book review: bel canto

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I recently discovered the lovely blog called the modern Mrs. Darcy and I’ve become crazy fond of her writing style, but especially her love of books. She’s opened up a whole host of reading material that have seriously rebooted my library wish list.

I came home from the library a few weeks ago armed with a whole stack of books recommended and Bel Canto by Ann Patchett was the first book I grabbed from the said stack. I read a few short reviews on goodreads before I got started and honestly I was a little nervous about it. The reviews were pretty mixed, but I decided to plunge in anyway.

It honestly took me at least 100+ pages to get into the story. I found out after I finished the book that it is loosely based on an actual hostage event that happened in Peru in the ’90s. The story is about a Japanese man who comes to an unnamed South American country for a birthday celebration in his honor. What gets him to come to this event is the opera singer they have invited to sing in his honor. The party turns into a hostage event that goes on and on and on for weeks upon weeks.

Once the characters are all introduced, the story really takes over and it really did suck me in a bit. It is about the relationships that develop between these very unlikely people: wealthy businessmen and politicians with the kidnappers who were jungle raised with literally nothing. The kidnappers become overwhelmed with the running water, televisions and plushness of the mansion they have taken over and the businessmen and politicians find themselves with nothing but time on their hands…something they normally don’t have. It causes these men to realize the things that they have “lost” at home and their love for their families. It causes others to realize what the desires of their hearts truly are. It is really about people letting down and letting go of the fakeness that we tend to put on and they are truly just stripped down to who they really are.

I will warn you the ending is abrupt and hard. There is also an epilogue that I honestly wouldn’t read. I read a review on goodreads where the reviewer wishes that the epilogue wasn’t even included because after the harshness of the ending of the story it seemed really out of place and I agree.

Overall a great book…if you can stick with the first 100 or so pages of character introductions.

pattern/book review: Simple Sewing

A sun hat

I’ve had this book, Simple Sewing, by Lotta Jansdotter for a while now and haven’t done more than look through it. While sitting out in the sun the other day, I realized that this might be the summer to invest in some kind of hat. I remembered seeing a pattern for it in this book and thought it was high time to make something out of it.

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The pattern is pretty straight forward and simple and you can easily make this with about 1/2 yard of fabric for each the outside and the lining. This fabric is Aneela Hoey’s Little Apples that I had leftover from this outfit that my darling daughter refuses to wear. The inside is some Riley Blake leftover from her Easter dress last year (that she also refuses to wear…do you see a trend?)

A sun hat

Overall this hat came together really easily. The brim was a little monotonous to sew line after line, but I love how it looks and feels now that it’s done. I did have a few snafus matching up the brim to the top and the lining didn’t go in well either. I don’t know if this is something I did wrong (more than likely) or if my seam allowances didn’t all match or what.

A sun hat

One change was that I did not hand stitch the lining in. I serged it because I can and because I am too lazy to sit and sew something like that. I think if I make another hat, I will put the outside and the lining together first and baste them, then serge them both to the brim at the same time. There is a lot of bunchiness on the top which I think would be alleviated by doing it that way.

This is a great book though. It has some really cute (and simple…tee hee) pattern ideas inside it and the directions are well written even for a fairly novice sewer.

a “happier” 2013 {book review part 2}

Book Review: Happier at Home

Yesterday I shared part one of my book review of Gretchen Rubin’s Happier at Home. Today I wanted to share some of my favorite quotes and some changes the book has spurred on in me.

At the back of the book, Rubin lists what she calls her “eight splendid truths”.

Book Review: Happier at Home

I love the idea of having a list of personal or family guidelines or truths. The family set is one that my husband and I are planning on establishing this year. We actually already have some that guide the behaviors, expectations and consequences in our house, but to be honest we aren’t consistent nor on the same page with them. Hopefully that will change this year.
But until I read this book, I really had not thought about writing down any sort of guidelines for my life. Obviously there are things that frame my life, namely my relationship with Jesus, but I’ve never really written them down.

Ultimately the main thing that I took from this book was pretty obvious…be me. Let our family be our family.
This came to light when I was looking through facebook status updates on New Year’s Day. Post after post I saw pictures of families celebrating with their kids at midnight and my first thought was “wow, we are so lame. We all just went to bed pretty much as normal.” But then, after arriving home from a friend’s house after ten at night and dealing with the ick that comes from that I realized…staying up waaaaaaaaaay past our regularish bedtime is not good for our family. My kids start to lose it (which in turns makes us lose it) after about ten and that is something we just have to know and realize and be ok with. It’s that old green eye of envy and comparison that makes us all think we need to conform our families or ourselves to something that we really are not.

Rubin states “in essence, happiness is being you – not trying to fit a mold or a ‘should’ happiness” and then she quotes Thomas Merton
Finally I’m coming to the conclusion that my highest ambition is to be what I already am.

 

One of my favorite quotes was near the end of the book. It was a segment from one of the Little House books

Book Review: Happier at Home

The hardest thing for me in life is to live in the now. I’m either fussing about the past, worried about the future or ignoring the now. God graced me with a daughter who totally lives in the now and she wants you to be in it with her. She is like Laura, laying in her bed listening to all around her and taking it all in. Too often I let this part of her drive me crazy instead of letting that part of her engage me and bring me back to the center.

Rubin states, “think ~ plan forward but don’t live there. Live in the now. Thankful (not wistful) for the past, excited and ready for the future but present in the now.” That is where I want to be and where I need to be.

After all that, here are a few of my goals for this year and really my life. (many of these are “stolen” from Rubin herself)

1. be me. and be ok with that. Confidence is my new word.
2. Give warm greetings and farewells to my family and any of those I greet.
3. For 15 minutes a day tackle one project that I keep putting off (to begin with I’m editing photos from 2012 and making our yearly photobook)
4. The wicked iPhone: first I turned off all email alerts on the iPhone and iPad. Something about that little “ding” made me feel important and made everything else seem unimportant. Next I am working on my habit of picking up my phone at every stop light. Is my life really so important that something is going to happen from one stop light to the next and I’ll miss it. Hardly.
5. Underreact to a problem. If you know me…enough said.
6. Treat people the way I want them to treat me. I preach this to my children all the time, but um, to myself?
7. Be cheerful. Give gold stars. Express gratitude. Sound pleased and engaged.
8. Give up on the idea that “I will be happier ~ more content ~ joyful when such and such happens” Live and be grateful for now.

a “happier” 2013 {book review part 1}

I’m trying to narrow down my goals for this year with home life, blogging, sewing, etsy and everything else in my life. I’m really trying hard not to have this crazy long list, but rather up to 3 goals for different areas…and in some places maybe only one.

One of my few goals for this space is to be more consistent about doing book reviews. I read all sorts of different books and I can be a pretty voracious reader. The problem is I don’t give myself time to digest what I’m reading either while I’m reading or even afterwards. Goodreads has been a good place for me to record the books I’ve read, but I needed to encourage myself to do something more than just list them. So, one thing you can look forward to in 2013 is hopefully some good honest book reviews. I can’t promise any kind of regularity, so if you are interested in following along this might be the perfect time to becoming a regular subscriber to this little spot (just click over there on the right or just happily add me to your reader).

Enough of that.

 

Book Review: Happier at Home

One book I finished right towards the end of the year was Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin. The title and cover intrigued me so I grabbed it up at the library, only to find out this is her second book about happiness. Her first book was the Happiness Project which you don’t really need to have read before to follow along in this one (at least I didn’t).

Rubin pretty much lives her life by personal commandments that she has set for herself and is absolutely driven by the writers William Morris and Samuel Johnson. If you are on Pinterest, I’m sure you have seen this little illustration floating around with this great William Morris quote:

 

And in the book she quotes Samuel Johnson many times, but this was one of my favorites:
To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition the end to which every enterprise and labour tends.”

Book Review: Happier at Home

To be fair to her, for all of you grumbling out there with the word “happy” I really think after reading this book she means “contentment”. At least, as I processed through her book that is the word that I kept saying in my head. I long for contentment at home, in my work, in my relationships etc and so much of that contentment (or lack of) stems from my issues…not the issues of those around me. As she states in the book happiness {contentment} is realizing how happy I am and how much I have to be happy for. Another way to think about this is gratefulness. So much, so, so much of our bah humbugness comes from just our lack of opening our eyes to the things around us we should be grateful for. In that comes happiness ~ contentment ~ joy.

In the book, she goes month by month through a year and chooses one area of her life to focus on and then makes a few goals for it. Some examples are: marriage, neighbors, family etc. She goes through month by month and clarifies her goals and then writes about the results. This was the part I loved…her honesty. In one example she tried acupuncture. It was something that she had wanted to do for a while and it fit into her month on basically getting healthier. She tried it, realized it didn’t really work for her and then stopped. And she was ok with it. I’ll write more on this tomorrow, but she just accepted what she needed to accept and. moved. on. That is SO not me! But so where I want to be.

While there were parts of this book and her philosophy that don’t really mesh with mine, there were many things I could take from this book. I think it’s a great one to pick up and use her definitions and her goals to frame questions for yourself. It was an easy read and fun to read at times. She is very whitty and honestly her struggles relate so much to mine in so many ways (oh…I am so selfish!).

So as you think about setting goals and framing your year, I heartily recommend this book.

Interested in more? Tune in tomorrow for my favorite quotes and some of my changes and goals for this year.