I may have mentioned this during my other blog posts about reading challenges and how I felt that I really didn’t savor the books I was reading because I was on such a deadline. I was constantly checking the progress percentage and felt rushed to get through one book so I could hop on to another.
So this year, I learned. I evolved. I made different arrangements.
Now I’m just recording the books as I read them within the calendar year of 2023. Smart, eh? I thought so! So if you’re curious what I’m reading, read on!
A Wrinkle in Time (Madeline L’Engle)
I’m fairly certain that I read this book in elementary school, but as usual, I’ve been revisiting books from my youth to see if there are any insights that may be different since I’ve matured. If the book was a school assignment, I likely read it only as deeply as I needed to so that I didn’t fail a quiz or enough to write a book report or answer a question in class. So this book, I’m happy to say, was a nice throwback. I’d been reading a lot of bummer stories and so I wanted another palate cleanser. This fit the bill. I am fairly certain I never saw any Christian undertones when I read the book originally, but I sure saw them this time around! I mean, when your author quotes the Bible, it’s a dead giveaway. So that was refreshing! And it was a very creative and provocative story. (Can I just say, I’m also really glad I haven’t watched the recent movie? Fairly certain whatever spiritual values imparted in the book were in some way woke-ified in the movie.)
Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck)
Unsure how this one fell into my thinking, but it just crawled in there as something I wanted to re-read. Same reasons as above. Had I changed at all since I’d read it before? I’m probably wiser. More appreciative of a good relationship story. And, yes, I was thinking about the ending the whole time because while I’d forgotten many other pieces of the story, the ending was crystal clear many years later.
Okay, this one was tougher. I think it was a different company since the style is so different, but when I started making progress on it, this one my husband was actually interested in. I’m like, “Wait. You didn’t like the other two?” Little too abstract for him I guess.
Anyway, I blitzed through this one in maybe two weeks? After work and on weekends? I wish I could do these myself (i.e. paint and draw in real life), but for now, this checks the boxes of my personality:
Checkbox (i.e. one color at a time)
End result = something creative
My only concern is that, at some point, I’m gonna run out of wall space. Wonder what people do with their paintings then???
Note that this kind of painting pre-colors the background for you. So you can already see what it’s going to be. I’m still trying to decide if I like that. I think there were actually 24 colors, but while I was pasting these in and getting lost, I omitted a few thinking they were dupes. Typically the painting just has some really nuanced colors.
My only frustration on capturing these is that I typically paint at night and am always wanting to take a picture the SECOND I’m done a color. So you can’t see these in natural light. The glow on the right side is actually one of those “natural light” lamps for places like Alaska and stuff where it can be dark 23 hours a day. It’s supposed to help your mood, but it also pinch-hits for “natural daylight for a picture” if needs be. (Just not very well.)
My husband LOVED this one. I was very proud of it. I will most likely frame it and put it up somewhere. The blocks of painting color were far smaller and required one of my smallest brushes in places. Let me just say those magnified glasses with the light? Best purchase I ever made.
Well, I did it again. After AGES and now that we’re in the new place and my office is set up, I figured I’d take on wrapping up the paint-by-numbers that I had started before we moved. I’d only gotten two colors into it, so it was no big deal.
I decided to do the sister painting of the original I had done. I liked the style and vibe and it was kind of neat to have them as a set.
No great reason WHY I decided to paint the same picture but slightly different other than, like I said, I liked the art style. Very modern. Colorful. Vibrant. And reminds me of Europe. Or a Simon and Garfunkel song.
Some tips I’ve learned:
I’m left-handed, so painting right to left is much easier and keeps me from dragging my hand through paint
Painting in spurts in various sections (like bottom or top) to let the paint dry
I know they say paint the large sections first, but I simply HAVE to start at the highest color number (like 21 or 24) and paint my way down – I mean, I MUST do it this way. It is known.
I let the paint sit for a good year before reopening it up and the acrylic got pretty clumpy and dry so adding a bit of water and swooshing a bit helped loosen it up again
The brushes they give you are meh. I bought a nice selection of varying sizes (for large swaths of color vs. small meticulous work) and the ones I have purchased have ridges, so they’re actually easier to hold in my hand
Even after I got my eye surgery and no longer need to wear trifocals, I STILL wear the glasses with the light AND with the magnification lenses, it makes those teeny tiny numbers pop, especially if you can’t decide if it’s a 5 or a 6
Paint seems to apply to canvas left to right better than it does up and down or diagonally
For really teensy spots, I dab-dab-dab rather than try dragging the brush — I have much more control that way
Buy an easel! I had bought one and it was simply too small for the 16 x 20 canvases I was purchasing so I got an extra wide easel and now my framed canvases don’t hang over or I don’t see weird edges where the canvas ran out of wood
If you have one, painting on a raising/lowering desk is a DREAM. This one is new since I didn’t have a desk like this before, but I found a) it’s nice if you don’t feel like sitting anymore and b) it’s nice if you don’t feel like standing anymore and c) it’s nice if you need to scooch down to the bottom of the painting or tippy toe up to the top – it just makes accessing everything easier
Don’t get sloppy towards the end — I get it it’s nearly done, but that’s not the time to start going over lines or NOT going over lines (so they don’t show)
You may need to do a few coats to make sure the numbers don’t show – especially on those lighter colors
Sign your work! I get it, we’re just acrylic colorists, not actual painters, but it’s kind of a big deal and these things can take a good week or two to complete so it’s worth noting your hard effort with your name and the year!
This was a fun day. My daughter sent over a link to a local festival so I decided to call my cousin-in-law up and head on over to check it out. One thing I love about Idaho is that there is never a shortage of festivals, no matter how grand or simple. So I thought this would be fun. Discovered it was also a bit educational (they have a radio station you can listen to where they give you information as you’re driving through the orchard and signs aplenty to pass on tidbits of trivia and information!)
The title of the festival did not disappoint! We paid $15 to drive through, we’re allowed to stop and pull over at the beginning to take a picture, and then we just followed the vehicle in front of us to see all of the blossoms. They didn’t just have cherries, but also apple, and – soon – peach! I will definitely be back to see what kind of peach action they have in a few weeks.
Once we were done driving through and picking up some goodies at the store at the end of the tour (think dried cherries, dried cherries covered in yoghurt, dried cherries in dark or milk chocolate) and then some donuts (how can you pass up donuts?) and we were off! Michaela asked if I wanted to go for a drive so we tootled around a bit and then as we approached Marsing, I saw the cross on the hill. Can I just say how wonderful it is to see when people decide to honor Jesus in a really big way?
No idea if this is private property or if it’s a local hot spot or if there is some backstory somewhere on the internets, but I decided to check caution at the door (I twisted my ankle BADLY a month or so ago and so it’s very tender) and suggest we walk to the top so I can get a closer look.
The walk was basically nearly straight up so I had the fun reminder of how desperately out of shape I am, but we made it to the top. The one time, I’m grateful for the “winds of Idaho”.
So after a few minutes we made it to the top. We’re not entirely sure what the picture below is for. Maybe for a gathering of people?
Wandered around a bit, caught my breath, and then headed to the tippy top of the hill. No twisted ankles, no heart attacks, no embarrassing throw ups.
And then we made our way around again. And this is my favorite shot.
And then I turned around and we could see the whole valley. It was worth the walk and the huffing and puffing for sure. So pretty. I am so grateful for the beautiful sky. Idaho has some of the most beautiful skies I’ve ever seen.
And then we wandered down and I realized it’s more treacherous going to down than it is coming up. One small slip (no re-twisting of ankles, thank goodness) and then we were back at the car and ready for food. 🙂
Oh yes. I’m back at it! Adding one more book this year to the challenge! Erp!
Lesson Learned (Already): One thing I’ve noticed with reading challenges, this being my second one, is that you’re so busy trying to get through all the books before the year ends, that you really lose sight of the original goal: read more books, expand your horizons, get lost in a great book, discover a new author, find your new favorite author, just love reading because it’s so fun.
Because I’m flying through one book to the next, I am not able to really slow down and savor the words or the story like I normally would. In turn, that may have some bearing on the enjoyment I’ve found from reading some of these books. (So take my thoughts and impressions with a grain of salt, is what I’m saying.) I find myself constantly checking the % of how much I have read. So I’m thinking next year, rather than put the weight and stress of a number on my shoulders, I’ll just jot down the books I read instead and see if that makes a difference. Stay tuned in 2023.
Reading Goal: 22 books
The Last Wish (Andrzej Sapkowski)
Book 0.5 of The Witcher series. I’ve played the newest version of the game on Xbox (not yet finished because I restarted after so much time away), we’ve been watching the Netflix series, and so I thought, “Well, why not see what all the hub bub is about?” Good book, an easy read, and I get moments of, “Oh right. I remember this from the game / show.”
Sword of Destiny (Andrzej Sapkowski)
Book 0.7 of The Witcher series. I inhaled the first book and breezed right into the second. The chapters remind me a little of Sherlock Holmes in that while chronologically they are in order on a global scale, they’re like little mini adventures, not necessarily attached to each other. I could see myself wasting my whole reading challenge by just reading these so I decided to stop at this book and do something different for a while.
Jayber Crow (Wendell Barry)
This one came as a recommendation to me by my friend and coworker, Bob Hostetler. What a glorious book! It was so beautiful it made my heart ache. Hard to explain it and do it justice. So I’m not going to try. But think of a place where you are from (in this case a small town in Kentucky) as being so important with the landscape, your memories, and the history and community that it takes on a life of its own. Almost it’s own character.
Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making (Andrew Peterson)
This also came highly recommended by (and was a present from) a coworker, Thomas Henshell. Andrew Peterson is a singer, songwriter, author and likely a host of other impressive titles who writes about chasing your passion as a follower of Christ. His writing is honest, humble, and wise. He’s gone through ups and downs, failed, pushed through doubts and fears, and along the way has made significant impact in his field, his community of believers, and in his work. Great book.
The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis)
I’d read this some time before, but had forgotten all about it so I picked it up again. Written from the perspective of fallen angels an uncle and his nephew try to “snare” a human and the book follows a bunch of letters from Screwtape to Wormwood. Enjoyable and convicting at the same time.
When Narcissism Comes to Church: Healing Your Community From Emotional and Spiritual Abuse (Chuck DeGroat)
Another recommendation from a coworker. Not something I’d normally read, but I figured I’d try it out. It was very informative and instructional and – in many ways – sad. That will make sense if you read it. But there are answers on how to handle the situation if ever you’re in the situation where you’re in a church or ministry where there is an issue of narcissism.
Blood of Elves (Andrzej Sapkowski)
Book 1 of The Witcher Series. It’s always a good time to follow Geralt of Rivia, Yennefer, and Ciri in their lives and adventures. I’ve since read ANOTHER Witcher book, so I can’t even remember what this one was about. Suffice to say, Ciri is a handful, headstrong and talented, Yennefer has a love/hate relationship with Geralt, and Geralt goes where the monsters and money is. Always an easy read.
The Convenient Marriage (Georgette Heyer)
This was yet another recommendation from a coworker, so even though I had sworn off regency romances, when I found out it wasn’t buried in sex, I decided to try it out. After I’d read it, I found out it was actually written in the early 1900s so it was the novel that inspired a genre! Funnest fact? The heroine of the book had a stutter.
The Time of Contempt (Andrzej Sapkowski)
Book 2 in The Witcher series. This one I feel like should have been retitled, “Ciri’s time in the desert” because, frankly, that’s the only thing I remember about that book. Oh. And a unicorn. And a major war started and everyone gets sucked into it. After having played the game, and watched the Netflix series, it’s so interesting to see some names and places originated within the fiction.
Golden Age (The Shifting Tides, #1) (James Maxwell)
Is it bad that I’d forgotten this one and I just finished it in June? Not much to tell on this one (obviously, since I’d forgotten it and had to look it up) but the story was pretty interesting. Fantasy. Some themes that are vaguely reminiscent of religious themes but I’ll let you determine if you find them oddly or aptly used.
Baptism of Fire (Andrzej Sapkowski)
Book 3 of The Witcher series. I feel this one is “the time Geralt went to find Ciri” and then it lasts forever. Oh, “and his adventures along the way”. I think I should have paced myself a bit more, but the writing is good and the shenanigans he gets into are always interesting.
The Tower of Swallows (Andrzej Sapkowski)
Book 4 of The Witcher series and now I’m starting to seriously lose track of where I’m at because some of these are more about Ciri than Geralt and I feel like this is one of them.
The Lady of the Lake (Andrzej Sapkowski)
Book 5 of The Witcher series. You see I’ve put myself on a mission and ignored my original plan of doing a classic read with a modern read. Oh well, reading is where plans go to die. I will say that I do like how Sapkowski threads fairytales into his books — it’s always interesting to see how he spins it. Very clever. Also this really wraps up the series very well.
The Season of Storms (Andrzej Sapkowski)
I’m actually not sure where, in the timeline, this happens because it’s after he breaks up with Yennefer and before he meets Ciri. A bit unexpected but actually kind of nice to see Geralt on an adventure with Dandelion and some other characters. Also…in this one, I was very mad at mages. Just sayin’. Some spots very hard to read, to be honest. But there is justice. Always justice with Geralt. Take that to the bank.
The Forgotten Home Child. (Genevieve Graham)
Yep. I finished The Witcher series so it was nice to take on a new book. This one was recommended to me by my mother-in-law and it’s about all the orphans shipped from England to families in Canada to help on farms, etc. As with all good intentions, there’s always people who will exploit and this book is no different. It is written in a fictional style but based on a true event. The writing was just okay for me, but the story reminded me a lot of The Orphan Train, which was also heartbreaking. An interesting read and a sad time in Canada’s history.
The Long Day’s Journey Into Night (Eugene O’Neil)
I’m actually in Act 3 of this 4-act play and, other than Alice in Wonderland, I don’t typically read plays. And only then because I didn’t realize that Alice in Wonderland was originally written as a play. Anyway…I’m still reading this one, but from what I understand this is an autobiographical play published (on express direction from the writer) posthumously. It’s a tragedy and kind of a bummer, but it was on the list of 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die and I’d heard the title before, so I thought, “What the heck.” The dialogue is dated, until you remember that this was written in the late 30s / early 40s then it’s spot on. I don’t really like the read but knowing it’s history in some way makes it more compelling for me. The play received a Tony Award for Best Play in 1956 so the fact that I’m not falling all over myself in love with it tells me maybe I’m a boob or I just don’t appreciate things like I should.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Roal Dahl)
Aw man, now this one brings me back. You’ve probably seen the Johnny Depp version of this tale, but have you seen the Gene Wilder version? If you haven’t, you’ve probably seen the meme, at least. Trust me on this one. Okay, but these movies stem from a quietly adorable and amusing book that I read in elementary school when I was knee high to a grasshopper. So I thought, after some of the heavy reading I’d done recently, I’d go back in time and re-read an old favorite. Did not disappoint, if you can have reading deja vu, I had it. Even the pictures I remembered. Highly recommend, even as an adult.
1984 (George Orwell)
Wow, just haaaad to jump back into the dystopian depressing future, didn’t you, Melissa? Yes. Yes apparently, I did. It’s a classic, how could I not read it? Had no idea how it ended and now I know and kind of right until the last, very last, minute thought it would end differently. (To be fair, I thought the same thing when I watched Logan. So, there you have it. Perpetually disappointed optimist.) Still, spooky how much stuff Orwell got right, considering the book was published in 1949!! Fun fact: Apparently, he wanted to call the book 1980. So glad he went with 1984. Rolls off the tongue better.
The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
You know, catching up on all these classics, it’s a lot of work! From the “another ending I did not anticipate” comes, The Great Gatsby. Nope, haven’t seen the movie, but I will at some point check out the Leonardo DiCaprio version. But the book was good. Gatsby, he just tried so hard. And mostly everyone else is atrocious and leechy. Except his neighbor. So, there you have it. My take in less than a sentence.
Neuromancer (William Gibson)
I’m not sure why I got it in my head to do all these dystopian future books. Especially back-to-nearly-back. BUT I did, so it is what it is. The book I understand is probably where it all, in some form or another, started for Cyberpunk and everything along the way. There were so many terms in there that I understood to be legit glossary terminology or, frankly, trademarked company names that I was slightly stunned. So did I love the book, knowing now what I didn’t know then? The foresight was impressive, the world was dark, and people were – frankly – terrible to each other, more or less. The writing, while, insanely creative and visionary, was just ok for me. And I got lost more often than not. Maybe I was too fatigued over the 1984 terms, but it was hard to keep them all straight, honestly. Still, worth the read to be able to say I read it. And to see “where it all started.”
For Whom the Bell Tolls (Ernest Hemingway)
So we went from jumping forward in time to jumping backwards. Didn’t realize Hemingway was a soldier and that he was a journalist in the Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939). Didn’t realize a lot of things. But I found his writing style so refreshing and clean and easy to read (also found out he called it the iceberg theory) and while this is a long book, and honestly, doesn’t span that long in time, it’s quite a read. I can’t decide if I’m enjoying it or if I’m bored because it really does take its time, but I am definitely seeing how he showcases his characters and it’s quite interesting to me. Fun fact: the entire book, as seemingly long as it was, pretty much encompasses three days in the story.
A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens)
Wow, talk about cutting it close to the wire! I was thinking about how I could manage to bust out an entire book in just a few days, but I really wanted to read A Christmas Carol since, well, Christmas. Duh! And then as I start reading, I’m watching my Kindle completion percentage going up quickly and I realize, “Oh wait, this is a novella!” and all my problems were solved. Such a great book. Honestly, I thought of Dickens as a little dour and this one provided a lightness that was really a nice way to wrap up 2022.
I decided to do a reading challenge again this year.
GOAL: Read 21 books in 2021
Last year, I posted my “thoughts” to Facebook, but this year, no social media, so I’m putting my blog to good use. You’ll discover that my tastes are very eclectic. I try to mix classics with modern so I don’t turn dumb. (Also, I’m really screwed in 2050.)
Anyway, here we go!
1. Stranger in a Strange Land (Robert A Heinlein)
Two words: hated it.
I thought I was reading a book I’d read in high school that I really enjoyed. I was so wrong. Don’t get me wrong, at first as I discovered where the popular word “grok” came from, I was having fun. Then, unfortunately, the book traveled down this hippy dippy free-love / Valentine-as-his-own-religion path, I had to force myself to read on. And the only real reason I did read on was because it was a challenge and I was committed. I’m not a quitter! But I was not liking it.
2. Merry Adventures of Robin Hood (Howard Pyle)
Well it’s a good thing I have some familiarity with the King James Bible because there was a lot of thee and thou floating around this book. An interesting read, though, but the ending was like, “WHAT?! THAT’S how Robin goes out?!”
3. Vanity Fair (William Makepeace Thackeray)
I made the mistake of watching the movie before reading the book, so all I could think of was Reese Witherspoon as Becky Sharp. Holy smokes was this a long one, too! But it’s an interesting take on society, in general, and despite it being written in the mid 1800s, it holds up pretty well when it comes to diving deep into the human condition.
4. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
What an amazing book! I loved the premise of this book about family – and not necessarily the one you’re born into. It was also an interesting take on personal responsibility and sacrifice. Not at all what you’d read today, obviously. I found it refreshing.
5. Alice in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll)
Okay, I was not expecting this book to be written as a play. That threw me off right from the beginning.
That and somehow the “free” Amazon Prime rental version I got read like it was written in English as a second language and the formatting was way off. I couldn’t take it and had to buy another copy so I could read it and not feel like I was lost all the time.
I will say the pace of the play and the banter forced me to slow down and really absorb the wordplay. I can’t say I loved it, though it was silly and fun, but I think I was spoiled (and not in a good way) by seeing Tim Burton’s version first, despite this tale being a classic. Oh well, who can figure out preference?
6. Slaughterhouse-Five (Kurt Vonnegut)
I didnot have any expectations on this book other than I knew it was a classic and an anti-war novel written brilliantly and banned at various times in history for whatever reason.
It was strangely interesting to me. I’m not sure what else to say other than, “Was he crazy?”
7. Andromeda Strain (Michael Crichton)
Wow. Considering this was written in the 1960s, it still stands up. Some of the images from the book are a little hokey, but the story is good and Crichton really did his research. I never saw the movie, and I think I’m glad I didn’t. It would have spoiled the book for me.
8. Northanger Abbey (Jane Austen)
Considering the majority of this book takes place in Bath (which I have visited!), I was baffled by the title for a while. Great book, but I would have liked to see some resolution to that horrible Isabella’s machinations. And her pesky, meddlesome brother. But no, we leave Bath and that’s it. The ending came on like a freight train. It felt like Jane Austin ran out of time having spent sooooo long in Bath. Still, it was a good read.
By the way, like “Worcestershire” sauce, I don’t actually know how to pronounce “Northanger”. (North Anger? Northanjer?)
9. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and Family in Nazi Germany (Erik Larsen)
I loved his book, The Devil in the White City, so I thought I’d slow my brain (and prepare for history and lots of data) and try this one, too.
It illustrates how subtle and subversive the culture can shift a mindset when certain regime tactics are used. Terrifying how it parallels the media today.
10. Darker Shade of Magic (V.E. Schwab)
This book was recommended by a coworker as one of the best reads ever. I started it as an audiobook, but without a daily commute in which to listen, I found I wasn’t reading it. So I switched to Kindle et voila, I finished it within a week. It’s one of three books in a series and I’m told each one gets better.
Magically traveling through various Londons (red, gray, etc.) as one of a dying breed who can, the character of Kell (Antari messenger and part-time artifact smuggler) and his introduction to Lila, a merciless street rat (and thief), makes for a very quickly engaging and interesting read. The book definitely sets itself up for a sequel as it introduces questions about both Kell and Lila’s history.
11. Little House in a Big Wood (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
What a wild breath of fresh air! It was such a simple, honest book. What was life like living in the woods in Wyoming over a century ago when you caught, prepped, and did everything yourself living in a small cabin with just your family for company and miles of forest all around you? Well, read on, because you’ll find out.
12. Dead Poet’s Society (N.H. Kleinbaum)
I saw the movie so, years later, I had to read the book. Then I found out the book was a “novelization” of the movie script.
What a disappointment. I mean, I was literally reciting the lines from the book because I remembered them from the movie. Oh well.
13. Creative, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration (Ed Catmull)
This was a great book. I mean great. Humility. Honesty. Bits of autobiography. Massive underdog. Landed on top and hoping they maintain that special sauce they worked so hard to achieve.
If you’ve ever heard of Toy Story or Pixar, you will find this book so interesting.
14. The Man Who Would Be King (Rudyard Kipling)
Weird? Good, I guess. It was not at all what I was expecting. I don’t even know what I was expecting. I never read “back covers” on these so everything is a surprise. It went in directions that were strange. The characters were interesting, though not particularly likable? And the crux of the story didn’t really get hopping until the end.
15. The Phantom of the Opera (Gaston Leroux)
Totally unexpected. I’d never seen the musical but someone I know had a book of the music (maybe my daughter or a friend from high school) so I’d heard some of the songs. The book was a bit slow-moving, but it was very enjoyable and interesting in terms of “how it was done”. That’ll make more sense when you read the book. 🙂
16. Dandelion Wine (Ray Bradbury)
This was another slower-paced book with an homage to Bradbury’s childhood. It was just a nice story of a kid growing up in Illinois in the 1920s. It was very wordy in its descriptions, but I loved loved loved stepping back in time.
17. The Invisible Man (H.G. Wells)
I had only seen the movie with Alec Baldwin. This book is nothing like that, that I can remember. It was weird. He works so hard to discover invisibility and once he attains it, he goes psycho and leaves his his morals at the door. And then we switch focus and get to his “backstory” towards the end of the book. I kept wanting to scream at everyone to just, “Throw paint on him!”
18. It Starts with Food (Melissa Hartwig)
This is a precursor to all the other books in the Whole30 program. I did the program in September so I thought I’d read the book first to see what I was in for and prepare myself as much as I could. Interesting read.
19. A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens)
I’ve read a few Dickens novels before, but never this one. I did not like this book for some reason. It made me angry. But I found I kept thinking about it. And reading it. And thinking about it more.
Dickens dives into how human beings cope with trauma and the general mob mentality and justification once society hits a breaking point (French Revolution). It was fascinating and depressing stuff.
20. Battle Ground (Jim Butcher)
This is the latest installment of the Harry Dresden Files series of books with poor Harry taking on a Kraken an that’s the least of his worries. I love the snappy dialogue and pacing of Butcher’s books. This one, however, did not thrill me as much as the others.
I have a theory, though.
Every other book in the series, I listened to on Audible with the dulcet tones of James Marsters (Spike, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and for this one, I had to read it. It’s a reading challenge, after all. So I tended to catch the pace was too quick or I thought he glossed through that or when will he slow down to just let the story breathe?
Anyway, this one felt rushed to me.
21. The Lincoln Highway (Amor Towles)
I loved the book, A Gentleman in Moscow and Rules of Civility, I knew I had to pick this one up to read it. Towles went in a different direction on this one as it’s a bit more modern-day (1950s America) and his writing style takes a bit of getting used to. There are no “sentences in quotes” in this book. Just dashes and dialogue. If you can get past that quirk, you’re halfway there.
I like his writing, it’s so delicate. Like every word is a butterfly wing, snowflake, and unicorn just magically weaved together to tell a story. He always seems to manage to capture moments so well it’s like you’re right there with the characters.
We began looking for our new house in Idaho back in March with some specific ideas in mind of what we were looking for (with the caveat that the house had to be near our daughter) and shoulder either be super funky with character or super perfect.
Pro Tip: Perfect doesn’t exist.
We couldn’t find anything. Either the prices were out of our budget or it didn’t hit all the boxes for us.
Enter the idea of having our home built. It hadn’t occurred to us, but suddenly it was a logical move. So we talked to our realtor, Dan Cantrell, and the next thing we knew, we were touring a few Hubble model homes in some Hubble HOA communities nearby.
Then we found it: the Opal with Bonus. (A half room up top for just a bit of extra space.)
We found a lot right away, but it was pretty unique in that it was weirdly pie-shaped. We could make it work. Narrow in the front, party in the back.
A few weeks later, we had an appointment at the Showroom. In the 3-hour appointment (yes, three!) we walked around the showroom to decide on carpet, cabinets, paint colors, doors, fixtures, counter surfaces, tile, floors, etc. We had a budget, but we also wanted to make some smart choices on upgrades without breaking the bank. In the end, we stayed under budget by a mere $5,000.
I think we chose well. A few compromises, last-minute changes, last-last minute changes, sad realizations (no, a 3-car garage would not fit, no it didn’t make sense to look for another lot elsewhere, no we couldn’t get the wider door frames in any rooms but the master). And then in June right around my birthday, we finalized the plans and they were submitted for permit approval. Permit approval typically takes 30 – 45 days.
We met with our builder’s Project Manager, Dylan, last week for a pre-construction meeting so he could review the blueprints (yes we did, in fact, have a few changes, but they were minor placement issues).
We were next on the list. Woo! Waiting, let me tell you, is hard, especially for someone like me. I feel like a gypsy living out of boxes with an entire garage of our stuff in it just waiting to be moved to our final abode.
And this is where we start:
September 1, 2021
Imagine my surprise, when I pop by mid-week and see some actual digging! It has begun! How exciting! Looks like they’re putting in forms to pour the foundation concrete.
September 4, 2021
They’ve poured some concrete! They haven’t poured the foundations yet, but I guess that’s coming soon. I don’t know anything about construction terms, but it’s nice to see concrete around the sides. Dare I say, “foundation”?
The front door must face east since I was pretty much taking pictures right into the sun from the back of the lot onto the street. I’m thinking that will make a nice end of day sunset in the kitchen one day.
Fun Fact: There are 28 steps from the back foundation to the fence.
September 11, 2021
No major changes this week.
My guess is that the concrete still needs about 10 – 14 days to “cure”. I did notice that they’ve started digging on the house beside ours so it gives a better perspective on how close we’ll all be together. (I will say, living on Danielle and Jared’s lot has been a bit cushy since they’re on a half acre lot and we’ll be niiiiice and tight with our neighbors. So that will be an adjustment.
September 18, 2021
Well we are still in full swing Foundation this week. But it looks like we now have a driveway! They’ve apparently leveled all the landscaping, poured said driveway, laid the back deck, and we have the makings of a garage foundation, and sidewalk. Not sure when they lay the rest of the foundation for the floors in the house.
Soon, I hope!
September 25, 2021
Well, kind of a bummer, but no changes this week. Stay tuned for next week, maybe there will be a piece of lumber on the horizon. I don’t know how long these things take. 😛
October 2, 2021
Um….where is my house? There’s all this wood in the way. You know what that means! Framing is starting soon! I got a closer look and I think those are the trusses. And then all the wood for the walls and such. I’m not a contractor so I’m not entirely sure, but it makes sense. Progress! Nice to see after last week’s non-starter of no progress.
October 9, 2021
I was cautiously hopeful for this week’s visit to the ol’ Idahomestead and I WAS NOT disappointed! We have framing walls! It feels like a real home!
October 16, 2021
Gang, it looks like we have a home! I was kind of hopeful that maybe they’d have more wood in place. Trusses up. I think that’s elevation. And so I was VERY excited to see that, yes, those were up and we have a version of a second floor, too! The workers were in there (on a Saturday?) so I didn’t get a chance to poke around at my leisure inside, but if they’re not there next week, you can bet I will. (Or start coming on Sundays.)
How exciting!!! Luckily, there hasn’t been much in the way of rain so having a roof is a great thing. Very excited about that. And now I’m getting a better sense of how big the house is, at least from the outside. Whee! This is feeling really real now!
October 17, 2021
Okay, I went back today (Sunday) when no one was there and I got inside to do a walkthrough! Sorry for the wind, the mic picks that up whether I like it or not. But now you can see inside!
I tried to upload the video directly to this blog, but it kept failing. It’s 12 minutes long so maybe there’s a file size limit. Anyway, I had to upload to YouTube instead. It’s unlisted, but as long as you have the link, you can watch it.
We have windows and ceiling paper and siding paper! I don’t know what the term is, but I’m glad it’s done because we had a rainstorm this week. Phewww!
We wandered in today to see how badly the rain affected the interior. The paper held up really well and there was only a small spot on the floor in the entire house. No doors have been installed yet so it was also lucky the rain wasn’t pushing too hard into the house through the garage or front / rear doors. (We’re really thankful that they got all of the papering done in time! I’m guessing they ramped up progress because they knew the rain was coming.)
The house next to ours has started to lay down foundation, so now we’re starting to get a sense how big the lot will be. Pretty exciting!
Oh, and they installed some insulation at the fireplace and where the tubs and showers will have the inserts placed.
October 30, 2021
We have… HVAC and plumbing and electrical! And apparently the house next to ours has their foundation poured so we have a better sense of how big the space will be between us. Not sure yet the dividing line between the houses, but hoping it’s in our favor obviously. So we even have some bath tubs and showers installed since last week.
We have a meeting with the builder on the 8th for a Pre-Drywall walkthrough. (Little do they know I’ve been there every week since they started digging, but that’s cool.). And then I guess we start putting up insulation and sheet rock. Kind of neat! Definitely coming along!
November 6, 2021
Starting to see it all come together! We have siding (unpainted — kind of interested to see what colors we picked because neither of us can remember)! And we have electrical! Woo!
We have our Pre-Drywall meeting tomorrow with the builder and that’ll be super exciting. And then I guess we move on to – er – drywall. Wheeee! (Why am I so excited about plaster and wall-type-stuff?)
It was a little weird walking on in, easy-as-you-please, with the guys working on the siding, but they didn’t mind.
November 13, 2021
Insulationpalooza! They’ve done a great amount of work on getting all the insulation in and beginning on putting up drywall. So far, the bonus room and parts of the hall stairs and some of our bedroom has drywall. You’ll see the pictures, but it’s coming along! AND they got the tiles on the roof done, too. So it’s very exciting to see.
Our expected completion date is now end of January, so we are very excited about that. Lots of changes in just a month. Amazing.
November 20, 2021
Some great progress this week! (Every week is like Christmas!)
Hubble has been kicking butt and taking names! They finished up the Sheetrock and it looks like they’ve already done the taping and spackling. So I guess we wait while all of this dries. And then I think they do the texturing and painting! We didn’t pick any crazy colors for the interior, just plain white. It’s a good “blank” canvas. I’m going to probably pick some fun colors for my den, office, and the bonus room upstairs. Light subtle colors, I promise. Nothing too bold! I’ve never picked a paint color before!
This time around, I did another video. We still have some pictures, but the video gets through most of the house interior to show progress before I somehow stopped recording. That’s fine, it stopped in the bonus room, which was my last stop anyway.
I thought, for sure, they wouldn’t get to painting the exterior because I heard that if it’s too cold, they have to wait until it warms up to paint, so imagine my surprise when they had done a mad dash of painting and we finally got to see the colors we’d picked!
No major changes this week as it’s Thanksgiving and looks like they are still waiting for the sheet rock tape and spackle stuff to dry. The only big change I noticed was the “rounded corners” they have put in on any wall that does not have a door.
Most of today’s visit was taking measurements of our rooms for things like, oh, furniture. It’ll be real helpful for when we buy the wall-bed for the bonus room and I finally buy a “real” desk for my office.
December 4, 2021
This’ll be a quick update. We’ve got progress, but it’s not super exciting. Looks like they did the wall texturing this week! And we have some doors and trim sitting in the garage waiting once the painting is done to put up. So definite progress, just not the sexy kind. More “wait to dry” patience exercises.
December 11, 2021
So the big word for this week is: TRIM. They haven’t painted yet, but they have been doing a lot of trim around the house. And closet organizers so that is fun, too. And we have a door from the garage to the house installed now. Also fun. And much warmer, which was nice because it’s getting pretty chilly in Idaho right now. (Oh, and a fence. Fun-ish.)
December 18, 2021
Some nice additions since the last time we were at the ol’ homestead! I had hoped they would get the painting done and I was not disappointed! But in addition to that, they also got most of the electrical plates in on all the plugs and such, as well as not only the lights, but also a ceiling fan in the living room. This is very much starting to feel like our house is nearing the finish line!
Also, they added the lights outside and got the stonework done on the front of the house. Very exciting!
December 31, 2021
Nearly two weeks since we visited last and lots of progress. Unfortunately, the place was locked up tight, so we couldn’t get inside this week. But we got a few from the outside. Third party inspection coming up on the 21st and then New Home Orientation on the 31st. Keys probably around first week of February. So we now have floors, cabinets and some stone work on the fireplace, but you can’t see it.
January 9, 2022
Alas, locked out again so we had to get pics from outside. BUT…some new gutters (not sexy, but kind of important) – I also like the chain that the rain will drip down, that is pretty cool. And we now have our kitchen counters in and the backsplash. I also noticed, but it’s hard to see, there is tile in the bathroom if you look real hard at last week’s update. I didn’t notice it until after-the-fact. Ron and I even went to Lowe’s to pick up a ceiling fan and a washer and dryer. (More unsexy house stuff.). So this is really happening, people!
January 15, 2022
It’s a good thing we’re nearing the end of this adventure. This poor blog page is struggling with the file size like you wouldn’t believe. Chug. Chug. Chug. BUT ANYWAY. We have some interiors, courtesy of my husband who was at the house the other day. Finally some kitchen closeups. We now have a front door and a man door. So yay! The house is secure! Next week is 3rd party inspection!!
January 22, 2022
Home stretch, people! I attended the 3rd Party Inspection yesterday and while I was there, took a few pictures because both Ron and I forgot what kind of tile and counters we picked in the bathroom. A little busy, but not bad. Ron has more experience in this area and would have probably said busy counter, keep the tile simple. It’s hard to tell when you can’t see it “in action”. But I’m happy with our choices. I may have gotten a little verklempt walking into the great room for the first time and seeing it all finished. Honestly, except for a few minor things, the house is DONE. It kind of blows my mind a little after so many months.
No point in taking pictures until we have the landscaping complete and the backyard complete so stay tuned for that. 🙂 We’ll need to wait until it’s warmer.
October 31, 2022
Wow, talk about not ending the chapter! Well, house is finished. Even the backyard is finished. We moved in in February and, let’s face it, still have unpacking to do and stuff. Baby steps, amirite? We decided we didn’t need a formal Dining Room so we converted it into a library. Pretty much my favorite room of the house. You can’t see to the left of the backyard picture, but there’s a hot tube. And around the right-hand side of the house is a small orchard. Hey, technically, if you have five trees, you have an orchard. We picked two apple trees (so they’d polinate each other – Granny Smith and Honeycrisp), apricot tree, peach tree, and nectarine tree. I have two planters I need to figure out what I’ll do with in sprint (berries, likely, huckleberry and maybe raspberry). And an entire greenhouse I have no idea how to fill or use. What could possibly go wrong?
This post is getting woefully hard to upload photographs on (huge!) but I’ll pick a few:
UPDATE: The dye is gone. I’ve discovered I have some natural hair color in there (some form of red?) Now just waiting for it to grow out. again because I have come to learn I really don’t like s
Mental Note: Creative positioning with a camera can hide a chubby face, but short hair in reality says, “Let me just shine a spotlight on that face for ya.”
Have you heard of the new fashion trend? It’s called Pandemic Gray. I’m certain there are more ladies out there than just me who thought to themselves,
“Well, I’m in the house for the next month or so, since everything is closed, guess I’ll just let it go for a few weeks…”
I’d tried to let my natural hair color grow out a few years ago, but – honestly – I just wasn’t ready. Somehow, I decided to BLEACH IT PLATINUM instead. Let me tell you, you think the silvers are jarring? Try white! (No, don’t. It’s a miracle all my hair didn’t fall out.)
So the journey to silver hair began in March of 2020.
While I do have pictures roughly every month of this process, the first few are pretty subtle. I mean, you can barely see it. So let me skip ahead to more recent.
Other than feeling like I look bald when the sun hits that corner of my head juuuust right, I was pretty happy. I’d cut all the length off to make growing it out easier.
Everyone has thoughts on going gray and below are some of mine.
WhatHave I Done?!
I don’t know if any of you are like me, but I was dyeing my hair consistently every six weeks. I had started going gray when I was 19 years old so, needless to say, within two weeks, you could see it coming back. It didn’t matter what color my hair was dyed either: brown, blonde, auburn — after two weeks, pigtails and braids were definitely out. I was too worried about “the demarcation line.”
Once I made the decision (the second time) to let the silver grow in, luckily I was already working from home. You can hide a lot with creative lighting and, if it gets really bad, you can just keep your video turned off during Zoom or Slack calls. I’m not saying I did this…but I did this. (Also helpful if you’re having a bad hair day, a particularly big zit, or a cold sore.)
Within the first month and a half, I started to feel the cringe of it. Six weeks was my “trip to the salon” time and I was feeling icky. So now we’re looking at running two weeks beyond schedule and I was getting self-conscious.
I obsessed over it. I checked myself in the mirror. I looked at websites where you can “go gray in a day” (to the tune of several hundreds of dollars and 10 hours in a salon chair). I watched before/after YouTube videos.
I questioned myself. A lot.
I became so obsessed with my hair that I began to wonder if other women who decided to let their hair go silver did the same thing. So I joined a Facebook group called Silver Sisters.
I looked at all their amazing pictures and thought,
Mine doesn’t look like that. Why doesn’t mine look white and lovely like hers does?
I immediately began searching Amazon for “gray hair” products because, even though I didn’t really have enough worth worrying about, this was a new and shiny experience and I didn’t need much of a reason to go shopping.
There is a big difference between blue shampoo and purple shampoo. If you’re like me, you’d heard of purple shampoo, but not blue.
Blue is for canceling out orange. Purple is for canceling out yellow.
Thank you, high school art class and that wonderful color wheel.
Getting called out for looking old
Appearing “washed out”
Not looking like “me” anymore
No longer feeling pretty or cute
My husband hating it (fyi – not a fan)
I’m wondering if you’re beginning to see a subtle pattern here…
Despite worrying that I’d start looking like Aunt Bee, I kept on trucking anyway!!
Okay, Maybe This Isn’t So Bad…
After I got to the, “you really CANNOT hide this anymore” stage, rather than give someone the opportunity to go, “Uh, Mel, you could use a touch-up…” I would proactively bring up that I was going au naturel. Like, a lot.
Like, every chance I got.
And I began to think, “Maybe people are getting sick of me talking about this.”
It didn’t stop me from doing it, but I did wonder.
After a few months in, I discovered that I LOVED NOT HAVING TO DYE MY HAIR. I mean, for reals. Now that it was impossible to hide (I wasn’t about to use any kind of gray hair concealer), I found that it was really nice to just not have to worry about it. Can’t hide it. Can’t go to the salon anyway. No one will care.
And quite literally – to my shock – no one did.
That didn’t mean that people didn’t have opinions about what they would/would not do to their own hair, though. When I’d posted to Facebook about the experience and what I was doing, I got a huge variety of responses from, “Not for me. Heck no” to “Do eet! Do eet now!”
Not one person said a thing about what I looked like. I really worried that people would be jerks about it for no reason. And it was a waste of my worry cycles.
I discovered that my husband wasn’t a fan of the look in general (he prefers me with dark hair), thankfully, he wasn’t actively pressuring me to dye it again.
I also learned another valuable lesson: Unless you specifically ask your husband to lie to you every time you ask him what he thinks about your gray hair, stop asking him if he likes it.
I did make the mistake of growing out my bangs at the same time as I began growing out the gray. (Get it all over with, amirite?) So awkward bangs grow-out, weird moving demarcation line of silver, and my dark color to this now-orangey brown weirdness. (Some call it “blorange”.)
I decided that I would not get any touch-ups, toners, low lights, or anything else to alter my hair. Some people opt to help the grow-out process along, but I decided that my hair and scalp will thank me for not treating it with chemicals anymore. Also, this natural process ensures that I’m slowly adjusting to it so by the time it’s fully grown out, I’ve had two years to get used to it.
CAVEAT: I reserve the right to change my mind and do any number of these things because I’m only halfway through here!
What I’ve Learned So Far…
I’m cheap (I love not paying for getting my hair dyed)
I need to style my hair (gray hair is kind of strangely unruly in spots, so I find I need to straighten it and curl it under to make it look like this whole thing is deliberate and isn’t just me being incredibly lazy)
I don’t typically need or use any special gray-hair products (my hair isn’t really yellowing so while I’ve used a purple shampoo once or twice in the last year – I didn’t really need to)
I prefer to cover the gray on my eyebrows (when I’m at home, I don’t care, but when I’m out — I feel it looks better because they are surprisingly kinky and bright against my naturally dark eyebrows – I mean it SHOWS)
My hair is thanking me (the natural hair is so soft; in contrast, the dyed hair is dry, especially around the ends)
Cutting off several inches of dyed hair makes the process easier (I can’t imagine how many years it would have taken to grow the gray to my waist).
While some people go for the pixie or shaved head to “get it done”, I am not one of them.
People will have opinions, mostly positive, some meh – at the end of the day it’s your hair to do with as you like. And really…it’s just hair. (So why is this so harrrrddddd?)
Join a Gray Hair transition group if you are finding the road tough or are looking for advice on how to brave the waters
Search YouTube for some transition stories because they are a great source of inspiration (I’d do one, but do I really have anything I want to say ON CAMERA? I’m so much wittier in print.)
If you don’t like it, there is no rule that says you can’t dye it again. Maybe it’s not your time. Maybe you just REALLY don’t like it. It doesn’t matter. You do you.
There is no right way to go gray. From what I’ve read online and seen on YouTube everyone does it their own way.
You get to learn all about patience whether you want to or not. Remember how fast your hair grows when you’re dyeing it all the time and you’re stressing out about it? Don’t worry, once you let it start to go gray, it will feel like it has LITERALLY STOPPED GROWING (it hasn’t, but that’s how it feels sometimes)
Take pictures along the way to document (if nothing else, to remind yourself that it’s still growing)
It gets easier as you go – the beginning is the toughest (trust me, after a while you may start looking for ways to show off your gray under all the top layers of dye)
Don’t jump on the impulse to dye — give it a while — I’ve heard so many stories of people who reached for the box dye and then regretted it and HAD TO START OVER.
I have tattooed eyeliner, but I find I also like to put on some purple eyeliner to accentuate my green eyes and make me feel like something on my face “pops” (I have not discovered the joy of red lipstick – I’m not sure I can pull it off)
Consider hats – now that you have silver hair you need to protect it from sun damage (I’ll admit I’m horrible at this — I hate hats). But I also hear that it keeps it from yellowing. So there’s that.
I hope this helps you. If I think of anything else, I’ll be sure to update!
I guess a pandemic is a great time to try something new. Several years ago, I took a watercolor painting class with a friend of mine from work. I had a great time. We learned stuff. It was social.
I sucked, but I didn’t care.
So I decided to try some paint-by-numbers with acrylics. I found a bunch on Amazon, picked a painting I liked, and ordered it. For fun, I decided to take a picture every step of the way because, frankly, in the beginning everything just looks like spaghetti.
So here’s the progression. Enjoy! 19 different colors of paint on a 16×20 canvas.
By the way, the painting I chose has special significance, which I’ll explain at the bottom.
Finished product. Mostly. I have a few items I want to go back and darken up (if you really look closely you can see the numbers if the color is particularly light.
Significance of this painting explained: The setting reminds me of Amsterdam and that is where my husband and I traveled to for our honeymoon over 20 years ago. So since Valentines Day is coming up, I thought I would surprise him. The couple in the center just reminded me of us. And the colors were just so darn vibrant.
All told, the entire process took about a week. A few hours in the evening and a few hours on the weekends.
Since our cat passed away a few weeks ago, this was a surprisingly effective way at distracting me from the sorrow (while I focused on painting within the lines) and also is a great way to reduce stress from work, life, COVID, what-have-you. Also, since I walked away from social media, this felt like a great use of my time and energy and – at the end of it – I didn’t feel like I’d just wasted hours surfing. I had a painting to hang up!
I wish I could paint like this naturally, but I can’t. As a “check-box-er”, I like to do step-by-step / bite-sized projects, which is also why I like making bath products. Simple and can be done in an afternoon. Admittedly, this was much more involved, but it was time-consuming, not complicated. (And it came framed, which was nice.)
The kit comes with practically everything you need, but…..
I picked up lighted magnifying glasses (after I found the magnifying light was too cumbersome), a desktop easel, some paint brushes (in case I hated the ones the kit came with), and an artist brush basin so I could rinse my brushes between colors.
If you’ve ever heard of I Can Only Imagine (the song) or seen the movie, you’ll see just how talented these guys are. This is one of my favorite videos and recently I was surfing and discovered it again.