Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

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1. A student and I spent some of his outside reading conference comparing Pip from Great Expectations and Wade from Ready Player One- there are many similarities. I told him that I had more time I'd write an essay for fun, and he looked at me like I was crazy. #Englishmajorproblems

2. Why do vet visits always turn into "maybe we should run three extra tests for several hundred dollars more and if you say no I will look at you with so much judgement and scorn"?

3. I made my first pair of curtains last week and they were a few inches too short and have been bugging me so much. So, I went back to the fabric store, bought some of the patterned fabric I used (I did 1/3 pattern and 2/3 solid) and made an extra strip for the bottom. Now I actually really, really like them. It's fun to have something new and fun in our kitchen.

4. My Year in Review Mixbook came last weekend I am in love. The matte cover is beautiful and it was so much fun to sit down with Sawyer and look at everything that happened last year.

5. I made this breakfast pizza last night and it was delicious. I used pancetta instead of bacon and next time might cook the eggs a little differently, since we like them more runny, but all-in-all the flavor was excellent and it was easy.

6. I just finished The Sympathizers for book club tomorrow and I really, really ended up loving it. How we're going to discuss this book in just ninety minutes is beyond me. It really needs a few lunches, as far as I'm concerned.

7. "Hold On" by Wilson Phillips came on this morning and I spent the day really wanting to watch Bridesmaids while sitting on the couch eating cereal. Unfortunately, this did not happen. 

8. I'm going to the Women's March on Saturday in LA with my good friend and I am sooooooo excited. Luckily, the excitement is overpowering the slight anxiety I have over logistics.

Reorganized Bookshelves

[reorganized fiction shelves]

Two months ago I made the trek to Ikea for a few new Billy bookshelves for our dining room, since our regular shelves were overflowing (I was just stacking new books on the tops of books in the general area where they should be). I was super on-top of the assembly part, but not so much the reorganizing part. This was partially intentional, though, since I knew Christmas would bring even more books and I wanted to wait until I knew what I was working with. 

Last weekend I finally got my stuff together and completely overhauled everything (this doesn't include my husband's huge collection of graphic novels, which he keeps somewhere else). I have plenty of room now, so I was able to do some fun stacking arrangements and include framed pictures. I am definitely pleased with the outcome, but always lurking in my mind is "what happens when I run out of room the next time?" Luckily we have one child, a good-sized house, and plenty of wall space. But still. It's not like I'm ever going to quit buying books. 

[new ikea shelves in dining room]

[new shelves filled with non-fiction]
[another view of the fiction in our great room]

[the rest of the fiction]

[some space for some special artwork]

[I stacked some of the authors we had lots of books by]

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

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1. This has been one of the toughest "go back to work" experiences I've had in my twelve years of teaching. I think it's because they changed our calendar and we don't have finals until next week, as opposed to before Christmas as in the past. It just feel strange and a lot of things I'm used to having done are not. So nothing bad is happening, I just feel really "blah." 

2. I'm trying to stay positive, though! I have SO SO SO many awesome things in the next month or two to look forward to. I am going to the LA Women's March a week from Saturday in LA and I just learned that a work trip to Seattle next month was approved by the board. Plus what is panning out to be a fun weekend in Orange County for my half marathon and a few other things. Moral of the story: this too shall pass.

3. I'm almost done with the Dirty John podcast and while it's no Serial (season 1), it is interesting and creepy. 

4. I'm reading The Sympathizer for book club next week and while I really like it, it's taking me a while to get through it. I always like book club book to be the last thing I've read, but that means I usually cut it too close on time and am scrambling the last day or two. It looks like this will happen yet again.

5. Teacher hack: put the car vent air fresheners on your vents in your classroom (I actually do that at home too). Works like a charm!

6. I made Sally's Baking Addiction bread bowls the other night and it was so much easier (and faster) than I thought. Get on while it's still winter and soup weather!

7. Last Friday I got some serious, ridiculous book FOMO over Fire and Fury, the new book by Michael Wolff and ended up downloading it on iBooks, making it my first ebook purchased and read ever. So far it paints a pretty grim, ridiculous picture of the current administration, but it's not that surprising at this point. But perhaps I'm just jaded, at this point. 

8. Sawyer is into The Lion King right now and I've had to try to explain death to him, since he's super, super confused about what happens to Mufasa. I don't want to lie or skirt around the issue, but it is definitely outside of the scope of his cognitive abilities right now. 

7 Tips for Making a Year-in-Review Book

[past books]

For the last few years I have been making year-in-review books for myself and my little family. It's so much easier than printing photos and shoving them into plastic sleeves, like I did once-upon-a-time. In the past I have also made ones for big trips or special events, as well. Being a yearbook adviser for five years has helped exponentially, since I've developed an appreciation for white space, consistency in fonts, and relatively simple layouts. I just finished by 189 pages 2017 book, so I thought I'd share my top five tips for making a beautiful end-of-the-year book with as less stress as possible:

1. Determine Structure and Themes- Are you going to organize my month? Event? Person? I prefer month, since it's just an easy way to group everything and stay organized. Also, decide if you want to use a specific color scheme or theme throughout. I don't do a lot of extra colors and graphics, but I do add some here and there. The one I just finished had gold undertones throughout.

2. Work Gradually- In a perfect world I'd work on my book gradually throughout the year, completing each month as it has passed. I actually did this, for the most part, through August this year, and it made finishing it so much easier. I have done the opposite as well, rushing to complete it in a few days before the awesome New Year's coupon codes expired. I am really going to try to stay on top of it this year- the slower you work the better it will look.

3. Find a Company that Fits Your Needs- I like a lot of control when it comes to formats, fonts, colors, backgrounds, covers, and adding pages, so for me Mixbook has been a perfect fit. They are more expensive than other companies, but it's worth it for me to have an ending product that I'm really happy with. There are tons of different options out there, you just have to see what has the interface, pricing, and controllability that works with you.

4. Words: It's Like Goldilocks- When working on your spreads you want to add some text so you can remember places and memories, but I think for the most part you should stay away from excessive writing. When I look at my past books and see others go through them it's really the pictures that everyone is focusing on.

5. Edit! Edit! Edit!- There is nothing more annoying than having your labor-of-love (mine probably take me about 30 hours each year to do) come back with errors. Edit as you go, but also go back a few more times on different days to catch other mistakes. I don't ask anyone else to look at mine, but that might be an option if you want it.

6. Picture Organization- I am horrible at organizing my pictures, but I recently started paying $2.99 a month to backup my entire phone on the iCloud, which means I can just logon, download the pictures I want onto my computer, and then use whatever I end up needing in my photo book. On the Cloud they're organized by month, which makes it even easier! Make sure you take lots of pictures, too! You want plenty of material to work with. 

7. Keep it Simple- I know that people tend to get super excited when they see the array of stickers, color options, fonts, etc... but don't go overboard or it will end up looking like Lisa Frank threw up all over your book. These sorts of things detract from your pictures and make your pages look cluttered. And if you do get a little crazy, balance out the page next to it with a more minimalist approach. 

Good luck! It's incredibly time consuming, but I cherish the end results so much. Sometimes Sawyer and I will just sit down for an hour and look through old pictures. It's worth the effort! 

Unbridled Optimism: The Failing of a Resolution

A year ago I wrote on this blog that my resolution for 2017 was to write a novel.

Yup. I did that. 

Despite working all day, grading all the time, having a small child, taking care of our house, being married, having a social life, maintaing an adequate level of fitness, and pursuing multiple hobbies, I thought I could totally make it happen. For sure. If you dream it you can achieve it. Go team, go team! Hip-hip-hooray! 

Progress check: zilch (unless we count fantasizing about getting an amazing book deal, ugly-crying as I resigned from my job, and spending a ridiculous amount of money at Boden and Anthro for new outfits for my massive book tour).

Maybe I wrote a few pages or scribbled some notes on a long-forgotten notebook? Clearly it wasn't very inspiring or memorable if I did. 

But here's the thing: I still think I'm going to do it. Despite barely having time to sit on the couch alone to take a few soul-cleansing deep breaths every night, I really and truly think that one day, probably, like, soon, I'm going to write an amazing novel that may or may not end up published (seriously, though, it probably will).

I am not an optimistic person- I fancy myself quite reasonable, skewing a tiny bit to the pessimistic side, in fact. I know I will never finish with the top of the pack in a race. I will never have thousands of blog followers, I will never be a size 2, and I will never be mom/wife/pet-owner/friend of the year. My house will never be spotless. I will never give up refined sugar, Diet Coke, Spaghetti O's, listening to Taylor Swift, crying during Grey's Anatomy, or judging people for what they read. I know my limitations.

But having this hope that one day I will be a successful novelist is a gift I'm giving myself. It's a daydream I rely on to help me get to sleep sometimes (literally) and when things get rough at work it's something I remember for comfort. I see it as an option. A security blanket. And on really bad life days, a light at the end of the tunnel.

Will it happen in 2018? It might. Will it happen by the time I'm 40? I'm going to go with yes. Will I become rich and famous and become besties with Zadie Smith, Marisha Pessl, and Ann Patchett (she will actually probably be more like a mentor, considering the age difference)? Mayyyyybe. But will I die wondering whether I had a novel in me? Hell-to-the-no.*

*Unless I die in the next month by unforeseen circumstances. I really, really hope that doesn't happen. But --hello!-- see above about being realistic.