What A Long, Strange Trip

ImageHey, all. So, as per usual every few months here on the blog, I’ve taken a little bit of a leave of absence. If you’ll remember, the last time was because I got engaged, and I’m so grateful and overjoyed to announce that this time it’s because I got a new job – yes, that’s right y’all. In this dreadful economic climate, a fresh-out-of-college graduate (side note:: I’ve also graduated with a BA from KU and been accepted to Emporia State as a masters student in their Library Sciences program since the last time we spoke!) was able to land a full time job that she actually enjoys. It can be done, people. It can be done. I’m currently working the front desk at a local kick-ass insurance agency (seriously, guys, I know insurance agents can come off slimy, but this guy is the bomb diggity) and I couldn’t be happier that all the pieces of the 2011 puzzle seem to have fallen together rather wonderfully for the transition to 2012.

So what’s the plan now, I hear you asking oh so anxiously? Well, needless to say I’ve got quite a bit to catch up. While I was gone, I missed posting for a blog tour that I promised I’d do, as well as my date for the Book Blogger’s Advent Tour. You guys, I can’t tell you how sad/upset I am that I missed these deadlines. It’s so not my style, and it doesn’t exactly reflect well on me, but this is just one of those times where there isn’t much I can do about it, so I’ve decided to just cut myself a break. To be honest, it’s the new year and as much as I want to try and get caught up on those little things, I just don’t see there being time between now and then. So, instead I’d like to talk abotu some of the stuff I’m excited about coming back with when the calendar finally rolls over in 2012!

To start with, I recieved A Game of Thrones from my LOVELY secret santa (seriously, this wonderful woman went above and beyond! Not only did I get a new copy of A Game of Thrones, but I also got a collection of Christmas short stories, some delicious french vanilla instant cappuccino, and some gingerbread tea! Talk about a package of Christmas goodies! I haven’t seen anything on my own gift-getters blog, so I hope my package got to her okay!) and, much like Eva was talking about recently, I just don’t like to start huge books right as the year is about to end, so I’m planning on cracking that baby open as of 1/1. I’m also excited to introduce some new features on the blog, especially some focusing on crafts, homemaking/home arts, and faith and spirituality. As I’m getting closer and closer to being a wife (and one day mother), and being responsible for my own home, I’m finding my interest in everything from setting up that wonderfully organized pantry to canning my own goods, and especially how to be a woman filled with faith, bringing that same faith to her family and those around her. I promise to not get preachy, but these past few months or so I’ve really felt myself growing in that direction, and hope that all of you will stick by me on these new and unknown journeys in to the future!

In the mean time, I’ve wrangled up a few great blog links for you guys to take a look at while I’m off an about doing family Christmas things, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be back with a back-logged review or two before the holiday season is out (who knows, maybe I’ll do my advent post anyway, even though I missed my scheduled date)! These are websites and people that, in the past few weeks, I’ve found myself returning to to e-love on over and over again, for a whole host of different reasons.

Lindsay at A Passionate Homemaking is one of those women I look to when it comes to raising a family with respect to virtues, faith, and upkeep of those true tennants of what it means to be a Christian. She talks about everything from homeschooling to homecrafts to being a mission-minded family, and she’s just such an inspiration!

Laura from I’m an Organizing Junkie has become my go-to girl when it comes to absolutely anything oranizaing related. The thing I love the most is that she runs a ‘program’ called 52 Weeks to Organization and I’m telling you, between that and her advice on meal plans, container-izing, and decluttering, I’m really thinking 2012 might just be the year I end up organized!

In case you haven’t already seen it floating around the blog universe, you simply MUST do you and your brain the pleasure of checking out the Slaughterhouse 90210 tumblr. Taking pictures from contemporary movies, television, and commercials, and pairing them with classic literature quotes makes for always hilarious and often thought-provoking internet reading. You’ll kill hours there, I swear it.

Lastly, if you haven’t already seen her, of if you have been tossing aside my suggestions all this time, please go check out Ash and her English Major’s Narrative. She’s been one of my favorites from the beginning, but since she’s done a blog overhaul a few months ago, she’s really become one of my blogging rolemodels. Ash isn’t afraid to be honest and share herself in her blog, and I can’t help but really, really admire that.

Happy holidays, happier reading, and may you and yours carry the peace and love of the season with you wherever you’re going!

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The Sunday Salon: A Late-November Interlude

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Today has already proved to be quite the dreary, cold, blustery day, and to be honest I can’t think of an environment more friendly to a day of solid reading! I’m so woefully far behind on my Goodread’s classics bookclub’s reading of Swann’s Way by Proust that I think I’m just going to have to throw in the towel on this go-round and add it to the list of classics I’m planning on reading in 2012. The book is beautiful and sweeping, but my interest and attention span just don’t seem to be on board with reading it right now.

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While I’m not exactly succeeding with Swann’s Way, I’m actually cruising along at a rather surprising pace through Ken Follet’s The Pillars of the Earth. The sprawling story is, as might be expected, rather operatic and soap opera-esque but for some reason it’s working for me at the moment. I don’t necessarily understand much of the cathedral construction terminology, but the opportunity to get lost in the sprawling kingdoms and political intrigue of the Middle Ages has been a rather wonderful distraction from the mundane task of mass job-applying that’s been on my plate lately. I’ve still got about 400 pages to go (it IS a 1000 page book, after all) but I’m hoping/excited to finish before I leave Wednesday for T-Givings. I’ll have a much more in-depth review later, but for now let me say that I adore Philip and Aliena and can’t stand the rapist William Hamleigh.

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As much as I’m loving Pillars of the Earth, I’m feeling like I need that extra little confidence boost of actually finishing a book, and as I’ve delayed my reading of Little Women until after the new year, I’ve decided to satisfy my classics craving with Bronte’s Jane Eyre (and a HUGE cup of coffee with caramel macchiato creamer, as you can see in the picture above). This is a re-read of one of my favorites, one I haven’t visited for the two years or so since my British literature survey course, and I’d almost forgotten how much I love dear Jane. I’m barely started – I just got to the part where John pulls Jane from behind the curtain in the study, and Jane is unfairly sent to the red room – and already I’m remembering my dire urge to punch Jane’s pseudo-siblings in the face! They’re such miserable little brats, and it just makes it that much easier to sympathize with Jane.

All in all, I’d have to call this one of the best reading Sundays I’ve had in quite some time, and I hope that whatever yours is stacking up just as well. Happy reading!

Why I Might be a Bit Absent for a While…

Clocking in at: 997 pages (PLEASE ignore the Oprah’s Book Club label! So far, it’s fantastic)

Read-a-long begins November 9th. And, I mean, it’s Proust.

Little Women, Little Men, Jo’s Boys because, well, it’s cold grey November and that mean’s it’s time.

I’ll catch you around the blogosphere, you all, and I promise to return with updates! Happy reading!!

When the Going Gets Sick…

Those mice are the first thing that pop up if you google image search ‘sickness’! 😀 I just thought that was too adorable. Way more adorable than the truly nasty case of strep throat that I seem to have come down with. Since Monday, my life has been a big ole’ clusterfrack of 103° fevers, sore throats, chills, hacking coughs, raging headaches, and not enough strength left in me to read, let along get caught up on my 300+ new posts in Reader (my rants about the changes to Google Reader will also have to come another day). Luckily, by now, I’m feeling much better, although tomorrow will be my last day of rest, so I’m still not up to 100%. I just wanted to take this brief time of Medicine Vortex (that’s what I’ve come to call the time that my antibiotics, ibuprofen, Nyquil, and Vicks Vapor Rub all seem to kick in at the EXACT SAME TIME to leave me feeling almost normal) to let you know I’ve got one more R.I.P. review coming your way tomorrow (I’m sure Carl will allow the day or two past deadline, considering the circumstances 😉 ) and a challenge wrap-up post later this week or this weekend, depending on how my body is holding up. Hope all of you out there are doing wonderfully, and I can’t wait until I REALLY get the chance to play catch-up with all your bookish happenings. Happy reading!

Hitting the Wall

Hello, all you lovely blogger-ites out there. I’d like to begin by saying that I’m sorry if I’ve gotten your hearts all-a-tither by posting, but sadly there is no review for today. This post is to explain why that is – and why I’ve been having such a down week.

Our school usually has fall break on a Thursday/Friday, which means ending on a Wednesday but starting on a Monday, just like normal. It was nice – I liked this setup, as did every other student at my university ever. But this year, the administration decided it was going to be opposite-semester, and we had our fall break on a Monday/Tuesday. Now, this threw me off for ALL of last week. Seriously. I found myself sucked of motivation, concern, and effort. Add to that:

1.) cooler temperatures

2.) a fussy, stomach-sick puppy

3.) my wisdom teeth coming in

and you can see why my past ten days or so haven’t been productive at all. Not that they couldn’t have been – there was still plenty of time for updating and other bloggy things. But that usual ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ mentality that I usually rely on in these situations just wasn’t there and I decided to be nice to myself, not to fight it, and to just give in to a bit of the down-time. I’ve still been doing plenty of reading (R.I.P. VI reviews galore are promised for tomorrow/this weekend) and I’m SUPER, SUPER EXCITED about being a cheerleader on Team Twix!! This means that, for all you lovely read-a-thon readers out there, that I’ll be helping to cheer for letters R-Z, and I’m hoping to meet some absolutely wonderful brand new bloggers over the course of Saturday.

Well, folks, that’s really all there is to it for right now! I have to ask though – does this ever seem to happen to you? I mean, I know everyone gets tired. But it’s more than getting tired. On those days where you’re down, and extra tired and you just can’t find the ‘uumph’ – do you ever just let yourself give up, and admit that sometimes it’s okay to just…not. And to not feel bad about it? I don’t very often, but I’m starting to think that it might be better for my mental health that way! Anyway, happy reading and I hope to catch all of you on the read-a-thon flipside!

PS: I’m EXTREMELY sad that I missed both the Fragile Things and The Lantern read-a-long posts, but I already have thoughts brewing for next week, and can’t wait to jump right back in to those lovely discussions!

Happy Ada Day to You!

Hey guys! Happy Ada Lovelace Day to all you bloggers out there, especially you ladies, and especially you ladies with far more math/engineering/science skills than I’ll ever possess! For those of you who don’t know who it is we’re celebrating today, here is the description straight from the website:

Ada Lovelace is widely held to have been the first computer programmer. Close friends with inventor Charle Babbage, Lovelace was intrigued by his Analytical Engine and in 1842, she translated a description of it by italian mathematician Luigi Menabrea. Babbage asked her to expand the article, “as she understood [it] so well”, and this was when she wrote several early ‘computer programs’. Ada Lovelace died of cancer at 36, her potential tragically unfulfilled

So, basically, Ada was one of the original bad-ass computer chicks, and is a rolemodel for smart women everywhere (along with others like her, here I’m thinking of Marie Curie and Rosalind Franklin), and especially those smart left-brainy chicks! While usually I’d have a science-y female written book to review, the month of October seems to have run away from me reading wise, so I thought I’d pay a little video-tribute to other women out there who are following in great Aunt Ada’s shoes and changing the way we think of the world. These videos all come from the great T.E.D. Talks series (which you simply MUST check out if you haven’t already – these speeches are all about the crazy new things happening in the world, and can be eye-opening, jaw-dropping, and are perfect for the constant life learner):

There you have it, guys! My personal favorite science-y, tech-y female given speeches over at TED. I urge you to watch at least one of the videos – you’d be surprised how quickly one can lead to dozens. None of them are very long, and each one showcases something extraordinary going on in the world, in this case at the hands of females! So I hope that, wherever you are and whatever you’re reading, you’re having a happy time of it and enjoying your Ada day to the fullest!

PS: I also think that my dear friend Ana at things mean a lot did such a great link round-up, I have to direct you to it! Enjoy!

Fragile Things Read-a-Long Week Four

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Hey guys! I hope that everyone out here has seen October dawn as beautifully as it has here in the Midwest. With the exception of one quite toasty day here this week, it’s been cool and sunny and all kinds of wonderful with those glorious changing trees! One of these days, I’m going to make it out to New England for a real fall, but until then I’m perfectly content with what I’ve got! The stories for this week’s installment of Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman were, in my opinion, some of the best so far, although I seem to be among the few who really didn’t mind last week’s stories. This week we’re talking about “Good Boys Deserve Favors”, “The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch”, “Strange Little Girls”, and “Harlequin Valentine”. And while I was totally in love with three of the stories, “Miss Finch” really did nothing for me.

“Good Boys Deserve Favors”

I think I loved this one for many of the same reasons that I loved “Flints of Memory Lane”, because of it’s realism, it’s tone, and a lingering feeling, when done, of something hiding just below the surface. It’s a fictional example, I think, of what Neil does best! However, whereas “Flints” was more about seeing the horror in he minutia of the everyday, “Good Boys” is more about the magic of reality, or at least things that exist in the everyday. At least, I like reading it that way more.

I love the concept of music as magic, of there being almost a literal spirit than can overtake you and produce beautiful music through you. This is, I believe, what happens to the “I” of “Good Boys”, and it’s why he’s able to do

things with the bass that an experienced jazz bass player with hands as big as my head would not have done

I mean, that’s magic in the everyday if I’ve ever seen it. I also think Neil does a wonderful job of creating a character who is so beautifully ordinary, who sounds like I did when I was in the sixth grade and playing the violin in my elementary school orchestra. It’s because of this normalcy that the magic of the music is that much more extraordinary. Truly, I thought this was probably one of my two favorites of the week, and I just hope that everyone else loved it as much as I did!

“The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch

Alright. So. Here is what I got from this story. I’m BEGGING for someone who liked this story to enlighten me: couple eating sushi. Fake name, bitchy lady. Creepy circus-type haunted house freak show. Many rooms. Animals, magic jungle, no more lady.

That’s it! A total, total loss for me.

“Strange Little Girls”

This was definitely my other favorite story of this week. Because I love vignettes. And because I love Tori Amos. And because they succeeded in perfectly creeping me out, right as the weather was cooling off. It was the perfect story at the perfect time and I love when that happens!

I think that some of my favorite prose in the entire collection so fa has been in this story. Take, for example, the seven lines that is the first vignette, “New Age”:

She seems so cool, so focused, so quiet, yet her eyes remain fixed upon the horizon.
You think you know all there is to know about her immediately upon meeting her, but everything you think you know is wrong. Passion flows through her like a river of blood.
She only looked away for a moment, and the mask slipped, and you fell. All your tomorrows start here.

I mean, COME ON!!! That’s gorgeous, and while that’s not all it takes for me to love a piece of writing, it certainly helps. I also loved recognizing so many of the lines from the liner notes of Tori Amos’s CD by the same title. One of my college roommates was a huge Tori Amos fan, and turned me on to the lovely lady herself. She’s been a favorite ever since!

Some of my other favorite vignettes include “Silence”, “Time”, “Heart of Gold”, “Happiness”, and “Real Men”! Hehe 😀

“Harlequin Valentine”

This story was an interesting read for me. I loved it, but it made me sad. I was fascinated, but still get a little lost about the whole commedia dell’arte thing. I tried to wikipedia what I could, but am still having a tough time feeling comfortable saying I understood the full extent of the story. But, the good news and the blessing of it being a Gaiman story is that not fully understanding it didn’t keep me from loving it so, so completely!!!

I loved that the story started with the Harlequin pinning his real heart to the door as a valentine. There is something so grossly romantic about a gesture (emphasis on the grossly!) That he follows her all over town, spinning verse and sweets nothings in favor of his beloved Columbine I think is just the curran thing – there was something that totally drew me to the Harlequin and all if his charming, cocky swagger! 🙂

I also love that, in the end, Columbine and the Harlequin switch places. I seem to have read a number of stories like this recently (most Gaiman’s, some not!) and the idea is just fantastical and creepy enough to work. And here, it’s done with such humor that I couldn’t help but chuckle. The only problem I had with this story, in fact, is what happened after the switch!

The ending to this story was so heartbreakingly sad for me that I’m sure it’ll stick with me for a long, long time. The fact that this once magical, fun, spirited being is now living amongst the mundane, devoid of the skip and sparkle that made me love him so much to begin with. And the very end? When that single red diamond appears on “Pete’s” sleeve?! I lost it! It was so sad that I think that kept it from being one of my favorites. Not necessarily on it’s own merit, but in comparison to the other amazing stories we read this week!

Well, folks, that about wraps it up for my reflections on the fourth week of the read-a-long! In other bookish news, I’m finally going to get around to posting my latest Library Loot, which I actually recorded before Banned Books Week! I’m also glad to say that I have quite the little back-catalogue of books to talk about, so I’m looking forward to catching up on those this week! Thing with me and FBM are good, if boring, and I’m just enjoying the beautiful weather and the fabulous books! Hope that you’re enjoying your Sunday, however busy you are, and that this week is full of happy reading!

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