5 Things I Loved About This Week: 20 September 2014

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1) Friday:  My schedule at work has changed around again and now I’m off work all day on Friday. I use the morning for grocery shopping and errands. Then the rest of the day I divide up into chores/deskwork and leisure time. Yesterday I scrubbed both bathrooms, tidied the apartment, washed clothes, called the phone company, paid bills, and cleared off my desk. I also read several chapters of The Secret Keeper and worked on my blog for Bloggiesta. The best part? I WAS SURROUNDED BY SILENCE!

2). Cardigans: The temperature cooled ever so slightly this weekend allowing me to wear a cardigan for most of the day. I adore cardigans and I am completely comfortable with my stereotypical library lady look.

3). Sam’s Imminent Schedule Change: Sam’s last day as a custodian is next Wednesday. Next week marks his last few days of working every Sunday afternoon and every weekday night (he works until midnight). The kids will be overjoyed to have daddy home at bedtime and I’m looking forward to actually seeing my husband.

4) Settled: I think everyone is just about adjusted to the new apartment. Atticus still talks about missing the old house, but on the whole he seems alright. We are unpacked and in a routine. I still need to hang art on the walls, but I’m waiting until October. I like to wait a month before hanging stuff up because I am really strange. The best part of being settles is that I can GET TURNT when the kids go to bed. By turnt I mean I can do what I want: read, bake, knit, write, blog…. I go nuts with joy. There’s no packing until midnight, sorting closets, or selling our useless crap on social media. My little introvert heart is tickled pink.

5) Pumpkin Spice Lattes: To be completely superficial I thought I’d celebrate my favorite seasonal beverage. More specifically, I’d like to celebrate the buy one, get one free afternoon deal available through the weekend at Starbucks. Cheers!

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Fall #Bloggiesta is Here!

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I’ve been under the weather for the past few days (strep, AGAIN) but now I’m back! Yay! It is amazing what two days of sleep, super-mega antibiotics, and sleep-inducing cough meds can do.

I’ve decided on the fly to participate in Bloggiesta this month. It starts today! I posted last week about the recent bout of blog malaise going around the blogosphere. I’m not necessarily suffering from writer’s block or frustration. It is more about scheduling the time to blog and truly making it a priority. Another part of my problem is that it takes me a long time to write a blog post (from idea to publish). My goals for this Bloggeista are based on some of those thoughts milling around in my head. Here we go:

1) Blog Notebook. Get one. I think better on paper first.

2) Do a very general calendar for posting

3) In the back of the notebook, start keeping a topic list / idea sketch area for each of my categories. I do like having daily categories for when I have “open” days. It helps quiet the cacophony of ideas in my brain leading to a less overwhelmed blogger.

4) Determine my mission statement, audience, and objectives and write that in my notebook

5) Redo my “about me” page

6) Update my sidebar

7) Decide on times to blog (this lunch break blogging isn’t working)

8) Write up some post for next week. I’m going to experiment with blogging ahead of schedule.

9) Start reading Daily Rituals and see if that helps to jog my creative schedule-making.

10) Participate in at least one twitter chat

11) Participate in at least one mini-challenge

12) Respond on at least a dozen other blogs

Ole!

Readerly Rambles: 15 September 2014

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What I read: Earlier in the month I finished up The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. This was a re-read for me, but frankly I don’t remember finding the book so creepy and fascinating during the first read. I’ll hold off on my analysis until the Estella Society has their Hill House read-along discussion on October 1st. For a teaser let me just say, HOLY COW THE BELL JAR!!!

What I’m reading: I’m about halfway through Kate Morton’s The Secret Keeper. The story centers around Laurel, an aging actress who is haunted by remembering a violent act concerning her mother. Almost s her mother is elderly and nearing death, Laurel feels pressure to discover the truth of what happened that day and to uncover her mother’s secretive past. The novel reminds me a bit of Sarah Water’s The Night Watch simply because it occurs during wartime and the timeline seems to move backwards and then forwards. I hope that makes sense. I’m really enjoying it for the plot and characters and but the crux of the novel focuses on the secret life of mothers and that is the most fascinating element. You know, the fact that we are completely human with passions, interests, faults, etc…. outside of being a mother even though society tends to sum up women based on their role as a mother (or lack of a role as a mother). Good Stuff.

I’m also dipping in to M R James’s Collected Ghost Stories on my Kindle. It is my lunch-break, waiting-in-line read. I adore M R James and he is a masterful storyteller. Thus far the most frightening story in the collect is “The Ash Tree” as it features my least favorite creature: SPIDERS.

What’s up Next: Once I’m done with The Secret Keeper I plan on cracking open Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope. I am completely determined to finish The Chronicles of Barsetshire series this year.

Reading Challenge Update: RIP IX is coming along marvelously. I’ll post more extensively on RIP at a later date, but suffice it to say that I am all over this challenge. I’ve read one book out of four (Hill House) and the James counts as my story collection. I also watched The Haunting, which is the film version of The Haunting of Hill House for the Peril of the Screen challenge. This is certainly my favorite challenge.

I’ll write extensively on my reading challenges as I wrap up the year in December / early January, but I did want to note how I’m doing on my goals:

Back to the Classics — 7 out of 10
Victorian Reading Challenge – 8 out of 2 (winning!!!!)
Chunksters – 5 out of 5 (yay!)

Bookshelf Issues: To wrap up this week’s Readerly Rambles I’d like to share my readerly conundrum — my books are still boxed up. We moved two weeks ago and I’ve yet to unpack my books because I don’t have shelves for them. I had two cheap-y Target bookshelves that pretty much fell apart during the move. With two little kids around and knowing these shelves will be full with books I didn’t want to risk cobbling particleboard back together. On one had I want to just buy more cheap shelves as we plan on buying a home in the next three years. I’d like to put built-in shelving when we buy OR make sure that our shelves go with the style of the house. On the other hand, it seems silly to waste money on items that will be used temporarily. And if I did buy some solid shelves they could probably go somewhere in our future home. So what’s it to be?

1). Cheap shelves for now

2). Pull a little savings and get sturdier shelves

I don’t know what to do; I just know I won’t be settled until the books are unpacked!

Weekend Cooking: Nana’s Banana Bread

Weekend Cooking: Potato Leek Soup, Apple Nut Bread Pudding, and Apple Cheddar Scones

The number one way to feel at home in a new place is to bake like a mofo. And brew coffee… lots and lots of coffee. Soon the smell of new paint, cleaning supplies, and empty apartment will dissipate and instead your abode will be filled with the smell of coffee and delicious sweets. I’ve been in a bit of baking kick since we moved (despite the small, apartment-sized electric stove… sob!) and I’ve made chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin pancakes, and various quick breads. Last night I decided to us up some bananas in the freezer and make my grandmother’s banana bread with a few alterations.

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Nana’s Banana Bread

Ingredients:

2 C sugar

4 C all purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 C applesauce (the recipe called for oil, but I subbed applesauce)

4 eggs

6 overripe, mashed bananas

1/4 C milk

1 tsp vanilla

1 C chopped pecans

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour two bread pans.

2) Mix all the dry ingredients in one large bowl

3) In a medium bowl, mix applesauce, eggs, bananas, milk and vanilla.

4) Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and gently mix (some clumps are okay, don’t mix it to death or your bread will suck)

5) Fold in pecans

6) Divide batter into two bread pans and bake for 45 to 55 minutes

7) Cool for 30 minutes, remove from pan and then slice and enjoy!

 

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Keep a loaf for your family and the second one is great to share. It even freezes well. Before freezing let it cool completely, wrap it in aluminum foil, and the put it inside a large freezer bag.

I love this bread. Atticus woke up hungry at 5:30am this morning and enjoyed a piece while I sat bleary eyed at the table. He loved it!

 

Blog Malaise: A Remedy?

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I’ve got my thinking cat on.

Fig and Thistle has been a bit quiet — as expected — due to moving and getting everyone settled. I feel writing pulling me back and I expect things to be pretty busy over here for a bit. My journaling is going well and that is usally a sign that the blog juices are going to flow. At least that is how I feel right now. There is also this worry at the back of my mind that this space is a waste of time. I like blogging — most of the time — but sometimes I feel really out of the loop.  I’m not really a book blogger even though I talk about books a great deal. I’m not a mommy blogger because although I blog about my kids it lacks the depth of “mommy advice”. I don’t do enough cooking or crafts to have a DIY blog and I would certainly need something other than my Android phone to take pictures if wanted to “level up” in that area. What am I? What is Fig and Thistle? I’ve grown in followers from 200 to over 1,000, but it isn’t exciting when most of those followers have names like “super discount carpet emporium”. I had a slew of comments back in March, but I’m very conflicted about that. I seem to only garner loads of comments when I write about being fat or being raped. Trust me, I don’t intend for those to be regular themes. What am I doing here and how do I justify the time and thought I pump into this wee space?

I’m not alone in feeling like this. Two of my closest blog buddies, Andi and Heather, are feeling the same way. I’ve  read that other non-book blogs are shutting down. And some favorite blogs from several years ago are silent now. I’ve thought a lot about blogging the past few weeks and I’m thinking a change is in order. Not necessarily a change to this blog, but a mindset change.

My thought pattern is kinda in two parts:

1) I think this is a time to put on my academia strategic planning hat. Any time we do anything in the library we think about our purpose and mission statement, our audience, and what we hope to achieve. I have an about me page, but I think I also want to write a “mission statement” for my blog. What is my purpose, who do I want to reach, and what do I hope to achieve? If I blog something it needs to serve a purpose, reach my audience, and have the end result I want. For me this looks like it will be along the lines of: forming inspiring friendships (purpose) with people who are kindred spirits (audience) and who want to share their lives in creative and inspiring ways (goal). Churning out book reviews or writing about dieting or gender issues are NOT my purpose although those things may be useful in reaching my goal. Looking at things like this it changes how I want to write. For someone else it may be more bookish or business-oriented, but that isn’t Fig and Thistle.

My hope is that by defining my purpose, audience, and goal I will assuage some of my doubts and that will lead to less floundering when I try to draft posts. There is no correct answer or way to blog, but I can imagine that some of the blogs I enjoy may be different. For example, if your purpose is to review newly published books, your audience would be readers, authors, and publishers and your goal may be to obtain ARCs. That just isn’t me.

2) I’ve learned that life changes throw my bloggingand reading off completely. I know that moving, changing jobs, having a baby, etc…. halts everything. Partly this is because I create better when I have a schedule or ritual or habits. I make blogging (or really any writing) a priority and I hold a sacred time apart from others to fulfill this need to write.  This blog is not intended to make money, or push a product, or create the next viral something…. My goal is to keep this space as a creative outlet  for my writing and to form connections with kindred spirits.

But…. I am a woman and a Southern woman at that. I feel pressure to treat this as a hobby; some sort of scribbling woman afterthought when the dishes are done and the babies are in bed and work is chugging along smoothly. I’m prone to think that I need some sort of external reward to justify this time spent here. Money? ARCS? Folks wanting product reviews? Comments and hits?

ENOUGH…

I NEED TO TREAT MY BLOG AS LEGIT WRITING. What I do here is valid and important even if it is just for me. I should treat this time and space as important and this applies to other things I do for myself: crocheting, reading, exercising. It is important because even though my life is filled with beautiful souls I care for deeply, at the end of the day, at the end of my life, I’ve spent the most time with ME. When everything external is scraped away I’m left with myself, my thoughts, my words. I don’t want to coast. I don’t want to put my children to bed and spend every evening staring at a wall or watching Spongebob (although some Spongebob is totally fine). I want to do something, even though that something may be small like this blog, or unseen like my journal, or temporary and delicious like my scones.

How in Hades do I fire up the energy, thought, and creativity to blog and reap satisfaction from the experience? Finding my purpose, audience, and setting attainable goals is half the battle. The other half is honoring my need to write as valid and worthy. This means compartmentalizing my mama worries and my stress at work and making time to write because what I have to say is valid and I have a purpose. To help me carve out time I thought it would be inspiring to read a book about writers and artists who have a crazy range of different rituals and habits that help them create their works. I’ve decided to read Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey  to assist in thinking creatively about managing my, well, creative time. I’ll probably start this book in October and, yes, there will be a book review.

I think I have at least an inspiring to-do list: write up my mission, audience, and objective and make time for this blog by looking at my time creatively, shaking off the need to have external rewards, and finding inspiration in other creators.

Let me know in the comments, do you suffer from blog malaise? Did you give it up? Will you stick with it? How do you find the inspiration, the time?