Charming Book- A Charm of Goldfinches and other wild gatherings

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I’m always on the lookout for interesting nature books. Imaging my surprise when I found out there was a place I could request books before they were published and they would send them to me in return for feedback and an honest review. Amazing!

That is how I found A Charm of Goldfinches and other wild gatherings by Matt Sewell. If you have ever wondered what a grouping of a particular animal is called, this book is for you. The book is divided in three parts; Land, Air, and Water. Each part includes a good amount of different animals and what a grouping of them is called. You get a few paragraphs of information with each animal and a beautiful illustration. The illustrations alone are worth the book, they are lovely.

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A Crash of Hippos Illustration by Matt Sewell

This is a book I enjoyed. The information provided was short and interesting, varying between animal facts and history of where the name of the grouping came from. I think it would be a great gift for any nature lover in your life. I think it is also a great book for older children and middle school level kids, but also a book adults would enjoy. I still go back to look at the images.

Some of the grouping names, if you are a person that likes nature, might be known to you. I know there were a few I already knew; pride of lions, murder of crows, and a school of whales. However, there were many more I didn’t know; charm of goldfinches (lovely), business of ferrets (cute), and fever of stingrays (scary). I learned a few things and I loved my time reading this.

Overall, I would say this book is fun and quirky, not a hard read and would make a great gift.

Thinking about generations and migration

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In one of my previous post I spoke about visiting my family and that feeling of belonging. It’s a subject that is still on my mind and has made me curious on the topic of cultures, migration and how it affects us. Whenever I have something in my mind, I end up reading about the topics or similar issues. I read a lot more fiction than non fiction and two books that I recently read, pop to my mind when thinking of generations, cultures, migration. They are Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and Pachinko by Min Jin Lee.

homegoing

I read Homegoing before visiting home. It is one of those books that you can’t put down. It is also a book that breaks your heart. In Homegoing you follow the descendants of two half sisters. Each chapter is the story of one descendant. There is a lot of information that is missing between descendants stories, but there is always a sense of connection or of knowing that there is something missing in that family history. It is not a story of migration,it is a story of how slavery broke families, the visible and invisible effects of it.  It does a great job of showing how generations connect to the past and that longing for what is home. It is a book that made me reflect on my descendants and the information I have of their lives. It is definitely a book that made me think about how my ancestors lives, dreams, ambitions, struggles, could be similar or different to mine.

pachinko

Pachinko is a book I just finished reading. It follows a Korean family through generations. As oppose to Homegoing where each chapter is part of the story of one of the descendants, in Pachinko you get to follow the whole family (with the exception of a few chapters) through their ups and downs. This book touches on the sacrifices of the people that migrate to a country looking to improve the lives of their children. In this book specifically we are talking about a mother (Sunja) who marries and moves to Japan to give a better life to her son. There was a lot I didn’t know about the situation between Japan and Korea. It was an engrossing and sad read. This book really made me think about how little we really understand of the sacrifices our parents make for us. It also brought to mind how when you are in a country that is not your own we have to deal with so many stigmas and stereotypes.

The more I think about it, the more I realize this subject has been something that has intrigued me for a while. A subject I am drawn to when reading books. Two of my favorite books when I was in my teenage years where also on similar topics.

  • When I was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago
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This is a memoir, focusing on the reasons why Santiago’s family migrated to NY, having to deal with the racism and learning a new language.

  • Paula by Isabel Allende
paula

This is Allende’s homage to her daughter who died of Porphyry in 1992. It is a mixture of family history and some magical realism.

I think all these books help shape my opinions on these subjects, but also help me reflect on my own issues.

Books that have inspired me so far this year

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At this point in the year I have read 48 of my 75 books goal for the year. Which means I have read a variety of books; fiction, non-fiction, thrillers, fantasy, graphic novels, romance, young adult, autobiographies, etc. Out of those 48 books there is a few that have struck a cord, that have inspired me in times of doubt. I will be brief, I will only mention the books that have really stayed with me. Here goes:

britt marie

  1. Britt-Marie Was Here, by Fredrik Backman (published in 2016)

What is it about: This book follows Britt-Marie a woman that is passed her prime and obsessed with keeping things clean. She finds herself in a small town, holding the first job she has had in a while and recently single. She surprisingly becomes involved with the local children’s soccer team and she starts to feel like she might belong.

Why did it make my list: Britt-Marie finds herself by being thrown into these uncomfortable situations. She finds herself having to make decisions for herself for the first time in a long time and she starts to question how she has lived so far. It pushed me to examined the life I was living and question how much I was doing to actually accomplish the things I craved to do.

Favorite Quote: “At a certain age almost all the questions a person asks him or herself are really just about one thing: how should you live your life?”

all the light

2. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr (published in 2014)

What is it about: This is a WW2 story, about a blind French girl and a German boy. Their paths don’t really collide for most of the book, but their stories are connected. Marie-Laure is the French girl and Werner is the German boy. They live really different lives, Marie-Laure becomes blind early on in her life and her and her and her father escape Paris before the Nazi’s occupy it, Werner is trained in an Academy for Hitler Youth and is really talented with radio receivers. It is a story about how the decisions we face in life have consequences and how some people when faced with hard decisions will still try to do good by others.

Why did it make my list: One of the main reasons this book was so special to me, is because of how beautifully written this book is. It was so emotionally draining and it took me a while after reading this book to be able to pick up another book and connect to it. The reason why it inspired me was that in the book, some of the characters are challenged to make choices that they normally wouldn’t make for themselves. When the going got though, they rose to the occasion. Some characters, like Marie-Laure’s great uncle were scared of the decisions they knew they would have to make, but in the end (even if they were a bit hessitant) they did what was needed of them. I associated it with putting my money where my mouth was and the current political climate that we are living, it’s not enough to say that you support certain things, it’s time to act.

Favorite Quote: “Don’t you want to be alive before you die?”

on living

3. On Living, by Kerry Egan (published in 2016)

What is it about: This is a non-fiction, written by a hospice chaplain. It is part memoir, part inspiration/lessons on living. She talks about her own personal issues  and the lessons that her patients have taught her. It is a beautiful book about how everybody can be broken at times, about different things, but we all have the strength and the courage to heal. It is a short book with so much advise on living our best life.

Why did it make my list: Because it is a book about finding the courage to accept your flaws and make amends with yourself and others. It is a book that is packed with stories of what others fear and regret in their deathbeds, and it reminds us that we are given this one life. Instead of wasting it with regrets, let’s live it.

Favorite Quote: “I try to be loveful.” I asked her what she meant. “We shower so much love on babies and children,” she said. “But as we grow up, it stops. No one showers love on grown-ups. But I think we need more love as we get older, not less. Life gets harder, not easier, but we stop loving each other so much, just when we need love most. I—” Her voice caught in her throat, but she took a big breath and kept going. “I need more love now that I’m so old. I need love.”  (This book is just full of quotes to inspire you. It was hard to pick just one.)

These are just some of the books that have really moved me at times this year when (even if I didn’t know it) I need it a push. I firmly believe that you can learn so much about life and yourself by reading and it doesn’t have to be self-help or religious books. They are so many lessons and perspectives in each book I read, that there is always something to take away.

If you haven’t read this books, I recommend them. If you are not a reader at all, give it time, you just haven’t found your book yet.

I would love to hear about other books that have inspired you through tough times.

The 4 Main Things I Have Been Doing To Embrace My Self-Discovery

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I have been absent from writing here for a while now. It is not because I have forgotten about this space, it’s because I have been out and about doing things. I realized that I had to keep myself busy with things I wanted to do and try in order to embrace the process of self discovery. I thought I would be able to do all the things I wanted to do and write about them. It turns out that something that I still need to work on. I decided that now that I’m on vacation it would be a good time to start the habit of continuing to do all the things I have been doing and adding writing to those things.

Because I have been so bad at keeping this updated, I wanted to start my reentry into blogging with the 4 main things I have been doing to embrace my self discovery, so here it goes:

1-Volunteer at an animal shelter:

Once a week for the last 3 months I have been going to an animal shelter to walk the dogs. They have an orientation day for volunteers interested in dog walking and after you attend that you can go any time you want to walk the dogs. I’m usually there for about 2 hours and walk about 5-6 dogs. It has quickly become time that I cherish for a few reasons; I’m alone with my thoughts and the dogs, I get to exercise while doing something I enjoy, and I get to meet and play with many dogs.

Reason this has helped my journey to self discovery: This has confirmed that I enjoy working with animals and in a cause I believe in. This has been a way to help animals in need without feeling like I have to bring them all home. I have been thinking that I want to transition from teaching to a field that involves animal handling and care, this is helping me get hands on experience and has helped me realize that it’s something I should explore more.

2- Taking dance lessons:

1 to 2 times a week I have been meeting with a dance instructor. I have been learning ball room dancing (specifically rumba and salsa), but I have also started to take pole dancing classes. This has been an eye opening experience for me, because the older I get the more comfortable I get with my body and the less I care about what people may think. I have always had a hard time following dances with steps, I love to dance, I’m just not coordinated enough to think about counting while I dance, and taking private lessons has really helped me understand the dances more. Pole dancing has been a self discovery experience all on it’s own, because I think it comes with so many stigmas about it, that just admitting to people that I’m doing it is an empowering experience, but I would say it is a super fun way to exercise and learn to embrace your body.

Reason this has helped my journey to self discovery: This has taught me that I can learn and be good at things that weren’t previously my strong suite. It has also helped me feel more confident about my body and be thankful for the body I do have. I think we get so caught up on if we are fat or skinny that we forget we have capable bodies regardless of what they look like, bodies that can move, that can take you places, and that is something we shouldn’t take for granted.

3- Reading and finding a community of readers:

I have been reading a lot. My Goodreads reading challenge for this year is 75 books and I have already read about 43 books this year. I have been embracing my reading, finding little times to read in between task, but also letting go of books that are not catching my attention. Which means I get to read things I really want to read. Not only have I been reading, but I made it a point to find a community of people that also like to read. I joined a reading circle at a local bookstore, we meet once a month and go over what we are reading. I joined Litsy, an online community of readers, I have heard it marketed as if Goodreads and Instagram had a baby. Litsy is great, I joined an online book club and have done a few book exchanges with people through it. It’s a great way to meet people reading the same book as you, but also people that have similar interest in books. I will also be attending BookCon in NYC, which is a huge book convention with panels, lots of book sellers and just people that love books.

Reason this has helped my journey to self discovery: For a long time now I have found it difficult to find other people that enjoy reading and just talking about books, partly because we are mostly introverts and aren’t crazy about meeting new people to begin with, but also because we are hard to find. This has helped me in my journey because I have had to push myself to go to events alone and interact with the people there. It has also helped me meet new friends with similar interest.

4- Baking:

Baking for me is an exercise in mindfulness. I’m focused on the steps and what I’m doing in the moment and everything else fades away. For this reason I have wanted to start challenging myself to try different bakes, different recipes that involve practicing new skills. It has become a way of getting stronger at a skill I enjoy and also embrace the meditative properties of it. I have baked many breads, macaroons, sweet breads and tiramisu. There is so many other pastries and skills I want to practice, it’s something to look forward to.

Reason this has helped me in my journey to self discovery: Baking has helped me stay centered and provides a treat to look forward to. I can plan what I want to bake and when I want to bake it. By dedicating a specific time and centering myself to follow the steps and embrace the wait, I create a practice where I’m forgetting about any trivial issues I may have and only exist in the moment. I also end with a product that regardless of it meets my expectations can be shared and provides an excuse to interact with neighbors, family and friends.

Overall, I want to keep adding things to my journey of self discovery, but I think these 4 are great simple examples that other people can also follow. This summer I want to continue to embrace doing things to learn more about myself and I want to make a real effort in recording my progress. Hopefully I will be able to at least update this once a week with all the things I’m doing.

Sorry for the break.

Living a Creative Life

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I recently read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, it is a positive read for anyone looking for a push towards a more creative, positive life. I have been feeling for a while like I’m in between these two states, between living a creative life and this feeling of dread. Many of my post have already mentioned my feelings towards my job and my future. I do have a lot of fear and anxiety towards the future (which I recently promised to someone in my life, I would try to keep said anxiety in the low levels and embrace the day to day). However, I also feel like there is this creative side of me that is pushing to get out (which is part of the reason I started blogging again).

Ever since I can remember I have enjoyed reading books. I learned to read at an early age thanks to my mom and once I got into elementary school the librarian was so surprised to see a kid so into books that she would let me borrow more books than permitted and books that were intended for higher level readers. With this love for reading, I also discovered that I was not afraid to write my own stories. Granted when you are young many of your stories are pretty similar to the stuff you are reading, but still it’s a start. I wrote stories and essays all the way through high school, being called twice in different classrooms to read my work to my peers. I was always an overachiever and the arts weren’t my only passion, I enjoyed science and math too. As it got closer to thinking about college, for some reason I decided that language arts was not something I felt passionate enough about. Part of me was surely scared of what I would be able to do with that degree, but that is neither here or there. The point is, I pursued an academic career in the sciences, first biotechnology, then switched to biology and finished a masters in natural resources. I knew I found a field that I liked when I could read the scientific papers and found them interesting. When I did my masters, the thing that appealed to me the most was the fact that I was getting an education on the social aspects of the sciences. It was as if I kept circling the arts, but didn’t want to admit that I wanted to be a part of them.

I may have stopped writing, but I kept reading. It wasn’t as if inspiration didn’t hit me every so often, I would write a blog for a bit or write the sentence that kept running around in my mind, but I would quit or forget about it. Recently, feeling lost in my career, but with a pretty stable life I have started writing again. Reading Big Magic, gave me that final push to commit to embracing writing in my life.

What does this mean? I’m not quoiting my job and becoming a writer. I write, therefore I am a writer. Regardless of the quality of my writing, I’m still a writer. What I am doing is opening the doors of the universe and embracing writing. Committing to writing every day, any small moment that I have. Maybe some day I’ll manage to write a complete short story. Maybe some day I’ll feel confident enough sending my work to publishers. Maybe I’ll never be that good, the point is I embraced this part of me. I set my creativity free from the locked up room where it’s been.

The Inquisitors Tale Food Inspo

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I have been thinking about all the ways in which the books I read inspire my day to day. For a while now, I’ve been toying with this idea as I’m reading a book thinking about what it inspires me to do. Sometimes I read books that make me reflect, question and even change my attitude. There’s also books that inspire my fashion, my food choices, and even make me try new things. I read a lot of books, this year alone looking back at the Goodreads Reading Challenge I have read 67 books and the year isn’t even over. Many times I’m reading more than one book at the same time, which for the purposes of blogging can make it tricky. I have not devised a system yet, but I wanted to blog about one particular book that was standing out of the others.

I read a little bit of everything, specially now that I have gotten into literary/book related podcast, I have many list of books I want to read. This book in particular might not be everybody’s cup of tea, specially if you think it’s meant for a younger audience, which is ok, but you would be missing out in a cool book.

Here is the Book:

The Inquisitors Tale or The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog

By: Adam Gidwitz

What is it about?

This book follows these three children, all have felt alone in their respective villages/homes and now find themselves together under weird circumstances. They are pretty unique, each has a sort of gift and their paths unite. I have not finished this book, so right now the story is being told by different people who have encountered the children, I don’t know if they will also have chapters. I’m more than half way done and this has not been the case. This is sort of a medieval tale with characters retelling the adventures of the children. It’s a funny book with a message. It’s fast paced and never boring.

What did it inspire me to do?

Most of the retelling of the kids story is happening at an Inn, where all these characters are drinking beer and sharing their respective parts of the story as I guess the Inquisitor (in the title) listens and tries to make sense of the story. We recently hosted a dinner party and our fridge is full of beer and cheese, so I decided to make Beer Cheddar Soup. I felt it would be something the people at the Inn would probably have eaten.

I searched the internet for a couple of recipes. I went for the crock-pot version of this soup, here are a few recipes for it:

Family Fresh Meals

Crock Pot Ladies

My Crock-Pot is a tiny one and I didn’t have heavy cream, so I had to adjust the recipe some what, but the main ingredients were there.

The end result was a rich soup, not creamy but heavy in flavor. I could picture the people at the Inn eating this, in really cold weather, specially if there wasn’t much meat to go around. It was definitely fatty, but I’m not complaining, it was delicious with a slice of bread.

If you read the book or make the soup, I would love to hear your thoughts.

 

Fall Productivity

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I have been trying to lead a balance life. Whenever I see myself falling into my bad habits, I have been good about getting back up before even going down. It’s silly but it always helps me to have one productive day. One day in which I feel I have accomplished many things. I had such a day recently, and it made me feel great. I woke up, didn’t go workout, but instead stayed in, cleaned, made 2 batches of pizza dough to freeze, made muscle blueberry muffins, graded all my paperwork and finished writing a course outline for a new class I’m developing. PRODUCTIVE!!! I had time to go to the porch as it rained and just sip my tea. In fact not only just sip my tea, but also take some pictures.

I even got to experiment with the different settings. This was great, because it made me feel like I was not only productive with the stuff I had to do, but I was also able to do the stuff that I wanted to do.

Another thing that always gets me in a good mood is when I feel I have been productive at reading. This may sound silly, but I love, LOVE, that feeling of reading and being so in to it that you finish and you feel so accomplished with everything you have learned about life, yourself and the unknown just from that one book. In the past few days, I read And The Mountains Echoed by Kahled Hosseini, Lab Girl by Hope Jahren, A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler, Bitch Planet by Deconic and Delandro, and I even finished a book for work What the Best College Teachers Do by  Ken Bain. I even found the Read Harder 2016 Challenge and decided to fill it with the books I have read so far in the year and try to finish it up. Just Today I requested all the books I needed to finish the challenge from my local library. EXCITED!!!!!

Anyways, it’s always hard to do everything I want to do. I have to many interest and there’s not always time for all of them. I try to stay true to myself, I’m a geeky girl, who loves to read, loves feeling creative and learning, the rest is just how I pay the bills.