These are the days of…

  • Turning another year older
  • Embracing a slower summer schedule
  • Oklahoma verdant and jungle-like
  • Morning walks around the neighborhood
  • Yellow rose bushes planted a year ago in our front yard, now filled with healthy, fragrant blooms
  • White-headed, sprouted clover in open fields
  • The heady fragrance of honeysuckle in the wild thicket of woods behind our neighbors’ house
  • A new cedar wind-turner, finished by The Optometrist
  • Placing a red & white checkered tablecloth over our puzzle table to convert it to a bistro table that overlooks the wind-turner and bird feeders in our back yard
  • A deep dive into the book of Esther in our Sunday School class and the conversations it inspires
  • The Blacklist on Netflix
  • Digital audio books borrowed from the public library
  • Anticipated vacation to travel to new places to rest, eat good food, and see beloved friends
  • Daily journaling
  • One new poem every day
  • One new recipe every week
  • The sweet, cool scent of ripened nectarines; my favorite summer fruit and the encapsulation of how this season smells to me

“These are the days of…” is inspired from Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman

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Read: April 2018

GarlicSapphires

Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl

My fascination with Ruth Reichl continued from March and this memoir was a slight deviation from her other two, focusing entirely on her years as the restaurant critic for the New York Times. Included are her actual reviews, after sharing the back stories behind her positive and negative dining experiences (and a few personal recipes, of course).

And to see glimpses of the beautiful home where she and her husband now live, and how she navigates around her personally designed home kitchen, you will enjoy this 2015 video from the New York Times.

Read via: academic library

Countingby7s

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Willow Chance is a highly gifted 12 year old girl, whose favorite number is 7 and whose cerebral ruminations are reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes. After a family tragedy turns her world upside down, she learns to cope thanks, in part, to some unlikely individuals (strangers, really) whom she also ends up inspiring. The overall theme of this middle-grade story is a child’s grief over the loss of her parents, which is often underrepresented in children’s literature.

Purchased during a past Scholastic Book Fair in our academic library, Allison’s recent mention of this middle-grade novel reminded and encouraged me to finally pick it up. I’m glad I did!

Read via: home library

Feynman

Feynman written by Jim Ottaviani, art by Leland Myrick, coloring by Hilary Sycamore

This graphic novel about American Nobel-Prize winning physicist  Dr. Richard Feynman (quantum electrodynamics, the Manhattan Project, and investigating the Challenger explosion) was the perfect format to not feel intimidated by such advanced and scientific breakthroughs. It inspires me to keep learning more about scientific and mathematical concepts I’ve never formally studied before.

Read via: academic library

Dolly

Dream More: Celebrate the Dreamer in You by Dolly Parton (audio)

When you grow up on the Ozarks, country music is rather a way of life. And nothing says country music more than Dolly Parton. While I’ve known the highlights of her career, eaten at Stampede in Branson, and visited Dollywood in East Tennessee, when I heard about her Imagination Library during library school, this was her achievement that impressed me the most.

Elaborated upon from her 2012 commencement speech given at University of Tennessee, this isn’t a memoir, simply an opportunity for her to share some brief personal anecdotes about what has inspired her to dream big and give back to others.

Dolly’s unmistakable speaking and singing voice give heart and passion to her thoughts in the audio version, which is an easy listen at around 2 hours.

Read via: academic library InterLibrary Loan audio CDs

NotIfISaveYouFirst

Not if I Save You First by Ally Carter

Logan and Maddie are no ordinary 10 year old best friends since Logan’s dad is President of the United States and Maddie’s dad is head of the President’s Secret Service detail. During a state dinner, Logan and Maddie help deter a Russian attack on the President’s family, but the strain takes its toll and Maddie and her father move as far away from Washington, D.C., as possible; off the grid in a remote part of Alaska.

Fast forward six years and Maddie’s numerous letters to Logan have never been reciprocated, but when teenage Logan shows up on the doorstep of their cabin after getting himself into a bit of trouble, Maddie quickly realizes trouble isn’t as far away as any of them would like to believe.

For those unfamiliar with Ally Carter, her books contain smart and tough female protagonists, with a suspenseful but clean story line. She’s one of my favorite young adult authors (and is from Oklahoma)!

Read via: home library

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The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

The 8th Chief Inspector Gamache novel is filled with beautiful descriptions of sacred music and Gregorian chant despite the fact that Gamache and Inspector Beauvoir have been summoned to a remote Canadian monastery to investigate the murder of one of the monks. Layers of intrigue abound with the monks relationships to one another and also between Gamache and Beauvoir. This one ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, so I’m anxious to find out what happens next in How the Light Gets In!

Read via: public library

NotBecomingMyMother

Not Becoming My Mother: And Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way by Ruth Reichl

My fascination with Ruth Reichl continued during the month with this short homage written in honor of her mother Miriam after her death. By looking through a box of her mother’s notes and correspondences over the years, Reichl comes to better understand her mother’s personal frustrations and ambitions, along with her desires for Ruth’s own life. This was a terrific read, especially with Mother’s Day right around the corner.

Read via: public library

LastBattle

The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis

My 5th grade teacher read our class the entire Narnia series during the course of that school year, long ago. Since then I have re-read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe several times, but had never re-read The Last Battle. And while I possess a classic paperback set of the entire Narnia series, I was inspired to listen to this book once more, this time narrated/performed by Patrick Stewart; a real treat.

Read via: public library Overdrive


The end of our collegiate semester culminates with graduation this weekend, which, to me, means summer reading can begin!

Read: March 2018

The57Bus

The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater

My quest to read more from the ALA Youth Media Awards list led me outside my reading comfort zone with The 57 Bus, the true story of a white, transgender teen whose skirt was set on fire by a black, male teen while riding a city bus in Oakland, California, in 2013.

A co-winner of the Stonewall Award and selected as a Finalist in the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults, the reader gets to know both teens, their families, their hopes and dreams, and while the issue of gender is at the heart of the story, so are the choices we make, consequences, repercussions, kindness toward others, and forgiveness.

Read via: public library

WeAreOkay

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

Rounding out my current reads from the 2018 ALA Youth Media Awards, this YA novel was this year’s recipient of the Michael L. Printz Award.

College freshman and protagonist Marin has fled her life in California to the unknown East Coast to begin her first year of college after enduring “tragedy…heartbreak…betrayal” and who possesses a profound sense of “broken longing” for answers and love from those who know her best. The story unfolds a little bit at a time with vulnerable moments grounded equally in the present and in the past.

Read via: public library

TenderAtTheBone

Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl

After reading two YA books fraught with high emotions, I needed a break, and nothing makes me happier than to read an outstanding food memoir. This was a $3.00 find from my favorite used book store while visiting my parents at Christmas; money very well spent.

In this memoir Reichl weaves recipes into stories and adventures from her early and young adult life in the most inviting way. Whether it’s homemade cheese she ate on a farm in France, a stacked pastrami sandwich discovered at a diner in Montreal while in boarding school, or fixing food for her hippie commune from her garden while living in 1970s Berkeley, you are drawn into each mouth-watering moment, experiencing life along with her (and growing hungrier by the second).

I previously read Delicious!, Reichl’s only fiction novel, in the summer of 2014 and enjoyed it just as much as I did as this, her first memoir.

Read via: home library

LOTR

The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

Yes, it’s been the better part of 9 months since I read the last installment from The Lord of the Rings, but I’m hanging in there! Since The Optometrist and I are reading these aloud together, I have him to thank for continuing to guide me into all things Tolkien, including character and plot information, and so many world-building details. Now on to Return of the King!

Read via: home library

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To Be Where You Are by Jan Karon

Although this has been out since the Fall, it wasn’t until this month the time was right for me to return to Mitford. After a very hectic winter, my schedule and mind have begun to slow down a bit, and I relished reuniting with beloved characters.

In this latest installment of Karon’s longstanding series, Dooley, Lace, and Jack are faced with many real-world challenges in their new family’s personal and professional lives, but make diligent and ongoing choices to love, support, and cling to one another. Father Tim and Cynthia continue to find ways to love and serve the quirky denizens of Mitford, and the supporting cast of characters can always be counted on to bring a smile to my face and a moment for my soul to breathe.

My thanks NetGalley for access to the the digital ARC.  https://www.netgalley.com/

Trick-Light

A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny

7th in the Chief Inspector Gamache series, the Chief and his investigative team from the Sûerté du Québec return to Three Pines when an unknown woman is found dead in the garden of recurring characters Clara and Peter. When the identity of the woman is revealed, the question remains if her death is coincidentally timed with Clara’s debut, solo art show. Meanwhile, the Chief and his investigators continue to deal with grief, honesty, and loss from a previous attack to members of their team; an ongoing struggle.

Read via: public library

Comfort-Apples

Comfort Me With Apples: More Adventures at the Table by Ruth Reichl

What a dual-find it was to discover both Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me with Apples over Christmas at my longtime favorite used book store! However, after enjoying Tender so much, Comfort was more gritty for me to read as it centers around Reichl’s affairs, divorce from her first husband, remarriage, and longing for motherhood. And yet despite her personal woes, her professional accomplishments and influence in the food world continued to grow, often illustrated by corresponding recipes. (Danny Kaye’s Lemon Pasta is one I’m anxious to try…)

Read via: home library


Spring has sprung! I await a slower pace as the semester gets closer to reaching its conclusion as I am accompanied by delightful books like Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl and perhaps a few more Newbery medalists, too.

Meeting Killers of the Flower Moon author David Grann

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As a librarian and lifelong reader, any opportunity I have to meet authors is one that brings me untold joy.

When it was announced that David Grann had agreed to be the guest speaker for our university’s annual endowed lectureship, I knew this would be a big deal, attended by many guests from outside the university.

Grannpresentation

Grann’s third book, Killers of the Flower Moon, has now been on the New York Times non-fiction best-seller list for 37 weeks, was an Amazon.com top 20 picks of the best books from 2017, and a 2017 National Book Award Finalist in Nonfiction. So, having him come to our mid-size, rural university was especially notable.

However, our university has distinctly proud tribal roots, and since the whole focus of his book centers around the murders of members of the Osage tribe in the 1920s, it was a perfect opportunity for a special spotlight to locally be shone on American Indians and Oklahoma history.

This story of greed and prejudice was expertly told through the lens of a talented journalist and researcher, with it taking 5 years for Mr. Grann to research and accumulate information from various archives and museums to write this book. We were also fortunate to have some Osage descendants in attendance, whose family stories were featured from the murders that took place almost 100 years ago.

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For those who have yet to read Killers of the Flower Moon, this tragic story will be one you hopefully don’t quickly forget; a segment of American history from which we all learn and hopefully do not ever repeat.

All photo credits: Peter Henshaw.


To read more about other authors I’ve had the privilege of meeting and books I’ve had signed, check out My autograph collection post.

Read: February 2018

UncommonType

Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks

My goodness, Tom Hanks, just when I thought you couldn’t be more likable, you’ve done it again.

This debut of 17 short stories from America’s favorite actor (at least mine) are filled with hope but tinged with melancholy and all include a mention or plot incorporation of typewriters, Hanks’ passionate hobby. One particular favorite that lingers in my mind is “The Past is Important to Us.”

I began reading this via a digital ARC from NetGalley prior to its release in the Fall, and even though they were quite enjoyable, I stalled out after reading only a handful. However, after discovering Mr. Hanks narrates the audiobook himself, I was sold on finishing this via audio CDs from the public library, which was time very well spent.

Read via: NetGalley & public library audio book

Ghosts

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

The gals from The Ardent Biblio mentioned Raina Telgemier in an October graphic novels post. I’ve overseen purchasing several of her books during our semi-annual Scholastic Book Fair, including Ghosts, but had never read one until I hit a bit of a reading slump mid-month.

This sweet story of two sisters, the very scary reality of a sick sibling, moving to a new community, and (of course) ghosts was a heartwarming look at fierce love and embracing an unknown future. With the plot incorporation of Día de los Muertos, a great movie tie-in would be Disney Pixar’s Coco.

Read via: youth collection from my academic library

HP-Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling, illlustrated by Jim Kay

Photo via my Instagram.

Even though The Optometrist and I began reading this aloud together last fall, over the past few weeks we ratcheted up our efforts to finish Prisoner of Azkaban. This has always been my favorite Harry Potter book and Jim Kay’s illustrations just enhanced the tension, excitement, and pleasure Harry finally receives after so long.

If you’ve curious about Jim Kay’s home studio, this video is wonderfully magical, and here he specifically talks about Dementors, Buckbeak, and Snape drawn in The Prisoner of Azkaban.

Book read via: home library

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The Geography of Genius by Eric Weiner

Near the end of 2017 I was approached by friends to be a part of a small book club, and I was the only one who offered a suggestion from my TBR – this one!

When visiting Italy in college I was awed in understanding how when Michelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel, Raphael was next door painting The School of Athens. This started me thinking about other phenomena of when groups of geniuses arose to change the world.

Not only is the Italian Renaissance featured, but so are genius collectives in ancient Athens and Hangzhou, China, but Edinburgh, Calcutta, Vienna, and Silicon Valley.

For those interested in read-alikes, two that came to mind are: The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs and How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson, read in October 2016.

Side note: as much as I learned from this book, the pressure of choosing a book, hosting the book club, and feeling responsible for leading the discussion put a damper in the joy out of this reading experience, unfortunately.

Read via: home library

LovePoems

Love Poems by Nikki Giovanni

Mentioned in Dear Fahrenheit 451, I had previously not heard of the poet Nikki Giovanni, but this was the perfect collection to accompany me throughout month, especially with Valentine’s Day in the mix. My personal favorites were “Love Is” and “A Happy Reason.”

Read via: academic library

AliceNetwork

The Alice Network by Kay Quinn

On my radar since this summer from the Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide under the History+ category, I enjoyed the interconnected stories of Eve, a British spy from WWI, and Charlie, a young American woman, on a dual mission to seek answers about their pasts in post-WWII France.

Read via: public library Overdrive

TwoAcross

Two Across by Jeff Bartsch

This was another book brought to my attention by Dear Fahrenheit 451. The Optometrist and I often work crosswords together (one of the things saving my life right now), so this  smart, quirky, unique love story made me feel all.the.feels. Spelling bees, crossword puzzles, youthful mistakes, genuine but confused love, forgiveness, maturity, and redemption elevates this to my favorite book of 2018 so far!

Read via: academic library InterLibrary Loan

LongWayDown

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

A highlight of the month was watching the live stream of this year’s ALA Youth Media Awards on February 12th, when the best-of-the-best children’s and young adult books were announced. As the librarian for our university’s youth collection (the favorite part of my job), and a lover of children’s and young adult literature, I soaked up the opportunity to witness authors and illustrators achieve well-deserved prestige and notoriety.

Evidenced by the cover (above), Long Way Down was selected as a Newbery Honor book, an Odyssey (audio) Honor book, a Printz Honor book, and a Coretta Scott King author Honor book.

Told in prose, the plot addresses gun violence and is a story that, sadly, could apply to many young people’s lives across our fractured and hurting country. Read over the span of a couple of hours, themes include the lies we believe for our preservation, the choices we have (to break destructive cycles), and the interconnectedness of our lives with others unbeknownst to us.

HelloUniverse

Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly

Although this was the recipient of the 2017 Newbery Medal, the plot didn’t overwhelm me. What it did well was create diverse characters, with a mission surrounding friendship and kindness, along with bravery, family, acceptance, and standing up for yourself.


What was your favorite book read in February and/or what are you currently reading? I’m currently reading another ALA award-winning book, The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater, and also look forward to taking Chief Inspector Gamache on Spring Break with me in a few weeks.

Knit: Faded baby hats

Near the end of January, I evaluated my sock yarn stash and decided it was time to use up as much as possible. I had already incorporated each of these into my Granny Stripe Afghan, so it was time to see them be transformed into a new project. Some were bits and scraps, some had enough yardage to be used in multiple projects, and with the popularity of “fades,” my creative solution was to knit faded baby hats!

So far I’ve knit 8!

Pattern: Basic Baby Hat
Cost: Free!
Size: Newborn
Needles: US 6, 16″ circular Knit Picks Rainbow fixed circular needles & US 6, 5″ Brittany birch DPNs
Recipients: TBA

Yarn combinations were held double and I used a Magic Knot to connect yarn in the middle of a round to create a fade.
(Photos begin in order from “9 o’clock,” moving clockwise.)

  1. “Blushing” ~ Hedgehog Fibres Sock – Bramble, Ella Rae Lace Merino – 00 Natural, Koigu KPM – 1112 Light Peach
  2. “Purple Pastel” ~ ? Acrylic purple, Koigu KPPPM – 703P, Koigu KPM – 1112 Light Peach, Koigu KPM – White (this was the only one knit in the Preemie size)
  3. “Mellow Yellow” ~ Koigu – white, Ella Rae Lace Merino – White, Tosh Merino Light – The Radness, Phentex – Yellow
  4. “Professor Plum” ~ Hedgehog Fibres Sock – Pheasant, Gale’s Art – Valentine’s sock blank, Ella Rae Lace Merino – red
  5. “Ocean Deep” ~ Premier Yarns Wool Free – rainforest, Cascade Venezia Sport – teal, Koigu – coal mine, Cascade Heritage Solids – marine
  6. “Berries Jubilee” ~ Premier Yarns Wool Free – berry bush, Hedgehog Fibres Sock – dragonfly
  7. “Grey Hunting” ~ Rock and String Creations Jitterbug Sock – A hunting we will go, Ella Rae Lace Merino – taupe
  8. “Patchwork” ~ Patons Kroy – blue stripped ragg, Cascade Heritage Solids – marine, Knit Picks Hawthorne Kettle Dye – delphinium, Hedgehog Fibres Sock – salty tales, Cascade Heritage Silk – marine blue

For all you knitters and crocheters out there, what are some stash busting projects you’ve made?

Learn: Winter 2018

Linking up with Emily P. Freeman and others, sharing the silly and sublime of what I’ve learned throughout this winter.

  1. Dewey Decimal rock star
    Isaac Asimov
     is one of the few authors whose books are featured in almost every classification of the Dewey Decimal System.
  2. Classical music revelations
    One of my colleagues has done extensive research on Leonard Bernstein over the years, which piqued my curiosity into remembering more about this pioneer of American composition and conducting. Plus, 2018 is the centennial of his birth! In my own exploration of Bernstein on the Internet, I found this video that features Bernstein introducing 7 year old Yo Yo Ma as he played for Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy in 1962.
  3. Feed the cat when he’s hungry
    We’re typically home mid-afternoon most weekends and typically Sylvester begins begging for his dinner around 3:00 p.m. (But let’s be honest – I need a snack around this time, too.) Since adopting him almost 3 years ago we’ve tried to appease or scold him when he begins to either a.) meow pitifully or b.) become a holy terror.
    After returning home from our Christmas travels, we fed him a portion of his evening meal mid-afternoon and the rest around the time we eat early evening, which has made all the difference in his comfort and our sanity.
  4. Winter wardrobe and jewelry
    This winter I discovered I have a lot of mix-and-match items in my wardrobe that could be a uniform for Gryffindor house at Hogwarts -maroon and mustard yellow with black, white, and grey. This brings me secret pleasure to wear everyday Harry Potter outfits to work.
    I’ve also discovered that I stick to wearing the same 2 pair of low-profile earrings and bracelets due to the fact I often have a hand-knit scarf or shawl wrapped around my neck or body and don’t want to snag these stitches on protruding jewelry teeth or jagged clasps.
  5. Reading on a deadline
    While I have scads and scores of unread books in my home library, I’ve come to the realization that I would much rather read a book from the library and have a deadline for returning it rather than having it languish by my beside.
  6. Tell people what you need
    At the end of January I attended a mid-day yoga class with my favorite instructor and at the end of class she shared with our small group her birthday was coming up the following week. Without apology she shared her birthday plans for that day and wanted to open cards as a part of her personal celebration.
    She asked us to write down a thought, birthday wish, etc. and either mail it to her or drop it by the studio (she brought her own cards and stamps if we needed them). Not one person in our group batted an eye or said no when this request was asked of us and it reminded me I shouldn’t be ashamed of asking friends for something I need or something that will make me feel loved.

What have you learned this winter? Or maybe there are some lessons still in progress? Feel free to share in the comments below.