Top Five: Best of My Summer Reading

Recently, Tom and I watched High Fidelity . . . again.  It's one of our favorite movies, and we've watched it many, MANY times over the years.  (There are very few movies I can watch over and over again.  High Fidelity is one of them.  If you haven't seen it - or haven't seen it in a while - I highly recommend it.)  In the movie, the main character - Rob (played by John Cusack) - owns a record store and is working through a recent breakup with his longtime girlfriend, Laura.  Rob summarizes pretty much everything in his life with Top Five lists.

Thus . . . my inspiration for today.  
Top Five:  Best of My Summer Reading

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I started my summer reading in a strong way, with Normal People by Sally Rooney.  Now I know this one won't be for everyone, but if you like spare, witty writing and well-done character studies (but . . . not a whole lot of action), this one might be for you.  I loved it, and found it to be heartbreaking and authentic.

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Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips is a compelling story told in a unique style -- spreading different characters’ voices and points of view across a 12-month period of time. I very much enjoyed the structure and style of this book – it reads like a brilliant, interconnected short story collection (think There There, Winesburg, OH, Olive Kitteridge, or Reservoir 13).  If you like that kind of structure, this might be a great book for you, too.

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During the summer, I tend to pick at least one book to re-read --  AND I also read at least one big, sprawling epic.  Beach Music by Pat Conroy checked both those boxes for me!  I initially read Beach Music back in 1995 when it first came out.  I remember lugging the beast of a hardback around with me when my kids were very young . . . Anyway.  Re-reading it this summer did not disappoint.  I was, once again, moved to tears by this sweeping tale of forgiveness and reconciliation set in Rome and the South Carolina Lowcountry. (And if you haven't read Pat Conroy, you really ought give one of his books a try.)

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I really don't know how to describe Lanny by Max Porter . . . except to say it may be one of the most perfect books I've ever read. It's compact, completely unique, creative, mystical and so engaging that I sat and read it in one sitting.  (Which is not that hard to do, as it is pretty short.)  There is just . . . a lot going on under the surface in this one.  If you liked the "experimental" style of Lincoln in the Bardo, you might enjoy Lanny, too.  (And I recommend reading the actual book instead of listening -- because the physical book is a visual treat and adds to to overall effect of the story.)

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I just managed to squeak in reading Inland by Téa Obreht over Labor Day weekend, so I ended my summer reading on a high note.  This one was rather a slow burn for me, and it did take a fair amount of attention while reading.  Totally worth it though!  There are two storylines that spiral in seemingly disconnected ways throughout the novel. . . until they DO connect in a most magical way, creating a wholly satisfying ending.  Give it a try (especially if you liked Téa Obreht's previous novel, The Tiger's Wife) -- but you might want to keep a glass of water nearby for sipping-while-reading.

If you want to see what I'm reading now, or check out my recent reviews on Goodreads, just check out the sidebar here on my blog.  You can find me here on Goodreads.

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How about you?
What books would make it to your Top Five list of summer reading?

 

 


Three . . . New T-shirts

I love a good t-shirt, and I picked up a few great ones this summer.

How about . . . I show you THREE?

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First up, my shirt from Greenbush Brewing in Sawyer, Michigan.  (Their very cool logo is in what would be Lake Michigan, pointing to their location on the map).  This shirt shows all 83 Michigan counties in a great graphic format.  (Kalamazoo County is in the 2nd row from the bottom, third county from the left.)  (Our cabin is in Lake County -- 6th row from the bottom, second county from the left.)

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Next -- a new workout shirt.  Telling it like it is!

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And, finally, my wish for all of you!

What's YOUR favorite t-shirt say?

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Be sure to check out other Three on Thursday posts today over at Carole's!


Hello From the Other Side

(Soundtrack for today's post.)

Hello.

It's me.

I was wondering if after all these years you'd like to meet.

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I knit the first of these socks four years ago.  
(Maybe even five, because it's kind of a blur.)  
(And time flies when you're knitting other things.)  

I'm not exactly sure why I didn't knit the second sock right away, because it's not like me to let a project linger like that. But I think it was the pooling.  I remember struggling to get the yarn to . . . not pool so much.  (I changed needles sizes, I know.)  (And I'm pretty sure I re-started more than once at various places in the skein.) 

So it was kind of a break-up, of sorts.  I guess.

But . . . hello from the other side.

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At least I can say that I've tried . . . 

Two socks.  Together!  At last.

(Even though the pooling makes my eye twitch.)
(And now you know I'll never wear them in my shoes.*)

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You can find the details here - on Ravelry.

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* It was so very heartening to read your comments last week and realize I'm not the only one who doesn't like to wear hand knit socks with shoes!


Get Strong

I've been harping on about getting fit(ter) for several months now.  I hope that I'm beginning to convince you that adding some fitness to your life would be a Really Great Thing.  And, further, I hope that I'm convincing you that strength training should REALLY be Something You Want To Do.  Because being strong and fit will serve us all well as we age.

So let's . . .

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shall we???

Okay.  So many of you have let me know that . . . yeah, yeah.  You're interested.  
But you don't want to go to a gym.  
And you don't have the time.  (See my quote from yesterday.) (Just sayin.)  
And you don't know where to start.
And can you do this at home?  Without any equipment? 

Starting today, I'm going to take those comments on!

Let's begin here:  What, exactly, IS strength training???

Well.  Strength training can be explained by two things:

  1. Movement of any weight . . . including your own body weight.  Turns out that doing ANY exercise that pushes your muscles outside their comfort zone will force them to rebuild stronger.  Y'know . . . to prepare them for their next challenge!
  2. Progressive overload . . . exerting just a little more effort than last time - consistently.  That means lifting heavier weight or doing more repetitions.  You need to make your muscles adapt constantly -- rebuilding themselves to get stronger.

And what does that mean?

Well.  If you do 10 wall push-ups and 10 squats right now . . . you've just done a strength training workout!  (Right there, right now . . . without a gym or a trainer or anything.)

The trick?  Do it on the regular a few times.  And then . . . you need to up your game!  Maybe 11 (or 12) wall push-ups and 11 (or 12) squats.  Or add more days.  Or do them twice with a little rest in between.

Why?

Well.  You need to push your muscles outside their comfort zone.  Regularly.  When you do this . . . pushing your muscles like that . . . you're actually "breaking them down." Kind of "tearing" them (just a little bit) during your workout.  And then, as you rest and recover . . . they build up again.  Stronger and more resilient.  (Rinse.  Repeat.)

What about soreness after you work out?

Yep.  That's going to happen.  Because you're working specific muscles you probably haven't worked in a while -- hard enough to make them "tear" a teeny bit.  This soreness actually has a name:  Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS (which usually peaks on the 2nd day after your workout).   And the best "cure" for DOMS?  Movement.  Getting the blood flowing to those sore muscles.  (I know.  Counterintuitive and NOT what you want to do.  But true.)  So.  You need to work through the muscle soreness (not to be confused with an injury, which is different thing altogether).

So.  Here are my strength training beginning basics for you:

  • Intentional, regular workouts
  • Progressive overload
  • Work through the soreness

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Now.  What about a workout to get you started?

First, I'm just going to say this:  Personally, I think it is best if you can get to a gym and take a strength class (many of them are designed specifically for women or for the "over 50" set) or - if you can swing it - work with a trainer for a while.  Proper form is important, and sometimes it's hard to figure out if you're doing your exercises properly on your own, at home.  (Plus, it is nice to have a personal cheerleader.)  BUT . . . don't let that stop you from beginning!  If you absolutely can't (or don't want to) do the gym thing, doing it on your own is better than not doing it at all!

The best way to get started at home . . . is to begin with bodyweight training -- "lifting" the weight of your own body.  No equipment needed!  You can do it anywhere!  And it really works to build strength.

Here is a great beginner-do-at-home-strength training workout for you to try (20 min).  It's from NerdFitness and includes a video.  (You'll have to scroll down to the middle of the article to the headline Beginner Body Weight Workout Video & Exercises.  They also promote their online coaching services, etc. so you'll have to scroll past all that to find the workout.)  NerdFitness does a great job making fitness accessible for people who aren't "athletic."  I really like their attitude and approach, and if I were beginning at home with strength training, this is where I would begin.

You can also do what Carolyn does . . . and find YouTube videos featuring beginning body weight workouts.  I just tried a YouTube search using the terms "beginner body weight workouts" and a BUNCH of options appeared, so that's a great source of at-home workouts.  (The top video in my search?  The NerdFitness workout referenced above!)

And if you've already doing some at-home workouts and would like suggestions of other body weight exercises to mix things up, here is an "encyclopedia" (pretty much) of 53 different body weight exercises to try.  It takes a while to load because it includes a lot of photos and videos of people doing the 53 different body weight exercises.

And if you have access to the New York Times online, they have a great at-home strength workout option that includes detailed instructions and videos.  There is even a chart of the workout you can click on to save to your computer or print out so you don't have to load the whole article each time you want to do it.  (You need to scroll down to the "Time to Train" headline, and then to the "At Home Workout" headline.)

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Okay.  I imagine that's probably total overload.  But certainly a place to begin!  Please let me know what you think -- and especially let me know if you try any of these workouts.  And if you're already working out at home, please add your suggestions or tips.  I'll be sure to share them in future posts.

(Next up:  Adding equipment for your at-home strength training workouts.)


A Most Monday Kind of Monday

Okay, gang.  
My Summer 'O Fun is officially over.  
I'm behind in every. single. aspect. of my life (except my garden - which isn't too bad given the season - and my workouts, so at least I've got those).  
It's time for me to pay the piper.

Also time to . . . 

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(Here's where I share things I've been thinking about over the weekend.)

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A Quote

"Time is a created thing.  To say 'I don't have time' is to say 'I don't want to.'"
-----Lao Tzu

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A Word

I recently finished reading Inland by Téa Obreht.  (Excellent book, by the way.)  I looked up several words while reading, including this one:

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Redoubtable . . . is one of those words that I always think means one thing, but it really means another.  Somehow, I've never been able to keep the actual meaning straight in my head, and I need to look it up every time I encounter it again.  But I think I'll be able to remember it now - after reading Inland.  Because  (and this isn't really a spoiler) it's a bit of a plot point.

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To Read

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Okay, so maybe I've already convinced you that you might want to read Inland.  But just in case you're looking for more reading suggestions, here's a preview of fall book releases to watch for in the coming months.  

(The article calls itself the "listicle of listicles" -- which is perfect.)
(I wish I'd thought of it first.)
(I may borrow the term in future.)

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A Reminder

Although planting time is several weeks off, it's time to get your spring bulbs lined up now.

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Now is the time to pick up - or order from online bulb specialists - the bulbs you want to see flowering in your garden come spring.  Do it now -- while the selection is still good.  I know . . . the hardest part is remembering to plant them later in the fall.  When you're not wanting to think about your garden anymore.  And the weather is a bit crappy.  And the ground is cold and hard.

But.

Next spring - when you are desperate for color and blooms of any kind - you will be so glad you did!  (Always totally worth it.)

I recently ordered crocus, daffodils, and allium bulbs.  And I saw a nice assortment of bulbs at Costco last Friday.  It's time!

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And that's it for this Monday.
Here's to a good and productive week for all of us!


Circling Back ... On a Friday

I thought it might be . . . fun? interesting? . . . to circle back to some of my recent posts with some follow up.

Let's go!

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At the beginning of August, I shared my "bucket list" for the month.  I thought it might be interesting to circle back and see how I did with my list.

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Not 100%, but not a bad showing at all.  Still need to refresh my containers (the plants were still looking pretty good through August, so I decided to just wait for the mums in September) and clean out my fridge (and the stand-up paddleboard is just going to have to wait for next summer) -- but I got to most of the things on my list.

The thing I'm most pleased about?  Getting that dang Alaska trip photo book put together and ordered (Shutterfly) because it was really a pain in the butt to do.

The thing I liked best?  My day at the Lake Michigan shore!

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Last week I wrote about wedding gifts we still have and use regularly -- still.  Even after 38 years.  In my post, I mentioned that I still use the "happy mushroom" potholders I received as a shower gift -- up at our cabin.  

Well.  I decided to take a picture of them while we were up north this last week so I could circle back and share them with you.

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Both the mushroom and the raccoon-with-vegetables potholders were part of kitchen sets that also included dishtowels (long gone).  (The rooster potholder?  I have no idea when he showed up, but it wasn't a wedding gift.)  Although showing a lot of wear and tear, these potholders have stood the test of time in my (now cabin) kitchen.

And you might want to . . . circle back . . . yourself and read the comments on my wedding gift post -- because they are just marvelous and well worth reading!  I thank all of you who shared your wedding gift stories (and feel free to add more to this post).

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Not long ago, I talked about having reusable bags with you all the time -- so you never need to grab a plastic bag again at the store.  Most of you are already on board with the reusable bags -- but a couple of you mentioned produce bags, so I wanted to circle back and show you the ones I use.

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Many years ago, I picked up a set of inexpensive produce bags (in varying sizes) right there in my grocery store produce department. They're made of a lightweight mesh fabric, and have simple drawstrings at the top.  I use them ALL the time.  (I keep them tucked into one of my bigger reusable bags so I always have them handy.)  They're washable and surprisingly sturdy.

Want to make some produce bags?  I found a produce bag pattern (FREE) on Ravelry!  (I think a set of these would make a great gift.)

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And that's it for this week!  Have a great weekend, and I'll see you on Monday.


Bridget Started It!

Last week, Bridget did a Three on Thursday post with an interesting twist:  She listed three things that she hates does not like . . . but that everyone else DOES like.

It got me thinking.
And it got Tom thinking along with me.

Today, I'm sharing the results with Not-One-But-THREE lists of things we don't like . . . but that everyone else seems to like.

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(But first . . . this photo.  It's actually a photo of something I DO like -- rusty metal things -- that most people probably never notice.)  (This particular rusty metal thing is on the lighthouse pier in Ludington, Michigan.)

Anyway.  On with our lists . . . 

Three Things I Don't Like that Everyone Else Seems To Like:

  1. Popcorn (I don't even like the smell, but it's mostly the kernels getting stuck in my teeth.)  (And the flavor.)
  2. Daylilies (Yep.  The only flower I don't really care for.)
  3. Breaking Bad (That show makes my skin crawl.)

Three Things That Tom Doesn't Like that Everyone Else Seems To Like:

  1. Popcorn (He REALLY hates the smell, and especially if it's slightly burned.)
  2. It's a Wonderful Life (He has actually been made to feel like a pariah for this one on more than one occasion.)
  3. College football.  (Never a fan; doesn't care.)

And here's my bonus list -- Three Things Related to Knitting That I Don't Like that Most Knitters Seem To Like:

  1. Yarns that pool.  (They give me an eye twitch.)
  2. The whole "fade" thing.  (Unless it's done really, really well.)  
  3. Wearing hand knit socks with shoes.  (I know.  This one will probably get me thrown out of Knitlandia.  But while I am charmed by hand knit socks and wear them around the house, they are just too thick for me to wear inside shoes.*)  

How about you?  What do you dislike . . . that most people seem to like?

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* Please keep in mind that I hate wearing shoes, generally.  And especially with socks. 


Not a Cardigan . . .

This year, I'm really trying to be intentional about my knitting.  
Only knitting what I will actually wear or use.  
Sticking with the yarn I already have.  
In colors I love.  
And styles that suit me.  
No KALs.  No mysteries.  
No! Shiny! Objects!

And it's been working.

Now I need a cardigan.  
A gray cardigan.  
Wool.  
I've been spending quite a bit of time considering patterns, and I've found a few that will match my needs.  (This one, this one, or maybe this one.)  I have the yarn.  I'm ready to go.

And yet.

And yet.

I keep seeing shiny objects flashing across my Instagram feed.  And these particular shiny objects are lighting up all the Just-Do-It centers in my brain like crazy!

I caved. . . 

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Not a cardigan.

Not gray.

But a whole lot of fun to knit!  
(And I'm good with that.)

Turns out . . . this need to play with color. . .  is currently overriding my need for a
(plain old)
(not really)
gray, wool cardigan.
And I'm knitting in a near-obsessive way right now. 

How about you?  What are you knitting right now?

 


Going With the Flow

Sometimes . . . you wake up to thunder and rain and gloom.
And dire forecasts for more and worse and later.

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And your plans just kinda need to change.

Which means . . . well, this isn't the post I planned for today.
But we all need to be flexible sometimes.
And go with the flow.

See you tomorrow.

 


Measuring Summer

There are so many ways to measure summer . . . 

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Number of days.  Hours of daylight.  Temperature.  How many inches your kids grew.   Days until vacation.  Days of vacation.  Miles walked.  Or biked.  Books read.  Stops at the ice cream place.

So many ways.

I like to measure it in the garden.

In early June, I bought two gigantic pots for my front porch at Costco. Huge pots.  Great price.  (I'm thrilled with these pots!)  And I filled them with annuals.

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Nice.  But underwhelming.

I knew, though, that those little plants would grow.

Yesterday, at the end of summer?

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That's what I call a full summer!

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How do you measure summer?

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Enjoy the weekend.  I'll see you back in this space on Tuesday next week.

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As for the stash giveaway?  The Bloomfield yarn will be making its way to Roslyn, and the Hacho will be off to Juliann.  Thanks to all of you who expressed interest in the yarn.  There will be another giveaway in September!