fabulous friday #32

Happy Friday! We have a busy weekend in store around here — an end-of-summer pool party, a book-signing event for my dad’s book Wooden & Me, cheering on my Trojans, plus the usual errands and weekend catch-up activities!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. My parents come home from Ireland today! I didn’t want to mention anything on here while they were gone, but I’ve been house-sitting/Murray-sitting for the past two weeks while they took a special anniversary vacation. From our brief email exchanges and Google Hangout chats, it sounds like they had an incredible trip and I can’t wait to hear all about their adventures and see their photos… and, of course, give them ginormous Welcome Home hugs!

lovebirds guinness

2. Early morning walks with Mr. Mur-dog! He is so excited about his walks, it warms my heart. His jaunty stroll down the sidewalk is so cute!

me and murray walk

I’m also loving my new running/walking shoes!

walking shoes

3. Big salads — I’ve been craving lots of veggies lately and these have been my go-tos for lunch and dinner lately. I’ve been throwing in some black beans and chickpeas for extra fiber and protein. Yum!

big salad

4. This fascinating article: “11 Things Humans Do that Dogs Hate.” I’ve definitely been guilty of a few of these {i.e. #2}… sorry, Mr. Mur! Now I know!

5. Just ordered this book on Amazon — HEADS YOU LOSE — and I’m really excited to delve into it this weekend! It’s a really neat twist on the murder mystery genre.

When collaborators Lutz and Hayward (former romantic partners) start to disagree about how the story should unfold, the body count rises, victims and suspects alike develop surprising characteristics, and sibling rivalry reaches homicidal intensity. Think “Adaptation” crossed with “Weeds.” Will the authors solve the mystery without killing each other first?

heads you lose

Questions of the morning:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • What are your plans for the weekend?

wisdom from “abide with me” by elizabeth strout

abide with me

This weekend, I read Abide with Me by Elizabeth Strout — what a beautifully written, poignant, luminous novel! I loved it. The main character, Tyler Caskey, is a minister in a small New England town in the 1950s, and the book explores what happens to him — and his congregation — in the wake of terrible loss. If you’re looking for a good summer read that will make you think, I’d highly recommend this book.

I wanted to share some quotes with you from the novel that really struck me:

“Oh, we are far less important than we thought we were, and we are far, far more important than we think we are. Do you imagine that the scientist and the poet are not united? Do you assume you can answer the question of who we are and why we are here by rational thought alone? It is your job, your honor, your birthright, to bear the burden of this mystery. And it is your job to ask, in every thought, word, and deed: How can love be served?” – pg. 268

“No one, to my knowledge, has figured out the secret to love. We love imperfectly, Tyler. We all do. Even Jesus wrestled with that. But I think — I think the ability to receive love is as important as the ability to give it. It’s one and the same, really.” – pg. 285

elizabeth strout

“I tell stories because life fascinates me, baffles me, intrigues me, awes me. And by writing about the world — the natural, human world — I experience these feelings in a way that makes me both joyous and sad, and that brings me face-to-face with what I believe lies behind the mystery of our existence. I can only hope that readers will not only be entertained by the stories I tell, but be moved to reckon with their own sense of mystery and awe. Through the telling of stories and the reading of stories, we have a chance to see something about ourselves and others that maybe we knew, but didn’t know we knew. We can wonder for a moment if, for all our separate histories, we are not more alike than different after all.” – pg. 299-300 (Author’s Note)

Have any of you read Abide with Me? What did you think?

What books have you read and loved lately?

review of “blackberry winter” by sarah jio

Happy Friday, everyone! I don’t know about you, but I am *so* excited for the weekend! I’m getting together with some friends for dinner Saturday, and Sunday afternoon a group of us are going to see Circus Oz  at Purdue. I’m also just looking forward to sleeping in and getting some rest. We’ve been having a long string of gray, gloomy days and it’s been a little more of an effort to keep myself cheerful this week — I think the winter blahs are trying to settle in! But I am resisting … perhaps I’ll make some more peanut-butter cup brownies or chocolate-chip cookies this weekend to build up my defenses! 🙂

One highlight of my week was reading this month’s PB Fingers Book Club pick, Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio.

sarah jio

Here’s a brief synopsis: the book alternates between two storylines that gradually merge as the book progresses. The first takes place in Seattle in the midst of the Great Depression, when single mother Vera Ray is forced to leave her treasured 3-year-old son Daniel home alone one night while she goes to work. In the morning, she leaves work to a city blanketed by a freak May snow, termed a “Blackberry Winter.” When she arrives home, her small apartment is empty. Her son has disappeared.

The second storyline takes place during another Blackberry Winter in Seattle in 2010; it centers around reporter Claire Aldridge who is assigned to write a story about the phenomenon. She recently suffered a loss of her own and in the face of her devastating grief, she is growing further and further apart from her husband. Claire becomes obsessed with the story of Daniel’s long-ago disappearance and trying to find out what happened that long-ago Blackberry Winter. Cue the dramatic music!

I was completely swept into the mystery of this story and snuck in bits of reading time whenever I could this week. I just finished it last night and the ending was so sweet and satisfying.

Sarah Jio’s writing style is lyrical and lovely. I have only been to Seattle once, more than a decade ago on a family vacation, so my memory of the city is not too clear. But Sarah describes the city so vividly — both in the present and back in the 1930s — that I felt like I returned there every time I opened this book. It was neat to “go back in time” in Vera’s storyline, and I thought the themes of wealth vs. poverty and greed vs. generosity rang very true to the world today. {Yet another book that confirmed my passion for my #yearofkindness challenge!}

A main theme of this book is motherhood, and I thought of Mr. Jude a LOT while reading. I treasure him beyond words and I can’t imagine not being able to see him, cuddle him, and watch him grow. Mike and I miss him so much between visits, but I am grateful we at least get to see him every month. It was viscerally painful reading about Vera losing her son Daniel in Blackberry Winter — Sarah Jio writes very vivid, real, compelling characters who seem like real people, and my heart just broke for Vera. Her pain is so real. In the book, both Vera and Claire’s lives change in an instant. This book will make you grateful for not just the children you love, but all the loved ones in your life — it will make you want to hold them close, just a little longer and tighter than usual. And of course always, always tell them you love them!

This is a moving and wonderful read that will warm your heart even on the coldest winter day. 🙂

Happy weekend!

goals & meal-plan for the week of 2/17

Hi everyone! How is your weekend going? Mine has been fantastic — filled with lots of wonderful Mr. Jude time! Yesterday we did lots of puzzles, had a jam session on the piano, and spent an afternoon at Chuck E. Cheese. And Jude was my little helper at the grocery store, helping me pick out ingredients for my white-chicken chili, which I made last night for Mike’s family. Here he is having fun in the kitchen:

cutie kitchen helper

And the weekend would not be complete without some quality cuddle time on the couch!

jude dallas cuddles

It breaks my heart to have to say goodbye to this little guy. He is such a sweetheart. I am already looking forward to our next long visit over spring break!

Here’s how I did on my goals from this past week. I feel a lot better about the progress I am making on my thesis novel now that I have scaled back my goals and given myself a little more room to breathe:

  • revise up to page 60 of my thesis novel
  • blog about Week 6 Act of Kindness Challenge & complete it myself this week
  • blog about 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess {post is scheduled to be published this week!}
  • clean out and organize filing cabinet
  • knit 25 rows of the new scarf I’m working on
  • make 3 changes/updates as part of the #28DBC

Here are my goals for this upcoming week:

  • revise up to page 90 of my thesis novel
  • blog about Week 7 Act of Kindness Challenge & complete it myself this week
  • publish blog post about 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess
  • finish grading papers for both classes
  • take old financial/health documents to the bank to be shredded
  • knit 25 rows of the scarf I’m working on
  • prepare for my presentation at The Louisville Conference on Saturday

And here’s some recipes I’m planning to make this week:
baked fish cakes
edamame hummus
cilantro-lime quinoa with chicken
chopped brussel sprouts with cranberries, pecans & feta cheese
chocolate turtle cookies

What are your goals + meal plans for this week?

MPM-Winter

This post is linked up with Menu-Plan Monday!