seattle Arts and Lectures. Such a great, inspiring talk. If you haven’t read any of Brooks’ novels, start with March (my favorite) or Year of Wonders (Anna’s favorite). We spent the rest of the weekend at the shop and stopping by the Bread Peddler. We also made my current favorite recipe (it’s delicious – I used boneless chicken thighs and cut off 10 minutes on the oven time) on Saturday night and invited Sherry over. Anna is one of my dearest ones and so anything we do is comfortable and fun. If you are wondering what we were doing in the photograph, of course we had to try on the kitchen goggles we found at my local grocery store.

all the stripes

Cate had an early release on Friday and stopped by the store with Telfer for a bit. She organized the coloring books and then draped her striped self on a chair to read a bit of comics. No one can rock a striped outfit like Cate (three stripes and red boots!).

my name is lucy barton by elizabeth strout

2016 is starting off ridiculously well in terms of reading and books. First, there was my Kent Haruf moment, then When Breath Becomes Air. I picked up a signed copy of Elizabeth Strout’s new novel at the Tattered Cover, Denver’s famous independent bookstore and read about half of it on the plane home until I made myself stop (so good I didn’t want to read in one sitting). The opening paragraph page brought immediate tears of recognition:

There was a time, and it was many years ago now, when I had to stay in a hospital for almost nine weeks. This was in New York City, and at night a view of the Chrysler Building, with its geometric brilliance of lights, was directly visible from my bed…It was May, and then June, and I remember how I would stand and look out the window at the sidewalk below and watch the young women – my age – in their spring clothes, out on their lunch breaks; I could see their heads moving in conversation, their blouses rippling in the breeze. I thought how when I got out of the hospital I would never again walk down the sidewalk without giving thanks for being one of those people, and for many years I did that – I would remember the view from the hospital window and be glad for the sidewalk I was walking on.

I know something about this.

But the novel is much bigger than a hospital stay. It’s about never really escaping from childhood, about memory and writing and motherhood. I finished it days ago and can’t quite put it on a shelf. I loved it so.