Category Archives: Odds and Ends

The List Lady

I’m an odd amalgamation of free-spirited, crunchy-granola-earth mother and Type-A, follow-all-the-rules list maker. It makes for an interesting life. Lists relax me, they release some stress, and in many cases they’re actually pretty fun. So because I really need to start this week on a calm, relaxed note (Novel-writing and Thanksgiving baking in the same week? I shudder at the thought!), here are some of my fun lists.

Things I Miss About Autumn in the East:

  • The smell of wood smoke when I step outside.
  • Leaves in bright colors.
  • Hiking amongst said leaves.
  • Flannel sheets
  • Hot soup as a necessity to warmth.
  • Boots, gloves, hats, scarves.
  • Hay rides and bon fires.
  • S’mores at said bon fires.
  • Watching White Christmas and Meet Me in St. Louis with my mom.
  • That cozy evening feeling when it’s cold and dark outside.
  • Watching Big Ten football with my dad.

Writing Necessities:

  • A hot beverage, preferably tea.
  • Candles
  • Solitude
  • White noise or calming music. (Damien Rice, various classical artists, Explosions in the Sky, and Norah Jones are among my favorites.)
  • A handy thesaurus, just in case.
  • Being totally ready: hair done, teeth brushed, dressed as though I were going to see people, etc. (I’m always more productive this way.)

Things I Miss About Being a Kid:

  • Getting lost in a book all day because I had nothing else to do or worry about.
  • Not caring about what other people thought.
  • Discovering amazing things, like science and literature and art, for the first time.
  • Halloween. It was so much better as a kid.
  • Being innocent to the world.
  • Visiting my grandparents.
  • The exhilaration of Christmas morning.
  • School. (Not even kidding!)
  • The comfort of having my parents in charge, not me.
  • Having my own room

Things I Liked as a Kid that Make Me Smile When I Remember Them:

  • Barbies; Beanie Babies; Doodle Bear; Polly Pockets; the game Trouble; jump rope and tag at recess; playing dress-up; running through the sprinkler; the Columbus Zoo; tea parties; finger painting
  • The Muppet Show; Reading Rainbow; Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood; Bill Nye the Science Guy; The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show; Letter People; Shelly Duvall’s Fairy Tale Theatre
  • Muppet Treasure Island; The Wizard of Oz; Pete’s Dragon; Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; Babes in Toyland; The Sound of Music; Mary Poppins; Brigadoon
  • Nancy Drew; The Wind in the Willows; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Rabbit Hill; Dusty Mole, Private Eye; Alice in Wonderland; Heidi; The Twenty-One Balloons; Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH; From the Mixed-UP Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Things I’m Excited About:

  • Thanksgiving: parade, food, all of it!
  • Christmas!!!
  • The Hobbit movie
  • Getting a Christmas tree on Friday.
  • Colder weather
  • Skyping with my family this week.
  • Finishing this novel. NaNoWriMo, I am ready for you to be over!
  • My birthday
  • The bubble bath I’m taking tonight.
  • The book I’m reading. Deborah Harkness is just fantastic!
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Books, Dog Sweaters, Talented Sister-in-Laws, and a New Gig

Four things.

  1. Ermahgaad! I’m so excited, y’all! I stayed up half the night finally reading (under the covers with a flashlight, grade school style, so as not to wake Tyler)

    All the books I’m reading and plan to read soon, minus Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, which I need to pick up from the bookstore. I need to get going!

    The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Lead the Revels There. I am exactly half-way through, and though an official review will come in the next few days (duh), so far I love it every bit as much as the first. Also, I finally bought Shadow of Night, the second installment of Deborah Harkness’ All Souls trilogy. I need to hurry if I want to finish them both before NaNoWriMo starts a week from today. (Eeeek! One week! I’m excited and nervous and scared and thrilled and really unsure what to expect. And excited. Speaking of NaNowriMo, am I crazy to expect to get any reading during November? I’d like to read one of three books next month. Is that unrealistic?)

  2. Oscar got a sweater. The cuteness is overwhelming my soul!

    You’re welcome.

  3. I’ve meant to write about this for a while now. I have four sister-in-laws, ranging from my age to 9 years-old. I adore them all. They are smart and funny and creative, but today I want to talk about Charity. Charity is 16, and she’s a writer. A legitimate writer whose getting a story she wrote in a local magazine! She entered a local library writing contest, and won first place! This is fantastic by any standard, but I’m even more proud of her because she choose to submit a story that shared her faith even though New England isn’t exactly a bastion of Protestantism. She won anyway, and now a local Berkshires magazine will be printing her story this winter! So, yes, I am incredibly proud of Charity and her mad writing skills. But I more proud of her for being willing to share what she really believes through her writing, and there are many adults who need to take a leaf out of her book and do the same. writing truth, for the win! (And yes, as soon as I can get my hands on a copy of the story, I will share!)
  4.  I have a new gig. A friend of mine recently started a life-style blog for 20-something women, and asked if I’d like to contribute. I said yes, of course! My first post on Miss Grown Up,  5 Tips for Writers, went live today, and we’d all be grateful for your support as we start this little blogging endeavor. I’ll be writing various articles about writing and marriage and other occasional whims, as well as book reviews that I’ll link to here.

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Filed under Books, Odds and Ends, Oscar

100th Post, an Anniversary, and a Poem.

Big things are afoot today!

First of all, this is my 100th post on this blog! Considering that I took a good chunk of time off, hitting my 100th post just 14 months after I started is not too shabby. Thanks to all of you who have read, commented, shared, and encouraged. A blog is nothing without community, and mine is small but wonderful.

Today also marks our first anniversary of living in San Diego! I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since we rather unexpectedly packed up our lives and moved to a new city. There were some tough, lonely months in the beginning, but we have gained so much since we arrived in our new city: a wonderful home, great friends, a fantastic church home, a cute puppy, and lots of life experience that we are the better for, both individually and as a couple. San Diego is not home in the way that Ohio is home, but it is the next best thing, and I definitely look forward to what the next year has in store for us here. I feel undeservedly blessed.

Also, I feel like this blog needs some gratuitous animal pictures. Because blogs without pictures are booo-riiiing!

This is what Oscar looks like when someone takes a bath without him. He really likes baths.

And this is what Cambria looks like when she wants more food (because a half-full bowl is not good enough for our little queen), but you ignore her and blog instead.

Now, on with the show.

Today is the 15th day of Poetry Month, so as promised, I will share. Here goes nothing:

When most are just beginning to thing about running, we
are finishing the first major lap. We stop for
a drink, and they ask our advice, but their eyes
are glazed. “Run hard and don’t be selfish.” They smile
and nod, as though what we have will
be so easily attained. As though we did not battle and
bleed, as though a good marriage can be
selected and gift wrapped at any department store of choice.
We continue running, smiling our secret smile because we know that
soon they will begin, and words will be thrown that no one really
meant, and she will cry and he will
feel a little fooled by her rosy lips that tricked him here, and
the real marathon of love will begin.

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Filed under Odds and Ends, Poetry, San Diego

Things I Could Live Without…But Don’t Want To.

Remember Oprah? Of course you do. I used to read almost all of her book club suggestions, and, I admit, watch her show at least twice a week. I miss Oprah. And I miss her Favorite Things show. You know, the one where she would give away all this great stuff that she declared she just couldn’t live without to everyone in the audience, leaving us at home drooling with envy?

This is my version of a favorite things show. Because this is my blog, and I’m obviously, like every blog writer, a little narcissistic and think someone out there will care, even if it’s just my mom. (Hi, mom!)

Anyway. As I was working around my house this week I was thinking of all the little details I love and appreciate. They aren’t necessary for survival, but they are a few of my favorite (material) things that make my life a little easier or bring a smile to my face. And I figured that if I like these things, others might to. So without further ado…

Things I Could Live Without…But Don’t Want To

  1. “From the Library Of…” Stamp: This is probably the coolest thing I’ve owned since my Beanie Baby collection went out of style in the sixth grade. I can’t even tell you how fun it is to stamp your name in the front of a new, crisp book, and I love the idea that someday someone else will open this book when it’s not so new anymore and see the little piece of history I left there, since I know I love finding stuff like that in the used books I buy. My parents gave me my stamp for Christmas. They purchased it from StampXpress on Amazon. It sells there for $29.95, and is available in 12 different designs and colors.
  2. The Elements of Style By Strunk and White: I really can’t say enough good things about this handbook. Like the cover says, I do take it with me when I go anywhere to write. Both informative and witty, this little guy is filled with sage advice and reminders about those rules it’s easy to get confused or forgetful about when you’re neck-deep is a project. Every writer and college student needs to have this book! I got my copy for $9.95 from Barnes and Noble, but there are also hard-backed and illustrated editions, and it is usually available at any book store worth its salt.
  3. Magnetic Bookmarks: One of my pet peeves is how traditional bookmarks always fall out of my books. It really grinds my gears because I get very intense about my books, and I hate losing my place. I know this is a very “first world problems” situation, but it truly does make me grumpy. Magnetic bookmarks to the rescue! These handy little works of genius are a tad on the expensive side, usually coming in 4 or 6 packs for around $5, but they are totally worth it because they never fall out of your books! They’re available in many varieties at Barnes and Noble, but I’ve found them other places as well. (Strangely, there aren’t many listed on the Barnes and Noble website.) I keep my spare ones on my calendar, otherwise I lose them or the cat eats them.
  4. Storybook Planner: A really good planner has always been the keystone to my organization. I can’t use my phone or computer as one because I am not tech savvy enough, and also I hate the idea of being so tied to my electronics that I can’t go a whole day without them if I want to. And this year I found my favorite planner yet. I bought this cute planner from the Etsy shop Storybook Journals, where they upcycle storybooks as spiral-bound planners and journals. These would make great gifts for bookish friends, and I plan to get my next journal here as well. (PS: I think she’s done selling the school-year planners, but I believe she makes planners that start in January as well, so Christmas gifts are good to go!)
  5. Journaling Bible: I know not all my readers share my brand of faith, but if you do this is the coolest Bible I’ve ever seen. I’ve had it for about two years, and it’s so useful! Sermon notes, quotes, thoughts, prayers, bible study notes, all recorded next to the corresponding passage. It’s everything I’ve learned all in one place, along with the most important text I’ll ever read or need. So useful. Journaling bibles can be found in a variety of translations and designs, but mine is the English Standard Version (ESV) standard black hard-backed version, which sells for $23.09 on Amazon. They can also be found in Christian book stores such as Crossway and Lifeway, and I have seen then in Barnes and Noble as well.
  6. Wunderlist iPhone App: This one is a freebie, and I love freebies. As much as I don’t like keeping my schedule in my phone, I do love list apps. I am a huge list person. I make lists for everything: groceries I need, chores, improvements I’d like to make to our home, gift ideas for family and friends, books I want to read, things I want to write about, name I like for future babies, personal goals I want to achieve, people I need to write letters to…the list of my lists could go on for days. This is the best list app I’ve found. It’s easy to use, has a clean design, and is available for all Mac products, so if I put a list on my phone, I can access it on my iPad and laptop as well. So convenient.
  7. Bathtub Book Caddy: Is there a woman in the world who doesn’t love lounging in a hot bubble bath reading a good book or a stack of magazines? I didn’t think so. My rack is the Teak CrossTub Caddy from Bed, Bath, and Beyond, which sells for $39.99. (I have to give a shout out to my hubby, here. This was one of my Christmas gifts from him last year, and it wasn’t even on my list. Big husband points to Tyler for knowing me so well!)
  8. Magnetic Spice Jars: I do so love magnetic things. And these are huge space-savers for us, since we seem to have a propensity for apartments with tiny kitchens. We buy them at World Market, where they sell for $1.99 a jar, and come in red, green, silver, and aqua. (The links are for sets of six, but they do sell them individually in the store.) We put them on the side of our refrigerator, but I’ve also seen them hung on magnetic wall strips above stoves and sinks. I believe Ikea has a version of these bad boys as well, but I like the color options of these, as you can tell.
  9. Joy of Cooking Cookbook: When we were first married I had very few clues how to do anything around the kitchen. My mother had tried to teach me over the years, but I was just too busy reading books and being a general Dolly Daydream. So she sent me this cookbook a few months after our wedding as a last-ditch effort to save my budding housewifedom. Filled with everything from how to pick fresh fruits and veggies and make a proper pic crust to what to serve at any type of party and  common substitutions for basic ingredients, this book has been my lifesaver more than once. Plus, it’s actually very well written and enjoyable to read through.  It sells for around $30 at various places, all of which are listed on the official Joy of Cooking website.
  10. Prince of Wales Tea: This is another World Market discovery. I am a black tea fanatic, and this lightly flavored tea is smooth and mellow, perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up or a last evening cup. Though it’s produced by Twinings, I’ve only every found it at World Market, where it sells for a cool $3.50. It can also be acquired through the Twining’s website.

So there you are. Were I to governess the VonTrapp children and sing to them during a storm, these are the items I would be singing about. And probably schnitzel with noodles as well.

(Note: Nobody paid me to do this, and I don’t get any commission or discounts from any links clicked on or items bought because of this post. These are all just things I really do love and wanted to share.)

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Filed under favorite things, Odds and Ends

Hello? Anybody There?

If you are still out there, then I am a: shocked, and b: grateful.  I’ve been gone a long time, but I needed to be gone for a long time. Sometimes those pesky little dark night’s of the soul pop up when least expected, and if you ignore them they get worse. Guess what I tried to do? If you said “ignore it,” you are very correct. And then it got worse, as I’m sure you’ve guessed. So I took a break from a lot of things: from reading, from writing, from blogging, from looking for a job, from beating myself up about it.  And I started spending a lot of time in prayer, and with my family and friends. I took a lot of time to focus on what matters and who matters, and tried to cut out the excess.

I love literature because it puts us face to face with truth, with reality, with the whole of humanity. But sometimes that hurts, and sometimes I need to look away. I’ve only really read the Bible and a few old favorites that are always good for my soul (Anne Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, Shauna Niequist’s Bittersweet, Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies, Dr. Zhivago, A Wrinkle in Time, bits and pieces of The Chronicles of Narnia, and lots of Denise Levertov, Rumi, Rilke, Dickenson, and Frost.) That puts me hopelessly behind in my quest to read 104 books this year, but I just realized that some things are more important than reading, or even writing. I know most writers would balk at that statement. I’ve been admonished time and again that “We write because we must! Because it is our charge, our purpose, our calling! We write when it is painful because that is what it means to be a writer!” And sometimes we rest, because we are human, even those of us with calloused and ink stained fingers.

But there is a time and a season for everything. And this is the time and the season to crawl back into the light. Hello blog! I’ve missed you!Hello books on my bookshelf! You are dusty and beautiful, and I can’t wait for the adventures we are going to have! Hello pen and journal! I have so much to tell you! Hello story I was working on! I have so many ideas for your future! Hello great wide world! I am different now, but I think I’m better, and I’m ready to rejoin your dance!

I know I’m going to have to work pretty hard to build back up my readership, but it was worth it. I have started reading a thing or two in the past few weeks, so hopefully come Monday I’ll have a new review up. And since I have nothing else worth while to say to you right now, here is a brief photo update of the last two months of my life: (Warning, if you follow me on any social media, this is going to be a lot of repeats for you and thus probably a little boring. So sorry!)

Remember my favorite baby Josiah? I cuddled him a whole bunch.

I spent a lot of time at the beach…

…and I spent it with my best friend.

I got some good advice from a fortune cookie, and from some friends, though I didn’t take their pictures.

I took many gratuitous photos of Cambria, who did not mind.

We ran a 5K obstacle course challenge. Or rather, Tyler and a few of our faster friends ran, and I walk/ran it with a few of our less ambitious friends.

Tyler went to NYC for business, and I had to stay home. But I started this book, and he brought me back this huge mug, so it was okay.

And while he was gone I got to spend my afternoons with this adorable puppy, so that made it okay too.

Cambria found a new hiding/sleeping spot in the bathroom.

We celebrated friend’s birthdays, and Tyler got even more handsome, which I did not realize was possible. Look at that jaw line. Mmmhmm.

A friend found a left-over turkey in his freezer, so we all got together and had a feast. All I can say is the world needs more holidays with turkey, and also look at that amazing view!

We bought Cambria her very own castle, and now she insists we call her “Queen Cambria.” It’s mostly an honorary title since she makes no laws and really just sleeps up there like normal non-royal cats.

We went to our very first Polo match!

At the Polo match we dressed all fancy and drank champagne and pretended to be rich. We are not in actuality rich, but we did look fairly dapper.

I made the Queen cuddle with me a lot, because even Queens need love.

(Not pictured: I also ate a lot of ice cream, called my mom and/or dad almost every day, and spent a lot of time snuggled up with my man watching Dr. Who. It was, all-in-all a good respite for my soul.)

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Filed under Babies, Books, Cambria, Cats, Odds and Ends, San Diego, Tyler, writing

Little Facts

Three things I need:

1: A haircut. Bangs grow too fast.

2: New clothes. I’ve lost a whole lotta weight since last summer, and my clothes are getting too big. This is a hard-earned victory. Hooray!

3: Dinner. I am getting hungry, and my chef is being lazy with something she calls a “blog,” whatever that is.

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Happy Birthday, Cambria!

This is the story of Cambria.

Three years ago today I was a brokenhearted woman mourning a kitten and a baby, both gone too soon. And three years ago today I met my new kitty. An adorable, though timid year-old Siamese cat, Cambria had been abandoned as a kitten and caught in a trap meant for a raccoon. Saved from being put-down by a local rescue, she was healthy, but terrified of everything and everyone. The women at the rescue said she needed to go to a home with no other pets and lots of love, and I told them that we fit the bill perfectly. My mother’s heart needed someone to take care of. In the car, she sat in the farthest corner of her carrier and her whole body shook with fright, but she looked at me intently, her eyes never leaving my face.

When I let her out at home, she hid under the couch for almost five days. She’d come out at night to eat and drink, but that was all. Slowly, she started to explore other corners of the house, when no one else was there, of course. And then, one night I woke up with something furry and warm cuddled by my side. Cambria was home.

It didn’t happen all at once, but Cambria slowly became the cat she was meant to be: smart, playful, loving, always ready with a purr, a snuggle, and a kiss. And I, overtime, became myself again too. It’s like our little family was meant to be.

So Happy Fourth Birthday, Cambria Kitty. I’m really glad you are mine!

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Filed under Cambria, Cats, Caturday, Odds and Ends