Sunday, May 28, 2017

What I Read This Week: May 28, 2017

My brother made an unexpected (and quick) visit to DC this week. The weather was rainy and dreary the whole week, but the rain held off just long enough on Wednesday night to allow us to attend the Nationals baseball game. Thank you, mother nature!

Also, this three-day weekend could not have been more perfectly timed. This week was very busy and extremely tiring at work. I'm prepping our main library for the relocation of a campus library. That meant heaving about a lot of books. I am le tired.
  • Magazines
    • HGTV, June 2017 - This was the annual paint issue. I heart all the pretty colors that come out in this issue. So many lovely blues, greens, and pinks! As for articles, I enjoyed to pieces. The first was on how you can use paint to transform furniture and other decor items. That other was about how to style open shelves in your kitchen.
    • Cooking Light, June 2017 - While Cooking Light is generally all about food, the often include health related articles. In this article, there was a one page story on sunscreen. I just had my first skin check at the dermatologist so this piece was a nice reminder that I need to stock up on the right sunscreen for the summer. In other news, I loved the spread on how to eat by
      color. The recipes were fantastic and it was nice that the story broke down what nutrients can be found in each color of food. Finally, the summer cookbook recipes were just tasty looking. I saved several to try out myself.
    • Real Simple, April 2017 - This was the first issue in my attempt to make a dent in my magazine backlog. This issue, on the whole, was just okay, but there were three pieces I found to be worth reading. The first was, essentially, an infographic on the science of how we fall in love. The second was about how stretching is good for the body. That piece included a few stretches everyone should try. The third piece was the cover story on how to "sparkle" clean your home. I may be one of
      the few people who destresses by cleaning. I can't wait to put a few of the tips to the test in our apartment. My blinds definitely need a deep clean.
  • Books
    • It took me longer than expected, but I finished Dear Data. It was denser than anticipated, but that turned out to make it a really interesting read.
  • Other
    • I subscribe to a several email newsletters. They're mainly about current events and politics... so they contain not so great news as of late. On occasion, however, they link out to some gems. This week, one of The Atlantic newsletters linked to a story on the things scientists carry through airport security and the hilarity (and education) that follow. It was the best thing I read all week.

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Friday Find: Hold Me

It's been a very rainy and dreary week. This weather makes me want to read all day in comfort. I think one of the best ways to do that is to snuggle deep in to some pillows with a blanket and a cup of tea. It's weeks like this that make me want a "boyfriend" or bedrest pillow like the one below.

You can buy this at Amazon.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Variations on a Theme: Coloring

I love coloring. I even hosted a girly coloring event not to long ago. Coloring is great because it's both mindless and mindful. I can zone out with my Prismacolors while watching TV or chatting with friends. I don't get to do as much coloring as I like, but when I do have a few hours to devote to this awesome hobby, I'm happy every minute.

If you love this trend as much as I do, then you'll enjoy that this month's Variations on a Theme is a collection of literary adult coloring books.

Pride and Prejudice: A Coloring Classic
Chellie Carroll

Fall in love all over again with Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice in this wonderful coloring book featuring beautifully intricate patterns and details, classic quotations, and iconic scenes to color in. Includes a fascinating guide to the Victorian language of flowers and a gorgeous foiled cover.

The Official Outlander Coloring Book
Diana Gabaldon

From the lush green of the Scottish Highlands to the military red of a British soldier’s coat or the vibrant hues of a tartan kilt, the colorful world of Claire Beauchamp Randall and Jamie Fraser is now yours to explore. Featuring gorgeous natural landscapes, detailed drawings of Claire’s medicinal herbs, depictions of the books’ most beloved scenes and characters, and intricately rendered clothing, weapons, and armor straight out of eighteenth-century Scotland, these exquisite black-and-white images—from renowned illustrators Juan Alarcón, Yvonne Gilbert, Craig Phillips, Jon Proctor, Tomislav Tomić, and Rebecca Zomchek—are designed to dazzle and inspire. Fans of the series, as well as lovers of history and art, can party like it’s 1743.
Harry Potter: The Coloring Book #1

Unleash your creativity and escape to one of the most beloved series of all time. From the heraldry of the four Hogwarts houses to the extravagant wares of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, the world of Harry Potter overflows with radiant color. Filled with intricate illustrations and elaborate designs used in the making of the Harry Potter films, this book invites you to imbue the wizarding world with color in your own explorations of Hogwarts Castle, the Forbidden Forest, and much more. You will also find pages of magical creatures and iconic scenes from the films, from the Sorting Ceremony in Harry's first year, to the unforgettable final battle between Harry and Lord Voldemort, as well as some of the marvelous props used in the movies, such as The Quibbler, Quidditch World Cup posters, and the Triwizard Cup. Also includes sixteen pages of full-color art from the movies to inspire you as you draw.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Magical Characters and Places Coloring Book

Explore Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in this intricately illustrated black & white gallery of characters and scenes from the film and designs used in its making, which is officially licensed by Warner Bros. Consumer Products. From the bustling city streets and buildings of a vibrant 1926 New York, to Tina and Queenie’s apartment and the wonders of MACUSA, this book invites you to color your way through the adventure – even from inside Newt’s case! You will also find numerous props and artifacts inside, including wands, signs and symbols, and maybe even a fantastic beast.

Renia Metallinou and Bethan Fanine

Bring to life the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet in this wonderfully romantic coloring book. Beautifully detailed linework combines with iconic quotations to perfectly capture the passion and tragedy of literature's greatest pair of star-crossed lovers. Features a gorgeous foiled cover!

Odessa Begay

Dive into the macabre, mysterious world of Edgar Allan Poe’s chilling tales with popular coloring book artist Odessa Begay (Little Birds). Inspired by Poe’s beloved stories, Begay has created images that reference settings, motifs, and details that fans will recognize.

Other Coloring Books
A Christmas Carol: A Coloring Classic - Charles Dickens
Classic Coloring: Jane Austen - Abrams Noterie and Anita Rundles
Color the Classics: Anne of Green Gables - Jae-Eun Lee
Dracula: A Coloring Classic - Chellie Carroll
The Princess Bride: A Storybook of Color - Rachel Curtis
Wonderland: A Coloring Book Inspired by Alice's Adventures - Amily Shen
The World of Debbie Macomber - Debbie Macomber

Links and Stuff: May 25, 2017

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Why I Love... Taking a Break

The last (!) book on my library waiting list is currently available for me to pick-up. After I finish reading it, I plan on taking a break on reading books for a bit. Normally, I always have one (sometimes two) books going at a time. But, I'm taking a break. I have not lost my reading groove but, instead, I'm taking a break from books sometimes to deal with other things on my nightstand.

In this case, I have an epic pile of magazines I want to read. As you know from my What I Read This Week series, I subscribe to several magazine titles. Most of these I can get through the week they arrive, but some titles (namely, The Atlantic, National Geographic, and Washingtonian) I like to read cover-to-cover. The article are great but they are also long, so it's hard to concentrate on the stories unless I devote my full attention to them. The pile has been growing steadily for months and I've decided, instead of feeling like this is hanging over my while I read my books, I'm going to swap my book reading for magazine reading.

The best thing about reading books is that they will always be there. This pause is not forever and, when I pick up my next back, I can fall right back into my habits without feeling like I have something else hanging over me. 

YouTube Tuesday: Big Time Scanning

Sunday, May 21, 2017

What I Read This Week: May 21, 2017

I really need to catch up on my magazine backlog. It's been easy to keep up with the casual, picture-filled titles, but I have at least a three month backlog of Washingtonian and Real Simple. Methinks I need to focus on reading those as soon as I've finished with my library books...

  • Magazines
    • Food Network, June 2017 - The summer issues are such teases. So many things to grill and we have not an outdoor grill to have. A grill pan just isn't the same. (C'est la vie.) The bulk of this issue was summer food but I really liked the piece on lemonade stand stuff. It was just a really cute idea. The potato salads were also tasty looking. I <3 li="" nbsp="" potatoes.="">
    • Cooking Light, May 2017 - This issue was all about vegetables. That means it was right up my alley. The Husband and I try to eat vegetarian at least one day a week, and I keep adding meals to our rotation that means we eat vegetarian even more than that. Veggies are just super tasty! I saved several recipes in this issue to give a whirl in the future. I
      particularly liked the recipes in the pizza and Mexican vegetarian sections of this issue. I also loved the story of the son recounting his mother's rhubarb-apple crisp. It might have made me sniffle a bit. Finally, I thought the tips in the "how to waste less produce" article were very doable. I'm going to try to put a few to use in my life.
    • National Geographic, May 2017 - This issue's cover story focused on genius - what it is and why we call some people geniuses (white men) and not others (cause we're biased). It delved into the science which was really interesting but also explored the nurture side of things. I was also stunned by the article on the conflicts in the Central African Republic. I had
      zero clue that was happening. I thought the article on Scotland's moors was a new take on rewilding. Finally, the article on Akhetaten fed my love of all things ancient Egypt.
  • Books
    • I'm about a third of the way through Dear Data. I thought this would be a fast read since it's mainly images of postcards, but the data is dense and really interesting to dive into.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Friday Find: Rock Out!

For some reason, I really wanted to post a rocking chair this week. It took me a lot of searching before I finally found a rocking chair that screamed, "You want to read in me!"

You can find this lovely thing at Pottery Barn Kids (in other colors too!).

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Links and Stuff: May 18, 2017

From All You Need is a Wall

Sunday, May 14, 2017

What I Read This Week: May 14, 2017

My hockey team lost in Game 7. It rained a lot at the end of the week and I got soaked. Work was kind of crazy. One of my favorite coworkers is leaving. Can I hibernate for a few hours?

That said, it wasn't all bad this week. I got to try some new recipes (I even made buttermilk rolls from scratch) and they were fairly tasty. Another book I placed on hold at the library came in. The Husband and I successfully adulted with all of our errands. And... I get to call my mommy today. That's always a good thing.

It's all about balance.

  • Magazines
    • The Atlantic, May 2017 - The cover story of this issue was fine. It was an interesting read, but I thought the associated story on how smugness might have fueled trump's rise was far more important. Additionally, I thought the article on how online shopping is bringing back pricing wars might be worth exploring further. Finally, the article on how incentives are tricking people into saving money introduced me to something I had never seen before.
  • Books
    • I finished The Truth About Alice in the middle of the week. I love how fast young adult books seem to go. 
    • On Friday, my most recent library hold Dear Data came in. I'm only a few pages in, but I kind of love this book already.
  • Other
    • Buzzfeed posted a great read on what it's like to trek to the Everest base camp. The article doesn't idealize the hike, it shows the harsh (and often gross) reality of what it's like to be at altitude. This piece is not for the squeamish. 
    • It's Mother's Day, so I definitely have to recommend this NYT article on mother's before they became moms.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Book 8: 365: No Repeats

TITLE: 365: No Repeats - A Year of Deliciously Different Dinners
AUTHOR: Rachael Ray
STARTED: April 29, 2017
FINISHED: April 29, 2017
PAGES: 326
GENRE: Cookbook

FIRST SENTENCE: I don't know what my total lifetime limit is for new recipes, but 365 is definitely this cook's limit for one book.

SUMMARY: [From BN]  Even your favorite dinner can lose its appeal when it’s in constant rotation, so mix it up! With her largest collection of recipes yet, Food Network’s indefatigable cook Rachael Ray guarantees you’ll be able to put something fresh and exciting on your dinner table every night for a full year... without a single repeat! Based on the original 30-Minute Meal cooking classes that started it all, these recipes prove that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every night. Rachael offers dozens of recipes that, once mastered, can become entirely new dishes with just a few ingredient swaps. Learn how to make a Southwestern Pasta Bake and you’ll be able to make a Smoky Chipotle Chili Con Queso Mac the next time. Try your hand at Spring Chicken with Leeks and Peas and you’re all set to turn out a rib-sticking Rice and Chicken Stoup that looks and tastes like an entirely different dish. As a best-selling cookbook author and host of three top-rated Food Network shows, Rachael Ray believes that both cooking and eating should be fun. Drawing from her own favorite dishes as well as those of her family, friends, and celebrities, she covers the flavor spectrum from Asian to Italian and dozens of delicious stops in between. Best of all, these flavor-packed dishes will satisfy your every craving and renew your taste for cooking. With so many delicious entrees to choose from you’ll never have an excuse for being in a cooking rut again.

THOUGHTS: I did not like this cookbook all that much and it was mainly due to formatting. The colors used in the text were glaring. They were hard to read and just looked awkward. And the text itself, there was a lot of it. I prefer my cookbooks to have a few more pictures. Not everything needs a picture, but I need more than all the text I got.

As for the recipes themselves, if I'm being honest, they didn't really grab me. I can't tell you why. Maybe I couldn't get past the formatting, but nothing in this book jumped out and said, "Make me!"

RATING: 5/10 [meh]

The Friday Find: Traveler Bag

I've been a National Geographic subscriber for several years. I love the magazine, but I also love their shopping catalog. It's always full of things that make me want to travel the world. This week's find is one of their tote bags. It's designed for photographers, but doesn't look perfect for a library trip as well?

You can find this online at the National Geographic store.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Links and Stuff: May 11, 2017

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Why I Love... Reading as a Sports Stress Relief

Tonight, my Washington Capitals play in Game 7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Husband and I have watched every game in the playoffs, but this series is the most important. The Penguins have been our second round kryptonite. They are one of our biggest rivals who always seem to find our weak spots. The Caps never seem to be able to close out playoff games even when they have dominated in puck possession and drives to the net.

Watching the Caps play is stressful enough on a normal day (they ain't the cardiac Caps for nothing) but Game 7 just makes it... well...

To cope, I tend to multitask. That way, I am only half-focusing on the game. It's an imperfect way to keep my heart-rate in check. Lately, I've been listening to podcasts during tee game to drown out the announcers. Usually, however, I turn to reading. Instead of watching the game, I will read whatever looks good at the moment - my book, a magazine, something on the web. This offers enough distraction from the game but still allows me to look up from time-to-time when something good (or bad) happens.

Reading is a great sports stress reliever because it lets me skip-out for a bit on whatever is bugging me. It's involving enough to get my mind of the game without causing me to miss all the big plays.

Book 7: Fangirl

TITLE: Fangirl
AUTHOR: Rainbow Rowell
STARTED: April 29, 2017
FINISHED: April 29, 2017
PAGES: 438
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: There was a boy in her room.

SUMMARY: [From BN] In Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl, Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, being a fan is her life-and she's really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it's what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere. Cath's sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can't let go. She doesn't want to. Now that they're going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn't want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She's got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can't stop worrying about her dad, who's loving and fragile and has never really been alone. For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

THOUGHTS: I can't pinpoint exactly why this book makes me squee with delight, but it did. The characters were just so really that I feel like I knew them. I was with them from the start and could not wait to see where they head. That feeling went for ALL the characters - the characters in the main story, the characters in Simon Snow stories, and the characters in the Snow fic. I was with them all the way. Rowell crafted multiple worlds for this book and all of them are a success.

This book took me back to my days in college. I read a hell of a lot of fan fiction in high school and college (I even dabbled in writing a few Gilmore Girls stories myself - lord knows where those ended up on the web) so this world was immensely nostalgic for me. All the details are right and the writing is descriptive without being flowery.

There is nothing challenging or exceptional about this book. It's just a very good story with characters who feel like real people.

RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]

Monday, May 08, 2017

Book 6: Bake It, Don't Fake It

TITLE: Bake It, Don't Fake It! A Pastry Chef Shares Her Secrets for Impressive (and Easy) From-Scratch Desserts
AUTHOR: Heather Bertinetti
STARTED: April 29, 2017
FINISHED: April 29, 2017
PAGES: 208
GENRE: Cookbook

FIRST SENTENCE: I think it's very rare to actually grow up to be what you always said you wanted to be when you were a kid.

SUMMARY: [From BN] Looking to impress your friends and family with decadent desserts but afraid you lack the skills to pull it off? Are you reaching for that packaged cake mix and can of frosting instead of whipping something up from scratch? Fear no longer— we’ve got the fix for you. Heather Bertinetti, a talented pastry chef with years of experience in Manhattan’s top eateries, is sharing her insider tips for how to make restaurant-worthy desserts right in your very own kitchen. Bake It, Don't Fake It! is filled with recipes perfect for the home cook, such as Bourbon- Chocolate Pecan Pie, Strawberry Daiquiri Truffles, Red Velvet Macarons, and PB&J Whoopie Pies. Once you learn the whys and why nots of baking, you’ll be able to get creative and give all of your favorite treats a special touch. As an added bonus, you’ll find Heather’s “Chef It Up!” tips throughout the book, where Heather reveals her tricks for giving homemade desserts the wow presentation factor. All of the equipment you’ll need is probably already in your kitchen and all of the ingredients are readily available in your local supermarket, so it’s time to get baking!

THOUGHTS: I should first point out that the author of this book is The Husband's cousin. Familial ties aside, this is a great cookbook. First, it does exactly what it sets out to do. The recipes are written for a novice baker so they are easy to follow and understand. Jargon is well-defined and special equipment is noted up front. Second, it includes well-formatted and helpful tips that I have not seen in a cookbook before. Third, the option to "Chef It Up" will keep experienced bakers happy and can offer a chance for new bakers to grow their skills. Fourth, this book is the perfect crash course in pastry. I love that it includes essential recipes and offers spin-offs to show you how baking works through variation and experimentation. Lastly, all of the recipes look tasty and seem achievable - even for a novice in the kitchen.

RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]

Sunday, May 07, 2017

What I Read This Week: May 7, 2017

Where in the heck did this week go? I blinked and it was over. Not quite sure how that happened...
  • Work
    • I managed to finish a few chapters of Digital Preservation this week. While the majority of this book is great, I've noticed that some of the examples are already outdated. Why does technology have to move so fast?
  • Books
    • I finished The Woman in Cabin 10 rather quickly because I just needed to know what happens. I rarely read thrillers so I devoured this. 
    • I started reading The Truth About Alice as soon as I picked it up from the library. I have a feeling this book is going to make me cranky because of the subject matter.

Friday, May 05, 2017

The Friday Find: Nook

I was curious about what I would find if I searched "reading nook" in Etsy. The results were a mix of teepees, pillows, bookcases, and art. Everything looked like an excellent part of a cozy reading nook, but I was most drawn to this floor pillow bench. It's kid-sized but I kind of want one for myself.

You can buy this in the GratefulHome shop.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Links and Stuff: May 4, 2017

Finally, I'm adding this story about hip-hoppers dropping a beat on Llama Llama as a special selection because it is my favorite thing on the internet today.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Book 5: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

TITLE: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
AUTHOR: Jules Verne
STARTED: February 20, 2017
FINISHED: April 29, 2017
PAGES: 499
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: [From the preface] Many of Jules Verne's novels involve the sea: adventures on remote islands, voyages in quest of people and places, and the exploration of its depts in Vingt mille lieues sous les mers.

[From the novel] The year 1866 was marked by a strange incident, an unexplained and inexplicable phenomenon, which doubtless no one has yet forgotten.

SUMMARY: [From BN] An American frigate, tracking down a ship-sinking monster, faces not a living creature but an incredible invention — a fantastic submarine commanded by the mysterious Captain Nemo. Suddenly a devastating explosion leaves just three survivors, who find themselves prisoners inside Nemo's death ship on an underwater odyssey around the world from the pearl-laden waters of Ceylon to the icy dangers of the South Pole . . .as Captain Nemo, one of the greatest villians ever created, takes his revenge on all society. More than a marvelously thrilling drama, this classic novel, written in 1870, foretells with uncanny accuracy the inventions and advanced technology of the twentieth century and has become a literary stepping-stone for generations of science fiction writers.

THOUGHTS: This book was enjoyable and easy to read, but it took me forever to finish. First, I did bother to read the introductory material about Verne, his life, and his writing. The essay was long and the footnotes were many - but I loved the context that gave the story. Second, this was an annotated version so there were footnotes in the actual narrative as well. I read them too.

But what about the story itself?

I was not reading this to see any illusions or to better understand Verne's version of sci-fi. I read this book for the story itself, and I thought it was really good. Verne's narrative is high-interest adventure mixed with science. It was thrilling to see all the places he took his characters. The author infuses large amounts of actual science which made the story all that more believable.

In addition to the story, Verne's writing style (possibly aided by a good translation) is incredibly detailed in vivid. One of my favorite scenes in the book is when the Nautilus in trapped in the arctic ice and the crew is suffocating. I actually found myself holding my breath and panting along with the characters.

The only reason I don't give this book a more glowing review is because all of the non-main characters are set-pieces and they read as such. There's no emotional connection or anything, so all the crew feel like theatre props.

RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

YouTube Tuesday: Adult Coloring Books

I know that the adult coloring trend is no longer the fad it once was... but I still love and it I think this video is really interesting.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Seen on the Metro: Rapid Reader

Last week, the DC metro was on fire. (Nothing unusual there, sadly.) I planned on leaving my apartment later than usual because I had a dentist appointment. When I got the alerts, I considered my options and opted to take a circuitous route to the dentist - it involved going the opposite direction on the train and then taking a bus to my final destination.

When I hopped on the train, a rather tall, dapperly-dressed gentleman was right behind me. He ended up sitting in the seat across from me. As the train got moving, he removed an older looking book from his backpack. It was hardcover with an embossed illustration of a middle eastern looking city. These days, I mainly see e-books and paperbacks on the train. It was a nice change of pace to see something a bit more classic. 

Above the illustration was the title, City of Thieves. A quick search online tells me there are a lot of books by this title. I was unable to find a copy of this particular edition so I can't tell you what the book is about but it must have been enjoyable. My fellow commuter was flying through the pages and barely seemed to notice that our ride was rather herky-jerky.

We both detrained at Bethesda station and, while I walked up the escalator, I noticed our reader still reading as he rode the stairs out of the station. He looked about halfway through the book when I saw him. At the pace he was reading, I assume he has long since moved on to another title.