What I’ve Been Up To

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My new job is near the mountains. This was where we had our annual party celebrating the founding of our company. I can’t get over how beautiful the mountains are.

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I’ve long wanted my own kayak, but I wasn’t sure if it was just something I was holding onto, so I thought I’d take a kayak tour of the Potomac. It ended up being a rainy day and everyone else canceled, so it was a private kayaking adventure with just me and the guide. It was the best, and yes, I do still want a kayak. Time to start saving up. (And figuring out where to keep it…)

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IMG_20141004_141241We went to a bbq festival in Richmond a few weekends ago and it was a perfectly beautiful, warm, lovely blue day. The neighborhood we walked through had some amazing flowers and front porches. Plus this adorable fairy garden.

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Finally, this weekend we went to the Farm Festival at Sky Meadows Park. It was a gray, cold day, but perfectly lovely for taking tours of old houses and learning about beekeeping and staring at the beautiful colors on the trees.

The Most Useful Gift

I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity. – Eleanor Roosevelt

I noticed something a while back – I stopped asking why.

I accepted things. I almost just didn’t even notice unusual things or things I didn’t understand. They were just swept aside, categorized as unknown and left at that. I think I have a fear of not knowing, of being ridiculed for what I don’t understand. I don’t know what eventually made me stop and wonder what I was missing, but I started to notice. I woke up. How many interesting things in the world had I missed because I didn’t ask why? Because I didn’t try to learn something new?

I almost felt like I’d been robbed. It’s so easy to get stuck – you take the same way to work every day, you go to the same stores, you walk the same paths. It’s routine, and there are some lovely things about routine, but it’s also so easy to forget to pursue something else. Time seems to pass so quickly when you have a routine. Your days run together and you can’t pick out one from the other. There were times in the last year or so that felt scary fast, like time was slipping away too quickly and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

But there is something I can do to slow it down. As this New York Times article says, “the velocity of time is a big fat cognitive illusion” and you slow it down by asking questions, learning new things, pursuing interests. “Become a student again,” learn. Be curious. Ask.

I started a new job a few weeks ago and it truly does feel like the past few months have crawled. In fact, it hasn’t even been two months. It’s barely been a month and a week! I’ve learned so many new things. It’s a completely new industry and a completely new job. I’m on my toes constantly, trying to observe and learn as much as possible. Last week I gave my first training and I think I did a great job. It was amazing to feel that satisfaction again.

I’m the kind of person who easily gets frustrated when I can’t master something quickly and I just need to get over that. I have been pining to learn to knit for years, but give up because I’m already good at crocheting and I’ll just go crochet something. I forget that it took me a lot of time and a lot of scarves that were shaped like triangles to learn how to crochet well. Knitting isn’t something I can’t do. It’s something I haven’t been willing to devote the time to practicing.

I saw a quote from Bob Ross on tumblr recently and it was a good reminder: “Talent is a pursued interest. Anything that you’re willing to practice you can do.” If I want to knit, all I have to do is practice. I want to do a lot of things. I am interested in learning how to build furniture. We need three bookshelves and I don’t want to just buy them, I’d love to be able to build them myself. I found a four week woodworking class at a local community center on building for less than $200. Then I found all their other classes. There are SO MANY things I can learn and try. Botanical drawing. Stargazing. Sewing. Calligraphy. I can’t wait to sign up for my first class.

This is a thought that has really been spinning in my head since we moved. I don’t want to be a person who doesn’t use the greatest gift of curiosity. I don’t want to be a person who doesn’t learn, doesn’t ask why. I don’t want to be a person who is too lazy and discouraged to try and master something. So I’m trying. I’m reminding myself. I’m telling myself. Learn. Be curious. Ask. It’s my new mantra. It’s a perfect gift to myself.

Why do you go away? So that you can come back.

When I last posted here, I had an inkling that big changes were on the horizon. They were a possibility, an opportunity, a decision not yet made. But here we are, almost five weeks later and life looks so different. New state. New job (as of Monday). New apartment.

When I moved to New York, I wanted nothing more than to work in books. I was so fortunate that I got to do just that – I worked in the special sales department at a large independent book publisher for 3 years. It was amazing. I had the best coworkers anyone could ask for and I’m sad to leave them.

When I left Virginia and then North Carolina I had a feeling it wouldn’t be for forever. I missed my family and being a short drive away. There were things about New York that I could never get used to. When Michael got a job offer back in our home state, we just couldn’t let the opportunity go. Now, I can drive to see all of my sisters in one afternoon, something that felt impossible before. I’m halfway between my mom and my dad again, which is a good place to be.

I’m going to miss NY – the food, the movement, not needing a car. Don’t get me wrong, I love to drive, but I tried to figure out how I could take a train from Virginia to NY at 4AM without having to ask anyone to wake up super early to drive me and there was no way. I’ll miss being able to get off the subway and feel like I’m in a totally different city, a different version of New York. Mostly I’m going to miss the people. All of us, most of us, from all over the country, all over the world, who turned up there for one reason or another.

But I’m excited about all the things I missed about Virginia and DC. Beautiful, technicolor springs. Snow days. (I walked to work in a lot of snowstorms this year.) Quick errands. The ability to travel so many places in one day. I can get to Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Richmond, or Raleigh in 5 hours or less. Free museums. People, from all over the world, who have traveled to make this their home, making it an interesting and vibrant place. New York and DC have that in common.

And I’m excited for a completely new direction in my career. I will miss publishing, but I’ll always have something of a link to it through my blog. I’m determined to stay up-to-date with publishing news and new releases. But I just accepted a job at a nonprofit and I’m excited to be back in that world, too. It feels like the exact right decision.

I’ve missed writing about books and talking to you and now that things have settled and things are almost in order, I plan on being around here a lot more with renewed enthusiasm.

The title of this post is from Terry Pratchett’s A Hat Full of Sky. I haven’t read it, so I hope I’m not taking this quote completely out of context, but it felt very appropriate for how I’ve been feeling about returning to Virginia, about leaving NY, about switching careers. The full quote is: “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” Life is full of choices that change the course of where we’re going and you never know how one or the other is going to affect things in the long term. I’m so looking forward to finding out, though.

10 Days of #100happydays

A good friend of mine jumped at the chance for #100happydays early. She’s almost done! And I hesitated for a long time – I didn’t want another project that I was sure to drop, especially when days got hard. Seeing more people join in, though, and seeing all their happy things? I caught the happy bug and now it’s been ten days of happy things. I have to say, there is something wonderful about planning ahead, picking the one thing that represents the things that made you happy that day. The best days are when you can’t pick what to do. There are the days where it’s a struggle, but I’ve been making myself go out and find a happy thing. I think this little project is doing what it’s meant to.

100happydays1. “Take Me to Church” by Hozier – I started #100happydays at about 9PM when the only thing making me happy was curling up into bed and going to sleep. Oh, and listening to this song on repeat.

2. A rose! When I was in college, I often passed by a florist on my way home from studying in a coffee shop. I would buy just one flower for a dollar or two and put it in an Orangina bottle on my desk. We were walking through Queens when I decided I wanted to do that again. Michael bought me this rose and I put it in a Cheerwine bottle and it’s living on our kitchen table.

3. “Pulaski At Night” by Andrew Bird – I used to listen to Andrew Bird all the time, but I didn’t fall in love with his last few albums and he sort of fell off my radar. Until I heard “Pulaski At Night” in the first episode of season 2 of Orange is the New Black. Hearing that song was like coming home. Needless to say, it’s been on repeat since. I’m only allowing myself one music post a week, though, because otherwise it feels like cheating. I’m not REALLY taking a picture of anything, just a screenshot.

4. Homemade Strawberry Popsicles – Last year Michael and I went crazy with our ice cream machine, which was awesome because homemade ice cream is infinitely better than the store stuff, unless you’re getting it at a small-batch ice cream shop (yes, I just got a little ice cream snobby – don’t get me wrong, pretty much all ice cream is good, but some ice cream is better than others). This year, though, we went a little bit lower maintenance and bought a popsicle mold. These were the first ones! And they’re delicious and so easy it’s silly. Just pour lemonade into the mold about 3/4 full, slice up some strawberries, freeze.

5. My best friend and college roommate (remember when we went to Luray Caverns together? #tbt) sent me a postcard with our cute faces on it. I immediately put it on my cube bulletin board of love, filled with post cards, birthday cards, photos of me and Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness, Galentine’s Day cards, and pictures from my calendars that I like enough to stick on the wall. It makes me happy to look at every day.

6. Finally, ice cream from Big Gay Ice Cream, because it was a crappy day and this made it infinitely better. Plus a cameo from spiderman.

Not pictured: Some amazing times with friends (I don’t want to post these pictures without asking! They know the photo is up on Instagram, and that’s one thing, but I’d prefer asking them all before I posted it on the blog) and Thursday night’s #100happydays, which will almost certainly be a picture of The Three, because I can’t put it down at all.

 

This past month…

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I feel like so many things have happened and I don’t even know where to begin. The days all jumble together until I can’t tell one week apart from the other. I’ve traveled a lot – to Philadelphia, Virginia, North Carolina, Indianapolis. That picture up there is from my plane and that’s Cincinnati. Did you know that the Cincinnati airport is actually in Kentucky? I’ve worked. I made up for only reading one book the entire month of April (to be fair, it was A Feast of Crows) by reading 5 books this weekend (four comics, one novel). I’ve enjoyed good weather and bad. I’ve had wonderful news and horrible news and all the ups and downs that come with it. I’ve learned things about myself and feel like time has passed both too slowly and too quickly. All in all, I’m incredibly grateful that I got to just sit on my couch this weekend.

There have been times this past month when I didn’t miss blogging. A few afternoons when I thought I could give this up, probably. But there have been other days when my fingers have itched to write and I tried to let them write without a purpose, in a journal, in a google doc, and I missed this. What I really missed was you. I have felt a little bereft not knowing what’s going on in your lives. I’ve spent the past few days catching up – I’m sorry if I didn’t comment, but know that I read it and I want to know more! What has happened to you this month? What have you been reading? Tell me everything.

This week in…

blogging.

I made two manageable goals at the beginning of the year: record a quote from every book I read and post at least once a week. So far I’ve kept that up! I’ve been posting very general thoughts about books, random things that occur to me when I am reading or when I begin writing the post. I’ve been calling these posts “Quotes & Notes” and so far, I’ve published ones on Things I’ve Learned from Dying by David R. DowThe Reconstructionist by Nick Arvin, and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Next week, you can look forward to reading about Tandem by Ann Jarzab, On Such A Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee and probably Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.

reading. 

I’ve decided on a very basic reading schedule for 2014 based on what has worked well in January:

  • one book in translation
  • one book from work that is publishing in Fall 2014. I want to read the whole Fall fiction list, something I haven’t done in the almost 2.5 years I’ve been at this job.
  • one 2014 release (not from work)
  • at least one comic a week
  • the rest from my TBR in 2014 list

I feel like the reason I always fail at reading my TBR is because of all the new shiny books out there! This gives me two books that I’m allowed to buy a month, plus a third new book from work. All the excitement from Comics February has made me remember the days when I used to read one comic a week. It might not happen every week, but it’s good to have the goal. At my standard reading pace, this help me get pretty darn close to finishing off my 2014 list, while still not feeling bored by having my reading planned out for the year. ALSO I’m perfectly happy DNFing a book from my TBR list. I’ve already sent one out the door that I just couldn’t stand.

I’m not expecting every week to be perfect, but it helps to know what I want my 2014 reading year to look like (which I already talked about here and here) and actually applying that to a month’s worth of reading!

crafting.

I’m working on a “scrap” blanket, in an effort to use up ALL THE YARN. For a while, I was just buying any pretty yarn I saw, and then never finished any projects with it. Fortunately, all the colors I own compliment each other pretty well, because it’s coming together nicely.

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As for what I’ll do when this is finished and I have no yarn… I have been thinking of trying out one of two new hobbies: bookbinding and hand quilting. I’ve been following Trish’s progress on her hex quilt and I really want to make my own! I even picked out the fabric I would use. I am also obsessed with this bookbinding tumblr and I watched a ton of bookbinding howtos from Sea Lemon this morning. Both of these hobbies are going to take a little investment, so I have to decide! I have dabbled in bookbinding and sewing in the past, but not seriously. I’m looking forward to learning something new!

loving.

  • Andi’s post “15 Topics for your Blogging Blues” – I shall keep this post in my pocket for all the rainy blogging days.
  • Sasha’s post “Into Whatever Crazy Beauty Awaits” – The last paragraph of this gives me  chills. It’s so so beautiful and such a wonderful way to anticipate the new year. I’m trying to hold onto all the New Year enthusiasm as long as I can. When is it no longer acceptable to say Happy New Year?
  • Jason’s post “Comfort Food” – “I love [pb&j]. Like, the actual emotion. Like, I have an intense, fraught, passionate relationship with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.” Yup.
  • Linda Holmes’s post “Chris Christie and Pulling the Red Handle” via Clare @ The Literary Omnivore – Amen is all I really have to say about that.

looking ahead.

This week, I’ll be reading If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino (my monthly translation!), Someone by Alice McDermott (book club read), and The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling. Plus anxiously anticipating Comics February!!!

What did you do this past week? What are you looking forward to next week?

How I Read

In 2008, I read almost exclusively books from the 1001 Books To Read Before You Die list. I read a lot of important books. I also didn’t enjoy myself very much.

When I began blogging, I read books to fulfill challenges, books recommended by other bloggers, and, as I got on a few publishing and book tour lists, galleys.

This past year, I read whatever I wanted, when I wanted.

Those are three very different ways to read. I probably read more translations and classics the year of the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list than any other year – I’m not sure I’ve ever been more well-read, in terms of what society and the canon consider to be important reads. But that list can’t sustain me. I need fun; I crave it.  I need balance between the important because someone else said so and the important because I said so.

I also didn’t read a lot of recent releases. Receiving galleys of books not even published yet really made me feel up-to-date with what is being published now. I read books that ended up on year-end lists! This year I’ve hardly read any. As nice as it was to feel like my reading was current, I didn’t like feeling like I was reading on someone else’s schedule.

This year, for the most part, I read whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted and in a lot of ways it was pure bliss. I bought a lot of books and read them immediately – when was the last time I did that? Instead of letting them sit on my shelf waiting for “the perfect moment,” that moment was the day or week they landed in my mailbox. But I found that I only read one translation, not nearly enough books by people of color, or books set in different places around the world.

This is a long way of introducing how I want to read things in 2014. I really only have one goal for next year: I want to learn things. I want to practice things. I want to get things right. There’s not really a wrong way to read, but this year I want to find that sweet spot between new releases, difficult, important reads, and books that I want to read. I want to read more books by women and I want to read more translations and I want to be a lot more well-informed when it comes to what is showing up on year-end lists.

I want to write down at least one quote from every book I read. I used to start out every review this way and I miss having a record of the piece of the book I loved the very most. I want to read more purposefully, but at the same time, not feel trapped by my purpose.

I don’t want to set myself up for failure. I don’t want to say I’m going to read one translation a month or read 30 books from around the world. I just want to be aware of what I want, of the kind of reading year I want to have. I want to keep up with the themed reading months. Comics in February, gardening in March, horror and thrillers in October, Nonfiction November. Those months were amazing and focusing so closely on one topic made me feel like I was really learning something about a genre or a topic or a form. I’m not sure what my themed months will be, but I know I’m already looking forward to them.

2014 is going to be the year of learning, the year of practice makes perfect, the year of balance. Or at least the year of trying for all three.

ABCs of Thankfulness

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My favorite holiday blogging tradition is here! Happy Thanksgiving (or Thursday, if today is not a holiday where you are!). Originally started by Trish way way back in the day.

Andes Mints. When I was little, my amazing, wonderful, missed grandmother kept a box of Andes Mints in her dining room. I remember spending most of Thanksgiving sneaking Andes mints before dinner started and trying to stay out of the way. I thought it was a memory all my own, something that no one else really remembered. Then, when my family and I got together for an early Thanksgiving a few weeks ago, my aunt pulled a HUGE box of Andes Mints out of her purse. I realized then that the memory wasn’t only mine, it was shared with everyone, and that made it all the more special.

Blog. Okay, so I haven’t been the most consistent at this blogging thing this year, but I’m thankful that Regular Rumination is always here for me when I need a place to write down my thoughts.

Crochet. There are a lot of reasons I’m thankful for crochet, but my number one reason is because it is the only thing that will really calm me down when I am in an airplane. I’m a nervous flyer, but the repetition and focus required for crocheting keeps my heart rate down.

Dear Michael, You are someone I am forever grateful for. 

Evenings. The day is winding down, I don’t have to worry about work, dinner has been cooked, there’s just a book to read or a tv show to watch or some sleep to be had.

Feasts. How many times a year do you get to have a feast?

Ghost stories. I’m realizing that these might be some of my favorite kinds of stories. Why did I ever stop reading them?

Health. I am, for the most part, pretty healthy and I am always grateful for that.

Ice cream. So, Michael and I got our own ice cream maker about a year ago and it’s amazing! I love making ice cream at home. I’m thankful for the ice cream, but also for trying out new recipes.

Jam! This year, in addition to making our own ice cream, Michael and I have experimented making our own bread and our own peanut butter. Next on the list? I think it should be jam. So I’m thankful that I still have some homemade goodies to try out and learn how to make, but also because PB&J is just so so good.

Kickstarter. I’m thankful for Kickstarter, among many other things online, to remind me that there are amazing, creative people out there doing new things every day. I’m also really excited for the Veronica Mars movie and for this hot sauce. 

Love. I try to choose different things every year, but I can’t help but give love a special shout out every year. I’m so thankful for all the people in my life whom I love and who love me in return.

Mail order catalogs. I haven’t talked about this much here, but my job in publishing is as a sales rep to mail order catalogs. So, for keeping me gainfully employed, I’m very thankful to mail order catalogs!

November. You are just such a great month.

Oatmeal. Breakfast of champions! I can’t wait to make my first big batch of oatmeal for the season.

Pho. My favorite cold-weather food, not feeling great food, who-am-I-kidding-every-day food.

Quilts. Nothing better than curling up on the couch with a big, warm quilt someone made with love.

Raven Boys, The. This was such a fun book for me this year, but it really represents any book I can get lost in. I’m so thankful for those books that make my commute melt away into nothing.

Siblings. You guys don’t even know how much you mean to me. I love you and I’m so thankful for you!

Too Cute! Guys, have you seen this show? It’s amazing. I can’t have a puppy in my real life, so I’m thankful for Too Cute! to give me my puppy fix.

Unexpected, The. I’m thankful for the times when life throws me something unexpected, whether it’s a new friend when I wasn’t expecting it, a book I didn’t think I was going to love but do, or when something totally surpasses all my expectations.

Variety. I’m thankful for the fact that I relish in variety: I’ll read any genre, try any food, watch any TV show once, etc. etc.

Winter. I’ve always thought I loved every season except winter, but every year I like winter a little bit more. It’s just so nice sometimes to sit in a warm room while the snow is falling outside and you have a hot drink in your hand. Bonus points if there is a fireplace involved.

Nan Xiang Dumpling House. One of the best places to eat in NYC. I’m thankful for you!

YOU. If you’re reading this blog, I’m thankful for you!

Zillions of books. No matter how much I read, I’m always thankful that there’s another book on the shelf waiting for me!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. May it be full of family, food, warmth, happiness, and, of course, a good book.

What I was thankful for in 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009.

9. ACTUALLY RUNNING WHEN I SAY I’M GOING TO RUN

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It was gray. It was cold. My knees hurt. But hey! There’s the Statue of Liberty and there was a peewee football team practicing out on one of the piers. I listened to The Woman in Black on audio (perfect book for the weather) and generally felt accomplished, even with my slow slow speed. I feel like it doesn’t really matter how slow you go, though, if your heart is racing and your muscles hurt. Eventually I’ll go faster.

I hate cardio machines and I love my weight lifting and pilates classes, but I need a way to get more cardio in my life. Hence, the running. I’ve been talking about it for a long time, so it felt good today to finally just do something.

 

8. New Projects

If you have been following this blog for any length of time, you know that I’m addicted to starting things. Projects that get me excited about blogging again, about cooking again, about reading. It all just depends on what I’m “missing.”  Well, I’m about to start something new! And I’m telling all of you so I actually have to commit to it. Today, I finally got in the mail my copy of Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

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I have never been much of a baker, but I do really enjoy baking my own bread. I’d like to learn more, so I’ve been looking through blogs and finding new recipes. While doing that, I came across Tuesdays with Dorie on a few of the blogs I was checking out. Essentially, this is a group of bloggers who are working their way through every recipe in a book by Dorie Greenspan. They’ve already finished one and they have been working on this one since February of last year. Obviously, the project is well underway, but I thought it would be a good way to make myself bake if I had someone telling me what to bake, when. I’m actually really excited for the recipe for next Tuesday and I can’t wait to share photos! I’m not promising I will get to this for every scheduled Tuesday, but it seems like a really great place to learn how to bake. Some of the recipes seem a little bit challenging, so I know that I’m kind of diving in here. I expect lots of failures! Hopefully they are the kind of failures that still taste good and also teach me something.

6. Fall Festival

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We ate grilled corn with cajun seasoning and butter!

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I made some new alpaca friends.

IMG_20131006_132317Two alpaca friends!

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There were chickens.

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And just generally enjoying feeling like I’m in the middle of the country instead of the middle of the city. Now, I think I’ll go drink my half gallon of cider I brought home.

 

 

 

 

3. This Mug.

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October is one of my favorite month’s of the year. Pumpkins! Fall! Hocus Pocus! Baked goods! Scarves! Apple picking! Festivals! It’s a month full of things I love, so to honor my favorite month, each day I will post about something that is currently making me happy.

Like this mug from David’s Tea. When you put hot water in it, the leaves change color from black to orange and yellow. I love it so much that I bought myself a second one today so I have one at the office and one at home. Sometimes you have to surround yourself by the simple things and this is the perfect example.