What I’m Into 2:15

I haven’t participated in Leigh Kramer’s What I’m Into roundup in a long time and for some reason, this February felt like a good time for a recap. It’s been two months since the move and we’re settling in, painting, organizing, and making a new house feel like home.

The weather this month has been a bit crazy – we’ve had days with picnic lunches and days with enough snow to go sledding in the neighborhood. I really can’t complain about our cold snowy days, since we aren’t packed in with ice and the sun comes out in between snows to help melt the sidewalks.

Feb 12 & Feb 22
Feb 12 & Feb 22

Read and Reading
After a slow start in January (I only read one book!), I managed to get back into my groove this month. I finished A Place of My Own by Michael Pollan. I love his books on food, and this one about building his own writing house did not disappoint. I learned so much about the history and philosophy of architecture as I followed Pollan along his amateur building adventures. I love his writing style and ability to meld storytelling with information so seamlessly.

I also read Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison and The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan. I reflected about both here on the blog and highly recommend both for their amazing storytelling and thought-provoking subject matter. (My post on Song of Solomon is here and The Lemon Tree is here.)

Right now, I’m finally finishing Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. I had started it before Christmas and for a variety of reasons, didn’t start it in time before needing to return it to the library. I finally worked my way up the holds list and returned to it as soon as I got home. Her description is phenomenal and I can see why she won the Pulitzer.

You can connect with me on Goodreads for all of my reading updates.

Home Improvements
Even though we thought we’d “live with” our house for a while before doing anything, once we started painting, it was easy to just keep going! At first I liked having all the rooms white – it seemed like a blank canvas. But, after painting the basement, Bea’s room, and Frank’s office, the more color seeped in, the more I wanted it!

We just finished our bedroom, and aside from a few decorative items (a reading nook for us with an icon corner is on the way), and I couldn’t be happier. I had seen birch wallpaper in photos for the past year or so, but the price was a bit shocking. So, I enlisted my dad to help us paint a mural. We decided to go with Aspen trees instead of birch, since it’s a bit more “Colorado.” It is amazing!! If you live in the Front Range area and are looking for affordable murals, I’d highly recommend hiring him! (Not that I’m biased…)

Custom aspen mural
Custom aspen mural

It feels so wonderful to be working through the rooms. Up next is (unexpectedly) the powder room. Frank and I also bought our first piece of artwork together for Valentine’s Day. We’re waiting for delivery and can’t wait to hang it in our foyer.

Screen Time
I probably shouldn’t even include this as a category. We tried going to the movies the other day and ended up just walking around and talking. Oops! Especially when face-to-face time is at a premium during tax season, the idea of sitting next to each other in a dark theater seems unappealing. Maybe we’ll watch something again someday… In the meantime, I found out Frank has never seen Jules et Jim, so I checked it out of the library and we’re hoping to watch it this weekend.

Blogging
Two blogs really stuck with me from this month: A (Love) Note From Your Personal Trainer by Megan Gahan (for SheLoves Magazine) came at a perfect time for me, right when I was at that thick-but-not-yet-pregnant looking stage. And I loved this very honest, very practical advice from Austin Channing, Putting in the Work, supporting people who are figuring out this reconciliation thing. If you’re not following Austin, I’d highly recommend her straight-forward writing.

Over here, my most popular post was Five Things Saving My Life. It was fun to write and think about. What’s “saving your life” right now?

I thought I’d leave you with my favorite picture from this month. Bea has taken her forthcoming role as “big sister” very seriously and insists on singing and reading to the baby everyday. It’s a precious time and I hope the magic continues when the baby is actually part of her life!

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Introducing the baby to Patricia Polocco

What about you? What are you into these days?

Linked with Leigh Kramer’s What I’m Into. Head over there for fun books, activities, and goings-on from February.

What I’m Into 7:14

July is a month of celebrations in our family. We celebrate our anniversary, Daisy’s birthday, my mom’s birthday, and Bea’s birthday. This year, in honor of our 5th, Frank and I took five days to explore Ouray in southwestern Colorado. We spent quality time hiking trails we can’t do with Bea, conversing uninterrupted, driving through beautiful scenery, and reconnecting.

For Bea’s birthday, my brother and cousin flew in from California to celebrate. Because we have a small house, we created a guest room behind our garden using our tent. With the room divider set up, it was about as spacious as our proper guest room, if a bit less convenient. It was a good lesson in hospitality with small spaces.

No guest room? No problem!
No guest room? No problem!

Bea continues to adore all things Daniel Tiger, so we decided to recreate a “Tigy” cake and she was over the moon. She absolutely loved having all her friends over and it was fun to see her understand that she was getting bigger. She kept shouting, “Happy Birthday, Beatrix! I’m two ‘ears old!”

Bea with her Tigy cake
Bea with her Tigy cake

We just dropped our last guest off at the airport and now the house seems a bit quiet. Even though a full house can have its stresses, I love being able to open our home. When we were all packed in the living room, eating leftover cake, Bea sighed and said, “My whole family is here!” There’s something special about instilling that importance from the very beginning.

Books: Finished and In Progress
I decided to read the rest of C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy as part of our Reading Challenge. Upon reflection, I think Perelandra was my favorite and, as Frank is reading Surprised by Hope, we are finding connections, which is fun. Next up is Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire.

A couple five-star reads this month were Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman and An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor. We are just barely into Season 1 of OITNB and the book helped me connect with Piper’s character. Though it doesn’t follow the series, the book brings up important issues around prison reform and has started conversations between Frank and I about ways we can help. An Altar in the World may be my new favorite book. I’m thinking of buying a few copies to give away, as I know I’ll be recommending it! In the midst of blog-style Christian memoirs, this is a refreshing, deeply written series of reflections.

Currently, I’m reading The Meat Racket by Christopher Leonard, about Tyson chicken. We only buy local, organic chicken, but it has made me question what I’m eating when we go to restaurants. Definitely an eye-opening, thought-provoking book, though it is a bit dense and slow-going for a July read.

You can connect over at Goodreads and Pinterest for all of my reading activity.

Blogging
Many bloggers seem to be taking a summer break, which has been nice for me and has freed up reading time. Over here, my most popular was Freedom. My own favorite was Bagging Peaks. I’m still trying to figure out this blogging groove and have been really pondering what this space is about and for. Thanks to all who read, respond, and encourage. I do appreciate it!

Around Town
The Denver Botanic Gardens has a Dale Chihuly exhibit up right now. I love his whimsical style and have only seen it displayed in museum settings. The way the sculptures are integrated into the gardens is fun and natural. If you haven’t yet been, I’d highly recommend. Get there early (they open at 9:00) because parking fills up quickly!

What about you? What are you into these days?

Linked with Leigh Kramer’s What I’m Into. Head over there for fun books, activities, and goings-on from July.

What I’m Into 4:14

In our family, April comes in like a lion and out like a lamb. The last big push before the April 15 tax deadline means late nights, working weekends, and hardly any family time. It’s pretty rough, and I am thankful that my parents live within an hour’s drive and we have a good group of friends as support. Frank took last week off and we had a staycation of resetting and reconnecting as a family.

Some highlights from last month were Bea’s first Easter egg hunt:

Bea quickly exceeded the 15 egg limit.
Bea quickly exceeded the 15 egg limit.

Building a fence around the garden in the hopes of rabbit-proofing. (And Bea- and Daisy-proofing… Bea adores her new tools and wants to till the soil constantly!)

Tilling with her new tools.
Tilling with her new tools.

Books: Finished and In Progress
April was filled with fun reads. I’ve started the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series to read between books, and they’ve been fun, quick reads. I just finished the third book and, though I enjoyed it, am glad I have a stack of other books before continuing the series. Rachel Held Evans rereleased her first book, Faith Unraveled. I’ve been a fan of her blog for a few years and this book held great insights into her journey and helped me appreciate her quest for justice even more than I had. Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things sucked me in and I was surprised at how much I came to like the main character, Alma. It made me want to read Origin of Species. I finished the month with Anne Lamott’s Stitches. Very short, but filled with such wisdom.

I just finished Elizabeth Esther’s Girl at the End of the World. I received a free copy from Convergent as a participant in their Easter series. It was a well-written, eye-opening, necessary look at what fundamentalism looks like. She restored my faith in the Christian memoir genre.

I’m reading Out of the Silent Planet for our Reading Challenge and liking it more than when I tried to read it in high school. We just started Phyllis Tickle’s Emergence Christianity and, only one chapter in, I’m regretting all the years I’ve wasted not reading her books. Amazing insights and I’m looking forward to our discussions! I also just started Conscious Capitalism. I saw it in the check-out line at Whole Foods and was intrigued. It’s definitely a departure from my normal patterns, but interesting so far.

You can connect over at Goodreads and Pinterest for all of my reading activity.

Screen Time
We’re still working our way through the Dr. Who series and have just started with Matt Smith’s Doctor. Such a fun way to unwind! We tried getting into season 6 of Mad Men but I’m not sure we’re up for all the drama. We also watched Mud on Netflix. I was about to give it 5-stars but demoted it by one for the last scene. Frank felt he forgot Matthew McConaughey was acting. I said his teeth were too white for the character. Which actors do you forget while watching?

Blogging
If you are at all interested in blogging, Laura Tremaine’s series on blogging is full of great insights. Kelli Woodford’s essay on her post-children belly button really struck a chord with its honesty. Over here, my most popular post was on Sleep. But, that was after I figured out a social media glitch. This month was definitely low for viewing because of that… (Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss a post!) My own favorite was about Fairy Tales.

Around Town
My parents came up and gave us a day date last week, so we spent the day at museums. If you live in Denver and have any tiny interest in art, I’d strongly encourage you to check out Modern Masters. It’s an absolutely incredible exhibit featuring iconic paintings from most of the great artists between Pissarro and Warhol. After lunch, we went to the Clyfford Still Museum’s 1959 show. Even though I’m there several times a week, it was nice to walk through the galleries and simply enjoy the art without leading a group of kids.

What about you? What are you into these days?

Linked with Leigh Kramer’s What I’m Into. Head over there for fun books, activities, and goings-on from April.

What I’m Into 3:14

Bea and I just got back from a lovely five days visiting family in California. Since we’re nearing the end of tax season, Frank is gearing up and working longer hours. (Our “home by midnight” rule is being bent…) My mom was heading out anyway to help her sisters and my grandma sort out a transition to her next apartment at an assisted living facility and my dad agreed to fly with me so I wouldn’t have Bea by myself, so it seemed like good timing. It’s always wonderful visiting in the spring – everything is green and in bloom while we’re still waiting on a few late snowstorms before blossoming. My aunt’s house has an amazing hill to explore, so Bea went on many “‘ventures” while we were there. She also got lots of cousin time in, which is always fun!

On a 'venture in Aunt E's backyard.
On a ‘venture in Aunt E’s backyard.

Books: Finished and In Progress
I read a lot of good books this month! Next on our Reading Challenge was Ayn Rand’s We the Living. I think it’s my favorite of the books I’ve read by her: Shorter (less than 500 pages!) and the most autobiographical. If you haven’t read any of her work, I’d start here.

I finally read Luci Shaw after seeing her recommended by various people. The Crime of Living Cautiously was beautifully written and a great challenge. I also read Praying with Icons and am now thinking we need an icon corner in our house. One of my most spiritually moving moments was in a Russian Orthodox church so it was nice to read more about the practicality of using images while praying.

This was a month of reading thicker books that were quick reads. Monuments Men was a bit repetitive but such an interesting story I couldn’t put it down. Hopefully we’ll watch the movie, but our track record isn’t great these days… I also read Americanah, on Leigh Kramer’s recommendation and loved it! The story sucked me in and made me think about race and identity. Since my book club is still reading Disunity in Christ, it linked well with themes in that.

I’m still reading Girls Will Be Girls slowly – really trying to take my time with it. Next on my nightstand is Bend, Not Break by Ping Fu.

You can connect over at Goodreads and Pinterest for all of my reading activity.

Screen Time
Bea has been really into Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 lately, so that’s been on repeat. She loves announcing that she’s ready to listen to Beethoven, even though I think she just means the soundtrack…. I had forgotten what fun movies they are, so it’s been neat reconnecting with old favorites. When I was teaching, I would do a writing unit using Fantasia as an example of creating stories out of music and it’s been so cool listening to Bea retell the stories and add her own little spin.

Blogging
After a discouraging week in social media, Preston Yancey’s reflection was just what I needed to read. I also loved Sarah Joslyn’s A Prayer for Justice over at SheLoves Magazine. (Where, I just found out, I’ve been linked in their March Zine. Pretty cool!) Over here, my own favorite and most popular was Girls.

Around Town
I love springtime in Colorado! One day it’s 70 and sunny, the next, 40 and snowy. Our snow now is the fat, wet, spring snow that looks so pretty with tulips peaking through. We’ve been doing lots of Museum dates but now I’m thinking we’ll transition back to Botanic Gardens dates. We also opened up the backyard sandbox, and Bea would live there if I let her. Probably my favorite time of year!

We also finally went to the Wild Animal Sanctuary, a refuge for abused large carnivores. It was a great experience and we’ll definitely be going back. Highlight: Hearing a lion roar as he roamed his compound. Sad stories, but an amazing organization.

Checking out a tiger at the Wild Animal Sanctuary.
Checking out a tiger at the Wild Animal Sanctuary.

 

What about you? What are you into these days?

Linked with Leigh Kramer’s What I’m Into. Head over there for fun books, activities, and goings-on from March.

 

 

What I’m Into 2:14

I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer again for her What I’m Into compilation.

February absolutely flew by! We are officially in the midst of tax season, which means there are days when Frank doesn’t get to see Bea at all, but we do try to meet at the Botanic Gardens or Museum of Nature and Science for lunch dates.

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Lunch date at the Botanic Gardens

Books: Finished & In Progress
I read way too many memoirs written by under-40 year olds this month. I think, in general, a memoir should be written mid-life, not mid-experience. One exception was The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball. It reminded me that I am not cut out for farm life, but was a funny, well-written account of her first year as a farmer. I also read Desmond Tutu’s God Has a Dream, which was outstanding! His message of grace has really stuck in my mind and I’ve mulled over his words well after I finished the book.

I read two books this month, highly recommended by friends that I just didn’t get into. I had an internal struggle as to how I should rate them. I ended up giving the rating I would have without it being a recommendation and am hoping our friendship is built on something stronger than book suggestions.

Frank and I are beginning our next round of books for our Reading Challenge. He is starting To Kill a Mockingbird and I decided on We the Living, mostly to get over all the memoirs…

Screen Time
We haven’t watched much of anything this month, though I think I have nearly every episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood memorized.

Blogging
Osheta Moore’s series, Stand Your Ground…In Prayer is absolutely amazing. Each day brings powerful words. I have been feeling helpless, reading the news and wondering what I can do, and Osheta’s series has reminded me of the power of prayer and empathy. Over here, my own favorite was The Right Way.

Around Town
If you live near Denver, the Denver Art Museum and Clyfford Still Museum are doing a joint exhibition, featuring art from the Albright-Knox Gallery. DAM is featuring Modern Masters and CSM is reimagining Still’s 1959 solo exhibit at the Albright-Knox. One ticket gets you into both shows, and you will see an amazing collection of artists who have shaped this century. If you love modern art, or have been wanting to learn more, these shows are a great introduction!

What about you? What are you into these days?

Head over to Leigh’s Link-Up for other fun books, activities, and goings-on from February.

What I’m Into 1:14

I always like reading what people are “into” over at Leigh Kramer’s, so I thought I’d link up this month. January is one of my favorite months. Not only is it a new year, but it’s my birthday month. Lots of champagne and goal setting over here! It’s also the last month before tax season, so we try to pack in more family time, which I love.

Books: Finished & In Progress
I finally jumped on the Shauna Niequist bandwagon and read Cold Tangerines. Usually I’m not a fan of conversational-memoirs, but I connected with many of the stories and found myself wanting to read more. I also finished The Millionaire Next Door, from our Reading Challenge. It was insightful, but I realized I am not a fan of too many tables! (Those are what Frank loved most from the book.)

Book Club Books: Both are yet to be discussed, but Daring Greatly by Brené Brown is worth the hype! Easy to read and I see myself rereading sections in the future. I want to print her parenting manifesto to hang in my kitchen. I also just finished Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo. Such a fascinating look in the the slums of Mumbai. And, though it certainly doesn’t paint a romantic picture, I appreciate how she focuses on the day-to-day. My weekly book club is into Christena Cleveland’s Disunity In Christ. It’s a very thought provoking read, and a great follow-up to our last book, The Next Evangelicalism.

I’m also currently reading Djuna Barnes’ Collected Stories. Usually I love short stories, but this is taking a long time to get through. Some of the magic is starting to fade…

Screen Time
Since we’re in the midst of toddlerhood, we rarely watch movies. We did finally watch Bernie on Netflix, and it was perfect. I love quirky, dark comedies and I especially loved that this was a true story. We’re also in Season 4 of Doctor Who. It’s been a fun way to unwind after Bea goes to bed, though we’ve each had some pretty intense dreams as a result… We’ve never really been TV watchers, and now we are entering “totally out of touch” status.

Food
We are finally meal planning consistently and I love it! We’re eating so much more healthfully. We utilize our new Crock Pot at least once a week (always on book club nights!) and that’s been a great way to still get a bit of a “family dinner” on busy nights. We’ve been getting most of our recipes out of the Crock Pot Vegetarian recipe book. Now that we’re in the thick of winter, we always make at least one recipe a week with our French oven, using Glorious One Pot Meals. It’s rarely let us down! (Our favorite: African Peanut Stew. So good on a snowy night!)

Blogging
Two blogs stuck with me this month: Jason Boyett, over at A Deeper Story wrote about the balance of time and technology. It was great food for thought, especially as Bea will ask for an iPad to play games, and we don’t even own one. Glennon Melton wrote a beautiful tribute to her child’s teacher. I love reading positive affirmations of hardworking teachers! Over here, my own favorite was on Being Human, though the most popular was Identity.

Day to Day
Our furnace of 30 years went out the other day (of course!) The plus side? We decided to add central air conditioning and Bea was in heaven watching the men remove three furnaces dating back to 1951 from our crawl space. (Apparently, they were always left for the next owners…) Some of her favorite words right now are “heavy,” “dump,” and “truck,” so she gave a running commentary of the events. My other favorite phrase is when she brings us all together for a “group hugger.” She turned 18 months last week – time is flying!

"Men! Dump! Truck! Heeavy!!"
“Men! Dump! Truck! Heeavy!!”

What about you? What are you into these days?

Head over to Leigh’s Link-Up for other fun books, activities, and goings-on from January.