Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

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1. I'm not really a fan of Nicki Minaj, at all, but my kid is in love with the song "Hey Mama." We were at a store and he started busting a move, as he normally does, but then he heard it again and added some hand motions and tried to sing. So, I downloaded it and feel a little dirty about the whole thing.

2. I've determined that the most important question I ask myself every day as a temporary stay-at-home mom is "have you had enough caffeine, Christine?"

3. July is the month where I get it together; June was a month for decompressing and August will be about crying being in denial. One thing high on my list if doing letters of rec for my seniors, since it will help me out a ton come fall when they're all applying for ten million colleges and scholarships.

4. I currently have pretty much perfect dental hygiene (pats self on back) but when I went in today for a routine check up they found cavities under two of my crowns that have to be completely redone. Alas, the dentist said I've always had problems and always will due to genetics. So I can keep on brushing 2-3 times day, flossing nightly, and using fancy mouth wash and will still run the risk. Ridiculous (as is how much this will all cost). 

5. I've come to the conclusion that I probably shouldn't pay good money for massages anymore. I had one the other day when my mom and I went to the spa and my mind ran the entire time she was trying to push out the seven million knots that have taken residence in my shoulders. 

6. Every summer I tend to partake in a little book-buying-binge. So far, I had been pretty good, convincing myself I had plenty of books. And then yesterday happened and I ordered six books. That's what getting paid will do to you.

[one that I ordered]

7. I hate it when people pose their criticism in such a way that it's asked as a question. You know the person is trying to point out something they disagree with or something that they think you're doing wrong, and instead of having the balls to just call you out on it, they try to make it seem as if they're just curious. 

8. I started Donna Tartt's The Secret History the other day and am enjoying it so far, although I am getting curious as to the direction it's heading, if it is in fact going anywhere (it doesn't have to, for the record).

9. My husband bought this for my son and I think he's going to start talking like a Minion (although he sort of already does):

10. I'm not sure if this is old news, but I guess it looks like The Girl on the Train is going to be a movie, possibly starring Emily Blunt. I thought the book was a bit predictable, but I could see the potential for it being a decent movie. 

Spoiler Alert: Life Not Magically Changed

I'm one of those people that feels like her house is an unorganized, messy disaster, approximately five minutes after cleaning it. Between the two hairy, perpetually shedding dogs and the baby-tornado, my hard work is constantly being undone. We've also lived in our home for almost four years now, so I'm starting to feel like it's time to hunker down and clean out closets and drawers. I had heard a lot about Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, so I thought I'd use it to draw some inspiration. In reality? It mostly made me laugh.

Whoa, There
Marie Kondo, the professional Japanese organizer, is intense. And apparently, she has been since she was a wee one, scouring home magazines at the age of five. She'd also set her alarm to get up before her family did in order to pursue her totally-age appropriate passion of cleaning. She opted to not go to recess and stayed inside to help her teachers get their classrooms into shape. She had quite the internal dialogue, too, conversing with herself about "rebound cleaning" and throwing out family members' belongings. 

Organizing, Not Cleaning
This book is strictly about organizing, so if you're hoping how to make your windows sparkle or your grout gleam, this book is not for you. The two are tied together, though- a house in order is simply easier to keep clean. 

Throw it Out. Now. 
This I am pretty much on board with, although I think her policies about books are harsh (as in I mean I instantly thought she was a "stupid  illiterate book-hater" when I read that section). I also wasn't a fan about her insensitive opinions on photographs and other nostalgic items (she's a bit of an ice queen, I think). In general, though, I love to throw things out- I hate "stuff." She raises a lot of good points about shredding paperwork, ditching old manuals, and tossing things you simply don't use or have forgotten existed. 

Find Joy, Guys
When trying to decide what to keep and what to toss, you need to simply "take the object in your hand and ask: 'Does this spark joy?'" (Kondo, 41). I decided to ponder this question with some of my own household items: 

Dress the Part
Kondo usually wears a dress and blazer to organize, because "tidying is a celebration, a special send-off for those things that will be departing from the house " (189). If you really must slum it up, you may wear an apron, if it's absolutely necessary. 

Thank Your Inanimate Objects
Make sure to appreciate your belongings (good point), but to also "treat [your] items like they're alive" by thanking them, aloud, every day (169). When putting your purse away, Kondo suggests telling it, "It's thanks to you that I got so much work done today" (169). She then provides a delightful anecdote about the first time she had to replace a cell phone, when she was a teenager. After buying the new phone she texted the old one a thank you message, and it promptly died the next day. It just new

Jokes Aside...
This book is hilarious, but it's also motivating. Kondo is a bit eccentric, but my god I bet her home is immaculate and functional. She's passionate and practical. I didn't really learn anything from it (although she did instruct us on how to fold our socks and what sort of boxes can be used in drawers), but it did light a fire under my butt to get moving around my house. 

Top Ten Tuesday- Best of... So Far

The Broke and the Bookish ask us for our top ten favorite reads so far this year (I love looking back at the end of the year to see what stayed on the list and what fell off). While I am proud of my twenty-five books so far (I am a full-time English teacher and the mother to a very active one-year-old, for those just stopping by), I wish there were more. 

In no particular order....

1. Sous Chef by Michael Gibney- I wrote about this on a restaurant memoir round-up I just wrote yesterday, but I loved the fast-paced syntax and unique voice of this day-in-the-life style memoir.

2. We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler- I thoroughly enjoyed this tale about what happens when a girl is raised alongside a monkey, and what happens when she gets older.

3. Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro- This was my first Munro experience and I loved her writing.

4. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout- I'm such a sucker for connecting short stories. 

5. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison- This is old-school Toni; magical realism, delicious prose, and raw emotion.

6. Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton- A chef memoir written by a chef with a degree in writing. Perfect.

7. In the Best Interest of Students by Kelly Gallagher- I'm not one for "teacher books," but I greatly appreciated Gallagher's navigation of pairing The Common Core changes with what we already have in place. I have so many new activities to bring into my classroom next fall.

8. Gulp by Mary Roach- A woman that can make the digestive tract fascinating. 

9. Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabrielle Garcia Marquez- I taught this book again and still love the unorganized narrative and magical realism.

10. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel- While I am tired of this genre, this one was well-written and fascinating. 

What made your cut? 

Reading About Restaraunts

This year I've read, and listened to, a lot of books about chefs and restaurants. I worked in a few during college and have always found the dynamic fascinating. Back of the house, front of the house. Servers, bussers, hosts. Bartenders, managers. Cooks, dishwashers, expediters, prep-cooks. Openers, closers. Tuesday night crew... Friday night crew. I never had the privilege of working somewhere particularly high-class, but I was still able to appreciate the structure, organization, and  culture that working in a restaurant provides. 

I've read about chefs and restaurants from the around the world, from a variety of backgrounds and with different experiences. The one thing they all have in common? Grit. This is a highly over-used word (especially in education) right now, but it perfectly describes the hard work that people like Marcus Samuelsson and Josh Ruxin have put in. Creating a successful business in this industry is extremely tough- the odds are not in your favor. 

Here are my favorites that I've read or listened to (a few didn't make the cut, unfortunately):


Medium Raw and Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
Both of these are great, if you like Bourdain. He narrates both audiobooks with his typical, charming "take no shit" tone. His stories about the darker side of the business are always entertaining and eye-opening. His candor and combination of self-deprecation and ego are always humorous.

Delancey: A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, A Marriage by Molly Wizenberg
Wizenberg doesn't narrate this, but it's still great listen (although I don't love the woman's voice, she takes unnaturally long pauses at strange spots). Wizenberg must come to terms with her unconventional husband decides to open a pizza joint, turning the whole endeavor into a DIY project. Apparently they also have an LA location that I'd love to get to at some point. 

Sous Chef by Michael Gibney
This book chronicles Gibney's day from start to finish working as a sous chef at a fine-dining restaurant in New York. The syntax is brilliant, as is the energy and wit. The pressure of working in a fast-paced kitchen is palpable. I can almost guarantee that this will be on my best-of list, come December.

Blood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
Hamilton had a bit of a rough time growing up, her family dissolving when she was just a kid. She was forced into independence, and hit some speed bumps along the way. Eventually she starts her own place, Prune, turning in a literal shit hole into something amazing. The end bring some Italian travels, which I enjoyed. I was also very appreciate of her writing proficiency- that's what you get when a chef has an MFA.

Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson
Samuelsson examines the more classical route chefs take in terms of starting at the bottom and working their way up, position by position. He works at many restaurants throughout Europe and it's fascinating to hear about the way the kitchens are run and how the traditional staging process works (especially pre-Internet when he has to write letters and visit chefs). He also brings in a racial component, which is obviously timely. 

Back of the House by Scott Haas
Haas, a psychologist, shadows Tony Maws and his restaurant staff for over a year trying to figure out what makes them tick. He becomes quite involved, learning about their personal lives and the dynamics of the kitchen. He also picks up some skills himself, further immersing himself into the lifestyle. While reading this I often felt like I was watching a documentary- it was very captivating. 

A Thousand Hills to Heaven: Love, Hope, and a Restaurant in Rwanda by Josh Ruxin
I initially thought this book was going to be more so centered on the restaurant, but it turns out the emphasis was focused on Ruxin and his wife's aid work in Rwanda. It turns out that I actually learned a lot about how relief work should work and how one goes about establishing a successful small business in a developing country. 

What's Happening

We're getting into the summer vacation groove around these parts (except the sleeping in part. Someone isn't a fan):

[my new best friend; it's a good thing I have obligations, because if not I'd live in the pool]
[we saw this at a toy store when visiting a friend and I had to snap a picture for my husband]
[I took a yoga class last week and it was really hard, but really great. I love being yoga-sore]
[Bunny Ears + superhero jammies]
[a daycare morning done right]
[learning how to treat books nicely]

[continuing my quest for amazing homemade ice cream]
[lots of evening walks, a bath, and vaccinations]
[a friend invited us to story hour- first trip to the library!]

[I think he hates it.]