Saturday, November 18, 2017

Books I Read in October

I read or finished 13-ish books this month.* Over half of which were Agatha Christie books . . .

Light Non-fiction
The Not-Quite States of America: Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USA by Doug Mack. Are all travel books silly, narcissistic, shallow, and dull? Or have I just had horrific luck? (I've got John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley sitting on my library shelf, so I surely will have at least one satisfying travel book) I want to see and feel and be inspired to visit these new environs. I felt that this book was a mix of popular history, polemic, and terrible travel writing (if you can describe, don't pick topics that need description!). I found the tone (particularly when the author himself showed through) smarmy in parts and rather boring in others (and yet I fell for his statement that there are no other books on the topic; I guess I should actually verify that . . . eventually). Also, the overall feel is depressing, not inspiring.

Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel of The Modern Mrs. Darcy. I enjoy reading lightheartedly about personality, BUT I repudiate the sticklers for "types." I almost put this down when I got into the Meyers-Briggs because I can not stand how limiting Meyers-Briggs is while being completely based on opinion . . . and the author reinforces that concept. I then decided to skip that section. I liked the tests that measure your "amount" and the chapter on fixed mindset (her book recommendation is sitting on my library shelf right now). I do agree with another reviewer that the book focuses on self far more than the title indicates. The parts I found most helpful where the familial differences. But again, the hard typing seems to draw lines.

I read nine Agatha Christie books: The Moving Finger, Third Girl, Murder at the Vicarage, The Hollow, The Body in the Library, Sleeping Murder, A Murder is Announced, A Caribbean Mystery, and Murder in the Mews. The Moving Finger had a funny protagonist and fun subplots. The Body in the Library and Sleeping Murder are particularly disturbing, especially the latter. That scared me and made me consider laying off the mysteries for a while. Besides the obvious violence and other issues with mysteries I'd lay a general content advisory for various things plus language advisory over these generally because 1) I feel I must, 2) Because I don't remember every single book/issue, and 3) Because I'm lazy.

Lord Peter. I didn't have this listed as read yet I knew I read many of these stories and that I'd had it checked out at least twice before. But as I re-read and skimmed, I realized I'd read most of the stories and didn't care to re-read them all, so I went on a search and discovered I'd read two smaller short stories collections (I'd thought I'd only read one). So I only read those stories that I had not read before. Save your time and only read this one because this has ALL the previously published Lord Peter short stories.** I don't love short mysteries, and some of these are grisly plus they don't feature much of Lord Peter's personality, except "Tallboys" in which you get a hilarious picture of the Wimsey family, that one I definitely recommend.

Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry. I definitely enjoyed this more than my aborted reading of Jayber Crow and my read of Nathan Coulter, but I'm still not a Berry fan. I dislike the morals of the people and I loathe the fatalistic, deterministic, passive, hopelessness that pervades the books. I found the tone of Lila similar but faaaaaar more submissive than passive I guess? Just less hopeless. But that is hindsight. And also, the subject matter in Lila dealt with true hard things while Berry doesn't*** so Lila doesn't feel petty or complaining while what I've read of Berry's does. Don't get me wrong, Berry is worth reading. He is an excellent writer, definitely a classic author caliber like Marilynne Robinson. I just don't LIKE his stories. I DO appreciate his writing quality.

Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov
Ugh. More passive, hopeless, fatalism. Also, boring.

Intellectual Fiction
Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics by Henry Hazlitt. Brilliant explanation of economics. I loved how he explained both the short and long perspective. I like to think of this as "doing the whole Algebra problem." That is how I want to think of so many things. As Sowell points out in the below book and in his economics book, many people make issues zero-sum that are not. We have to do all the work, all of the equation.

The Quest for Cosmic Justice by Thomas Sowell. Timeless and timely. Sowell explains the paradigm divide in U.S. specifically but also a general timeless paradigm divide. He wrote this 22 years ago, and we are seeing the fruits even more fully now.


*I skipped pages in Reading People. With Lord Peter, once I figured out which short stories I had read (by looking at the collections I'd already read), I skipped to the ones I hadn't read and read those.

**The previous collections are: Lord Peter Views the Body, Hangman's Holiday (includes non-Wimsey stories), In the Teeth of the Evidence (includes non-Wimsey stories), and Striding Folly, and then the short story "Tallboys" was published alone. Like I mentioned, all these Wimsey stories are included in Lord Peter.

***Except for that superficial and jarringly out of place section where Hannah pretends to understand Nathan's experience with hackneyed and generic descriptions.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

How I Became Interested in Green Beauty

I remember playing with child make-up sets as a child. Travelgirl and I took ballet as kids, and we had to wear makeup for performances. Mom let us wear some Mary Kay lip-gloss and natural lipstick on occasion, but other than that we weren't allowed to wear make-up (not that we asked, why buy makeup when you could buy other things?). I don't remember ever particularly longing to do so.

However, I developed moderate acne, and when I got my first job at 19, I started considering natural products to heal it. When I visited a local health food store, I noticed that the store had some mineral make-up on major sale. I bought loose powder eyeshadow and mascara then. I learned through trial and error, Pinterest, YouTube, etc. I look better in neutrals on my eyes.

I took longer finding cosmetics for my skin because the plain powder doesn't work well on me, most concealers were too thin, and I really don't care for stuff on my actual face. I was more hit and miss on face cosmetics until I started wearing Cowgirl Dirt, but more products are available now, and I am going to branch out again.

Green Beauty doesn't have uniforms standards, and I tried to look at ingredients based on guidelines from The Green Beauty Guide and buy brands on a strict list I found on the Internet. My main source was Saffron Rouge which has since gone out of business. More recently I've purchased from Cowgirl Dirt and Pharmaca (they carry a lot of green beauty brands including Juice Beauty and Dr. Hauschka and have great deals).

I've bought at least one product from these brands: Dr. Hauschka (multiple, I still use), Cowgirl Dirt (good far more green than most budget items), Juice Beauty (they've greatly expanded their offerings, but I don't know if they've fixed the major issue with their mascara bottle that causes extreme waste of product and mess of application), Nvey Eco, Ilia, Inika, Lavera (I think, it might have been another L name), Honeybee Gardens, Mineral Fusion, Zuzu Luxe, Vapour (I sent back, but I'd probably try again; I should have gotten samples), Suki, EllaRoseMinerals (on Etsy), Alima Pure, Root Pretty, Jane Iredale.

I have tons more products bookmarked to try, and I like hearing about new Green Beauty brands. If you like green beauty product what first sparked your interest? Do you have brand favorites or do you like to try new products and brands like me?

Friday, November 10, 2017

Link Love: Quotes

People, Pinterest is not the place to be deep, to give a history/social message. I go on there to pin pretty things. To laugh. There is a time and a place for everything, and I think Pinterest as a soap box is obnoxious and sloppy.

I've heard and read many misattributed (or not attributed) quotes, and so one day I decided to check a quote on my Pinterest quote board, yeah, the person didn't say it or in those exact words. I feel like a fool and promptly deleted my board. If I'm not going to research fact-based Pinterest posts (quotes, historical Pins, etc.), then I shouldn't pin them. I've since deleted my liked Goodreads quotes as well. I found this quote checking site indirectly through another person's link.The original article spoke of finding the absolute original quote . . . and then left out the earliest similar version in their story . . . unlike this site. I think you can submit quotes you want to be researched too.

And a manner of speaking I need to learn.

And quotable characters? How about Algernon Moncrieff. I love how his character is translated in the Web Series In Earnest (which did and does not get enough love, so go watch it!). Also, Ernest's reactions.
Episode 4 The comments on marriage.
Episode 6 Algie's running commentary. Yeah, the whole episode.
Episode 11 This whole episode, but especially the "three is company" conversation and "work hard at something pointless."
Episode 39 At the end.

This quote link-up looks fun . . . just make sure you double-check everything you read and post.
I'm very bad at filling this in, but I'm trying to keep a quote journal, but I need to do more than book quotes, I need to fill in basically all the lines of How to Steal a Million.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Exploring Cultures: Peru

I had planned a culture study series which started with Peru. I wanted to pick a country and study it for two months. But I boxed myself in too much and didn't find much variety in Peruvian resources (think the Incas and Manchu Picchu). So, I burned out quickly. I think that is okay though. This is new. I don't have to like everything.

I made Peruvian based/inspired meal. I started the first two books. Since I find early (and very speculative) history boring, so I think it would have been better if I hadn't been so dead-set on reading everything and skipped to the middle modern history in the reader and just skipped the second book. But instead I ditched both. Again. Live and learn. I can always go back.

I definitely recommend the Fire of Peru cookbook. It is just what I want in a cookbook. Photos (why do so many cookbooks think this is unnecessary?!!). A decent amount of recipes (so no decision fatigue and information overload), and EXPLANATIONS!!!. You get a nice introduction to Peruvian cuisine and basics before you get into the main recipes. The other cookbook has hardly any photos and a massive collection recipes and something I'd only recommend to those already well-acquainted and deeply in love with Peruvian cuisine.

My book list was. I started the first two but I didn't feel like finishing them, maybe I will finish the history one and skim the reader someday.

The Peru Reader

The Conquest of the Incas

Death in the Andes

The Fire of Peru

Peru the Cookbook

The Global Etiquette Guide to Mexico and Latin America

Next up is Iran/Persia. I think I will give myself a longer time frame. I also found more (naturally with the longer definitive historical and literary record and the importance in world/western history and culture). I'm also more interested, which helps.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Learning and Re-Learning to Read

According to my grandmother, I took forever to learn how to read. And my next siblings. Travelgirl and my brother essentially taught themselves. I don't remember it quite that way although I don't remember much about that at all except my brother and I laboring over those obnoxious "Bob" books.

Mom read out loud quite a lot during the early years of homeschooling when we used 5-in-a-Row which is a program based on using wonderful children's books with gorgeous illustrations and charming storytelling. Dad read at least the Kirsten and possibly the Felicity books to me. Mom probably read Little House out loud also, certainly the illustrated ones; I don't remember ever not knowing about this series.

Mom read Little Women to us during my preteen years. Dad read Narnia to us twice during my childhood and preteen years, and he made us read Lord of the Rings before we could watch the movies (okay, he let us start the movies before we finished, but we did finish). We had one set, and Travelgirl finished first. I raced my brother since we ended up reading at the same time. I was about 13, he was 9. I guess that says a lot about my reading abilities.

A year or two later I had a reading melt-down. I suddenly wondered if I was truly reading when I read silently. I basically couldn't read silently after that. I read. every. single. word. out loud (my siblings said that I thought that I had to read every period). All my school. Reading was no longer fun, so I gave up reading for leisure and took to skimming all the books I found interesting. I think I might have read a few books in total during this period, like Pride and Prejudice, but most of these I read for school (we still used some programs calling for whole books; think Charlotte Mason method). This issue lasted most of my teen years.

When I was 18 or 19 some young people at our church started a book club, and I joined in although I'm not sure how many (if any) assigned books I read. We had such interesting games and conversation. Most of these people were readers. They introduced us to Goodreads. I began to persevere and truly read books more often. I moved closer and closer to reading in my head like a normal adult. Mouthing the words does still happen though. I got my own library cards, and for the last several years have almost constantly had books checked out.

Excellent books and serious readers (family, acquaintances, and bloggers) have always surrounded me. I've always loved the book world even while I struggled psychologically with reading. Now, I just struggle with discipline!

How was your progression to bookworm? Were you always one or did you discover the love of reading more recently?

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Autumn Music and Mood

I'm not that into music. I listen in the car to block out silence (and I almost NEVER here music on the radio that I like much less love), but I usually prefer silence otherwise. And I have a hard time finding music that I love. And sometimes I love some music sometimes and sometimes I don't love it.

I pulled out a flute/harp duet c.d (very Irish/Celtic sounding) because I thought of it and wanted to make sure I hadn't misplaced it. That got me to thinking how seasonally appropriate it was. And then I thought about autumn music. And what I think fits fall. Contemplative, sentimental, spooky, sorrowful, haunting. I love the season of fall but a lot of what fits the autumn mood is a bit too depressing for me.* This c.d. is a not always what I need even though it is so beautiful. And scary books? Yeah, I'll do Agatha Christie . . . and fall Hallmark.

I'm more into pretty fall colors, the actual change of the season, bonfires, and yummy fall food involving pumpkin, molasses, and spices. But I still think I need a touch of the spooky for it to really fall. And I find it fun to dress up for Halloween (again, not scary, just dress-up).

Anyway. I tried to think up some other good music that fits my description.
"River Flows in You"
LOTR** soundtrack. Especially Rohan themes.
Folk songs
The Hanging Tree

*I may have mentioned this before. I know a lot of people joke around about the U.S. term (and the Pinterest quotes are funny), but I have a Latin dictionary and also looked on Whitaker's words, and "autumnus/i" means . . . wait for it . . . autumn. I even looked in my massive Webster's dictionary for some hint as to a deeper etymology. Other than finding out the origin is possibly Etruscan, nothing. So its an old word for the season. Yeah. I love learning, but I despise pedantry and sophistry. Rant over.

**I love the artistry of these movies, and I think the music is probably one of my favorite parts, but I have a hard time enjoying the story anymore. I'm really not into epics or really action movies (using that description quite broadly). And some parts in these movies are hysterical (where they aren't supposed to be). I'm not the dramatic teenager anymore, and apparently, I'm the hardened skeptic who takes nothing seriously, lol.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

September Reads

I read the most books in one month I've ever read, 17! Well, if you count plays (which I do). I was light on the nonfiction and heavy on the light fiction. I will start with the two nonfiction books I read.

The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis. I could barely comprehend what the sentences meant and how they connected in the first two chapters. I also didn't quite agree with everything he said; I think he simplified the situation. I am saying this from a modern perspective of cheap emotionalism (I guess that would fit in his visceral category). I felt that he added unnecessary "complexity" and that some of his argument or word choices were sophistry or pedantry. The third chapter didn't connect logically with the first two (I think each chapter was a lecture?), and I found it much easier to understand.

The Behavior Gap by Carl Richards. From the title, I expected a far deeper psychological look onto how we handled money. How we can have all the information but no follow through and why and how we can combat this. Instead, I got a shallow, dumbed down, forgettable pointless almost conspiracy theory self-help book. Which wasn’t helpful.

The Candymakers by Wendy Mass. A nice bit of candy-like and candy-involved reading at the middle-grade level.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Dickens. I went into this knowing that Dickens died before he could complete it, but I thought the mystery was unknown. He left clear indications in the book and in comments about the ending. The real mystery is about the detective, apparently. This felt SO dark. I know he had murders in other novels, but this was different, the murderer was clearly a socio/psychopath.

The Door Before by N. D. Wilson. Wilson wrote the 100 Cupboards a decade ago. I loved the trilogy. I wasn't super thrilled about a prequel, but I read all his fiction. I was far less thrilled when I started it and realized he was using it to tie 100 Cupboards (which is special) to Ashtown Burials (which is NOT special). One feels magical, the other sci-fi/action adventure. I dislike when authors seem to lose control of their plots and seem to want drama and "complexity" at the cost of quality. I feel that he lost control of Ashtown Burials and had to write this to add something to the long-overdue fourth book. Sorry, but this book didn't happen in my mind’s conception of these fictional universes.

Death Comes as the End by Agatha Christie. Possibly the best written Christie novel I've read. Also, one of the most, if not the most disturbing. I was in denial about the identity of the murderer until the last.

The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder. I came across this in my search for Peruvian novels, and since I hadn't read any Wilder, I thought, "Why not?" Wilder tells the complex stories of characters all involved in an accident.

Nick of Time by Ted Bell. This is first in a series. Time-travel and WWII. The tone is light. I feel like WWII fiction either must be light (and therefore totally unrealistic) or dark and accurate or it can veer into disrespect. Some may find the light-toned novels disrespectful though. But some may only be able to handle it from that perspective.

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, Speaking from Among the Bones, The Dead in their Vaulted Arches, As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, and Thrice the Brindled Cat Hath Mew'd by Alan Bradley. Book four tried to take the series to another level, except everything actually ends up absurd. We don't need a silly cult-like spy organization. I liked the simple mysteries set in an English village. The false "complexity" is out of the scope of the works and the abilities of the author. Also, the whole murder part seems to be more and more gruesome. Especially since the protagonist is a preteen. And then something happened at the end of the 8th book that made me so angry.

Lila by Marilynne Robinson. I know this isn't the first in the "series" but I felt that it works as a standalone. This is unique and well-written, something as rare as a blue moon in modern fiction. It is also hard to read. I felt that the author didn't handle the end very well. The pace increased and the story tapered off.

A Florentine Tragedy and The Importance of Being Earnest (re-read) by Oscar Wilde. I borrowed a whole book of Wilde's plays from the library to re-read my two favorites (I read Ideal Husband in August), and I thought I'd read the short A Florentine Tragedy. The story felt like one in Boccaccio’s Decameron. And I didn't like it.

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Finally Fall Book Tag

I've seen this post so many times, so I thought I answer it too. See here and here plus another Autumn reading post here.

1. In fall, the air is crisp and clear: name a book with a vivid setting!
Blue Castle.

2. Nature is beautiful… but also dying: name a book that is beautifully written, but also deals with a heavy topic like loss or grief.
A lot of Rosemary Sutcliff books deal with loss or grief, but Outcast heads that list. I would say it deals with tragedy and the loss and grief involved.

3. Fall is back to school season: share a non-fiction book that taught you something new.
Because I'm really annoying, Albion's Seed.

4. In order to keep warm, it’s good to spend some time with the people we love: name a fictional family/household/friend-group that you’d like to be a part of.
I think I'd what to live on the same street with the Penderwicks and Geigers.

5. The colorful leaves are piling up on the ground: show us a pile of fall-colored spines!

Not completely fall colored. But this is my reading/library shelf right now.

6. Fall is the perfect time for some storytelling by the fireside: share a book wherein somebody is telling a story.
Any of the Grandma's Attic books.

7. The nights are getting darker: share a dark, creepy read.
I'm not super into creepy. How about Entwined.

8. The days are getting colder: name a short, heartwarming read that could warm up somebody’s cold and rainy day.
An Old-Fashioned Girl.

9. Fall returns every year: name an old favorite that you’d like to return to soon.
I've got Blue Castle and Bookthief on my shelf to re-read, but I'm scared of not liking them as much or at all. Some re-reads don't hold up.

10. Fall is the perfect time for cozy reading nights: share your favorite cozy reading “accessories”!
My bed.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Birthday and Ice Cream

My family used to give me gifts, but I never kept them long. Mom mentioned how hard I am to buy for, so I started making a gift list (I wish I'd done that sooner!!!!!). I still get surprised because I put many items on the list for everyone to choose from. Everybody's happy.

I received a nice selection of movies, two cookbooks (I cannot wait to try some German cookies for Christmas), mini ceramic houses, and The Pioneer Woman's darling measuring bowls.

Travelgirl, Travelgirl's husband, my brother, my grandfather, and I all have birthdays in the same month, so we held a combined party. We made a massive slip and slide down our hill which was loads of fun. I wanted to make home-made ice-cream for this party (I made this pound cake for my actual birthday, and we ate it with whipped cream and strawberries). I made this mint ice cream (my sister had made it before so I knew it was excellent).

My dad cannot eat eggs, so I used the mint recipe as a base for the Double Dark Chocolate. I whisked 1/2 cup of dark chocolate cocoa in with sugar and cornmeal, I substituted vanilla extract for the mint, and I melted 8oz of dark chocolate and added it to the cream mixture before the ice bath. Unfortunately, I didn't plan my freezing time well, and we had to wait a day for our chocolate. So we had mint ice cream, and my brother brought homemade raspberry sorbet.

This seemed to be the summer for ice cream. Babysister had made the mint and a buttermilk base cookies and cream (not to my taste) earlier. We had also made a buttermilk strawberry basil pretzel ice cream a couple times. And then we made Country Living's Lemonsicle Ice Cream a couple times. After Dad bought a soft-serve ice cream maker, he made hard and soft-serve chocolate and vanilla a couple times.

Have y'all made homemade ice cream, gelato, sherbert, or sorbet? If so, what are your favorite

If so, what are your favorite recipes?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Financial Links

After another blogger (Lauren at Chic-Ethique) mentioned The Financial Diet plus some personal decisions, I've started diving more seriously into budgeting, tracking finances, and learning more about money. What I really think is needed, though is something dealing with all of our emotional and mental tangles over money. How one foolish choice can mess up your finances later when you are making worse choices that could have been avoided. How you can know all the basics, but still waste money, etc.

Financial Books I've Read or Skimmed

Financial Peace. Always a great start although I don't agree with everything.

I know I read or skimmed something by Larry Burkett. I would always start with Ramsey and Burkett.

The Behavior Gap. The title is GREAT. I have all the information, but I don't put it into practice. I was hoping for some sort of helpful psychological discussion. This book is quite silly and shallow and repetitive.

Save Money by Wanting Less. Yeah, this requires some self-talking.

Money and Mindset.

Extreme Savers.

Items to cut from your expenses.

This blogger talks about his journey to financial "independence" (truly a misnomer if you think about it) via passive income (an interesting concept).

I'm not really in a place in which I need a strict line-item budget (not sure I will ever be with the way I want to budget shop), but I still like researching it. However, I think everyone ought to track their expenses whether or not they use that to formulate a budget. You can also use it to see where you've spent too much money and where you can cut down money.

Ages ago, I came across a blog post (I feel like I linked it here, maybe?) in which the author discussed how she tracked her expenses for a year. I decided to do that. I've been working on how to make the most of that information.

I made a chart in Excel (I think you can use Google Sheets for this) with the headings item, date, category, and amount (if the item is an expense put "-" in front) and with a total of the amount at the bottom. I then made a pivot chart with "categories" as row labels and "amount" as values (sum of). I used the sort filter to remove the "income" category and made a pie chart with percentages to show how I spent my money visually.