Some Thoughts on Reading

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I’ve loved reading since I was a kid. I would read anything I could get my hands on, from The Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High to Dean Koontz and Edgar Allen Poe. I loved the scholastic book catalog and trips to Waldenbooks at the mall where I would sit on the floor, surrounded by books until I was forced to leave. As a teen I discovered literature and poetry and soon I had a carload of books to pack up with every move in college and beyond. I always had a book with me, and would read any chance I got.

Then something shifted. My life as a mother, particularly in the baby days, didn’t leave me with much mental space for reading. If I was reading a book, it would take me a long time to get through it, and I would often finish it feeling meh. I had lost the ability or desire to lose myself in the story, fictional or not. This was the first time I realized that reading books is a skill, and spending time doing it is a choice.

So when my daughter was a toddler and life started to feel somewhat predictable again, I decided to return to books. I would make the time and try to rediscover my love of reading.

Setting a reading goal for myself felt like a fun way to stay motivated, so when January rolled around I resolved to read 12 books that year. This was before I was on Goodreads or keeping track in any sort of way, so I can’t recall what I read or how many books I read that year. But what I do know is this: my love of reading was rekindled and my ability to dive deep into a story was restored with each book.

Why I Read

For me, reading is a way to connect to myself and to humanity at large. I read to reaffirm what I already know, to discover new ways of understanding the world, to challenge my beliefs and privilege, to have adventures beyond the scope of my reality, to connect with the stories of other humans, to be entertained, to escape, and sometimes just to have fun.

When I read, I’m giving myself a gift, a little something that exists just for my own satisfaction. It’s not for or about anyone else. Reading connects me to my truest self, all the messy, complicated, romantic, intellectual, cynical, silly parts of me that maybe get set aside in my day to day life. To me, this is time well spent.

Making the Time

Last year I read an astonishing (to me) number of books. It was quadruple the amount of books I set out to read in my first reading challenge, and I had to ask: how did this happen?

Well, I decided to make the time.

First I looked at how I was spending my “leisure time” (quotes because as a working mom I didn’t feel like I had much time to spare). I quickly discovered there were pockets of time lost to social media, tv, and similar.

I almost always read before bed. This meant adjusting my bedtime so that I’m hitting the pillows before I’m actually ready to fall asleep. I also always read in the bathtub; it’s my favorite place to start a new book!

Another way I make time to read is by always having a book downloaded on my phone via the Kindle or Libby apps. Libby connects to your library card, and you can borrow ebooks and audiobooks alike. I’ve also started making sure I have an audio book downloaded – usually non-fiction – to listen to in the car or on walks. Pro tip: if I’m reading a longer print book, sometimes I will also borrow the ebook from the library. That way instead of losing 15 minutes to social media when I’m in a waiting room or early to school pick up, I can read my book.

Another shift: I gave myself permission to stop reading a book I didn’t love. My reading time is precious! I’m not going to squander it trying to get through a book that I’m not connecting with. Sometimes I put the book aside for another time; there are seasons and moments for books, and when the timing is off, it just doesn’t work.

some of my January/February books

My Reading Life Now

This year my goal is to read 50 books. I’m off to a strong start thanks to my February sabbatical. No job and a social media break have given me loads of time to read, and I’ve loved every moment of it. You can check out the books I’ve read so far this year on my Goodreads page.

A year or two ago, my friend Hannah shared that she was reading books via the Book of the Month Club. I was in another reading slump by then, now with two kids and a business in my life. I missed books, so this seemed like a great way to get excited about reading again. Plus we could talk about the books and trade!

BOTM highlights 5 books by contemporary authors each month, with a mix of genres and styles to choose from. It’s been a lot of fun discovering some new-to-me authors and genres. Hannah and I always text each other around the beginning of each month to compare thoughts on that month’s selections and share what we’re thinking of getting. We also chat and meet up regularly to swap books back and forth.

The March books for Book of the Month were just announced today. I’ve been excited for Daisy Jones & The Six and was thrilled to see it was included in the selections. If you’re interested, you can check out the selections here . 

I’m curious: do you identify as a reader? Why do you read? What’s your favorite book you’ve read in the past year?

Eating to Feel Better : One Part Plant

I’m not one for diets or labels when it comes to my food. I like to eat.

I like to eat good food that I know is good for me, and food that makes me feel like crap.  I get just as excited about a big greasy cheesburger as I do a paleo bowl at Laughing Planet.  Green smoothies and milkshakes. Avocado toast and nutella toast. yum yum yum!

For a long time I accepted that the way my body was feeling is just how it was now.  I didn’t “get” the food body connection.

I’m learning that the more I eat food that is good for me, the better I feel.

This is something I’ve known intellectually for some time, but it wasn’t until my well-being was really challenged that I saw how true it was.

  • kidney stones
  • inflammation
  • joint pain
  • fatigue
  • upset stomach

These are just a few of the symptoms I struggled with in the past few years.  They crept on os slowly that I was usually able to attribute them to something else that was going on in my life.

Super tired all the time?  Weeeell, I do have a toddler and a business.

Hands ache all the time and having trouble opening jars of nacho cheese?  I’ve probably just been knitting too much.

And on and on.

But deep down, I knew.

The first change I made just to see what would happen, was trying a 30-day vegan challenge.  This was incredible for me. I felt lighter, had more energy, and was sleeping better. But I wasn’t prepared to make a lifestyle change of that magnitude. So after the 30 days were over, I committed to not eating meat.  I knew that “too much” dairy also had an affect on me, but i wasn’t willing to go there.

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Being meat free lasted about 3 years. I did “sneak” the occasional steak and would feel horrible about it. This is one of the reasons I don’t like lifestyle labels, btw.  It leads to guilt and shame and this feeling of wrongdoing around food, which isn’t healthy.

During my last pregnancy with my son, the intense cravings for red meat were Real.  I dipped my toe back into eating meat regularly, and it seemed like just what my body needed at the time. Like, I needed all those cheeseburgers…

But after he was born, I didn’t go back.

In fact, my eating probably got worse for a bit.

And so did my joint pain and fatigue.  Hmmmm.

Enter the lovely Jessica Murnane into my life via the One Part Plant Podcast.

I discovered the podcast quite by accident when someone else I followed was on the show. I loved Jessica’s casual yet deep interview style, and I was immediately hooked. And over time, her message of eating just one plant-based meal started taking root in my soul.

I started to feel invested in taking care of my physical body again.

Green smoothies, returning to a regular yoga practice, cleaning up my skin and makeup routine, even making a damn vision board: I can attribute it all to my girl Jessica.

So when she announced that she would be writing a cookbook, I was thrilled. I knew her story of going from a junk-food eating kitchen avoider to a plant-based cookbook author was real.  If she could change her lifestyle to feel better (she suffered from Stage 4 endometriosis for years), then so could I.

Jessica’s new book, One Part Plant , is being released next week on Feb 21st!  I happen to have an advance copy and can tell you it is so beautiful.  The layout and photography are stunning, and I can’t help but drool when I look at the recipes.  From dips and spreads to salads, and hearty main courses, Jessica has you covered for that one plant-based meal a day. Including dessert.

I’ve been incorporating more plant-based meals into my daily life, and I feel so much better for it. I’m not saying I’m vegan or not, vegetarian or not. After all, I still love those cheeseburgers!  But I know when I’m not eating much sugar or dairy or meat, my body feels more energetic and strong.

And that’s a good thing, whatever you want to call it.

Pre-orders are available on Amazon now and include a little discount.  Of course you can also head to your local bookstore next week to pick one up. 

Bonus: I’m thrilled to share that Jessica Murnane is going to be a guest on the very next episode of MY podcast!!!  I was super excited to have the opportunity to sit down with her and hear more of her story.  What is it really like to write a book?  Did her husband join her plant-based eating adventure?  Does she ever struggle with what to make for dinner?

Tune in on Monday for a brand new episode of the Stash Podcast. Subscribe via iTunes or your favorite podcast app, and you will automatically get new episodes as soon as they are released!

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I’d love to hear from you how food makes you feel. I know this is a big, complicated, messy topic. But I think in our gut we know what makes us feel good and what makes us feel not so good.


 

Yarn Along :: Modern Lovers

 

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My knitting has been a little sparse lately. An irritated thumb and sore wrist have kept me from spending much time at the needles.  And I’ve noticed the less I’ve been knitting, the less I feel like knitting…kind of a bummer given the season we’re heading into!

I did cast on a pair of Prairie Glass Mitts for the Stash Yarn Story Collection knit-along, though.  A row or two a day is about all I can manage. At this rate maybe they’ll be ready for Christmas!

I have been reading a ton, however. And the opposite has been true here: the more I read, the more I want to read. So much so that I’ve already read 4 books this month! #humblebrag

I just finished up Modern Lovers by Emma Straub.  This is a book whose premise sounds like so many indie dramedies, one of my favorite genres:

Friends and former college bandmates Elizabeth and Andrew and Zoe have watched one another marry, buy real estate, and start businesses and families, all while trying to hold on to the identities of their youth.  Now nearing fifty, they all live within shouting distance in the same neighborhood deep in gentrified Brooklyn, and the trappings of the adult world seem to have arrived with ease. ~From Goodreads

Essentially it’s a character-driven story, with a few plot spikes here and there. I found it compelling and charming and relatable (hello lesbian protagonist!) and a pleasure to read.  I enjoy Straub’s dry, insightful voice and was happy to play along  through the ups and downs of the characters over one eventful summer.

What have you been reading and knitting lately?

It feels good to be joining Ginny and the Yarn Along community again!  

Yarn Along :: Love & Linen


I raced through Eleanor & Park and loved it! Needing to stay in the vein of keeping my reading simple and not too dark, I checked the library for a book I keep hearing great things about. Imagine my delight when I found a copy of The Rosie Project straight away! Bonus: it came up as a 14-day checkout, but wasn’t marked as such. So the librarian gave it to me as a regular check out. It’s these simple, nerdy things that can really make my day!

My knitting has been cruising right along. I’ve mainly been working on True Friend, and and about to start the ribbing at the hem.  If you follow me on Instagram, you can check out how it looked a couple days ago!  My socks have also seen some love and aren’t far from being finished.

So with two project close to the end, it’s time to start something new, right?  A fresh project is on the needles for the Stash Spring KAL.   I cast on Togue Pond (twice, actually. Pro tip: read the pattern before you cast on!).  The linen is lovely to work with.  It’s smooth and a bit silky while still being crisp.  I’m looking forward to wearing this top!

Knitting: Togue Pond by Pam Allen in Quince & Co. Kestrel {Ravelry notes here}

Reading: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

So what’s on your nightstand and needles this week?

Yarn Along :: Easy is Good

Leisure time is pretty unpredictable with a newborn around the house. Some days he sleeps the day away and not only do I enjoy luxuries like a shower and taking my time to eat, I get to knit.

You know me: I need to knit like I need to sleep in order to feel somewhat balanced. Right now the time and my mental energy are such that simple, easy projects are perfection.

Stockinette and garter stitch are the daily specials. Projects thatI can pick up and work on for a stitch, a row, or an inch at a time and toss in the knitting basket in a hurry. To that end I have some simple socks and a top that needs 12 inches of stockinette stitch on the needles. Easy, simple, knitting perfection for this season in my life.

Same goes for reading! What’s the equivalent of a stockinette sock? How about a space adventure? This is the story of Mark Watney and what happens when he’s mistaken for dead and left behind on Mars by his crew. He’s a funny & persistent protagonist, and there are some interesting moral issues to contemplate. But mostly it’s an easy, adventurous read. Again, perfect for right now.

How about you? What are you knitting & reading this week?

Knitting: A Nice Ribbed Sock in Victory Sock by Knitted Wit and True Friend by Veera Valimaki in Neighborhood Fiber Co. Rustic Sock.  You can view my project details on Ravelry where I can be found as PeacefulKnitter. 

Reading: The Martian by Andy Weir

 

Yarn Along :: Just Keep Knitting

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Tomorrow is my due date.  While in some ways it seems unbelievable that it’s already here, it also feels like it’s been such a long journey.  I am so looking forward to meeting this little guy, I’m practically buzzing with excitement!

In the meantime, I’m trying to knit, read, and cook all the things!  And catch up on tv shows, naps, and long walks. As a family we also have this sense of impending change as we go from a long-term trio into a quartet.  So we’re trying to soak up The Geeg and do all of the things we like to do together before things pause for baby. It’s a bittersweet time, this in-between an old life and the new one.

Knitting: Follow Your Arrow 2 ~ a mystery shawl knit along by Ysolda Teague. Ravelry notes here.  This has been the perfect distraction as I wait to go into labor! Knitting a mystery project is so much like waiting for baby. All I can do is take it one clue (or day) at a time and enjoy the process.

Reading: Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister.  I don’t know why I picked this up, other than I had a craving for a story about female friendship.  I’m happy to say it’s better (and way less sappy) than I expected.  It’s reading like a collection of short stories that weave the women together with a common friend who has challenged each of them to engage in a difficult area in their personal lives.

What’s on your needles and on on your nightstand this week? 

Yarn Along :: keeping things simple

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With the turn of the new year, and as I ready and wait for baby, I’m craving simplicity.  I want (and need) for things to be slow, simple, and easy.  My body is working very hard these days (38 weeks, whoa!), and my mind gets tired fast.  I need simple forms of entertainment and activity so I don’t get completely overwhelmed with all the changes that are coming!  This can be seen in my current knitting a reading : small projects, easy reads.

Knitting: Zuzu’s Petals in Freia Ombre Sport for the Stash Winter knit-along (join in on Ravelry here). Such a fun pattern, this is my second!

Reading: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo and Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty.

My opinion isn’t fully formed on either of these books quite yet.  I will say I’m finding the tidying book inspiring if not a bit severe. But I do love her bottom line: keep only what sparks joy.  It definitely pairs well with the mindset of a nesting pregnant lady! I have already used her method to reduce and organize my clothes with success.  The novel is a fun candy bar read, perfect for where my mind is at right now.  It’s going fast, and I’m enjoying the characters and setting for what they are.

What’s on your needles and on on your nightstand this week? 

Yarn Along

book + chocolate + a bubble bath = my idea of a good time!

book + chocolate + a bubble bath = my idea of a good time!

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I was craving a page turner and an addictive knit, and I sure got what I asked for!

Last week I could not put down these rainbow leg warmers.  Each stripe knit up so quickly, that it was easy to say “oh, I’ll just keep knitting till I finish the next stripe.”  And on and on until I’d knit a pair of leg warmers in a week.  I may have been motivated to finish them while G was also captivated by them; she kept wanting to try them on and asking me when they would be done.  Such a rare, sweet response to my knitting!  My hands have been feeling a little sore since these came off the needles, so I probably overdid it with my enthusiasm.  Looks like I’ll need to cast on a new project in some thicker wool. You know, to rest my hands.

I heard about this book on a podcast, and was lucky enough to find it right away at our used book store.  Such a deal!  Part mystery, part ghost story, this suspenseful novel spans decades and characters, and had me instantly captivated. I can’t wait to see how all their tales weave together and what the ending brings.  I’ve been taking it into the bath with me, and going to bed even earlier to read it.  Last night I definitely stayed up past my bedtime, I was so hooked!

Warning: a child dies and the mother grieves intensely, which isn’t for everyone.  I’m not sure if it’s the writing or my pregnancy hormones (likely both), but it can be a bit of a tear-jerker.

Reading: The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

Knitting: Rainbow Legwarmies, my own pattern. Ravelry notes here.

Yarn Along :: Kid Reads

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I’m still working away faithfully on my blue Cassis cardigan.  I’m pleased to say that I am now on the second sleeve so, with a couple more good knitting sessions, it should be off the needles this week!

That sweater is big and heavy now, so I cast on a little pixie cap for a friend having a baby this winter.  It’s much more portable and I’ve been able to knit it up quickly rows at a time. All that’s left is knitting the strap and choosing a charming button. Nothing like an instant gratification project when you’re slogging away on a bigger project!

Much like the big blue sweater, I am still working my way through Tell the Wolves I’m Home.  It’s such a great story told from the perspective of a young teen girl, although it’s definitely not YA material.  I’m enjoying the challenging questions and complicated relationships within the story as well.

G and I have been reading chapter books for about a year now.  Reading out loud together while snuggled up in bed has become a favorite part of my day.  We’ve worked our way through some childhood favorites, and have now found our way to Little House in the Big Woods.  She thinks it’s hilarious, what with the inflated pig bladder as a ball and the corncob wrapped in cloth for a doll.  I think it’s a good opportunity to talk about gratitude and being thankful for all that we have (including indoor plumbing and refrigerators).  I skip over the many parts where there’s an animal being butchered or hunted. We’re just not there yet.

There have also been a lot of graphic novels and comic books in our house these past months.  This is more the other mother’s territory, but I have found myself enjoying this Mouse Guard book.  It is beautifully illustrated, with quite the adventure set in a mysterious and often dangerous animal world.  There is some violence, which can be hard to skip over because of the pictures.  But it brings up good questions, and I enjoy talking through these things with the G.

Knitting: Vintage Pixie Cap from the book Vintage Knits for Modern Babies in Acadia by The Fibre Co. (Ravelry notes here)

Reading: Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Mouse Guard Fall 1152 by David Petersen

What’s on your needles and on your nightstand this week?

Yarn Along: 2 books + 2 wips

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Last week was a week of finishing.  I finished two projects. I finished one book.  It felt really good.

It took me a couple of days to find the right book(s) to sink my reading teeth into next.  Good thing I have a book-buying habit; I perpetually have at least half a dozen books waiting for me to pick them up.  At first I started rereading Baby Catcher, a memoir by a modern midwife. I read it when I was pregnant with G and remember really liking its positive approach to birth.  I’m a bit tired of the technical and often fear-based pregnancy and birth books, so I felt ready for some interesting narratives about births.

Then I also had to start some fiction to go along when things got to real for me.  I picked up Tell the Wolves I’m Home on my last book-buying binge at Powell’s, and I’m proud to say I’ve read all the other books I purchased that day! (the receipt was tucked away inside this one; always a fun reminder).  I’m only about 50 pages in, but I can tell you I’m already hooked on the young female protagonist and her journey dealing with the death of her beloved uncle from AIDS.  It’s set in the 80s, so you can imagine the complexity of the situation.

And on the needles, I’m still working on my Cassis by Thea Coleman.  This is one I started back in April, then set aside in favor of morning sickness and lack of knitting mojo.  I’ve been working on it in between other small projects, so it’s seen slow progress.  Over the last few weeks, the body has grown, and I only have a few inches left before that’s done.  Then it’s on to everyone’s favorite: sleeves!

And because I finished two projects and felt like I should have something smaller and more portable than a sweater on the needles, I cast on Henrietta.  This yarn from The Fibre Co. is incredible, and I haven’t been able to stop petting it since it came into the shop.

So, what’s on your needles and on your nightstand this week?