Thursday, May 28, 2015

Food: Some Convoluted Thoughts and Some Really Good Reads

I love food.

All the happiest memories of my life--holidays, travel, vacations, parties, family events--are so intrinsically linked with food that I can't tell if it's the event that made me love the food, or the food that made me love the event.

Just seeing paprika on potato salad takes me right back to my grandma's back yard barbecues in Preston, Idaho.

Caprese salad will forever remind me of the best meal of my life in Paris.

KFC chicken smells like Christmas Eve (I know, that one is a bit weird, but somehow my family adopted this strange tradition independently of the Japanese).

And while I loved them before, chocolate covered strawberries now revive all the wonderful emotions from my wedding day.

I don't consider myself a foodie, a connoisseur of delicacies, or even a particularly good cook (my husband is generous with his compliments, but my siblings are honest enough to keep me humble). But I love every part of a good meal. I love the anticipation, the planning, the cooking, the execution, and especially that time right after a good meal of feeling full and satisfied and perfectly at peace with the world.

But as much as I love food, my relationship with it is still complex (even more so when I'm pregnant). Nothing pleasurable in life comes without it's costs, it's stresses, and it's negatives. Food is no exception. Here are some of the complex aspects of my food relationships I've been thinking about recently.

Diet and Food Philosophies

Oh, the dreaded "D" word. I think for most women in this country, the number one single biggest negative issue with food is weight. This is actually not my issue. Between some lucky genetics and the nursing factor, I'm actually struggling to keep my weight up to a place where I don't look deathly emaciated (don't hate me, age gets the better of all of us and some day this metabolism will slow down). Weight might not be my issue right now, but health sure is. While I get to eat as much as a teenage boy, I still worry about the quality of those calories. I stress every day about how I should eat more fruits and veggies, less sugar and fewer carbs.

I think a lot about what kind of "diet" is most healthy for me and my family. By diet, I don't mean some three day juice cleanse or shedding a few pounds to fit in a wedding dress. I mean the regular way we eat, every day, in a sustainable kind of way. There are LOTS of philosophies out there. Should we be vegetarians? Or vegans? Or extreme raw vegans? Or go paleo? Or stick to Whole 30? Cut out gluten? Have I missed any of the current diet trends? The choices and arguments and data on all the different sides leave me spinning, and feeling extremely guilty when I serve carb-loaded pasta to my family every week.

Cost vs. Quality

More complex than even diet issues are the feelings I have about the cost of food. As a consummate underbuyer, I HATE spending money on food, a commodity meant to be consumed fairly quickly or else it will go bad, which makes it feel like a terrible investment. I absolutely at my core believe in cheap food. I admire this woman so much for being able to feed her family of seven (!) for $300 a month, and I heart Aldi with such a passion that I will drive 45 minutes one way just to shop there once a month and load up on basics and essentials. (The cost of gas doesn't even begin to compare to what that store saves us on food. For those of you who have never heard of Aldi, my condolences. I don't even remember how I used to shop before moving to the Midwest and discovering this treasure of a store.)

However, lower cost of food does tend to conflict with those dietary and food philosophy questions I wrangle with. Refined carbs are a very cheap way to feed a family, but they certainly aren't the healthiest. I know this, and thus the inner turmoil. I'm doing the best I can to feed us healthy foods, but when it gets down to the nitty gritty, I just can't bring myself to pay for grass-fed, organic, free-range, non-GMO food when the other stuff is so much cheaper. Maybe someday when those student loans are paid off I'll feel better about expanding our food budget a little to invest in higher quality food, but remember how I eat like a teenage boy? And how at that point my boys will probably be bottomless-pit teenagers? I will never completely stop serving those cheap carbs.


So yes, I enjoy cooking fun meals every once in a while and getting creative in the kitchen. But when I have to feed four people three meals a day? Day after day after day? After day? It doesn't matter how much you love something, anything you have to do that much becomes a drudge chore pretty quickly. Which is why I love meal planning and quick dinners. 30 minute meals? With a baby whose crankiest hour is 5 PM, my meal prep has to be under 10 minutes or we ALL start crying. I recognize that in centuries past, women devoted most of their awake hours to food preparation. My own grandmother was this way. As soon as the breakfast dishes were cleared she would start in on lunch prep. Honestly, frozen dinners have done more than feminism to free women from domestic servitude, and yet, food prep is STILL the single biggest time suck of my life.

Why can't all food be extremely cheap, require little time to prep, be super healthy, and satiate the appetite of a teenage boy? Is this really too much to ask from life?

These issues aside, I still love food. A lot. And also reading about food. Honestly, reading about food is almost as good as eating food itself (except no, that's not true). I love all kinds of books on food: non-fiction that explores the issues I mention above, memoir that explores all the reasons to love food, and fiction with mouth-watering descriptions that leave me salivating. Without further ado (and holy cow, have I ever had more "ado" leading up to a list of books? I mean, talk about a long intro), here are a few books I've either read or want to read about this topic near and dear to my heart.

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

Okay, so if there is a food "philosophy" I do want to ascribe to, it is probably the one Pollan outlines in this book: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Really, this book had a more profound impact on the way I feed my family than anything out there. It actually got me to stop buying margarine and cough up the big bucks for real butter. That's saying something. This is the only Pollan I've read, though I hear his other stuff is good too. I highly recommend.

Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist

Gosh, I just love this book so much. This book takes all of my issues about food and puts them in perspective. Niequist makes food about people. About nurturing and feeding people. It's beautiful stuff, and I can't recommend this book more highly. It's one worth owning.

My Life in France by Julia Child

Oh, Julia. The icon, the figure, the force, in her own words. She was quite a lady, and while I didn't love everything about this book, I found her passion for cooking to be really inspiring. Also, her love of the French. I share that with her. They just know how to do food.

Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl

I read Delicious! by Reichl, but I have a sneaking suspicion I will enjoy her nonfiction more than her fiction. I've heard such great things, I'm excited to get this one off my to-read list.

An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler

The tag-line to this one is "Cooking with economy and grace." Yes, please! I've read glowing reviews of this book, and it sounds fabulous. Part cooking-instruction, part food philosophy, this sounds like the kind of book I'd love to sink my teeth into (lame pun? sorry).

And in honorable mention, my favorite movie about food of all time:

Babbette's Feast

Okay, if you can remotely appreciate good foreign films, this one is a MUST WATCH at some point in your life. The food! Oh, the food! And the story! And the characters! Such a good, sweet, amazing, mouth-watering movie.

Okay, what's missing from this list? What books about food should be on my to-read list? What are your own thoughts/feelings/issues with food?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Literary Date Night In

With a couple of kids and no date night budget to speak of, actual dates that involve leaving the house are few and far between around here. So that usually leaves us every Friday evening scrounging around for good and creative stay-at-home date night activities (yes, we have Netflix, and no, that does not count as "date night").

Personally, I enjoy any at-home dates that involve food and cooking together (which is why I'm hoping to get my hands on a copy of this book soon, it sounds fantastic). But while my husband enjoys eating fun and new and creative things, he's not so great at the cooking part of it. So sometimes those date nights devolve into me alone in the kitchen while my husband surfs the web, occasionally calling out the next set of directions from the recipe open in one of his tabs.

Also, the dishes. Not a super romantic way to end a date night.

If my husband had his druthers, we'd spend every date night playing board games. Now, I love me a good board game as much as the next person, but my husband's enthusiasm for the intense, strategic, highly involved board games way outstrips my own (sometimes, when he's telling me about a new game he wants, he starts throwing out jargon like "European style," "worker-placement," "territory-building," "dice mechanic," and my eyes just glaze over). To his credit, he has invested a lot of effort in building up a collection of super fun two-player games that I really do enjoy, but when we spend "date-night" playing board games with just the two of us, and then the next night host our weekly game night with the neighbor friends who also happen to be really into board games, I can get board-gamed out pretty quickly.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, my husband suggested we try something new for date night. He proposed we read a short story out loud to each other, and then discuss it book-club style.

Now, if you're thinking that sounds like just about the most pretentious, nerdiest, lamest date night you could possibly imagine, I'm ashamed to admit that was my first thought too. Read short stories out loud to each other? For DATE NIGHT?

But actually, I think I was just ashamed that this was his idea and not mine. After all, both our families have a culture of reading out loud. Our parents read out loud to us when we were kids, and on long road-trips I used to read out loud to my husband all the time (until I got pregnant, and now cannot handle even looking at printed text in a moving vehicle without getting nauseous, so thank heavens for audio books). We read aloud to our own children every day. Couldn't reading aloud for date night actually be fun? I mean, I'm always game for a good literary-themed date night (especially if involves indie book stores, author readings, and awesome bookish restaurants), and here's one that was not only free and at-home, but awesomely creative and different too.

So, on that Friday night, after getting the kids to bed, we moved out onto the back porch to enjoy the nice spring weather, lit a candle for ambiance (actually, for mosquitoes, but same dif), and passed the ipad back and forth as we took turns reading the story out loud. My husband picked "Eve's Diary" by Mark Twain, which I had never even heard of before, but in typical Twain fashion it was delightfully funny, creative, and thought-provoking. We had a great little discussion afterward about Twain's insights and additions to the Bible story. It was a perfectly lovely way to spend an evening, and also engage with my husband on a more meaningful level than if we had watched a movie or something.

Considering May is Short Story Month, what better time to have your own short story reading date night! I will confess that I'm not very knowledgeable or well-read when it comes to short stories. This is a genre I don't read often, even though I thoroughly enjoy short stories. However, if you are so inclined to have your own short story book club date night, here are a few I recommend for being classic and provoking some good discussion:

  • The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman - Need help explaining to your husband why you need to devote more time to reading, blogging, and adult social activity after spending all day with just babies? Here's your story.
  • The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell - Is your husband into big game hunting? Good, I'm glad he's not, but this is still a crazy good story.
  • The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe - This one might be more fitting around October, but, like scary movies, creepy/scary stories are just as good an excuse for cuddling.

I'm freely going to admit here that in order for this type of date night to work, both parties need to be of the literary persuasion and really enjoy a good old nerd-fest type discussion. Otherwise this activity could be nothing short of high school English torture. I truly lucked out that my life partner enjoys the written word as much as I do, but then again, I'm not sure I could've married someone who didn't like to read.

(Long side tangent story: My younger unmarried sister started dating this super cute, successful guy last fall, but a month into their relationship she discovered that he had NEVER SEEN the Lord of the Rings movies!!! Not even one of them! He was only vaguely aware that they were about elves or something. It slowly came out that he didn't read much at all, and wasn't really interested in movies adapted from books. Now, I will stress that this was a super nice kid, but I saw this as a MAJOR red flag. When my older sister and I would get on the phone to discuss our younger sister's relationship, she would say things like, "Well, he has such a great job, she would be financially secure for the rest of her life, this is such a good match!" And I would be like, "But he hasn't read The Lord of the Rings! He doesn't know what a Hobbit is! He doesn't read!" Inevitably, they broke up. End tangent.)

I'm thoroughly looking forward to using some future date nights to explore new short stories. Any suggestions out there? What are your favorites?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Happy Blog Birthday to Me!

Two years ago this month, I pushed publish on my very first blog post here. In celebration of that anniversary, I thought I'd give the blog a much needed little sprucing up and tiny bit of a make-over. Maybe you've noticed a few of the changes if you've visited in the last few days, or the hiccups as I've experimented with some (very basic, but still beyond my depth) features and html stuff. I'm still working on updating a few of the pages, and some of my links are a bit wonky (working on it...), but feel free to visit and check out the fresh look. Here are some of the highlights.

  • New header! New buttons! Nothing super fancy, but my sweet husband designed these for me (he picked up graphic design as a hobby in the last year, and has far outstripped my pathetic attempts to cobble images together). Fun fact: Black, white and red were our wedding colors (it was a June wedding, and I'm not sure my mom has forgiven me yet for not picking bright floral colors). I still haven't found a more favorite color combination. So classic.

  • Spruced up pages. I especially had a fun time putting the Books page together, with links to every book I've mentioned on the blog organized by category. This one may be more of a resource for me than anyone else, but it sure was fun to revisit all the books I've read and talked about in the past two years.

Please let me know if you experience any problems using the site, or have any suggestions to make things more user friendly. As much as I love blogging, the technical side of things is not my forte. Still, I'm having lots of fun learning and playing around here.

Happy blog birthday! Thanks for reading and participating in the bookish fun that goes on here. Here's to many more years of reading, writing, and blogging to come!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Free (Audio) Books (Or, the Best Part of Summer)

It's time for my yearly public service announcement about the awesome program that is Sync. For those of you who have never heard of this program (which, if you've been reading my blog for the past two years, you should have heard of this program), here's the deal. Every summer Sync offers free audio books that you can download right to your computer, and that you then own for ever and ever. Each week they post two new audio books, a YA book paired with a similarly themed "classic" (sometimes I think they're a bit generous with their definition of classic, but whatever, it's a free audio book, I'm not complaining). You have one week to download those titles before they are gone and two new titles are released. So you kind of have to be on top of the schedule, know ahead of time what books you want, and mark your calendars so you don't forget to download your books the week they are available.

Due to all that nonsense with the semester ending, I'm a bit late this year, and unfortunately the first week is already over (which is so sad, they were offering Rebecca, which if you haven't read yet, you really should, even though you're too late for the free audio book). Still, there are 13 more weeks and 26 more potential titles for awesomeness, so all is not lost.

Like every year, I haven't heard of many of these titles and cannot vouch for their quality, but every year I always find at least one or two gems (sometimes more) that make me so grateful this program exists.

Also, it's FREE. What could be better?

Here are the titles I'm excited about this year:

A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty

I've seen a few positive reviews of this one around, and the description is terribly intriguing. I think I will definitely be snagging this one, especially since from the summary I can't for the life of me figure out why it's paired with...

Dracula by Bram Stoker

My husband read this a few years ago, really enjoyed it, and told me I should read it. It's been on my too-read list ever since, but, you know, never made it to the top (it feels like I should already know what this story is all about, but according to my husband, this Dracula and the Dracula of pop culture are completely different). Well, with a free audio version of it, maybe this will be the year.

The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger

Haven't seen the movie, but good nonfiction always intrigues me, and this one sounds fascinating.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

This is a sequel to Code Name Verity, which I really liked, but which was also kind of intense. I'm not sure if I'm ready for the sequel (set in a concentration camp, no less), but you can bet I'll be downloading this one anyway.

March by Geraldine Brooks

I love Little Women (which is the other title offered this week, so snag it if you want it on audio) with all my heart. I am trepidatious about how this made-up back-story might totally ruin an already perfect thing, but then, it won the 2006 Pulitzer, so someone thinks it's good. I'm willing to try it out.

I strongly encourage you to go check out Sync's lineup for the summer, pick out your titles (there are plenty of other good ones that I didn't list here), and mark your calendars. It's going to be a great summer.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Student Mom: A Day in the Life

I love reading "Day in the Life" posts from other people. I always find it fascinating to see how other people structure their time, what they choose to fit in when, and how they do it. Especially mothers. I'm always so curious about how they handle naptimes and bedtimes and mealtimes. Every time I read a "Day in the Life" type of post from another blogger, I usually always come away with an, "Oh, yeah, that makes sense, I should do something like that with my schedule" kind of moment.

But I've never wanted to do a day in the life post for myself because, I mean, who cares about my little life, right? I'm certainly no expert on time management or routines or motherhood schedules or anything like that. It feels a tiny bit presumptuous to assume any of my readers would be interested in a blow by blow account of a typical day.

But then, when I was reading up about the benefits of time logs, I had a thought that, you know what? As a mom and a grad student, I actually do have kind of an interesting schedule, and maybe someone out there would be interested to see how I manage kids and school on a typical day. Maybe it would help some other mom considering grad school visualize how it can be done. So I decided to pick some normal school day and track my time and do a Day in the Life post. Maybe someone will find this interesting, if not useful.

Also, as soon as you decide you want to track a "typical" day, it turns into a not typical day very quickly. I kept waiting so long for that typical school day that I found myself at the end of the semester, so this is what happened last Thursday on my very last day of class. It wasn't necessarily a "typical," but it was close enough. And this is probably way more detail than you want, but I can't help myself.

3:30 AM - Henry, our 7 month old baby, wakes up crying. I consider letting him cry it out, since he typically sleeps through the night and has been for months, but he's getting over an ear infection, so I take pity on him and nurse him back to sleep. Also, I turn off the alarm set for 6:30, because that wake-up time is not happening after this interruption.

7:20 AM - Josh, the 3-year-old wanders into our room. I wake my husband up and make him go do breakfast with Josh.

7:40 AM - Henry is awake again (he sleeps in our closet). I try nursing him again, but after his early morning feast he's not very interested, so I change his diaper and give him his morning dose of medicine (for the ear infection).

7:50 AM - Breakfast time for me! Oatmeal with honey, and a little blog roll reading while I eat.

8:10 AM - After doing the breakfast dishes, I slip in a yoga DVD and begin my morning sun salutations.

8:30 AM - Don't get through the whole workout because Henry is finally hungry, so I nurse him down for his morning nap. Hubby leaves for work at some point. As soon as I get the baby down, I quickly monitor Josh's morning chore chart (make bed, clear breakfast dishes, get dressed, etc.), turn on a show for him (Curious George), and hop in the shower before our apartment complex shuts the water off at 9 AM (maintenance work or something).

9:00 AM - Run through my morning hair, make-up, make bed routine. Henry is crying in his crib and clearly not interested in a morning nap after sleeping in so late.

9:30 AM - Get shoes on everybody, assemble Josh's back pack and my diaper bag, change a poopy diaper.

9:40 AM - Out the door on our way to preschool.

10:00 AM - Drop Josh off at preschool (co-op with some other moms in the area), chat with the other moms for a few minutes.

10:10 AM - Time to run some errands. Hit up an ATM to get cash, then head to Target to grab a card and present for our nanny (since it's her last day with us until next fall).

11:00 AM - Home, put the grumpy baby down for another attempt at that morning nap, then start some dinner prep while listening to a podcast (peeling and cutting up sweet potato for a crock pot Sweet Potato Taco Goulash).

11:30 AM - Wake up poor Henry, hop back in the car to go pick up big brother.

11:45 AM - Preschool pickup, chat with other moms for a minute.

12:10 PM - Home again. Quickly pull together a peanut butter sandwich lunch for Josh, then nurse Henry.

12:30 PM - Henry down again to finish the rest of his interrupted nap. I jump back on dinner prep and throw everything in the crock pot.

12:45 PM - Finally, lunch time for me! I heat up some leftovers from the night before and enjoy some more light blog reading while I eat (Josh is playing in his room).

1:00 PM - Assemble the card and present for the nanny, pull my books together for school, print out a paper, tidy up a few things and get ready to leave.

1:20 PM - Henry's awake, and that baby is grumpy. Quick diaper change.

1:25 PM - Nanny arrives. I pass the grumpy baby off to her and try to get Josh settled for "quiet time" in his room. He demands I read Where the Wild Things Are, which I do as quickly as possible before rushing out the door.

1:30 PM - Queue up my audio book and head out for my 45 minute commute to campus (traffic is worse than usual today, for some reason).

2:15 PM - Find a parking spot, walk to my building, drop off a paper that's due for another class, then head to my classroom.

2:30 PM - Class starts. Because it's the last day, the professor brought treats! Wine (which I don't drink), juice (which I do drink), cookies and brownies. I give my presentation on The Grapes of Wrath, and we have a good class discussion on whether Steinbeck's portrayal of women and matriarchy is positive or repressive (I think it's positive, in case you were wondering).

4:45 PM - Class gets out early! (My classes are usually three-hour block classes from 2:30-5:30 T,W,TH). I check my phone on my way out and find out the family dog died. I call my brother in the parking lot to find out the details and share my condolences (the dog was technically his).

5:00 PM - Head home. Traffic is a bit worse than usual, but not out of the norm.

5:45 PM - I grab some gas at Costco since my tank is nearly empty.

6:10 PM - Home! I pull out the camera, take some pictures of the boys with the nanny, give her the card and present, shed a few tears (we really, really love our nanny), and say good-bye.

6:25 PM - Dish up dinner out of the crock pot, and grab a jar of baby food for Henry. Spoon feed him in between bites for myself.

6:45 PM - Bathtime for both boys. I pull Henry out first and let Josh stay in and play.

7:00 PM - Nurse Henry for the last time and put him down.

7:15 PM - Get Josh out of the tub and have a relatively smooth bed-time routine with him, brush teeth, potty, pajamas, two bed-time stories, scriptures, prayers, and then "cuddle-time" which usually involves singing a song together, but tonight he wants me to write out the numbers 0 through 100 on his magnetic writing board (my kid is weirdly obsessed with letters and numbers).

7:40 PM - Both boys are down! Change into PJ's myself and do the dinner dishes.

8:00 PM - Josh is crying. Apparently his favorite monkey blanket is missing, which could be grounds for a catastrophe. After looking everywhere for it, I offer him a different blanket, which he thankfully accepts (I find the monkey blanket out in the backyard the next morning).

8:15 PM - Finally settle down for a long evening of paper writing. Got my books, laptop, glass of water, and chocolate stash all set up. My goal is to get five pages written before I go to bed.

8:35 PM - Henry wakes up and starts crying. I don't have time to soothe him tonight, so I let him cry it out.

9:10 PM - Henry finally settles down and falls asleep on his own. Hallelujah.

9:30 PM - I take a break from writing to call home and check on my mom. She's pretty devastated about the dog, and I spend a few minutes comforting her while she cries. My husband finally gets home from work while I'm on the phone, and when I hang up we share a mint chocolate to commemorate the passing of that little dog.

9:50 PM - Back to work on my paper.

10:30 PM - Break to do my nightly pumping (this is how my baby eats while I'm in class). While I pump, I take an enneagram test for fun. Results are rather inconclusive.

10:50 PM - Back to work on my paper.

11:30 PM - Hit my five-page goal, save my work, and start my bed-time routine (wash face, brush teeth, personal scripture study/prayer).

12:00 AM - Hit the sack.

Just a few notes on the day:

-When Henry sleeps through the night, I usually wake up at 6:30 AM and do my personal scripture study then. It's a nice way to start the day, but if I have any interruptions during the night, I let myself sleep in.

-My husband is usually home earlier than 9:30, but rarely in time for dinner or bed-time routine, so all of that was pretty typical.

-I'm usually in bed earlier than midnight. This was just a crunch week since all of my papers were due Monday. On a typical night I wrap up homework around 10 PM and get to bed between 10:30 and 11:00 PM. It's really not all that bad.

-Crock pot meals have saved my life this semester. I think we had a crock pot dinner every single class day except for two. Easiest way to walk in the door and have dinner on the table in less than five minutes. I experimented with a lot of new recipes, some of which were complete disasters, but most of which we loved. Crock pot for the win.

Okay, so I know that was kind of detailed, but hopefully interesting to someone out there. It's a little bit crazy and busy some days, but I must say that it hasn't been as hard as I thought it would be to balance school and motherhood. Motherhood always comes first, and the rest just falls into place.

Also, if you have any further questions about any part of my day or routine, or how I make school and motherhood work, feel free to ask! I'm happy to share.

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Travesty Remedied, or My Lovely Mother's Day

Back when I did my major book purge, on top of having my epiphany about only wanting nice, aesthetically pleasing books, I made another startling discovery.

I did not own a single Jane Austen novel.

I'm not really sure how this came to be. Obviously, there were copies of Jane Austen novels in my home growing up. I think I read her entire collected works before entering high school. But I guess none of those copies actually belonged to me, and I guess I never asked for any.

Still, I was a little floored when I realized that I did not own a single one of her books. I mean, who am I? How did this happen? What? I own nearly every single movie version of Pride and Prejudice, how do I not actually own the physical book?

Obviously, I immediately complained to my husband about this deplorable state of affairs, and he picked up the hint. So yesterday for Mother's Day, this is what I got to open over breakfast:

Pretty, no? That husband of mine knows me so well (the boys gave me chocolates, so all around it was a present-winning kind of day). It makes me so happy to see this one nestled among the other books on my shelf (a dictionary got demoted to make room for this one on my tea cup shelf), and if I find time this summer I'm itching to reread Persuasion. It's been too long.

I hope all you other mothers out there had an excellent day yesterday and were suitably honored by the men and children in your lives (especially if your children are old enough to understand you deserve the right to sleep in every now and then and not cater to their every whim. Sadly, my children aren't that old yet). I always find it a bit funny that what I want most for Mother's Day is to not have to do any "mothering" stuff, but it's the absolute truth that I love my children more when I get a little bit of a break from them every now and then. Today I have nothing but happy feelings for my children, so that means my Mother's Day was a great break.

In other excellent news, I turned in my final paper this morning, dropped my books off at the library, and the semester is finally over! Summer is here! Hopefully this means I'll have more time to devote to some pleasure reading, and more time hanging around here to talk about that reading (and other stuff). So yay for that.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Books I Read in April

Oh, it's getting close here, at the bitter end. One week from today and all my papers will be finished (or at least, turned in, whether or not they will be "finished" is another question entirely), and I will be home free for the summer. It's a wonder any pleasure reading is happening at all, but thanks to audio books and a commute, a little pleasure got slipped in there last month.

Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay

After finishing the rather delightful Dear Mr. Knightley last month, I couldn't help but listen to this one too, since it was also available. Reay certainly has a formula, and much of her thematic/character development was very similar to Knightley, but I still rather enjoyed this one. I especially enjoyed the food descriptions that showed up here (Lizzy is a chef in this one). Reay knows her way around a kitchen, and I'm always a sucker for good food writing. Once again, recommended to anyone who enjoys some more thoughtful (but still pretty light) Austen fan fiction.

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

I kind of wish I could've read this one rather than listen to it, because I assume they used some creative typography for the magic words that Felicity can see everywhere (someone whose read the print version, please confirm), but as it was I had fun imagining my own typography for the words. This middle-grade novel was completely delightful. I really enjoyed the type of magic described (especially the seeing words, I thought it was unique and creative and exactly the kind of magical ability I would have wanted as a twelve-year-old girl). Highly recommend this one.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Okay, so this one wasn't entirely for pleasure. This was the one and only novel I actually finished for my Modern American Novel class this month (because I have to write a paper and give a presentation on it). This was a reread for me, I read it at some point in high school, and boy! Did I ever miss the socialist undertones that first time around. Still, I really like Steinbeck. I like that his characters are real, normal, like-able, everyday kind of people, and that even though they are living through a completely depressing era of history, they still have moments of hope and happiness (unlike other modern characters, where its all doom and gloom and moral degradation). Anyway, this is one of those books that if you haven't read, you probably should.