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List Love: The A-Z Bookish Survey

list love

Author You’ve Read The Most Books From:

Charles Dickens. I’ve read ten of his novels, story collections, and plays. I should mention this survey applies to my adult reading habits. I’m sure I read upwards of 50 Babysitter’s Club books in the fifth grade.

Best Sequel Ever:

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman. I found the second book in the His Dark Materials series a bit better than the first book and certainly better than this last book. I’m drawn to Will Parry’s character.

Currently Reading:

Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope and A Clash of Kings by George R R Martin

Drink of Choice while Reading:

COFFEE!!!

E-Reader or Physical Book:

I love my physical books, but I will say that my e-reader is wonderful for lunch breaks, long trips, midnight nursing sessions, and when I have sick kids. It has enhanced my reading, but in no way replaced my love of “real” books.

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Dated In High School:

Unfortunately I would have wanted to date Heathcliff. A terrible man, but in high school I thought he was hot.

Glad You Gave This Book a Chance:

The Game of Thrones by George R R Martin. It was almost so hyped I didn’t try it, but I’m glad I did.

Hidden Gem Book: 

The Collected Stories of Elizabeth Bowen. I feel that Bowen’s short stories don’t get the credit they deserve. Each story it masterfully constructed. Everyone must read this collection NOW.

Important Moment in your Reading Life:

This is a difficult question and I should probably write a separate post on influential moments in my life as a reader. I will go with my earliest reading memory of my mom reading the unabridged Alice in Wonderland to me when I was in 1st grade. I sat through an hour of her reading this to me each night and I begged for more.

Just Finished: 

Dear Life by Alice Munro

Kinds of Books You Won’t Read: 

Erotica, Chick Lit, most Sci-Fi, vapid YA.

Longest Book You’ve Read:

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. That chunkster clocked in at over 1300+ pages.

Major Book Hangover Because Of:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J K Rowling. I had a month long book hangover when that series wrapped.

Number of Bookcases You Own:

Three full-sized in the study, one set of built-ins in the living room, and two small waist high shelves.

One Book You Have Read Multiple Times: 

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I read this book every other year and I think I’m up to about 12 reads.

Preferred Place To Read: 

In a cozy, snug chair at a coffee shop.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read. 

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.
- Atticus Finch” from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird

Reading Regret: 

Alias, Grace by Margaret Atwood

Series You Started and Need to Finish:

A Song of Fire and Ice by George R R Martin

Three of Your All Time Favourite Books: 

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. By the way, I went with the first three that popped into my head and I’ve since thought of a dozen more.

Unapologetic Fangirl For: 

 Harry Potter, Sylvia Plath, Charlotte Bronte, Anthony Trollope, Wilkie Collins, and Charles Dickens

Very Excited For This Release More Than Others:

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters!

Worst Bookish Habit:

Dogearing the pages of my paperback books.

X Marks The Spot: start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book:

I’m using my TBR list for this year as I’m not near my shelves. The winner is: Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (a re-read)

Your Latest Book Purchase:

A lovely Vintage Classics copy of Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell for 50 cents at a thrift shop

ZZZ-Snatcher  book (last book that kept you up WAY Late)

The Game of Thrones by George R R Martin. I have a new rule that I am not allowed to read epic high fantasy novels before bed.

AtoZsurvey-1017x1024

Brought to you by The Perpetual Page Turner!

Readerly Rambles: 21 July 2014

readerly rambles

What I Read: A few weeks ago I finished my first Alice Munro collection, Dear Life. Holy cheeseballs why didn’t I pick up Munro sooner?!?! I’ve mused for weeks how to perfectly sum up this collection and there is nothing I can say that will do it justice. I will try my best to tie this collection together in a simple way. The stories are very much driven by the protagonist and his or her thoughts and interpretations of the the situations they find themselves in, their memories of the past, and the their reactions to those around them. If I had to pick some words to describe the stories — from characters to scenes to dialogue — I would pick words like: interior, close, introspective, circumspect, careful, still, introverted. The “action” doesn’t make the heart of the story so much as the fallout of those actions or the — often unvoiced — choices characters make. The characters are pulled-back, set-apart, alone and it is so very effective. For example, in a story about a woman remembering the death of her sister when they were children, the crux of the action isn’t about the actual death, but rather about the living sister being haunted by her inaction when her sister was in trouble. Another story is narrated by a man (most of the stories have female protagonists) who abruptly leaves a female companion after learning something disturbing about her childhood. The odd and traumatic childhood isn’t the focus, rather it is what drives the protagonist to keep leaving and abandoning people in emotional situations. The first 13 stories in this collection are fiction. The last section, “Dear Life,” is composed of vignettes about Alice Munro’s childhood. I found these tales of babysitters, insomnia, and memory fascinating. I will certainly be picking up more Munro in the future. She is a expert storyteller and can build troubled, sympathetic characters in the style of Patricia Highsmith, Elizabeth Bowen, Shirley Jackson, and Flannery O’Connor. I’m resisting an urge to binge purchased every Munro collection.

What I’m Reading: I’m halfway through Trollope’s Doctor Thorne and it is even better than Barchester Towers and I adored that book. Trollope just keeps getting better and better. I’m set to finish the book this week as long as my reading goes according to plan. I’m beginning to think that Trollope is a good “gateway” book for those intimidated by chunky Victorian novels. Trollope is hilarious and the dialogue rivals the rapier wit of Jane Austen.

I’m also about half-way through listening to Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. I’m enjoying it, but I save my audiobooks for when I’m exercising or doing some data-entry like work that I have to do at work. Things were too chaotic to listen to an audiobook at work last week, but I hope to get back to it this week.

Lastly, I started reading the second book in George R R Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series — a Clash of Kings. I’m reading it on my Kindle which means this has become my lunch break, stuck in line, up with the baby at night book. I’ve forbidden myself from reading it at other times because I know I will read too much of it. I want to savor this series and not blow through the entire thing.

What’s Up Next:  I was planning on reading another classic, but between Trollope and reading other large books I feel like I need a break. I was staring at my shelves last night trying to decide what I wanted to read: modern? kids’ book? memoir? I had no idea. Then I saw a book my friend Michelle lent to me ages ago, The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss. This Pulitzer Prize winning piece of non-fiction is about General Alex Dumas, father to The Count of Monte Cristo author Alexandre Dumas. The Count of Monte Cristo is one of my most favorite classic novels and I’ve read it twice. This sounds both literary AND swashbuckling. I’m 99% sure it will be my next read. Besides, I really need to return the book!

Bookish Miscellany: I’m one pound away from reaching my next weight-loss goal. That means another *new* book purchase. I’ve been only buying books as I stumble upon them at thrift stores and I’m dying to buy books off of my wishlist.  I’ve been buying a book for every five pounds lost. My goal is to lose that pound this week so I can order the Penguin Deluxe Threads edition of Black Beauty. I have all of the Penguin Threads with the exception of Black Beauty and Little Women.

That’s it for this week. Let me know what you’re reading in the comments.

Happy Reading!

Percolating Blog Ideas

This weekend the blogosphere is celebrating Bloggiesta. Bloggiesta is blog event that encourages bloggers to spruce, plan, update, and improve their blog. I’d love to gung-ho participate, but this will be a very busy weekend. This week I thought a bit about Fig and Thistle and what I would like to do in this space in the future. I am big on ideas and short on time and I really need a way to organize and maximize my posts. I usually jot down ideas in the my journal or on post-it notes, I “pre-blog” a bit in the evening and I usually end up writing the bulk of my posts on my lunch break. It feels like a scramble sometimes.

I’ve toyed with the idea of having “themes” for each day of the week. Initially I thought this might be too restrictive, but it would at least allow me to focus my thoughts. How about a trial run through the rest of July and August and if it sucks I can go back to willy-nilly blogging?

sunday scribbles

 

readerly rambles

 

list love

 

works in progress

 

thurs

 

photofriday

 

thrifted

 

 

Sunday — Sunday Scribbles: a place to talk about journaling, show a bit of my journal, showcase stationary, and talking about writing.

Monday — Readerly Rambles: book reviews, book hauls, book fangirling, TBRs, etc….

Tuesday — List Love: I participate in Top Ten Tuesday on occasion, but I love lists and I like the idea of making lists of non-book related things.

Wednesday — Works in Progress: On Wednesdays I’ll talk about projects including knitting, crochet, embroidery and non-crafty things like organizing, cleaning, and budgeting. Thrifted will be my back up category for when I have some thrifted goods to show off.

Thursday — Thursday Thoughts: A place to write about what’s on my mind on topics such as social media, motherhood, work, and anything else on my brain.

Friday — Photo Friday: A time to share photos or possibly participate in some of those Instagram memes I never remember to do on a daily basis

Saturdays — Other people’s themes: I may write a Celebrate 5 Things post or do a Weekend Cooking post. And, of course, Readathons and other book related events.

Whelp, there’s my wee-bitty bloggiesta contribution. Let me know what you think? Any other ideas?

Conversations with Atticus: On Librarians being No Fun

tea with atticus

(Background: I was taking the sprinkler from the yard to the library so we can water our freshly planted garden behind the library.)

Atticus: “Cause why you take the sprinkler to work?”

Me: “So I can water the garden that’s behind the library.”

Atticus, with an excited leap: “Will the librarians put on their suits and play in the water?!?!

Goodbye, Facebook (#99DaysOfFreedom)

new-profile-picture
An update on my social media cleanse. Towards the end of June I had just about had it with social media. Actually, just with Facebook. I did move my app on my phone and I deleted every single like/follow/friend who wasn’t a real person I knew (and liked) or a source of bookish joy. I deleted every human rights / animal rights / mommy blogger / political figure / etc…. I even unfollowed coffee shops (not Inman Perk, all the others), restaurants, nerdy news sources, movies, and bands.

But there I was. Still checking my phone. Still popping on Facebook at work to see what “so and so said” or to go through reams of invites for various parties and events (some invites from people I barely know). I’d like to say that this endless scrolling through Facebook was like watching reruns of Disney Pixar cakes on the Food Network: fun, mindless, something to wile away a few spare minutes.

Except it wasn’t like that at all.

I’m going to try very hard to not sound super creepy, but I find myself becoming embroiled in the lives of my Facebook friends. Not in a sinister Tom Ripley or Edward Cullen sort of way. My problem is that I really and truly care. I will go back and see if your truck was repaired for a reasonable price, I will check to see if that grandchild was born safely, I will worry about a vague-book status that seems depressed, I want to know if your kid quit puking and you got some rest, I want to see how that quilt turned out after you stayed up all night ripping out seams and redoing the stitches. I care. That sounds silly, but I do care.

This doesn’t apply only to my close family and friends. That mom at daycare, the teachers who teach my kids, people at church, neighbors, childhood friends I haven’t spoken to in decades, blog friends, pretty much everyone. I want to check up on all of you. Why? Why do I care so much? I think there are several reasons:

1. Introvert to a fault. I don’t talk on the phone. AT ALL. Okay, I talk on the phone to my mom about once every other week. I write letters and postcards, I blog, I do social media. God help me if I have to talk on the phone. I may just die. I could list all kinds of excuses, but I don’t really get out much. I go to church events, I knit with two friends once a week, occasionally I go see my friend Catherine. I set up all these meetings using Facebook and texting.

2. I’m a reader. I read novels. I like novels by Barbara Pym and Iris Murdoch where you learn what each character had for lunch or their views on the proper way to fold table linens and all of this details is tied up in some sort of drama that plays out in the daily and the mundane. Facebook is real time, real life details that could make up an amazing novel. At least a novel I would read.

3. I’m tired. I’m up with Persy Jane some nights. My eyes won’t focus to read Trollope. The meeting is boring. My knitting is allllll the way over there and I don’t want to leave my chair. So I scroll, like, quiz, comment. Over and over again.

4. I care. I’m tenderhearted and I worry about people. Seriously. I get stressed by your stresses and then I feel helpless and I want to fix everything. I hardly know most of the folks on my Facebook so it would be weird for me to call you. “Hey, I know we only talk in the school pick up line, but did that argument with your husband work out?”

5. I’m nosy as fuck. I don’t want to seem saintly, so I’ll fess up. I like to know everyone’s business. I just do. Because maybe I want to be the elderly, eccentric cat lady in the “between the wars” British novel (yes, yes I do).

Yup. That’s me. The over-involved Facebook friend. How embarrassing. I knew I needed to stop.
There I was, trying to keep myself from constantly checking Facebook when I saw this on — ironically — a friend’s Facebook page: 99 days of Freedom. There I learned about Facebook’s mood experiment (which pissed me off) and the backlash against Facebook. Folks all over the globe are planning on ditching Facebook for 99 days. What a fabulous idea! Originally I was just not going to log in, but the fact that I cannot remove my phone app bothers me. I did the only thing to do: I deactivated my account. Full disclosure, I have a work account so I can post to the library’s Facebook page, but I’m not accepting any friend requests (not even from my husband). I’m not logging back in on my personal page until October 20th. Freeeddddoooooommmmmm!!!!!

Always the over-achiever, I’m going to kick it up a notch and once a week I’m going to do something in real life that I would normally do on Facebook. Here are some ideas:

1. Invite people to my home by calling on the phone or sending paper invitations.

2. Sending cards for new babies, deaths, illness, and birthdays.

3. Getting together with family members so they can see the kids and/or printing off pictures to send.
4. Sending or giving out recipe cards to folks instead of “posting” a recipe
5. Talking. To People. In Person. REAL TIME.

I’m still on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest as those social media platforms tend to inspire rather than distract. Already I’ve accomplished more reading, knitting, and I’ve been much more “present” when I’m with my husband and kids. Who knows, maybe I won’t be back to Facebook.

If you’re interested in joining #99DaysOfFreedom let me know. I will totally like that status.

Home is Wherever I’m with You

home

Click the picture to purchase this print from Argyle Academy. It is beautiful!

Several months ago I blogged about our basement being flooded with poo-water, a crazed landlord, and our frustration with our rental home. We are still having issues with repairs not being made in a timely manner,or not at all, and our landlord’s son still pops over at all hours despite our asking for 24-hour’s notice per our lease agreement. We deal with the landlord’s son because our landlord is an 80 year old lady, from here out “the landlord” refers to the son. Here is where they get us: we have — and always have had — a month to month lease. We only have to give 30 days notice that we’re moving and they only have to give 30 days notice to boot us out. They have been so antagonist about repairs about repairs and we are hesitant to complain too much.

Let me give you an example. Last Monday morning I woke up to Persy throwing up. Sam went into the bathroom to get me some towels and he noticed that the bathroom ceiling was leaking. It was raining outside and inside the bathroom big, fat droplets were falling from a cracked-looking seam in the bathroom. We put a trashcan under the leak and immediately called the landlord.

He came over that afternoon and could find “no sign of a leak or moisture.” I showed him the four inches of rain in the trashcan and he said that the roof was replaced seven years ago and “what did we do to the roof?” What do you mean? How could we damage the roof? While he was there I asked him about the slow-draining bathroom sink and the tub caulking that was supposed to be handled two months ago. He said “what are y’all doing to that sink?!” The sink that he informed us was slow draining and had to be cleaned out once or twice a year when we signed the lease. He then informed me that it was the pipes in the wall messing up (okay then we definitely didn’t do anything to the sink) and that he wouldn’t be repairing that or handling the tub being caulked. He called Sam later threatening to raise our rent and acting like we are terrible tenants.

What really sucks is that we are amazingly awesome tenants WITH the exception that sometimes our front lawn isn’t mowed as often as it should be. For the past four years we have never been late with the rent, we’ve notified them of repairs, none of the repairs have been due to our carelessness or clumsiness, we’ve even gone and checked on our landlord’s 80-year old mother (and owner of the property) during snowstorms and bad weather. We are quiet, respectful and never have tons of visitors or do anything to disrupt our neighborhood. Every year there is a tray of handmade goodies with something knitted or sewn or lovingly crafted for the mom and the son. We’ve tried to be not just tenants, but neighbors.

We have even offered to make some the repairs ourselves if we could take materials off the following month’s rent. We were laughed and mocked for that and accused of trying to scam the landlord. We’ve made a few small repairs on the DL just for the sake of our health and to avoid arguments. For example, the Christmas I was pregnant with Persy Sam ripped moldy wall paper out of the bathroom, spackled, and painted the bathroom with a mildew/mold resistant paint. We’ve repaired drawers and replaced door knobs that were damaged and locking our kids in the bathroom/bedrooms. Sam has pulled nails out of the floor and cut off sharp, broken edges of the linoleum. We just cannot afford to do costly repair like roofing, plumbing, and flooring issues (and we shouldn’t have to do any of this). I should take pics of all the repairs needed and show you all.
 

Yes. It is time to move. Originally we had planned on buying a home. I qualify for a no-down payment Georgia Dream loan since I work in education and we could probably buy something at the end of the year. However, I don’t want to feel the pressure to buy a home and make a decision we’d regret. We’ve decided to wait a year or two and then explore buying a home. Next year Atticus will be in pre-school which will save us about $500 a month in childcare AND we will have our van paid off. Having an extra $700 a month will help when purchasing a home. Also, Sam and I are credit card-free and we’d like to keep it that way. That means we will need to save for repairs and emergencies so we don’t find ourselves sucked into relying on credit cards.

Okay, buying is out for the time being. What about renting another home? Alas, we simply cannot afford it for several reasons. Our current home has crazy cheap rent for the size home we rent and the area we live in. Other houses in the area rent for double what we’re paying (although they are in much better condition). There is no way we could pay double what we’re paying now. Also, renting a home ends up being higher on utilities. It costs more to heat and cool, there is lawn maintenance, trash pick-up, water, etc…. Once we crunched the numbers we realized that we’d have to shell out $850 to $1,000 more per month. I cannot do that. Let me be totally honest, that’s two and half weeks of my pay and I’m the “breadwinner.” Unless one of us becomes a stripper there is no way we can shell out that cash.

Our only option is to search for an apartment. We are tasked with finding a three-bedroom apartment, in the same school system, in a good neighborhood, and for the amount of rent we can afford. We’ve found two complexes to look at. They are slightly more than we are paying right now for our house, but include several utilities and they will cost less to heat and cool. We have to wait for Sam’s student loan check to hit in early September so that we will have the cash to apply for apartments, cover the pet security deposit, and move in. That puts us moving in mid-September to early October.

We feel uncomfortable and insecure in our current home. Then I read about The Goodwill Librarian’s potential homelessness at the hands of a rotten landlord and I felt really insecure. Although I’m frustrated and ready to move, I know I will be heartbroken when we leave. We thought we’d be in this house until Hope was in college. I brought home two babies from the hospital to this home. We moved in just after four months of marriage and when I was three months pregnant with Atticus. In four year’s time, we’ve built our lives around this shabby little house. I’ll miss it.

I am approaching our upcoming move with a good attitude and a sense of adventure. It will be nice to declutter. We will have the security of a lease and know that we aren’t going to be booted out for asking for repairs. We will have a timeline to plan our home purchase to suit the best time for us and not with a ticking-timebomb of a deadline. Yes, this will be good. Difficult but good.

After all, do I need a pantry? Or a study? Or a large yard for kids to run in? No. Those things are nice, but that doesn’t make it a home. Sam, Hope, Atticus, Persy, and Beau the cat make my home home. My best memories are ones were we are all piled into the same room all together. Even though Sam has a “man cave” in the basement and I have a study upstairs I just have to think of my FAVORITE memory to know that we don’t need the space.

My favorite memory: The weekend of February 2nd and 3rd of 2013. The weather was icy and gray. I was super pregnant with Persy. Hope was on the couch “chillaxing,” Sam was playing playdoh with Atticus at the dining room table, I was cooking soup and knitting. I made oatmeal cream pies earlier in the day. Atticus and Hope played with an empty diaper box for hours drawing on the outside and making “furniture” out of it. I remember feeling like at that moment I had everyone I loved the most close to me. It was a good feeling. So that is what I’m going for, everyone I love close to me. It will be good.