Thursday, December 30, 2010

Book Review: The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

The History of Love: A Novel

I rarely read fiction anymore. My time for reading is limited, what with the whole special-needs kid thing (plus, if I'm honest, the Internet-is-distracting thing, a fact I'm not entirely proud of), and I prefer nonfiction. Books I can learn from. Books that keep me interested from beginning to end. Books about real people doing real things. I've never liked mysteries, for example - I just want to know WHO DID IT ALREADY. And yet, I'm a passionate reader, and I do love a good story, it just has to be special. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss was special.

I'm not sure if I can do this book justice beyond saying the above - that this was one of those rare fiction books that sucked me in and kept me turning the pages. It's several threads woven into one big tapestry. It's stories over here and stories over there that suddenly come together in a big A-Ha moment. And the writing. The writing is beautiful. The writing is what I loved best - the stories were fascinating, the characters were fully drawn, but the general tone of the writing was simply lovely.

You want a brief synopsis? A man lost his family in the Holocaust and came to America to find the love of his life had also been lost, though in a different way. A young girl wants to know what's going on with her own family, which has been falling apart for some time. A young boy wraps himself in religious fervor. A man is wracked with guilt over a choice he made years ago. A man finds out that things are not what he thought they were as he was growing up. A woman makes a decision that changes the course of history. And it all connects together, but not in the ways that I ever expected. 

And for me, easily distracted these days, the segmented story kept me interested and enabled me to occasionally (reluctantly) put the book down for a bit while I tended to more important matters. In the end, the payoff was totally worth it all, even if I felt like I probably should sit down and draw out a map of the story, complete with arrows and dashed lines and notes. Basically, you need to add this book to your to-read list right now. (And while I'm not currently in a book group, I think this would be a great choice for one.)

I've begun reading Krauss's second novel, Great House, although I've only had time for a few pages. So far, her writing seems to have retained its magical quality. Maybe tonight I'll shut down the computer and dig in for an hour or so.

According to my poor record keeping of 2010, I read approximately 45 books this year. I fell short of my usual goal to read 50, but I also read many, many picture books many, many times. I didn't officially count those, but trust me, I was reading even when I wasn't reading. I expect this trend to continue through 2011...

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Enter a contest to win your own Keurig MINI plus apple cider K-cups - December 29, 2010

I've rambled so much about my Keurig that I thought maybe you'd like one of your own. (Plus, well, I love contests...) You can win a Keurig MINI Plus Brewing System from Leslie Loves Veggies (a site that has a BUNCH of giveaways - woohoo!) plus a box of apple cider K-cups (which are really yummy - a friend gave me a few - they actually have real apples in them, not fakey stuff).

From the site: "Giveaway will end on Tuesday 1/4.Giveaway open to U.S.& Canadian entries only." More info and rules at

Ah, and maybe you just want to try the apple cider K-cups, but you already have a Keurig brewer? Then just enter the Thanks Mail Carrier contest for a box of 24 of them! (More great giveaways at the Thanks Mail Carrier site too!)

Let me know if you win one of these!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

End of the Year Meme List Thing - December 28, 2010

I shamelessly have borrowed (stolen?) this from the blog of E. Lockhart, an author I admire (and who could easily be on my list of "authors with whom I should be BFFs") and whose new book, the final in the Ruby Oliver series (although I secretly hope for more) Real Live Boyfriends just came out. The main character in this series may have a name that is similar to my child's. Total coincidence. Mostly.

1. What did you do in 2010 that you'd never done before? 
I got in the car, looked straight ahead, and drove. To Target. To R's house. To Publix. And it felt great. I also sold my wares at two craft shows.

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I looked back and didn't seem to have many actual resolutions for 2010. I did make sure my kid got everything she needed and more, and that's always an important thing.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yup. Several new 2010 babies made appearances. Hooray new babies!
4. Did anyone close to you die?
5. What countries did you visit?
Does Massachusetts count as a country? No? Then, um....Tennessee. (I'm kidding. I didn't really go anywhere this year.)
6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?
A daughter who can walk. And I believe it's going to happen!
7. What date from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
The kid's first day of preschool, I think. Maybe some other milestones she reached this year - not the exact dates, necessarily, but the fact of them happening.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
The driving! Also adding new stores that carry my jewelry and selling at not one but TWO craft shows. (And making a profit at both.)
9. What was your biggest failure?
I didn't do enough writing this year - not on my personal pet project nor on projects that would actually pay me money. Next year for sure. I also gained a bit of weight (eep) and never managed to do much about it. 
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I think 2010 was the year I did have some drama with my health, but mostly since we've started seeing the chiropractor we've all done reasonably well.
11. What was the best thing you bought?
The Vitamix and the Keurig.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My friend k8 stuck by me all year - through phone calls and iChats and dramaz and craziness. Celebrate k8! 
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Commenters on the Internet. Particularly when the subject of the main article was anything related to breastfeeding/birth. Ugh.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Groceries, I think. Nothing all that fun. 
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
My kid. The Dresden Dolls show (not just for the fact that it existed at all, but also for getting to GO OUT and be a not-mom for a night). Groupons and coupons and deals. Coffee in all its forms. 
16. What song will always remind you of 2010?
The Yeti Stomp. "Yet? Yet? *point point* Yet?"
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
- happier or sadder? happier in some areas, sadder in others
- richer or poorer? the same, I think
- thinner or fatter? fatter. boo-urns.
18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Paperwork. (Same answer as E. Lockhart, woohoo!) Insurance. Therapists. Applications. Etc.
20. How did you spend the holidays?
Hanukkah was low key. My family visited for Xmas. No big plans for NYE.
21. Did you fall in love in 2010?
Not with anyone new. 
22. How many one-night stands?
Ha ha ha ha ha. None. What a random question!
23. What was your favorite TV program?
CBS Sunday Morning, always and forever. How I Met Your Mother, America's Got Talent, and America's Next Top Model also were favorites this year. And Dexter!  
24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Probably. I'm a very nasty Scorpio.
25. What was the best book you read?
I made a list of 15 of them.
26. What was your favorite film of this year?
I saw Inception in the theater TWICE. Pretty amazing that I managed that - so even if it wouldn't be my favorite movie if I saw lots of movies, it sort of wins by default. 
27. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?
It fits and it's clean, so I'm wearing it. 
28 Whom did you miss?
I missed a bunch of my friends who live far away because I went and moved far away. 
29. Who was the best new person you met?
The entire staff at my kid's preschool, plus her new out-of-school speech therapist.
30. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010.
Patience patience patience. Also, don't be afraid to question what you believe - it may simply make your beliefs stronger at the end of the day.

Friday, December 24, 2010

I Heart Contests - December 24, 2010

I enter lots of contests online, but I rarely win. Yesterday I opened my mailbox to find that I'd won a $100 Publix gift card from the Del Monte Family Meals Sweepstakes! Woohoo - free groceries! (The contest is long over; that link goes to the page on which I originally learned about it.)

I tried to remember if I'd won anything else in 2010. Here's what I came up with [updated 12/27/10]:

  • I won a $50 Target gift card from the Dr. Oz giveaway a few months ago.
  • I won a case of PopChips (the small 100-calorie bags - yum!).
  • I won four tickets to the children's museum via Facebook.
  • I won a box of Tetley Tea via Facebook.
  • I won a giant stack of Laughing Cow coupons via Twitter.
  • I earned about $200 in Amazon gift cards from Swagbucks (and since I started have earned almost $500 in cash and Amazon gift cards).
  • I earned at least $100 in Amazon gift cards from 
  • I earned about $50-$75 from various online survey sites. I wasn't that strict about these - I just don't always have time to do a survey and I ignore 99% of the survey emails (I do MySurvey and Synovate when I see them, but other sites send me emails that I don't usually have time for).
Next year I'll try to be better about noting when I earn/win cash and prizes.

Do you like to enter contests? Where do you hear about them? I tend to learn about them from blogs like Money Saving Mom and, and a friend of mine just linked me to, although at the moment that's pretty overwhelming!

And who knows. Maybe in 2011 I will start being able to give things away in this blog! (That would be fantastic!)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Thing Review: Solofill reusable, refillable K-cup alternative - December 22, 2010

When I wrote this review, the Solofill was out of stock both on the main Solofill website and on Amazon (where I got mine because I have free Amazon Prime through the Amazon mom program). However, it is now back in stock or will be soon. And now, my review of the Solofill "Reusable Single Coffee Filter for Keurig Brewers."

It's awesome. Really.

It's red, which is nice, because red kitchen utensils are always fabulous. My Vitamix is red. My microwave oven is red. I like that. I'm superficial that way - but I would've bought this thing if it had been black or blue or purple.

Part of the reason I coveted a Keurig was that I knew that somehow I'd be able to use it with my own coffee, whether with a K Kap or a My K Cup or an EZ Cup or reusing the K Cups with foil or press-and-seal or...something. Obsessive Googling and researching led me to the Solofill, which is still a newcomer on the market for reusable K Cups, but it looked impressive. The only true competition is the My K Cup, which is made by Keurig itself, but I've read many bad reviews of it and the coffee it produces. Plus you have to remove parts and pieces from the brewer to use it. Do you know what happens when I have to remove parts and pieces from something to use something? I break that something or lose the parts and/or pieces. The Solofill doesn't make you do that. (The EZ Cup seems like another valid choice, but it requires you to also buy and use proprietary paper filters, where the Solofill is the filter so there's nothing more to buy.)

Really, I see some people saying that it's hard to use. I don't understand. I take the red plastic cup thingie. I dump in coffee to the fill line. I stick it in the machine. I push the button. Coffee comes out. Yes, when I open the machine back up, there's a puddle of water on top of the Solofill. So I carefully pull it out and pour off that water. Yes, it's hot when I take it out of the machine - so I wait a few minutes or I deal with it. K Cups are hot when I take them out too. Big whoop.

Now that I have a Solofill, I'm hoping to cut back on my purchases of K Cups. And yet...K Cups are so much fun, so easy to use, come in so many, yeah, I suppose it probably it won't change all that much. But at least now I can use my Dunkin Donuts pumpkin spice coffee in my Keurig and I can take advantage of the amazing coupon + sale prices on coffee that show up every so often. And yesterday I got a free sample of Starbucks Natural Fusions vanilla coffee, which - you guessed it - I plan to use with the Solofill. (Yep, I could also drag out the French Press for these, but I'm all about the convenience factor and the ease of making just one cup at a time!) And I'm thinking I can add a bit of extra coffee to make it stronger so I have my own version of the "Brew Over Ice" coffee K-cups. And I may try even more tricks with it - brewing pods in it, brewing tea in it, and so on, just for fun.

If you need a reusable and refillable K-cup alternative for your Keurig single-cup home coffee maker, I recommend the Solofill.

Note: A competitor to the Solofill, the Ekobrew, has appeared on the market. Check out my new (July 2011) review of it. 

As of March 2013, this post is no longer accepting new comments.

May 2013 update: I'm now playing around with the Keurig Vue V500 thanks to House Party. Check out my first impressions and learn how you can get your own for 40% off!

(This is my referral link. I get a small kickback if you click through and sign up for Amazon Prime.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Tale of, Coffee, and Customer Service - December 21, 2010

Well, I know someone from Green Mountain Roasters has seen this post thanks to my tracker...hi *waves* (You're probably back since I added this update and your Google alert will pick up the new content.) I still love my Keurig machine and the K cups I have for it. But my opinion of how I was treated stands.

Let me tell you a story. It's a story of my order with for some K Cups and accessories and how I am not exactly pleased with the way I was treated by customer service. More after the jump....

Friday, December 17, 2010

List Week - Fifteen Fabulous Books - December 17, 2010

Fifteen Fabulous Books I Read in 2010 
(that may or may not have actually been released in 2010)
(though I think most were)
(links go to my reviews, either on this blog or elsewhere) 
(not all books I reviewed made it onto this list, FYI)
(I behaved myself and didn't link to Amazon with affiliate links anywhere in this post)
(obligatory "in no particular order" statement)

  1. Rat Girl by Kristin Hersh. (memoir)
  2. The Butcher and the Vegetarian by Tara Austen Weaver. (memoir-ish, stunt journalism/a year-long project, food writing-y)
  3. This Lovely Life by Vicki Forman. (memoir) (heartbreaker)
  4. Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin. (food writing/memoir) (totally not from 2010)
  5. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. (YA) (deserved the Newbery) (that link goes to the Washington Post, and no, I didn't write for it this year)
  6. Dawn Light by Diane Ackerman. (Diane Ackerman-y) (essays on nature)
  7. Bright-Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich. (Anti-Self-Help? Exposé?)
  8. Confessions of a Prairie Bitch by Alison Arngrim. (memoir) (hysterical) (and sad)
  9. Room by Emma Donoghue. (fiction) (sorry Book Lady!)
  10. Moon Rabbit by Natalie Russell. (picture book) (follow link to page 16)
  11. Baxter, the Pig Who Wanted to Be Kosher by Laurel Snyder. (picture book) (Laurel FTW)
  12. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. (stunt journalism/year-long project) (surprising)
  13. The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll: The Search for Dare Wright by Jean Nathan. (biography) (OMG)
  14. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. (Amazon says "food science, animal rights, fauna" - I don't know what to call it - memoir/exposé?)
  15. My Baby Rides the Short Bus: The Unabashedly Human Experience of Raising Kids with Disabilities (essay collection) (this book changed my life)
Currently reading the History of Love by Nicole Krauss. I'll write a review here when I finish it, which hopefully will be sometime this weekend. The full list of books I read in 2010 can be found on my Shelfari page. Lesson learned: Mark each book with a date, whether actual or arbitrary, so I know which books belong to which year, because the site won't do it for me.

I'm looking forward to the new Jean Auel in 2011. (I lied. That's an Amazon referral link.) If that makes you think less of me, so be it. I sometimes have the urge to flash around all my credentials - master's degree! relevant undergrad degree! career in book publishing! professional writer! short stint working in a children's bookstore! - and then I think, hey, sometimes I just want to read fluffy foofy stuff and not be judged. It's like how musically I have accepted that I can love Heavenly and Britney Spears, Bat for Lashes and Lady Gaga, Janelle Monae and some of the new Deerhunter album. One dimensional is so me-at-15... So in 2011 I shall stop being defensive about my choices (which I've been working on anyway for, oh, ten years or so) and just be.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

List Week - New Year's Resolutions - December 16, 2010

Five New Year's Resolutions for 2011

  1. Drive more. Goals include Edgewood Shopping District, the Tucker Goodwill, and a few more friends' houses. Long-term goal is the library in the county next door, but that seems very long term right now.
  2. Participate in one to three craft shows. Logistics may make this one trickier, so an acceptable substitute is to expand the number of stores that carry my wares - and to make sure those stores are at least five miles away from my house.
  3. Spend less time online. My plan to wean myself from my Internet addiction is to make a list of sites I visit (there are only about five I go to regularly, when all is said and done) and tape it to my laptop. I am allowed to go to each site once and do what I need to do, but then after I complete the list I must step away from the computer for at least an hour and do something else.
  4. Read at least 50 books. I think that in 2010 I managed 30 or 40 (I need to figure this out via Shelfari) but I can do better.
  5. Pare down the clutter. It's time to part with the baby gear, to take the baby clothes to consignment stores and/or thrift stores, to sort through the books, to make some hard decisions about yarn, and to just overall PARE. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Day Four of List Week - Books and Music That Changed My Life - December 15, 2010

Five Books that I Thought of When I Decided to Make a List of Life-Changing Books
  1. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  2. A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman
  3. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
  4. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
  5. Missing Angel Juan by Francesca Lia Block
Five Songs that I Thought of When I Decided to Make a List of Life-Changing Songs
  1. Honey by Tori Amos
  2. Fear by Sarah McLachlan
  3. Trophy Girlfriend by Heavenly
  4. My Finest Hour by the Sundays
  5. Out of Habit by Ani Difranco
Arbitrary lists are arbitrary. The usual disclaimer of "OMG I could change my mind at any time" applies here, of course. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Day Three of List Week - Obsessions - December 14, 2010

Five Things I've Obsessed Over to the Point of Annoying My Friends and Family

1. Knitting. I talked about it all the time. I bought tons of yarn, I bought special needles, I bought books, I bought tools. Every trip I took, I sought out the local yarn store or stores and happily wandered the aisles. I went out of my way to go to WEBS as well. And I did knit quite a lot for about three years - I still wear my Kittyville hat, I designed an illusion scarf for my husband with the Boston Bruins logo on it (of course then we moved and he wasn't a fan anymore...), I knit my baby brother a Harry Potter scarf, I made some funky cabled armwarmers out of fancy yarn. So I was really into it. And then I had a baby and quit the job I had at which my boss was an obsessive knitter. And then I stopped. I let the knitting-specific blog die off. I forgot how to cast on. I gave away some yarn and put some away in storage bags. I just picked it back up last week, but I'm going to try not to obsess about it this time around.
2. The Vacuum Sealer. I purred every time the commercial came on. I petted it lovingly in the store. And I finally scored one at my bridal shower and everyone laughed. I did use it a ton for the first few months, but my husband never was a fan and it admittedly was a pain to open and reclose the bags every time I wanted to eat some cheese. It also worked really well, and the canisters were easier to manage. It's old and outdated now though and doesn't work as well. I'd love to upgrade...
3. Tori Amos. I don't necessarily feel bad about this one in terms of obsessing about her music. This is more about my obsession a few years ago when I was in collector mode. I'd search eBay for rare Tori items and poke around in used CD stores hoping to score an import CD for cheap. I'd trade bootlegs (cassettes and then CDs and then downloads). I had to have everything - EVERYTHING. The digital age has actually changed the game and it's not as OMG IMPORTANT to have the rare singles, for example, since you can just grab an mp3 somewhere. But for a while I adored building my Tori collection.
3a. I used to bug eBay sellers who were passing off counterfeit Y Kan't Tori Read CDs as the real thing. If you're still wondering, all these years later, how to tell, it's simple. The real CD has a red ring around the edge - the most obvious thing to check, as bootlegs never, ever had this. The case has a red-on-white spine. The CD has no bonus tracks. And finally, the cover is a different picture from the vinyl, which is what was frequently scanned in to make the bootleg. I did this a lot, but yes, I finally stopped.
4. Book Buying. This one's never going away, but for a year when I was both childless and freelancing and/or employed only part time, I went thrifting once a week with a friend. The books were cheap and I bought a lot of them. I chronicled it in a rudimentary way on a web page that wasn't bloggy. Then I started a blog to keep track, but it didn't last very long. I've read a lot of them and I still adore buying used/thrifted books. I just don't have as much time/energy/space as I used to. I now keep track more quietly using Shelfari and Delicious Library (which I need to update, actually) and I'm trying to pare down and send books out of the house. I also joined a neighboring county's library system so I have access to more books I want to read but that I also have to give back.
5. The Keurig. I probably started talking about it in September or October, and within about a week my desire to own a Keurig was a full-fledged obsession. I researched it online, I talked to owners, I read message boards, I compared prices. I plotted to get it with gift cards earned through various online promotions, and then I fretted when my husband more or less bought it for me for my birthday. And now I have it and I am trying to be restrained about talking about it since I know my patterns and am trying to control them.

If you're enjoying list week, tell people to come on over and read! And comment! Thanks.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Day Two of List Week - Weird Behavior - December 13, 2010

It's day two of list week here at a Place to Write Things!

Five Weird OCD-ish Things I Do that I Can't Explain
  1. Check the dryer five times to make sure one of the cats isn't in it. Like, check, put clothes in, close it. Open it and check. Close it and turn it on. Open it and check again and turn it back on. Walk out of the room, hear something (usually the dryer balls rattling around in there), and then go back in to check again. Sometimes I can skip parts of this if I make visual contact with both cats, but not always.
  2. Stand several steps back from the subway and lean heavily on my back leg so if someone pushes me I will be able to fall backwards instead of forwards. Standing against the wall would accomplish the same thing, but there's not always a wall against which to stand.
  3. Check the car door to make sure it's locked by pulling on the handle one more time before I walk away from it, then say a rhyme too silly to admit to make sure all the other doors are locked if I've driven somewhere, even if I haven't touched the other doors to do anything. (Our car has manual windows and locks.)
  4. Take the third or fourth Sunday paper in the pile because the top one might have been messed with (as in, coupons might've been taken out; nothing more nefarious than that).
  5. Check my purse and/or pockets a hundred times to make sure my keys, phone, wallet, and iPod are there. Even if my purse is zippered closed and hasn't left my side. Even if I've just put them in there five seconds ago. (Note: More than once, I've had my heart nearly stop when I've realized my phone isn't in my purse - while I'm talking to or texting someone with the phone.)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Day One of List Week - Celebrity BFFs - December 12, 2010

OK, let's try this again. I wrote a similar list last week, I saved it to post later, I went to edit it, and it went poof into the ether. I'm going to try to post a silly list a day this week - please note, the emphasis is on SILLY. And if I miss a day, well, how many people are really reading my blog anyway? (Tell a friend!) (Do I need to start making adorably awkward drawings to go alongside my posts? I will, you know. I will and they won't be cute or funny and you will be SORRY.)

So I present you with day one of list week:

Six famous ladies I should totally be BFFs with (in a non-stalkery way)
  1. Nicole Richie - I don't even know why I love her, but I do. She's a nifty mama, she's a bitch. She's awesome. I could tell her that I too waited a long time to marry my boyfriend! We could talk about her books (which I haven't read, but if we became BFFs I totally would!). We could be all catty about everyone and then we could stop the paparazzi with a death stare. I don't know if she'd like me, but I think maybe she could learn to like me...
  2. Alyson Hannigan - We could talk about birthing and babies and breastfeeding! And um, you know, Buffy! And HIMYM. And cute husbands. And I don't know, I just think she seems like a sweet person with a bit of a wicked side who I'd totally love to hang out with over coffee. But then I feel like we'd both be bouncing off the walls and we'd have to like, go try on prom dresses at Macy's or something.
  3. Eliza Dushku - OK, one more from the Buffyverse. We're both from Massachusetts, and we could talk about accents and Faneuil Hall and stuff. Go Celtics, Go Bruins, Go Patriots, Go Red Sox! (I mean it!) (Go Thrashers!) She's wacky and crazy and I bet we'd have some fun adventures together. Or just knit. Do you think she knows how to knit?
  4. Mandy Moore - Another one who grew up near me. Come on, Amanda Leigh, let's reminisce about Pheasant Lane and Spit Brook Road. My hairdresser gave me your haircut and it looked fabulous (sadly, it has grown out, but it really was lovely). You and I like a lot of the same musical artists, and I think I have In My Pocket on my iPod still. (Will you forgive me when I tell you that I sing "Nothing but panties in my pocket"?)
  5. Winona Ryder - Come on now. What wouldn't we talk about? Truthfully, so I'm not sure if we'd run out of conversation topics after an hour or two, and she'd probably get sick of me asking her about Heathers, but I think she liked Sassy. I'm sure I read somewhere that she liked Sassy. I interned at Sassy. So she could ask ME about Sassy. Surely that's what a lifelong friendship can be based on, right? SASSY! And Heathers. And Beetlejuice and Girl, Interrupted...right?
  6. Ellen Degeneres - Ellen! My daughter loves her show (or at least she loves watching the opening credits and answers "yeah!" when I ask if she wants to watch Ellen and points to Ellen's picture in ads in magazines), and luckily so do I because at least it gives me a break from watching the Backyardigans and Signing Time over and over. I'm vegetarian, but Ellen could totally convince me to go vegan. I had a dream once that we were neighbors and she and Portia were delightful. Plus, we both get giddy over other celebrities, and we both like really good music. She makes me laugh and she seems so genuine. And I'm a big dork, and I bet she'd be OK with that and not make fun of me. At least not too much.

Friday, December 10, 2010

I have not fallen off the face of the Earth - December 10, 2010

  • This week was going to be "List Week." I wrote Monday's post and was dissatisfied with it, so I put it aside. Then I came back, tried to undo one error, and erased the whole thing. It wasn't meant to be, apparently. 
  • But look, this is a list! That should count.
  • I have stopped doing the Friday Fives for now because they haven't been resonating with me, but I'll probably start them again in the new year.
  • I just finished a two-day craft show that took up a ton of time (prepping, creating inventory, and so on). I made a nice (for me) profit and had a lot of fun. 
  • Unfortunately, some of the supplies I ordered didn't come in time, including bails I ordered from Etsy without realizing they were coming from Hong Kong. Oops. Hopefully they will arrive early next week.
  • I have started knitting again. I wanted a coffee sleeve, I didn't want to buy one, and so I picked up the needles again and voila. Coffee sleeve. I've finished two (one knit flat that I am having someone else seam because I am both lame and in need of a new yarn needle, and one knit with magic loop) and am working on a third. This third one is interesting because I'm using yarn I apparently bought nine years ago at this wacky little shop in Montreal. There, they spun cones of "yarn" made up of individual threads that you could select individually if you wanted. From what I remember, I bought pre-made cones. I don't know what the yarn is made of (I think it's wool and cotton - I know there are ways to test it) but it's pretty. I chose some wacky novelty-ish yarn for this coffee sleeve. It's a bitch to knit with (sorry, but it is) but it's coming out interestingly. If this goes well I may start knitting...something else, not sure what. It was like riding a bike, as the cliche goes. It took me watching a few videos on to remember some things, but after a few rows I was flying along.
  • I'm reading the History of Love by Nicole Krauss and loving it. My to-read pile is growing alarmingly fast though. I need to get on that. I believe I've read about 40 or 50 books this year. Unfortunately I don't date everything in Shelfari and I can't remember what book was the final one of 2009. Oops.
  • My kid is doing amazingly well. We had our parent conference and she's on her way to meeting most of the goals we set out for her at the beginning of the school year, which was in AUGUST. That's like 5 minutes ago, seriously. These were things she couldn't do at all, and now she can. She can use a fork and spoon! She can walk all around with her walker, even navigating around and into tight spaces. She says new words! I'm so proud, it's ridiculous. Oh and she's adorable and social and everyone loves her.
  • I have a private blog for her that I haven't updated in forever, but it proved useful as a baby book today when someone needed to know when she met certain milestones. Note to self - update her blog way more often.
  • She has two weeks off from preschool. Oh dear.
  • And it's almost 2011. Yikes.
  • I'm still in love with my Keurig, but my K-cup order of four new ones has been delayed. (I also threw in an iced coffee/tea cup with an attached straw because I LOVE the Celestial Seasonings Southern Sweet Tea K-cups but don't want to keep making them into breakable glass.) 
  • I also have ordered a Solofill that should be here in a few weeks. I use the Keurig at least once a day if not more. I loooove coffee. I bought a new travel mug from Starbucks when it was on sale during the 12 Days of Sharing, so that makes me happy too. 
  • I'll try to blog more.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Book Review: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun 

When my neighbor and friend Paula Bloom raved about the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and offered to lend it to me (she'd recently moderated a webinar with Rubin for This Emotional Life/PBS), I admit I was a bit apprehensive. It wasn't that I didn't trust Paula's suggestion, it was that I wasn't sure what to expect from this book (and I had - and still have - a pile a mile high of books I need to get to already). Paula's copy was wonderfully tabbed and highlighted - so much so that I couldn't resist the lure of the whole sparkly package, so I dove in. And I found that I loved the book and can't stop talking about it.

It's another "I took a year and did something and wrote about it" book - but really, I love these kinds of books, and Rubin herself notes that she didn't know she was being trendy when she started her project. I had wondered if it was going to be a self-help/foofy/I-am-your-guru type book, but far from it, it was a regular woman - a mom, a writer - dealing with her own personal situation. It's a simple idea, actually; Rubin took a year and devoted it to figuring out the idea of happiness and how to make her own life happier. Each month she tackled an angle of her life and focused on just that - family, friendship, spirituality, hobbies - and analyzed what she could do, how she could do it, how well she did it, and whether it actually helped her be happier. She doesn't shy away from admitting when she doesn't quite do something perfectly, or when she struggles with her goals - and that was what made me warm up to the book.

She's also all about lists - great truths, secrets of adulthood, personal commandments, people who inspire her - and seriously, by now if you've read a few of my blog posts you may know that I love lists. I make them on the backs of envelopes and in TextEdit and...just everywhere. On my hand sometimes! And in the spirit of this book, I give you my little list of...

Marla's True Rules (A Work in Progress)

- Never argue online with a friend of a friend.
- Sometimes it is better to just walk away.
- If you've put someone in your past on purpose, it's probably best to keep him or her there.
- Anything worth having is worth researching first.

And because I'm "Being Marla" (as Rubin keeps saying she tries to "Be Gretchen), I can also say that I don't always follow my rules. But I try!

Rubin has a blog and an online toolbox and a bunch of other resources for those wanting to start their own projects. I don't know if I'll go that far, but then again, it is almost 2011 - a great time for starting a project like this. (Yeah, this would be a great holiday gift-y book or a January 1 get inspired-y book.) Check it. Read it. Buy it at a local indie bookstore. (sidenote: I saw another indie bookstore going out of business - this one in Chattanooga, TN - and it hurt my heart, so protect your local indie!) Be happy.

PS Hey there, Gretchen Rubin, if you happen to find your way here via Google Alerts or back links or just randomness, I have to tell you that my favorite bit was when you noted you've kept your copies of Cricket magazine. I kept all of mine for years, and then my mother made me throw away many of them (which broke my heart) - but somewhere, somewhere in a box at her house or mine, I kept the first issue (bought at a used bookstore when I was around ten or so), the 100th issue, the 10th anniversary issue, and a few other special ones. And I have the Cricket cassette. I just wanted you to know that.