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.

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About Me, Maine, unplugged

Maine Minibreak

 

img_3119I have written here before about Maine and how much summers there meant to me and my kids as they were growing up.

Time and finances are in much shorter supply now and so trips to Maine have been less frequent and much shorter but I still try to make the time count. In a funny way, even the short trips end up being very powerful emotionally because of all the memories.

Last week, my daughter and I took a quick two and a half day trip to some of our old haunts. We left Connecticut feeling grateful to have missed a big storm since Hurricane Hermine turned out to be much less of a storm than anticipated. We got to the island around 5:30 on the Tuesday after Labor Day and headed straight to my favorite watering hole.img_3238 Amazingly, I was the only person there. I dove right in. After not having swum in fresh water for over a year, it felt like a baptism of sorts.  My daughter captured it in her photos. I want to hold onto this feeling all winter. The best.img_3185We had lobsters on the pier that evening and did a brief drive around the island to some of our favorite spots the next day. A beautiful spot where we used to go to watch the sun set:img_3249The big rock that we would walk to along a huge pond/lake and swim off of (I swam there this trip too. Delightful!)img_3303

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img_3307I love the late afternoon light through the trees.img_3301You don’t really get a sense for how big this rock is unless you see it from the water. All of the stone formations were created by glaciers.img_3308Walking back along the lakeside¬†path.img_3309At the pond’s end, the water framed by the mountains. In previous summers, my kids and I climbed all of these. Such wonderful memories. We didn’t have time to hike this trip but hopefully next year.img_3310We made time for ice-cream. Bay of figs = awesome. My first experience eating fig ice-cream but hopefully not my last.img_3268We ate our ice-cream peering out from behind a wall made of several rows of long window boxes. A really beautiful idea for framing a small patio. I loved seeing the sunlight through the leaves.img_3277The next day we got sandwiches from our favorite bakery and ate them at a beautiful butterfly garden. Despite many trips to this place, I had never gone to this spot. It was just lovely and we had it all to ourselves. One of our traditions with the kids was to try something new each trip and this short trip, we managed to do several new-to-us things. Really fun.img_3294The garden looks out over the water to the peninsula where there is a pool club that we belonged to when the kids were small. img_3297Many wonderful afternoons were spent there swimming in the salt water pool. The water above is cut off from the ocean by a bridge/ causeway and my kids used to jump off the bridge to the ocean side when the tide was coming in and be whooshed under the bridge carried by the incoming tide. You had to time it just right. Thrilling!

The next day I had a wonderful visit with a good friend who took me to a private garden (she had tickets). So beautiful. I loved these feathery flowers in the woodland setting.img_3315And the pattern that these stems make. Like a ladder or a braid.img_3320My absolute favorite flowers were the Japanese anemones. The bees agreed with me. There were so many buzzing around these flowers. I love the little round globes that are the buds. Such beautiful shapes. Zoom in to see the bees!img_3331

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img_3333After about two and half days, it was time to head back to reality. The morning we left was a bit foggy and so beautiful. That sky!img_3356Until the next visit!img_3178

 

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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 past.¬†imageMany 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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About Me, unplugged

Nursebean Unplugged: A Visit to the Old Neighborhood Part 1, the Park and the Garden

imageToday I found myself with free time on a beautiful day in NYC after getting a clean bill of health from my cardiologist. First I went to Mood, a well-known fabric store near the doctor’s office, where I looked at zippers. After deciding that I was not up for spending $14 on a zipper, even a really pretty zipper, I thought for a moment about going to a museum but then, because it was a beautiful spring day and because I had enough leftover credit on a Metrocard to get me there and back on the subway, I hopped on a number 2 train and went back to my old neighborhood, the place where all of my kids came home as new babies (after being born in hospitals in Manhattan) and where I lived for 11 years as a newly married wife, a new mom, a full time banker and a runner, reader, quilter and sewer. This is the first place I really chose as a home and it was home in my heart and mind for many years after leaving to move to the suburbs. It was a beautiful unplugged day. (3rd street walking toward the park, above and below)imageSo much of my life is planned and scheduled. I work two jobs and teach on the side so most weeks I am at work six days a week. What I have found with my unplugged Sunday project is that I don’t even realize the extent to which the spontaneous part of me has been damped down by my work until I have some free time with no obligations. I forget how much I love to walk without a destination, just taking in the beauty. I walked down streets that were so familiar to me but which I hadn’t walked down in probably ten years. I have lost track. There is a reason why I loved living here.imageOur last apartment-a co-op apartment that we owned-was in this building right on the park. We had a duplex that faced into the back with a little garden which we made the most of. It was amazingly quiet and peaceful for city living. My older two children played in a sandbox and baby pool for many happy hours and I grew whatever flowers thrived in shade (lots of impatiens.) Our backyard was the site for many birthday parties and cookouts. It is amazing how much use a city dweller can make of a tiny patch of green.¬†Below, the building from across the street.imageNote the new bike lane! My son, who lived in this neighborhood until age 8 is a biker and would appreciate this.imageWe spent so many hours in this park. Right across the street from our building was a playground where I pushed all three children in bucket swings and spent many happy hours watching my kids play with whomever they met that day in the sandbox. We usually brought toys and ended up sharing them widely. One day, we started to round them up and I wasn’t able to find all of the plastic dinosaurs we had brought. ¬†I asked some of the other kids to help look for them. Ten children started eagerly digging. It turned into a game. One mom asked me if we really had lost one. She thought I had made it up to keep the kids occupied. ¬†Every time we went to the park, we made friends. That was the kind of neighborhood it was. I walked on through the park.image

imageThe field in the park where I would take my very active toddler and let him run around.¬†imageMost weekends, we would start in the park and walk through the park to the library and the botanic gardens stopping on the way back at Grand Army Plaza to go to the farmer’s market that would be there each Saturday. I would have a child in a snuggli or a stroller or both. It never got old.imageAnd on to Grand Army Plaza.imageThen to the library.imageOr swimming lessons which took place in a pool on one of the top floors of this building (note the big windows). ¬†Two of my children learned to swim here.imageThen, most weekends, we went to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. There was always something new in bloom and it was just the right size for small children. It was beautiful today. Everything is budding and green and on the verge of blooming.¬†image

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imageRose garden sleeping. In June it will all be in bloom.imageCherry Esplanade. It will be blooming in two weeks and will be crowded with people but quiet today. I remember chasing children along a field of pink petals.imageThe pond and Japanese garden.image

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imageThe Oaks.imageRose garden waking up.imageI loved all the crazy new growth at the base of this tree. #metaphorimageAnd this one looks like a ballerina with arms raised.image

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imageSo much beauty. After walking though the gardens, I went back through my old neighborhood and walked by the other buildings we lived in and visited some of our old haunts. To be continued.

 

 

 

 

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