About Me, Reading and Books, unplugged

Nursebean Reads: October 2016-100 books and counting

I wrote earlier this year here and here about how in 2016,  I have been reading quite a bit more than is usual for me and earlier this week, 286 days into the year to be exact, I read my 100th book of the year. Thank you Goodreads for keeping track!

My 100th book, The Mothers,  was the wonderful debut novel written by an incredibly talented 26 year old. The novel started out as her senior thesis. I loved it and read it in two evenings. Interestingly, leading up to #100 are several lighter reads. Sometimes, particularly when I am tired, I can’t focus well enough to tackle a weightier book and will read lighter things-cozy mysteries, YA, chicklit-until I get my focus back. I also read less when I sew more; and I did a lot of sewing this year. I have learned to take it in stride.

The day after I reached #100 was almost more momentous because 2+ months after I started listening to it, I finished all 35 hours and 40 minutes of this audio book read by Maggie Gyllenhaal which I purchased from audible on sale for just a few dollars. Totally worth it. Sadly no longer on sale.  I started it back in August when I had the idea of Power Reading the Classics.  I listened to it to and from work and occasionally while cooking, sewing or going for walks. My Classics challenge didn’t work out as I planned but I am trying to incorporate more classics interspersed with my other reads.

Reading this many books is kind of a big deal for me because my normal number of books read has averaged about 30 for the last several years.

 

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While it is still quite a lot, more than 2 per month, my former speed was not a pace which made me feel as though I would ever make a dent in the long list of books I wished I had read. And now, even though the list is growing at a much faster pace than it ever did thanks to my book whisperers:  Catherine, Lindsey and Anne, I am confident that I will find the time to read many, though certainly not all, of the books I want to read.

Most of the books I read this year I have loved or liked a lot. I only have a few in the 2 or 3 star category (I haven’t really read something I couldn’t like at least a little bit). You can see a few of them below. The less than loved books are things I picked up on impulse from the library or on sale on kindle. I don’t regret reading them but I am trying to be more intentional about my book choices since there are so many wonderful books I know I want to read-many of them recommendations from the WSIRN podcast-can’t recommend it more highly.

The podcast, which I listen to religiously every Tuesday morning, asks guests to name a book they hate. I can’t say that I hated anything I read, but I didn’t love one title, which you can see hanging out all alone in the two star line on my Goodreads YTD summary. Part of the summary is above and part is below since there were too many books to screenshot and capture them all. The ones below are all 4’s and 5’s and were all great reads.

I tend to alternate more literary reads with murder mysteries and the occasional chick-lit and this year I read some great YA books that I found via Modern Mrs. Darcy. Memoir is my favorite genre and I have read almost 20 memoirs and more than 25 non-fluffy novels so far this year, all of which have been terrific. I read 3 classics (although AK should count for at least 2 all by itself) and want to read more. I have listened to 23 audio books out of a total of 102 books read this year, most of which really enhanced the experience of the book because of the wonderful narration. The main thing that has helped me read more has been devoting a couple of hours in the early morning each week to read. I have missed one or two Sundays due to work but that unplugged time is what gets me on track, helps me finish something I have started or get a good start on a new book. I find that once I am into the story, I want to keep going and having that time really makes the difference. Right after finishing the Mothers, I started Commonwealth, the new book by Ann Patchett. I read it in a night. So so good.

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My current reading list features two great new novels, a lengthy but so interesting non-fiction book about genetics by one of my favorite authors and Jane Austen. On audio, I am listening to the new Flavia DeLuce mystery. What could be better?

You can link to my other posts on books and reading here, here and here.

Please note that my blog is not monetized and has no sponsors. I provide links to share online resources that I enjoy using. I do not derive any financial benefit if you click on links on my blog. 

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About Me, Reading and Books, unplugged

Summer Sunday Unplugged

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My jobs keep me at work 6 days a week but I have continued my New Year’s resolution and have kept Sunday free of work and scheduled activities and with only minimal screens. Yesterday was a wonderful day. Reading and having the time to finish a great book in the early morning quiet while everyone else slept, a wonderful yoga class with my daughter who was home for the weekend, salads on the porch for lunch, a bit of needed weeding for the garden and a long stretch of reading outside on the porch during the sunny, breezy day, topped off by a dinner of summer treats: guacamole, fried fish with a fruity salsa and strawberries for dessert outside on the porch with my husband and daughter (and our sweet dog Sadie).

Some days I miss the long days at the beach when my kids were little and our wonderful trips to Maine but a day like yesterday reminds me how enjoyable staying home can be.  It helps that I don’t plan any tasks and don’t really try to accomplish anything and it makes all the difference in the world that my new house has a porch and my neighbors have several big trees. It can feel a bit like being in a tree house, especially when the wind rustles through the leaves.

I love having long stretches of time to get into a new book or finish one I have been reading, both of which I was able to do yesterday.

Here is what I am reading:

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And The Abundance, essays by Annie Dillard. Fabulous books all.

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unplugged

Nursebean Unplugged: Beauty in Your Own Backyard

This year, I made a New Year’s resolution to honor Sunday as a day of rest, free of work, plans, screens. Each week I have posted one photo on Instagram that I take on that Sunday to remind me of what was special about that day. Unplugged Sunday #20, May 22nd,  was mostly about listening…to birdsong, to hymns in church, to the quiet hum of neighbors having barbecues, to the little boy across the street who is learning to play the saxophone. Since it isn’t in my house and the music is muted, the sounds of a new player wafting across the street, even the squeaky wrong notes, are not irritating but on the contrary, make me nostalgic for the time when my elementary school aged kids practiced their various instruments: trumpet, violin, piano, bass, drums and yes, for a time, a saxophone. I tried to get a picture of a bird to represent my unplugged Sunday but they eluded me. This tree is full of birds but I couldn’t catch one on camera. I loved hearing their songs all day long.imageIt was a beautiful sunny day and in the afternoon, Sadie wandered in the back yard and I wandered with her. My husband has made a beautiful meadow in our backyard. What started as a project to reduce the amount of mowing has made our yard more beautiful. This picture makes me think of other meadows in my pastimageMany of our flowers were just on the verge of blooming. Peonies are ubiquitous on Instagram this time of year. Ours were still tightly wound up buds. This one looks like a little wooden headed doll from my children’s youth.image I previously blogged about a little walk I took with Sadie in my neighborhood and beauty I found by taking the time to pay attention. On this Sunday, I focused in on my backyard and once again, I found beauty everywhere. imageThis was a particularly wonderful gift because none of the flowers or plants were planted by me; they are all things that were planted by previous owners. I love the surprise in the spring when things emerge from the ground and you find you have flowers you didn’t even know you had. In the course of just a few minutes, this is what I found in my backyard: spring springing everywhere!imagehereimageand hereimagethis rhododendrun looks positively prehistoricimagetiny wildflowers (weeds?) look like flower fairies from my children’s picture booksimageI love the shadows on the bricksimageOur garden is sort of a mish-mosh of plantings by the former owners and weeds that are trying to take over. One of these days, I will spend some time putting things to rights but I kind of enjoy the chaotic jumble for now.imagecolor everywhereimage

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imageI finally got one picture with a bird in it imageSadie the explorerimageSunlight at the end of the dayimage Thought for the week: Listen to the Music of your Life.

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unplugged

Nursebean Unplugged: Maine

With the beginning of summer and the return of hot weather, my thoughts turn to the place where I spent so many summers with my kids. I have the urge to jump in the car and head north as I did most years as soon as school got out and sometimes a day or two before. How lucky were we to spend so many beautiful days on an island in Maine surrounded by mountains, lakes, woods and the ocean. But my favorite place was probably the meadow.imageThe sound of the wind traveling through the tall grasses, the buzzing of insects, the wildflowers, the birds. I loved the hum of activity, the sunshine, the many little worlds contained in the expanse of the field. Sending the kids out to pick wildflowers for the dinner table. Sitting on the deck and listening to the hum of activity. It was mesmerizing and calming at the same time. (Maine summer 1997 above).

Life got  pretty complicated for my kids and me about ten years ago and summers in Maine became a thing of the past,  but I have so many happy memories of those times.

This weekend, I drove the familiar route on my way to help my daughter move her things back home for the summer break. As I drove up the Maine Turnpike, I saw swaths of purple along the side of the road. It was lupine season. I had forgotten! So unexpected and so beautiful.  imageOne of the best children’s books ever is this one about the lupine lady. One of our family favorites.imageI didn’t have much time during this visit to do much more than spend a few minutes at a couple of old haunts. The roads where our old house used to be has one of the biggest fields of lupines on the island, but I just couldn’t bring myself to drive down it. So I went instead to a spot where the kids and I used to go to watch the sun set over Blueberry Hill.imageAnd to the lake where I used to love to swim (still do but too cold this trip).imageSo peaceful. There is a big rock that we used to swim out to but I just liked being able to swim and swim without chlorine or line lanes or bumping into other people.imageLily pads below.imageThere were were wisps of fog shrouding the tops of some of the mountains.imageFog, sky and  the shadows of trees forming a pattern on the field.imageThe harbor is just starting to have boats on moorings. In a few weeks, it will be full of boats. The day was mostly gray with bits of sunlight poking through. It matched my mood.imageNot so much sad but thoughtful. I don’t wish my children young again. I am not interested in turning back time, even if I could,  but those summers were precious. Every life is filled with befores and afters. This time when my children were little and we spent summers in Maine was ironically both an after-after some tough times that I never expected to come again and then turned out to be a before-before a big challenging shift that I didn’t see coming. I had planned on spending the rest of my summers in Maine but things turned out differently as they often do. This weekend in Maine, thoughts of those happy times swirled around me like friendly spirits.  (Maine summer of 2002 below with our dog Sam, a gentle soul, much missed)img001I ended up at the lake where we would take long walks as a family on a path along the shore to another rock where we would swim. This year I didn’t have time to do the walk so I just sat on a rock in the sun and took in the beauty. imageA peek at the Western Mountains and a favorite hiking trail.

imageRocks line the shore.imageThe surface of the pond like a path spread out before me.imageBeautiful beyond words. image

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Uncategorized

Nursebean Unplugged: Beauty everywhere you look, May Day 2016

imageToday, May Day, is the seventeenth Sunday in my Unplugged Sundays project. It was one of my favorite kind of days: totally unplanned with no need to go anywhere, do anything or even talk to anyone because my husband was away. The weather even cooperated. I wasn’t totally alone in my house.  Sadie, our golden retriever kept me company. Sadie is the perfect companion on an unplugged Sunday:  totally undemanding, great at hanging out, not expecting me to make conversation and with no problems for me to solve. Sadie the zenmaster below. imageI am generally a people person and I love all of the people in my life. I have no interest in living alone,  but I do find that I need alone time from time to time in order to recharge and reset my perspective. I tend to be a caretaker, a problem solver and a listener and I love being all of those things both in my relationships and my work (nurse, teacher) but I sometimes pay so much attention to others that I forget to pay attention to myself. When my children were little and I would have little snippets of time to myself, I often couldn’t even figure out what to do with it, I was so used to spending my days focused on tasks and attuned to the needs of little people.  So today, I tried to not do too much planning. I read, I did some prep for some sewing projects:  ironing and cutting out several future dresses and I took a walk. First I walked by myself on a quick 2 mile loop in our neighborhood. This was mostly a walk for exercise although as I walked, I really enjoyed the fresh green smell of the air just after a rain. It was cool and still a little misty but not actively raining. The world looked and smelled so fresh and green. I used to run a lot and this was my favorite running weather. When I got home, I decided to take Sadie out for a little walk. She will be ten this July and my 2 mile walk is a little long for her so I just took her around the corner and down to the end of the next street. Since I was walking more slowly with her, I noticed many things I hadn’t seen on my first walk and stopped to take pictures here and there. Soon I was noticing beauty everywhere. I couldn’t help it. imageI love the way the rain makes everything even more beautiful. Little green worlds everywhere.imageFlower glamour shot below.imageMy daughters used to love to make fairy houses. You could just imagine flower fairies here.imageI love all of the shades of green. The tree below evokes the feeling of a person rooted to the earth with arms up-stretched. I love that without even trying, you see beauty and patterns and stories everywhere you look in nature. imageThe sap coming out of this tree recently pruned looks like tears.  #treeshavesoulsimageI saw a couple of flowers hidden in the overgrowth on the borders between two houses. World’s tiniest white tulip below. All by itself in a little forest.imageA solitary daffodil nearby. Were these bulbs planted long ago? They aren’t part of any planned garden. Just hidden in these little areas of overgrowth. Magic.imageThe overgrown, unruly spontaneous gardens are sometimes more beautiful than the those you plan.imageA lone violet amid the clover. Look at how much is going on-so many teeny tiny buds!imageStill life with tiny tree.imageEverything in the natural world is more beautiful up close. image A vine growing up our front step. imageI don’t even know what this is growing up out of the moss. Look at the raindrops, the texture of the stem and the colors. Wild! It looks a little prehistoric. A baby dinosaur plant!imageThe beauty of lush, green new leaves.imageAnd these. Poison ivy? Pretty no matter what it is.imageI love all of the textures . I just looked down along the driveway and this is what I saw.imageMore green at the base of a tree. imageI looked up and the texture and colors of the tree trunk were amazing. I have lived in this house for two years but never noticed this even though is right next to my driveway.imageMore texture in the feathery moss.imageWalking up the driveway I noticed this old fence post. Slowing down today helped me see things in a new way.imageThanks Sadie!image

 

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About Me, unplugged

Anniversary Flowers

April 11, 2016

Beloved, thou hast brought me many flowers
Plucked in the garden, all the summer through ~Elizabeth Barrett BrowningimageOn April 11th, my husband and I celebrated 7 years of marriage and he brought me these beautiful flowers. I especially loved these two peonies which were so lush and beautiful.imageEach day over the last week, I noticed that the flowers were slowly changing color. They were just as beautiful but each day they took on new dimensions. Day 3 below. These pictures are untouched and this is what the flowers really looked like. I have never experienced this before, a flower slowly changing color.imageFrom deep red-pink to pink to peach.imageAs the days and went by, the colors faded and the petals took on a range of shades that gave even more depth to their beauty. Day 4 above and below.imageAs they became more pale and fragile, they became even more beautiful because the light was now able to shine through the petals. Day 6 below:imageAs the end of the week neared, the petals became a bit more ruffled giving the flower the  appearance of turning inward. Day 7:imageJust before it started to lose its petals, the second more full peony appeared to reach upward.imageEven after its petals began to fall it was still beautiful, looking like one of the flower fairy illustrations from one of my children’s picture books.imageI so enjoyed watching their evolution this week and will miss them. I think they taught me something about aging and beauty because they were no less beautiful at the end of the week than the beginning. Time revealed so many different aspects of their beauty that wasn’t apparent on day 1.imageI perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers. ~Claude Monet

May we all embrace how beautiful we are becoming. Happy Anniversary Sweetie!

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