A Candle and a Prayer

A year ago today, we lost Grandnanny. You can read our posts about it here and here.

I’ve been wondering how to set this day apart, and thankfully Mom sent me an email yesterday that has helped me honor it in a special way. Mom’s dear friend offered to her a ritual of the Jewish faith that involves lighting a candle that burns for 24 hours to commemorate the anniversary of the death of a loved one.

Along with a candle that safely burns for 24 hours, Mom’s friend gave her some beautiful prayers as well. Mom sent me this one, which I’ll share with you:

I light this candle in remembrance of my beloved Grandnanny. As I reflect upon its radiance, I remember with gratitude all of the kindness and love she shown me. May my memories encourage me to show kindness and love to those around me. My loss has been great, and I feel it echo even today, but still I have moved forward with my life. I am grateful to my family, my friends and my community, and to God, for all of the support granted to me in my hour of bereavement. Even as I walk through the valley of death’s shadow, I felt the loving arms of others. Help me to share my love with others who need me. During this time of loss, I pray that I may have a generous spirit to others who have suffered, and I pray that my beloved now gone, will know peace forevermore. God, I pray that you shelter them beneath the shadow of your wings, and that you shelter me as well.

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Dragons Love Tacos

photoOne of CG’s favorite books is a hilarious little story about how Dragons love to eat tacos (thanks SB!). They love tacos, but hate spicy salsa because it makes their ears smoke. When they are invited to a taco party, they are thrilled, but unfortunately encounter the dreaded spicy salsa. And I’ll stop there to avoid giving away the ending.
At first I loved the book simply because it depicts my favorite cuisine and gave me a chance to pass this on to my child. But shortly thereafter, I realized that the story was a treasure in many respects. The pictures–pencil/watercolor drawings–have funny details and are really cute.  The sentences are simple and easy to understand for toddlers. And, I like how dragons aren’t portrayed as scary but rather pretty ordinary organisms whose favorite food is tacos. Perhaps best of all is that the book appeals to adults as well. Hubs and I like to read it in funny voices, and it always makes us laugh.
Favorite line: “Why do dragons love parties? Maybe it’s the conversation. Maybe it’s the dancing. Maybe it’s the comforting sound of a good friend’s laughter.” So wise.
Next time you need an idea for a gift or a treat, think about Dragons Love Tacos.

Things & Stuff

So the big news around here is that we are officially moving home to the States–Washington D.C. to be exact. We’ve known for a while, but I avoided writing/posting anything until we got the paperwork, and it was a done deal. This weekend, we packed up, movers came, and our belongings are now on their way to be shipped and flown back to the US of A. It was quite a week, and I’m so relieved it’s over. Somehow, I still feel out of my league when it comes to moving. The sorting and packing and organization involved quickly overwhelms me. I have grand ideas about organizing and sorting instead of throwing anything and everything into boxes. I like the idea of doing myself a favor on the front end of organizing things logically so that when we unpack I’m not running around from room to room and throwing things out to Goodwill. Especially toward the beginning, I was organized and really sorted, but by the end of the day Thursday, I was shoving odds and ends into boxes. In the last hour of our pack-out, I was trying to wash and dry a last load of laundry before we moved to the hotel and ended up shoving clean clothes into a plastic grocery bag and throwing it into the car. At one point, I thought about how my mom would be cringing at the sight of Campbell’s nice smocked dress being stuffed into a grocery bag. (Really, truthfully, I know she was thinking about how she wished she could help me and not be halfway across the world.)

In other, more superficial news, here are some updates…

1. I have started using mascara regularly after never being committed before. Since then, I’ve had a revelation that mascara does, in fact, lift the face. I’m a little late to the game. I bought an inexpensive Cover Girl mascara at the grocery, and I actually like it a lot.

2. We finished up watching The Sopranos, all 6 long seasons of it. Phew–that’s pretty much all I can say. After six long seasons of Italian family dynamics and a lot of mobster feuding, I was ready to be done. The ending confused me and frustrated me to the max. Anyone?

3. We started watching The Americans last week. Really good! I’m really loving it. It’s a little dark, but so far, most of that has been balanced by some solid relational drama that isn’t too depressing. Keri Russell has always been a favorite, ever since Felicity.

4. I’m reading Happiest Toddler on the Block and really like how it challenges my parenting. I’ve tried a few of the techniques with some success, and I feel like every time I read it, I should take notes so I don’t forget. More on that later.

Book Review: The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap

photoAs I’ve written before, I’ve been into memoirs lately. This year, I read and loved Ann Patchett’s latest, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. After that, I flew through two light-hearted reads by Sophie Hudson (aka BooMama) and Melanie Shankle (aka Big Mama). Last year, I fell in love with Waiting for Birdy by Catherine Newman. A few years ago, Poser by Claire Dederer and Women, Work, and the Art of Savoir Faire by Mireille Guiliano were some of my favorite reads. There’s something alluring about getting a peak into someone’s real-life story. Wendy Welch’s memoir about starting a used bookstore in small-town Virginia stole my heart. I looked forward to picking it up every night, and I was so sad to finish it. It was the first book I actually reviewed on Amazon. That’s how much I loved it. Anyway, it’s well-worth a read. I’m so glad I own it. The Little Bookstore made me think more about where I buy my books (huge for me because I’m so very devoted to Amazon). And now I’m dying to take a detour on our next road trip to visit the Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap. 

Author: Wendy Welch

How I Came to Pick Up This Book: Like most of my recent faves, I read about it on a blog and added it to my Amazon wishlist, and then it was thoughtfully gifted to me for my birthday.

First Lines: “People talk about following their bliss, but if you’re stubborn, unobservant sods like Jack and me, your bliss pretty much has to beat you over the head until you see things in a new light.”

Favorite Quotes:

On writing…”I think writers write because it’s a device to make sense of what’s happening around us, to order and calm and clarify our thoughts. We scribble down flashes of insight, observations, ideas because we believe other people will identify with us, understand what we think, feel the same way about something , or even—oh great arrogance—benefit from what we have to relate. Because it’s fun…See writers create because we have to. We’d explode otherwise.”

In response to customers entering the store bearing grief or hardship… “I’ll put the kettle on.”

On the value of books… “We never forget that books are more than the words on the page. They mark important moments in our life journeys.”

Strengths: Wendy’s (I think she’d want me to refer to her by her first name) writing is really funny, yet captures poignant moments in her story. She doesn’t take herself too seriously but her writing captures how she has found incredible depth and meaning in her bookstore. I appreciate the way she describes the characters, with great detail and intentionality. It was interesting to read about the beginnings of a small business and a shop, particularly details about how they first struggled to have enough books and then had to figure out how to fit so many into their shop, what to turn away, and how to let people down easy. The book, though a linear story about how the bookstore came to be, read more like a collection of short stories. The chapters were short and focused on different topics.

Weaknesses: One chapter seemed a bit repetitive and laborious to read, but it was short and easy to skim through.

Fashion Wisdom

I don’t consider myself any sort of fashion maven, but there are a few “rules” I’m learning to live by when it comes to putting together an outfit or buying new clothes. SB and Mom are my favorite fashion icons, which is pretty convenient, considering it’s not too hard to get their opinions (or raid their closets).

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1. A few nice foundational pieces are better than a bunch of cheap clothes. In the end, I think it’s easier on the wallet and more efficient for my wardrobe. This concept is something I really want to work on this year in an effort to pare down and really simplify. I’m a sucker for Target deals, Old Navy prices. What usually happens is that I get home, wear the item once and realize that the fit is actually poor and the materials cheap. Even if I force myself to wear it a few times, this clothing doesn’t hold up well and I end up having to buy something to replace it sooner. I’m starting to realize the brands that work well for me, the ones that I can count on.

2. Pair a slimmer fitting item with a looser fitting item. This is either way obvious or totally dependent on body type. But either way, it’s held true for me. If I wear my skinny jeans, then I typically try to wear a looser, more flowy top. On the flip side, if I wear my trouser fit linen pants (wide leg), I wear a slimmer fitting top.

3. The 3-piece rule. An outfit typically looks pulled together when you remember to wear three major pieces. For instance, skinny jeans, a looser v-neck tee, and a chunky longer necklace. Or, a dress, scarf, and a cute clutch. One last example: dressy capris, blouse, and jacket, and you might add a scarf or necklace with that. I think this rule is helpful for me because I struggle to accessorize.

4. When wearing a shorter dress/skirt (above the knees), go with flats or a small heel. With longer dresses/skirts, wear a higher heel. Again, this statement might not apply to every person’s body type, but it’s generally been a good rule of thumb for me, especially with the surge of short dresses on the market these days. If I wear a taller heel with a shorter dress, I end up showing too much leg for my comfort. On the other hand, if I wear a midi skirt with a flat, I tend to look more matronly. So, pairing that midi or longer skirt with a heel is a look that can really lengthen me out. Disclaimer: I have seen a few midi skirts lately paired with flats, and it looks totally adorable. Just not sure that will work for me.

5. It’s ok to buy a few of the same piece in more than one color if you LOVE it. I tend to wear the same styles over and over again. I know what’s comfortable for me and what tends to work with my body type. So, instead of forcing myself out of my comfort zone all the time (like I did in my mid-twenties), I’ve given myself the ok to buy a few of one style in different colors, particularly if they are super useful.

Here are some items that I have that with:

6. If possible, buy pieces that are adaptable for work and for play. Thankfully, my line of work is pretty casual, so, with a few exceptions, I can get away with wearing the same basic pieces during the week and on the weekends. This has made shopping easier and cheaper for me. I typically try to have a few casual/sporty go-to’s for days where yoga pants are key. But for the most part, I try to buy pieces that can be dressed up or down.

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Something I’m trying to figure out: How to take advantage of sales on clothes going out of season without settling for something I only kinda like. For example, I just ordered a few things from Madewell’s sale (20% off of Sale), thinking that the items could be good transition pieces for Fall & Winter. The items I received were cute, but just ok. I’ll probably return most pieces this week. I kicked myself, once again, for buying things because they were on sale, not because I loved them. I’d like to get to the place where I don’t buy something on sale unless I would buy it at full price. I’m learning.

What fashion wisdom can you share? I’d love to hear!

 

Book Review: The Funeral Dress

Author: Susan Gregg Gilmore

How I came to pick up this book: I heard word of it, and put it on my birthday wish list.

General descriptionThe Funeral Dress is a story of a young woman, who is raising a baby and whose maternal figure, mentor, and closest friend passes away. She sets out to honor this woman by sewing her a dress for her funeral and in the process coming to grips with the pain in her life, past and present.

First lines: “Emmalee Bullard became a Tennewa girl on the last Thursday in May. She woke early that morning, like always, in the back of a two-room house squeezed in tight at the foot of Pine Mountain. But today she’d slipped away beneath the oaks and cedars without waking her father.”

Strengths: I really love the setting, a small Southern town, near some other southern towns familiar to me. Gilmore’s writing is really lovely, poetic, but not overdone. I was impressed with Gilmore’s depiction of the complexities of motherhood, particularly the mixed feelings of the new mother who faced many obstacles on top of raising her baby girl.

Weaknesses: I struggled to identify with the characters in this book, and I think that some of that is due to the character development, which seemed dynamic at the beginning of the novel but seemed to fade a bit by the end. For one, the protagonist was compelling at first, but I was looking for more insight and self-knowledge from her by the end. There may have also been a few too many characters. I struggled to keep up with them, and the characters that emerged at the conclusion were not the ones focused on at the beginning.

 

Our Favorite Things: Toddler Version

It’s taken some time to figure out this whole toy thing, both for my child and in buying gifts for other children. It’s hard to know what a toddler will love. Campbell has lots of toys, but she tends to go back to her favorites time and again. Here are some of those.

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Magna-Tiles. We discovered these magnetic blocks through her day care, and requested some for her birthday. She plays with these DAILY at home, and probably at school too. They work like blocks or legos, but they have magnets in them, so they hold together easily and allow for building structures more easily for toddlers. They come in different size sets; we have the 32-piece, which works just fine for now.

Children’s Dish Set. One of Campbell’s “aunties” sent her this for her second birthday, and ever since, she loves to set the table for her animals, serve us “food,” and generally act like a hostess. I like the fun colors and how it’s easy for her to carry and manipulate. Comes with a pitcher, tray, silverware, plates, bowls, & cups.

Ready-to-Read Dora books. Campbell was gifted these books by a sweet young friend of hers–hand-me-downs. She LOVES them. We read the stories over and over, and she sleeps with these paperbacks at night. Really. The books have images under the words, so theoretically they can help her learn to read. Maybe a few years down the road.

Grocery Cart. Campbell and her dad have a tradition of going grocery shopping every Friday morning, and so it has become a fun thing for her to have a shopping cart at home, too. She loads all sorts of funny things in it and traipses around the living room. I like how the cart has a chalk board, basket, and cart.

Baby Stroller. At least once a day, Campbell darts from one end of the house to another pushing her toy stroller with some sort of object inside. Sometimes it’s a baby doll; right now I see a sippy cup resting in the seat.

Now that I have typed up this list, I see how typically girly her favorite toys are. My inner feminist is kinda flipping out, though hopefully Campbell’s spunk and independence can overcome these sorts of things. Besides, she likes what she likes. Any other go-to toddler toys?