Saturday, July 30, 2016

July So Far...

Since I'm striving to be authentic and real, here's a little recap of July for you...

Word to describe the month: Uncertainty!  
We're switching software programs at work, and it's looking like there will be less for Health Unit Coordinators to do.  A few of us were sent to a big hospital across the state, in Green Bay, on Thursday and when I get there, I found out they don't even use HUCs anymore.  Not a good sign, but this hospital is about 10 times larger than my hospital, so I haven't lost hope yet, still it's unnerving.  And, it's not like the job market is saturated here where I am.  On top of that, it's also been very slow at work lately, so they've been having us stay at home, and just be on call a lot. But on call pay is not much and it certainly doesn't pay the bills.

Watching: Doctor Who (season 9) and rewatching Firefly.  I love both these shows, although I still haven't warmed up to Peter Capaldi's Doctor.  He's okay, just not as much fun as Matt Smith or David Tennant.  But it's getting better.  Firefly is just so full of quirky characters that are flawed but lovable, it's been fun seeing them again.

Listening: A lot of Bon Iver and The Decemberists.  Typically, I find myself drawn to them more in the fall, but with all the uncertainty as of late, they've been in heavy rotation.

Reading (besides books): this great article from Yes and Yes about improving you blog without technical know how, this article from The Wonderforest about changing your life path, and this article from Takepart about how music can influence how we perceive flavors.

Working on: Some sewing for a craft fair this winter.  Some hand embroidery.  Gallery wall pictures.

Looking forward to: A fresh month.  I feel like July kind of spiraled away from me.  My eating got worse the more I got stressed thinking about work.  I took a lot of naps.  (Napping is like my coping mechanism when I'm stressed.  I know it does nothing to help the situation, but does put off dealing with the stress.  Tell me I'm not the only one who does this!) And, I justified eating potato chips when I was at work, because I was stressed, when it would have been much more beneficial for me to take a walk and get some fresh air or go down to the cardiac rehab lab and walk on a treadmill or something.  Consequently, my weight is up about three pounds and my body feels pretty blah.  Gotta get back on track!

Photo Highlights:
July Highlights

1. The other day, when I was on call, so I took a drive near where I grew up.  This creek is a spot where my dad used to take my brother and I redhorse fishing in the spring.  2.  Beets.  These aren't fresh from the garden, but aren't they pretty?  There's just something about beets.  3.  New coffee shop I discovered.  It was every thing a coffee shop should be, warm and inviting with good drinks, and bonus:  they were handing out free fudge samples.  4.  Cherries.  It's been a great year for cherries and I've ate more this summer than probably the last five years combined!

So tell me how your July was.  What word would sum it up?  Or what are you looking forward to?  Are you going somewhere?  New book coming out by an author you love?  Spill it, I want to hear how you're doing!

And, if you're not familiar with Bon Iver, here's a little taste.  He's by far the most successful local artist I know of.  (Local meaning he grew up about an hour from here and still comes back to town pretty frequently.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Bouquet List

After reading Chris Guillibeau's Happiness of Pursuit, I started thinking about what I want to accomplish in life, and while I've had this internal dialogue before, I typically focused on long term goals like writing a book or buying a home or finishing college.  But this time, I decided to focus on more of a to do list of sorts.  Things that are doable.  Some with just a little planning, some with some hard work, but all things that I should be able to accomplish before I die, if I get working on it.

I know most people would refer to that as a Bucket List, but I really hate that term for some reason.  I guess because the term "kicking the bucket" kind of annoys me too.  Did any of you ever watch "Keeping Up Appearances"? That's how I am, I kind of want to start calling it a Bouquet List.  A little pretentious, sure, but it sounds better. ;)

Anyhow, there's currently fifteen things on my list.  Here are five things I chose to share.
  1. Visit at least half of the National Parks.  There's 59 National Parks, with a large concentration in the southwest, as well as some in Hawaii and Alaska, but I think I should be able to accomplish half. The one nearest to me is Isle Royale National Park, which is a large island in Lake Superior, reachable only by small plane or ferry.  It's definitely on the list.
  2. Learn all the constellations.  The other night it was so clear and beautiful, you could see all the stars and I easily spotted Polaris and the Big Dipper, but after that, I was done.  I really want to be able to look up and see Orion and Pegasus and the gang.
  3. Learn French.  I started with an app called Duolingo and it's been pretty fun so far.  Truthfully, Spanish would be more practical around here, but maybe I'll add that to the list if I finish French.
  4. Sleep in a lighthouse.  Like at a legit B&B, not as a squatter or something.  There's a couple on the Great Lakes, and I'm sure more on the coasts.
  5. Take a trip by train.  This one would take a little planning, but Amtrak would be fun.  Or, if I ever get to Europe, I'd love to try Eurail.  Rick Steve's makes it look super easy. :)
So what about you, what's on your Bouquet List?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday- The Books Made Me Do It!

This week, The Broke and the Bookish is inviting everyone to share their list of ten things they wanted to learn after reading a book.  Going through my list of read books, I realized books have a tendency to shape us without our even noticing it.  I mean, my life may have turned out differently if I had read other books or just not read at all.  It's a little scary when you think about it!  Here's what books made me do (if only for a short time).

books made me do it

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barabara Kingsolver made me want to eat local.  I grow my own tomatoes, herbs, cucumbers, zucchini, and lettuce right on my deck, and I buy most of my meat locally, where I can be sure the animal was raised humanely.

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman made me want to sign up to be a lighthouse keeper.  Which, is very nearly a nonexistent job, because nearly all lighthouses are automated now.

The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova made me want to learn how to paint.

The Feast Nearby by Robin Mather made me want a tiny house.  After her divorce she moves into a little cabin on the shores of Lake Michigan and lives on a shoestring budget.

1984 by George Orwell made me want to move to the middle of no where and made me a little paranoid for a while.

Bogtrotter by Richard Coffey
made me want to build a home sauna and learn to bake in a wood stove.   I mean, just in case the paranoia gets to strong and I have to head to the woods.

Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindberg made me want to move to the beach and collect shells and think deep thoughts.  But mostly just move to the beach.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson made me want to learn coding and how to hack.  Not to become a hacker, just how to do it.

The Orchid Thief by Susan Orelan made me want to start an orchid collection.  The way they describe orchids and give you history of their commercialization, I guarantee it'd make you want to go stomping around the Everglades too.  Two cats who think plants are toys make this impractical, but I do admire them anytime I see one in a store.

Into the Wild by Jack Krakauer planted the first seeds of simplifying.  When Chrisopher McCandless got rid of everything he owned, people thought he was crazy, but at times it sounds really liberating.

What books have shaped the persons you've become?  And check out the link up to see what everyone else posted over at The Broke and the Bookish.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sweet Progress Summer Box Swap

If you've stopped over once or twice in the past couple weeks, you may have noticed my handy little Sweet Progress Box swap graphic in the corner of my side bar.  It's hosted by Mrs. AOK of A Work in Progress and Akaleistar of Happy. Pretty. Sweet and occurs quarterly.  The theme is seasonal and this was the very first round.

I was paired with Rezzo from hariharian who is a fashionable, socially conscious, Florida girl whom I was initially kind of intimidated to be paired with.  What's a Wisconsin girl going to get a Florida girl for a summer swap?  I mean, it's been 90s and humid here for the past week, but I think that's pretty much Florida all the time.  So, I got to thinking, and we both like the outdoors, and coffee, so that gave me a starting point.  And when I got her box, I realized that great minds think alike, because we got each a few similar things.

Look at all the cool things Rezzo sent me!
  • Pens and a new journal.  I am all about office supplies and writing down lists and ideas.  Plus, we go through pens like water through a sieve at work, so they always come in handy.  
  • I love the ice cream socks.  These will make getting ready for work a little more fun, because nothing is worse than spending a nice day inside at work.
  • Lip balm and sunscreen.  Which is great because I sent her lip balm and facial towels for surviving muggy weather.  I am horrible about remembering sunscreen- bad because I'm pretty fair skinned.   Lip balm, however, lives in my scrub pocket at work because hospital air is always dry.
  • And buttons!  I'm finally sewing again, so I know I'll put these bad boys to good use!
  • Sunglasses. (Not pictured because I've been wearing them and forgot!)  The sunglasses are tortise shell (my favorite) and perfect because I have prescription sunglasses for driving, but when I go for a walk or bike ride I always have to go get them out of my car.  Well not anymore.  My eye sight isn't horrific, but I am a little near sighted so for driving, they're very helpful.
  • And last but not least, inside the sweet card is a Starbucks gift card!  Coffee is my drink of choice no matter what the temp outside, so I know I'll be enjoying this sometime in the near future.
So if you want to see what I sent Rezzo, or see what anyone else got, go to the link up and pop around a bit, or sign up to be notified when the Autumn Swap takes place!  I know I will be doing it again.  It's just so much fun!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday- Around the World
This week The Broke and the Bookish is inviting everyone on a little book tour around the world to check out books that take place in places other than the United States.  Here are ten I enjoyed that take place abroad.

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman is soon to get the movie treatment and you can see why.  It takes place mostly on a lighthouse off the coast of Australia, where the lighthouse keeper and his wife are the only inhabitants.  It's a tear jerker but so good.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty is a modern day read, that I hear rumblings of being made into a movie as well.  Set in Sydney, Australia, it's premise is simple, Alice wonks her head at spin class and wakes up thinking she's still twenty-nine, deeply in love with her husband, and pregnant with their first child.  When really she's thirty-nine and she's getting a divorce.  What do you do when you wake up one day and realize you don't like the person you've become?

 The Bookman's Tale by Carlie Lovett takes place in Englad, and is a great read if you like Shakespeare history, book mysteries, secret passageways and family secrets.  And, I totally wanted to move into the main characters nice little cottage!

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde is a great literary story set in an alternate England where dodos are still alive and where Jane Eyre goes to India to help her cousin St. John Rivers with his missionary work!  Great if you love books and have a quirky sense of humor.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman takes place in a fictional English town and also has as very strong fantasy land aspect to it.  This is a great book for adults who still like fairy tales.

The Continent
In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larsen is the nonfiction account of the United States' Diplomat to Germany, Wlliam E. Dodd, and his family, living in Germany in the days leading up to World War I. 

Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay takes place in France in the 1940s.  It's a heartbreaker.  I'm just warning you upfront.  I didn't really know much about Vichy France prior to reading this book, and wasn't very impressed with it after finishing this book. 

Unreal Worlds
Uprooted by Naomi Novik is a great fantasy romp.  While I didn't seem to love it as much as the rest of the blogging world, I still thought it was very good.  If you enjoy magic, medieval times, strong women characters, and fantasy in general, you'll probably enjoy Uprooted.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell takes place in Italy, Puerto Rico, and Chicago, but most of the action happens on the planet of Rakhat.  It's not a happy go luck book, but will definitely stick with you.  What does it mean when you feel like you're destined to do something, so you do it, and it ends in the death of everyone you love?

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien set in the fictional land of Middle-earth.  No other has made me ache to be able to write quite like Tolkien.  He weaves these complex histories, cultures, and characters in a way that just immerses you in the action.

So there you have it.  My ten picks for books that take place outside of the United States!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Ten Book Facts About Me

Today I'm linking up with the girls over at The Broke and The Bookish to share ten facts about me, and since they're a book site, I figured it'd only be appropriate if these facts were book related.

  1. Book I wish I hadn't read yet so I could experience it again for the first time?  Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (read 05/31/2010).  This book opened up a whole new world of mystery to me.  There is a definite difference between a European mystery and an American mystery. Europeans seem to have more flawed (meaning more real) protagonists.  Look at BBC shows like Luther, Wallander, and Broadchurch.  I remember watching Wallander, and there's this episode where he shoots and kills a guy in self defense and it really tears him up.  In most American cop dramas/ mysteries the officer would have been placed on leave while the department sorted it out. Said officer would have demanded to be left on the case because they were so close to cracking it.  Boss would have refused. Said officer would have worked case on the sly with his police friends.  Solved it, and been begrudgingly praised for good work.  It's refreshing to see a more realistic, more human view.
  2. Book to read if you like dystopian fiction?  The Hand Maid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (read 08-14-2005)  Atwood is the queen of dystopian fiction.  This gem was written in 1985 but reads like something that could have come out today.
  3. Weirdest book I've read that was not intentionally weird?  Lambs of God by Marele Day (read 05-21-2013)  I can't believe this book has a rating of 3.69 on Goodreads!  It's a bizarre little story about three nuns who stay at a rundown, isolated monastery on an island, and the ambitious young priest who comes to relocate them.  They decide to pretty much hold him hostage, and while Goodreads describes it as "often hilarious" it was just too bizarre for me.  I kept plugging along, hoping it'd get better, but it didn't.
  4. Book that really needs to be made into a movie?  The Likeness by Tana French (read 03-11-2015)  I think all Tana French's books should be made into movies, but this one is my favorite.  I love Cassie Maddox and Frank Mackey and really think the write actors could nail this. 
  5. Second novel that just didn't do it for me?  Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger (read 12-31-2009)  I loved, loved, loved The Time Traveler's Wife but this book just didn't do it for me.  It was far to long for the story it told and it had a very unsatisfactory ending (in my opinion).  I never even looked to see if she wrote anything after Her Fearful Symmetry because it left such a bad taste in my mouth.
  6. Book I was surprised I liked as much as I did.  The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (read 02-19-2013)  One of the CNAs at the hospital, who was old enough to be my mother, insisted I had to read them.  I kind of turned my nose up at them because they were "young adult" and past experiences with that genre hadn't exactly presented the type of books I would want to read, but she brought them in anyway, and I started them out of obligation, but fell in love with Katniss and Peeta pretty quickly.  
  7. Book I was surprised I liked as little as I did.  Mr Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (read 09-22-1015) I had high hopes for this one.  I was so excited when I found it at the used bookstore and it's got a healthy 3.75 rating on Goodreads, but it just didn't cut it.  I was hoping for something more like daring adventure about books, instead I got this which I feel like someone obsessed with Google and computer programming wrote. 
  8. Longest book I've read.  The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (read 06-12-2006)  This hardcover clocks in at 642 pages, and it presented quite the ride.  It's a Dracula hunting, hopscotch across Europe set in the 1970s.  I thought it was great fun, even if it did take a little bit to get into.
  9. Most depressing read.  The Road by Cormac McCarthy (read 07-17-12)  If you think The Walking Dead is too cheerful, this is the book for you.  I have nothing but respect for the author.  His writing is great, you're sucked in, and you just keep waiting for something positive to happen, and it just doesn't, until maybe just at the end, but you have to wonder how long anyone is going to survive on the road.  
  10. Book I'd take with me to a deserted island, if I could only take one.  Selected Stories by O. Henry  This book is still on my to be read list, but I've read other collections of his and he can write tear jerkers, comedies, and little mysteries as well as anyone.  I think  could read this collection over and over again, without getting bored, until help arrives.
So what do you think?  Tell me what your answer would be to one of the questions above.   And, head over to the link up if you want to see all the posts. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

July Goals

June turned out to be a more successful month than it sounds on paper.  June was intended to be the clean up month.  And while I got a lot of stuff cleaned up, there's still more to be done.  Just let me explain, okay?

Here were the June Goals:

  • Finish Craftsy classes.  I was aiming to finish about three classes.  Instead, the only one I finished was my hand embroidery class, but I was still feeling great about finally finishing it, and the dish towel I was working on.  Here's my review of the class.  Plus, I've already finished a second towel in July.  But, then I got an email from Joann's giving me a free Crafts class, so I enrolled in Mexican Street Food (affiliate link)!  It's been on my wishlist for a while.  So, I didn't actually make any headway, but it feels good to finish the old class. 
  • Finish sewing 1/2 the things I've started.  Big fail.  Just hauling it all out was kind of overwhelming. 
  • Finish the books I've started.  I finished two of them, am still reading one, and decided I should restart another one at a later date, so that leaves one book that I still need to deal with: Reading Like a Writer.  And it's on my radar. 
  • Finish cleaning my office.  This one was accomplished on a late night and actually only took a couple hours.  It's not perfect but it's definitely cleaner and I can work in it again without wondering if Hoarders is going to be coming to do an intervention. 
  • Read four books.  I read five! 
  • Finish memorization and finish prayer cards, write daily. Nope to all of them. 
  • Plan the second half of 2016.  Done! 
  • Exercise five times a week.  Uhm.  Nope. 
  • Daily devotions.  Yes, for the majority of days.
So, on to July!

  • Hang up my gallery wall.  This was a goal from February, but I think it may finally happen!  I ordered my prints, bought my frames, have it mapped out on my wall.  It's gonna happen!
  • Write one hour a day, five days a week.  I need to just start setting a timer or something!
  • Cook one new recipe a week.  I'm leaning towards something vegetarian, but I'm not opposed to something I pinned months ago and never got around to trying!
  • Take two fun excursions.  This is just to try to push myself a little more and try new things, or at least get out of the house.
  • Lose four pounds.  I want to shed twenty more pounds by the end of the year, so it's time to get buckled down.
  • Read five books.   I'm a little behind my goal of 48 books for the year, so if I get five down, I'll be nearly back on pace.
  • Sew up two of my WIPs from forever ago.
  • Daily devotions.
  • Love people more. I don't have much of a plan for this one, just trying to remind myself that I need to do better.

Be sure to check out the link up here to see how everyone else did on their goals.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Sign Up for the #SPBoxSwap

So, I just finished participating in the#CreativesBoxSwap, but I've already signed up for another.  This one is hosted by Mrs AOK: A Work in Progress and Happy. Pretty. Sweet.  It's the Sweet Progress Box Swap and basically it's a new quarterly swap.  The first swap has a summer theme, so that leaves you lots of wiggle room but also a little bit of a plan. 

It's only open to the US.  It's a $20 box.  And sign ups are closing soon, so be sure to check them out quick if you want to join.  If you're a blogger who's never tried a swap before, I highly recommend it.  They're fun and a great way to meet other bloggers.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

July Reading List

I'm going in a little bit of a different direction with my July reading list, and keeping it light.  Nothing to deep.  Just good, entertaining summer reading.

Silas Marner by George Eliot is my classic pick for the month.  It's the deepest thing on my list, but it's not very thick, so I think it will still keep the light mood I'm going for in July.

A Secret Kept by Tatiana DeRosnay was salvaged out of the Goodwill clearance section.  While I didn't totally love Sarah's Key, I thought the writing good, and it held my interest, so I'm interested to give this one a try. 

Missing You by Harlan Coben is the type of book I normally avoid.  It's stamped #1 New York Times Bestseller twice, the authors name is bigger than the title (which I believe Beth from Printcess pointed out is usually bad sign) and it's a big, thick, mass market paperback, the kind that read fast and are available in grocery stores, but I heard good things about Harlan Coben so I wanted to give it a shot. 

Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards sounds sappy.  Perfect for summer reading.  It involves a return to home, a family mystery, and a  lost love.  I have a feeling it's going to turn out to be something I'd see on the Hallmark channel, but who knows.

So what are you reading in July?  Drop me a comment and let me know.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

June Book Recap

June Books

Books Read

The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau was also acquired this month.  It came from Blogging for Books and you can read my review of it here.

The Essence of His Presence by Lloyd John Ogilvie took me much longer to read than it should have.  It was so deep that I kept getting tired while reading, but it was actually a god read.  When reading about how as Christians, our lives should display love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control, I realized how lacking I am in all those areas. 

The Gift of the Red Bird by Paula D'Arcy is nonfiction and a pretty quick read.  The author writes about her spiritual journey after the death of her husband and young daughter after being hit by a drunk driver.  Paula survived the accident and a few months later, gave birth to the daughter she was pregnant with at the time of the accident.  I read this book after The Sparrow and it was a nice follow up.  It also gave me a lot to think about, and I think I'll be keeping this book, instead of passing it on as I normally do.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell is hard to describe.  It's fiction.  It involves space travel, aliens, priests, and yet still managed to stick with me more than any book I've read this year.  I was going to devote a separate post to it, but it's so multi layered, has so many characters, and left me with more questions than answers.  If you want to read a story about aliens, I think you'll enjoy it, but don't be surprised if it lingers with you and makes you think through what you think about many issues.

The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester took me over a year to get around to finishing, and you know what, I really didn't enjoy it.  I felt like it was supposed to be this look at how these two were similar even though they were in totally different situations along with how the Oxford English Dictionary was assembled.  I found the dictionary part interesting, but I really didn't care about the professor- James Murray, or the madman- Dr. W.C. Minor.  It's nonficion, so there's only so much of a story you can spin, but really, my life wouldn't have felt any less full if I'd never read this one.

Books Acquired

The Happiness of Pursuit- see above

Grace (Eventually) Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott.  I can never pass up Anne Lamott, especially when  it's half price at Goodwill

You're Already Amazing by Holly Gerth.  I think this book has been on my Bookmooch wishlist since it came out.  I'm kind of interested to read it.

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown.  Ever since I heard Brene Brown in a TED Talk, I've been interested in reading this book.

The Terror by Dan Simmons.  This is fiction, but it's based on the real story of three ships trying to find a passage through Canada in the 1840s.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows.  My mom picked this up and thought it looked like something I'd be interested in.  We'll see.

The Fox was Ever The Hunter by Herta Muller.  I won this book from Guiltless Reading and it involves friendship and mystery.  I think it'll be a good read.

2016 Totals

Books Read: 22
Books Acquired: 27

Friday, July 1, 2016

"The Happiness of Pursuit" Review

I don't think it's any secret that I'm big on setting goals and making to do lists, so when I got the chance to review The Happiness of Pursuit, I figured it'd be right up my alley.  I first came across Chris Guillebeau years ago, in an article about how to hack credit card reward miles to get the most bang for your buck.  I thought the dude was hardcore, but later I read about his quest to visit every country in the world and I kind of got why he's so intense about hacking his rewards miles. 

My rating: 4/5

This book delves into the benefits of having a big goal in your life.  It gives lots of real life examples about people who have set big goals for themselves and how rewarding it is to accomplish them.  Some of them, liking walking from one end of the United States to the other or running 250 marathons in a single year seemed impractical to me.  I thought that's great, but I can't really quit my job, and leave my family to take on some big quest.  But then I read about a lady who decided to cook a meal from each country of the world, focusing on one country each week, or a guy who read the entire set of Encyclopedia Britannica.  That's more my speed.  But, why?  Why take on some big quest?

Chris points out how having a long term goal can keep you from falling into the rut of the status quo life, how it's good to push yourself out of your comfort zone, and how tackling smaller goals gives a sense of accomplishment, and how you'll experience personal growth.  But Chris isn't all sunshine and rainbows.  He also discusses how sometimes your goals change and need to be reworked or the reason you want to accomplish something big may change, or your family and friends may not understand, or how if you DO accomplish a big goal you may feel overwhelmed or at a loss of what to do next.

So, while I don't have any big ideas for a quest, all the stories from people who undertook big dreams did motivate me to at least create a to do list of things I want to accomplish before I die and keep my eyes open for a challenge that appeals to me and has meaning.  What about you?  Do you have any big, long term goals?

I received this book for free, in exchange for an honest review from Blogging for Books.