With the pandemic as it is (as I’m sure you know), it has meant a LOT of staying home and not traveling so the Superhero and I were getting some itchy feet and decided to visit the Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico the other weekend.
Now I’m not the biggest fan of camping in the world but one way I’ve learned that I do like is to take our tiny camper and the truck and drive off to the wilds somewhere. It was a five-hour drive one way (so quite a hike) but for distances around here in West Texas, that’s not too bad…
And you know what? It was really fun. I was so surprised. (Past experiences have not been that way, but they were long ago with different equipment and levels of attitude, as well. 🙂 )
For this trip, the Superhero had gone above and beyond in terms of being well organized and producing meals out in the open and I wanted for nothing that we didn’t have. (Very impressive to me.) It was so quiet out on the grasslands. Since it is open prairie, there are no trees and the view was never-ending.
The sunsets were amazing (see pic above) and you could hear the wildlife around you: mostly birds during the day and then a pack of coyotes at night. (Surprisingly, our dog (who came with us) didn’t really react to this, not even a bark or a growl. Perhaps she knew that there were more of them than of her?)
So – not a lot of reading but we did listen to an audio book on the drive there and back – lots of time to do that! – and then I read more the next day. The camping experience was worth it though and I’m looking forward to the next time (may be later this summer).
February is almost done but it seemed to move very fast for me in some ways and rather slow in others. I teach at a university and we had some really bad weather last week (including about four inches of snow and ice). Since our area is not that experienced with snow, the entire week of classes and work was cancelled due to the weather, which was pretty weird. It was fine but it did make my week seem a bit off.
And how did I spend that precious time? Not really sure. I know that there were some naps and a couple of library trips and some reading from the TBR. The Superhero had to go to work (since he’s a first responder person) which meant a lot of alone time for me (which was fine). I watched some more of the really addictive The Great British Baking Show (I love Noel Fielding), and made some bread-and-butter pudding (since the weather was so cold and it seems a very cozy pudding to me). That was yummy and easy to make.
This week, I’m back in the office and prepping lectures and answering emails. The weather is now back up to the 60s as a high and the only traces of all the snow we had last week are a few patches in the shadows. Not to be surprised though, as West Texas is known for its weird weather patterns. I call the early Spring months the “ski jacket and shorts” months because you will probably need both of them by the end of the day. 😉
I’m still teaching online which is becoming more second nature to me and probably to the students as well. My preference is to teach F2F but with things as they are in the world around us, online it is so I’m striving to provide an equal educational experience via the online world. I have a feeling that it’s a learning experience for everyone who does it and I’ve definitely learned some tricks of the trade.
(Naturally, there has been a jigsaw puzzle in progress. Perfect weather for such an indoor sport!)
Book-wise, I had a B&N gift card burning a hole in my pocket (left over from Christmas) so I went there and spent a lovely hour or so strolling around their stock shelves. Ended up buying two NF paperbacks: America’s Best Travel Writing 2020 (edited by Robert McFarlane) and Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World by Rita Golden Gelman. Very looking forward to reading these at some point in the near future…
Right now, I’m reading a book called “By the Sea” by Abdulrazak Gurnah, a fiction and rather a broccoli book if I’m honest. (“Broccoli books” are those that perhaps don’t taste that great but are really good for you… 🙂 )
ETA: “By the Sea” ended up being a DNF. Way too obtuse and wordy for me right now.
ETA2: The Travel Writing volume ended up being a surprising DNF as well. McFarlane and I just don’t see eye-to-eye on what constitutes good writing apparently. ;-}
I’ve been reading quite a bit since the COVID thing started (although not as much as I had anticipated seeing as I have all this time available), but the pace is picking up (in between jigsaws!), and I’m planning on reading more now that school is finished and the grades are in. Phew.
In the past few weeks, I’ve read a mix of books, a couple of them really excellent and one just meh, but all of them off the TBR. (Go me.)
The “just meh” one was “Home Life One”, the first of four volumes and a collection of newspaper columns from an English journo (?) named Alice Thomas Ellis. (See top pic.) She wrote columns on domestic life, I suppose you’d call it, and they were published in The Spectator, a British magazine that runs conservative (I think).
I must have read someone somewhere online praising these offerings and rushed out to order it, but the columns didn’t seem to hit the same high notes for me. I think some of this was because I just worked my way through the collection, one after the other, and I now doubt the wisdom of reading the book that way since it all got pretty same-y after a while. Maybe I should remember that next time I choose a similar book. The content was also a little dated (but that’s hardly the author’s fault!) Moving on…
The good reads: a Canadian novel called “Birdie” by Tracey Lindberg (2015). Selected as a 2016 CANADA READS title, I picked this book up on a trip to Vancouver last year as one written by an aboriginal native author. This was a really good read, although it covers some heavy-duty topics as part of the plot: sexual abuse, mental illness, native rights…
Kudos to the author, though, as this book reads smoothly and although the characters (one in particular) undergoes some hellish experiences, it’s written in a manner that it’s not too much for you as a reader (although it might be triggering for some people). Good book; off the TBR; native author about native characters: win-win-win.
(Plus – look at the fantastic artwork on the cover: It’s a detail from Modern Girl, Traditional Mind Set by George Littlechild (2010), an author/artist of the Cree Nation, same as Lindberg.)
The other excellent read was just a cheapie bargain book from the sales shelves at B&N (when it was open), but despite the price, it was soooo good (if you like this sort of thing). I’m going to do a more thorough review in the next few days as I’d like to chat about it more in-depth, but suffice to say, I loved it. Stay tuned.
And then a good friend of mine happened to ask me to be an early reader for her second novel – which I loved. If anyone is an agent (or knows one), please let me know. I’d love to hook my writing friend up with someone who knows what they’re doing in the publishing world. Other people need to read her work – it’s good!!
December is wrapping up. It was a busy month but mostly fun, having Christmas and end-of-the-semester in there plus a great trip to New Orleans. (More to come on that trip.)
The reading was pretty good as well:
All-American Murder: The Aaron Hernandez Story – Alex Patterson (NF Sports). I know – a book about American football and me? But strangely interesting…
London and the South-East – David Szalay (F) Random pick of library shelves. Not bad…
Home-Fires: The Story of the WI in WW2 – Julie Summers (NF/History) Very good history of the Women’s Institute in England…
New Orleans: DK Guide. Travel guide.
Catchphrase, Slogan and Cliche – History – Judy Parkinson (NF/history)
Paddington Goes to Town – Michael Bond (F) Really needed something fairly easy and straightforward to read immediately post-semester!
The Snowman – Raymond Briggs (F/GN). See above.
English Country House Murders: an Anthology – Thomas Godfrey (F). See above.
Friday Black – Nana Kwame Adjej-Brenyah (F-Short stories). Challenging but in a good way.
Total books read: 9
Total pages read:2511 pp. (av. 279 pp.)
NF: 4 (44% of monthly total)
F: 5 (56% of monthly total)
TBR:8 (89% of monthly total read). Go me.
Total % TBR for year to date: 64%. (Happy with this number.)
POC author/topic(s):2 (22% of monthly total). Will. Do. Better.
Male to Female:5 males + 2 females + 2 of mixed genders.
Oldest title: 1969 (Paddington Goes to Town/Michael Bond…) .
Longest title (re: page count): 533 pp.
Shortest title (re: page count) (excluding DNFs): 32 pp.
And – strangely enough, no relevant book review posts either. (There were some other posts but not about the actual books, which is weird for a book blog, yes?) I can only attribute this aberration to running out of time and energy at the end of the semester, but trust you’ll forgive me. 🙂
There was a lovely visit with my mum and, naturally, we completed a jigsaw or two, the large one was only completed with super-human effort by us both in an effort to finish it before she left early the next day. Completely fun and very worth it.
Moving into the new year, I don’t really have any complicated reading plans. I’m definitely going to partake in the Non-Fiction November when it comes around, but apart from that, I’ll take it as it comes. I might do Simon and Kaggsy’s Year Project but again, pretty open-ended on that right now.
I’m collecting info for the Best-of-Year blog post, but might skip the Best-of-Decade post that is traveling around the blogosphere right now. Depends on time…
Whatever your plans, wherever you may be – here’s to a year of peace and plenty for you. (Oh, and some good reads as well.) 🙂
It’s the post-Christmas weekend and I’ve already put all the holiday decorations away. I’ve kept out the fairy lights (since they’re so pretty and not necessarily Christmas-related), but all the other stuff has been put back in the garage for later on in 2020. The decs are lovely before and during Christmas, but once the actual day has gone by, they seem to be clutter-y so I’m quite quick to take them all down again to get the house back to normal.
It was a fun Christmas here at Chez JOMP.T The semester ended smoothly, grades were entered, and then the Superhero and I did a quick trip out of town (details to follow). My lovely mum flew in from England for the week of Christmas and we ended up having a quiet but still fun visit and speed-completed two jigsaw puzzles in four days — one was 500 pieces and the other was 1,000 pieces (so a bit bigger and more challenging). Mum and I are puzzle fiends though, so we had a lot of fun completing these – we’re both as obsessed as each other with these things, so we ended up spending hours together, listening to music and finding “just one more piece for that section there”… (You know how it goes!)
Mum is now visiting my sister in California before flying down to LA to play there for a few days and then popping home to England again. I’m so impressed by her energetic travels – not bad for someone who’s going to turn 84 in May this year. 🙂
The Superhero and I have been following a plant-based diet since seeing the movie Gamechangers and so that’s been interesting and a challenge at the same time. I don’t miss meat, but it’s nearly all 100 percent new recipes at the moment and so we’re tracking down recipes that are both tasty and don’t take all day to get ready. If any of you have a good website that you regularly use for your plant-based cooking, please let me know. I’d love to get more choices!
So, it’s been a busy week or two. I feel behind in my reading and my blogging, so expect a post or two over the next few days of catching up.
So – how about you all? How were your last few weeks of 2019? I hope you can say that you’ve been having fun interspersed with some great reading!
And the Band Played On – Randy Schiltz (1987) NF – DNF, but on hold for a later date.
Hostages to Fortune – Elizabeth Cambridge (1933) F
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? – Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D. (2003) NF
Plus (because I am a complete nerd) this jigsaw puzzle:
November plans? Not really. I am very open to whatever comes my way and I’m happy to keep jogging along in this particular lane. I might need to rein in the book purchases though. (With the caveat that there is a December book and jigsaw puzzle sale on the cards…) :-}
Autumn has finally arrived here in my region of the world. The
temps have been cooling down significantly – even enough for us to put the flannel
sheets on the bed. (I’d forgotten how delicious these feel to sleep between: it’s
like sleeping in clouds. Sigh. Bliss.) I’m wearing socks more regularly during
the day and even had to pull on a coat last week. I’m loving it all.
There are some Octobers when I’m just pulled back into one more read of “Dracula,” the 1897 classic by Irish writer Bram Stoker. (For a previous review, see here and here.) My typical experience is that I really enjoy the whole experience, even if it’s not the first time of reading it – I’m up to about five times now… And now I think it’s time to give it a break.
It’s got all the same great ingredients: epistolary, scary-but-not-too-scary, familiar storyline but, for some reason, this year’s read dragged for me which signals that perhaps I need a break. It’s been fun, Bram, but I’m gonna to put you aside for a while so I can get your “special” back. No hard feelings. You’re still awesome. I’ll still come back to you. Just not for a while. (And if you’d like to see a review of an earlier version of Dracula-like creatures, try The Vampire by John Polidori (1819).)
In other news: we went to a really good play over the weekend. Called “Black Girl, Interrupted”, it was written by Iyanisha Gonzalez, a Ph.D. student at our university here, and was stupendous. Seriously. It was an excellent play-going experience and was completely professionally run. The play is based on the real-life rape and murder of a black female soldier in the Iraq conflict and how the U.S. Army covered it up as a suicide. (The drama is fictionalized from there, but the actual basis of the plot is true.) So – phew. Hard topic but again, an excellent experience. If this play comes to your area, I highly recommend it.
I’ve been reading but have had some titles recently which have been good, but for some reason, haven’t had a blog post about them. One, especially, deserves its own post but for time reasons, this mention will have to do. “The Absolutely True Dairy of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie (F) was a fast and thoughtful YA read, epistolary (as the title implies) and about a young teenager who goes against the cultural mores of his tribe when he decides to go to a high school “off rez”. A sensitive and provocative read about the importance of fitting in balanced with being true to yourself. I bet high schoolers love this read. (Maybe not. They might be more enamored of “Twilight” or playing on TikTok or similar…:-} )
(although this was not half as good) was a quick peruse through “The
Well-Dressed Lady’s Pocket Guide” by Karen Homer (2013), who has written for Vogue
and other fashion mags. Fairly ok, but didn’t really have that much helpful
information in terms of wardrobe, but a pretty ok foundation overall. I’m
trying to make more use of my current clothes, especially with our cooler
temperatures, and was rather hoping that this guide would help with that. It
was actually more of a brief historical overlook of fashion, which was ok –
just not what I had been looking for/hoping for.
In the in-between times, I’ve been sucked into the flow of doing another jigsaw puzzle – I’m addicted to these things and time just disappears when I’m doing them sometimes. This one (on the right) is a redo of one my mum and I attempted a couple of years ago on one of her visits, but we had run out of time to finish it. I’m determined to finish this sucker now. 🙂
And now it’s
almost November. Thanksgiving is around the corner (wow) and then, I saw
Christmas stuff in Target yesterday…
And I found a big stash of Twiglets half-price (below) whilst I visited World Market. (They are typically very hard to find, locally, so this stash will need to last quite some time. In theory.) Life is good.
You know how sometimes you have a weekend when it seems like you didn’t do much but you still had a lovely time? When you put all goals toward efficiency to one side in favor of doing not much? Well, last weekend was one of those. It was great. 🙂
Both the SuperHero and I had had a busy week, so by mutual agreement, we had no social plans and not much else on the books. Despite this, it was still a fab weekend for a variety of reasons. Plus – it rained. A lot. (Not very common for this semi-desert area and very conducive to hanging around at home.)
One of those reasons was that we went to see a matinee of the new Downton Abbey film… (Fun plus Alamo had put together a funny recap of the previous six seasons prior to the film).
Another one of those reasons was that it was the weekend of the big annual book sale at the FoL which, although I have no absolute need for any more titles, I went to. I typically take Friday afternoon off from work and go at that time to avoid the crowds but this year, thought I would take the risk of a Saturday attendance.
(It wasn’t too bad in the end, but goodness gracious me: if there was one thing that I could change, I would make parents take better charge of their ill-behaved children: No, you can’t suddenly sit down on the floor in the middle of the aisle and read your book. No, you can’t run around screaming right now. Pro-point for bringing kids to the sale: the kids are being exposed to lots of books and the library itself. Anti-point for bringing kids to the sale: Think of the other people.)
I ended up with a good stack of books, although heaven knows when they will get read (!):
Home – Ellen Degeneres  – (coffee table/interior decorating/design and I like this sort of thing)
The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat – Oliver Sacks  – (sounded interesting)