Five Things About... Dessert Can Save the World by Christina Tosi

First of all, I’m a huge fan of Milk Bar and Tosi. I love the food (ahem, looking at you, cornflake chocolate chip marshmallow) and I love her energy. So yeah, parts of the book may seem cheesy if you haven’t drunk her Kool Aid , but I’m fully indoctrinated. The world needs more of her optimism, problem-solving, and kindness. 

She talks about her grandma’s advice to “go sew” when things get rough. You don’t have to actually pick up a needle and thread, but instead find something productive and distracting to do so that you can refocus and return the challenge restored. This is why my house is much cleaner when I’m stressed. 

There’s a whole section dedicated to making care packages for people- who doesn’t love getting unexpected packages of thoughtful little gifts? I want to be the type of person who does this sort of thing more often. It doesn’t even have to be expensive- $15 worth of fun little gizmos can definitely brighten someone’s day. It really is the thought that counts.

The section on bottlenecks can be applicable to anyone’s life. For her it had to do with issues with cookie  production, but for me, grading papers, someone else efficiency in generating data reports (I just made that up… data reports… ew). What is causing the delay in productivity? How can it be fixed? What is a new way of doing things that can lead to greater efficiency?

My absolute favorite line comes from the beginning when Tosi astutely remarks, “Meatloaf and mashed potatoes can comfort our souls, but cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting mainline healing and love straight into our hearts” (xi).

Five Things About... My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

I have resisted this book for years, for several reasons. First, the Europa cover is trash (although I love this publisher’s paperback jacket style), second, the synopsis didn’t really hook me, and third, it’s a series, which can often be a red flag. I was intrigued by the Ferrante memoir coming out soon, though, so I figured I should at least give this a try, and I’m so glad I did. 

The last week was busy, so I was thankful that this book’s chapter are generally just a few pages. It makes it so easy to just read a few pages here and there!

I loved the story of the narrator and her hot-and-cold best friend Lila. Isn’t that so true of many childhood friendships? One year your inseparable, then the next distant. 

The Bildungsroman genre is often saturated with the male experience, so it’s nice to see one focus on a female. Elena grows from a tiny kindergartner to a teen through these pages and we see her battle with puberty, academics, boys, and family.

I love Italy and have been to Rome, Florence, and Venice, but now I need to go back so I can go to Naples! Ferrante’s setting construction is flawless and I loved feeling so enveloped in the culture every time I sat down to read.

Q1 Goal Check-In


We're already a fourth of the way done with this year! I don't think I did a post on New Year's Goals/Resolutions/Intentions (whatever we call them now), but I still made several. I know they're not for everyone, but I like having things to work towards. I printed out a chart for each month of the year and have them posted on a clipboard on the wall in my multi-purpose room upstairs so that I can keep track of my progress. The visual accountability really helps! Here's what's been going well and no so well:

Read 75 books in 2022: on track to exceed it!

Average one non-stretching yoga workout/week: I think I need to do two before the end of the month to stay on track here, but I will say it's probably the hardest goal. It's so much easier for me to get on the treadmill than the mat most nights. I spend about 45-60 a day running and walking the dog, so sometimes I don't even do anything extra. 

One home improvement project a month (at least initiated)- this has been going super well. I've done some little things around the house, hired a handy man to do some paint touch-ups outside, and booked a painting job for out living room/kitchen next month. We also upgraded our security system and I've started the arduous process of adding soil to our flower beds. 

Pay off car by the spring- Yup! I just did last week. I really pinched pennies so that I could get it paid off in a year, since I hate monthly payments and having loans. Last year I paid off my student loans, this year the car, and maybe next year the HELOC (we'll see... that one isn't as stressful). 

Hike once a month- I think I've done two a month, so definitely good there

Donate money to a cause- I finally signed up for automatic donations to Doctor's Without Borders, so that goal is an easy win now!

Stay on top of reviews (Instagram and blog)- This one is also tough, but it's happening (just at a slightly slower rate than a lot of people in the book community). 

Organize one thing a month- Yup! In the process I feel like I've given away all of Sawyer's clothes since he's grown SO much the last year.

Send more cards/notes- Yup! I have enlisted Sawyer's help, so between the two of us we've send lots of little notes, cards, and postcards. 

120 Forest Hours a month- I decided that instead of a strict screen time goal, I would work more on chunks of time not picking up my phone. This of course transfers, for the most part, in reduced phone time, so it works. Most days I've exceeded the four hour average needed, so I'm making progress! 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

It's spring break! We are lying low for a few days so that I can try to get a bunch done at home and for work and then Sawyer and I leave for Yosemite Wednesday for three nights. I can barely contain my happiness- we went annually before 2020, when I had to cancel our trip. Last year we went for one day, since my husband wasn't comfortable with hotels at the time. It was super fun, but at 7+ hours each way, it was exhausting. This year we are going to drive up Wednesday, do a pretty solid day of hiking on Thursday just the two of us, and then I have some family driving up the next day to hang out in the park. Then Saturday we can sleep in and drive all the way home. Sawyer is at such a great age for travel- he has lots of things to keep him busy in the car and then when we get there he's super helpful carrying stuff and is super flexible bouncing from place to place (or just chilling at the hotel). This summer we have quite the little adventure planned and I know he will be great! This is just a warm up. 

I just finished The Memoirs of Stockholm Sven by Nathaniel Ian Miller and I absolutely loved it. The humor was maybe akin to Catch-22 but the plot (it is actually a novel) is an episodic tale of Sven's life in the Arctic. I just started Black Data by Charmaine Wilkerson and it's got me hooked. 

On the listening front, I just finished Seven Days in June by Tia Williams and it was perfect for walking and commuting (sorry-not-sorry, I am habitually compelled to note that I don't count audiobooks as listening for my yearly totals). The narrator, Mela Lee, was probably the best I've ever heard read a book. Total perfection. 

Scott and I started Yellowstone a few weeks ago and are moving through it faster than we have any show since Sawyer was born. I mean, this equates to like 1.5 episodes a week, but for me that's pretty intense. I have a feeling this show will end up being one of my favorites, ever. The scenery, the characters, the writing... just so good (I know most people have been watching it for years, but give me a break). 

I also started the second season of Cheer the other day while I am on the treadmill and I forgot how much I love that show. The coach was on a podcast I was listening to the other day, and I'm actually considering listening to her book, since she clearly has some serious leadership skills when it comes to young adults. 

I didn't watch the Oscars last night, but at the end of the day, while you should never make jokes about medical conditions you can't assault people, either (unless self defense). Who do I really feel bad for? Jada. She was made the butt of a joke and now has to deal with the aftermath of her husband's choice. I hope it blows over for everyone and that nothing of the sort happens again. 

My dog is obsessed with hiking, and I think we've only gone four times? I've taken her every other week-ish and all I have to say now is "want to go for a hike in the car" and she gets SO excited. She's sort of a pain out on the trail, since it's multi-use and she feels the need to sit and watch all mountain bikers pass, but it's great exercise for us both. 

Last week's to-dos:
- get into a good place on grading before spring break (sort of)
- finish book club book (yup! We are pushing back meeting, but I'm done!)
- pay off my car (this is just a matter of waiting for some money to transfer from one account to another, but it feels pretty monumental, since I just bought it a year ago and have worked really hard to get that monthly payment gone!) (yup!)
- bake some sort of treat to give to trends as a spring break send-off (I actually baked everyone cookies last weekend, but then I was worried my stomach issue was a result of those so I didn't hand them out) (yup! giant cookies for everyone!)

This week's to-dos:
- donate old clothes 
- get a chunk of grading done before leaving for Yosemite
- Finish Black Cake 
- Get mostly done with an Etsy order

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

If I could just have like ten uninterrupted hours at work and ten at home I'd feel a lot better about both. At least we have just one last week until spring break! 

A dear friend suggested we go to David Sedaris reading back when we read his last book for book club, so we're making it happen in May! This will be my first reading since the pandemic. 

Today Sawyer and I went to a sheer-sheering festival. Yup. We paid to watch sheep sheered and it was an absolute delight (there were other things going on too, plus some decent food).

My students are about halfway into Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake and I'm so overjoyed by how much they like it! 

Some of the bigger colleges, like UCLA (go Bruins!) have been sending out acceptance letters this past week and it's been so rewarding seeing the kids get in places. I offer extra credit for copies of their acceptance letters to post (college, universities, community college, military, trade, etc...), so I have a huge space of total happiness in my class right now. I keep it up for my incoming juniors next year for motivation. 

I'm so behind at posting here right now- I have so many little reviews to copy over. So, yes, I am reading a lot, but this is pretty much one of the last things on the priority-list. 

I'm going to be straight-up honest right now: I am extremely annoyed with my child and am hiding from him. He is a bundle of happy energy, but right now I need him to sort laundry and be quiet. 

Last week's to dos:
- make it through some less than fun adult things like dealing with an alarm system upgrade and virtual parent-teacher conferences (DOONE... I had no choice) 
- go through my pictures from 2022 so far and delete ones I don't want (not committing to starting my yearly photo book yet, but this does make it easier when the times comes) [nope]]
- abs every day, which is unnecessary and excessive, but sometimes that helps get me into the habit  [ha! No! I discovered this week that microgreens give me horrible stomach pains, so I spent way too many days feeling like I was dying, but at least now I know]
- do something creative that isn't for my Etsy shop [this was not the week, haha]

This week tossed me a lot of wrenches, but I got done the important things and next week will be better!

This week's do dos:
- get into a good place on grading before spring break
- finish book club book
- pay off my car (this is just a matter of waiting for some money to transfer from one account to another, but it feels pretty monumental, since I just bought it a year ago and have worked really hard to get that monthly payment gone!)
- bake some sort of treat to give to trends as a spring break send-off (I actually baked everyone cookies last weekend, but then I was worried my stomach issue was a result of those so I didn't hand them out)

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Middle of March? The time is changing tonight? End-of-the-school-year plans starting to be made? January and most of February were tough for me- there were a lot of contributing factors, but I had the lovely dreaded double whammy of slight depression and high anxiety, and was exhausted by trying to get a handle on it alone, while putting on the dog-and-pony show at work and home. A few weeks ago I just.. felt better. Obviously life is full of ups and downs, but this down was not the normal type of down, so I'm glad I've shaken it. 

Today Sawyer and I met our friends at the Natural History Museum in LA to see the Jane Goodall exhibit and everything else. We had a great time and I need to get some of Goodall's books asap. I am hoping I can take Sawyer to NYC next year or the year after- the Natural History Museum there is one of my favorite museums in the world. 

Have you ever been to a sheep sheering festival? No? Me neither. This is soon to be remedied, though, so I'll make sure to report back. I told my husband that I was going with Sawyer and all he said was, "Sounds about right." Ha! You can take the girl out of Central California, but you can't take Central California out of the girl (it's really called the Central Valley, but if you aren't from this state you won't get it, so. yeah).

I finished My Brilliant Friend and the whole damn book is brilliant, if you ask me. I will definitely read the next one, get the Ferrante memoir, and will probably even try to watch the show. 

My students started reading Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake this week, which will be my second time reading it and first time teaching it. It's a lot of work to prep everything to teach something for the first time, but it's so awesome to be able to bring a new book into the curriculum. 

We watched the first episode of Yellowstone last week and I am totally sold. At most I watch TV with my husband once a week (I watch snippets of other shows on my ipad while on the treadmill sometimes), so it's going to take awhile to get through it, but whatever. Sawyer and I are going to the Tetons and Yellowstone this summer, so it makes it that much better! I'm a sucker for mob-type shows, and this is basically the mob but with cowboys in beautiful nature, so I'm in love. Also, fun fact, Kevin Costner's butt was the first bit of nudity on screen I'd ever seen in my life (Dances with Wolves, probably when I was like... 7?)

Despite my plans of a G + T or two while staying up "late" tonight, and the time change, I hope to get in a few hours of hiking in the morning with the dog. I need to break in some new hiking boots before we go to Yosemite in a few weeks and she needs all the energy-depleting activity she can get. 

Last week's to-do's:
- finish My Brilliant Friend and The Swimmers (yes to the first, and no to the second, because I read something else instead)
- lots of grading (plugging along)
- finish my second Etsy order  (done and shipped)
- keep up my "not snacking like a fourteen-year-old boy after soccer practice" momentum  (not to shabby)
- take Sawyer to Knott's Berry Farm after school Thursday for a quick little trip, just because (we did!)

This week's:
- make it through some less than fun adult things like dealing with an alarm system upgrade and virtual parent-teacher conferences
- go through my pictures from 2022 so far and delete ones I don't want (not committing to starting my yearly photo book yet, but this does make it easier when the times comes)
- abs every day, which is unnecessary and excessive, but sometimes that helps get me into the habit 
- do something creative that isn't for my Etsy shop 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

I just read that people are booking Airbnbs in Ukraine, just to help get some people money- over 60,000 nights have been scheduled so far, half by Americans. I love that idea! I know people have also been doing that on Etsy, with Etsy vendors as well). Creative ways to get people money directly! My charity of choice is Doctors Without Borders, but I know there's lots of other groups (like UNICEF) doing good work. 

Just remember when you fill up your car and it costs $2384298 that we are super lucky to not live in a country that's being threatened my a psychotic man with nuclear capabilities. I know, it SUCKS and some people can't afford it, but the people I see complaining the most can (and I was one of them until I checked myself hard). 

I am smitten with Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend. Gah. Also, after seeing Rebecca Makkai rave about Julia Otsuka's newest book The Swimmers, I bought that and read a few pages. It's definitely on deck.

If you live in California and need to renew your tags I 10/10 recommend going to a kiosk in a grocery store. Took two minutes and I got them right there!

Today I took Sawyer to his second art class where we met his friend, and I am so proud of myself for letting him make tons of mistakes and be super messy (I help clean up at the end). I see a lot of other parents helping their kids out, but I'm biting my tongue and sitting on my hands! Admittedly I did help him practice mixing colors before we went, since he had a hard time last week, but still. Mom-progress. 

Tomorrow we are going to the Huntington Library/Gardens and I'm super excited to see their "Mapping Fiction" exhibit, which shows how "authors and mapmakers have created compelling worlds." Sign me up.

So, without going to much in to detail, I was involved in a confrontation this week that was completely unprovoked (I was accused of stealing mail by someone I have worked hard to ignore for over three years). The reason why I mention this is because I have never stolen anything in my ENTIRE life! Recently I did self-checkout at Target and when I got home I realized that the amount I paid seemed off a little bit. Sure enough, a pair of pants for Sawyer that cost $12 somehow didn't ring up, so I drove immediately back, went to customer service, and paid for them. They said it was unnecessary, but I was like, "heck no, I've never stolen and I am not going to start now." And then this? If I ever steal anything it's going to be a ginormous rare jewel in a museum that has lasers around it that I have to do ninja moves to get through. Pants? No. Mail? Double nope. Oh, and, for the record, I hate confrontations and I wanted to cry, but didn't so bonus points for me. 

Last weeks' to-dos:
- book that car rental (dang it, I keep forgetting)
- host a play date for Sawyer (yup! We've actually had two in the last week!)
- figure out something fun to do next weekend, since I'm not going away (yup!)
- two yoga sessions (yup!)
- more effectively manage stress (Yes! This week was so much better than last)
- average more sleep than the last week (sure did, by an average of 15 minutes more per night)

This week:
- finish My Brilliant Friend and The Swimmers
- lots of grading
- finish my second Etsy order 
- keep up my "not snacking like a fourteen-year-old boy after soccer practice" momentum 
- take Sawyer to Knott's Berry Farm after school Thursday for a quick little trip, just because 

Bookish Banter- The Third Pole

[This post was done with Julie from Julz Reads... it was also supposed to go up last Thursday but I accidentally scheduled it for next Thursday.. so... here we are]

Julz:  There was so much to love about this book.  The multiple narratives, the incredible stories of survival, and even the tragedies of the 2019 climbing season.  I was especially moved by Kam’s story.  That was particularly intense.  What was your favorite aspect?

Christine: I was so worried about Kam! I checked her out online at one point to make sure she made it! I left a comment on one of her Instagram posts like a total weirdo and she was so sweet (and is planning to hopefully summit again soon). She needs to write a book- I’d be all over that preorder.  Overall, I think my favorite part was once Synnott started the process of acclimating to the altitude and really getting ready to climb.

Julz:  No way! (Pauses to IG stalk Kam).  Yup, I could totally see you two being besties.

You’re outdoorsy and enjoy hiking.   Have you ever given any thought to about mountain climbing?  What do you think your chances of survival on Everest would be?

Christine: I would die. Ha! I think I could prepare my body physically to do it, if I had a year or two, but I have had trouble with vertigo and my inner ears, plus asthma, so when it comes to my actual anatomy I don’t think I could handle it. Plus, technically, I’ve never done more than hiking and the idea of having to clip into lines and do things with axes scares me.

What is the biggest physical risk you’ve ever taken, or that you’d like to take?

Julz:  I am NOT a physical person.  Lifeguard training in college was pretty demanding.  I do feel pretty comfortable in water, so I would love to learn to surf.  But I hate being cold (irony of being a Midwesterner), so I would not do well on a snow-capped peak.  I would, however, be very much interested in doing a hike to base camp on the Nepal side.

Could you imagine letting a 13-year-old Sawyer attempt summiting Everest?

Christine: Part of me would be proud if he wanted to, since he can be a bit hesitant to take physical risks, but I would also be terrified. I’ve mentioned hiking up Half Dome in Yosemite when he’s older a few times and he always gives me a hard no.

There is some talk in the book about how hard it is to be married to climbers. What are your thoughts (besides substantial life-insurance policies)?

Julz:  I’m not much of a worrier, I’m pretty pragmatic when it comes to things like that.  But I doubt I ever would have been attracted to that type of personality in the first place.

I found it interesting reading about China’s subordination of Tibetan culture after seeing similar commentary about China’s transgressions on NBC for the Beijing winter Olympics (aka, the socioeconomic rape of minorities and their heritage).  What. A. Travesty.

Christine: I don’t know a lot about it, but I am definitely interested in learning more about the Sherpa guides, in particular. I need to order a few books.

Julz:  Synnott references Wade Davis’ Into the Silence several times.   Start there for sure.   The World Beneath Their Feet by Scott Ellsworth gives a great historical background on using locals as guides and the different ethnicities in the Himalayan region.

Do you believe China’s claim that they have Irving’s body and possibly the camera?

Christine: Part of me thinks that it’s plausible, but then I don’t know… the whole idea of finding a body in the snow after all of these years in a short amount of time seems so daunting to me. What about you?

Julz: Nah, I would put about as much stock in the Chinese government’s honesty as I would Putin.  I think he’s down in a crevasse somewhere inaccessible.  But it is a little strange that Mallory’s rock-buried grave hasn’t been located since the initial identification…