Category Archives: miscellany

Eleven Questions

21st February 2012

Aaaghh! This was supposed to post last night, but I guess in my rush to get off the computer and into pajamas, I messed up. It just wasn’t in me to finish any of the drafts of reviews I have waiting in my folders, so I was really glad when I switched over to Bloglovin’ and saw that Lu at Regular Rumination tagged me in a meme today, so I have to answer 11 questions and ask 11 questions.

1. Tell us one thing that we don’t know about you!

Uh oh. This could be dangerous. Nah, I really feel that I’m pretty open on this blog. One thing you don’t know about me…Hm. Well, you guys know I love home design via my Fridays at Home feature, but what you may not know is that no matter how hard I work on a space, I never feel like it’s finished. I will stare and stare and try to figure out if something is missing or if I need to tweak furniture arrangement, but I never can figure out what it is that makes a space feel unfinished. It actually drives me crazy, and I’m sure much of it’s in my head, but I’m very much into the aesthetics of my house, and if it’s not just so, I get very cranky. I had to call a friend over the night of my Christmas get together because I was (last minute) hanging frames on the wall of the dining room and just couldn’t get it right. Jacob came over, stood with me for a couple of minutes, and between the two of us, the arrangement for the wall materialized. It was ridiculously stressful, and then, of course, I had to point out the wall to everyone who came in. So stupid, but hey – the one thing you can count on is that I will always be…[say it with me]…picky.

2. Is there one book you’re always recommending? Which book is it and why?

Did she say one? Because I swear I think she said four… 🙂

I think this is funny because in Lu’s post, she mentions not loving The Book Thief. I know people either love it or hate it, but I’m firmly in the “love” camp. When I first read it, I ran out and bought extra copies to give to people. I also teach it in my Writing and Fiction class.

Another book I recommend is Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. I think people steer clear of her because she wrote so long ago, but Rebecca reads as a thriller today, yesterday, tomorrow. You get the picture.

My all-time faves that I always hope everyone has already read are Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison and East of Eden by John Steinbeck.

3. Have you convinced anyone to read said book? Did they like it?

See, that’s the cool thing about being a teacher. I have many students at my disposal, and I recommend books like crazy. As I mentioned, my classes read The Book Thief and generally love it. In fact, students who have admitted hating to read tell me how much they enjoyed the story. Rebecca is another, and a lot of female students have been really excited to talk about this book once they’ve read it.

The first people I wanted to read The Book Thief, though, were my bff, Sommer, my sis, and my mom. I had to talk to someone about it, so I pestered them until they read it.

4. What do you do besides read?

Besides read? Well, I have a 107-year-old house, which most of you guys know, and I love tweaking it. I love doing house projects. In fact, this past weekend, I went and helped some friends who live a couple of streets away. They were painting and thought I was crazy when I said I wanted to help. But I love to paint! It’s such a nice feeling to give a space a completely different look for not too much $$.

I also have a love/hate relationship with the gym, but once I’m there, I’m so glad I’ve made an effort.

Besides those two things? I love to sleep. I had insomnia from the time I was small up until I had my own apartment (after a short stint with a roommate). Suddenly, I could sleep like a baby. I frequently feel like I’m making up for lost time and sneak a nap in whenever possible.

5. Are you crafty?

So yeah, I guess you’ve pegged me. For the most part, I don’t craft all that often, though I do love working on a project. I’ve moved on to bigger projects since I’ve bought the house. Much more painting, much less hot gluing. Same amount of injuries, oddly enough.

6. Whom do you miss right now?

I miss my brother, Matt. He and his boyfriend Christopher live in New York, and I miss him always. We try to talk often, but it’s just not the same as having his crazy self here. I’m glad he’s happy where he is, though.

7. What are you going to eat for dinner?

I already ate dinner, and it was a very odd one. Normally I have soup or a turkey wrap or something like that, but tonight I really wanted breakfast for dinner. That’s not odd. I had toast with strawberry jelly and some fresh strawberries. What was odd was, 20 minutes after that, I wanted a beer. Who knows?

8. What is the one book you’ve been dying to read but you haven’t yet?

Hm. I have A Good American audiobook sitting right beside me, but I don’t have as much time to listen to audiobooks as I used to, so it sits here, waiting for me to hit play on that first cd. I’ve heard great things about this novel, though, so I’m excited to listen/read it.

9. I need some new music recommendations! What have you been listening to lately?

I get my recommendations from three main sources: a high school friend, a friend who lives in North Carolina and sees way too many concerts, and Ben from Tyrus Books. They keep me listening to good tunes.

Collectively, they’ve introduced me to Blind Pilot, The Civil Wars, Jolie Holland, Po Girl, The Be Good Tanyas, and most recently, Joanna Newsom. So I can’t take credit for finding these great bands. I can, though, take credit for introducing people to the now-defunct South Austin Jug Band, Summer Fiction, Mumford & Sons, and Glen Hansard. I used to be in a singing group in college, so I belt these tunes out in my car and house.

10. If you could go back to any time in your life and live through it all again, when would you return to?

My first trip to Italy, 23 and traveling alone. It was an incredibly magical time in my life, and I wish I could go back and experience that sense of freedom and love of life I had during those two and a half weeks. Not that I feel trapped and loveless now, but it was a very special time in my life, and the sense of freedom I felt there was unlike anything I have ever experienced. It was my first trip anywhere, and it was definitely worth reliving. I’ve been back twice, and Italy is my first choice for vacation, but even so, that first trip holds some amazing memories for me.

11. What’s one goal you have for this year?

This year. Hm. I have a couple goals that I want to keep under wraps until they come to fruition, but I’d say taking an active role in being healthier, and I don’t just mean food and exercise. I deal with anxiety from time to time, and I’m trying to re-focus my life and root out those areas that cause me a great deal of anxiety. This will be an ongoing goal for me, throughout my life, but it’s worth it to me to take it on and not expect it to get better on its own.

So that was fun! And I’ll leave the questions open. If you have a different question to ask me, ask away!

Now for the tagging part. I follow so many, many blogs that it’s hard for me to choose people. I tell you what, if you’d like to participate, come back here and leave me a comment, and I’ll update with a link. No pressure. 🙂

Fridays at Home: Map It Out

17th February 2012

The first time I flew anywhere, I was 23 years old and going to Italy. Alone. My mother was incredibly nervous but also brave because I had such little exposure to the world. The day my flight was to leave, the weather was horrible, and the flight was delayed many times. When it was finally time to board, it was really hard for me to step over that 2-inch gap between the airport and the plane. I found my seat, and a sweet little woman told me how many times she’d flown and how safe it was. As soon as the plane prepared for takeoff, she made the sign of the cross rapidly about four times. Though I am sure I have forgotten many of the details of that trip, parts of it are as fresh as if I had gone yesterday, and it’s a period in my life that I will always, always cherish.

So today I’m romanticizing a bit, dreaming of far-off lands, airports, Italian men, coast, and foreign languages. One of my Pinterest boards is dedicated to maps and globes because if I could, I’d fill my home with both. Maps and globes make me feel like that young girl – adventurous, nervous, anticipatory, thrilled, and free.This first room is what I’d like to call “The Jennifer Room.” It’s so me. The mixture of different elements and textures seems incredibly comfortable but also ready for company. [Click on any of the links for the source sites.]

I cannot find a source for this image though. I found it on Facebook, and the map on the wall and that globe next to the chair instantly called my name. Can I please ask you to stare at that globe on the floor? Thank you. Because if you ever see it, please buy it, and I will pay you back. We’ll work out a payment plan or something. Though I’m not a fan of the white chair on the left, I could live in this room and this room only – just add my bookshelves.

This map is from Urban Outfitters, and though I’m not in love with the colors, I love the idea. Each gold region is scratch off, so you can record places you’ve been.

These are cabinet knobs from Etsy, and I assure you, if I had the extra dough lying around, these would be spiffying up a piece of furniture as we speak. They’d also make great hooks on a piece of wood for by the front or back door. Marvellous.

Better Homes & Gardens featured this on a DIY for bargain decor. I love it. And speaking of cutting globes in half, there are these great lights…

These look like they came straight from a 60s or 70s school room, and they’re pretty simple to make. All you need is a light kit and one globe.

There’s also this fabulous chandelier made from bits of maps from Etsy. The colors are just gorgeous, and I can imagine it lit up and glowing.

A British retailer sells these lampshades made from a map. It manages to look classic and modern at the same time, and since I’m not an interior decorator, I have no idea what you call that, but I can tell you I’m considering doing this for a lamp in my dining room/reading room.

I cannot find the image source for this, but what a great way to turn a plain chair into something special. A bit of modge podge is all this would take.

From Elle Decor, this last image shows how a little bit of obsession can really pay off with a collection. Instead of dissipating the collection and spreading it around, the shelf full of globes and the map in the background are really strong anchors for the room.

Though my own space isn’t nearly what these are, I have managed to incorporate a globe and a couple maps into my house, and I’d love to deck it out even more. I’ll let you know when I need map and globe addicts anonymous…. 🙂

I hope you all have a fantastic Friday, hopefully at home. Does anyone have any fantastic weekend plans?


Judgy McJudgerson

9th February 2012


I don’t often read the posts on Book Riot, but today I noticed Amanda from Dead White Guys had a new post up on Book Riot titled “Confessions of a Newbie Independent Bookseller.”

The article discusses quirks of working in such a specialized place and the types of books people come in requesting. She shares one particular confession I loved:

I Don’t Judge Your Taste in Books
When I get a customer who wants a recommendation, I usually ask what the last book was that they loved so I can see what they’re looking for in a book. Sometimes there’s a pause, an embarrassed shifty-eyed gaze to the floor. A mumble of, “well, I read a lot of teen books, like, Hunger Games and stuff…” Independent bookstores can have a reputation for being snobby places where the books are “curated” out the ass- where you won’t find a best seller anywhere, but where you can definitely find the collected works of David Foster Wallace. I’m sorry if you’ve had that experience at other indies, but honestly- I don’t care what you read. If you want to add to your collection of mermaid erotica, I’ll help you. You want to read the next Twilight? I’ll help you. Looking for a how-to on building your own yurt? You’re the coolest! Let’s do this. There’s no judgment.

However, one person in the comments talks about how he or she does judge a person by what he or she reads. Unfortunately, this type of book shaming is not confined to bookstores. Frankly, I experience this all the time, and I’m sure it’s partially because I am so plugged in to the bookish world and bookish people. More often than not, this judgment comes from someone without a literature degree, someone who is very serious about serious literature.

Please understand I am not saying that an individual without a literature degree cannot criticize books. What I am saying is I do have those qualifications, and I still don’t feel the need/desire to lecture people about their reading choices. I have two degrees in English, one undergrad, one grad. I’ve read most of the big guns. I know literary terms many people do not. This does not make me cool; in fact, it puts me in a very low wage-earning category. I can talk a book to death if I want or need. But here’s the truth: that ain’t fun. I know I’m playing fast and loose, using “ain’t” and cliches and telling you this, but come on: Reading should be the least judged thing we do. We’re reading. In 2009, I remember reading that the average American reads one book a year. If you’re here, you’ve probably already hit that number this year. Whether that one book is a Harlequin romance novel, Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, or James Patterson’s newest, it’s better than no books read this year.

I’ll level with you: I read, no, I devoured the Twilight series. Granted, I knew they weren’t quality writing, but I didn’t care. The story drew me in, no matter how ludicrous parts of it were. I mention this because this is the most criticized reading choice for many. You may not like it, but guess what? Those books enticed people who had never read an entire book for fun to read several – several long books, no less.

My best friend reads at least 80% paranormal romance. We were talking about Goodreads the other night, and every single time she mentioned what she had been reading, she explained her choices away. This is an intelligent teacher and mother of three. The fact that she does read with all that going on is impressive to me. I know she isn’t a big fan of mysteries just like I’m not a big fan of paranormal romance. When we do read the same book, it’s that much more fun. We are diversifying our book stock, making us more interesting.

My reading list includes classics, contemporary literary fiction, an occasional chick lit, and tons of mysteries. I love mysteries, and sometimes even if I know it’s not the best mystery I’ll ever read, I keep reading. Why? Because it’s still enjoyable. The act of sitting down with a book is pleasurable and calming to me.

Maybe part of my ire has built up because I have seen non-readers turned into readers using books others might discount. Most of the students who have entered my classroom have told me they hate reading. They don’t dislike it or find it boring. No, they tell me they hate it. I make it my mission to turn at least one of them on to reading. How do I hit that target? I find out what they enjoy, and I give them a book that aligns well with those interests. Nine times out of ten it works, and I love being part of that person’s life in some small way. If that means putting The Hunger Games in the hands of one student and Madame Bovary in the hands of another, I’m perfectly ok with that. For those of us who truly love books and reading, why would we have it any other way?

So my big question is, have you ever felt judged for your reading choices? And WHY are we allowing others to guilt us? I won’t be had. Come look at my bookshelves and judge away. I dare you.


Did you SEE the memo about this?

10th January 2012

And for those of you out there without an encyclopedic knowledge of the cult flick Office Space, please click below for your viewing pleasure:

Yes, ladies and gents, it’s all business today, as I have some news of different sorts to share with you all in the forms of links and things.

First up,the 2011 Indie Lit Awards Shortlist is up. This award is nominated and chosen by book bloggers. I nominated my choices a couple of months ago, and unfortunately, Galore by Michael Crummey wasn’t chosen. However, there are still some really great books on these lists, and I urge you to check them out, especially if you like lists. Also, if you’re a blogger, read up on the Indie Lit Awards and get involved next year.

Next up, last year I watched in envy as many UK bloggers participated in World Book Night. I thought it was such a fantastic idea, and this year they have extended it to the US. Givers are chosen to give away 20 copies of their favorite book from the list, and givers are tasked with giving books to non-readers. I signed up and chose The Book Thief, so I hope I get chosen. If you are interested, head to the World Book Night and sign up!

Also, you guys know I don’t read a ton of young adult, but I’m a big fan of Sherman Alexie. He’s a great writer, and he’s funny. Lately, there has been a lot of scrutiny of young adult literature and its violence/sex/gender content. Alexie writes a great article about this on The Wall Street Journal website.

Yesterday, I found Priscilla from the Evening Reader when she left a comment on the blog. I visited her site and found a great post about the idea of the Great American Novel and her thoughts on it. Head on over and join the discussion.

My friend Daniella shared this video with me, and it was too cool not to pass on. What happens at the bookstore after closing time….


And this last is not bookish, but you have to make this apple pie in an apple. It’s fast, easy, and delicious. I’ve been trying to trim down, and I make this minus the pie top. Yum.

Last but not least…. I want to announce the winner of my giveaway for A Discovery of Witches. Thank you all for indulging me and sharing your literary crushes. Congratulations to Tasha of Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books!

That’s it for today. I’d love it if you have any interesting links/bookish news to share.

12 (hours) to 2012 mini readathon

31st December 2011

I have exactly 8 minutes to get myself in some comfy pants and my new fuzzy slippers, beverage in hand and choose a book. If you’re at all interested, join Tasha, Becky, and I for our mini readathon today.


I went to the library last night and grabbed some books, so I could have even more reading options. In my stacks, I have the newest Diana Gabaldon, the newest M.C. Beaton, and older M.C. Beaton, The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton because both my mom and Matt of Guy’s Moleskine Notebook loved this one. I also have The Good Thief’s Guide to Venice. In my personal stack, I have The Woman in White, Murder on the Orient Express, The City of Ember, The Imperfectionists, and The Street Sweeper.

However, I’m going to kick this readathon off with an audiobook, so I can make my veggie chili (the Bear Creek bag is just what I use for the starter) and my roasted red pepper walnut dip. I love audiobooks for this very reason. I’m reading! But I’m not. 🙂 I read for much too long this morning to be able to run to the grocery store until just now. I’ve also got my two favorite bubblies: Freixenet sparkling wine and Canada Dry ginger ale. I’ll update this post throughout the day.

Happy reading!

UPDATE – 3rd hour: I am still listening to my audiobook, The House of Silk. Long story, but I thought the book was finished when I first listened a few weeks ago, but the audio was messed up. 🙂 So, I’ve taken down most of Christmas, cooked chili and eaten – all while listening. I have 2 hours left on it, but I’m getting sleepy, so I might switch to a book book.

UPDATE – 4th hour: Only an hour left on The House of Silk. Just made some roasted red pepper walnut dip with little toasties. Yum. Sustenance.

UPDATE – 5th hour: Have finished The House of Silk and half of a Charlain Harris Lily Bard mystery called Shakespeare’s Champion. Have a bit of a headache, so I’m heading into the kitchen for some water and Tylenol. 🙂

UPDATE: 6th hour: Reading Shakespeare’s Champion by Charlaine Harris and about to head to my bff’s house for dinner and fireworks. No worries. Only a short break.

UPDATE: 8th hour: Home again and snuggled in a robe my bff gave me for Christmas. Of course, I had to turn the air on to enjoy it. 😉 Champagne has been opened.

UPDATE: 9th and 10th hours: Still reading Lily Bard mystery and listening to the fireworks outside. Maddie is curled up next to me. We’re both enjoying the readathon.

UPDATE: 11th hour: I finished my last book of 2011: Shakespeare’s Champion by Charlaine Harris. Next up, I’m trying to decide between Rachmann’s The Imperfectionists or The Good Thief’s Guide to Venice by Chris Ewan. Decisions, decisions…

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Wishing you all love, joy, and peace in the new year.