Just Blow Your Nose Already

This may border on TMI, but what is a blog for if not ocassionally indulging myself in a little oversharing?

I really hate to blow my nose.

I don’t know why. It’s a perfectly natural thing to need to do. But I will sit there all congested, sniffling and snurfling and putting off the inevitable. And yet when I finally give in and just blow my nose already, life is amazing! I can breathe! And I wonder why I didn’t do it sooner.

You may wonder what the heck that anecdote has to do with anything. Well, I’ll tell you: it’s about noticing the extraordinary in the ordinary. Celebrating the small things. And that’s what my goals for 2017 encompass. Nothing earth-shattering on this list, but rather digging into where I’m already planted.

I love my life. I may sometimes gripe about work or any number of things, but more often than not I’ll find myself driving down the road thinking how astounding it is that I get to live these days. I read a quote by Neil Barringham that says, “The grass is greener where you water it,” and ain’t that the darn truth?

Heading into the new year.

Here’s how I’m going to water my grass in 2017:

  • More writing and projects, less TV watching.

After dinner I usually let myself turn into a pumpkin. It’s as if because it’s dark outside I become incapable of productive action. Here’s me claiming it won’t be so! The plan is to post here once a week, plus my monthly reading recap.

Plus I haven’t done a cross-stitch or any other type of project in too long. I’m planning to take a hand lettering class and would like to get more into that.

  • More rowing while dinner’s in the often, less mindless scrolling through social media.

We got ourselves a fancy rowing machine for Christmas because I wanted it, and yet I’ve only really used it once so far! 20 minutes or so while something bakes is the perfect amount of time to get in a quick workout.

I would also like to run a half marathon in 2017. (Look, I know I say all the time how much I hate running, but I like having a physical goal to achieve, and it seems like completing that would make me feel good. I’d like to prove to myself that I’m capable of it even if I never do it again.)

  • More calling my friends, less feeling disconnected.

I hate talking on the phone (except to my parents, true story), but there are people in this world who I like, so I should make time for them. Related to this is planning another girls’ beach trip with my disparate pals and entertaining at our home once a quarter (and getting our back patio area spiffed up).

I’ve gotten all organized for book club this year, because I was determined not to let that die, so it should run more smoothly and fill me up more this year than it did last year.

A few other miscellaneous resolutions:

  • Take more pictures with Andy.

When I went to look for one for 2016’s Christmas card, my Amazon Cloud Drive informed me there were only NINETEEN pictures of the two of us from the entire year. And many of those were multiple attempts at the same sub-par selfie. We do fun things together and that should be more evident in our photographic vault.

  • Read one non-fiction book per month.

I’m copying this onto my work goals as well, so it will happen.

  • Clean regularly.

We have a house cleaner who comes, but only once every six weeks because that ish is expensive. So I set a recurring event on my calendar to do a cleaning blitz every three weeks in between. The carpet won’t know what hit it.

  • Keep up with transactions in YNAB (our budgeting software).

Andy is so on top of things financially and I often take that for granted and slack off. But I should be more aware of what’s going on, even if it’s just to log into the software and categorize my transactions once a week. My wallet will appreciate not having to hold receipts for months at a time.

My word for the year? Consistency. Because, as Gretchen Rubin writes, “What you do every day matters more than what you do once in awhile.”

If you’re doing some daydreaming about the year (it’s not too late!), I found this free printable from Love & Renovations very helpful!

2016 Reading Recap

I read 73 books in 2016, out of my arbitrarily set goal of 76. (I read 75 last year, so I upped it by one.) Looking back over the list on Goodreads, I don’t think that my rating system really works for me. Some of the ones I marked as 4 stars haven’t stuck with me, while some of the 3 star reads seem, in further removed hindsight, like they deserve better. My average rating of all my books for the year was 2.9, which strikes me as a bit sad, but I don’t feel sad thinking back on my 2016 reading life on the whole.


I had two five star reads:

This book, like one of last year’s favorites Wonder, deftly handled a very sensitive topic. If there is anyone in your life, child or adult, who has questions about what it means to be transgender, I would highly recommend sending George their way!

I don’t do a lot of re-reading (so many books, so little time!), but in order to call a book a favorite I’ve decided I need to read it more than once. I started with Fangirl and it was as wonderful as a remembered.

Half of a Yellow Sun, Ready Player One, and What Alice Forgot were other favorites from the year.


I read very little non-fiction in 2016, which is perhaps why I was able to read so many books. I would so much rather curl up with a good novel, or even a bad one, than most non-fiction. However, I did read a few good ones, like Modern Romance, Big Magic, and The Year of Living Danishly.

2016 is the year I discovered Liane Moriarty and the joy of reading a new-to-me author’s backlist. I also read a number of books that either have or will soon have a sequel, which is delightful. Outlander and the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novels were my favorite series discoveries that would keep me in books for quite some time, even if I read nothing else.

I distilled and embraced some types of books and authors I like: sweeping, epic novels with some romance; British chick lit writers; smart and sexy romances. No shame in any of that.

My Year in Books on Goodreads has fun statistics like total page count, shortest and longest books, and also the full list, so click through if that strikes your fancy.

Book Club

2016 was a disappointing year for book club, with really inconsistent meetings and a dwindling number of members. I need to re-group for 2017, as I don’t want to let it fall apart, but I can’t keep doing it the way I have been.

I only tagged 7 books onto my Book Club Reads shelf on Goodreads:

  • January: Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
  • February: Lizzy and Jane by Kathering Reay
  • March: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • April: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
  • August: The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown
  • September: 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad
  • October: Quen Sugar by Natalie Baszile

We also went to see Me Before You at the movie theatre. Of the books were read, 13 Ways and Lizzy and Jane were the least-liked.

This Year

I haven’t decided yet whether I want to tackle a reading challenge this year, like the one from Modern Mrs. Darcy or Book Riot. I did neither in 2016 but was still relatively pleased with the breadth and diversity of what I read, which seems to me to be the point of those challenges. I am trying to consciously pick books written by non-white authors or featuring non-white protagonists.

I’m hoping to read one book per month for work, so that will up my non-fiction count. I have a list of books for professional development on Amazon and add to it frequently.

I’d like to be more consistent with my rankings on Goodreads so that I can remember things better. And I may do a few more re-reads so I can better answer when someone asks me what my favorite book is.

Happy reading, bookish friends!

Card Catalog: December 2016

Some time in early December, I noticed that I was only ten books away from my lofty goal of reading 76 books in 2016. (This was arbitrarily set at one more than I read last year. #stretchgoals) The frenetic pace of my reading this month indicates how I got a little obsessed with making it….until right after Christmas, when I stalled out on a non-fiction book. So I topped out at 73 books this year, nine of which were in December. Full year in review coming soon.

The second Outlander book was randomly available from the library, and I finally felt recovered enough from the emotional onslaught of the first one to tackle it. It took me a good couple of weeks, but it was good! It got more complicated than the first one, with some political intrigue going on that I found a bit difficult to follow, but you can sort of skim those bits and not be too fussed about it if you don’t want to be. Over the weekend I bought the first season of the Starz show and binged on that for New Year’s Eve, and I can highly recommend it as well. Only 7 more books to go in the series! (Book 9 is coming.)

Anne Tyler keeps popping up in things I’m hearing, like one caller in to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s podcast who looooves her and has read all her books. I’ve read a couple now and they are not my favs, but they’re often available from the library as e-books, so I gave this one a shot. At first, I found Mason’s obsessiveness very disconcerting, but as it faded into the background a bit I was able to see why some find this story charming.

I decided I wanted some seasonal reading, so here I go with the Nora Roberts again. The best I can say about these is that they were short. Although maybe their being short is why I didn’t think they were her best works.

I feel like I can truly call myself a writer and/or grammar pedant now that I’ve finally read The Elements of Style. This illustrated version had delightful pictures throughout, which only somewhat distracted from how boring it is to read this straight through, rather than as a reference. BUT, now that I know what all is in it, it will be easier to refer to things.

Another seasonal read, but much more enjoyable than the Nora Roberts ones. Even though it was first published in 2000, Winter Solstice seemed to be having a moment this year, at least in the bookish circles I frequent. A good meaty read, it doesn’t beat you over the head with Christmas, but it had its festive appeal.

I bought Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe on sale for Kindle but then saw it was the sequel to Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe, which fortuitously was available from the library, so I read that one first, and I’m glad I did. Not that you need a ton of context for a chick-lit type book, but it helped to have seen the character setup firsthand, if you will. Meet Me was more delightful than Christmas but they were fun to read together. I just started reading a JoJo Moyes backlist book, and she thanked Jenny Colgan as a friend in the foreword, so no surprise that I’ve enjoyed Colgan’s books as well!

Nothing says Christmas like a murder mystery, amiright? I traveled back to Three Pines on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for this second Chief Inspector Gamache book. It was not as charming to me as the first one, but I do love that little town. Except the murder rate per capita is through the roof!

Card Catalog: November 2016

November was a busy month! I traveled to San Francisco for work on somewhat short notice, and got to explore the city a little bit this time. Traveling would be better for my reading life if hotels didn’t have cable. This trip I got sucked into My 600 Pound Life on TLC. It actually made me glad not to have cable at home, though, so that won’t happen with any regularity! I also hosted Thanksgiving for the first time with both my parents and my in-laws in attendance, and it was a wonderful few days. I love getting to craft experiences for my guests and also getting to put a lot of my less-frequently used household items into service!

Here are the nine books I read in November.

No offense to Lauren Graham, but I was a bit surprised by how well-written this book was! The plot moved along nicely and the characters were interesting. I wondered how much of the story was at least semi-autobiographical.

Tara Road had been on my library wishlist for awhile, and it was available every time I checked, but it never seemed like what I wanted to read. It was only okay. I think maybe Maeve Binchy is just not my cup of tea, because that’s how I’ve felt about others of her books I’ve read. Apologies to my Irish family-in-law!

This was a sweet YA romance. I always like when books are of their time but not in an obnoxious way, so the text/IM relationship here was a nice touch.

Not my favorite but it had some sweet moments. This is a classic that I’m glad to be able to say I’ve finally read. It slogged for me through the middle but then caught me off-guard when it finally ended. I bought a Kindle set of all three of these books, so we’ll see if I get around the other two ever.

I’ve never quite been able to figure out Pottermore, so I was delighted to see some of Rowling’s stories that she’s written for it available as inexpensive e-books. I read these out of order, OKAY, so sue me. It’s always fun to re-visit the magical world of Harry Potter, not to mention that reading these three shorties helped propel me a LOT closer to my 2016 reading goal.

Card Catalog: October 2016

I read 6 books in October, but I would only really recommend 2 of them, which is unfortunate. But when you read as many books as I do, there are bound to be some duds. I really need to start noting on my Amazon wishlist why I added a given book to it, or where the recommendation came from. Often, when I go to pick out a new book, I can’t remember why I wanted to read some of the ones on there, especially those that have been there for awhile. It might help me make better informed decisions if I wrote a little reminder.

Anyway, here are October’s reads.

4 stars. I enjoyed learning about an aspect of American history that I had never even heard of before, that of sending orphans to the west via train to be adopted. All of the details were fascinating, and the story was sweet. I just bought another book by Christina Baker Kline on sale for my Kindle and I’m looking forward to reading it!

2 stars. This was my least favorite Liane Moriarty that I’ve read so far. The central conflict simply wasn’t as interesting as the ones in her other novels. What Alice Forgot still stands as my favorite, though I’m waiting on a few more from her backlist to make their way to me from the library. Big Little Lies is premiering on HBO soon, and I’ll be excited to watch it if I can find it streaming somewhere.

October’s book club read, which we never actually got together to discuss, which is too bad, because I would like to know what other people thought. This was an Oprah book club pick and adapted for TV on OWN, but I wasn’t wild about it. It was an interesting premise but just missed the mark for me.

I only gave this 3 stars on Goodreads, but it was my most talked-about book in awhile, so maybe I should bump that up. This one pushed the same buttons for me as The Happiness Project and the like, and I’ve found myself obsessed with the concept of hygge this winter!

My team at work read this and discussed it in a book club setting. It is so many people’s favorite book, but I really didn’t care for it! I wonder if some of the beauty got lost in translation. I found the story rather simplistic and I didn’t fall for any of the characters. HOWEVER, it makes great fodder for conversation, and I liked thinking about what my Personal Legend might be. It’s a pretty quick read, so despite not liking it I’d actually recommend it, if only for the cultural context.

I read this to get into the Halloween spirit and it was pretty “meh.” I gave it a mere one star. I tried to read The Turn of the Screw but couldn’t get into it either. Oh well.