Creating a hygge mood

I don’t know about where you live, but here it’s freakin’ cold outside. 

And that calls for some severe hygge measures, my friends. 

We’ve been working on our hygge mastery for a few years now, and I gotta say we’re kinda talented. 

I chronicled our first Super Hygge Evening back in 2017, and we’ve been perfecting the art ever since. 

If you’re also experiencing below-zero windchill, here are some hygge tips that can provide comfort in this cold world.

Cozy mood

Pile on the essentials: candles, hot beverages, decadent desserts, comfy blankets, and hanging out with your most favorite creatures (human, feline, canine, hamster… whoever you like most).

Cozy books

If you want to have a cozy day/evening of reading, find yourself some good comfort reading. If you’ve got the latest book by your favorite author, save it for your hygge time. Or try one of these books whose stories you can completely sink into…

So, my fellow cozy readers… What are your favorite cozy hygge tips?

Such a Fun Age = such a great read

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

3 words: interpersonal, complex, pageturner

 

The first book I finished this decade, and what a good one.

 

You know how some books keep you turning the pages, but then you forget all about them later? 

And other books make you think about them over and over, even after you’ve finished reading? 

This book’s got it going on in both the page turning department and the you-can’t-stop-thinking-about-it category. 

I seriously want to talk with anyone who’s read this book… there’s so much to discuss!

We’re talking issues of race, class, power, and privilege. There are secrets from the past, and old traumas just waiting to burst forth, and new insults waiting at every turn. And then there’s our smartphone-infested age…

Emira is a twentysomething who gets a job babysitting for a little girl from an affluent white family—and she and the little one adore one another.. Alix, the toddler’s mother, is an Instagram influencer with designs on becoming a feminist icon… and the intent to improve Emira’s life (oh so condescendingly…)

Then there’s a flashpoint — when Emira takes the little girl to a gourmet grocery store and is accused of kidnapping. And then another person enters the picture, also intending to help Emira. 

And by this point, I just wanted everything to be ok for Emira, and the web kept getting more tangled. 

A total pageturner… not due to adrenaline, but because you’ll need to know how this situation is going to resolve. 

A book filled with wisdom and worry and despair and hope. 



Give this book a whirl if you like… captivating stories about race and power dynamics, #ownvoices novels, Little Fires Everywhere, relationship triangles, deciphering motives

Reading goals for 2020

(Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash)

New year, new goals. Except some of my reading goals are the same old, same old. Tried and true and so very good. I’m excited about the reading year ahead.

Here's what's new in my reading goals this year...

Read long books and savor them

Ever since I read Middlemarch last year and adored it, I’ve had a renewed and enhanced appreciation for really sinking into a long story. I want more of that this year.

Read a classic

See Middlemarch above.

Read an LBJ biography before our trip to Austin

We’re anticipating a trip to Austin this year, and that can only mean one thing: LBJ Presidential Library and Museum, plus a side trip to the LBJ Ranch. Yeah, baby..    

So this geek’s gonna read another volume of the magnificent biography by Robert A. Caro. Kinda a little too excited for normal life.

The same goals as last year, cuz I just adore them that much…

Continue to read at least 20% authors of color

One of the most rewarding reading goals ever. Last year I exceeded my goal, and I have every expectation I’ll do the same this year.

Finish Book Bingo 2020

I’m going for bingo blackout on our Book Bingo 2020 card and I’m totally excited about it.

What are your reading goals this year?

20 for 2020 goals

It’s time for New Year’s resolutions and all things self-improvement, so here goes…

Again this year, I’m setting mini goals for the year, inspired by the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast. 

Last year, 19 for 2019… and the year before, 18 for 2018.

So this year… guess how many goals?

Here’s my list of 20 for 2020…

  1. Spend quality time with our sisters 
  2. Have a beautiful latte with a design in the foam 
  3. Have dinner with a good friend twice a month 
  4. Tinker with Canva
  5. Find a go-to recipe for molasses cookies. 
  6. And also ginger cookies
  7. Visit out-of-state friends 
  8. Buy a second diffuser 
  9. Style our home library shelves 
  10. Wear all of my clothes at least once 
  11. Learn about 2 local historic buildings each month 
  12. Have a quilting bee with a friend 
  13. Travel someplace geeky with the Dear Man that at least one of us has researched 
  14. Fix formatting on 25 high-traffic blog posts
  15. Do 12 “love where you live” activities
  16. Add targeted cross-training at least twice per month
  17. Write at least one book review each month 
  18. Meditate at least once per week 
  19. Visit and comment on more blogs 
  20. Browse biographies at the public library and pick one to read

I began compiling ideas in Google Docs earlier this year, then refined the list, then expanded it, then changed it up several times right at New Year’s.

Then, a couple of days ago, a friend and I discussed our lists and — in the midst of our conversation — decided on a shared goal:

Have a quilting bee with a friend.

It’s been years since we’ve quilted together (more than a decade!) and we both have UFOs that require our attention. When the idea emerged, we both lit up. So we each tossed an item off the list and replaced it with quilting.

This makes me very, very happy.

And now, since it’s the 4th day of the year already, I’ve made some headway on some of the goals.

  • For the latte goal, I’ve identified a nearby coffee shop that makes fancy  lattes with foam designs.
  • For the dinner with a friend goal, she already identified our new midpoint.
  • For the wearing-all-the-clothes goal, I’ve reversed the hangers in the closet so I can tell what I haven’t worn yet. And I wore two ensembles I usually neglect.
  • For the blog post formatting goal, I used Google Analytics to extract a list of the posts that have had the most views over the past year.
  • For the meditation goal, I already successfully ignored my calendar reminder to meditate yesterday. Well done, me!

So, good people… what are your goals for the year? Or do you say no to the New Year’s resolution scene?

Book Bingo 2019: What I Read

It’s time for the year-end reckoning! (I love this part.)

I completed the Book Bingo 2019 challenge and filled up my whole card.

Overall, as I look at this list of titles, I’m filled with a sense of satisfaction. There’s some good stuff there.

Here’s what I read…

 

Edgar Award: first novel     

A mystery that was nominated for — or won — the Edgar Allan Poe Award for First Novel 

The Lost Girls by Heather Young

 

Heroine   

Strong female voice: author, character, or subject

Middlemarch by George Eliot

 

Palate cleanser  

A book that refreshes and balances out what you’ve read lately   

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite 

  

Genre-bending  

A book that plays with genre — it might break the rules or be categorized in more than one genre

The River by Peter Heller

 

Gen X author 

A book written by an author born between 1961 and 1981

Bingeworthy British Television: THe Best Brit TV You Can’t Stop Watching by Sarah Cords and Jackie Bailey

 

Odd couple  

A book about an unusual pairing 

Sunburn by Laura Lippman

 

Classic I’ve never read 

A book that’s stood the test of time

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

 

Pushing boundaries  

A book that challenges your worldview or awareness. Or a book whose pioneering character or author breaks new ground. 

Rocket Men by Robert Kurson

 

Explore   

A book that takes you or the character to a new place

From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein

 

Place Name 

A book with a place name in its title (examples: Looking for Alaska. Or Alaska by Michener). 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrow

 

Life hack

A book with a shortcut that makes makes your life (or a character’s life) easier 

Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin

 

Unbelievable

Nonfiction that’s stranger than fiction, or a novel whose premise you’re not buying 

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

 

Green

A book with a green cover, or a book about nature, money, envy, or any other green thing 

A Student of History by Nina Revoyr

 

Fire

Literal fire, passion, or something burning within 

Passion and Affect by Laurie Colwin

 

Birth

The beginning or a fresh start 

Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken

 

Romantic

Idealistic or passionate 

The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman

 

Language

A book with a distinctive voice or a book in translation 

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

 

LGBTQ

A book by or about someone who identifies as LGBTQ

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

 

Novelty Book

A book structured in an unorthodox way 

Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

 

South Pacific

A book set in, or written by an author from the South Pacific 

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

 

Folktale

A story incorporating elements of a myth, legend, or fable 

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

 

Map

A book about a journey, a guide to self-discovery, or simply a book with a map in it. 

Internment by Samira Ahmed

 

Deep Dive

An investigative, immersive reading experience

My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead

 

Unruly Woman

A book about a woman who breaks out of the mold

Can’t Nothing Bring Me Down: Chasing Myself in the Race Against Time by Ida Keeling

 

Lost & Found

A story of rebirth or redefining a sense of self 

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

 

And now, on to Book Bingo 2020!

 

If you did Book Bingo 2019, please post a link to your wrap-up post in the Comments — I’d love to know what you read!

What I’ve been reading: December 2019

December is for short books. Or at least that’s how it looks for me.

With only a couple of exceptions, the books I read this month were on the shorter side. And given all the busy things that happen in December, maybe that’s all right. 

Here’s the run-down on December’s reading…

The Postman Always Rings Twice by James C. Cain

3 words: gritty, intense, fast-reading 

Give it a whirl if you like… classic noir, anti-heroes, criminal couples, obsession, first person narrative, underbelly

 

She Came to Slay: The Life and Times of Harriet Tubman by Erica Armstrong Dunbar

3 words: vibrant, inspiring, engaging

Give it a whirl if you like… biographies of remarkable women, courageous lives, #ownvoices, learning more about a famous person we think we know about, the Underground Railroad

 

Purple Cow: How to Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin

3 words: thought-provoking, conversational, creative

Give it a whirl if you like… marketing books, business books that are fun to read, thinking outside the box

 

The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig

3 words: nostalgic, warm, coming of age

Give it a whirl if you like… Westerns, first person narratives, coming of age novels, women in the West, school days narratives, stories about teachers

 

I Work at a Public Library by Gina Sheridan

3 words: tongue-in-cheek, browseable, light

Give it a whirl if you like… short vignettes about libraries, stories of human interactions, behind-the-scenes at a library, people’s wonderful quirks

 

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

3 words: whimsical, quirky, charming

Give it a whirl if you like… warm and wise appreciation of everyday moments, quirky formats, books that are browseable but still compulsively readable, smart feel-good books

 

 

What books were your favorites this month?

Book club update

Science fiction, contemporary classic play, children’s horror, and noir. How’s that for some variety?

Our book club has had a great season of discussible reading. Here’s how it went…

Wild Seed by Octavia Butler

Discussibility Score:

Because: Octavia Butler is one of the best at creating compelling characters and putting them into intriguing situations that are outside our normal realm. In this book, a woman has the ability to shape-shift and gender-shift, and she’s immortal. Unusual things happen. Discuss!



A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry 

Discussibility Score: 5

Because: We knew it was a classic, and none of us had seen or read this play–so we made that right. While reading the play doesn’t take much time, it requires some serious emotional energy because the issues are tough ones, the characters are sympathetic, and the answers aren’t clear. 

 

Bonus: format discussion! We all have different takes on reading plays. Personally, I love them, but also feel a bit irritated by the stage directions. (I prefer “show, don’t tell,” but in this format: impossible. So I get why it’s necessary, but I’m still annoyed by being told how a character reacts. See also: my hatred of adverbs.)



Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Discussibility Score: 4

Because: This book is intended for children, but my friends… it’s seriously creepy and disturbing. (The one night I read it before bed? Unsettling dreams.) Coraline faces every child’s nightmare: her parents are replaced by sinister clone parents who intend her harm. And it all happens under her own roof. That girl’s all on her own, which is both terrifying and empowering. 



The Postman Always Rings Twice by James C. Cain

Discussibility Score:

Because: Much of our discussion consisted of our voicing our distaste for this book, which we all agreed made us feel dirty. The first-person unrepentant criminal narrator is disturbing, nearly all of the characters are detestable, and the plot is sordid. But we also agreed: that last paragraph made it all worthwhile. 

 

Next up: When the English Fall by David Williams. Because who doesn’t love a good post-apocalyptic book about the Amish? 

 

What book have you most wanted to discuss with someone lately?

Favorite books of 2019

Raise your hand if you love year-end lists of best books.

Same here.

This year I read some absolutely terrific books, which required difficult choices because my goal was 10 books.

Here are the books that made the list…

Why’d I love them? Here’s why…

 

Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal by Amy Krouse Rosenthal  

3 words: creative, poignant, whimsical

Give it a whirl if you like… inventive style, quirky bite-sized anecdotes, delight in daily life, clever writing

 

The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker 

3 words: conversational, thought-provoking, intriguing

Give it a whirl if you like… how to plan parties that are more meaningful and meetings that are more effective, new ways of conceptualizing gatherings, why being a benevolently bossy host can be best

 

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

3 words: character-driven, engaging, family 

Give it a whirl if you like… stories of family drama, house as a character, supportive siblings, evil stepmother, layers of meaning 

 

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo

3 words: absorbing, character-focused, warm

Give it a whirl if you like… big-hearted stories of family dysfunction, Chicagoland novels, sisterhood, parenting, stories of long and happy marriages

 

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

3 words: profound, measured, philosophical

Give it a whirl if you like… memoirs of survivors, the power of the mind, Holocaust narratives, encouragement through difficult times

 

Working by Robert A. Caro

3 words: first-person, inside glimpse, psychological

Give it a whirl if you like… “inside baseball,” the story behind the story, how extraordinary nonfiction is written, self-deprecating humor, biographical research, how books are researched and written, a psychological portrait of a biographer

 

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

3 words: cheeky, inventive, suspenseful

Give it a whirl if you like… a mix of suspense, family drama, and grim humor; a highly responsible character trapped in terrible circumstances by the acts of a loved one; tension between integrity and family loyalty

 

Middlemarch by George Eliot

3 words: lyrical, character-focused, absorbing

Give it a whirl if you like… a big, absorbing story; classics; reading about a village; nuanced character portraits so detailed you’d recognize the characters if you met them; fiction that inspires the reader to examine her own life

 

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

3 words: creative, compulsively readable, fast-moving

Give it a whirl if you like… rock stars; documentary / oral history format; grim humor; the creative life; sex, drugs, and rock & roll; 1970s pop culture

 

Good Talk by Mira Jacob

3 words: creative, thought-provoking, sad/funny

Give it a whirl if you like… memoirs in graphic novel form; smart, sad, funny memoirs; #ownvoices; a look at race and ethnicity through personal experience; stories told through conversations with a child, parents, a spouse, and friends

 

 

So, my fellow readers… what books made your “best of the year” list this year?

Creating a home library

Creating a home library is one of the most fun home improvement projects ever. When we moved into the schoolhouse, we decided pretty fast that the second largest bedroom would become a home library. 

Library 1.0

We moved in the mismatched bookcases that came with us from our old homes, and we put books on the shelves. And we knew that we were not yet done…

Deciding on bookcases...

Then we spent months and months settling in (all those cabinets and drawers to organize!) and the books were accessible, so there wasn’t a sense of urgency. 

Then, once we were all settled, urgency

Actually, just: now we have a clear runway… 

So we began considering options for the home library. After exploring custom built-ins and discovering that was outside our budget, we decided to go basic.

We headed to IKEA.

When we were visiting Nashville, we went to The Book Shop, where the owner told us that she’d bought IKEA Hemnes shelves for her (beautiful) shop.

So when the time came for us to choose shelves, we went with the Hemnes shelves in white. And the cool thing is that they’re available in two sizes, so we could mix and match to fit our space. 

We went with two 35-inch shelves and one 19-inch shelf

There then ensued a weekend of IKEA shelf building… and that super fun extra trip to the IKEA returns department to pick up the one little piece missing from the box.

Successful shelving!

But we got it done, and it was a valiant team effort. (That ability to canoe without bickering also transfers to furniture assembly. We know we’re blessed.)

Before attaching the shelves to the wall, the Dear Man had the excellent idea of attaching the shelves to each other so they’d stay aligned. So we headed to Home Depot to get some brackets that we attached to the top and back of the shelves to hold them in place. Then the Dear Man drilled holes and attached the shelves to the wall. 

Shelving the books...

And then the fun began

Putting books on shelves is one of my favorite projects in the world, and it’s a gift that keeps on giving. I mean, who among us hasn’t decided to rearrange the bookcases just for sport? 

So the current book arrangement is certainly not final, but it’s satisfying. 

And now I’m on the lookout for bookends and other items that will help style the shelves. Styling the shelves is gonna be one of my 20 for 2020 goals, and I’m excited about it.  

Before and After

Advice? Stories?

So, my bookish friends…

Please share your suggestions for styling the bookshelves.

And please tell your stories of book arranging on your shelves…