Tag Archives: Thankfully Reading Weekend

Sunday Salon/Currently … Thankfully Reading, Christmas Music, and #turnonthelight

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We’re back from a quick (less than 48 hours!) trip to Philadelphia, where we spent Thanksgiving with both sides of our family. If you read yesterday’s post recapping that visit, you know this holiday had special meaning this year.

It’s also been an extended break from work for me; I’m off from work through Tuesday, thanks to an abundance of vacation days needing to be used before year’s end with still more time off at the end of the year. Nothing is planned for today except church and grocery shopping. Tomorrow’s fun includes a follow up visit to the vet — our cat had dental surgery two weeks ago and all of her teeth needed to be removed, except for two.  She’s made a remarkable recovery and is doing well so hopefully this will be an uneventful check up.

Thankfully Reading
ThankfullyReading2014Because of the Philly trip, I didn’t have a chance to participate as much in Jenn’s Bookshelves annual Thankfully Reading Weekend event as I would have liked. This is one of my favorite bookish happenings because it’s a no-rules, whatever works for you kind of thing. Since I’m jumping in late (officially signing up with this post as Thankfully Reading concludes) I’m extending my participation into Monday.

Here’s what I read this week:


As a Springsteen fan, I was pretty sure I would like Born to Run — and oh my, did I ever. At its conclusion, Bruce (I feel I can call him Bruce) writes that he hasn’t revealed everything about himself in this memoir, but you definitely come away from this feeling like you know him and his music in a whole new way. A must-read for Bruce fans and one that will be on my Best of 2016 list (in just a few short weeks!).

Springtime: A Ghost Story is a bit of an odd novella by Michelle de Kretser, an Australian novelist who was born in Sri Lanka. Frances is a 28 year old woman living in Sydney with her partner Charlie. She sees a ghost while walking her dog and … that’s about it. I liked the concept of a ghost story in springtime, but this felt more like an unfinished short story.

Last night I finished House of Silence, a debut historical fiction/mystery/romance novel by Sarah Barthels. This is a review book, so I can’t say much more until after its December 27 publication date.

I’m not sure what I’ll read next. I have several books in progress and another review book on the docket so probably one of those.

One thing I’ve been reading more of is The New York Times. I decided that something I can do in this post-election world is to support quality journalism by subscribing to the NYT. (We also subscribe to our local paper.)  They had a deal last week where a subscription was $10 per month. For that price, I can forego a few breakfast bowls or afternoon coffees at work.

Need a Little Christmas Now … 
Every year, on the day after Thanksgiving, The Husband puts on Christmas music and listens to nothing else until January 2. (The two exceptions are November 29 and December 8 when he plays George Harrison and John Lennon nonstop, respectively, in honor of those two greats.) The Christmas music, though, usually drives me crazy. I can handle it in small doses.  Not this year. I’ve downloaded a bunch of new tunes from Spotify and am cranking up the holly right along with him.

#turnonthelight …
Our friends Jason and Rachel have launched The Holiday Lights Project  #turnonthelight to bring more kindness and joy into the lives of those around us.  They’re doing this in a big but quiet way, as is their style. They’re the folks who, while having breakfast at IHOP, pick up the tab for everyone in THE WHOLE RESTAURANT, not just the table next to them.  They load up gift cards with hundreds of dollars and hand it to a cashier, instructing them to pay for everyone’s coffee until it runs out. And they do this year-round.  (I know, because we’ve been the recipients of Jason and Rachel’s generosity many times.)

Obviously, we all don’t have the financial means to do this.  We certainly don’t. But we can all do what we can, even in a small way. (For example: since we weren’t going to be home for Thanksgiving, I donated some pumpkin pie filling and canned vegetables I’d purchased to the food pantry at church.) Jason’s post gives some inspiration for how we can all fight darkness with a little light, regardless of our status and station in life.

I hope your Sunday and the week ahead is filled with more light and less darkness. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I wanted to take this opportunity to say how grateful I am for all my blog readers. Whether you’re a newcomer to the blog or someone who has been reading for the past eight years, I’m very appreciative for you and your friendship. Thanks for being here! 

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thanksgiving 2015: unplugged (or not) and thankfully reading

Thanksgiving 2014 - cropped

Thanksgiving, 2014

Thanksgiving 2015, and we’ve been experiencing some maddening Internet woes here on the homefront today. On, then off for a few minutes. Repeat at inconvenient intervals. Season with an impromptu shutdown of the laptop for an update.

A sign that we should be spending this holiday unplugged from our technology and more connected to the things that really matter?

Yes, perhaps.

(The irony isn’t lost on me that I’m writing this with the benefit of an Internet connection. For now.)

There will be some unplugged time today and throughout this weekend. I’m participating in the annual Thankfully Reading Weekend hosted by Jenn’s Bookshelves. I need to start Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann for a review, and I’m also still reading The Witches by Stacy Schiff. That one is taking me forever — it’s definitely a chunkster. I don’t have any goals for Thankfully Reading; it’s meant to be a low-key event, which are the best kinds of read-a-thons and challenges, in my mind.

Today I’m cooking dinner for The Husband, the kids, and my mother-in-law.  Started last night, actually, by making a few things ahead of time:  cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie. In the crockpot are sweet potatoes and carrots.  The turkey breast is already taken care of, courtesy of a gift certificate to Honeybaked Ham, and we have a Quorn turkey roll for the two of us who abstain from meat. Stuffing (two kinds — one regular, one gluten-free), mashed potatoes and biscuits still to come.

It will be an abundant, delicious meal on this, a bit of a difficult holiday.  The past five months have brought several significant challenges and stress, and as the year quickly draws to a close, there’s some real apprehension about what 2016 will bring.

I’m trying very hard to look past all that — beyond what’s been lost and what lies ahead — and trying to focus on being grateful, for now.

To stay plugged in to what truly matters.


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Currently …Birthdays, Burghosphere, and Books

Chocolate cake

Currently …
Sunday evening, at the end of a busier than usual weekend. The highlights: a dentist visit for an 8:45 a.m. root canal (there’s no better way to spend a Saturday, let me tell you) and a Sunday afternoon hanging out with some of Pittsburgh’s best bloggers at Best of the Burghosphere, which I’ll post more about tomorrow. Afterwards, The Girl and I stopped by Half Price Books for some birthday shopping. As much as this may surprise some of you, I’d never been there before today. It’s now The Girl’s favorite store (and one of mine, too).

Celebrating …
We’re celebrating the kids’ birthdays this weekend. Hard to believe they are 14. We kept things fairly low-key with one of their favorite dinners (a simple version of pasta with chicken in alfredo sauce) and the chocolate cake, pictured above.

Reading … 
I finished two books this week, which is practically unheard of for me — especially given the slow pace at which I’ve been reading.

M TrainAccidental Saints

M Train by Patti Smith, which I enjoyed. This has a very free-form quality to it.  If you’ve ever been part of a writing workshop and the instructor says to write for ten minutes about whatever comes to mind, that’s what this feels like.  (It’s not so easy writing about nothing is the first line and at times this feels as if you’ve stolen a glimpse at a page written in Patti Smith’s notebook.) Non-linear in structure, M Train is what I would describe as a “writer’s book” and it isn’t going to appeal to everyone. It meanders, often in an esoteric way.

Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People, by Nadia Bolz-Weber, who is the pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver.  I picked this up at the library after hearing a great interview with the author on NPR’s Fresh Air.  This was more … I don’t know … religious? theological? than I expected. (Also a bit too self-deprecating.)

Not Reading …
Another week, another DNF.  Despite my appreciation for its author, I’m finding the characters in Moral Disorder and Other Stories by Margaret Atwood to be somewhat boring.  I’ve been listening to this collection of linked stories on audio but it isn’t holding my attention. Back to the library it goes.

Anticipating …
Thanksgiving, which comes with a few additional vacation days from work for me.  Plenty of time for Thankfully Reading Weekend!

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Currently …November 8

Currently …
Sunday evening.  Another weekend gone. I had a dentist appointment early yesterday morning, thanks to a broken tooth caused by a piece of popcorn. It wasn’t even one that had an unpopped, hard kernel. Apparently, this tooth had enough issues that it wouldn’t have mattered what I was eating. There was a big filling in the tooth and apparently, a new cavity underneath that was hitting the nerve.  So, yet another crown is in my future.

Watching …
Sunday Night Football, baby. Our Philadelphia Eagles are taking on one of our main rivals, the much-hated Dallas Cowboys. And of course, there is yet another domestic violence situation with yet another NFL player. As you might imagine, I have a few thoughts on the Greg Hardy situation. If I do wind up doing a post on this, it will be another rendition of my usual NFL-domestic violence rants.  Their hypocrisy on this issue irks the hell out of me, to put it mildly.

Reading …

Accidental Saints

The Girl and I spent some time at the library yesterday afternoon — she enjoys an Anime Club program there — which allowed me to have a few uninterrupted hours to read. My book of choice was Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People by Nadia Bolz-Weber. I heard her on Fresh Air (“Lutheran MInister Preaches Gospel of Love to Junkies, Drag Queens, and Outsiders”) back in September. This book is a series of reflections on her experiences with the people she serves in her congregation and her approach to the Lutheran faith. This is due back to the library on Wednesday with no renews.

Fates and FuriesI’m also reading Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff, which is getting a great deal of buzz. I love Lauren Groff’s writing and have been a big fan of hers for quite some time. As of right now (80 pages into Fates and Furies), I can say that I like Delicate Edible Birds,  The Monsters of Templeton and Arcadia better. I’m not liking too many of these characters, which may very well be the point. We’ll see.

Finally, I’m still reading The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff, but haven’t gotten too far with that this week. I’m enjoying this very much.

Blogging …
Sadly, I lasted all of three days with NaBloPoMo this year. I had hoped that I would be able to keep this up for — oh, I don’t know, at least a week? — but that wasn’t the case. While I like (and sometimes need) the discipline that writing a daily post requires, I don’t like writing half-assed posts just for the sake of hitting publish 30 days in a row, which is what I would have wound up doing.

Anticipating …
Thanksgiving. I will have a few extra days off, thanks to some vacation days that I need to use, and my mother-in-law will be visiting. I’m not sure what we will actually do, although I know we’re hoping to go to the Heinz History Center to see the Mister Rogers’ exhibit. I’m also starting to pick up a few things at the grocery store in preparation for our feast.

ThankfullyReading2014One of the highlights of Thanksgiving weekend is Thankfully Reading Weekend, hosted by Jenn from Jenn’s Bookshelves. I love this event because it is so low-key, which is how Thanksgiving weekend should be. I’m definitely planning to participate again.

Hope you had a great weekend!

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Thankfully Reading 2014: Kickoff, Field Goal, Benched


Home sick from work today, most likely because of some overindulgence yesterday at Thanksgiving dinner. I was so good at sticking to only the gluten-free foods.  Temptation? Bah! As much as I wanted to, I didn’t sample any of The Husband’s fake turkey, nor did I have any rolls. Hell, I didn’t even have dessert!

Which, y’know, totally explains why I’m feeling like crap.

And I need to get better fast because The Husband and I have tickets to see James Taylor tomorrow night. We love him, and this will be the third time we’ve seen him in concert. It has been ages since we’ve done anything like this and I’m really looking forward to it.

Anyway, so this not feeling great nonsense gives me more time to participate in 2014 Thankfully Reading, which is always one of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving. (Plus, I wasn’t able to do the 24-Hour Read-a-thon in October, so this makes up for that.)

Last night I finished my first book, Gabriel: A Poem, by Edward Hirsch, whose poetry I really like.

GabrielThis is memoir-as-poem. Hirsch’s words about the death of his 22 year old son Gabriel are utterly devastating, heartfelt, and raw. It is painfully clear that he is struggling with this unexplained and sudden loss, and questioning so much of himself and the world. Any parent who has searched for answers for a child with any type of issue – whether it is an issue that’s known or one that confounds specialist after specialist – will be able to relate to Edward Hirsch’s pain in these few pages that speak volumes.

Early this morning – when I couldn’t go back to sleep – I started Anne Lamott’s newest book, Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace, which is Book #2. Also in my pile for this weekend:

Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism, by Ron Suskind
Heaven’s Coast, by Mark Doty
The Lottery and Other Stories, by Shirley Jackson
City of a Hundred Fires, by Richard Blanco
Directions to the Beach of the Dead, by Richard Blanco
Body Counts: A Memoir of Politics, Sex, AIDS,  and Survival, by Sean Strub
Writing to Wake the Soul: Opening the Sacred Conversation Within, by Karen Hering

I know I won’t get through all of these, but it will be fun trying. I’ll update this post throughout the weekend.

Happy Thankfully Reading!


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The Sunday Salon: 11/23/2014

The Sunday Salon

What a week.

Seriously, this was the sort of week that seemed like it would not end. It just dragged. A big part of that was because of all the uncertainty and sadness surrounding the death of The Husband’s grandfather on Thursday.  I mean, you generally expect such things at a certain age, but this was somewhat sudden – as these things go. Not to mention, the news in the greater world was also just so depressing and sad, too.

The big news from this weekend is that I officially have two teenagers. I’m not exactly sure how that happened – especially since The Daughter seems to have been a teenager for quite some time now.

Unfortunately, the weather was a bit lousy, so our plans to go out to dinner were scraped for dinner at home and a Chocolate Brownie Cookie mix that I happened to have in the pantry.  My in-laws will be here over Thanksgiving, so believe me, everyone will have plenty of opportunities to celebrate.

I’m saving my few remaining vacation days for Christmas week, so I’ll only be off on Thanksgiving Day this week. That’s OK.  The Husband and I have tickets to see James Taylor on Saturday, which we’re really looking forward to. We’re big fans and have seen him before (this will actually be the third time) and he always puts on a great show. It’ll be interesting seeing him at Consol Energy Center here in Pittsburgh; our other JT concerts have been in Philly and at smaller venues.

ThankfullyReading2014One of my favorite things about Thanksgiving is Thankfully Reading Weekend, hosted by Jenn’s Bookshelves. (Consider this my official sign up post.) As usual, I’m behind on my reading goals for the year. I’m at 61 books read for 2014 when my goal is 75, so Thankfully Reading is always a good time to try and catch up.

This week, I finished reading two poetry collections – Muscular Music and Wind in a Box, both by Terrance Hayes. I’ve been curious about Hayes’ work since learning  in September that this Pittsburgh poet was among the newest recipients of a MacArthur fellowship.

Muscular Music (1999) and Wind in a Box (2006) are both impressive, strong poetry collections about the male African-American experience within the family as well as within the greater history of the world. There’s an emotional rawness to these poems, a harshness of language and imagery that give his experiences even more resonance (not that they needed it).

Also this week, I finished listening to Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. This was a fairly short audio (at least, it was compared to the 30-hour long Drood that occupied my last six weeks in the car) and like Freakonomics, it is mostly entertaining and informative anecdotes about thinking differently. I love the Freakonomics series of books (even though I haven’t read Superfreakonomics yet) and I thought this was perfect for a book to and from work.

I’ll try and have longer reviews of both of these up later this week – particularly Think Like a Freak, since it is still Nonfiction November – at least for one more week!





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Thankfully Reading Weekend 2013: The Wrap-Up


Another Thanksgiving weekend has come to a close. Surprisingly, I got more reading accomplished during this Thankfully Reading Weekend than I expected. There were two reasons for that.

1. Even though my in-laws were here celebrating with us, they stayed in a hotel (and took my kids with them!)  They’re spending the last few days of the holiday here at our house.

2. I ordered our Thanksgiving dinner from Whole Foods (so, no cooking and minimal cleanup for me). I had to work on Friday, so with only one day off, I didn’t want to spend it in the kitchen. This worked out great and gave me more time to read!

The Devil in the White CityAs of Thursday morning, I was on the equivalent of page 300 of The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson. I was listening to this on audio to and from work, and I really wanted to finish this. The print version has been on my TBR shelves forever, so thanks to eating a little too much gluten for Thanksgiving leftovers on Friday, I was able to finish most of the remaining 96 pages in the wee small hours of Saturday morning. (They were some of the most gripping 96 pages of the book.)

The Reason I JumpI also finished The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year Old Boy With Autism by Naoki Higashida (translated by KA Yoshida and David Mitchell, whose introduction is fantastic). I’ll have a lot more to say about this in my review, but let’s just say this has left me somewhat uneasy. There are a lot of generalizations about people with autism in this book, and as we know, this is a condition where no two people with autism are alike. The Reason I Jump is also a translation and the work of a 13 year old boy, so those factors may be coming into play, too. There’s much to consider here and I still need to process my thoughts on this one.

Grain Brain

I’m only 25 pages into it, but this weekend I started Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar – Your Brain’s Silent Killers by David Perlmutter, MD. I’m curious about this one, as I’m pretty certain I’m gluten sensitive. I’ve definitely noticed that I’ve had less headaches as a result of eating less wheat and gluten. A few months ago, I completely eliminated sugar from my coffee, a huge step for me and one that I don’t even miss.

I’ve been borrowing recent back issues of some magazines from the library (ours gets an incredible selection) and today I finished the October 28 issue of The New Yorker. I also started reading the Winter 2013 edition of Creative Nonfiction, which I’m really enjoying. 

Total pages read during Thankfully Reading Weekend 2013: 209!

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