Category Archives: Movies & Books

in my mind, in my head

Loving the Gigi d’Agostino mix of In My Mind.

I’ve been reading to Isla for about four years now.  Every night.  It’s one of the most effortless parts of parenting for me.  The kids are happy, and I’m happy.  Reading kids books, the picture books, can make me a little crazy.  I don’t mind the good ones (Ox Cart Man, The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree, Make Way for Ducklings, etc.) but the lame ones are just horrid.  Chapter books, though.  I love them.  The kids are still letting me pick, and I’ve been picking ALL my childhood favorites.  I wanted to make a list, so here goes.

Surprise Island (Boxcare Children #2), The BFG, Stuart Little, Where The Mountain Meets the Moon, Zlateh the Goat and Other Stories (I can’t recommend this one), The Moffats, Abel’s Island, Strawberry Girl, Island of Blue Dolphins, Caddie Woodlawn (twice), The Secret Garden*, Over Sea Under Stone, Heidi*, The Trumpet of the Swan, The Family Under the Bridge, Betsy-Tacy, Little House on the Prairie* (thrice), Pippi Longstocking, Little House in the Big Woods* (twice), Fantastic Mr. Fox, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Winnie-the-Pooh, Danger in Ancient Rome, Rescue on the Oregon Trail, Charlotte’s Web (twice), James and the Giant Peach, The Tale of Despereaux, The First Four Years, Those Happy Golden Years, Little Town on the Prairie* (twice), The Long Winter (twice), By The Shores of Silver Lake (twice), On The Banks of Plum Creek* (twice), Matilda*, Anne of Green Gables*, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

I may have missed one or two, but that’s the bulk of them. 45 readings of 36 books.  There are still a good few I want to read.  A Little Princess.  Joan Aiken’s series, including my favorite, The Stolen Lake.  Maybe James Herriot.  Little Women.  What am I forgetting?  I finally bought the first four of The Magic Treehouse, mainly to appeal to Briony.  I’ve actually read her a few Amelia Bedelia.  She’s been slower than Isla to take to the chapter books.  Isla loved LHOTP at age 2, whereas Bri is only really now having the patience and vocabulary to appreciate them at age 4.  Anyway, I thought the treehouse books might appeal to her.

I can see Isla’s reading comprehension growing by leaps and bounds these days.  Whereas before she definitely missed a lot of subtleties (in the early days, she missed a lot of important story points, never mind the subtleties), she follows the story much more closely these days.  Bri still misses a lot, but she seems to enjoy listening anyway.

movies and dance

I watched a lot of TV last month when I wasn’t feeling well.  I really got quite sick of Netflix.  Nevertheless, there were a few things worth watching in there.

Lion – such a great movie.  I high recommend it.

Broadchurch, Season 1 & 2 – Nothing like a good British detective show

Orbiter 9 – not awesome, but kind of fun.  Reminded me a little of Moon.

Safe – a teenage girl is lost in suburbia.  Surprisingly good.

Lost in Space – space geeks unite.

Touch the Wall – love this documentary on Missy Franklin and Kara Lynn Joyce (swimmers)

Gone Baby Gone – great movie about the search for a missing child

I injured myself trying to get back into running too quickly, so I’ve been slacking lately.  I’ll try running again today, and hopefully my IT band, which I believe is the injury, will be happier than last weekend.  Running is such a huge time commitment, and it’s been nice the last couple of weeks to feel well and have that extra time to be lazy and knit and just do whatever.

I’m still trying to get L into a dance class.  She just loves ballet so much.  I don’t understand it, honestly.  My feelings on ballet are decidedly mixed.  I like that dance combines music and athletic activity, but I don’t like: the general obsession with attire, the terrible things it does to feet, the excessive skinniness of professionals, the tights – who wants to sweat in tights? and tights on men?, the fuss about the performances for little kids, and on and on.  I also hate that around here you have to sign up for dance for an entire year.  With sports, you sign up for a season.  You can do soccer in the fall, swim in the winter, and T-ball in the spring.  I hate to put L in more than one or max two activities at a time, and the constant commitment to dance is really annoying.

However, the bottom line is that she loves it.  Finding a class is non-trivial because there are just not that many commercial establishments within 15 minutes of where we live, which would be the preferred max distance I’d like to drive.  Of the dance places, many have their classes on Saturdays or after 6 pm, neither of which is ideal.  Saturday is a non-starter because you have to show up or they won’t let your kid be in the show, which I don’t care about whatsoever, but L definitely will, and I don’t want to give away our Saturdays for 9 months!  So, we did a trial class at a place not too far away to see if they’d let her into the 7-year-old class as a backup if she doesn’t get off the waitlist at this other place which is an inconvenient drive into North Bellevue.  Ug!  Anyway, bottom line is that L was so excited when she heard about the trial class, just because it was a ballet class that she got to go to.  She ran around the house screaming and jumping, which is not typical behavior at all for her.

At the end, the teacher said she was fine for the class, so we have a backup option, even if I’m quite un-enthused about dance every Thursday night extending past her bedtime.  I felt like quite the dance mom, as she has her ballet themed dance bag (very pink and frilly and not bought by me) and had her ballet outfit on, whereas most of the other kids were just in shorts.

 

blue on blue

If I had a quilter-crush, it would definitely be Carolyn Friedlander.  Despite the fact that I haven’t quilted in a year (and am DETERMINED to finish the front of my Aran sweater before I resume), i still follow a fair few quilters on Insta.  But Friedlander is the one who stands above the rest.  Anyway, love the two-tone blue quilt here.  So. Much.  My blue-loving older daughter would also love it.  Maybe . . .   I also love the kids’ book Blue on Blue.  Also, so good.

I’ve been delving into easy reading lately.  I’m loving LIane Moriarty, and my old favorite Maeve Binchy.  Currently “reading” Week in Winter.

The year in review: Books

According to Goodreads, I read 65 books this year.  I read 69 last year, so I’ve become pretty consistent now that the kids are a bit older.  I’ve loved reading since I was about 6 years old, and it’s just always been something that brings me happiness and peace.  Lately, I’ve really been enjoying trying to share this with L and B, and a few of the books this year were read to the girls, mostly L.

5 star books of 2017:

  • Chemistry by Weike Wang
  • When Breath Becomes Air Paul Kalanithi
  • Running With The Buffaloes Chris Lear (best running book ever)
  • Where’d You Go Bernadette? Maria Semple
  • Full Tilt Dervla Murphy

Honorable Mention:

  • Best Running Book: How Bad Do You Want It? Matt Fitzgerald
  • Other best running book: Running: A Love Story Jen A. Miller
  • Best beach read: Big Little Lies Liane Moriarty (I recommend the audio book)
  • Best memoir: Hillbilly Elegy  J.D. Vance (I liked this more than I expected)

Isla’s Books

The best ones:

  • Heidi Johanna Spyri
  • Anne of Green Gables L.M. Montgomery
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • James Herriot’s Treasury For Children James Herriot
  • On The Banks of Plum Creek Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • By The Shores of Silver Lake LIW
  • Little Town on the Prairie LIW
  • These Happy Golden Years LIW

I loved so many of these.  James Herriot was perfect for Bri with beautiful illustrations.  I adore The Secret Garden and Heidi (and they have quite similar stories in a way.  Isla just loves Laura Ingalls Wilder.  We’re currently working on the first of the sequels to The First Four Years.

Others:

  • Over Sea, Under Stone Susan Cooper
  • The Boxcar Children  Gertrude Warner
  • The Trumpet of the Swan  E.B.White
  • The Family Under The Bridge Natalie Carlson
  • Betsy-Tacy Maud Lovelace
  • Lots of Little House on the Prairie Books.  Like, really, lots.  Maybe the whole series?  I can’t remember when we started reading it for the third time.
  • The First Four Years LIW

handmaid’s tale

I have to say I am very over the popular and media obsession with The Handmaid’s Tale.  It’s a good book. In my opinion, it’s not Atwood’s best; for me, that honor goes to The Blind Assassin.   Whether it’s her second best is probably more debatable, but for me, that honor is also ambiguous (Cat’s Eye wins).  Handmaid’s Tale is original, horrifying and thought-provoking.  I thought it lacked a little in execution and the ending is unsatisfying.  I haven’t seen the TV show because it’s not on Amazon Prime or Netflix.  I expect I’ll watch it eventually.  Or maybe I won’t.  I had my own vision of the protagonist in Handmaid’s Tale, and she has already been replaced in my mind by the actress I’ve seen in trailers.  If I watch the show, the rest of the world I imagined will evaporate, never to be seen again.  Kudos to whoever decided to pick an Atwood for television production, but at the same time, I’m not sure I want to watch it.  (My all-time favorite book is possibly Cloud Atlas –  though Blind Assassin is definitely in the running – and now I can’t think of the former without seeing Halle Berry. Argh!)

I’m continuing to enjoy cycling.  When I don’t have anything else going on, I’ve been going for a long cycle (30+ miles) every weekend.  I’ve moved on from the Cas.cade Preparing for Spr.ing series to CH.EW – climbing hi.lls every winter.  The idea is exactly what you might guess, to get better at climbing hills.  I have a love-hate relationship with hills.  Getting to the top gives me great satisfaction, but wow, it makes things so much harder.  RentonRide

This ride was fairly hilly overall, 2200 ft of elevation gain over 30 miles, but the hardest part by far was one particular hill, 250 feet of elevation gain at average 9% elevation gain with peaks above 10%.  Brutal, in other words.  I’ve found I can handle hills at 5 or 6% without much trouble; I just go slow and pace myself.  But it is really hard to pace yourself on a 10% incline.  I did this route for the second time this weekend (first time last weekend), and I really focused on going slowly and pulling up (rather than just pushing down) on my pedals, and that one hill went much better.  It was still hard, but I knew I wasn’t going to have to get off my bike and walk.

Lovely scenery in any event.  Below is the Cedar River.  The color is odd in part because we have been having crazy smoke and haze for days now due to forest fires in BC with no end in sight.

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The year in review: books

This was a good year for reading.  I had more time to read than any year since I got pregnant with L.  According to Goodreads, I read 69 books, though that number includes a few I read to L and probably doesn’t include a couple I re-read.

5 stars books for 2016:

Euphoria, by Lily King – This was my all-time favorite.  I listened to the Audiobook, and I recommend reading it that way if you have the time.  My Goodreads review:

Nell, her husband Fen, and Bankson and anthropologists in in New Guinea in the 1930s. Nell is passionate and talented and has recently authored a highly successful book. Fen is jealous of his wife and insecure. And Bankson is terribly lonely and struggling with his own demons. The three of them come together in the wilds of New Guinea.

For me, Euphoria is a beautiful love story. I can’t help but thoroughly enjoy the two narrators. They are highly likable. The setting of the story itself is fascinating. Not just New Guinea, but the 1930s, and hearing about these old-time anthropologists and what that life must have been like.

I listened to this on MP3, and the narrators were excellent.

A Kim Jong-Il Production – My interest in North Korea continues.  My Goodreads review:

I’m not surprised that I loved this book. I find North Korea generally fascinating, and one of my all-time favorite books is Nothing To Envy, also about the DPRK. A Kim Jong-Il Production describes the abduction of a South Korean producer and director and his ex-wife and former muse in the early 80s. Apparently kidnapping was all too common in the DPRK at this time. Literally thousands of people were kidnapped, and most were never heard from again.

Kim Jong-Il turns out to be a huge film buff. Who would have guessed? Of course, film is very useful to dictators as an instrument of propaganda. Jong-Il, however, is very frustrated by the quality of film in North Korea and contrasts his minions’ efforts negatively with the movies of Hollywood and South Korea. Enter Shin and Choi. North Korea’s filmmakers are severely hampered by never being allowed to view films made outside their nation. Shin can teach them how to make high quality films. Choi is bait and a sweetener.

My Year of Running Dangerously – This was a surprisingly good book on running.  Usually sports books feel a little simplistic.  I couldn’t put this one down.  My Goodreads review:

Tom Foreman is a long-time runner who’s let life and work slow him down. His daughter challenges him to run a marathon with her, and he takes her up on her offer. Later, he decides to take on a 50-mile trail run.

I’m a long-time runner on a running kick, and I just could not put this down. It’s hard to put my finger on why I enjoyed reading it so much. Foreman just has a very approachable writing style and manages not to be annoying or conceited, unlike many memoirists trumpeting their accomplishments. His self-deprecation actually comes of as rather genuine.

I’ve shunned longer runs lately due to the constraints of two small children. This book didn’t exactly tempt me to run an ultra, but I did think perhaps another half marathon is in order.

Four-star books included Taking Flight, This Road I Ride, It’s All About The Bike, The Secret Race, Quiet, The Summer Before the War, Brooklyn, Speak, Our Souls At Night, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, The Constant Gardener, The Nightingale, and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  The books in bold are the ones that stick out for me reviewing the list now.

The worst books this year were A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, The Testament of Mary, and Satin Island.  There were plenty of other mediocre 2-star books mixed in as well.

According to Goodreads, I give books an average rating of 3.3.  I try to horde the 4 and 5 star ratings and to be brutal when I find books really poor, in order to make ratings more meaningful.

L and I got through a fair few chapter books this year.  My favorites were Little House In The Big Woods and Matilda.

I’m looking forward to another great year of books in 2017.

strife

Watching this made me tear up a little.  A mother and child lost and reunited while Nadal holds the tennis match.

My own little munchkin (the larger one) came home with a bloody lip today, sustained after a fall from her scooter.  The poor little thing takes bodily injuries so seriously, much as I do I suppose, except worse.  She has been this way since she was tiny, so I guess it’s genetic.  It’s hard because getting hurt is part of life.  Her little sister is much less sensitive.  I do think life is a bit harder for sensitive types.

On a side note, I enjoyed watching Streif.  I’m fascinated by downhill ski racing, so naturally, I’ve been interested in this movie for a while.  It’s not perfect – a bit choppy and over-edited in places – but if you’re interested in downhill skiing, it’s a must-watch.