Thursday, January 3, 2019

2019 Personal Reading Challenge

After looking at over a dozen reading challenges posted online and feeling entirely uninspired, I decided I would create my own with categories that don't feel impossible and that could easily be recycled from one year to the next with very little tweaking, if I so choose. It has far more categories than I will likely ever get to in a single year but my goal is to check off as many as I can. While a single book will certainly apply to more than one line, I intend to limit myself to choosing just one per book. I thought I'd share my list with any of my other reader friends who might be interested but hasn't found a reading challenge that spoke to them yet. Feel free to play along. Happy reading!

A book with several short stories or novellas
The first book in a new-to-you series
A book from a series you've already started
The newest book from a series
A book that's part of a trilogy
A book with 500 or more pages
A book with 100 pages or less
A book published in the 90s
A book you've been meaning to read for at least ten years
A book published in 2018 or 2019
A book someone else raved about
A book you've been really anticipating
A book you're not sure you'll like but want to try anyway
A book you picked up on a whim
A book you wanted to read last year but didn't get to
A library book
A book you already own
A physical book
An e-book
A book geared toward children or teens
A cozy mystery
A memoir
A book that is historical fiction
A book that takes place during contemporary times
A non-fiction book
A genre you don't typically read
A new-to-you author
An author you've been meaning to
A longtime favorite author
A book written by a woman
A book written by a man
A book written by two or more authors
A book with a title or author that is alliterative
A book you hope helps you to learn or grow
A book that teaches you a lesson
A book that is pure brain candy
A book with a one-word title
A book with a two-word title
A book with at least six words in the title
A book with red on the cover or in the title
A book with orange on the cover or in the title
A book with yellow on the cover or in the title
A book with green on the cover or in the title
A book with blue on the cover or in the title
A book with white on the cover or in the title
A book with black on the cover or in the title
A book with a title containing a color not listed above
A book with clothing on the cover or in the title
A book with food on the cover or in the title
A book with a season in the title
A book with a holiday as a theme or in the title
A book with a place in the title
A book with a title that mentions something found in nature
A book that has a day of the week in the title
A book with a number in the title
A book with an apostrophe in the title
A book with an animal on the cover or in the title
A book with a person's name in the title
A book with a person on the cover
A book with only words on the cover
A book with a cover that makes you want to read the book
A book that takes place in a different country
A book with a title that starts with the word 'a' or 'an'
A book with a title that starts with the word 'the'
A book with a type of building on the cover or in the title
A book with a window or a door on the cover
A book with a title that references a time of day
A book with a female leading character
A book with a male leading character
A book of your choice


Friday, August 5, 2016

In recollection.

I was feeling nostalgic this morning and went hunting for a photo to share when I happened upon this one. I can tell you that it's 1982. I am almost six and my brother was three and a half. It's roughly this very time of year. I can tell you that my Gramp built that stone wall (and many many more like it all over the Chippen's Hill area of Bristol, CT, when he was a young man working for Bristol Nurseries). I have so much nostalgia about those stone walls, with their seemingly haphazard personalities, yet somehow standing the test of time and New England winters. Modern stone wall construction, while more elegant in its neat assembly, does not even come close to the satisfaction I get from admiring a stone wall a century old. I can tell you that my Gram and Gramp owned three acres of property, and I ran and played and explored every inch of it. I haven't been there in more than fifteen years, but I can still close my eyes and navigate it perfectly in my memory. Every last fruit tree and dip in the ground and jagged property line and rock poking through the grass. I can tell you, by the shadows, that it was late morning and the dew on the lawn had dried (but not after we tracked wet footprints through Gram's kitchen…and were promptly ushered back outside). The air was changing from the early morning green dampness to that crisp golden brown of grass drying in the heat of the summer sunshine. It was starting to get that heaviness, pressing down on early August with the arrival of the proverbial "dog days of summer." What I cannot tell you? Is what, on God's green earth, we were doing when my Gramp stealthily froze this moment of my childhood. Kids are weird.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

This Week on My TV: April 21, 2016

Disclaimer: Consider the fact that there could be spoilers ahead. You read at your own risk!

**(Downton Abbey, season 5) Violet: Principles are like prayers. Noble, of course, but awkward at a party. -- Violet: There's nothing simpler than avoiding people you don't like. Avoiding one's friends, that's the real test. -- Daisy: I was rubbish at numbers at school. Mrs Patmore: Well, all the best people were rubbish at numbers at school. ... I concur. -- Something I have noted: beware of the smokers. It seems like all the troublemakers smoke. -- What a miserable, conniving little man, Spratt is! -- I am not at all sad that Miss Bunting is gone. Thank the Lord Tom didn't end up with her. The aristocracy may be on shaky ground, but her rudeness is appalling. I like to think that Tom is the "man of the future," blending the best of both worlds. -- I kind of loved how everyone stood when the king spoke, even though they were only listening on the radio. -- Well, now. I did *not* expect that Mary, of all people, would have herself a rendezvous! How bold and controversial! -- Tom: You know you're much nicer than a lot of people realize. Mary: Not always. ... This is why I love Tom and I love Mary. Tom is sincere and kind. And Mary knows who she is and how she is, good qualities and those less so. She certainly doesn't pretend she isn't who she is or make excuses. Sometimes, she's just not nice. Aren't we all. -- I miss the Anna and Bates that were in love. Their story started out so sweet and hopeful, and they haven't had an easy moment since they said their vows. I really wasn't much on board with the investigation and imprisonment of Anna, after all the time we spent dealing with Bates in prison for the murder of his first wife. Why do you hate Anna and Bates, Julian Fellowes? -- Mrs Patmore: We should always be polite to people who are kind. There's not much of it about. -- I wept when Edith took Marigold from the Drewes. And I don't know if they were tears of joy for Edith or of sorrow for Mrs Drewe. -- Thing I never would have predicted: Violet expressing sadness about possibly losing Isobel as her friend and confidante, should Isobel marry. Of course she may not need to worry about that, given what awful human beings Lord Merton's sons happen to be. Get thee with the doc, Isobel. That's what I have to say. -- There was even more weeping over Isis, when Robert and Cora put her on the bed between them during her final hours. --I am amused that Robert is so set against the grandchildren calling him 'Donk', when everyone seems completely at home calling Rose's father 'Shrimpie'. -- Rose finally feels like she has a point in this show that isn't merely to fill the gaping hole left by Sybil. I like who she's becoming. -- Speaking of Rose, they sure were fond of botanical names! Violet. Rose. Marigold. Daisy. Ivy. -- Total seal of approval on Mary's haircut! -- I raise an eyebrow at Robert's extreme jealousy and silent treatment surrounding that whole Mr Bricker-Cora incident. Have you forgotten how you dallied with Jane, the maid, while Cora lay dying from Spanish Flu?? Because I haven't, mister. I was amused by the line Cora dropped to return Robert to her bed from his sulking in his dressing room. Even though he can be a real dunce at time, I think Robert has enough integrity that he'd feel too guilty looking in the mirror if he pretended he'd never been in questionable circumstances himself. -- I really, really tried to get into the Violet and Prince Kuragin love story, but it just didn't work for me. -- I often lament the over saturation of information we experience in today's hyper-connected world, but good grief. It took a year for Edith to get final confirmation that Gregson had died. That certainly wasn't optimal either. -- Say what you will about Mary, but there are far more awful women associated with the family. Lady Flintshire, for one. And she may be the worst of them all, pulling out every stop she can think of to spoil her daughter's wedding. -- If I wept over Isis and Edith taking Marigold from the Drewes, I outright sobbed when Robert unveiled the tribute he did for Mrs Patmore's nephew, in lieu of being able to memorialize him on the monument. -- It *is* nice to see Edith actually happy. She is certainly blossoming as Marigold's mother. -- Every time I expect stodgy, clinging to the old ways Robert to handle a sensitive situation callously, he comes through with surprising calm compassion. First with Mary and Mr Pamuk in the early days, and now with Edith, as he tells her he accepts her daughter into the family. -- I favored Charles Blake over Lord Gillingham, but forget those two clowns. Mary must have Henry Talbot! (Matthew Goode, you are a delight, and I need you to appear in the final season, please.) -- I'm going to refuse to acknowledge any of this "Tom and Sybbie go to America" nonsense, and spend my final thought squeee-ing that Mrs Hughes and Mr Carson just got engaged! And then my heart exploded. -- p.s. I heart Matthew Goode.

**(The Blacklist, 3x18 Mr Solomon (The Conclusion)) Who is that guy talking to Solomon, how did he know Liz escaped and how is he tracking her?? -- There's something you don't see every day. Very pregnant bride hanging out of the window of an old Buick, shooting. Also, Aram's dad isn't getting his car back. -- Mr Kaplan is...not pleased with Red. -- Red almost never looks scared. The fact that he does now? Terrifies me. I wonder if he's thinking "what have my lies by omission caused...?" -- Don't snap at Dembe, Red. It isn't his fault. Your're projecting your own feelings of guilt. -- "You're Having My Baby" while a disco ball glitters over your ex-wife/amost-wife's impromptu O.R.? Seriously, Tom?? LOL -- A teary-eyed Mr Kaplan nearly did me in. -- Agnes?? -- Solomon is way too calm. It unnerves me. -- I thought it the #BlacklistBombshell NBC promoted with a heavy hand all week was going to be a dead Dembe. -- Red was very painfully believable getting into the car. I gasped. James Spader is a genius. -- Reasons I remain skeptical:

1. We didn't see everything that took place in that ambulance. They cut to the gunfight outside. They totally could have revived her heart, and she's in a medically induced coma, so she'd look lifeless without the machines. This could totally be a plan hatched outside our hearing.

2. Red has faked Lizzie's death before in order to protect her. Earlier this season in fact.

3. Red asked Mr Kaplan not to let Liz be taken to the morgue...because he can't stand the thought of her there and he wants to take care of her himself? Or because SHE ISN'T DEAD??

4. Megan Boone is nearing her real life maternity leave and this is an excellent way to "stage" it for the show.

5. There is a spinoff supposedly coming, keying in on Mr Solomon and...Tom. This would be quite a way to get Tom out of the picture, making him believe Liz is dead, and provide both an exit from this show and context for why Tom would be after Mr Solomon in a spinoff. So...make Tom think Liz is dead so he's away from her forever, but get the baby back to Liz somehow? (If anyone can make that happen, it's Red.) Think about it: Mr Solomon was shocked by the person who employed him (Red, perhaps??  or Mr Kaplan, acting on his behalf?). The orders were always to make sure Liz was unharmed. Red knew Liz as Masha. Mr Solomon somehow always had some sort of leak on secret information. Could Red have hired Mr Solomon in order to get Liz away from Tom, and then this took a turn and he's just running with it?


Sunday, March 20, 2016

Snapshot from Along the Broken Road: 2016 - Week 11

Checking in for the week of March 13 through March 19.

Valentine Murder (Leslie Meier) - This isn't the sort of book that is going to win accolades or literary awards. It's a predictable (in format, anyway) little cozy mystery, with a 'whodunnit' and some red herrings and plenty of hijinks. When you keep your expectations in check, understanding the sort of book you've picked up, this was another fun installment in a series I've enjoyed thus far. It's exactly what I expected, after reading the first four books in this series. There were parts that made me chuckle. There were parts that made me want to read a little faster. I spent the entirety of the story trying to figure out who was responsible, and why, right alongside Lucy. And in the end, my initial suspicions were right, even though I'd changed my guess several times while I read.
Before I Say Good-Bye (Mary Higgins Clark) - A bit of a slow start to this one, which is odd, because isn't there typically a little "heart pounding" or something sinister to whet the appetite, and then we slide into building the story? Hopefully, it will pick up some adrenaline soon. So weird for a MHC! They usually suck me right in.

On Sunday, I made my second Blue Apron meal: Triple Pork Mazemen with Roasted Garlic and Pea Tips and, let me tell you, holy amount of flavor in this one! I don't know if I can find everything to re-create the recipe again, but if I can, I won't hesitate! Monday was my final Blue Apron recipe, Crispy Brown Butter Gnocchi with Meyer Lemon and Brussels Sprouts, and I really enjoyed it. It was unexpectedly satisfying, for a meatless dish, although I don't see it being "enough" for T. However, it could easily go from a two-serving main dish portion to four side dish. And if you are ambivalent about Brussels sprouts (I like them, myself), I can tell you that between the lemon, thyme, garlic, and Parmesan, you can't even taste those few leaves in there. Tuesday, I was again on my own (T was in transit), so I just whipped up a little ziti with a red sauce. Grilled cheese and tomato soup was my quick-and-easy-before church on Wednesday. At T's request, Thursday, I made my Stuffed Shells with Spinach and Sausage (double batch so there were some left to freeze!). On Friday, we had some ox roast sandwiches. T had brought home some ox roast from Pennsylvania. I'd never had it before and it was quite good! And on Saturday, no one felt like cooking, so we ran out for some Zaxby's chicken.

Blueberry Scone (YC) - I really just want a warm-from-the-oven blueberry muffin every time I walk into the master bedroom.
Buttercream (YC) - Mmmmm...buttercream.
Drift Away (YC) - Fresh and clean. I jumped the gun, just a wee bit, on spring scents, because with only a couple days of winter left on the calendar, I couldn't see starting more wintry scents.

Bathtime for my car.

Florida is just exploding with color.

Blue Apron, the second: Triple Pork Mazemen with Roasted Garlic and Pea Tips. This was amazing, loaded with flavor.


Final Blue Apron: Crispy Brown Butter Gnocchi with Meyer Lemon and Brussels Sprouts. I was so surprised. For being meatless, it was unexpectedly satisfying. Plus, unlike the first two recipes, which had some ingredients I don't think I can find in order to replicate in the future, this recipe was all common ingredients. It was also very simple and quick to make, and it would work as a two-serving meal or a four-serving side dish. And, while I like Brussels sprouts, if you don't, I can tell you that you cannot even taste them, for all the lemon, thyme, garlic, and Parmesan. Plus, it's just "loose leaves," not the whole little sprout.

Exercising my right.


Saturday, March 19, 2016

This Week on My TV: March 19, 2016

Disclaimer: Consider the fact that there could be spoilers ahead. You read at your own risk!

**(Downton Abbey, season four) Did Robert honestly say "the price of great love is great misery when one of you dies" to *Tom*?? Ouch. -- Mrs Hughes and Carson really bring work husband/work wife to a whole new level (minus the marital bed, of course). I love that their interactions run the gamut of sweet, confiding, bickering, funny, and mundane. -- I wondered who Thomas (sorry, dude, but I cannot think of you as Barrow, promotion or otherwise) was going to target, now that O'Brien has sneaked off into the night. Apparently, he started with Nanny West (foul woman, she deserved it for how she spoke to sweet little Sybbie), moved on to tormenting Anna (whose husband *helped* him keep his employment at Downton, despite seeing Thomas for the toad he is!), sparring with that hussy, Edna (you just stay away from Tom and stop exploiting his vulnerabilities!), and then bringing in Baxter as Cora's new lady's maid. I wonder what he has on Baxter, because he certainly has her under his thumb. -- Anna and Bates were so difficult to watch this season, in the aftermath of her assault. I just wanted to hug them both. But why on earth didn't Mrs Hughes explain to Bates why Anna was afraid to tell him she was attacked? Wouldn't that have at least created the opportunity to head off trouble when that vile Green returned to Downton? I mean, Bates clearly loves Anna so much, there's a chance it might have defused the situation a bit. -- Mrs Hughes: We must all have our hearts broken once or twice before we're done. -- I have never been so happy about a discovery as I was about Matthew's pseudo will and that it was legit. The letter he wrote Mary was so sweet and I felt like we (Mary, too, perhaps?) were given a little closure on his death. I think it will be interesting to see how Mary steps up to to the challenges of running Downton, especially now that it will be in Matthew's stead. An unexpected ripple effect of Mary's involvement is a friendship blooming that I had no idea would affect me so much: Mary and Tom. I love the way they speak with one another and it's the most at ease I think we ever see post-Sybil Tom. -- Mary: Sometimes I don’t know whom I’m most in mourning for: Matthew or the person I used to be when I was with him. ... Mary is just breaking my heart. She knows he brought out the best in her, parts of her she didn't know how to reach without him. To see that ice queen Mary truly loved him was both beautiful and painful. -- How does Cora end up with the most awful lady's maids?? It's like she has the same luck with them as Edith with men. -- Speaking of Edith. Oh, Edith. After being jilted by Strallan, I understand why she is so taken with Gregson, but bidding him an intimate farewell before he departs for post-WWI Germany? That was bound to go poorly. Now she's unmarried, with child, and Gregson has straight up vanished without a trace. Because this is how things go for Edith. I realized that it is her cynicism that makes her not so much a character I'm drawn to, but I can see she comes by it honestly. -- Back to Baxter. I cannot decide how I feel about her. On the one hand, she seems more likable than Cora's other lady's maids (not that that was a stretch, given O'Brien and Edna) and she seems appalled by the way Thomas is plying her for information, but on the other, she somehow knows Thomas and is indebted to him, which makes me suspicious. Everything about Thomas makes me suspicious. -- Isobel: How you hate to be wrong. Violet: I wouldn't know. I'm not familiar with the sensation. -- Robert: Don't be vulgar. What do you of such matters? Mary: I've been married. I know everything. -- I struggle to see the point of Rose. I suppose she's there to fill the void, left by Sybil, of the young and controversial "daughter," but she lacks Sybil's sweetness and good heart, and it just seems to be forced to me. -- I have never laughed so hard at this show as with Mary and the pigs. -- I have to be honest, all these suitors and gentlemen around Mary leaves me confused. I keep mixing up Napier and Blake. And then Blake and Gillingham look just enough similar that I have to pause and remind myself which is which. And Napier would love a go at Mary, Blake thinks she's an entitled snob (which, sometimes, she is, but we'll see how that changes post pigs), and Gillingham, while I thought he was initially sweet, seems to be a bit of a cad, proposing to Mary while he's pre-engaged to Miss Lane Fox, then getting engaged after Mary declines, and *then* showing up at Downton in pursuit of Mary anyway. I'm with you, Mary. I'm not ready for you to be thinking of anyone but Matthew yet either. And certainly none of these guys. -- I loved, *loved*, Tom, Mary, and Isobel, sitting in the nursery with the babies, talking about how deeply they loved, and that, even though they've all lost, they were so lucky to have had at all. And sharing their engagement and early love stories. It all broke my heart in the best sort of way. Also, Tom? You are not allowed to move to America. Or anywhere else for that matter. -- Alfred gone to cooking school! Good for him. Get away from the death stares Daisy keeps giving Ivy, and nasty Jimmy. (I can see why Thomas was drawn to Jimmy. They're both ugly inside, sniping and plotting and just generally being unkind.) -- One of my favorite things about Mary is that when she has no idea how to respond to something said to her, she simply stares back in silence or abruptly changes the subject, then walks away. I laugh every time. What can I say? It speaks to my non-confrontational side. -- Not a fan of Miss Bunting. But I suspect no one will be good enough for Tom in my eyes. -- Tom: Losing Sybil was hard. Compared to that, everything else is easy. -- I want to hate everything about Lord Merton's advances on Isobel, because I really like Dr Clarkson for her. -- What, exactly, is Edith's plan for her baby??


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Snapshot from Along the Broken Road: 2016 - Week 10

Checking in for the week of March 6 through March 12.

The Ambassador's Daughter (Pam Jenoff) - After reading the first two books in this series, it was interesting to read the "prequel" of a character I'd already met. I enjoy historical fiction from many time periods, but I haven't read much from the World War I era, so it made the storylines fresh. Like the previous two books, there was intrigue and espionage, and with it, twists and turns that made me start or gasp a bit as they were revealed. But this book had a bit more of a love story than the previous two (though they had their own romance as well). I was definitely as caught up in Margot and Georg's romance as I was in Margot's inner turmoil over her unintended involvement with Red Thorn. My only regret is that there is no real resolution to their love story, despite the Epilogue. I do enjoy Jenoff's writing though, and I have more of her books on my "to-read" list. I also wouldn't be disappointed if another book was released in this series.
Valentine Murder (Leslie Meier) - This has been a fast read. Closing in on the end...and whodunnit! Every time I think I have a guess, I get more information and it changes.

Sunday was my first round of Flower and Garden Festing. Monday, I did up some Meatloaf Patties with green beans and mashed potatoes. T made a tuna casserole for Tuesday's dinner. Wednesday was quick and easy before church: BLTs. We had some potatoes left to use, so on Thursday, we had some barbecue chicken with freezer corn and roasted potato wedges...the leftovers of which became home fries for Friday's breakfast-for-dinner! On Saturday, T was out of town for the first of four days. One of my friends does Blue Apron and had a free gift to share with a friend, so he shared with me. This was the perfect setup for cooking for one, since most of the meals make two servings, meaning dinner with leftovers for lunch! On Saturday, I made the first of my three gift meals: Adobo-Style Chicken with Roasted Bok Choy and Jasmine Rice.

Hollyberry (YC) - Winding down on winter scents, with spring just around the corner. I don't want to start anything new!

Try the World afternoon snack of the week: tarot chips! They were so interesting. Manaing to be both savory with a hint of sweet, with the crispiness of a kettle chip, but a smooth texture rather than a rough one.

Just before sunset.

Dear gorgeous Florida sunrise, I'll miss you waking me up after Saturday. Your light always makes it easier to begin my day than the lingering darkness until nearly 8am.

And then, the following morning, while getting T to the airport for his flight.

Sunrise with a layer of fog. So dreamy...

Quick stop off at Panera for lunch. You pick two!

Blue Apron number one: Adobo-Style Chicken with Roasted Bok Choy and Jasmine Rice.


Saturday, March 12, 2016

This Week on My TV: March 12, 2016

Disclaimer: Consider the fact that there could be spoilers ahead. You read at your own risk!

**(The Good Wife, 7x16 Hearing) That whole "we have bagels" bit was crazy hilarious. Including the entertained expression on Jason's face through the entire thing. -- This episode was a weird format with the vent eavesdropping that was often so difficult to hear. Which I realize was the point, but it was still frustrating. -- Do we even know what on earth is this hearing about? Or who?

**(Scandal, 5x11 The Candidate) I think it's time to say that Scandal is officially on notice for me. It went from must-see, during its first two seasons, to nearly unwatchable in the next two. Now, we're half way through season five, and there are more meh episodes than really good ones, which leaves me little room remaining that the show will recover its form. It feels like most of the episodes are little else than soapboxing for Shonda Rhimes. It's like Facebook come to life. Which...not anything I want to see. She's taken my two favorite "basically good guys" -- Jake and David -- and turned them into dirtbag characters who do ugly things, which means we're left with no one "wearing the white hat." Everyone is simply out to get everyone else without any sense of morals at all. I miss the balance Pope and Associates brought to the table. Now, I can't even remember the last case they worked, which begs the question: what purpose do Huck and Quinn...and Marcus (?...I don't even know his name!) even serve? Scandal, you have what's left of this season to win me back. There are too many other shows and activities with which I can occupy my time to keep watching a show that is a mockery of its former self.

**(Once Upon a Time, 5x12 Souls of the Departed) I'm not exactly sure what purpose this episode served, other than to show us that Orange Storybrooke is proving to be one giant reunion, meaning no character on this show is ever guaranteed gone forever. A show brimming with magic has its perks!


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