Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Why I Love... Anticipating Reading Time

As I type this, the weather is both gross and awesome. Gross - because it's gray, humid, and full of mizzle. Awesome - because this is perfect reading weather. The meteorologists are also anticipating that we'll be slammed with rain this week.

As disappointing as the weather report is, it has me anticipating reading time. I love knowing that there will be several hours in my future where going outside is not advised. I can stay wrapped in a blanket with a mug of tea and read and read and read.

It's not often that you know there's a chunk of reading time ahead. That is why I love the feeling of anticipation that comes form those rare moments. It's kind of like Christmas. You know it's coming, but it's not yet here. Being on the verge of something wanted and awaited gives me such a sense of happiness.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

YouTube Tuesday: Coffee

In honor of National Coffee Day, let's enjoy a trailer for a book about coffee. Mmmm.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

What I Read This Week: September 27, 2015

What a week! The Pope was in town and everything was crazy because of his visit. Luckily, I got a mini-popecation (and a facial!) so I didn't have to deal with metro and it's usual meltdowns. On top of that, the water was out at work most of the week week. It was a pain in the tush having, but we managed. Research waits for nothing!
  • Magazines
    • National Geographic, September 2015 - I heard an interview with the subject of the cover story on NPR a few weeks back, so I was excited to read this piece. Everyone knows that ivory poaching and smuggling is a problem, and this piece tries to explain how it's done. It was both fascinating and sad - highly recommend. This issue also had a great piece on a mountain climbing expedition in Myanmar. If I ever had the urge to climb mountains (which I don't), this piece would make me think twice.
  • Books
    • I finished off the final few pages of The Plains of Passage. Woohoo! Despite the trend toward repetition, I very much enjoyed the story. Thank goodness I have the final two books in the series already on hand. I'm excited to see where this all goes.
    • My new book, The Butcher and the Vegetarian, is by one of my favorite bloggers, Tara Austen Weaver. I've loved her lyrical writing style for a long time, and I'm happy I finally get to read her first book. So far, it is as wonderful as I expected. I also have the urge to track down a local butcher shop.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Friday Find: Chic Ugly Sweater

Hat Tip to Lady KS for sending me this. It's an "ugly Christmas sweater" in a Harry Potter style. I think it's actually kind of chic, and all sorts of awesome.
You can grab this from Viral Style.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Variations on the Theme: Pope & Church

The Pope was in DC for the past few days. He drew crowds of tens of thousands, and the city has a happy vibe to it. Pope Francis is the 266th Pope, and the history of the Vatican and Catholic church are long and very, very interesting. I think it's only appropriate that this month's Variations on a Theme focuses on that subject.

Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes
Eamon Duffy

This abundantly illustrated book encompasses the extraordinary history of the papacy, from its beginnings nearly two thousand years ago to the reign of Pope John Paul II. Duffy offers a comprehensive overview of the 2,000-year history of the papacy. This digestible survey provides a compelling introduction to one of the most durable and significant institutions to influence the course of Western civilization.

Keepers of the Keys of Heaven: A History of the Papacy
Roger Collins

One of the most enduring and influential of all human institutions, the Papacy has also been among the most controversial. From the founding of the Christian Church in the first century AD to the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe in the late twentieth century, the Popes have been central players in the history of Europe. In Keepers of the Keys of Heaven, eminent medieval and religious scholar Roger Collins presents the entire, grand arc of papal history in an objective, accessible single volume. From the separation of the Greek and Latin churches to the contemporary controversies that threaten the unity of the many-million-strong Catholic Church, Collins shows how no one seeking to make sense of the modern world can neglect the vital role of the popes.

Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling
Ross King

King tells how Michelangelo Buonarroti, known as a sculptor not as a painter, spent four years painting the ceiling of the newly restored Sistine Chapel for Pope Julius II while power politics and personal rivalries swirled around him. He was 33 when he was summoned back to Rome, from which he had fled vowing never to return

Basilica: The Splendor and the Scandal - Building St. Peter's
R.A. Scotti

In this dramatic journey through religious and artistic history, R. A. Scotti traces the defining event of a glorious epoch: the building of St. Peter's Basilica. Begun by the ferociously ambitious Pope Julius II in 1506, the endeavor would span two tumultuous centuries, challenge the greatest Renaissance masters-Michelangelo, Raphael, and Bramante-and enrage Martin Luther. By the time it was completed, Shakespeare had written all of his plays, the Mayflower had reached Plymouth-and Rome had risen with its astounding basilica to become Europe's holy metropolis. A dazzling portrait of human achievement and excess, Basilica is a triumph of historical writing.

The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe
David I. Kertzer

The Pope and Mussolini tells the story of two men who came to power in 1922, and together changed the course of twentieth-century history. In most respects, they could not have been more different. One was scholarly and devout, the other thuggish and profane. Yet Pius XI and “Il Duce” had many things in common. They shared a distrust of democracy and a visceral hatred of Communism. Both were prone to sudden fits of temper and were fiercely protective of the prerogatives of their office. (“We have many interests to protect,” the Pope declared, soon after Mussolini seized control of the government in 1922.) Each relied on the other to consolidate his power and achieve his political goals.

The Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities, and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church
John Thavis

For more than twenty-five years, John Thavis held one of the most remarkable journalistic assignments in the world: reporting on the inner workings of the Vatican. In The Vatican Diaries, Thavis reveals Vatican City as a place struggling to define itself in the face of internal and external threats, where Curia cardinals fight private wars and sexual abuse scandals threaten to undermine papal authority. Thavis also takes readers through the politicking behind the election of Pope Francis and what we might expect from his papacy. The Vatican Diaries is a perceptive, compelling, and provocative account of this singular institution and will be of interest to anyone intrigued by the challenges faced by religion in an increasingly secularized world.

Other Pope & Church Titles
Absolute Monarchs - John Julius Norwich
The Church Ascending - Diane Moczar
A History of the Popes - John W. O'Malley
How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization - Thomas E. Woods, Jr.
The Pope's Last Crusade - Peter Eisner
Selecting the Pope - Greg Tobin
The Secret Archives of the Vatican - Maria Luisa Ambrosini
The Sistine Secrets - Benjamin Blech and Roy Doliner
St. Peter's Bones - Thomas J. Craughwell
Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church - H.W. Crocker
The Vatican - Michael Collins
The Vatican Pimpernel - Brian Fleming

Links and Stuff: September 24, 2015

Sunday, September 20, 2015

What I Read This Week: September 20, 2015

You'd think that for covering two weeks, this post would be epically full of reading. It is not. I was much too distracted by the pretty scenery on our vacation that I didn't even finish one book.
  • Magazines
    • Good Housekeeping, September 2015 - I mostly skimmed this issue, but I enjoyed how much tasty looking food it included. There was one really nice feature story about a transgender man whose mainly showed love and acceptance through books. It was a great piece. This issue was one of those "flip over for more" magazines. If you're into beauty products, give that bit a read - otherwise - meh.
    • Good Housekeeping, October 2015 - I love fall issues of magazines. The images are lovely, the craft ideas look fun, and the recipes seem delicious. I read the majority of this issue, but still flew through it very quickly. October seems to mean lots of pumpkin pictures. '
    • Food Network, October 2015 - This issue had a heck of a lot of black and orange colored desserts and they all looked utterly delicious. I only flagged one recipe to try for ourselves (Baked Eggs with Curried Spinach), but this issue had some particularly tasty looking recipes. I'm a huge fan of soups and stews in the fall, so I loved seeing the feature piece on Giada's favorites. I also loved the final article on the best candy and confectioners shops in each state. I think I have to make some road trip plans now.
  • Books
    • I am so very nearly close to finishing The Plains of Passage. I'm talking mere pages away from the end. It's the fourth book in the Earth's Children series, and I am enjoying it immensely even if it does come across as a bit more repetitive than the previous books in this series.
I tried to read, but I was distracted by that view.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Friday Find: Soft Stacks

Are you the academic type? Do you need a pillow that reflects your design aesthetic? Why not pick up this tres posh stacks pillow cover?

You can grab one, two, or a dozen of these from Dot & Bo.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Book 22: Astonish Me

TITLE: Astonish Me
AUTHOR: Maggie Shipstead
STARTED: August 19, 2015
FINISHED: September 1, 2015
PAGES: 272
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: In the wings, behind a metal rack crowded with bundles of cable and silk flower garlands and the stringless lutes from act 1, two black dachshunds lie in a basket.

SUMMARY: [From BN] For years Joan has been trying to forget her past, to find peace and satisfaction in her role as wife and mother. Few in her drowsy California suburb know her thrilling history: as a young American ballerina in Paris, she fell into a doomed, passionate romance with Soviet dance superstar Arslan Rusakov. After playing a leading role in his celebrated defection, Joan bowed out of the spotlight for good, heartbroken by Arslan and humbled by her own modest career. But when her son turns out to be a ballet prodigy, Joan is pulled back into a world she thought she'd left behind—a world of dangerous secrets, of Arslan, and of longing for what will always be just out of reach.

THOUGHTS: When I shared a picture of this book on instagram, Lady KS told me this book was a DNF for her because it was boring. I've enjoyed other titles Lady KS has recommended, so I trusted her instincts. I've never DNFed a book (I just can't seem to do that), but I approached this story with a bit of trepidation. I was pleasantly surprised when I ended up loving this book. It might have helped that I did ballet up through High School, but I enjoyed the story immensely.

This is a book steeped in ballet - the language, the movement, the meaning. I think it would be hard to be charmed by this story if you did not also love ballet. It is the heart and soul of this book. Ever character and every plot point revolves around the dance. Shipstead uses the love and work of ballet to craft a greater narrative, but it always comes back to ballet. If you've ever danced before, you will feel this book down to your feet. It will make you miss it, and it will make you want to move.

The story itself is deliberately paced and well-crafted. The characters are all full of gray nuances, and motives that only come together in the very last pages. And those last pages are not the ending I expected. This book still rings with me partly because it left me wanting more. I wanted the story to continue with those characters. I wanted to see where they were headed. I guess you could say, I wanted the dance with them to keep going.

If this book ever gets a sequel, it will jump to the top of my reading list.

RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]

Links and Stuff: September 17, 2015

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Why I Love... Leaving Books for Others in Random Places

When The Husband and I were on vacation last week, we spent the majority of our time reading on the beach. It was awesome. Even more awesome? The towel stand had a "give a book, take a book" location. (I saw the same thing on our honeymoon in Barbados.)

This is spectacular! I love the idea that fellow vacationers leave books behind for each other. If I had finished my book I would have left my doorstopper for someone else to enjoy. It's a brilliant way to share reading (and lighten your suitcase).

This set-up also reminded me of BookCrossing, the website that encourages users to leave books in public locations for others to enjoy. These books are stamped/flagged/whathaveyou with a tracking number so fellow readers can update the website with the book's journey.

Part of being a reader is sharing what you've read with others. Leaving books in random places for others to discover is a great way to brighten some reader's day.

I guess you could say books have two stories: the one between the covers and the one they take themselves.

Book 21: Truce

TITLE: Truce
AUTHOR: Jim Murphy
STARTED: August 17, 2015
FINISHED: August 19, 2015
PAGES: 116
GENRE: Juvenile

FIRST SENTENCE: On July 29, 1914, the world's peace was shattered as the artillery of Austria-Hungary began shelling the troops of the country to its south, Serbia.

SUMMARY: [From BN]  On July 29th 1914, the world’s peace was shattered as the artillery of the Austria-Hungary Empire began shelling the troops of the country to its south. What followed was like a row of falling dominoes as one European country after another rushed into war. Soon most of Europe was fighting in this calamitous war that could have been avoided. This was, of course, the First World War. But who could have guessed that on December 25 the troops would openly defy their commanding officers by stopping the fighting and having a spontaneous celebration of Christmas with their "enemies"? In what can only be described as a Christmas Miracle, this beautiful and heartrending narrative will remind everyone how brotherhood and love for one another reaches far beyond war and politics.

THOUGHTS: For some reason, I convinced myself that this was a graphic novel. It's not. I am le disappoint. That said, it wasn't bad for a kids book, but I still wanted it to be a graphic novel. Someone get on that.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

Monday, September 14, 2015

Book 20: In Search of the Perfect Loaf

TITLE: In Search of the Perfect Loaf: A Home Baker's Odyssey
AUTHOR: Samuel Fromartz
STARTED: July 24, 2015
FINISHED: August 17, 2015
PAGES: 306
GENRE: Memoir / Food

FIRST SENTENCE: It was December 2008, two months after Lehman Brothers imploded and the week before Christmas, when I got the call.

SUMMARY: [From BN] In 2009, journalist Samuel Fromartz was offered the assignment of a lifetime: to travel to France to work in a boulangerie. So began his quest to hone not just his homemade baguette—which later beat out professional bakeries to win the “Best Baguette of D.C.”—but his knowledge of bread, from seed to table. For the next four years, Fromartz traveled across the United States and Europe, perfecting his sourdough in California, his whole grain rye in Berlin, and his country wheat in the South of France. Along the way, he met historians, millers, farmers, wheat geneticists, sourdough biochemists, and everyone in between, learning about the history of breadmaking, the science of fermentation, and more. The result is an informative yet personal account of bread and breadbaking, complete with detailed recipes, tips, and beautiful photographs. Entertaining and inspiring, this book will be a touchstone for a new generation of bakers and a must-read for anyone who wants to take a deeper look at this deceptively ordinary, exceptionally delicious staple: handmade bread.

THOUGHTS: This book did two things for me: make me want to eat ALL the bread and teach me many new things. I was not expecting to come away from this book having learned a lot of new stuff about making bread, the history of bread, and the cultural importance of bread... but I did, and I even regaled The Husband with my new found knowledge over dinner bread baskets.

It's been almost a month since I finished the book, and I still find myself pondering some of Fromartz's explorations. It probably helps that I live in DC and can visit the farmer's markets and bakeries he mentions. I enjoyed that this was much more than a simple memoir. Fromartz takes the time to do in-depth research about how bread came to be and what it means today. He shares all that information without it seeming like an info dump.

Fromartz writing is very approachable and incredibly descriptive. His writing style is perfect for recreating his adventures in bakeries down to the very last yeasty scent. He also folds in interviews and history seamlessly. His book is as perfectly risen as the bread he bakes.

I highly recommend you read this book, but I also recommend having a baguette on hand to satisfy any cravings that may pop up.

RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]

Sunday, September 06, 2015


There shall be no posts until September 14. The Husband and I are taking a late summer vacation. Hopefully we will both complete much reading. I've packed my bag with two door-stopper books and hope to finish both.

What I Read This Week: September 6, 2015

I don't know when it got to be September, but man did the last part of the year arrive quickly. Stop that, time!
  • Work
    • American Libraries, September/October 2015 - I love the design issue. It's great to see the many different ways libraries can look. More pictures please! Aside from that article, the piece on Open Access was well timed. We're going to host a series of OA events in October, so some of these ideas will be useful.
  • Magazines
    • HGTV Magazine, October 2015 - I mostly skimmed this issue, but the fall decor ideas was a nice piece. I also enjoyed the crafty story about the many things you can make with sharpies. The rest of the issue was mainly a list of stuff to buy; some of that stuff is nice, but man do I wish all of this stuff was cheaper. 
    • Washingtonian, September 2015 - The bulk of this issue was devoted to listing the top doctors in the area. That was accompanied by a huge chunk of ads for said doctors and practices. I flew through that stuff, but I stopped to read the stories about the former Navy Seal who runs a seal camp and hunts down those who "steal valor." I also enjoyed the story about the DC Indian wedding market - man was that
  • Books
    • I finished Astonish Me. I enjoyed the book from the beginning, but once I hit the tipping point, I could not stop reading. It did not end like I thought in would... in fact it didn't really end, but I very much enjoyed the conclusion... even if it did give me a lot of conflicted feels.
    • Now I am onto Plains of Passage it is the next book in the Earth's children series. I enjoy continuing narrative from the last week, and this is the perfect door-stopper to take with me on vacation. In fact, I should be reading this on a plane when this entry auto-posts.

Friday, September 04, 2015

The Friday Find: Flicker in Style

The candle in our living room just flickered it's last flame. We may need to replace it with this beauty. The holder is so pretty I would reuse it with all the votives we have leftover from our wedding.

You can buy this candle from R. Nichols.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Links and Stuff: September 3, 2015

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Why I Love... Beach Reads

This time next week, I will be sitting on a (hopefully) sunny beach with a book in hand and the sound of waves in my ear. The Husband and I are taking a belated summer vacation, and I've got two beach reads on my packing list. I love beach reads because, even though the term describes different books for different people, the books are always meant to be sunk into.

My favorite beach reads are big, door-stopper books with entertaining narratives. For our honeymoon, I packed one book from the Clan of the Cave Bear and another from the Outlander series. I'm doing the same for our upcoming trip. I like my beach reads to be easy to follow, but gripping. These books fit the bill. They are high activity and low-stress on my brain. This means I can take a break to look at the waves and not lose my mental bookmark. Their size also means I only need one or two to get me through an entire vacation (travel included). As a bonus, they tend to be paperbacks that are easy to carry and hold for long periods of time.

Beach reads are great because the represent a time of leisure and enjoyment. Books themselves should represent this, but we've so often forced certain reading and titles on people that books become work. Beach reads represent the fun-side of reading. They are a mood rather than a specific genre, and for that, I love them.