Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Book o' the Month: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

You have probably heard of Shirley Jackson.  You have probably read her writing, but you just don't realize it.

I, like many students, read her short story The Lottery in high school.  It was disturbing.  We Have Always Lived in the Castle is disturbing, too.  And delightful.  Just read it.  (And then watch for the film in 2017.)

A little while ago, I saw a post about this author on the wonderful (Inside a Black Apple) blog, and got curious.  Emily dedicated a whole year to the works of Ms. Jackson, and I am tempted to, as well.

Oh, were you wondering if I finally finished Anna Karenina?  I did!  It took ten months.  It was glorious!  Then I watched the most recent film version, which was visionary!  I highly recommend both.

Now I want to read War and Peace (originally titled "War, What is it Good For?").

Monday, October 17, 2016

Book o' the Month: Beowulf

Valerie read Beowulf in her language arts class, and since I have always been curious about it, I checked it out from the library.  This version is a prose retelling published for young readers.  It was easy to read, easy to understand, but definitely chilling, violent, and gory!  In fact, I have come to the conclusion that Grendel is the most terrifying creature I have ever come across in literature.  And, now that I have read this telling, I would like to explore Seamus Heaney's translation--since I had my first and last brush with Old English in tenth grade with the Canterbury Tales.  (My sister and some of my high school friends can still recite several lines from memory!)

I asked Valerie to draw her vision of the nine sea-monsters.  Here's what she came up with!

Also the stuff of nightmares, no?  Just in time for Halloween!

P.S.  Still reading Anna Karenina.  Down to the last 200 pages.

Friday, September 9, 2016


Happy birthday, Mr. Tolstoy.  You would have been 188 years old today.  And that is how long it feels like I have been reading Anna Karenina (976 pages of tiny print!).

I have been busy with modern life.  But I love reading your words which take me to 19th century Russia.  I want to visit Levin's house in the countryside.  I want to attend a dinner party at the Oblonsky's.  I want to dance beside Anna and Vronsky at a ball.

I want to spend all day reading.  (So I can finish the book and watch the movie!)

(If you want to know what to read, check out Some of a Kind for EXCELLENT suggestions!)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Book o' the Month: The Lion's Paw

In fourth grade, Mrs. M.--one of my favorite teachers--read us The Lion's Paw by Robb White.  It is an adventure about two runaway orphans, a teenager and his father's sailboat.  I remember being absolutely riveted each afternoon as she read a chapter aloud.

I've been reading it to my son and he loves it.  Truth is, I read a chapter ahead first to preview that it is appropriate for his eight-year-old ears since it's been thirty-four years since I was in fourth grade!

I am continually amazed by the volume (heehee) of chapter books available for kids these days.  It seems I can count on my fingers how many chapter books I read in my preteen days.  The thing is, I don't know how good these books really are since I don't have time to read them all.  But I do use Common Sense Media quite often to check out both books and movies for my kids.

And...I am STILL reading Anna Karenina.  I am now on page 402 (out of 976), so I suppose that's progress.  I really like it, it's just loooooooong, plus summer busy-ness really picked up these past two weeks and there hasn't been much time.

The kids go back to school on August 10th, so then there will be lots of time for me to read Tolstoy.  Right?

Monday, June 20, 2016

Counting Chocolate Chips: How I Lost 40 Pounds in Eight Months

Image result for http://www.myfitnesspal.com/ image
Something happened last July when I got on the scale at my doctor's office.  I think it was seeing a particular number: 160.  The last time I got near 160 pounds, I knew I would either have to get pregnant or buy new (bigger) clothes.  Luckily, I got pregnant, which was the plan anyway.

Not so, last July.  I don't want to have any more babies.  (Are you kidding, I can hardly keep it together with the two I've got?!)

I had been using the mapmyfitness app since 2012 to track and log my workouts (running, walking, the occasional bike ride, and more recently roller skating and roller blading) and my doctor had mentioned a weight loss app a couple of years ago, which I tried for about a week.  I looked around and found a calorie counting app that links to mapmyfitness.  Myfitnesspal (image above is from the website which can be used instead of or along with the app) has been the missing link for me.

I set up a profile with my weight, height, age, activity level, goal, and how many pounds per week I wanted to lose (one).  The app designated how many calories I could eat per day to achieve my goal weight of 120 pounds, and I was off!

There is a huge database of foods that you can browse along with a barcode scanner that can be used to find packaged items.  It is so easy to use!  And calories burned and logged on mapmyfitness are synched so you can see how many more calories you can eat after exercise--just don't eat them all back!

The closer I stuck to my daily caloric intake plan, the more regularly the pounds came off.  There were weeks (December!) where I didn't lose weight, but at least I didn't gain.

I had no idea how many calories I had been eating per day before (probably up to 3000 at times!), or how many I actually needed.  I did go to bed hungry a handful of nights.  I learned that what I eat is extremely important.  I want you to know that I ate whatever I wanted to and still lost weight.  I just had to control the quantity.  And...100 calories of fruit (fiber!) is much better than 100 calories of chocolate at satisfying hunger.  Not that there weren't (many) times I chose the chocolate.  There were.

So, I can't tell anyone what their "particular number" is or how to finally decide to take control and lose weight, but I can say that myfitnesspal absolutely worked for me.  I still use it everyday to track calories so I can maintain my new weight.  I also keep a close eye on my protein, sugar, and fiber consumption.

I have more to say about healthier eating, exercise, and body image, so...more posts to come.

BTW, Traders Joe's Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips are approximately 4 calories each.

Book o' the Month: Anna Karenina...still

Hi there!  I thought I had missed only one month of posting, but it's more like almost three.  That's what happens when you work full-time, I guess.  I had a long-term substitute teaching assignment in kindergarten--and I loved it!

It was also a window into the life of being a working mom.  Weird designation because ALL moms work.  A LOT.  But there it is.  I worked full-time and survived.  It was exhausting and challenging, but I fed my family, did laundry, and got the the kids where they needed to be (with Hubby's help).  I was Supermom.  It was doable, even though some stuff didn't get done.

Like reading.  I am still not finished with Anna Karenina.  The title character didn't even make an appearance until Chapter 18, but now that she has arrived, things are moving along.  I am finding that Tolstoy is one of those incredible writers who can describe inner thoughts in such an accurate and honest way.  Good stuff.

I've got 700 more pages to go, so now I'm just hoping to finish by the end of July.

What are you reading this summer?  Need a recommendation?  Check out Some of a Kind!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Books o' the month: The Jedi Academy Series

My computer is acting wonky and not letting me open picture files, grrrr.  Thus, the late posting.  But...better nate than lever!

The Jedi Academy series (image above is from Barnes and Noble) are wonderful and highly entertaining comic-style books for ages 8 and up and up and up.  Everyone in our household has enjoyed them.  Andrew, my eight-year-old son, could be heard laughing from down the hall while reading these books (including The Return of the Padawan and The Phantom Bully).  We can't wait for the next one!

If you haven't been already, stop by Some of a Kind for more super suggestions!