Catching up, with mini-reviews

I’m doing so well with reading so far this year! My goal is 5 books a month and I’ve read 19 already. Yay me!

Some of these books weren’t for me and some were great but I only have about a paragraph to say about them anyway. Mini-reviews are the way to go!

reliableA Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
A good friend of mine loved this book and gave it to me, but I just couldn’t get through it. I managed 50 pages and then had to give up, as I noticed that things like polishing shoes were higher on my to-do list than reading was. The story is about a man who advertises  in a newspaper to find a wife but gets more than he bargained for. And since he has some dark secrets himself, he is not what the woman expects either. Interesting  enough, but I thought the characters were completely wooden and two-dimensional, and I didn’t care what happened to them at all, not one bit. Disapponting.

hiddenThe Hidden Staircase by Carolyn Keene 
This is the second book in the Nancy Drew series, which I loved as a child. I still find it charming, if dated. I actually find it surprising that 16-year-old Nancy isn’t discouraged from solving mysteries, it wasn’t exactly a common pastime in her time, the 1930s. Maybe that was part of the point, to show women in a different light. I was interested to learn that the character of Nancy was created in the 1930s, but that 175 volumes of her adventures have been published between then and 2003. The Nancy Drew books are ghostwritten under the collective pen name of Carolyn Keene. I never knew that!

deadDead in the Family by Charlaine Harris (Sookie Stackhouse #10)
I think I’m losing interest in this series… I’ll finish it because I’m so close to the end, but I’m not finding it as riveting as I did at the beginning. I didn’t care much for Sookie in this book, nor for the others. Is it just me? I can’t quite put my finger on why I’ve lost interest, maybe it’s because I don’t find her actions believable anymore. Not that her world is realistic but still, I could see why she did the things she did at the start of the series. I don’t really see why she doesn’t ditch the whole scene. I know this is vague, but I’m trying to avoid spoilers. 🙂

codeCode Orange by Caroline B. Cooney
I remember seeing loads of bloggers loving this book but I really don’t know why. Maybe I remembered wrong and there was something that sounded like this title. The story was ok, of a boy writing a school paper on infectious diseases of the past and accidentally possibly getting infected with smallpox. But the boy sounded about 12 in his maturity and it turned out he was 16 or something. And he was the laziest kid I’ve ever seen and he just pi**ed me off all the time. The only worthwhile thing about the book (for me) was the historical information about smallpox. I didn’t know that every animal has pox and that the smallpox vaccine is made of the cow pox virus. But it does make  me wonder why we allowed chicken pox to hang around. Is it because the vaccine was only invented recently or something?

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Sunday Salon: The week ahead

sundaysalonI originally planned last week’s ‘week ahead’ post as my first ever Sunday Salon post, but then thought that maybe it needs to be all about books. Looking around the blogosphere last Sunday though, I saw that many Sunday Salon posts were more general, so here I am. With reading thoughts included, of course!

What am I reading?

I hope to finish The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg this week I am loving it. So much of it is fascinating, not only for personal development but also for understanding how organizations and companies – all groups, really – work. Some of it is downright scary – the part I’m on now, about how companies can predict what you’ll want to buy, kind of freaks me out. If only I didn’t love being online so much!

I also think I’ll finish the audio of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 14 3/4 by Sue Townsend. The narrator is great and it’s enjoyable enough, but it is so very dated that it’s hard to identify with anything in it. It might be the kind of book that I could love if this was a re-read, but it’s not.

I’m still working on Succulent Wild Woman: Dancing With Your Wonder-Full Self by Sark and The Easiest Way to Learn the Tarot – Ever by Dusty White but there is no chance that I’ll finish either this week.

What am I watching?

More Downton Abbey, season 3! And a bit of season 2 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, we’re watching the whole series again. And season 2 of Glee – that’s the best show when you want something totally mindless to watch, so entertaining. Only if you like music and musicals though.

What am I cooking?

Hmmm. I didn’t do any menu planning for this week. And I didn’t follow the loose plan I made for last week. Not doing so well! I did make these Oatmeal Banana Breakfast Muffins and they were amazing and low-fat and relatively healthy. Oh and super-easy so I might make them again for this week’s breakfasts-on-the-go. For the rest, I need to sit down later and do some planning. Sigh.

Excercise?

Last week went quite well and I hope that this week will be even better. It’s snowing and winter-y here, so walking is less attractive than taking the bus, but I’m trying. I also started a tap class again and absolutely loved it, so much fun. That added to the yoga and Irish dancing that I already do adds up to a decent amount of exercise for the week.

Cool stuff I discovered

Do you know about Skillshare? It’s amazing! Anyone can teach a class on anything. I signed up for a course on writing blog posts that build community, you’ll be able to judge if I improve as a result or not!

Anything else?

Some other random mini-goals for the week:

  • continue with the Incredible Year workbook by Leonie Dawson 
  • write down some more business ideas
  • put some order to my notes from the creative therapy course I am doing
  • write and schedule a few blog posts, including Weekend Cooking for next week, I missed it again!

Do you have anything special you want to accomplish this week? Have a great week!

Read this if you want to feel really good about your French

17227206I definitely feel very good about my knowledge of French now – I finally read a book in French! After 16 years of living in Belgium. It’s a miracle!

Many thanks to Larissa – I would not have discovered (or had the courage to read) Le Guide du Mauvais Père by Guy Delisle had it not been for her. She reviewed it on her blog, made it sound interesting and even lent me her copy. It could not have been easier than that.

Le Guide du Mauvais Père translates as The Bad Father’s Handbook and isn’t really a book, but a collection of short story comics about parenting. It is funny and rings true. My favorite one is of the Dad promising his son that the tooth fairy will come. But he  keeps forgetting, his evenings are too busy – he spends them on the couch watching TV series. Sound familiar, parents?

It hasn’t been translated into English, but the French is easy, so if you understand some you’ll be able to read it. I had to look a handful of words up and even learned some curse words in the process! 🙂

Here’s an example of Delisle’s humor. He’s asking: ‘Do you want to try?’

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Seriously, get this little book and bask in your inner multilingual genius, like me.

Delisle also wrote Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea which I think will be my next book in French (Thanks for lending me that one too, Larissa!). It looks a tad more serious than this one.

The week ahead

I’ve been thinking about how to incorporate some weekly planning into my blogging and into life in general and I’ll start like this, by thinking about the week ahead.

What am I reading?

Way too many things at the same time! I’m reading Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones on my Kindle, The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston at home and The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg as my non-fiction. But I couldn’t help diving right into the Amazon package that arrived yesterday and now I am also reading Succulent Wild Woman: Dancing With Your Wonder-Full Self by Sark and The Easiest Way to Learn the Tarot – Ever by Dusty White.

Will February be one of those months in which I don’t actually finish any books?

What am I watching?

Downton Abbey! Just got season 3 and can’t wait to get started.

What am I cooking?

I’m determined to start a menu-planning habit. We eat so much better during the week if I take the time to plan our meals and make a few things on Sunday! Fingers crossed that I’ll stick to the plan!

Anything else?

Yes! I’m also re-starting exercise goals and this is week one, again. Last week was half-term so Shane was off school and my whole routine was shot. It was too cold and rainy to take him outside and I didn’t get a chance to do anything on my own. I’ve done 260 minutes of exercise so far this month. This week, I’m aiming for another 240, to end the month at 500 minutes.

Some other mini-goals for the week

I bought the Incredible Year workbook by Leonie Dawson and haven’t managed to even say goodbye to 2012 yet, I’m still writing down what I learned last year. We’re almost in March (yikes!) so I suppose it’s time to move into 2013. I will do at least a couple of pages in this workbook this week.

I started thinking about setting up my own business and have some ideas. I made a mandala around this topic but now need to write stuff down. Otherwise the ideas will be lost in a sea of everyday madness.

That’s it!

I can’t imagine having the time to do anything else.

What do you want to get done this week? Have a great week!

Weekend Cooking: Menu Planning

weekend cookingWeekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post

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Here we go again, as I try to formalize menu planning at our house. I find that our week goes completely differently if meals are planned in advance, with some pre-prepared. Not knowing what’s for dinner adds a layer of stress that I simply don’t need. I suppose this wouldn’t be an issue if we didn’t have a little boy in the house (I remember eating out a lot before he was born) but it is certainly an issue now.

I looked through my Pinterest boards and some food blogs and decided to make the following recipes this week:

These Oatmeal Banana Breakfast Muffins don’t have any flour, oil or butter! I’m really a cake-for-breakfast person and hope that they will satisfy. My pin is here.

Sweet Potato Veggie Burgers My pin is here.

Coconut Red Lentil Soup My pin is here.

And a coconut dahl from Indian Food Made Easy by Anjum Anand.

And I’ll probably need a pasta dish too – any suggestions?

Do you plan your meals? Any tips for me?

My first independent mandala and a read-a-long

Remember my goals for 2013? Mandalas are very prominent on my list and very important for my year. But, although I have no problem making them in the creative therapy course I’m taking, I’ve been procrastinating on making them on my own, at home. I’ve identified the reason as fear. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to do it on my own, that it would be ugly, that it wouldn’t mean anything, that I wouldn’t get anything out of it. Part of the problem is that I don’t think of myself as having any creative talent, so starting this is a really big deal.

Anyway, I did it, I started. Here’s a picture, below (click to enlarge). The title is ‘My business success’, I was focussing on some business ideas as I was drawing.

What does it make you think of? Do any words/feelings/images come to your mind? I’d love to hear anything you have to say!

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And on a slightly different note, Ms. Bookish and I are starting a read–a-long of A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. Join us? It’s a really interesting book about changing consciousness and living from your heart rather than from your ego. There’s a lot to think about, so group discussion would be useful. Timing will depend on if anyone else is interested. Leave a comment and let me know!

Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder

8252This the third book in the Little House on the Prairie series and tells the story of Almanzo Wilder, the boy who became Laura Ingalls’ husband. He grows up on a farm in New York State and loves helping his father with the horses and with chores.

I like this series for giving us a glimpse of what life was like back then. I love the detailed descriptions of how people built houses and grew food and tended to animals. And how they made everything from scratch. Farmer Boy includes loads of these descriptions, and not only of farm-related processes. You can even read about how the cobbler made shoes. The only description that I didn’t really enjoy was the one of butchering, there was definitely too much detail in that for me. Although it was interesting how every last bit was used!

Some of the things they did were so fascinating, like keeping blocks of ice buried in sawdust so that they didn’t melt when summer came. That’s how they got to make ice cream, for example.

It was a completely different time to live and what stuck me was how attached people were to their environment. Their lives were ruled by the seasons, every chore that needed to be done had its place in the year. It’s not that I’d like to live back then, I definitely prefer the comfort of now, but we have lost touch with nature and it would be nice to live life a bit more connected to what’s happening around us.

I found it hard to read about how little an education mattered to Almanzo’s parents and to Almanzo himself. He’d only got to school if there wasn’t something ‘more important’ to do, and there was usually something more important to do on the farm, the kids had to help their parents. I understand, of course, but it still makes me sad. I’m a huge fan of learning, I guess I wouldn’t have done well in those times!

The book is full of hard work but there were funny bits too. Like this one, about donuts:

“They rolled over, Mother said, because they were twisted. Some women made a new-fangled shape, round, with a hole in the middle. But round donuts wouldn’t turn themselves over. Mother didn’t have time to waste turning doughnuts; it was quicker to twist them.”

Who knew that the doughnuts we know today were fad? 🙂

I think that these books would make a great present for kids. They’d show them a completely different world and a completely different set of values.

It’s a nice book and a nice series. Everyone is so good to everyone else (except perhaps the Indians!). The children are all good and hardly ever misbehave. When did that change? Is it because we have too much time on our hands now? Would be interesting to know!