Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Three Month Shopping Ban

Last week I was listening to Young House Love has a Podcast and they referenced The Year of Less by Cait Flanders. Among other things in the book Cait outlines a year of not purchasing things that aren't NEEDS. Listening to this podcast episode made me realize March was almost over and I'm still in Christmas spending mode. I'd also just made a major purchase (27 inch iMac) and that had me in a online furniture shopping frenzy. New desk, new nightstands, bedding, etc. I haven't made any of those purchases, just spending an inordinate amount of time looking for them.

I mulled several options for instituting my own shopping ban. One month doesn't feel long enough.  I'm more than capable of filling up my online shopping carts for a month without purchase and then clicking "Buy" once the month is up. That doesn't seem like it would really force any changes to my habits. I also hate the idea of passing up the "perfect" desk if it came into HomeGoods or something during the ban.

After really evaluating my spending habits, I ended up settling on a three month online shopping ban.  If I really need/want something enough to go to the store to buy it, fine, but no mindless internet shopping. No purchasing just because it's on sale. At last count I had over 100 unread kindle books from purchasing them on sale. Officially from March 27th through June 27th I won't do any online shopping with two exceptions:

1) I'll still order my groceries online and have them delivered once or twice a month because that is just a time saver on something I need anyway. Food/paper goods only.

2) Bathing suit - I have one swimsuit I love, but I've lost 30lbs and it's dangerously close to being too big. If I lose anymore weight, I'll attempt to find a suit locally, but I prefer one piece suits and I have a long torso so I generally have to find them online.

If it turns out that I do go out to shop more with this ban in place I may make it more stringent, but I think a three month online ban is a good place to start changing habits or at the very least, identifying my shopping triggers.

Has anyone else done a shopping ban online or full on?  Tips?

Random PS - I have to go through every post after I write them and delete my double spaces after sentences. Please tell me this isn't still taught in schools because it's a habit I'm never going to shake.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2018 Goals

Last year was a decent reading year for me, but as always I feel there are a few things I could do to make it better. These all seem doable, but would have significant impact.

Read Books I Own

I know a lot of reader identify with this one. My Owned and Unread Bookshelf is approaching the 3 year mark (how long it would take me to read them all if I read nothing else). I have cut back on book purchases over the last few years and become a much better library user, but I haven’t cut out all book buying. Since library books have a due date and I always have library books around, my owned books keep getting pushed back.

This year I’m going to make it a priority to read books I own. If I don’t like them at 25% - DNF and donate!

Quit Buying Books!

Between Kindle sales, BookOutlet and thrift stores, I still accumulate a fair number of new books annually because I have a hard time passing up a deal on a book I have on my (very long) TBR list. I think I’m going to cap my Kindle sale books at one a month MAX and just stay off BookOutlet and out of thrift stores.

Read (at least attempt) longer/harder books

I read Gone With the Wind at twelve. I read The Power of One and Tandia in high school and loved them all. If I look though books I’ve read, even 4-5 years ago I was reading a few chunksters annually and they are books I thoroughly enjoyed and am glad I read: The Stand and 11/22/63, Poisonwood Bible, and The Passage to name a few. But in the last two or three years, the only times I’ve finished a book over 500 pages were later books in YA series. This goal ties in with my first one because I do own quite a few longer books that I just never seem to get to.

My top three priorities (subject to change):

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Roots: the Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Find new ways to use Audiobooks

I went through a ton of audiobooks when I was traveling for work 2014-2016, but now that my commute is down to 20-30 mins (45 on a bad traffic day) I’ve inadvertently cut back on audiobooks and I miss them. My commute is just so short that I feel like I can’t “get into” a book before the ride is over and I don’t always start them up again. I’ve tried listening when cleaning and that doesn’t work for me.

Other possibilities:
During exercise – works for walking outside, but not anything on a machine indoors. Not enough of a distraction.
During other hobbies that don’t engage all of my brain – puzzles, cross-stitch, etc. I’ve had a little success with this. Just need to make it a habit instead of iPad and TV.

Less Mindless Internet browsing/More Reading

I’d like to better use small amounts of downtime to read 5-10 pages instead of always waiting until I have at least an hour of reading time.

Read Diversely

I hate that this still takes planning and effort, but if I don’t make it a priority (and many other readers like me) than neither do publishers.

Less Decision Paralysis

I have a very first world problem in that I have so many book choices sometimes I struggle to pick my next book. This year I'm going to try having a Priority TBR of 10-20 books. I'll update it weekly after every library trip so it will only be books I currently have access too, but then when it's time to pick a book I'll only chose from those titles. Maybe it won't work, but I think narrowing my choices in a given moment will help with decision paralysis.

What about you? Any goals you really want to achieve this year? Any tips for me on accomplishing mine?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

What I’ve been reading lately

Summer has just flown by and as much as I'm ready for some lovely Fall weather, I'm trying to avoid thinking about Winter following close behind.  Summer doesn't tend to be a great reading season for me, but all of these are definitely worth a read.

 The Royal We[2]

Title:                  We Are Okay
Author:             Nina LaCour
This is a very strong book that didn’t fully connect for me. That may be partly by design. Marin, the MC, is dealing with a heavy dose of grief (and several other emotions that aren’t revealed to the reader until much later in the book). I felt the portrayal of grief was accurate, but it made it hard for me to connect with Marin. This is still a book I would recommend depending on the reader.
 The Dry

Title:                  Where'd You Go Bernadette
Author:             Maria Semple
LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! I started this on audio read by Kathleen Wilhoitte (Luke’s sister Liz on Gilmore Girls) and was immediately drawn into the story. It’s part eccentric, suburban mom drama / part disappearance mystery, but mostly it’s funny. I switched from listening to reading about 90 minutes in because I had to finish that day. There was no way I was going to sleep until I knew what happened.
 The Dry

Title:                  The Dry
Author:             Jane Harper
Reese Witherspoon acquired the movie rights to this book in October 2016. The book wasn’t released until March 2017. I really enjoyed the book and for what it’s worth think it will make an excellent movie. Excellent mystery, good characters, and probably the strongest sense of place I can remember feeling when reading. The setting felt tangible
 The Dry

Title:                  Mortal Heart
Author:             Robin LaFevers
I read Grave Mercy several years ago and really like it, so it’s surprising that it took so long for me to return for Dark Triumph and Mortal Heart. Both of these books held up to my expectations from Grave Mercy. I would say that Grave Mercy and Dark Triumph felt like YA Historical fiction with just a touch of Fantasy Mythology. Mortal Heart was much heavier on the Fantasy Mythology element.
 The Dry

Title:                  American War
Author:             Omar El Akkao
Very dark novel set 50-75 years into the future. Global Warming caused the oceans to rise and the fallout resulted in a second US civil war. This book mostly follows Sarat Chestnut as her family is displaced by conflict to a refugee camp. As dark as this novel and concept are, the tone wasn't grim and it didn't overuse foreshadowing. The author doesn't care if you know the end - what's important is the journey and I found it interesting and thought provoking.

What have you been reading lately? Answer in comments or if you have a blog post you can link up at Modern Mrs Darcy.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Clever Title About Closets Here

As I mentioned before, I live with my mom now.  One of the awesome things about the house Mom bought is that all the bedrooms are good sized. I’m not in the master and my room is 12 ft by 17 ft.  The bad news is that it does not have a walk in closet. I’m not saying the wall closet isn’t a good size, but about 2 feet of it is behind the wall and not very useable.  Also, can we all agree that bifold doors are a non-functional eyesore? 

The end result is that I only use about 4 ft of my closet.  You can see the mess in the area I can't reach.  That's where clothes, etc go to die.

Due to a reduction in closet space, I now have two dressers in my room instead of one.  The room is big enough for them, but it feels like too much wood on that wall with both of them and I’d love to be able to go back to a single dresser.

Did anyone notice this lovely panel in the closet pics?  That’s right, behind my closet is ATTIC space!

Now the roof line does start to slant down right where my closet ends, but I don’t need the whole closet to have 8 ft ceilings.  Since my Mom is planning to hire a contractor to redo one of the bathrooms and the kitchen anyway, I figure it can’t hurt to ask how much it would cost to expand my closet into currently unfinished space.

This is a picture from the hall (loft?) towards my bedroom.  Straight into my room is the closet and you can see how the roofline starts sloping down right where the closet ends.  From my rough measurements I believe I can go back at least 4 more feet and have the back wall still be at least 5 ft high.

Quick key to the following floor plan ideas: I have a million minor iterations for layout within the closet once the exterior structure is done, but what is shown in these is just a rough idea.  Clothing racks in gray scale are single hung at 5 ft.  Clothing racks in color are double hung at 6 ft.

Current Closet floor plan (2 ft by 9 ft - 18 sq ft) 

Option 1 – The bare minimum (36 sq ft)

Move the back wall back 2 ft and leave the existing bifold doors.  I would make about two more feet of hanging space usable and I could add a section of drawers/shelves.  There would be no disruption to the wall of my room and I’d leave the pull light alone. Technically, this doubles the size of the closet, but in terms of added storage space it doesn’t add that much.  It just means it would all be useable.

Option 2 – True Walk in with Pocket Door (72 sq ft)

Move the back wall back 4 ft.  Take out bifold doors, rebuild wall with pocket door to save space. In this scenario, the back wall would be 5 ft high.  Allowing for 2 ft for hanging clothes at that height.  This puts that ceiling height right in front of the clothes at least six and a half feet which is plenty for me and should work for most of the population.  In this scenario I would also add the electrical switch and change out the light fixture.  I’d also try to add an outlet to either the East or South wall (luckily the room is oriented so top is North - happy coincidence).

Option 3 – Fully maximize available space (84 sq ft)

So I'd been looking at the unused space to the left of the closet thinking, "Man, I want to use that!".  I just didn't see myself storing much in a dark corner.  Last night I had an epiphany, "Move the door!".  Epiphany might not be the right word because I'm not 100% sure that this door position would work with the sloping ceiling. As you can see in the picture below, that section of wall doesn't allow for a pocket door so the door would need to swing into the closet. I *think* a 80 in high by 30 wide door would clear, but it would be super close.
I definitely want to run it by someone who knows things.

If I did this option I could store all my clothes/shoes in the closet and still have empty space.  I mean 84 sq ft is overkill (it's like half a tiny house), but I feel like if I'm going to do it, I should go all out:)  

I'm sure that it will cost more than I'd like and I wish I was brave/skilled enough to DIY it. But, alas, I haven't even looked behind the panel into the attic to see what's going on back there so I think I'll have to leave this one to the professionals.  Has anyone ever finished an attic space with slanted roof lines?  Anything I should be prepared for?

Monday, August 7, 2017

Favorite Books I Read in 2016

It's almost August of 2017, but I'm doing a quick catch-up post of the best books I read last year. As I mentioned last week, 2016 wasn't a banner year in books for me, but there were still several winners.

Do you like Celebrity Memoirs? I do.

Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between

Lauren Graham's memoir was everything I expected and more. She'd proven to me that should could write with her foray into fiction with Someday, Someday, Maybe. Talking as Fast as I Can was a fun insider's view of two of my favorite shows.

Scrappy Little Nobody
So funny and surprisingly insightful. I've now read it three times and every time I finish I go look for more of her movies to watch.

Have you ever heard of a Space Opera?

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)

I think I've seen movies that would be considered Space Opera's, but it's a sub-genre I wasn't really aware of until I read these two books. These are told in emails, journals, etc during a series of disasters in space in the future. I cannot overstate how much I love these and how bummed I am that Obsidio, the third and final book, was delayed until March of 2018.

Gemina (The Illuminae Files, #2)

Do you need a new favorite OTP (one true pair)?

The Hating Game

Far and away the best hate-to-love romance I've ever read. It's believable, adorable and funny. Biggest criticism is a lack of a sense of place. I have no idea what country this takes place in, let alone city.

Think you don't "get" literary fiction?

Fates and Furies

I don't have great luck with literary fiction, but I try to read one a year. I enjoyed this even thought it turns out I didn't "get" most of the references. This stands as a great story even if you aren't up on literary mythology.

Side note: After reading, I listened to Slate's Book Club Podcast where they discussed this book and found out I understood roughly 3-5% of the subtext. There was a lot going on I wasn't aware of.

There were other books I liked, but these were the biggest winners.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Second Bedroom (aka Mine)

Pretty much the only downside of living with my Mom is that it reduces the amount of square footage that is "mine" to decorate. Luckily, we have similar taste so when she renovates the kitchen and bathroom I'm sure I'll get to consult. She also confirmed today that I can include posts about those renovations on the blog as long as she is not in any of the pictures:)

I am quite possibly the worst at remembering to take "before" pictures. So this post is pretty much a "here is my bedroom mostly done" post. The room is 17" by 12" which is really generous for a second bedroom. My king size bed only looks slightly too big for the room. With one exception, I already had all of the furniture.
I decided to look for new bedding and decorate the room around that.  I ended up falling in love with this comforter when I found it on Zulilly. You can still find it here in Twin or Full/Queen, but I can't find it in King size anymore. I loved that it was a pattern, but sort of a "loose" pattern. I also liked the large scale. After finding the bedding I originally thought I would go with a light blue/teal on the walls, but decided I needed some contrast. What can I say, I'm a color addict.  On my Mom's suggestion I went with blush (Millennial Pink). Official color -  Valspar Adobe Blush.

Both of the dressers are Henredon from the 50's that I found on Craigslist several years ago. I'd rather only have one in the room, but I'm feeling a closet space pinch at the moment so both are necessary (and my work uniforms are still in a different bedroom).

The only new furniture in the room is the Egg Chair.  As much as I would love the real deal, I just couldn't swing the cost. Plus, I was pretty sure I would find it comfortable, but I couldn't find one locally to sit in and try out and shelling out a lot of money for a chair that might be uncomfortable seemed crazy. I found the lovely teal knockoff (feel free to flay me in the comments) on Overstock.  Sorry the picture is so dark:(.

I haven't decided if I'm going to hang the print that is currently on the floor. I had it frame in my last apartment (so at least a decade ago). I still love it, but I'm afraid it's to big for the wall with the chair.  Still mulling.

There's the official introduction to my room. If there are any other pieces you'd like sources for let me know in the comments.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Quite Possibly the Most Personal Post I'll Ever Write

I've been mostly MIA this past year and a half.  I made a renewed commitment to blogging in 2015 and had a great time with it; that year was by far my best reading year.  I finally crossed the three digit read goal (108!).  I read Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Mariller, and discovered that I love Cormoran Strike just as much as Harry Potter.  I hit a great groove on audiobooks and re-read/listened to the first three books in The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer in preparation for Winter's release.  Rebecca Soler is an amazing narrator who brought something new to the experience.

In September of 2015, my Dad underwent an outpatient surgery. Two days after the surgery he was hospitalized for severe pancreatitis. He died December 29, 2015 after 103 days in the hospital.  He was 62.  There were many ups and downs over those three months and while I remember highlights, most of the medical stuff has become pretty fuzzy.  

As I've mention before my job gets incredibly busy during the Christmas season. Work and Dad’s hospitalization didn’t leave much time for blogging.  I fully intended to pick up the blog again in January when things settled down.  I even wrote some 2015 wrap-up posts from the hospital in December; they were easy.  I’d read so many great books in 2015 that I had tons of material. 

I think there were two factors that killed my blogging motivation as I got into 2016.  First - MAJOR book slump.  I wasn’t loving anything.  To be fair I wasn’t HATING anything either – they were all just…fine.  It’s hard to get excited about fine.  Second, I was still processing my Dad’s death and I’m a very private person.  I’m never going to publish an in depth post on those months or how I dealt after the fact.  In 2015, I’d started doing more personal posts related to reading.  In 2016, I wasn’t ready to post anything personal.  I tried a few times, but got stuck after a sentence or two.  Even reviews can get personal.  How I feel about a book is intrinsically tied to my life experiences.  The first book I read in January of 2016 was Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.  There was no way to write a review of that without being personal.

The rest of 2016 didn’t get any better from a “free time/head space for blogging” perspective. 
March: My dog, Gizmo, died suddenly at six and a half. 
May: I decided to fix my house up to get it ready to sell in August. 
July: I broke my foot. 
August: I got a puppy (Boston McDoodle).

I finally got my house on the market in early October (and sold).  My Mom bought a new house in November and I moved in with her.  The original plan for me to stay there for a year to save money, but I like living there, she likes having me and it really makes no sense for us to maintain two separate households for one person each, when we get along well.

Hopefully getting this out there will free some headspace for me to write reviews again.