Sunday Coffee – Wrapping Up 2017

Well, once again I reiterate the mantra of the last few years: 2017 wasn’t a great one for me. The government went crazy, lots of bad stuff happened in the world, and my family had a rough year with Jason losing his job and then a cross-country move. Not to mention that whole summer of nightmares thing. Anyway. I’ve begun 2018 in a much better place physically (no broken foot) and mentally (liking where I live). I hope that I can make this year far better than the last few have been. I know that it’s a week into the new year already, but I wanted to take a moment to recap the last year, and to highlight some of the good things that happened.

Health
I didn’t track nearly as many stats as I would have liked in this category. I don’t know how many yoga sessions I did, for instance, or how many miles I walked/jogged. But I do know that I exercised 213 days in 2017 despite everything that happened. That’s 58% of the year. I’d like to increase that to at least 75% in 2018 (274 days). I exercised a total of 198 hours and 34 mins (equal to over 8 days! and averaging 32 mins/day) and I walked over three million steps (!!! average of 8382 per day, even with a broken foot for six months). My weight went up a few pounds from January 1st to January 1st, but it’s still within a fluctuating maintenance range and my inches are the same, so I think I can say I was successful at maintaining this year. Yay!

Writing and Books
I already did a more extensive books-in-review post so I won’t go much into detail there, only to say that I averaged six books per month. That seems to be a sustainable and enjoyable reading pace for me. Unfortunately, I did very little with my writing this year. A tiny bit of editing and a negligible word count for the year (so small I’m not even going to report it – it’s BAD). I don’t see that changing until I can get my mental health better together, so I’m just going to accept that 2018 will not be a writing year for me.

Highlights of 2017
There weren’t many of these, but I’ve done my best to find the top ten highlights of the year. I’d rather remember 2017 by these memories than the nightmarish ones.

Yoga – I said above that I didn’t manage to track my yoga this year, but this was definitely one of my primary forms of exercise. While I’ve been practicing yoga for several years, this was the year I realized just how much I loved it. I’ve grown so much stronger and more flexible while practicing yoga, and it just brings me so much peace.

Vacation and Visits – I loved every second of my vacation to Texas in February and March. I was so homesick and this helped me to cope. Then in May, my friend Stephanie came up to visit me in Wisconsin, which was another little bright spot in the year to help me make it through.

Healed ankle – Finding out in December 2016 that my foot was actually broken and not sprained was a blow. I wasn’t allowed to do much in the way of exercise for the first six months of the year (except yoga). When I suddenly discovered in June that I could spread my toes and twist my foot without pain, it was like a miracle after two years of being unable to do these things.

Moving back to Texas and a new house – The circumstances around the moving back to Texas and getting a new house were bad, but moving back? This lovely house? Both of these have been amazing. I’ve enjoyed seeing all my friends and family again, going places with them, getting back together with my writing group, making an exercise area for myself in my bedroom, walking at my favorite hiking locations, etc.

Meeting Rory – A year to the day after my nephew was born, I finally got to meet him!

Oathbringer – I haven’t been this excited for a book release in years, probably not since the 7th Harry Potter came out.

Snow day – It never snows in San Antonio. The fact that it snowed was just awesome and so much fun.

Nimi – The other nine things on this list were roughly in the order that they happened in the year, but I saved this one for last. Nimi, who we adopted in February, has been one of the primary sparks in my life this year. She united our other two kitties and is a constant source of joy. When Jason and I went into the shelter to choose a cat, we’d never met her before. We’d met many of the other cats in the shelter (I volunteered there) but Nimi was new. She also aggressively chose us, so that we had no choice really but to take her home with us. This little lady has made the world so bright. She was by far the best decision we made in 2017.

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Sirens & Sinners, by Hans Helmut Prinzler

Subtitled: A Visual History of Weimar Film 1918-1933

This book is exactly what the subtitle says. There’s a text introduction, discussing cinematography, photography, and the historical-political-social climate of the time period and location. Then we move on to the movies themselves. Each film has a short description and possibly a quote about it, a list of cast and crew, and beautiful photographs. Some films have more material than others.

I started my year with this book because it was a topic I’ve long been interested in. Growing up, I dismissed older movies as being trite, mostly because the only ones I’d ever seen were of the cheesy family-friendly variety (think: Parent Trap). In college, I took a French classic films class as part of my major. I didn’t get as much out of this class as I would have liked – I was pregnant at the time so my mind was fuzzy – but I discovered the fascinating breadth of early film. I began to watch some classics on my own time, often films tied to the lyrics of my favorite band (who wove literature and film from the late 1800s and early 1900s into all their songs). I’ve never been a huge movie person, but through the last fifteen years, I’ve continued to come back to those classic films. Some of my favorites – Metropolis, M, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari – land right in the middle of this particular Weimar era.

Since this is primarily a visual book, there wasn’t a lot of information in it, and thus not a lot to learn. I’m okay with that. This showed me many films that I haven’t seen, many of which I’m now interested in seeing. It will act as a kind of primer for me when I’m seeking out older films to watch. It’s not the book to read if you’re interested in an in-depth look at that time period in German film, but it’s a beautiful introduction to a variety of film styles and stories.

Posted in 2018, Adult, Visual | Tagged | 4 Comments

Wellness Wednesday – Small Changes, Big Results

In December, I experienced a couple remarkable things, both as a result of small changes.

Sugar
The first of these came in nutritional form. I’ve mentioned a few times over the last month about how calorie-counting was just not going to work for my body. From October 1st to December 7th, I kept meticulous track of my calories. I had a deficit equal to a small chunk of pounds (somewhere between 5 and 10, for a margin of error). I lost nothing. After the 7th, I gave up calorie-counting, and continued to eat a reasonable diet. I continued to maintain the same weight. Starting on December 16th, I made a small change. I cut my sugar grams down to 28 or fewer per day. That’s equal to 1 oz or 2.27 tablespoons. I did not consume giant amounts of sugar before this – I ate about twice that much, less than half the American average – and the cut was really a small one for me. I didn’t count calories or anything, just ate reasonably and kept track of sugar, and continued to avoid flour-based foods when I could (something I’ve done for years now).

In the first week, I lost 4 lbs. Yay! I then promptly undid all my hard work by first drinking too much wine at Christmas (though I did keep my sugar grams low, haha) and then eating like crap for the last week of the year. Wine tends to make me crazy hungry for days afterwards, and to crave carbs. Lesson learned. Again. Anyway. Before the wine, though, I actually felt really good, not deprived at all. I just had to choose carefully what I wanted to indulge in. The weight loss was a pleasant surprise, but the real benefit was stability. I could go hours between meals without getting hungry or shaky. I had fewer urges to binge. I felt more physically stable, an experience that’s difficult to describe to someone who has never experienced fluctuations in their blood sugar levels. And because I didn’t have to worry about counting calories, I spent more time paying attention to hunger cues. Despite cutting down on a particular food, I felt like I had a lot more freedom in this system. Now I can’t say how well it will work in the long run – especially since I only managed for a short time before screwing things up – but for now, I’m pleased with the results. I plan to keep going (as best I can) at least until I next see my doctor for blood tests and such in April.

Yoga
I love yoga and have practiced regularly on-and-off over the last three years. But of course, there have been a lot of changes over those years, and each time I hit a major change (like, say, moving across the country), it’s difficult to start back up again. When we moved this last time in August, I set my bedroom up with an area designed for my yoga practice. For three months, I sporadically got on my mat, but not nearly as much as would have been good for me. I kept finding excuses not to do it. I couldn’t find the peace that I used to find during my practice. Then the snow came, and the next morning, I decided to try – again – to get on my mat. Only I changed the direction my mat faced. When I originally set up the room, the mat was angled in a way to allow me to look outside. However, I was also looking toward my office area, and when I turned toward the head of my mat, I would face out toward the bathroom. I didn’t want to face any of those directions, though. I wanted to see the trees outside my window as the snow melted and dripped from them.

Now I know just about nothing about all the arts of setting your living space up, nor do I really believe in any of that stuff, but I can’t deny that the day after the snow completely changed my yoga practice. I moved the mat to a different angle, so that when I faced forward, I looked both outside and toward my reading nook. When I turned one direction on my mat, I looked outside. When I turned the other direction, I looked at the hanging flower lights over my bed. I can’t say why this particular change was so monumental, but since that day, I’ve gotten on my yoga mat nearly every day. I even got in my yoga practice on Christmas and New Years! My practice became peaceful again, rather than just something to get through. It’s lovely.

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Best New-to-Me Authors in 2017

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday asks us to list our top authors that we read for the first time in 2017. I read 28 new-to-me authors in 2017, and I don’t quite have ten new “bests,” so here’s my short list of new-to-me authors that I really liked, in no particular order:

1. Frances Hardinge – After reading A Face Like Glass, I was hooked. I read one more by Hardinge last year and it was also very good. For the first time in quite some time, I’m interested in reading an author’s backlist!

2. Robert Jackson Bennett – It’s too soon to tell if Bennett will become a new favorite author, but I really loved his writing in the Divine Cities trilogy. If his other works are that well done, I’ll be happy to read on!

3. Zen Cho – Again, it’s too soon to say whether Cho will become a favorite. However, I adored Sorcerer to the Crown and I’m looking forward to further books.

4. Liane Moriarty – I’ve developed a sort of love-hate relationship with Moriarty. Her books suck me in, sometimes too deeply, but there’s no denying the woman can write and her stories interest me!

5. Kiersten White – This is another case of “only read one series by this author,” but the Conquerer’s Saga is so good that I will definitely try more from White when possible.

Any of these authors on your favorites list? Will someone else please read A Face Like Glass??

topten

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Soon it will be moved to a new location, and I just wanted to send out a quick word of praise and thanks to those at The Broke and the Bookish who have maintained this event for the last seven-ish years. Thanks, ladies!

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Sunday Coffee – 2018 Goals

The last four years have followed the same pattern. As New Years approaches, I make goals. Sometimes they’re elaborate, sometimes simple. Sometimes they start off going well, sometimes they don’t. Either way, about halfway into the year, my family moves across the country, starting a new life and essentially nullifying any plans or goals I made. Four years, four cross-country moves. Nomadic life is difficult and terrible, and I feel like I’ve wasted so much time.

This year, we plan for no more moves. (This is the plan from here on out, actually.) I’m making my 2018 goals with two things in mind: first, that there won’t be a major move to interrupt them this year, and second, that these goals need to be focused mostly on healing and recovering from the last four years. I’ve chosen to focus my year on the word Cultivate – as in cultivating a life, body, and mental health that will bring happiness and fulfillment, cultivating a place of purpose and permanence. I had that, once, back before my nomadic life began, and I’d like it again going forward.

Health
Both my physical body and my mental health need lots of help this year, so I’ve made a large list of goals to focus on these.

  • Work on losing weight, with a goal of 3 lbs per month – but know that my body has been resisting loss, so keep eating and exercising well even if my weight doesn’t change
  • Participate in at least one social 5K
  • Get at least four professional massages focused on injury-prone areas
  • Exercise at least 750 minutes per month (aim for 200 per week)
  • Practice yoga consistently through the year (aim for at least 10 sessions per month) as a way to increase strength, promote mental wellness, and lessen chances of injury
  • Aim to walk/run at least 25 miles per month, or 300 for the year, barring injuries
  • Focus nutrition on a diet that will lessen depression (less sugar and refined carbohydrates) and promote healthy sleep (higher percentage of real foods)
  • Find a therapist that will work well for me, then individualize mental health goals with her

Environment
This category will work to improve the things around me, especially by removing any stressors that keep me anxious and worried.

  • Do our best to sell that house in Wisconsin. We can’t control everything, but we need to stay on top of this.
  • Strictly follow the monthly budget and work on paying off as much of the credit card as possible (hopefully all, if the house sells)
  • Finish the afghan that I’ve had in progress for 18 months
  • Use or give away the rest of my yarn surplus
  • Avoid social media stress (especially on Facebook), including politics, personal dramas, and excessive negativity
  • Work (within budget) to make the house and yard as enjoyable and comfortable as possible
  • Go to five new-to-me places in town, and/or attend five local social events (not hosted by current friends and family, unless it introduces me to new people/places)
  • If my mental health and time situation allows, aim to volunteer at one or more of the locations that are important to me (library, animal shelter, etc)

Just For Fun
Because I need some fun in my life, not just serious goals!

  • Visit the San Antonio Cat Cafe and hang out with all the kitties!
  • Visit the local meat market that Jason and I have been saying we should try out for over a decade
  • See at least one movie in theatre
  • Try out a new TV show
  • Visit the zoo at least once (I do have a membership after all!)
  • Do one of those “paint your pet” nights at Painting With a Twist

While it would be lovely to write again, this year needs to focus on stabilizing my family and home life, and getting healthy again in mind and body. If I end up writing as a way to do these things, then that’s fantastic! But at the same time, I don’t want to put that pressure on myself. Body, mind, and environment will come first in 2018.

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2017 in Books


This year was a fairly good one for me in books. There were a lot of highly-anticipated releases, most of which lived up to my expectations (or beyond!), and I had a few good surprises and discoveries along the way. I don’t expect to finish any more books this month, so it’s about time to wrap up the year! Let’s start with a short accounting of the year’s reading stats, then move on to the traditional End of Year Book Survey from The Perpetual Page Turner, adapted slightly to work for me.

Total Books: 72
Rereads: 17
Abandoned after the 50% line: 3 (The Shadow Rising, Fellside, and Beasts Made of Night)
Classics: 1
Translations: 1 (French)

Book Type: 62 fiction – 9 nonfiction – 1 other
Fiction Type: 43 speculative – 19 realistic
Media: 27 text – 39 audio – 6 visual
Audience: 41 adult – 30 YA – 1 children’s
Authors: 51 female – 20 male – 1 both

New-to-me authors: 28
Most Read Authors (excluding rereads): Brandon Sanderson (4), Liane Moriarty (3), Robert Jackson Bennett (3)

Fun facts from the year: I had four titles from two series that began “City of” and I’m about to begin a fifth from a third series. Ten of my reads were the third in a series (I had a lot of series end this year!). I also read two books that involved sin-eating.

Best Book-Related Discovery: Sometimes it really is fun to read books in installments over weeks and weeks! I’ve never had that pleasure/experience before. Yay Oathbringer!

1. Best Book(s) You Read In 2017?
Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson was always going to be my number one this year. Others that ended up in my top five include A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge, Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, Wine Isn’t Rocket Science by Ophelie Neiman, and Arcanum Unbounded by Brandon Sanderson. Runner-ups (not pictured) include Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer, The Empty Grave by Jonathan Stroud, All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater, and Night of Cake and Puppets by Laini Taylor.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
The Savage Dawn by Melissa Grey

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?
The Call by Peadar O’Guilin (in good ways!)

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?
I kept pushing A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge, but sadly only got one person to actually read it. So I’ll keep pushing!

5. Best series you started in 2017? Best Sequel of 2017? Best Series Ender of 2017?
Started: Strange the Dreamer
Sequel: Oathbringer
Ender: The Empty Grave

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2017?
Frances Hardinge

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
And I Darken; Now I Rise – the two Conquerer’s Saga books by Kristen White (historical fiction)

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
Oddly, this was Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. It’s not action, but I really just could not put that book down. I also couldn’t set down Night of Cake and Puppets, but that one was super short so it hardly counts.

9. Book You Read In 2017 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?
Oathbringer. That’s a given.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2017?

11. Most memorable character of 2017?
Mulaghesh from the Divine Cities trilogy, Mak Genggang from Sorcerer to the Crown, and Lazlo Strange from Strange the Dreamer

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2017?
All the Crooked Saints

13. Most thought-provoking/life-changing book of 2017?
The Case Against Sugar (thought-provoking: yes. life-changing: hopefully)

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2017 to finally read?
Half the Sky

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2017?
“The trick to happiness wasn’t in freezing every momentary pleasure and clinging to each one, but in ensuring one’s life would produce many future moments to anticipate.” (Oathbringer, one of many quotes I adored)

16. Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2017?
Shortest physical book: White Sand Vol 1 (160 pages)
Shortest audio: Twelve Angry Men (1:50).
Longest in both categories is Oathbringer, with 1235 pages and 55:02 audio play

17. Book That Shocked You The Most
Oathbringer – in so many ways, but I talk about the biggest (no spoilers) at that link

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year
The friendship between Shara, Sigrud, and Mulaghesh in the Divine Cities trilogy; also Jasnah and Renarin (cousins) in Oathbringer

21. Best Book You Read In 2017 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:
Wine Isn’t Rocket Science (thanks Candace!)

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?
A Face Like Glass, followed closely by that in the Divine Cities trilogy

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?
Wires and Nerve

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2017?
Oathbringer, multiple times

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?
A FACE LIKE GLASS – Come on, people, read it!!!!

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?
Once again, Oathbringer. Oh MAN it was soul-crushing, one of the biggest soul-crushers ever. (see link above)

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2017?
A Face Like Glass (do I sound like a broken record yet?) and All the Crooked Saints

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?
The Husband’s Secret (and sadly, I didn’t like it)

That about wraps up the year for books! See y’all on the other side!

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Night of Cake and Puppets, by Laini Taylor

In the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor, Karou’s best friend is an absolutely amazing “rabid fairy” named Zuzana. Zuzana has the biggest crush on a co-worker she knows only as “violin-boy,” and her rabid-fairy-ness flees whenever she’s around him. In the series, she and violin-boy, later known by his name (Mic), eventually do meet, but it’s all behind the scenes. This book is that behind-the-scenes meeting, with the characteristic drama one would expect from Zuzana.

Honestly, I’m not sure if this book would be in any way interesting to someone who wasn’t already in love with Zuzana, Mic, Karou, and the books they populate. I have no way of determining if this book would even read as a full-on standalone. Perhaps it would, and perhaps it would be a wonderful little quirky love story that might introduce people to the bigger world and series. Or perhaps it would fall flat and/or make no sense. But as I am one of those people who is already in love with Zuzana, Mic, Karou, and the books they populate, I was also absolutely in love with this book. I’d read a whole trilogy of Zuzana and Mic alone. What else is there to say? It’s an amazing book, at least for fans. And a great book to end the year.

Bonus: the physical copy comes with many, many illustrations, plus a scene from the original series turned into graphic novel form. I imagine that I’ll also get the audio version and listen to the story in voice as well – it’s the sort of story that would be magical on audio, especially if there is music to accompany sections! – but I had to start with the print version for the illustrations. Jim di Bartolo’s art is beautiful and just perfect for the book.

Reread via audio in January 2018 – Kristine Hvam and Kevin Collins narrate the audio, and it’s just as brilliant as I was hoping. No music, sadly – Mic’s violin serenade would have been awesome in there – but still brilliant. Fun story, good audio. Lacking illustrations of course, so get the print version just for those if you read via audio!

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