Archive for the ‘Hey! You over there! Entertain me!’ Category

She won’t stop chanting “Fashion show at lunch.”

May 16, 2017

I knew Gracie had grown in leaps and bounds lately, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when she told me she didn’t fit into any of her summer clothes. None of her shorts fit. Very few of her tshirts. And only two of her pairs of jeans from this spring. This spring!

I was going to try to take her to the outlet mall this past Saturday, but I knew Bee would hate that idea, and our friends were busy, so I couldn’t leave her in the middle of a playdate. Also, I had to supervise Bee’s project, and that took a lot more time than I thought. So as a compromise – and because they were having a 40% off sale – we all went out to Old Navy Saturday morning.

Gracie picked out a few pairs of shorts, some shirts, and wanted to really get some jeans since they were 50% off. I pointed out, though, that if her jeans from this spring didn’t fit, who was to say they’d fit in November when it was cool enough to wear them again. My teen ceded the rare valid point and crossed jeans off her shopping list. Don’t worry – we still have armfuls of clothes to try on! (Bee helped load ’em up. She had a couple shirts, a jacket, some tank tops, and a dress or two [I think? it’s all a blur] in the mix. But she culled entirely from the clearance rack with one exception, so I’m proud, not mad!)

As soon as we checked out, Gracie started in on “Hey! I know what we can do when we get home! Fashion show! Fashion show! Fashion show at lunch! Fashion show! Fashion show! Fashion show at lunch! Yep, that’s still her favorite. Even more so since she watched The Office and learned what it was from.

And so, unsurprisingly, this happened later Saturday evening:

Fashion

Yeah, words-on-tees trend got Gracie like whoa. And since I know she’ll wear it, I’m more than okay letting her load ’em up. She also has on a new pair of shorts, dark wash, with a cuff, even though she says she’s not a fan of cuffs.

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We almost missed this shirt, and I’m glad I got out of line to grab it because it’s an actual. color. instead of just white, black, or grey. I knew Gracie would love it because arrows are her jam. For the record: arrows > neutrals.

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Gracie picked out two dresses (of the 40 she tried on); this one, and a similar blue floral that I have to exchange because while the hangar said Small, the actual dress, it turned out, was XXL. Not quite Gracie-sized! But now Gracie has something to wear to church besides the two semi-formal dresses she’s been rotating between.

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This might be Gracie’s favorites, for obvious reasons. My baby girl won’t ever not be in a hurry to grow up! We both saw the mannequin sporting this top and liked it. I wouldn’t ever be able to wear it – more because it’s white and would make me nervous that I’m spill something on it…or out of it. Gracie doesn’t have any such worries. And she did look terrific in it! So we added it to the Buy pile, after making sure it looked just as good(ish) with the sleeves pulled up over her shoulders. You know – in case Dad freaks out. And these shorts are a new pair, too. Gracie much prefers the fringed hemline to the cuffed ones from earlier. I like them both – you need different looks!

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This tank might be a little too low-cut to be worn outside the house on its own (that would be the layering in the layering tank bit, m’dear), but I love the fatigue green on Gracie and the pineapple shorts sets off my girlie’s tan very nicely. Also: pineapples!

So mi chica has a good base for her summer wardrobe. She could stand to pick up another couple shirts and a sundress or two, but we did pretty good for an hour or two on a Saturday morning. Certainly we picked up enough to stage a fashion show! fashion show! fashion show at lunch!

Mayfesting our Saturday away.

May 8, 2017

Saturday was Mayfest, a carnival held down on the river in the cultural district. There are rides and games and several music stages. Bee’s After Care program (all of them in the city, in fact) were putting on a show on one of the stages. Since Bee is the captain of the step team, the After Care director had been asking me since Christmas if Bee was going to be there. She knows we’re responsible and that many kids flake out and don’t show up to Mayfest because: traffic. The traffic is a nightmare. Last time we went, it took two hours to make a 20 minute drive.

So I wasn’t really looking forward to Mayfest, because on top of the lovely drive ahead of me, I also still had my bronchitis to deal with. My plans had been to just cuddle up with a book in bed and never change out of my pajamas. But: Mayfest. It was my Ex’s weekend; I could have laid Mayfest at his feet. But they had other plans and it was important to me after promising the director all year that Bee be there. And Bee’s best friend’s dad wasn’t able to take her and her mom was working, so now we were bringing Zari*, too.

So, Saturday rolls around and I pick up Bee-girl and then Zari. We headed out to the festival two hours early because I was a little paranoid about parking, and we wanted to have time for some carnival food and maybe a ride before we had to meet up with the group to practice.

And you know what happened, don’t you? Traffic was a piece of cake. I face worse traffic coming home from work every day. Sigh. So we enjoyed our extra time. We found the stage where we’d be performing and checked out all the rides and food tents (because the ground were laid out in a circle and our stage was the very last one). Then we all grabbed ice cream and drinks because 86°, all the sunshine, and we were all in pants. (Whoops.)

Then, because I’m a good mama who likes to let loose every once in awhile, we splurged on more than a few rides:

The girls loved the bungee jumps (and that’s good, because it was the most expensive ride there!). They did flips and jumps and I have no idea how they had energy left to stomp after all the jumping! They also demanded video, so I didn’t have memory left on my phone to get pictures of the rest of the rides. (They’re all on Bee’s phone and I haven’t gotten them from her yet.) They did a Superman-type ride where they laid down and did a tilt-o-whirl type thing on their stomachs like they were flying. (EESH!) They did the really high swings. They did a mirror maze that I thought looked fun and crazy enough that I’d have to go in there after them, but they were pretty good. [Bee-girl even said to me when we were pulling into the driveway that she hoped I wasn’t too lonely waiting while she and Zari were on all the rides. What a sweet girl to think of that!] The girls had a blast and I enjoyed being able to give them a bit of fun while we waited for the group to get there.

We also stuffed ourselves with food (ice cream, funnel cakes, roasted corn, turkey legs, beer, and so many cold sodas) and took advantage of all the freebies. And I have to say – the festival was really wonderful at having enough to do without spending tickets! (I guess to make up for $3 drinks?) There was a splash station, give-aways and free treats (we all got apples, yogurt, and won tshirts, towels, and sunglasses), and a stilt-walking station that gave lessons. The girls were surprisingly adept at stilts! I was amazed that after a time or two, they were walking up and down the walkway without a single falter! Their favorite freebie tent, though, was the art show.

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We spent a good half-hour in there, cooling off and examining technique on all of the drawings. They looked for and found their classmates entries, and Bee lamented that she hadn’t entered. (Her obsession with art mediums – especially drawing – has grown recently and I’m starting to wonder if art won’t play a larger role in her life. She has an aunt and a great-uncle who are both professionals, so there’s a strong possibility!)

After the art tent, it was time to wander back to the reason we were Mayfesting to begin with – the dance competition. The girls were impressed with the few shows we got to watch (I loved the traditional Mexican folk dancers), and they killed it when it was their turn!

You could see their faces light up when they heard the audience gasp and cheer them on. No one else had done anything outside of traditional “dancing” since it was a dance competition. But stepping is what our school wanted to do, and so that’s what they did, and I’m proud of them for it. I don’t think they won anything more than a participation ribbon, but they weren’t in it for a prize. It was wonderful to see my flighty, funky, hilarious little spazz monkey get up there and shout out the call-outs and lead the steppers with a loud, commanding voice and confidence in every movement.

It was a good, good day. Even if I went through three travel-packs of tissues and got a little sunburnt. I wasn’t planning on walking around a carnival for four hours, but I’m glad I got to spend some more time with my squinky, and that I got to give her a day of fun with her friend. Not a bad Saturday at all!

 

*Not her real name.

Hidden superpowers.

May 1, 2017

When I decided to steal my girlies for a roadtrip, part of me wondered how much of a good idea it would be. Granted, Gracie decided to stay home instead of going with, but even with just half of my dynamic duo, was a five-hour road trip so soon after their trip to Houston (and Galveston) really a smart idea? Could they handle another mega-car ride so soon after the first?

Turns out, my Bee-girl has a hidden superpower or two that she didn’t tell me about. And turnpikin’ is one of ’em.

SATe

After a tasty, tasty pancake-and-egg breakfast, the three of us girls hit the road, armed with mix CDs, fully charged phones, half-baked directions, and all manner of stories we needed to catch up on. And even though we ran into a minor delay at a PlaceThatShallNotBeDiscussed because of a CrisisThatShallNotBeHintedAt, we still made incredibly good time, racing into the city well before rush hour.

And that was including the 30-minute lunch break we took to introduce Auntie Kim to Buc-ee’s, the world’s largest rest stops. I really wish I had’ve had my camera ready for that, you guys. Her. face. Priceless! I understand; we have gas stations smaller than the restrooms alone. The place is just massive. But so clean and rather addictive, and conveniently halfway between our house and the party hotel. Even with our pit stop, we still rolled into San Antonio early enough for dinner and some shenanigans…

Mostly we walked along the Riverwalk, scoping out places to eat and get an early cocktail. We checked out some local curiosities and stopped in a gift shop or two to peruse. We may have found Auntie Rhi (avert your eyes!) a Sully puppet, but couldn’t find a matching Dr. Quinn. Alas…

I love seeing all of the hidey-holes and different shops and museums around the Riverwalk. Some people might find it kitschy, but I love never knowing exactly what you’ll find around the next corner. Because it was Fiesta, for us it mean there was usually a parade around every corner, several times a day, complicating even matters as mundane as crossing the street. Didn’t get to Bee-girl at all, though – nothing got to her! Except maybe when we told her to go pretend to kiss the bull that just happened to be standing at the side of the road…

We finally had to show her how!

Not a bad first evening, even though we called it an early night. Kim had meetings to prepare for, and Bee and I had been go-go-going all week getting ready. A slam! game of War and half of Bee’s Easter candy while we watched mindless TV was the perfect end to what should have been a draining first day – and was, unless you were a certain 10-year-old with superpowers to brush off even the most grueling of five-hour treks across state!

 

In which I resolve, I geek out, and I confess.

January 1, 2017

2017. Finally. Because: Wow, was 2016 not my favorite year to date.

And so…I resolve to focus a little more on the good going on all around me. That might mean gratitude lists, or it might mean making good things happen. It’s going to mean different things at different times. For sure it means more adventuring! The only resolution I’ve stuck to so far is the one I’ve made about reading more, reading “better”, and reading more diversely. I’m going to see if I can make this my second resolution that does the distance.

 

I geek out about how Santa was very good to me. In addition to several very lovely gifts, I got an entire stack – stacks, evenof the best gift of all: books! It comes to no one’s surprise that my favorite part (other than reading the books) is organizing and listing them. Drip with jealousy, dear readers. Drip.

It shall also come with no surprise that I finished one already. The surprise, really, should be that I finished only one. To be fair, I also finished Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Pride and Prejudice, which I was re-reading simultaneously, depending on which I felt would tickle my fancy that evening. Well, that and my sister is visiting, and I never get to read as much when I’m entertaining. It’s a good change of pace for me.

But before I get carried away with a social life and not reading, let’s see what I get to choose from when I do get to dip my toes into the pool of titillating stories and torrid affairs!

Difficult Women, by Roxane Gay (2016, Grove Press, 260 pages, hardcover). Short stories usually aren’t my jam. If you tell me they’re linked – like these – you’ll get a much better chance of getting me to jump into the pool. Ms. Gay’s writing, as always, was impeccable. Voice might not be the most critical of the holy triangle [voice, characters, plot][which, uh, is there a MOST critical?], but if it was, you’d find me hard-pressed to find someone who could wield her instrument with as much precision and beauty as Gay. The stories center around women of difficult natures, nasty women if you will, and how they have earned their badges of honor. These women are survivors, all. Many of them have stories that will make you cry – one of them quite literally, and you figure out how to do that quietly at two in the morning. 2. a.m. So you should pick the book up, with a pack of tissues – and highlighters and pens and your most critical eye. Because stories like these are even more important right now. 5 of 5 stars.

Setting aside the rest of my reviews (aren’t you glad I’ve only read the one!), what else did I get?

  • The Dead Lands, by Benjamin Percy (which was referred to me by @writerrhiannon, and I am very excited to read!)
  • The Nix, by Nathan Hill
  • Various coloring books (which: books. Still count. Especially: Jane Austen, Anne of Green Gables, and others…)
  • Agent Bride, by Beverly Long (delightfully delicious romance that I can’t wait to Mystery Science Theater my way through!)
  • A historical publication of town hall meeting notes from my hometown
  • Afterwards, by Rosamund Lupton (I very much enjoyed Sisters)
  • Ella Minnow Pea, by Mark Dunn (because it’s been recommended by several book peeps, including one who says it’s one of her all-time faves)
  • The Writing Life, by Annie Dillard
  • Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey, by The Countess of Carnarvon
  • We Are Unprepared, by Meg Little Reilly (which Kim says is wickedly awful in a hispter-y survivalist sort of way)
  • Full of Grace, by Gina Ferris (oh my – I remember reading this romance series unironically, back in the day)
  • Highland Whispers, by Sharon Gillenwater
  • Shatter, by Michael Robotham (blurbed by Stephen King. Need I say more?)
  • My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, by Fredrik Backman (I’ve read, but didn’t own)
  • The Fighting Ghettos: First hand accounts of Jewish resistance to the Germans, by Merer Barkai
  • 50 Greatest Players in New England Patriots Football History, by Robert Cohen
  • Flatscreen, by Adam Wilson
  • Everybody Sees the Ants, by A.S. King (I LOVE King
  • The Sun Is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon
  • Seriously, I’m Kidding, by Ellen Degeneres
  • Stories I Only Tell My Friends, by Rob Lowe
  • The Royal We, by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (I devoured it this summer and will need a pick-me-up re-read in about 20 days, I’m strongly predicting)

 

And this is where I confess that I met one of my dearest friends over Christmas break – the fantastically sassy and wonderfully witty Andi – and she was even more !!!! than I dreamed. Meeting your friends – for me, at least – is always awkward. I the Queen of Awkward – don’t all be jealous, now. But Andi was gracious and hilarious and forgave me when I had to cut our day short because of a work crisis. Crisis aside, I got to explore the flagship store of my favorite “little” used bookstore . And, yes, a few more books fell into my cart. Whoops. (And everyone who believes that “whoops” – I laugh at you, sirs. LAUGH.)

For my Little Free Library (making its way to me, as soon as the backorder unclogs itself), needs some books. And so for it, I picked up:

  • Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
  • Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, by Rebecca Wells
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann
  • The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
  • Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

I am SO FLIPPIN’ EXCITED about my Little Free Library! But as much as I wanted to spend alllll my monies on that, I also splurged and got a few books for myself:

  • The Rotters’ Club, by Jonathan Coe (which looks a little like Trainspotting)
  • The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett (which Andi and I impulsively decided to read together. It’s true love, I’m tellin’ ya…)
  • Caleb’s Crossing, by Geraldine Brooks (because I adore the fair Geraldine)
  • In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, by Daniyal Mueenuddin
  • Freddie & Me, by Mike Dawson (A coming-of-age [Bohemian] Rhapsody graphic novel loosely [or not] based on Freddie Mercury)(Guess which book I’m most excited to read?!)

I also got a few little things to put aside for Gracie, either for her birthday or next Christmas. I a $2 book of home plans, Gracie’s newest love; a mud mask; magnets that say “I ❤ Geeks”, the deathly hallows, Snape’s face and ‘Always’, and the Hogwarts Express 9 3/4 motto; oh, and Harry Potter pins for her backpack.

If only I could take Andi home with me, it would have been the most successful trip ever!

Not a bad start to 2017. So here’s a raised glass to you, New year – let’s keep things moving in this very promising direction, shall we?

#MonthOfFaves: Books to Big Screen.

December 8, 2016

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I laughed out loud when I heard today’s topic: our favorite books-to-big screen (or little screen)(any screen?) adaptation. Everyone who knows me knows I am not much of a television person. If Kim or Rhi recommend something, I might have a shot of maybe possibly watching it. I might watch TV for about 30 minutes at the end of the day, while I put my feet up and unwind. But there are many days when the TV remote doesn’t move. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t read (except that day I had the flu), but the TV? Eh. I guess.

Before I start my incredibly predictable list, let’s stop for a moment and thank our sponsors and purveyors of JOY: the sassy and beautiful Andi at Estella’s Revenge, the hilarious and funky duo of Tanya and Kimberly at Girl XOXO, and gorgeous girl-with-it-all Tamara over at Traveling with T. Take a moment to go introduce yourself and say thank you for this month’s festivities!

I bet both of my sisters could write this list for me, but I’ll humor you. My Top 5 List of Favorite Books-to-Big-Screen adaptations! (In no particular order…)

bookmovie1The Jane Austen movie library. Topped by Pride and Prejudice – both versions. Yes, I know there are more than two. Even admitting there are that many is a bit of an accomplishment. I came to the Colin Firth version (formerly known as “the right version” and now known as “the long version”) relatively late, but embraced it all the more vigorously. Even my girls know it backwards, forwards and inside out. I refused to watch the newer Keira Knightley version for ever so long. But it is visually stunning, for all that Darcy is wooden. (“I love you. Honestly. You can tell by how my voice never changes in modulation. Ever.”) But let’s not ignore the version of Emma with Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller (um, and Dumbledore), or Mansfield Park with Jonny Lee Miller (yes, I had a phase), or Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson. In fact, I didn’t realize how brilliant that movie was until I read the book not that long ago (10 years, maybe?) and saw how godawful the non-existent plotlines and characterization and – just everything was! No wonder Emma Thompson won for best screenplay for plucking that movie out of that jibbering mess that was S&S.

bookmovie4The Color Purple. I know I’m going to think of another movie to take this spot as soon as I hit “post.” I found this movie from our video library at home and watched it one day out of sheer boredom. I was young, and so when I was old enough for the book to be on my reading list, and for me to check it out to see if it was the same as the movie I had watched for years, I was surprised. Surprised because yes, yes it was, and also because it the book was so different. In focus and perspective. I think the only thing I liked better from the book was its wider, grander scope. So many gut-wrenching performances here.

bookmovie3Lord of the Rings. This might be cheating, a bit. Because technically, I don’t like the books. I was stubbornly refusing to like the movies, too, until I did. It was back when the second movie was coming out. New Year’s Day in…well, whatever year that was. 2002? It must have been. Because I was still married, it was before Gracie was born (the year the third movie came out), and we were in our new house. Kim was visiting and she and Jason really wanted to see the movie. So I got out-voted. To catch me up, they made me watch the first movie. Which, if I remember correctly, I did twice through. It’s a thinking sort of movie; you have to pay attention and kind of know what’s going on. You do not, however, have to read the books. I tried, once, and GAWD, it was awful. The movies, on the other hand, are gorgeously shot, perfectly cast, and maybe my favorite scores ever.

bookmovie2Anne-girl. Always Anne-girl. When I said I didn’t have a favorite, I lied. Utterly and bald-facedly. Anne of Green Gables is my favorite book of all time, and my favorite movie of all time. It is who I believe myself to be, in my heart of hearts. I might forget, from time to time, and think the Dark Tower series is my favorite story, or The Princess Bride my favorite film, but my imagination knows the truth. I was very young when PBS first aired the mini-series, but I still remember the world around me fading because I knew that I was this Anne-girl. I remember my mom reading the first book aloud to my sister and I at bedtime before giving up halfway through. I may have wept when I heard they were remaking the movies (who could “replace” Megan Follows?! Inconceivable!), but I’ve rallied. Because having additional movies to wear through just means different interpretations. Not that I have to like them or even watch them, more than the once.

I can’t wait to go see what everyone has posted. I know I’ll come up with at least a handful that I’ll wish I had thought to write about, and hopefully quite a few I want to add to my queue. Which is a delightful prospective, given that temps here are supposed to stay shivering cold through the weekend and curling up under the blanket with a fire going sounds like just the thing!

 

And the Christmas season is officially under way!

December 6, 2016

Confession: I was tempted this year, because of everything going on, to try to convince the girlies to set aside our Advent(ure) calendar. Everyone is so busy and I didn’t know if my heart was going to be in it. I was sad all of the time, because of the boy. I didn’t think I wanted to mess with everything. Or rather – with anything.

But then Kim was asking if we could make owl ornaments, and she was booking tickets to come rescue me, and the boy actually moved out and I felt better (who’d a thunk it?), and I was glad that I hadn’t had the heart to ask if anyone’s Christmas would be ruined.

So I scrambled in the end to fill the Advent(ure) Calendar (practically an Advent(ure) Eve tradition), and on December 1st, ther were some very familiar sights around here…

There was this (not so) little girl opening the calendar to read our first task…

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Not that the girls needed to open it. The first adventure is paper chains; it is always paper chains. The girls delight in their knowing, just as I delight in the joy that dances across their faces as they open the very first drawer, tickled because they think knowing is SNEAKY. Bless their little Christmas hearts!

So, pretty soon the girls were stretched out across the living room floor, busy taping ribbons of green and red paper together while I studiously used my paper cutter to make said strips of paper.

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It was a rather cozy scene. I’m glad I got to sneak in an activity or two at the beginning of December, because then the girls left for their weekend at their dad’s house and I was left to carry on Christmas cheer all by my lonesome.

It’s the first weekend I’ve spent completely alone in the house in more than two years. I love spending time alone – I am great company, if I do say so myself! But I am still adjusting to Life Without Boy. Even with all of the apologies and his extraordinary effort to “fix” how he left (which has repaired a lot of the damage), I still struggle. Anyone would. Still – I reminded myself in ways big and small to choose Joy.

Like posting this picture on Saturday:

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Sven, my reindeer, used to live on my Woodland Creatures shelf, but he for the past two years, he’s lived next to my JOY sign, and it just didn’t look right until I brought him over. Choosing Joy helped get through my day, and it was with Joy in mind that I got all fancy for my adventure of the day – making ornaments. For it’s a well known fact that a tray filled with fancy tea in good china, and a side dish with fancy tea cookies, makes ornament creation much more joyful. Right?

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Catching up with cousins while you’re crafting makes it feel like you’re sharing a cup of tea with them, too, like we would be doing any Saturday afternoon if we were local. Truly, that was my favoritest part of my Saturday!

It was a lovely way to start Christmas off. It will be different this year, and maybe a little sad from time to time. But it will also be more mindful, and the ups will be uppier.No matter how many of you silly people argue that isn’t even a word. (Is too.)

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope your adventures are just what you need, when you need them!

 

#MonthofFaves: Favorite Books of the Year

December 2, 2016

Good morning! It’s day two of #MonthOfFaves and have I mentioned how much I love this month-long focus on all of the good?!

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Today Andi and the #MonthOfFaves crew are asking what our favorite go-to books are – and I’m tweaking it slightly so I can talk about my favorite books I’ve read this year. Mwa ha ha, the power!!! Ahem.

Okay, so I talked about my Top Ten back in May, which you can read here, or I’ll recap for you below.

  1. The Sky Is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson. Because Nelson can draw grief like no one else. And the families she creates remind me an awful lot of mine.
  2. My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, by Fredrik Backman. Because this is magical storytelling of the highest order. Like Ya-Ya type magic. I’m sad that these characters don’t really exist type of magic.
  3. The Book of Aron, by Jim Shepard. Because Shepard absolutely nails the horrors of the Warsaw ghetto. It’s a testament to Shepard’s mastery of character development that he has two books on my list.
  4. The Royal We, by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan. Because sometimes you need a silly doorstop-sized romance that makes you cancel plans to find out what happens to the fictionalized William and Kate couple.
  5. Girl at War, by Sara Novic. Because the cover art is effing gorgeous. And because war orphans from Croatia and identity crises are my jam.
  6. H Is for Hawk, by Helen MacDonald. Because no one has written about grief and obsession and lyrical madness quite like this.
  7. We Are the Ants, by Shaun David Hutchinson. Because I shouldn’t have liked a book about aliens abducting a teenage boy and asking him whether to push a button and save the human race or let it die. I refused to like it. But then I loved and devoured it.
  8. Project X, by Jim Shepard. Because only Shepard could make me understand and sympathize with why two brutally bullied middle school boys would want to shoot up their school.
  9. You, by Caroline Kepnes. Because it said it was the next Gone Girl and actually pulled it off.
  10. Becoming Nicole, by Amy Ellis Nutt. Because everyone should understand the ins and outs of transgenderism, and because everyone should have an ally, like Jonas, and people willing to change their minds for you, like Wayne.

So now I just need to think of my Top Ten since then and I’ll end up with a nice Top 20. I can do that.

  1. The Boy Who Drew Monsters, by Keith Donahue. This was a creepy, creepy scary story that I could read at night…but just barely. It was delicious, though, and played just enough on imagination to make me read with shoulders somewhere up near the top of my ears. It’s enough to make you miss winter in New England! Ish.
  2. A Study in Charlotte, by Brittany Cavallaro. This was such a well-designed whodunnit that could have been a cheap play (the main characters are descendants of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, they despise each other, and need to solve a crime at their college), but ended up being so lovely that I was sad I’d have to wait at least a year for the next installment. It read like a modern Agatha Christie. Seriously, you guys!
  3. The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts, by Laura Tillman. This is one of the few non-fiction on my list, because not only should people be writing about community and social justice, but we need to be reading it and discussing it. The book could have sailed off into the land of commercializing a horrible crime against three voiceless victims, but Tillman took care to criticize call to action more than just the community. Authorities and those in power, the whole damn system in other words, were even more to blame than anyone else. (Except, perhaps, the murderers themselves?)
  4. The Widow, by Fiona Barton. This book was just plain, old-fashion fun. I spent the entire book trying to figure out did-he-really? And who-did-it? Zipping through the pages as fast as I could. Books that are well constructed and well written both are few and far between. Characters, plot, pacing, writing – it wasn’t dazzling, but it was fun.
  5. A Tyranny of Petticoats, by Jessica Spotswood. I loved that the stories were short enough to pop off three or four in a (short) sitting, and short enough to hold Gracie’s attention. I loved the variety, the audacity – everything, really. If you’re looking for a book for a YA book club, strongly consider this one. There’s something for every girl looking for a hero in the mirror. No matter who she sees there.
  6. Hamilton: A Revolution, by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Yes, Hamilton is everywhere. Still not sick of it. And this was masterful because there are so many secrets and behind-the-scenes and between-the-lines that I was sucked in. I felt like I was there, listening to Miranda as he gossiped over a pint.
  7. In a Dark, Dark Wood, by Ruth Ware. After I finished, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard of Ware! I read the other book she had out and wasn’t as impressed, but Dark, Dark Wood was still a fun whodunnit (though I wish the fight wasn’t over a guy). Also, will not be staying in any cabins in the wood with all the books I read this year. Sheesh!
  8. Eleven Hours, by Pamela Erens. Oooooh, the writing! Erens can take eleven hours of time and with such evocative prose, make us wish the microscope dialed in even tighter. Even something as mundane as a laboring woman’s trip down a hallway became a chance for philosophic musing of the highest order. It was a glorious tribute to how brave we can be, and how we don’t need anyone other than ourselves, no matter the challenge or celebration. We are our own champions! And Pamela Erens states that case with much more grace and poignancy than I could ever manage.
  9. Exit, Pursued by a Bear, by E.K. Johnston. Oh, mama – what a book! It makes cheerleaders look like athletes who have souls (points), and tackles a terribly tough subject (rape) with aplomb and sensitivity. I’m reading it to my girls – yes, even with the tricky subjects at their very young ages – so they will know to speak up. No matter what. And that even if things don’t go right, the right people (family, true friends, and MAMA, especially) will be there. You can’t control everything that happens, but you can control how you write the rest of the story. [Side note: How sad that I need to worry about my 7th grader and parties and what she will be offered?]
  10. Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, by Karen Abbott. The other non-fiction on my Best Of list, because it totally read like a thriller (a theme this year). And it also featured kick-ass women (another theme). Everyone should know how many women contributed to the successes of this country, and we should shout those stories louder than we have been. Abbott’s book is a good start. Now I wanna go be a spy.

So there you have it. My Best Of list. And if you’re really gonna make me, I’ll tell you my three top book of the year.

My absolute favorite is by far and away My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry. If I’m not a grandmother some day so I can go all Narnia on them, I’ll be pissed.

The runner up would have to be You, by Caroline Kepnes. The idea that this situation could play out is so twisted and downright SCARY, partly because it’s somewhat believable. And it was BRILLIANT. This year’s Gone Girl for me.

And our third place winner (out of 200+ books, so really – not too shabby) is Jandy Nelson’s The Sky Is Everywhere. Just knocked me flat with its intricate and beautiful ways to handle loss and grief and absence. It picked me raw and helped me heal, both.

What were your faves? I can’t wait to read and see!

#Month of Faves: “Here we go Advent(ur)ing…

December 1, 2016

…among the leaves so green!” So green because we live in Tejas where winter never ever arrives. Although I will admit that some leaves have finally turned Fall colors. If Fall colors includes brown, dead, more brown, and slight orange (but mostly dead).

They’ve turned colors because it’s December and December means so many things, including time for #MonthOfFaves over at Andi’s place! (And Tanya and Kimberly at Girl XOXO, and Tamara over at Traveling with T.) These ladies are seriously some of my favorite people in the entire world. Andi, especially, has become such a dear friend this year. She makes me laugh AND want to be a better person all at once, and when you find people like that, you add them to your village.

monthoffaves

We’re supposed to be focusing on some of our favorite things throughout the year, but today I’m choosing to focus on my favorite way to end the year – our Advent(ure) Calendar. The girls do their true Advent Calendar at church with Grandma. At home, well, things get slightly more crazy. (Although, to be honest, giving my kids fire and letting them run around lighting candles sounds pretty crazy to me!)

Every year it’s a scramble to fill up the calendar what do we want to do? This year it seems to lean heavily towards crafting – pinecone owls, string art, make n’ bake ornaments, etc. Last year we were more game-centric – Holiday Name 5 game, Christmas Story Cubes… And there are always favorites – baking cookies for teachers, going on a holiday light tour, the Christmas candy taste test (wow, was that one a hit!). The fun there is that they have no idea when we get to do those…and it kills them!

Want to see what we get to do every night? I promise it’s going to make for a lot of fun stories for you all!

Dec 1 – Make paper chains to count down to Christmas!
Dec 2 – Make new Christmas mix tapes (kids-free weekend)
Dec 3 – Make something for someone who is reading so shoosh, Katie (kids-free weekend)
Dec 4 – Make Merry & Bright shadowboxes filled with ornaments (kids-free weekend)
Dec 5 – Make string art with some of the wooden plank kits I bought. Gracie also has her holiday choir concert
Dec 6 – Work on another something-something for a certain someone (kids-free night)
Dec 7 – Gracie has her holiday band concert. If there’s time, the girls can do tissue paper Christmas trees
Dec 8 – Make the make-n-bake ornaments and attend Bee’s holiday concert.
Dec 9 – Construct our Christmas scene in a jar-o
Dec 10 – Help the girls make their foam Christmas scenes and invite the Redheads to join us!
Dec 11 – Christmas photo shoot with Stepmom! At the CHRISTMAS TREE FARM!!
Dec 12 – Carefully construct Perler Christmas scenes
Dec 13 – Mail Christmas cards (kids-free night)
Dec 14 – Get pajamafied, make some snacks, and go on a Christmas Light Tour!
Dec 15 – Have a holiday taste test with various Christmas candy and treats that are out
Dec 16 – Pick up Auntie Kim and carol all the way home!
Dec 17 – Decorate felt Christmas trees and maybe have a contest. MAYBE.
Dec 18 – Make snowflakes, string them about the kitchen, and do a snowdance
Dec 19 – Make birdseed ornaments (Gracie is home for Christmas break; Bee has school)
Dec 20 – Go reindeer hunting, hopefully in the snow
Dec 21 – Make Santa mustaches and make candy snowflakes
Dec 22 – Fill glass ball ornaments with bookish quotes
Dec 23 – Finish wrapping gifts and bake goodies for the neighbors
Dec 24 – Make pinecone owl ornaments (kids-free weekend)
Dec 25 – Girls come home at noon, and it’s Christmas Eve at our house, sooo Gingerbread Man competition!
Dec 26 – Christmas at Casa de Katie!

We are going to have SO MUCH FUN! I can’t wait to see what you all are up to and what was your favorite thing from this year! (Or, if you cheat like me, what is your favorite thing going on RIGHT NOW. Ha!)

Happy Fourth, Casa de Katie style!

July 4, 2016

A small happy tale from our day:

Our clan had a big cookout with friends new and old yesterday afternoon, and so today we spent lounging, then Kim, Jeff, and I went to visit a new restaurant/bar for good eats and drinks in the trendy West 7th area.

Then, we visited this creeptastic haunted mansion that Kim and I want to convince Chip (and Joanna) to fixer-upper for us. (But, did I mention how haunted that place is?! There will be more on this later…)

After that, we picked up the girls for a little dinner and family fun time. And what did we do with our family fun time? We played Apples to Apples.

Now, I might have mentioned before, but when my family plays Apples to Apples, we all argue our case for why our card should win. It’s much funnier. You have Bee reenacting skits and making you laugh until you pee your pants (Card: “Clever.” Bee’s card: “Zipper.” To which Bee deadpans: “Because they changed. the world.” WIN!) It’s hilarious!

And then we played the card “Flaw.”

Kim played the card “Haiku.”

Confused? Just wait – she then recited (with just two minutes to decide how to play it):

“Some folks don’t have wit,
Consume, but don’t produce it.
These are major flaws.

Jeff immediately appended: “Bullshit!”

To which I replied, “No, that’s two extra syllables.”

Bee: “What’s a haiku?”

Kim: “It’s a type of poem that has five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line.”

Gracie: “…and two syllables in the fourth line, if you’re Jeff.”

My family, you guys – I loves them! I hope your Fourth was spent surrounded by you and yours!

 

Boat tours and remembering the Alamo.

April 13, 2016

We squeezed sooo much fun into Saturday. We ate and ate and ate – but I think that’s a different post entirely! We also jumped on a riverboat tour early Saturday morning (before it got crazy crowded) and enjoyed the  perfect weather as we cruised along. I wish I had taken more pictures, but some – like all of the gorgeous bridges – were hard to get into the shot. Some – like the beautiful cathedrals – were hidden behind buildings at street level. And other points of interest were obscured behind all of the lush greenery.

Riverwalk3I think that was my favorite part about the Riverwalk – how green and lush and flowery everything was! It was gorgeous!

Like, look at this stairwell. A lot of the curved stairwells leading up to restaurants or shops were decorated like this. Some of the bridge stairs were boring and barren, but most were covered with more green. Spring is definitely a good time to visit!

Even street level was covered with gardens! You had to squeeze between the planters and the river – which made me very nervous! Gracie would not be allowed to walk on the river-side if she were with us! (Although the water is “only” four feet deep.)

There was a little open air amphitheater just a few buildings down from us, right on the riverwalk. I remember how close it was because it gated off our side of the path, with a sign reading “Bands only”, which meant we had to cross over the ancient stone bridge every time we wanted to walk in that direction. I have never more wanted to be in a band.

Riverwalk1

The theater is part of La Villita, which has shops and restaurants. It used to be one of the five missions of San Antonio, and uses some of the old buildings. The five bells above the stage represent the five missions (god, it sounds like the Five Families, doesn’t it?), the middle bell representing the biggest mission, the Alamo.

Riverwalk2There were a lot of brick buildings around. Some were old warehouses, some were administrative buildings. Many were old, very old, but some were “newer”. It made me think of Boston, the way a lot of the buildings were cramped in on each other, and allowed to age. And all the mixed zoning, too. So of course I took a picture, because homesick.

 

Riverwalk4There were all these oddities along the way – heads would appear carved into stone, gargoyles on buildings, old wooden doors would appear in buildings. I loved seeing some of the hidden items – and some oddities put there on purpose. I like the way those guys think!

 

 

 

 

 

Like this next one – doesn’t this wall seem to stand up on its own? That’s because it’s built like a triangle, with tight, sharp corners, causing the illusion. It’s also actually a hospital. At this point of the tour, Jeff turned to me and said, oh! good to know there’s one so close, sweetie! And then I smacked him, because he thinks I’m rather…shall we say “medically needy”?  The hospital (whose name I’ve forgotten) was also the place where Carol Burnett was born. <Insert ear tug here, just because>

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There were also a large number of mosaics throughout the riverwalk area, and really, throughout most of San Antonio. This one, on the face of the Lila Cockrell Theater and Performing Arts Museum, was created by renowned Mexican artist Juan O’Gorman. The piece is called the Confluence of the Americas. Adam and Eve are pictured in the middle. European civilization is pictured to the right, Mexican and American civilization to the left, and the child in the middle depicts our melding future. Another bit I love about the building is that it’s named after San Antonio’s first female mayor. That rocks, does it not?

Riverwalk6

 

After the riverboat tour, Jeff and I popped up to street level and wondered why there was a particularly dense sea of tourists. When they parted for a moment, we saw why: The Alamo.

Alamo4I guess I expected it to be…not bigger. Everyone says how small it looks compared to everything around it. Maybe I heard that one too many times and expected this teeny tiny thing. Because I didn’t find it cramped by buildings and I didn’t think it was weird that a mall was nearby or that business buildings were to the left and right of the grounds. (NOT right up on the building like I had been led to believe.) People who think this is weird need to grow up in Boston, where we’ve built around history, because everything is history! It would have been great to get a picture without everyone creeping about, too, but you get what you get. See all of my newest friends!

 

So we walked about for a bit and read all of the plaques and enjoyed the museum. I loved that they included many inscriptions about the women of the fort, the ones who helped the mission at the time, and the ones (particularly widows and family members) who helped tend the grounds of the museum afterwards, making sure their memories weren’t forgotten.

It was a good morning and a wonderful way to start our San Antonio trip. Not to mention an excellent way to work up our appetite so we could go enjoy all of the restaurants on the way back through the Riverwalk!