Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Top Ten- Tales from Book Purgatory

Book Purgatory List

This week's Top Ten is a list of books that have been on your shelf since before you started blogging.  Oh my!  So many to choose from.  But, I finally narrowed it down, and above you will find the ten books I chose.  Here's a little about how they ended up in book purgatory.

Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood.  After plowing through The Handmaid's Tale, Wilderness Tip and The Robber Bride, I started buying up anything of Atwood's that I came across.  But, I got tangled up on The Blind Assassin and I think that made me a little gun shy about the rest of her canon.  Although I've read Oryx and Crake and a couple others since, so I really need to give the rest a read!

Watership Down by Richard Adams.  I've had this book for years, and just last month one of my friend's read it and was telling me all about it.  I think it got pushed aside because I thought it was going to be too sad. 

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards.  Lot of people were talking about this one when I bought it a few years ago, but it just never made it off my to be read shelf.  Now that I've read Lake of Dreams by the same author, it's got a better chance of being read.

Lisey's Story by Stephen King.  Believe it or not, the only Stephen King book I've read is On Writing.  My copy of Lisey's Story is one of those stout, little, mass market paperbacks, and I'm not even really sure what made me pick it up, but I really should read it.

The Namesake by Juhumpa Lahiri.  Again, not sure how this one found it's way home with me.  I'm guessing it was being talked about a lot, and I jumped on the bandwagon when I found a copy on a swap site or something.

Life of Pi by Yahn Martel.  Another instance of buying something because it was popular...

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.  Recommended by my women's studies teacher in college.  She has excellent taste in books so I really need to give this on a read!

Eva Luna by Isabele Allende.  Isabele Allende is another one of those prolific authors who have yet to read something of theirs.  I don't know if Eva Luna is the best choice, but I gotta start somewhere.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers.  Another author whom I have never read.  (I'm sensing a patter here.)  I think this was resigned to the stack because I thought it may be too sad, but I should really read it and find out.

Hiroshima by John Hersey.  Talk about depressing reads.  But, I feel like this is another one of my gaps in history and culture.  It's also super tiny.

Okay, so help me out.  Have you read any of these?  Which ones should I read right away and which onces can be made into doorstops?  Also, is there a different book by one of these authors that you think I'd like better than the one I listed?  Let me know!  And then stop over at The Broke and the Bookish and check out everyone else's Top Ten Tuesday List!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Short Attention Span Sewing

Quick and Easy Sewing

Guys, things are still crazy slow at work.  Last week I was on call for twenty five hours and only actually worked for fifteen.  It's enough to make a person go stir crazy.  Because while being on call and not working sounds delightful, the reality is that you have to be ready to respond to work at the drop of a hat, and you're on call pay is only $1.50 an hour (pretty sure they haven't raised on call pay since the opening of the hospital).  So, it's easy to fall into this trap of just watching a lot of Netflix.  (I speak from experience.  I powered through Jessica Jones and have moved on to Stranger Things.)  But, I've been trying to be more productive and read more and I decided to dust off my sewing machine.  I have barely used it since last December when I finished a big project for someone and sewed for a craft fair.

I don't really feel like working on a something big or persnickety, like sewing clothes for myself or trying a new bag pattern, when I'm on call and may have to leave in the middle.  But I realized little projects that can be done in steps are a win.  Things that you can start cutting out, but if you get called away, you can easily shelve until you get back to them have become my jam. 

So, if you're a lover of small but functional projects, or if you're a new sewing looking for some confidence boosting projects, here are my recommendations!

Tea Wallets

Tea Wallets

I use this tutorial from Cafe Mom but instead of making a loop out of fabric, i use pony tail holders or elastic cording.  These were a great seller at last year's craft fair.  They use up scraps and only take one 5x7 piece of interfacing.  So, they're great for cleaning up smaller pieces.  You can make the cover out of one fabric and then the inside out of something else, make them all the same, whatever you like.  I like to just iron pieces from my stash, cut them, and then sew a bunch of these up at once, assembly line style.  As you can see, I've made one or two of these.

Reusable Grocery Bags

Reusable Grocery Bags

Sitting beneath these tea wallets are one of my most made sewing projects.  These grocery bags from Michelle's Patterns are so versatile.  I use the large size at the grocery store and always receive a lot of compliments on them and the small ones are perfect for toting lunches to work, using as gift bags, or as produce bags at the grocery store.  You can see past ones I made here and here and here.  Like I said, they're a favorite project.

Boxy Bags (a.k.a. Dopp Kits)

Dopp Bags

These boxy bags from Kelly B Sews are a new favorite pattern.  They take much less fabric than you'd think, they look snazzy, and are highly functional.  All things I love in a pattern.  I've made four of these this month alone, and even finally cut into some of my favorite stash fabrics.  I love the Sweet as Honey line from Art Gallery Fabrics, but only had a yard each of a couple pieces.  But, I think these are totally worth it.  And with I yard, I can make four of these without breaking a sweat.

So there you have it.  If you're new to sewing these are all really easy projects.  And if you want to try the dopp bag but are worried about installing a zipper, never fear!  The directions are VERY clear and she gives some great tips to make it go super smooth.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Time for Books 'n Bloggers!

Hey, it's time for my favorite swap!  Chaotic Goddess' put on some amazing swaps throughout the year, but my far and away favorite is Books n' Bloggers.  This is the swap where you send and receive three books.  You send your partner a book off their reading list, a book you've read and think they'll enjoy, and a book of your choice.  And they in return do the same for you.  I don't know what I enjoy more- picking out three books for my partner or seeing what they pick for me.

In the past, I've swapped with some awesome ladies, like Olive from A Book Olive and Stephanie from Wife, Mommy, Me.  If you love books, and you blog, you really should join.  Just head over to Chaotic Goddess' sign up page and fill out their handy dandy little form, post a post like this, and then just wait to be assigned your partner.

And, is there anything I should be adding to my reading list?  Give me a recommendation if you've read something good lately!

Monday, August 15, 2016

5 Ways to Survive an Unfulfilling Job

Okay, so like more than half of Americans are unhappy with their jobs.  Is this surprising?  Well, it probably depends on which side you're on.  If you love your job, and find the work you do fulfilling or magical or life giving or some other big adjective, then the rest of this post is probably not going to make much sense to you.  But, if you wake up each Monday with a case of the blues, or you just wish you knew what you wanted to be when you grew up, this post is for you.

As someone who still isn't sure what I want to do with my life (and now in my 30s), here are some strategies for surviving.
  1. Figure out what you enjoy doing.  Not what you can make a lot of money at or think you're expected to want to do.  What do you enjoy?  If you aren't really sure anymore, think about when you were a kid, what did you like to do?  For me, I've always had three main loves, that I can trace back from childhood to the present: baking, reading, and writing.
  2. Figure out ways you can use these skills, even if it's not in work.  I find that having another area of your life where you're growing can make life more satisfying.  So, if you love animals, volunteer at your animal shelter, or if their social media could use some help, offer.  If you love to write, think about blogging, or if you don't want to have that kind of commitment or are nervous about it, get in touch with bloggers and see if you could contribute for them.  I don't know of any small bloggers that have a budget for guest posters, but if you have something to write about and want to share you wisdom, they may let you use their platform to get your feet wet.
  3.  Don't neglect your friends.  It's easy to get into a rut where we work, work, work, and then spend the weekends sleeping or catching up on laundry or marathoning Netflix but spending times with friends is so good for you mental health.  Don't talk about work and focus on being in the moment. 
  4. Learn something new.  Sometimes we get in a work rut and it can just make us feel like we're a zombie only good for faxing, collating and stapling.  But, learning a new skill can reignite you passion for life.  Learn to cook something new (affiliate link), take a class at the extension office, download an app to learn a foreign language, or decide to learn to snowshoe this winter.  Having a hobby or project is essential to keeping life fresh and livable.
  5. Stay positive and start working on an exit strategy.  This doesn't mean surf the "Help Wanteds" and switch one dissatisfying job for another.  This means really start thinking about what you want to do with this one life you've been given.  Figure out if it means you're going to need more training and how you're going to get it.  Maybe you want to start your own business on the side, start figuring out what you need to do to make it successful.  What do friends and family tell you you're good at?  Is there a way for you to monetize that?  With the internet, it's easier now than ever to start your own business.
So what about you?  Are you doing what you love?   What would you be doing if you knew you could make a living at it?  Leave me a comment below

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Top Ten: Books I Have Never Read

It's rewind day over at The Broke and The Bookish and they invited everyone to pick a past top ten that they had skipped or missed and do it this week.  So, I'm giving you my Top Ten Books (or series or authors) I've Never Read.  Some of these are going to probably be a surprise, others not so much.
  1. Anything Harry Potter.  Harry Potter came out when I was in high school and I dismissed it as being too young for me.  I was at this pretentious age where I didn't read anything unless the author was dead (meaning a classic- Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Agatha Christie).  I seriously thought if it wasn't a classic, it wasn't worth my time.  Man, was I a little book snob!  I do plan on reading Harry Potter some day though, hopefully soon.

    I just finished watching Firefly for the second time, sorry.
  2. Twilight anything.  I think this whole series has been way over exposed  Like, I feel like I know the story without ever cracking the book.
  3. The Divergent series.  If a book is made into a movie and I haven't read it yet, the odds of me reading the book go down tremendously.  If I was smart, I could probably make some type of formula to show this, but just take my word for it.

  4. There's some truth to this.
  5. Anything Nicholas Sparks.  Ugh.  I saw A Walk to Remember and The Notebook, but his writing is a little too sappy for my liking, and the fact that someone usually dies doesn't earn any bonus points with me.
  6. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.  I originally dismissed this as a straight romance novel, which I usually avoid like the plague, but the premise does sound intriguing.  This one may get a read someday.

    Okay, who doesn't want to be in a relationship with pizza?
  7. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.  If I had $1 for every time I stumble across this book at a garage sale, thrift shop, or used book store, I'd probably have $100 by now.  And it's not like I'm opposed to reading it, it's just that every time I see a copy of it, it makes me want to read it less.

  8. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  It's been on my reading list for years, and I've physically possessed a copy for over two of those years thanks to my Books'nBloggers swap with Jolene, yet it still is unread.  Why?  I have a feeling it's going to be soooo sad.  But, I really do want to read it!  And plan to some day.  Hopefully soon.

  9. True or not true?
  10. Anything by John Green.  No Paper Towns, no Fault in Our Stars, nope.  I think I view him as the young adult Nicholas Sparks, but I could be wrong.  He may get a shot some day.

  11. Anything by Lee Child, James Patterson, Vince Flynn, Sandra Brown, or Danielle Steele.  I have a tendency to keep away from the mass market paperback, so I've made it into my thirties, without reading some of the authors who probably move the most books.

  12. Anything by Charles Dickens.  I know what I said in #1, but the truth is, I've never finished anything by Dickens.  I've seen some movies, I've started some, but I've yet to get all the ways through a Dickens novel!  Another to add to the book bucket list.  
How about you?  Got a confession to make?  Or want to make a case that I need to give one of these a try ASAP?  Leave me a  comment below.  And don't forget to head over to The Broke and the Bookish to see what every one else posted.


Monday, August 8, 2016

Summer Salads

Summer is salad season.  And I firmly believe salad counts as a meal.  I pack it for lunch on the regular.  But, leaf salad gets a little boring and creamy pasta salads are tasty but they aren't exactly on the nutritional up and up.  So, I'm always on the look out for more healthy choices that still taste delish.  Here are three I've been eating this summer.

Kale Blueberry Salad
Kale Salad with Blueberries from Natasha's Kitchen.  I've never been a big lover of kale.  But this recipe makes it so flavorful,and softened it up just enough that it converted me.  The blueberries and dried cranberries give it a hint of sweet, the slivered almonds and carrots- a little crunch, and the apple cider vinaigrette pulls it all together.  Note, her original recipe doesn't call for almonds, but like I said, I think they add a little extra crunch.  Just, add them at the end with the blueberries and onion.  And you have to make sure you let it sit a couple hours so the flavors meld.

Caprese Salad
Caprese Salad is one I've been making for years.  It's easy to make.  Traditionally Caprese is made with Roma tomatoes but I like to cut up a pint of cherry tomatoes, toss in some basil leaves, and take a cup of mozzarella pearls or a mozzarella ball and cut it into chunks, then toss with a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil and add a little fresh sea salt.  You can eat it right then and there, or it'll keep nice in the fridge for a day or two, but to be honest, I don't think I've ever had any last that long.

Artichoke Rice Salad
This Artichoke Rice Salad may not look like much but it's pretty tasty.  I made mine with red rice.  And I use whatever color pepper  I have on hand.  The recipe says let it sit for three hours.  But I think it's better if you let it sit overnight and really give the flavors a chance to develop.  And don't skip on the fresh parsley.  It really does add to the salad. 

 So there you have it, my three salad champions of the summer.  Got a recipe to share?  Put the link in the comments.  

Thursday, August 4, 2016

August Goals and July Recap

July is in the rear view mirror and August is laid out all flat and full of promise in front of us.  So, that means it's time to look back at how July went and what we're planning for August.  Let's jump right in.


July Goals

  • Hang up gallery wall.  Well, it's in progress.  The frames are bought, and I have five pictures up.  But, it turns out a lot of the pictures I planned on using can't be blown up to 5x7 pictures, let alone 8x12.  So, it's taking a little more time than I planned.  But, I'm happy with the progress so far. 
  • Write one hour a day, five times a week.  Blah!  I was able to get more blog posts up, but didn't do much other writing. 
  • Cook one new recipe a week.  I only managed two new recipes.  One wasn't very tasty, but the roasted cauliflower was pretty good.  I've made it twice already.   
  • Take two fun excursions.  I managed to take four!  Two kayaking trips with some friends.  Tried out a new coffee shop and explored the used bookstore in the next town over.  And, visited Brunet State Park for a nice hike. 
  • Lose four pounds.  Ugh!  Stress eating really did a number on me.  I gained three pounds.   
  • Read five books.  Nope.  Only got three done. 
  • Sew up two old WIPs.  Only managed one and it was a tiny one.  But, it was an old one. 
  • Daily devotions.  Struggled.  Getting back on track though. 
  • Love people more.  Oh my gosh! I swear as soon as this one came out of my mouth, the challenges started.  I'm sure a lot of it is stress related.  I'm more on edge.  I was eating crappier food.  I wasn't exercising.  Everyone and everything was irritating me.  What can I say, it's a work in progress.

Alright, here's what my August plan is.

August Goals

  • Reestablish morning routine.  I need to get back into some healthy habits. 
  • Start back with morning pages.  I have all sorts of thoughts rolling around.  And I need to find some sort of outlet for all that. 
  • Walk at least three times a week.  I need to get more exercise just for my mental health, if nothing else.  
  • Clean eating.  No more potato chips.  
  • Sew twenty things for up coming craft fairs.  Got a lot of little projects lined up. 
  • Read six books.  With all the extra time I have had off lately, I figured I should have enough extra time. 
  • Four creative excursions.  Nothing fancy, just something to liven up the daily grind. 
  • More blog posts.  I'm aiming for twenty.  That'd be more than I accomplished in any prior month this year, but like I said, more free time.
So, how'd your July go?  Get anything crossed off that had been on your to do list?  Want to see what everyone else is up to?  Check out the link up at My So Called Chaos.