The Week in Review: Book Edition

I thought I would change things up a bit and write about books this week.  As much as I love to read I am surprised I don’t write about books more. Hmm.

Random Pick: A few weeks ago at the library I chose a shelf on a whim and counted over 33 books. I got “Wedding Girl”. Totally not what I was in the mood for. I looked up and…ta-da “Cooking for Picasso” called my name. Loved it!  One of those novels based on a bit of historical fact and jumped back and forth in time, in a good way.

Serendipity:  The day after I started reading “Cooking for Picasso”  I got my National Geographic magazine in the mail and it had an article on Picasso and let me know that there is a mini-series about the life of Picasso on the National Geographic channel starting in April. How coincidentally wonderful is that?  It is a 10 part series I am recording to watch during the summer.

Something Crazy:  Remember “chiaroscuro”?  Yes, again!  This time in “The Golden Hour” by T. Greenwood. And also in the book a character wears a pair of red flannel pajamas with black scottie dogs on them.  I have those pajamas!  I am so reading some more Greenwood, she gets me. 🙂

Mystery Series:  My favorite genre is the mystery.  For quite a few years I really liked getting into a series but lately I have found that all the newer series seem pretty repetitive.  After 3 or 4 books the series grows stale not to mention how similar they all feel. Woman loses job, breaks up with long time boyfriend and moves back home.  She has a quirky but endearing family, lands some sort of interesting job or joins the family business  and promptly gets involved with a readily available handsome member of the law enforcement. Add in an unbelievable number of murders in a small town.  Sheesh.

But here are a few series that have managed to stay believable and keep things fresh:

The Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny– It helps that the main character is a homicide investigator, making his proximity to murder believable.  There is so much depth to these stories though and so many other characters.  Never boring, never predictable.

The Faith Fairchild series by Katherine Hall Page – Enough travel keeps things interesting as well as the details of the rest of her life as her children grow up.  Good recipes too!

The Sadie Hoffmiller series by Josi Kilpack – I have only finished the first three books (there are 12) but this series feels much more realistic than most.  Yes, there is a boyfriend detective but she still gets sentenced to community service for interfering in a police investigation. Pretty real!  And there is a lot of travel so no scary small town full of homicides.

Aunt Dimity series by Nancy Atherton –  There is a mystery in each book but not necessarily a murder.  Set in England it appeals to the Anglophile in me and while there is a little of the woo-woo communication from the dead it doesn’t override the rest of the story.

The Molly Murphy series by Rhys Bowen – I love learning about the early 1900’s in New York City where this series is set.  It is interesting seeing how much harder it was to track down information in those days, how people lived in general and all the obstacles to being a lady detective.  Yes, there is a police love interest but I can live with it.

The Jane Austen series by Stephanie Barron – I have only read the first two books (of thirteen I believe) but seriously why wouldn’t I love Jane Austen as a sleuth?  England, historical time period and a writer, all right up my alley.

What book I just finished: “Euphoria” by Lily King, not my usual fare but lately I have been choosing more books randomly, either off the ‘recently returned shelf’ or the staff picks or just walking down an aisle seeing what catches my eye.  This book did not disappoint and suited my mood which has been rather up and down thanks to MHC (menopausal hormonal craziness). {I am hoping if I use MHC enough times it will catch on.}  A Margaret Mead inspired story that really held my attention.

What I am reading right now:  “Into the Magic Shop” by James R. Doty, MD, again not something that would normally grab me but I am surprised at how much I am loving this book.  I am not quite 1/2 way yet but already I want to be a better person and really learn how to meditate.  I have chosen “rose rain” as my focus word.

An easy way to track your reading: I had never thought about tracking what I read until I stumbled across the clever idea of using a five year journal and promptly adopted it.  For those of us not interested in digital tracking I have found a small five year diary works perfectly.  I jot down the title, author and a sentence or two about what I thought of the book or how it made me feel. I list the book under the date I started it.  Super easy, not overly time consuming and this diary is going to last more than five years, even with all I read. I started last July and could not be happier. And my diary is so cute!


Did you have a good book week?

Don’t Read the Iliad Day

Are you are a person who reads books simply for fun like I do? And do you sometimes feel a little guilty about reading nothing but Cozy Mysteries or Summer Beach reads? Do you feel like at some point you need to read some “real” literature? So you put something like “Moby Dick” or the “Iliad” or “The Sound and the Fury” on your to be read list. And then that book hangs over your head for months or even years.

Good news!  Today is “Don’t Read the Iliad Day”.  Or whatever book is destroying your peaceful reading life.  So cross it off the list.  Enjoy your current best seller or the latest bodice ripper guilt free.  Today you have been released from Real Literature you feel you should be reading.

I have to go now and return “The Sound and the Fury”, unopened, to the library.

I am also returning “American Sniper” unread and gave up on “The Photographer’s Wife” halfway through it. Just not my cup of tea.  But I loved all my other books and am on the last one now, “Your’s Truly”.


Too Many Books?

Can there be such a thing? Sort of,  when one doesn’t plan their library requests very well. I already had five books checked out from the library when I got an e-mail letting me know that five more books that I have been waiting for were now ready for pick-up. Oops. But being the trooper that I am I see no problem. (I even picked up another book when I picked up the five that were ready!)

Luckily it is very easy to renew books on-line and you can renew up to three times as long as no one else has requested the book.  So far no one is waiting for any of my books, whew!

So here is what is currently on my designated “books from the library shelf”:

Just finished “A Rule Against Murder” by Louise Penny.  Love this series.  It was the perfect book to read during our recent premature heat wave (90s already!) since it was set during a late June heat wave.

Currently reading “Murphy’s Law” by Rhys Bowen.  This is the first in a series.  I read one in the middle of the series that was set at Christmas at Christmas and really liked it.  So now I am starting from the beginning.

“A Family of Poems”  gathered by Caroline Kennedy with lovely art work by Jon J. Muth.  I have always wanted to be a person who reads poetry but alas I have a hard time getting into it.  I saw this book in the children’s section and thought it would be a perfect way to give poetry another chance.

My large on-deck pile:

“The Quality of Silence” Rosamund Lupton

— I am a sucker for any book set in Alaska.  I think reading about all that snow makes me feel cooler here in the desert.

“The Sound and the Fury”  William Faulkner

— No promises though I have read if you can get past the first chapter it gets easier to read. I thought it was time to try and work a classic or two into my reading life.

“Aunt Dimity and the Buried Treasure” Nancy Atherton

—  Another series I have been reading.  Light but I love the settings and can totally picture myself living in the little cottage in Finch.

“The Photographer’s Wife”  Suzanne Joinson

— I love it when I can learn history from entertaining fiction.  This book is set in Palestine between World Wars I and II, a place and time which I know nothing about.

“Legacy of the Dead”  Charles Todd

— Another series I am reading.  This book is near the beginning of the series (#4, published in 2000) and yet there always seems to be a waiting list at the library for these books.  Post World War I England, a murder to be solved and tea to be enjoyed.  No better combination.

“American Sniper”  Chris Kyle

— I have been wanting to see the movie since it came out but still  haven’t gotten around to it.  Now I am on the wait list for the DVD from the library but decided I want to read the book first. Typically a book provides a lot more detail than the movie.

“Die Like an Eagle” Donna Andrews

— Another “fun murder” series set in Virginia with lots of crazy people.  The kind of family I love reading about and so happy I don’t belong to.

“Yours Truly” Heather Vogel Frederick

— A children’s mystery.   I stumbled on the first book “Absolutely Truly” while waiting in the children’s section for my son to pick out some books. I read it and liked it enough to check and see what else the author had written and saw that a second “Truly” book was on order.  So I put my name on the list and the book came in much quicker than I expected.  I like the New Hampshire setting and the fact that it is a military family and a bookstore is involved.  I sort of wish they could adopt me.

“Black and Blue”  Anna Quindlen

— I have read several of her other novels and “Every Last One” still haunts me.  So I thought I would try this one.


So there you go, a variety of reading suggestions from “Yours Truly”.  HA HA, I should close all my posts with a book title!


December Delight #14

Once again I pause in gratitude for the public library. I love libraries. It is just that simple.

This week I found the the fiction display set with a Christmas theme.  In no time  at all I had a lovely stack of books to look forward to.

  1. “Christmas at Tiffany’s”  by Karen Swan
  2. “A New York Christmas” by Anne Perry
  3. “A Season of Angels” by Thomas Kinkade and Katherine Spencer
  4. “Winter Street” by Elin Hilderbrand
  5. “Away in a Manger” by Rhys Bowen (I just finished this one and now have added the rest of the series to my read list)


Of course I also own a shelf full of Christmas themed books that I cycle through every few years.  One of my favorites is Maeve Binchy’s  short story collection “This Year It Will be Different”.

Having a good book to look forward to reading makes me happy.  I hope you find your happy today!



Birthday Joy List

Today is my 50th birthday!!  I have to admit I am pretty darn happy I have lived this long! So here is my joy list from the past few weeks:

  • Getting a bunch of small, lingering tasks done.
  • The public library (this would be on every joy list of mine!)
    • Some recent books from the library:
      • “Rebecca” (Daphne Du Maurier)
      • “A Fall of Marigolds” (Susan Meissner)
      • “Dead Wake.  The last crossing of the Lusitania” (Erik Larson)
      • “A Walk in the Woods”  (Bill Bryson)
      • “The Hiding Place” (Corrie Ten Boom)
  • Sitting on my swing at dusk watching the bats swoop around and knowing they are eating all those pesky mosquitos.
  • Two (in my lifetime) inventions that I find really useful:
    • the debit card
    • the DVR
  • Our local classical public radio station
  • Rain helping my rosebush bloom
  • The start of football season (Go Wildcats!  Go Broncos!)
Some people put on their game face, I put on my game shoes.
  • My son getting to play outside more with the cooler weather in the evenings and the neighborhood bully moving away.
  • Cake for dessert tonight!  Specifically  Coconut Pecan Upside Down Cake (which my son and I are making together after school today)


Happy Birthday to me! And to YOU whenever your birthday is!

Last Year’s Birthday dessert at Disneyland.

Four Days of One’s Own

Redwood trees in California

An unexpected gift – spouse and small child off to visit the Grandparents. I stay home to save money, keep the pool from turning green and spare the dog the ordeal of being abandoned for the second time this summer. And to give myself a chance to think, breath, drown in quietness.

Thoughts before:

Four full days and two partial ones to do as I please. And what would please me?  Gorge on junk food and movies?  Lots of sleeping?  Spend all day floating around the pool?  Read books all day with a box of chocolates by my side?  All of the above!

Did I want to make a plan to use every blissfully all mine moment?  Or did I just want to wake up and see how the day unfolded? I decided to make a loose plan for three of the days and let one day be spontaneous.  I wouldn’t pick which day but just let it find me.

My planned days had me doing stuff on the computer and getting my 10k steps done in the morning.  Lunch would be my main meal and after cleaning up I would watch a movie.  Then putter around or read a bit before taking a swim somewhere around 5:00p.  (Still very warm out but avoiding the brutal desert sun.)   Next would be a salad for dinner and dessert.  After that reading or watching television.

The Reality: 

The first two days pretty much followed the plan.  Saturday and Sunday went unplanned.  The break as a whole was fabulous.  I seldom left the house and I drank in the peace and quiet.  I will try and summarize how things went.

Things that surprised me:

  1. How little interest I had in cooking.
  2. Finding a dead mouse in the pool one morning and a live scorpion in the dog’s food bowl one evening. (Such is life in the desert.)
  3. Taking two naps.
  4. How little time I spent in my office.  I spent much more time in my bedroom watching movies on my computer, reading, journaling and thinking.  And taking those two naps.
  5. Starting to do yoga again, rather out of the blue and completely unplanned.
  6. Learning I wake up at 6:30a on my own.
  7. I not only swam everyday, but at different times of day.
  8. How poorly I am coping with the heat these days.  It was over 100° F every day and I hated it. Especially two very windy days.  Hot breezes are not good.

What I ate:

Mostly leftovers or eggs.  I did indulge in a few chocolates (okay most of a medium sized box), ice cream for dinner one night, and one fast food meal (Chick-fil-a).  In the interest of full disclosure I also ate two donuts that I “accidently” grabbed when I stopped for milk after church.  A Boston creme and a chocolate iced cake donut and they were yummy!

Movies I watched:

  1. “Rebecca”
  2. “The Shipping News”
  3. “A Perfect Murder”
  4. “The Guns of Navarro”
  5. “Twenty-One Days”
  6. “Housewife, 49”
  7. And some Christmas movie on the Hallmark channel

Books I read:

  1. “The Union Quilters” by Jennifer Chiaverini
  2. “The Mysterious Death of Miss Jane Austen” by Lindsay Ashford
  3. “Magical Journey” by Katrina Kenison
  4. “A Year By the Sea” by Joan Anderson

I also read a bunch of articles on the internet about coping with menopause, specifically when you have younger children.  My longing for quiet and stillness is perfectly normal at this stage of my life.  Many women feel the need to take a bit of a time out and evaluate their present and their future when they hit fifty or thereabouts.  But most women’s children at my age are out of the nest or soon will be.  I am looking at ten more years of full time mothering.  I need to find a way to balance my needs with the demands of parenting a young child.

Basically all the articles said the same thing about coping with menopause, you have to take care of yourself.  Reduce stress and you minimize the menopausal meltdowns. I was already learning that.  Life was on a more even keel since I started giving myself a bit of quiet time each morning.  Maybe I could do a bit more to take care of myself?

New priorities I made based on what I learned and dreamed about:

  1. Do yoga or meditate every day.  Even if I only meditate for five minutes.
  2. Take time to stop throughout the day and repeat my mantra. (It is sort of silly so I am not sharing it.  Unless you really want to know and then just ask.)
  3. It is okay to stop and ask what I really want to do at any particular moment, and then do it.
  4. Continue on with my good habits of 10k steps, quiet time and getting to bed early.
  5. After a bit of experimenting I have decided food is not at the base of all my ailments.  But I still want to eat healthy, simple meals avoiding as much processed junk as I have the willpower for.
  6. Be more mindful with everything I do.  Folding laundry, cooking dinner, taking a swim.  Stay in the moment as much as possible.  I am so tired of worrying about the future or reflecting on poor choices made in the past.  I need to learn to simply be here.
  7. I really wanted to be outside but not in the crazy heat.  I have promised myself a day up in the mountains once the weather breaks.  So probably not til late September but it is nice to make a promise to myself.

Some of these tasks are going to be very hard and some will get dropped before they barely get started.  But some will stick, maybe not exactly as how I imagined them but hopefully exactly as I need them.



Sometimes Books Find You

Playing around with my camera.  I grew this plant from a seed, a rare success for me.

Usually when I go to the library I have a list of books to look for or a pile to pick up from the reserved shelf. Of course this never stops me from a casual browse, no matter how big my pile of books already is.  There are some shelves right by the front door where the staff has some sort of themed display. There is a shelf of recently returned books that sometimes yields an interesting nugget.  And sometimes I just walk amid the shelves randomly pulling titles that catch my eye.

Recently I stumbled onto the book “the gift of an ordinary day” by Katrina Kenison.  An interesting memoir.  At times it was a bit repetitive but still…there were lines that made me stop and think.  She was the same age I am now when she wrote this memoir, though her sons are older than mine but still…I could relate.  Chapter five, “doors” I read twice and wrote down several quotes from.

You never know where a little help is going to come from.  I have been working hard to improve my relationship with my son lately.  Trying to find the proper balance of mothering and letting go. Finding my parenting priorities.  Which battles do I fight?  Becoming more accepting of who my son is.  Many traits of his are not going to change and nagging away at them helps nothing.  I can’t change my son.

But I can change myself.  I can be the mother I want to be. I will backslide and be inconsistent and still have the occasional parenting meltdown.  And when this happens I can retreat to my office and read through all my notes.  Remind myself how to be the mother I want to be.  I trust the universe will send me the encouragement and tips and advice that I need.  All I have to do is walk through the library.

Experimenting with a spray of water
and different light.

B is for Books

Considering the fact that I read more than 100 books a year you would think I would write about books all the time. Yet I seldom do. Lots of other people write about books they recommend but I prefer to find most of my books by randomly browsing at the library.

I read to escape, to experience other times and places. To vicariously live another life for a brief span of time. Not much highbrow literature. I prefer my alternate lives to remain down to earth and easy to understand.

I am partial to mysteries and WWII historical fiction. I like to read “cozies”, novels with recipes and am partial to stories set in England. I like to read series but they have to be in order. I also prefer to read books set in December in December, summer books in summer etc.

I have a small notebook where I  write down books I want to read. I have probably had this little notebook for ten years. When I find a series I like I go on-line and list them all in order and then request them from the library (one at a time!). Pima County has a great library system and I love how I can order any book they have and they will bring it to my preferred branch.

I didn’t realize my son’s stuffed quail was peeking around the curtain until after I took the shot.

Some of the series I have been or am currently reading:

Richard Jury by Martha Grimes
Apple Orchard series by Sheila Connolly
Walt Longmire series by Craig Johnson
Joe Pickett series by CJ Box
Elm Creek Quilter’s series by Jennifer Chiaverini
Both the Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth series by MC Beaton
The Diva series by Krista Davis
Kate Shugak series by Dana Stabenow
Meg Langslow series by Donna Andrews
Lucy Stone series by Leslie Meiers
Needlecraft series by Monica Ferris
Faith Fairchild series by Katherine Hall Page
The Ladies of Covington by Joan Medlicott
Aunt Dimity series by Nancy Atherton
Mitford Series by Jan Karon
Adam Dalgliesh series by PD James

Beatrix Potter series by Susan Wittig Albert


Series that I read with my eight year old son:

Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Parks

Puppy Place series by Ellen Miles

The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Henry and Mudge by Cynthia Rylant

Mr. Putter and Tabby by Cynthia Rylant (or anything by Cynthia Rylant!)

Any and all books by Beverly Cleary


These lists are not all inclusive but you get the idea.  I had to stop somewhere!  And I don’t just read series of course.

Here is a list of my recent library books:

“Pioneer Girl”  (The annotated autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder)

“The New Neighbor” by Leah Stewart

“In the Woods” by Tana French  (I had seen this writer mentioned on two different blogs and then she was mentioned in “The New Neighbor” and this book happened to be on the library shelf so I thought I would give it a try.)

“The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap” by Wendy Welch

“Small Plates” by Katherine Hall Page

“Wedding Cake Killer” by L.J. Washburn

“Death of a Chimney Sweep” by M.C. Beaton

“In Plain Sight” by CJ Box

Audiobooks for our drive to and from the Grand Canyon (also courtesy of the Pima County Library):

“Judy Moody Declares Independence”  by Megan McDonald

“The Teddy Bear Habit” by James Lincoln Collier

“Secrets of a Civil War Submarine”  by Sally M. Walker

“Encyclopedia Brown Finds the Clues”  by Donald J. Sobol

Most Favoritest Book from the past year?  “All the Light We Cannot See”  by Anthony Doerr.  Only book I ever wanted to start re-reading again immediately.  (Only I didn’t because there were still many people on the waitlist at the library.  But I am so reading it again this summer!)

So there you have it, a post of my book life.



After the quiet month of August spent settling into new routines for school,  September has felt crazy busy. I have three,  once a month outings and I failed to realize they all take place the first week of the month. Add to that the one Thursday night game of the Arizona Wildcats and being in the feeling exhausted phase of the Whole 30 and it was a rough start to the month.

Things are settling down a bit,  though it is another busy week. Really hoping the “tiger’s blood” kicks in soon. One task on the list for this week is prepping for our new flooring install at the end of the month. Since we are doing the entire first floor we had to figure out what to do with all the furniture. Smaller items will be stored in the garage and the installers will move the bigger pieces around as needed. But in order to do that most of the items on the bigger pieces need to be removed. That is what I will be doing this week.

After reading “the life changing magic of tidying up” I counted how many books I have. Three hundred and thirty-eight. Is that a lot? I can’t decide but since I am keeping them all I guess that number is just right for me. However since about half of them are downstairs and I will now have to move them, I may change my mind.

I have been thinking about the best way to move and store all the books and knickknacks.  My first thought was to box them all up but we don’t have any boxes.  I do have a few empty totes and bins but not enough for everything.  Today I decided to use an empty tote to move the books upstairs.  I will line them up along the wall in the hallway.  I am going to do two or three bin fulls a day and we will see where we are at the end of the week.  After all the books are moved I am hoping all the knickknacks will fit in the bins.  I will put away my summer beach theme decorations and wait until the flooring is done to put out autumn.


This is  5 loads of books.


Still have a little wall space to use.

I took a long time deciding what flooring to get.  Homes in our area typically have some sort of tile or carpet.  A few have hardwood.  I went with the unconventional choice of linoleum.  Yup, linoleum.  I am not a fan of tile for many reasons:  cold, hard, slippery when wet and the whole grout thing.  Carpet is hard to keep really clean here, so much dust in the air.  Plus we have an open floor plan which means high traffic areas.   I considered hardwood flooring of some type but it seems an odd choice for such a dry climate and I didn’t think wood was the best option for coming in from the pool.   I also wasn’t sure how quick hardwoods would get scratched up with a small boy and a dog.

I wanted something very durable, easy to clean and comfortable.  Linoleum is all this plus environmentally friendly.  I chose to go with Marmoleum and found a reputable installer.  I am using one main color (Shitake)  and second lighter color (Caribbean) for the 1/2 bath and as a border in the kitchen.

I am a little nervous.  It is a lot of money and I hope I love it as much as I think I will.  It is the second major decorating choice for the house.  The first was paint colors and I am still loving my choices there.

It is going to be a lot of work and upheaval but it will be worth it.  I have been wanting to get rid of the yucky cheap carpet for two years now.  I think about how nice everything will look at Thanksgiving and Christmas this year and for years to come.  I am excited to be moving into the more visible, fun part of updating our home, even if it does involve carrying books up and down the stairs.

The Big Swap (in Pictures)

My son and I swapped spaces right after we returned from the mountains.  We moved his play area upstairs into the extra bedroom that was my office and my office downstairs into the living room/dining room area.  After some internal deliberation I decided it made sense to do the swap before school started. My son wanted to do it right away, I wanted to do it the week school starts (he goes back on a Thursday) so we compromised to a date in the middle.

Here are some before pictures:

Downstairs play area in what is supposed to be the formal living room.
Downstairs play area in what is supposed to be the formal living room.
What will be my son’s half of the closet upstairs.
Baker’s rack staying in the upstairs play area.
My half of the closet that I am keeping.
The table I use as my desk, a general view of how the room was set up as my office.


We spent two days lugging items up and down the stairs, moving furniture and cleaning.

After photos:

The start of my son’s Lego City.  He kept the table and those houses are on a “mountain”.
His side of the closet.
My side of the closet, not too bad.


We swapped the treadmill and the baker’s rack to give more open floor space.  I kept the top two shelves of the baker’s rack.  (He can’t reach them anyway and I needed a place for photo albums!)

It already looks messy but that is okay.  That is why we moved the toys upstairs.

And here is the downstairs:

The living room area now looks like a living room.
The dining area with “my office” in the background.
Play area storage is now my office, piece one.
Piece two. My printer is inside on a slide out shelf.
I love my dog table!
Most of the time I work at the dining room table but piece two is set up for a desktop computer.  I store my laptop in the drawer with the all the wires for the printer and power tucked inside and I can work there too. I brought my chair down to use because it is on wheels, easier than moving a dining room chair and more comfortable.
My son and I each had a cubby so we just swapped contents.  I like how the cubby and my office chair are hidden from the front door by the couch.
So basically my new office is in the entry hall. It seems a little odd but hey, it works.  (I have a lamp shade coming in the mail. I needed an odd size and couldn’t find one around here.  I stumbled on a vintage burgundy plaid one that is the right size on Etsy!)
I like how the office area isn’t “in your face” when you are sitting in the living room.  From the couch you don’t even notice it.

I am very happy with how all my stuff fits into the space.  So far my only concerns have been a lack of privacy for me (the first few days every time I got on my computer my son and/or husband appeared over my shoulder commenting on what I was looking at) and I don’t think my son loves being upstairs alone as much as he thought he would.  I believe both problems will be solved with the start of school.

A few other changes that were a result of the swap:

This wonderful nightstand moved from my old office to the upstairs hallway and makes an excellent place for a very large dictionary.

Remember how I wasn’t loving the way my Agatha Christie’s fit on the wicker shelf?


I finally came up with a solution.  I swapped the wicker shelf for a wider, shorter bookshelf I had in my bedroom.


I like the way this looks much better, more space.
The wicker shelf re-purposed in the bedroom.  Better for the wicker, less weight.

So there you have it, one major reorganization project finished.