Well, hello, my lovelies…

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Hello (or Hullo to English people :-))! It’s me, back from the break.

First, let me apologize for the complete lack of posts. You’re right. I had the two weeks off to play and write and just be, and it was lovely, I must admit. However, such sloth does not encourage turning on the computer that much, so I tried to not be behind a screen quite so much in my free time. In my old position at work, I was in front of a computer screen all day every day, so I really enjoyed taking a break from things electronic (except, you know, TV, iPhone… but we won’t mention those.)

Now, it’s all action stations. I have started my new job with the College of Media and Communications, I’ve had a couple of classes teaching, and I’m getting my groove back in the classroom, and the new folks that I’m working with seem to be very smart, kind, and fun, so it’s all good. It’s definitely going to be a different world from the one that I’ve been in, and I’m very psyched about the change.

So what did I actually do during my two weeks off? Well, I must be honest and admit that there were plenty of naps, quite a bit of reading, and a lot of hanging around with the pets. They’re not used to me being home all day, so I probably ruined their schedules, but we did have fun with each other. Cowboy was particularly happy to be with me, her Spirit Animal. /jk/

I am interested in setting up a new study in our third bedroom, and so I’ve been researching that a bit. Lots of ideas so now I just need to narrow down what I’m looking for. It’s going to be a whole new room, involving getting rid of all the furniture in it currently (as it’s been a spare bedroom), so I trying to make sure that I’m fairly sure in what I want, design-wise.

The room has great light (four floor-to-ceiling windows), and I’m looking for a fairly modern/MCM vibe with the new pieces. Oh, and a drafting board desk thing. I’m wondering where one purchases these, but I do work at a university, so I’m thinking that there must be students who have forked out for a drafting desk, and then changed their majors, so hoping I can get one at a good price.

I’m looking for a surface that will be large enough for any projects that I do, and perhaps a jigsaw puzzle or two. (The current jigsaw set up right now is on the dining room table which (a) is frustrating because you have to live around a puzzle, and (b) I usually feel a bit rushed to complete the puzzle as the table is high-stakes real estate in our home. (Goofy, huh, but I really enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles and have decided that this room is my room, and if I want to do jigsaw puzzles in it, then it’s time to have a place that works with that. Woo. Go me.)

I also think that I will have work (e.g. grading etc.) to do when I am at home sometimes, so I’d like an area where I can leave a project in the place where it is, without having to dismantle everything. I’m pretty excited about it, but not going to rush it.

I decided that when I turned fifty (a few years back) that I was no longer going to make do with “almost right” with regard to what I like to buy. I would always buy whatever I needed (e.g. clothes, furniture etc.) from the sometimes-ratty selection in the Reduced Price area of the store or from thrift, and I do have some good bargains from that shopping technique, but I’d really like this room to be closer to “exactly what I want” this time around. So, I’m taking my time, researching everything, and when I have a stronger idea of what I’m looking for (which I’ll know when I see it), then I’ll bite the bullet and buy it.

So, what about reading, I hear you ask? Yes, I have been doing that, and feel rather behind the curve with blogging my titles etc. I’m contemplating doing a big round-up post, and then moving on from there, as there have been some great titles, so we’ll see..

So, expect a reading post in the next day or two, and then I think I’ll be back to business blog-wise.

So, how’s your world? It’s the end of summer (for some of us), and I, for one, am ridiculously excited about the upcoming cooler months. (Speaking of weather, my thoughts are with those who are in Southern Texas and dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Poor things.)

Chat soon.

 

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So – here’s some news…

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So, there is some momentous news for me in my world: I have a new job. Yessiree. I’ve left my previous job for some different adventures but still at the same university. I have been invited to join the faculty in the department of Media and Communications at the university, and I am completely excited about this. I’m going to start in the fall (i.e. next month), and until then I’m on vacation which means … Guess what?

Loads and loads of free time to do stuff! This is such a great gift for me, as I usually tend to feel as though I don’t really have enough time to do All the Things, and now I have the next three weeks off. And how am I going to fill the time, you ask? Well….

I am reading the textbook(s) to become familiar with the material that class will be covering, and I’m researching some of the Best Practices for teaching in the classroom. I’ll be covering sophomore writing classes for media (along with a technical writing class for the English department), and I am so psyched to be back into the classroom after such a long time. I’m also going to be (posh title alert) Editor-in-Chief for the college’s publications, and I am very looking forward to this whole new adventure.

In the meantime, I have a few days in which to mess about doing non-work stuff such as working out, reading, writing, and doing general catching up on life. My reading mojo has returned as well, and so that’s been a lot of fun for me. I have missed the joy of reading over the past few months, and have a small pile of books that I’ve pulled from the TBR shelves from which to choose.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying Our Longest Days, a collection of WWII Mass Observation diaries edited by Sandra Koa Wing (2007), along with a fiction read of Ceremony by Leslie  Marmon Silko, a First Peoples author, and both are good so far.

I’m also preparing to travel to CA to see some family out there, and, as always, am enjoying the excitement of choosing which titles to take with me to read (on Kindle and otherwise). Book nerds unite!

So – life is good right now. I hope that you can say the same of your life. 🙂

(Life is good except for the orange clown and Charlottesville. That’s not good at all. What is wrong with some of these humans? I’m sending gentle thoughts to the many out there. Be kind. Be calm. Be courageous.)

 

 

Summer Reading Suggestions Part Two: Armchair Traveling…

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Summer months can mean traveling, and even if you’re stuck at home in the heat (or cold!), you can still cover ground that’s very different to yours from the ease of your armchair…

Any editions of America’s Best Travel Writing will work and help your internal travels on the way, really, but it helps to align the editor person of that year with your own particular tastes. (Or so I learned the other day.) I really recommend Mary Roach’s book from when she edited…. But then I’m a Mary Roach fangirl to nth degree. There are a lot of others from which to choose…

If you have a lot of luggage to take with you, have a look at Victorian traveler Francis Galton’s The Art of Travel: Shifts and Contrivances Available in Wild Countries (1854), and be thankful that you don’t have to carry all his stuff. 🙂

As I live in Texas and summers can get pretty hot (114 degrees the other day), I really enjoy reading books about adventures in cooler places as they can remove me (at least in my mind) from the high temperatures that we have here.

Going northwards to the Canadian wilds is cooler, and Mary Bosanquet’s true recollection, Saddlebags for Suitcases (1942), is a good account of how she traveled across Canada on horseback before she had to settle down and get married. (Lucky to have such rich and generous parents, but good read all the same.)

If you’d rather stay on the main land of the U.S., have a looksee at Charles Dickens’ excellent travelogue of his time in the States, American Notes for General Circulation (1842). (Old but still relevant and en-pointe a lot of the time. Really funny in some ways, and I think if you’re a fan of Bill Bryson, you’d like this one. Seriously. A lot of overlaps.)

For a very different perspective of traveling and adventuring, the poignant and exciting two-volume diaries of Cherry Aspley-Garrard’s harrowing trip with Captain Scott to the Antarctic is riveting. (And cold.)

If you’d prefer Siberian levels of cold, try Esther Hautzig’s compulsively readable The Endless Steppe about her childhood where her family gets sent to Siberia as part of the WWII action in Poland. (It’s very good. And it’s very cold. And it’s amazing what the human spirit can do to survive.)

For more cold (but not *quite* so cold) reading, how about Crowdie and Cream by Finley J. McDonald and The Crofter and the Laird by John McPhee? Both accounts of living in the Hebrides up in north Scotland. Brrr.

More coolish travel accounts include Jonathon Raban’s really good 1987 book, Coasting, about his time traveling in a small boat around the edges of United Kingdom. (English summer is not known to be very sunny and warm at times…)

Raban’s a really good writer, and as a related aside: he has another book from when he was traveling around North Dakota and its environs, called Badlands (pre-blog). (Just really good solid travel non-fiction, and fun if you’re stuck in a chair in a hot place comme moi.)

If you’d like to travel to the Pacific islands of the state of Hawaii, the non-fiction writing of Tony Horowitz is fascinating: Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook has Gone Before (2003) follows the journey of Captain Cook except through modern eyes and with modern transportation. Really interesting and written with a good sense of humor.

The traveling theme continues with the excellent Chasing the Monsoon, Alexander Frater’s 1990 account of how he “followed” the arrival of the yearly monsoon in India. A fun, lively and respectful account of some of the people he met, and the adventures that came up.

For a different take on India, there’s a really good story of a young man from India who came back to his roots from his Australian adopted family via Google Earth and some plain hard work: Saroo Brierley’s A Long Way Home is a good read. (Writing’s not great, but story is fantastic. In retrospect, maybe just watch the movie, Lion. 🙂 )

While you’re out that way, drop into the Antipodes (to me) and have a look at Once We Were Warriors by Alan Duff (1990), an excellent and very powerful novel about Maori life in New Zealand…. (It’s not a happy read, but it’s doggone excellent.)

Traveling further afield, Monique and the Mango Rains (Kris Holloway) (2007), a memoir which tells of the friendship between Peace Corps. Volunteer Holloway and a young village midwife in Mali (West Africa). A very positive and honest take on this particular country…

For another positive take on both the progress in HIV/AIDS treatments and a look at Botswana, try Saturday is for Funerals (2010) by Unity Dow and Max Essex. If you’d prefer a graphic novel of young life in the Ivory Coast, pick up the volumes starting with Aya by Margaureite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie (2007) which show a more typical side of life in Africa and teenagers dealing with typical teenaged issues.

Or you could veer madly to the east on the map and steer your way to North Korea with Nothing to Envy (Barbara Demick) and learn of (the rather strange) life in that country. While you’re out this way, check out anything by Peter Hessler for a look at life in China when he was living there…

Back stateside and if you’d rather travel back in time,  there’s a really interesting book that digs into the history of Frontier Counties in the U.S. (i.e. those counties which have rather low populations so they’re very rural) so you might like Duncan Dayton’s Miles from Nowhere: In Search of the American Frontier (1993). (I happened to love it and would readily read anything else by this author. Published by an academic press, so dense information but very readable.)

And if you’re heading to the beach, then Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea (1955) is a thoughtful short (and pretty easy) read. This is not actually a shell identification guidebook :-), but it does revolve around different shells although it’s a tad more philosophical. Provocative and supportive for women of all ages, but particularly for, shall we say, women of a distinctive age. 🙂

More to come, but this next time with a focus on readings and writings by POC authors…

Hooray for summer!

Swabbing the decks…

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Sorry that my posts haven’t been happening for a while. You know how blogging is – it waxes and wanes like life, and life became very busy there for a while. However, I think that we’re back on track now (or at least moving that way), and so I thought I’d take a second or two to catch things up with you on the old reading and other fronts.

Reading-wise: I have been reading, but it’s been slower than usual. I had some (more) facial nerve surgery the other day and that seems to have affected my vision, hearing, speech and facial muscles which was not expected and not supposed to happen at all. However, Mother Nature is a tough chick and I am an impatient patient so I’m hoping that things will slot themselves back into their normal places in one way or another very soon. In the meantime, it’s meant that I’ve been stymied with my usual lifestyle which has meant less reading and all that kind of thing. (Vision is important. :-))

It’s been an interesting experience that has affected everything else that I do, so it’s a bit of an adjustment for me (and we all know how flexible I can be with unpredictable and unexpected change). I think it will end up fine, but I’m just wanting it fine right now so it’s frustrating to have to wait and see. I may end up with a new normal of sorts, but it’s not something that we can predict with any certainty right now so it’s the waiting game for all involved. Grumble grumble grumble.

Happily, we had a lovely trip to Mexico sitting on the beach, reading and snoozing and messing around doing not much at all, and so that holiday (combined with the medical stuff) has slowed things down considerably. I did finish up an ILL on vacation which was good. (I have no idea why I thought it was a good idea to take someone else’s hard cover 500-page book with me on hols, but there you go.)

“It’s the patriotic duty of every woman to knit – not only for men in the service but for those at home as well….”

book375Called “No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting” by Anne L. Macdonald (1988), this was a fairly straight-forward recall of a somewhat rather specialized recounting of domestic history in the U.S. of, you’ve guessed it, knitting. I had read this a few years ago and had wanted to reread it and it arrived just in time for me to lug, I mean carry, across the many miles between here and Playa Mujeres.

It’s always a bit of a risk when you do a reread, isn’t it, and this gamble was not bad/not good. Just rather neutral and I think that’s part and parcel of reflecting how you change and evolve over the years and experiences. Last time I had read it, I was new to fiber art and to domestic history and so thought this was the complete Bee’s Knees.

This time, I didn’t think it was bad at all but it didn’t quite strike the tone of Happy that I was hoping for and I take complete responsibility for that interpretation. The book contents haven’t changed so it must have been me who has, and I think I’m just a more experienced reader in the world of social and domestic history. Plus – the world of knitting (rather specialized even on a good day) was not really jibing with the view of the tropical beach that was right in front of me. I have no idea why I didn’t put the huge brick down and pick up another title more appropriate to the time and place, but there you go. Who says that humans are logical and rational?

book374 (2)So, the read was fine – not bad at all, but perhaps not suited for the occasion. Additionally, I was petrified that the ILL volume would get damaged in some manner from either the beach or a drink mishap and so the whole thing was rather fraught. I’m glad that I’ve finished it, I’m glad that I read it, but I think that now I can safely cross this list off my TBR/Reread records for the rest of my days (or at least until I get senile in which case it might be a whole new read…)

And now I’m bobbing around thinking about what to read next. After such a mammoth (page length wise) read, I’m know that I’m going to choose a shorter read. My track history of reading and finishing Scary Big Books  has been littered with failure so at least it wasn’t that and honestly, it wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the read or anything. I did. I think it was just a timing situation that fell afoul of things more so.

Taking a bigger picture look, I’m glad that I can still read and do fun things, and now, as I rub my hands with glee, I get to choose a whole other book for me to dive into. As a fellow book nerd, I think that you can probably relate to this squee experience and so I’m looking forward to trawling through my shelves and seeing what flings its little way into my hands. I honestly have no idea which title it will be so I’m rather excited at this prospect. I’ll let you know as I know it’s going to be hard for you to sleep and concentrate in your own lives until this decision has been sorted out. 🙂

book376I also happened to find a copy of the coffee book Brandon Stanton’s “Humans of New York” (here is its blog) and I stayed up rather late last night reading this. Humans can be so very interesting and I adored reading this book. 🙂

And had a quick read of Z. Z. Packer’s short story collection, “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere”, which I loved. Short story collections can be a patchy thing for me at times, but I enjoyed this whole collection so go Z. Z. and thanks for that.

You know another good thing? It’s been pouring with rain the last few days (a notable occasion in this semi-arid city) and so the garden is looking happy and green. It’s quite strange to me just how surprised I get each and every summer when the garden suddenly springs to life before the endless hot summer months arrive, and I love it. (Speaking of plants, we checked with a Plant Expert Friend of ours who recommended repotting the failing ficus tree. This has been done and now we wait to see if things improve. (Updates as warranted.)

I’m off to choose a book!

Beach Reading…

So – I am back home from my very wonderful trip to Mexico (specifically, Playa Mujeres about an hour from Cancun), and life is getting back to normal. As I mentioned, the trip was really fun – very luxurious, very relaxing and very fun. For the first time, we shared our trip with a couple who are good friends, and they were very low-maintenance and a lot of fun. What more could you possibly ask for from vacation partners?

So, lots of reading was done, on the beach mostly, although our room was so lovely that it was not hard to stay in there for a while at times as a break from the sun. I had taken a somewhat *ambitious* pile of books, but it was a good mix and gave me lots of options. (My holiday nightmare is that I will have nothing to read.)

So – in the spirit of brevity, I will mention the titles that I got through, and then, when I have caught up with things, I will get you a longer review of the more notable books. Deal?

No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting – Anne McDonald

*Loved* this, although I am not a big knitting person myself. (I did knit during high school, and tried to pick it up a couple of years when the big knitting craze was happening, but it didn’t take.) However, I am fascinated by the social/domestic history of life, and this was a very well organized and interesting take on how knitting has been regarded since prior to the US Civil War. (The author has a good sense of humor as well, which never hurts.)

Necropolis: London and its Dead – Catherine Arnold

A book that rather waxed and waned in how interested I was at different places throughout. I had picked it up thinking it would be about death and how this has been handled at various times through London’s immense history, and it was that, but there was also a lot of the history of London’s grave yards and the companies who ran them (which was interesting but not THAT interesting). Did learn that those wacky Victorians were a bit obsessed with death, and were responsible for quite a few extra grave yards that were added during the nineteenth century (including the famous Highgate cemetery). Once I had passed the middle of the book, and had a clearer idea of what the book was going to cover, I had no problems settling into it and reading it straight through. Just took a bit to get going.

Catching Fire (Hunger Games #2) – Suzanne Collins

Another fast read with good old Katniss who seems to end up in one scrape after another, along with friend Peeta. Exciting story which was well paced and I was interested in what happened to the various characters (once I had them sorted out). Good ending which will lead to me reading #3 in a bit. Plus I get to sneak in HG references into conversations in unexpected places to see if people are listening and get the refs. 🙂

England for All Seasons – Susan Allen Toth

Toth has written quite a few books about England et al., most of which are paens to how much she loves the country so it was nice to read about the Home Land from someone who clearly obviously adores it. I think there are a couple of books which were published before this one, but this one takes the reader on a whistle stop tour of quite random places throughout England, Scotland and Wales. (No Ireland.) Was interested to read about her stay in National Trust properties in fairly out-of-the-way places and did learn that you can get a tour of Tower Bridge and actually walk that metal path between the two towers. (Didn’t know that, so will be seeing if we can fit that in next time I go home.) Toth definitely knows her stuff, but it seems to come across in a slightly bossy and superior manner for some reason. It’s as though she thinks of her readers as nice but a bit bumbling stupid at the same time. Still, not a bad read, but will not be looking at her other books.

In the Stacks: Short Stories about Libraries and Librarians – ed. Michael Cart

As is usually the case with a short story collection, there were some hits and misses. This is quite an eclectic collection of short fiction, and included something from most genres, including Ursula Le Guin, Saki, Alice Munroe, some detective fiction, and a few international pieces. As mentioned, some good stories here, but one or two *really* odd ones as well. This is helped if you are drinking a frozen margharita at the time. 🙂

And now reading The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman which is non-fiction about a couple who ran a zoo in Warsaw during the Nazi regime and managed to provide shelter to a lot of Jewish people at the same time. Good so far.

 

This turned into very boring and life is too short for that. Now reading “Of a Boy” by Sonya Hartnett.

Overall, Mexico was a really good break and a good time to reboot. Now back to real life!