Reading Update

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My photographs are terrible here and it doesn’t help that all of my books are cream/tan. Anyway, here’s an update on my little shelf project.

The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America. George Packer
Whoa, read this if it all sounds good to you. George Packer takes the lives of three ordinary Americans as well as short biographies of famous Americans to create a mosaic of life in America right now. Honestly, this is a nonfiction masterpiece.

Blue Nights. Joan Didion
Held me completely captive in California. I may have made Telfer sit with the girls on the plane so I could finish it. I want to read more Joan Didion beyond her two, small grief-related books: The Year of Magical Thinking written after the death of her husband and then Blue Nights after the death of her daughter. “When we talk about our mortality, we are talking about our children.”

The Widower’s Tale. Julia Glass
Julia Glass is one of my favorite novelists. Three Junes was one of the first contemporary novels I read out of college and it had an enormous impact on my life and the way I viewed the world. The Widower’s Tale takes a bit to get into but I was so happy to spend time with these characters.

Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life. Marta McDowell
A Christmas present that I was saving for summer. It feels right to read about gardening in the summer…Such a lovely little book about Beatrix Potter’s gardens and gardening life. 

Also, I tried to read The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan. It’s on the shelf but I got 35 pages in and I just couldn’t go on. It was a freebie in a Powell’s Indiespensable box which also makes me feel better about not finishing. Ten years ago I would have gritted my teeth and read on. Now, I hope I am a little more gentle with myself. I don’t need to finish everything I start. I know not every book is meant for me and I am okay with that. Maybe another time (but I doubt it with this one).

In other news, Telfer and I are jazzed about this list from EW on the “The 55 Essential Movies Kids Must Experience (Before They Turn 13).” There are some absolutely fabulous movies here that I would love to see again, especially as a parent. The girls have seen many of the movies but we were thinking it would be fun to use this list to guide our family movie night choices. We usually let the girls pick the movie and they usually choose something like Tinkerbell or Aristocats or the truly awful the Princess and the Frog. I might watch ten minutes and then I am absolutely done. I could get behind a list however. What is it with me and lists? 

Father’s Day & Reading Update

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Telfer spent father’s day weekend in Brooklyn helping Eleanor settle into her new place. Buying real estate in New York is no joke. We gave Eleanor a Telfer-weekend as a Christmas gift and we thought she would close on the apartment by February. Try June!  I may have been slightly jealous so the girls and I headed to Richland to spend father’s day weekend with my dad. We had such a good, low-key, fun weekend. We went cherry-picking and to Casa Mia for spaghetti and played a lot in my parent’s backyard. The girls were so fun and loved being with my parents. We left George with Grammy and I am happy to report he did well there and I actually missed him!

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And here’s an update on my Shelf Project (the page is updated).

The Whole Five Feet: What the great books taught me about life, death, and pretty much everything else by Christopher R. Beha.
A project book. The author reads the Harvard Classics in the midst of a difficult year in his life. What could have been wonky and esoteric is actually a warm, personal account of how reading and life intertwine.

Nocturnes: Five stories of music & nightfall. Kazuo Ishiguro
Ishiguro’s novels are so wonderful (Never Let Me Go & Remains of the Day). These short stories are very readable – a couple take place in Venice – but they don’t stick (if that makes sense).

The Family Dinner: Great ways to connect with your kids one meal at a time. Laurie David
I loved this! I am not sure why I hadn’t read? We do have a (mostly) happy medium these days at our dinner table but I am open to all kinds of advice. There is a chapter on table conversation with kids that was particularly good. Side note: we tried to have a family meeting the other night after dinner. It was a disaster (comically so). We will try again in six months or a year…

Turn of Mind. Alice LaPlante
The problem with subscribing to Powell’s Indiespensable is you then have all these books to read! I do read a big chunk of them but this one I hadn’t quite got around to. A hand surgeon has early-onset Alzheimer’s and is accused of killing her neighbor and best friend. It’s twisty and psychological and although I definitely figured out the killer (which hardly ever happens to me), I was completely gripped.

Weekly Update: Girls & Reading Edition

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Actually, I think most of my posts are either about the girls or reading with a bit of food thrown in here and there. Jane and I got to hang out for a couple hours while Cate was at a birthday party this weekend. I gave her several fun-for-her options including going to the grocery stop (I am always so devastated when the girls correct their little -isms) but she chose playing with a bag of marbles and then taking George for a walk. Jane is so very easily pleased. Cate and I got to spend a couple hours together last week while Grammy had Jane. We went to ice cream of course and then sat outside and chatted away. She’s such a dear.

Memorial Day weekend was actually very fun (we haven’t had the best track record with long, holiday weekends and so I am always surprised when Tuesday arrives and I actually feel refreshed). It was a nice mix of getting things done including yard work and weeding and the amazing transformation that is laying sod. We socialized – our next door neighbors came over for dinner after the girls went to bed one night and then Telfer made his  pizza for our life group. We also managed a one-night getaway to the Lake House with the girl where we watched The Sound of Music for the first time (on VHS no less!) and did Lake House things. Lovely.

I finished two of the books on my Read A Shelf Project last week. Dirt Candy, a graphic novel cookbook, that makes me want to fly to New York immediately and go to Brooklyn to eat at the restaurant. Eleanor gave this to me for my birthday last year and I just stuck it on the shelf. So bad! And then an intense novel, The Affairs of Others, also set in Brooklyn about a young, grieving widow who owns a brownstone and becomes overly involved in the lives of her tenants. I could not put it down.

Lately Around Here

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We are still missing our little Henry around here. I keep looking for him in his usual spots – on our bed at night or on the grey chair while Telfer and I watch Mad Men (how great was Sunday’s episode? Does anyone watch Mad Men besides us? Seriously people, it’s like watching a novel, I love it) or at the window when I back out in the morning. It’s just so very sad to lose a beloved pet. But then there is this crazy, wild, nutso puppy bouncing around the house. The first couple of days after I had to let Henry go I could barely stand to be in the same room with George – he simply wasn’t Henry – but over a week in – I am so thankful to have him around. I think I am a dog person.

Mom and Dad were here last weekend. The girls were so excited. We did the usual things – Bread Peddler, the Farmer’s Market but it was mostly a movie marathon – we watched Frozen, Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2 in three days – a very much needed downtime for us all. Mom and Dad brought their little dog, Max, who is the same age as George. Whew. Two puppies are kind of exhausting (but fun too).

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Lately Reading: (apparently all tan/cream-colored books): Someone by Alice McDermott with my college girls. Lovely video discussion on Sunday. How have we known each other for nearly 17 years? An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor. I listened to this but it was so wonderful that now I am reading it in print. Dog Songs: Poems by Mary Oliver. Because I desperately needed to read this last week. And finally, The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. I unabashedly think Brene Brown is awesome. I think every woman should read this book. Or at least watch this.

Quote for the day [my life]

Finished this weekend. This quote is what I keep returning to read and think over:

“It's a very American trait, this wanting people to think well of us. It's a young want, and I am ashamed of it in myself…Haven't I learned yet that the desire to be perfect is always disastrous and, at the least, loses me in the mire of false guilt? Perfectionism is imprisoning. As long as I demand it, in myself or anybody else, I am not free, and all my life – fifty-two this summer – I've believed that freedom is important, that, despite all our misuse and abuse of it, freedom is what makes us a little lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor, according to the psalmist; how like a god, according to Shakespeare; freedom to remember, to share, to dream, to accept irrationality and paradox is what makes us human animals.”