Five things about… My Body by Emily Ratajkowski

I honestly had no idea who the author was before I started seeing her book everywhere, which I think was actually kind of nice! No preconceived opinions based on a public persona.

I think this is a interesting read for everything, but I think parents of younger girls and teens would probably find helpful as they navigate what can be some tricky years in terms of their daughters struggling with their bodies and dating.

I knew the modeling world was seedy,  but her stories about how photographers treated her and how others in the industry talked to her made me cringe. To so many models are just commodities, ways to make money. It’s disgusting. 

This is a good reminder  it to judge- so many of us hide so many secrets, experiences, and pain. Just because someone is successful or beautiful (or both), doesn’t mean they haven’t endured or don’t have the right to share the story. 

Her discussion of who has laid various claims to her body and beauty was really thought-provoking. Parents, boyfriends, agents, photographers, strangers, the public, her husband, and even her baby. It’s not always negative- sometimes we share our bodies willingly. The problem is when we do not. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

I was supposed to go out of town on my own next weekend, just to take an actual break, but I decided to postpone it until May or the summer. I have too much on my plate right now that a weekend off would end up making more stressed eventually. Womp womp womp. We'll do something fun nonetheless, but I had been fantasizing about the sleep and uninterrupted reading time for weeks. I know it's a lot to ask as a mom and a teacher, but I just want to go a couple hours and not have to talk to someone... I also want to actually exist for a day without feeling like I have 294297429 things to do around the house.

Another disappointment? My sewing machine broke! I spent HOURS trying to fix it, but ended up ordering a new one. I've been practicing making book sleeves lately, so I'm happy to be back working on those, but a little bummed that I had the unexpected expense when I'm so close to getting my car paid off. 

We've been talking out art classes for Sawyer for years, but recently a new place super close opened and it's on a week-to-week basis, which is perfect. It was the perfect style for him- a little lesson at the beginning and then a painting with some basic direction. 

Last night we had book club for Colson Whitehead's Harlem Shuffle and we were very mixed on it. I definitely warmed up to it as I read, and would probably rank it in the middle of the books of his I have read so far.  

I can't believe it, but I finally signed Ellie up for Barkbox. It's ridiculous and I never spend that much on toys for her each month, but I also need her to be more occupied, so I sucked it up and pulled the plug. 

I am doing 1:1 orals with my students every Thursday and Friday right now, for two more weeks (I've done 3 of the 7 days), and it throws off my momentum and routine so badly. The kids are doing a great job, but I can't wait for it to be over. It also puts me even further behind with grading and planning, which is super unfortunate. 

It's a miracle- I finished a show and a movie over my break last week. After two months I finally finished And Just Like That (better than the movies, not as good as the show) and Scott and I watched I Want You Back on Amazon Prime (entertaining, predictable, and sweet- if it was a book I would have hated it, but it works for a movie). 

Last week's to-dos:
- draft of two custom Etsy orders done
- finish one of the custom orders not done (customer has not emailed me back)
- keep making progress with grading sort of
- take Sawyer to an art class yup! 
- meet up with a friend Yes! Yay! 
- catch up with reviews and posts Check
- set up new sewing machine (long story) Sigh. Yes.
- book discounted rate car rental for summer trip  Oops, totally forgot about that
- finish book club book by Friday Of course!

This week:
- book that car rental
- host a play date for Sawyer
- figure out something fun to do next weekend, since I'm not going away
- two yoga sessions
- more effectively manage stress
- average more sleep than the last week 

Five Things About... The Third Pole by Mark Synnott


(Julie and I have a buddy-read post planned for this, so stay tuned)

I am a complete sucker for books on mountain climbing, hiking, running, rock climbing, alpinism, etc… and this book did not disappoint. I was captivated from the first page (correction: the dust jacket). 

I will confess that the more historical sections were a little less exciting for me than the present day, which I know is strange since the past is what drove Synnott and crew’s present expedition. I will say that he did a great job of paralleling the events of George Mallory and Sandy Irvine and his own team’s. 

I became so invested in the stories of some of the climbers- I was so worried about one woman, Kam, that I looked her up on Instagram to make sure she was still alive after  Synnott said she was supposedly presumed dead (I left a comment on her post about the book and she wrote me back within an hour- so nice!). 

I need to know more about sherpas. Obviously this isn’t a new concept to me, since I’m no newbie to Everest, but Synnott went more in depth on both their physical adaptations and also the economics behind the guide industry. I know there’s at least one other well-received book out there primarily on it, so I’ll get it soon. 

Books like this make me really think about my physical endurance, love of nature, and overall priorities. I think if I truly wanted to climb Everest I could physically- it’s not a super technical route and I’d train really hard for a few years first. The problem for me would be anatomically- I am prone to vertigo and inner ear issues, and I also have weak lungs from a life of asthma. I’d die. Still, though, reading this was a good reminder to enter the Yosemite Half Dome lottery for this year!

Five Things About... Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner


I earmarked so many passages to potentially use with my students, whether for them to analyze syntax, description, or emotionally-rich diction. 

I am a huge sucker for memoirs based around food, whether the act of eating, foodie tourism, or restaurants, which is ironic because I am most definitely not an adventurous eater. Nonetheless, I love hearing and reading the passion that comes with people’s experiences with food, and this gushes from every page (hey, you should hear my talk about milk fat to water ratios in ice cream). I often read cookbooks cover to cover, so what can I say?

While it’s always impossible to know how honest a stranger really is, this memoir feels genuine. Zauner admits her flaws and isn’t afraid to discuss complex family dynamics. Her authenticity encourage empathy, even of her alcoholic father or of her own mistakes. 

Mother-daughter relationships are complex in all families and cultures, and we have a front row seat for Zauner’s perspective. The poignant retelling of her relationship with her mom before and after illness was heartbreaking and beautiful.

Obviously when someone is ill, mentally or physically, the first priority is the person suffering. Of course. But as a society I think we forget about the caretakers and the families in general- it’s so hard for spouses, children, siblings, etc… to watch their loved ones suffer. Often they’re grieving while having to put their own lives on hold, all the while having to dig deep into a skill set they may not have really used before (bathing an adult? Being patient during meltdowns? Handling medications and appointments?). 

Five Things About... Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

First of all, my kids ended up so invested in the Tea Cake-Janie relationship that they started sending me heated messages. Can I ask for anything more as an English teacher?

Like so many other books that I teach, this one is such a great way to bring in plenty of themes, symbolism, character development, etc…  Hurston is of course a genius when it comes to her actual prose, so we’re able to do a lot with foreshadowing, metaphors, tone, etc… too. There’s something for all levels of students, which is always appreciated. 

I mean, come on, the rabid dog standing on the cow in hurricane floodwaters? It’s ridiculous and it’s genius and we are HERE FOR IT.

I’m not a history teacher and won’t even play one on TV, but I do love bringing in ties to the past. The students have learned about slavery and Jim Crow Laws, so they’re usually able to bring in prior knowledge as well. 

I’m such a sucker for a full-circle reference, so the parts about the horizon at the beginning and the end always get me. I get way too into it and 90% of the kids stare at me like I’m crazy, while the remainders are right there with me.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

I have been off for ten days now, for President's Week (some districts call it "Ski Week"), and it took me six of them to chill the eff out after a rough start to the semester. Compounding this was my decision to not take melatonin as often and the whole "it's break so I can go to bed late even though I still get up super early" fallacy. Finally, I buckled down and got a few good nights of sleep, had a couple of great friend dates, and got a ton done around the house. Sleep + social life + productivity = happiness. 

One of my goals for the year was to hike once a month, and today I completed by fourth one, so yay for being ahead of schedule! This one was only about ten minutes away, so it allowed me to get home and still carry on. I took the dog with me, and it at 4 hilly miles it was her hiking PR (she's asleep at my feet as I type). 

One of my friend dates this week was actually a book club lunch, which also included in a little book-buying spree and Barnes and Noble. I picked up Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend (is the hype worth it? Also, the mystery behind the author!), Joan is Okay by Weike Wang, Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson, and then I ordered The Memoir of Stockholm Sven by Nathaniel Ian Miller, after we decided that was our next month's selection and they didn't have enough copies for the three of us.

I think we are going to hopefully do some painting (well, not really "we," more like hire someone) inside, and I spent way too long looking at samples at Home Depot the other day. I think I figured it out? It has to match the countertops, the couch, the cabinets, and go well with the paint in the other rooms it leads into. The guy I use for that sort of stuff is super busy, so I'm not sure when it will happen, but I can't wait for a little refresh (and hopefully getting a new coffee table, rug, and some decorative items). We need to redo our floors, do some more extensive interior painting in our great room, and have some custom bookshelves built, but the idea of needing to become a project manager and living with my house in shambles is the main deterrent. 

I made these cookies the other day and they were amazing. I've also been using the newest How Sweet Eats for dinners and everything I've used so far has gotten rave reviews from the family. 

I signed the dog up for Bark Box. I hate myself, but she LOVES destroying toys, so this seemed like the most economical way to do it. Plus, she leaves me alone while she does it, so....

This Week's Major To Dos (I think I want to start doing this at the end of every post, just to hold myself accountable, like I used to do monthly ones before):
- draft of two custom Etsy orders
- finish one of the custom orders
- keep making progress with grading
- take Sawyer to an art class
- meet up with a friend
- catch up with reviews and posts
- set up new sewing machine (long story) 
- book discounted rate car rental for summer trip 
- finish book club book by Friday 

Five Things About... How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu


As a whole, I thought this was a fascinating look at a (different) pandemic, but I thought that it was a bit uneven in terms of the first half being incredibly emotional and the second being a bit more detached sci-fi. At times it felt like two books, which may be a mark of Nagamatsu’s talent, but it just didn’t flow well for me.

If you are especially triggered by child-death or the pandemic stay clear. This isn’t Covid, but a virus that enters the ocean after melting glaciers uncover prehistoric bodies that died from the illness. Children are sickened the most and the worst, and my heart just can’t handle that. I’m glad I read it, but I just wish I hadn’t started it during a week that was already tough. 

Without giving it away, the explanation behind the origin of the pandemic was both so smartly created, but also way too science fiction-y for me. This is personal preference, though, since it really isn’t my choice genre. In a way, though, it did allow me to emotionally detach from the text a little, which I needed to after the heart-wrenching first half.

This is a cross between a novel and short-story collection. Each chapter is a different character and story, all with some degree of overlap. I am a total sucker for this structure, thoroughly enjoying the “ah ha!” moment when I see a character from another story mentioned or a shared setting. 

This book raises so many questions of morality and ethics- how does our culture handle death? How long could you stand to see your child suffer? What are we REALLY going to do about global warming? Should the funereal industry be regulated? 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

I am off until next Tuesday, a week from tomorrow, and couldn't be more thankful. Before anyone gets EVEN MORE suspicious of teachers, our district does go back on August 1st to make up for it. My son has two days off for the various presidents, so I get a nice mix of extra time with him and also some time with him at school so I can get things done faster (and with less noise). I also have some time with friends scheduled, some appointments, and a TON of work (both grading and house stuff). Needless to say, the to-do list is a mile long (which we know I love). 

Yesterday we went to a little mountain town called Idyllwild, which I had never been to before. It was a lot higher up than I realized- a mile! It was super pretty and we hiked for a few hours and followed it up with some amazing ice cream. It was a great day! 

I have been a subscriber to In Style magazine since I was in high school, maybe even before, so when I heard the recent news that they are going to stop print publication I was so sad. I admittedly have probably six or seven back issues to get through right now, but it seems like the end of an era. 

My husband and I don't typically acknowledge Valentine's Day when it comes to one another, but for some reason we each got each other a little something this year. Clearly we are living in strange times, haha. Sawyer took some of the snacks and treats he got from school and gave them to me, with little stapled post-its attached, some of them suggesting I take them to work, some with cute little messages. He loves holidays so much. 

I finished How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu and will share my thoughts this week- I have lots of them. Basically, the first half made me cry under my sunglasses while reading at Starbucks, the second half had me raising some eyebrows. I am almost done with Crying in H Mart for book club this week, and it's just as great as everyone says. 

We are getting our taxes done this weekend, and despite running the numbers, I feel like this year will hold a lot of... surprises? We both claim zero/single, so we never owe, but my husband started a new job and stopped freelancing, we changed childcare, we denied the extra child credit so we didn't get punished, I paid off my student loans, and a whole bunch of other different things. I don't know.... I just usually feel like I know what the return will be and this year I feel totally clueless. A MYSTERY. 

Five Things About... Ogla Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez

I learned so much about Puerto Rico and now feel compelled to learn even more. 

There are way, way, way too many subplots in the text. I’m all for complexity,  but I think trying to incorporate so many storylines skews the balance away from quality towards quantity. I would have rather Gonzalez focus more on deepening some of the characters or focusing more on their relationships.

The wedding planner angle was a great way to examine the different sides of Olga- her Ivy League education compared to her working-class roots, her clientele being so different from her family, and her tendency to distance herself from romance, when her business was love (well, in theory). Fun fact: this would have been an alternate career for me, since I love logistics and planning so much.

There is a ton of background information and context, which isn’t integrated very naturally. The writing at times felt a bit clunky (same with the dialogue).

Despite the flaws in structure and style, I really did find myself rooting for Olga, her relationship with Matteo, her brother Prieto, and Puerto Rico as a whole. I was also entertained and was interested in the story’s outcome from start to finish. 

Bonus: the cover is so fun

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Just shipped of the above Etsy order- I love the simplicity and the Harry Potter connection. I have the worst penmanship, so the fact that I can redeem myself through embroidery is nice. 

This weekend is the calm before the storm of busy. I've been trying to take care as much stuff as I can, like car maintenance appointments, a project Sawyer has to do for school, grading, starting to get tax docs together, etc... I know, exciting. 

I had to revise our summer vacation plans to option B, which is will be the Tetons and Yellowstone (staying in Jackson Hole). I just decided flying to another country this year was probably not best, considering the COVID requirements seem to be constantly changing. I have always wanted to go here, though, so I a m SUPER excited (although trying not to be, since I know it can always get canceled). 

I am almost 100 pages into How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu and it's absolutely heart-wrenching in the mot beautiful way possible. This is my third pandemic novel this year, and this one by far is making me the most emotional. The novels doesn't center around our pandemic, though, but one in the future that seems to only impact kids. Ugh. Plus, a side of global warming: double ugh. 

I bought Jessica Merchant's (from the How Sweet Eats blog) newest cookbook finally, and there are so many recipes I can't wait to try! I'm also really impressed that there's a huge meatless section, since I try to do vegetarian meals at least half the week. I was disappointed that there weren't any desserts, though, since that's her thing, but it's not like I don't have her other books. 

I'm about to make this bundt cake from Joy the Baker. To be honest, it was the color and the funfetti angle that stole my heart. 

My son had a very generous gift card for Barnes and Noble left from Christmas to spend, so I took him the other day. He had enough for ten books, so he had the best time adding to the pile. I tried so hard to not interject, and besides advising him to start series' on number one and not seven, I was pretty darn good.

Five Things About… The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi

This book is interesting in the sense that I liked it a lot, but also found a lot of flaws (especially after dissecting it with my colleagues/friends at our English Department book club). But the fact that that dichotomy can exist within the same book speaks toward the author’s potential. 

One component I really loved was the structure, which moved between characters and time periods. Akin to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold, we know that the main character is going to show up on his own doorstep dead eventually. But how? Why?

One of the novel’s main thematic focuses is on sexuality and the generational views of it in Nigeria. Vivek is born a male and treated as such by his family and friends, but as the book moves forward we learn this is not the gender in which he (for the purpose of maintaining adherence to a majority of the plot’s pronoun use I will refer to Vivek as a “he”) feels comfort identifying with. Anything other than cis-gender and heterosexuality is prohibited in this culture, therefore Vivek must keep this private, which he cannot. I think this book is a great read for those who want to learn more about gender fluidity, sexuality, etc…

This book provides a definite commentary on parenthood, as well. It can be hard to recognize that your children are their own people and your idea of what may be the best for them completely diverges from who they really are and what they need to satisfy that identity. Without giving anything away, I think there’s a definite message that regret is powerful and if you are forced to suddenly be without a loved one you don’t want to wish you had behaved otherwise.

I mentioned before that I did have some criticism. The pacing was a bit rushed at the end, a few narrative threads were either not well-developed or fizzled out, and some of the symbols and motifs were overdone.