Tuesday Ten: My Year in Books

Towards the end of 2018, Goodreads said I had read 73 “books.”  Considering I read a couple more after this tally, that brought my total to at least 75.  That’s 200% more than the goal of 25  I’d set.  Pretty good for someone with a (semi-undiagnosed) learning disability and possible dyslexia. But, to be fair, some of those “books” were short stories and novellas.  And most of the “full length” books were on the short side, under 300 pages.  Still, I’m taking time out to congratulate myself.

Then again, the majority of those books were of the m/m (male/male or gay) romance genre.  And to think romance novels never interested me.  I blame it on Diana Gabaldon and Lord John Gray, specifically, Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade.  It wasn’t a romance, per se, because there was a lot going on— mystery, political intrigue, military action, and a near-death experience.  But romance figured throughout.

But the year in books did include some diversity.  I’d planned to do a “Sunday Seven” featuring the non-gay-romance books I read, but there’s actually ten.  So let’s call it a Tuesday Ten.  Here they are, in order of longest to shortest (pages, not words).

  1. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, Time’s Best Novel of the Year 2004 and many other awards. I even read all the footnotes!
  2. Past Poisons, an anthology of historical mysteries dedicated to Ellis Peters, by a whole slew of authors
  3. Ballroom by Alice Simpson, more boring than The Man in the High Castle—but the cover is pretty
  4. The Man in the High Castle by Phillip K. Dick, only slightly better than the extremely boring television series
  5. The Squire’s Tale (Sister Frevisse #10) by Margaret Frazer, featuring the return of one of my favorite characters from the first Frevisse novel, The Novice’s Tale
  6. A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters, Brother Cadfael #1
  7. The Patchwork Girl of Oz (Oz #8) by L. Frank Baum, not his best
  8. The Ladies of Grace Adieu, a collection of very clever short stories by Susanna Clarke, a kind of continuation of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell
  9. King Solomon’s Mines by Allan Quartermaine H. Ride Haggard, it hasn’t aged well, what with all the animal cruelty and machismo
  10. One Corpse Too Many by Ellis Peters, the second Brother Cadfael novel
  11. Nozy Cat #1 (yes, that’s its title) by Lyn Keyes, a cozy mystery with a talking cat.  The second book in the series is called Nozy Cat #2.

(Crap!  How did that list turn into 11? When I added them up initially, I swore there were only 10.)

My favorites and highly recommended:  The Ladies of Grace Adieu, One Corpse Too Many, and A Squire’s Tale.  I’d recommend reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell before The Ladies of Grace Adieu, and Sister Frevisse #1, and A Novice’s Tale, before The Squire’s Tale, to get a better understanding of Roger Fenner.  One Corpse Too Many can stand on its own, I think.

Any favorites you’d recommend?  (Oh yeah, I tried reading The Great Gatsby for a second time and didn’t even get as far as I did the first time.  Don’t recommend it, please.)

Spring, er Winter Cleaning

It’s time to revamp and reorganize the blog. The Skeptical theme served me well for a couple years (especially since it was literally picked at random via a random number generator).  But a renewed interest has me itching to post pictures and the old theme was too narrow for what I’d like to do.

That renewed interest is knitting, brought by my current love affair with Outlander.  And since we’re in the middle of a prolonged cold spell, it’s not too late to make some chunky cowls and arm warmers.  Look for some project photos and knitting thoughts coming soon.  As well as some additional blog housekeeping.

I'm making a pair of "garter stitch mitts" by Ysolda from Ravelry.
Almost finished: Ysolanda’s garter stitch mitts.

Throwback Thursday

#tbt:  Apparently it’s quite The Thing on Twitter.  I’ve been thinking about reblogging some of my posts from The (Old) Stream of Conscience, and “Throw Back Thursday” seems as good a day as any, yes?

When deciding what post to reblog, I took a look at my 34 categories.  How to choose?  Why, my old favorite, of course, Random.org.  (I also used it to pick the style for this blog.)  It spewed out 14, which turned out to be the ubiquitous “Life & Musings,” i.e., pretty much any damn thing.  Since the blog covered 5½ years, there were 9 pages of posts to peruse; yet, the one I chose was on the first page.

It was written on December 8, 2012, in response to WordPress.com’s Daily Post challenge, which asked “What is your earliest memory?  Describe it in detail, and tell us why you think that experience was the one to stick with you.”  Mine was easy-peasy.  (I’ve edited only slightly.)

My Earliest Trauma Memory

And how appropriate for the season!

A two-and-a-half year-old me entertains Christmas visitors.
Entertaining visitors; permanent crisis averted

Harken back to a slower, quieter time: the mid-20th century, an age without digital cameras, when it took a few months to fill up a roll of film and get it developed.

Christmas day:  One 2½-year-old went to bed the night before, thinking of Santa Claus on his rounds, and worried she wouldn’t be able to sleep for all the excitement.

But I did fall asleep, which made the night pass more quickly.

Continue reading “Throwback Thursday”

What’s in a Minute?

One-Minute Organizer set of books is written by Donna Smallin.
One-Minute Organizer (Plain & Simple edition)

While waiting for an appointment yesterday, I came upon an interesting book called One-Minute Organizer Plain & Simple by Danna Smallin.  Leafing through it, I found some excellent quick tips for cleaning out clutter and getting my home (and life) in order.  I attempted to capture its wisdom with my tablet, first by taking pictures of the pertinent pages.  When that proved horrendously cumbersome, I tried to jot down notes on my tablet, only slightly less horrendously cumbersome.  I would have used the old tried-and-true pen-to-paper method, but had no paper.

After mentioning the book to my therapist (the appointment), she told me to take it with me.  So I did—with the intention of returning it after I’ve reaped its beneits.

The book is much like Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and other inspirational books, with little tidbits of help on every page.

The first chapter is titled “Getting Started.”  It discusses the importance of goals, consistency, accountability, and rewards.   For me, one tip stands out from all the others:  take care of today’s mess.  Tackle those chores that need to be done regularly, such as the daily mail, dishes, and laundry.  To those, I would add email and paying bills.

That tip was a light-bulb moment.  My to-do lists have always been about “keeping up” and never about “moving forward.”  Just that one sentence has changed my thinking.  Now I can separate those things I need to do every day from those things that will help me reach my goals.

I’ve addressed today’s mess, having cleaned and put away the dishes, folded and put away the laundry, and dealt with the mail.  Tomorrow, the goals!

 

Calling All David Tennant Fans

Yes, Suzanne, I’m looking at you!  :mrgreen:

3. Another Thing I Learned from Twitter

Cressida Cowell retweeted a notice from David Tennant ForumsCressida Cowell has a new book in her How to Train Yor Dragon series.  After seeing the above tweet and the accompanying trailer (voiced by David Tennant), I rushed to Amazon to purchase the final installment of the adventures of 14-year-old Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third and his Common or Garden dragon Toothless, only to find this isn’t the final book.  Rather, it’s a compendium of dragon species, drawn from Hiccup’s boyhood notebook.

Way to psych the public out, guys!  Which leads me to one of this posts alternate titles: Continue reading “Calling All David Tennant Fans”

Welcome, 2014

Happy (almost) New Year!  The new year brings with it the chance to reboot ourselves, however mundane or all-encompassing that might be.  It’s filled with hope, a time to start afresh, to look at our lives and figure out what needs improving.  It’s not just the standard “eat less, exercise more” routine.  It encompasses all aspects of our lives.

I stopped making resolutions years ago, but it hasn’t prevented me from trying to establish or reestablish good habits.  It’s an on-going process which lasts throughout the year.  That doesn’t mean I’m always successful or that I don’t backslide, but it’s a constant attempt to improve my life.  And it avoids that dreadful “all or nothing” thinking.

For a remodeled kitchen, I like stainless steel appliances, light-to-medium wood cabinets, and a dark countertops.
Perhaps the look of my new kitchen. [Photo credit unknown]
This year I’m hoping to remodel my kitchen.  It’s an intimidating task because I have a massive amount of preparation to do.  I started a blog called Ms Pack Brat about five years ago to chronicle my attempts to get my home and life in order, but it was more “miss” than “hit.”  Perhaps it was one blog too many.  Hell, it may have been two blogs too many, what with SciFi Chicks (where I spent most of last year).

This new year presents itself with an opportunity to renew and revitalize The New Stream of Conscience.  I certainly have plenty to write about.  Why not make this daunting kitchen remodel (and its prerequisite cleaning and clearing) a focus?  Why not write about how I adapt FlyLady’s principles to my own life?  And let’s not forget about exploring cookbooks in an effort to eat better.

Hey!  That’s a plan!

Photo credit: Small Kitchen Ideas

Sunday Seven: Grammar Lessons

The English language provides endless opportunities to misuse grammar.I like to think I’m a pretty good writer, but I have my idiosyncrasies.  I begin too many sentences with conjunctions,  I overuse parentheses and commas, and I probably misuse semicolons, em-dashes and ellipses.  I blame my piss-poor capitalization on my years in the U.S. Navy.

If you look at any of the myriad of grammar sites around the web, there are a hell of a lot of rules.  In the first grammar post I started (but never finished), I used the term “bad grammar.”  Was that the correct term?  I researched and discovered there are thousands of pages of discussion and disagreement, with an equal number of self-proclaimed grammar experts.  (I’m not talking about English teachers.  I mean folks like me.)

Some grammar rules are very complex.  Even as a fairly educated person with a reasonable grasp of the English language, I have difficulty understanding them—let alone using them.  Since the rules are so many and varied, let’s start at the macro level.  Here are:

Seven Grammar Sites Worthy of Further Investigation
(with snarky commentary)

[Caveat:  Some of these websites may not be completely accurate.  In the past, I’ve found grammar articles with poor—or bad—grammar.]
[Caveat #2:  There are punctuation and capitalization rules for lists, many (all?) of which I may not have followed.]

  1. Grammar rules everyone should follow.  Why doesn’t every word in the title begin with a capital letter?  Is this a new rule?  Like Pluto no longer being a planet?
  2. 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to.  Ditto above. Not to mention starting with “7” vs. “Seven.”  (It is ok to end with a preposition.)
  3. Grammarbook.com.  Hey!  There’s even a caveat stating grammar rules vary!  😀
  4. Grammarly Handbook. Even though “grammarly” isn’t a real word.  But Grammarly is a great website.
  5. 2o Common Grammar Mistakes That (Almost) Everyone Makes. Hmm, should the word “that” be capitalized?  Or even used?
  6. Grammar at the Purdue Online Writing Guide (OWL)Go Big Ten!  (Even though it now consists of 12 teams.  My father would be turning in his grave if he hadn’t been cremated.)
  7. Top Ten Grammar Myths.  At least here “ten” means 10.  😉

Have at it, grammarphiles!  Depending on the direction this blog goes, we may delve further into the nuances of the English language.  I might learn something along the way, which always makes for a good day.

Sunday Seven: Getting Back on the Wagon

How am I doing with the plan to get my home in order?  I’ve made some progress, but hit a plateau in the last couple weeks.  The home appraisal came back (it rose slightly in value, which is nice; but also means higher taxes) and closed on the mortgage refinance.  Now that I’m not distracted by all the paperwork a refinance entails, I can get back on track.

I "bought" a Shark upright vacuum with points from my credit card.
My new vacuum, which I got for free with credit card points*

Like most people, I do much better when I have a plan.  So let’s take the time to plan things to do for the upcoming week, and let’s do it in the form of a Sunday Seven (since I don’t have anything else to write about).

Seven Tasks for the Week

  1. Reschedule the couple to help remove heavy items from my living room. A plethora of problems prevented them from coming when originally scheduled.
  2. The couple will remove the items, but they won’t haul them to the junk yard.  So I need to make arrangements with our trash disposal company to make a special pick up—if they do such a thing.  If not, I need to find a junk hauling company.
  3. I wanted a Shark vacuum with swivel steering, but would have had to pay for it.
    The vacuum I wanted, which would have cost real money.

    Our property manager mentioned his cousin started hauling metal items.  The televisions aren’t metal, but I do have a few things that are.  And he doesn’t charge!  (Apparently there’s good money to be had in scrap metal.)

  4. Finish sorting through the extraneous items in the living room.  If I take one section of the room at a time, it’s not so overwhelming.
  5. Wash my bed’s quilt at the laundromat.  It’s not really part of the decluttering plan, but it takes time and I have to do it.  My own  washer and dryer, although they claim to be “heavy duty,” don’t do such a great job.  A bonus: the laundromat is near my favorite pizza place.  (They also make delicious gyros and baked spaghetti.)
  6. Give my new vacuum a tryout.
  7. Take my sweet 19-year-old cat Gigi to the vet.  It’ll be stressful for both of us.

*The credit card is from Navy Federal Credit Union, one of the perks of being a Navy vet—now open to all military services and Department of Defense employees.  Their redemption program also had a Bose iPod sound dock I coveted, but it’s no longer available.  Damn my procrastination!