Wednesday, July 30, 2008

It's All Too Much

I went to the library to pick up my holds and was really excited to find It's All Too Much: An easy plan for living a richer life with less stuff by Peter Walsh. I put this book on hold about a month and a half ago when Rich read about it on Kelly's Cool Tools but I'm glad it came right now. It's rather serendipitous actually as summer is the perfect time to de-clutter my life.

This is not a book about "color-coded boxes and storage bins" as a strategy but instead revealed facts and ideas for why we keep what we do and how it can damage our lives. I began to see how I can let go of lots more and how I am "paying" too much to keep things and not effectively use them.

I am not a big self-help book reader and don't like "preachy" books much either. but I became a "preachy" person myself after reading and pondering this book. I can look at my home and my classroom with clearer eyes after reading this book and I have a real desire to own my things rather than the other way around.
As Walsh says:

"My job may be all about organization and decluttering, but I cannot say enough times that it is not about the "stuff." I have been in more cluttered homes than I can count, and the one factor I see in every single situation is people whose lives hinge on what they own instead of who they are. These people have lost their way. They no longer own their stuff - their stuff owns them. I am convinced that this is more the norm than the exception in this country. At some point, we started to believe that the more we own, the better off we are. In times past and in other cultures, people believe that the worst thing that can happen is for someone to be possessed, to have a demon exercise power over you. Isn't that what being inundated with possessions is - being possessed?" p. 219


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Princess Ben

I love it when the library has lots of requested books ready for me. They arrived just in time for my summer read-a-thon!! I can't remember what led me to some of them but I love it when I crack one open and fall head over heels for the story!

At first I was a little worried Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock might turn out to be just another feisty princess story, and I've read a lot of them this summer. All the ingredients were there: unconventional princess, arrogant prince, horrible queen, locked tower, fire-breathing dragon, magical prophecies - you know, the same old fairy tale stuff! Fortunately this story kept me on my toes. Ms. Murdock manages to take familiar fairy tale elements and turn them upside down. See if you can find the story elements to other fairy tales hidden inside.

Oh, and the voice! Ben has an appealing wit, done in a style that sounds like it was written with a quill pen on parchment. She even sent me to the dictionary a time or two or three. Words like abstruse, benignant, sagacity and obfuscated are not in my normal vernacular yet each one was the perfect fit for this voice of the character.

Favorite quotes:

"Nay, Your Highness, you'd best stay clear of those two. Some folks have pasts that prevent a future." p. 267

"Sophia sniffed. 'Young people forever believe that kingdoms are made on the field of battle. Believe me, dear princess, they survive or perish not through warfare but through gestures and dances and incidental conversations. As you desire the preservation of your country, you must act on this reality.'" p. 301

Catherine Gilbert Murdock is the author of two other books; Dairy Queen and The Off Season. I have not read either book but have heard about them. I guess the fact that I come to the author later is a blessing - I wasn't expecting a certain style or character. What I got was a readable escape and a terrific twist. While I won't liken her totally to Shannon Hale (goddess of all fairy tales well written!) I will note that Ms. Murdock is right up there!! 4.5/5.0

I wonder what my next book holds??

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Flashing By

Time is flashing by!! I can't believe that my summer is almost
over :( My carefree reading days are coming to a close. It can't be. My TBR pile only got BIGGER this summer.

I finished reading The Judas Strain this weekend. This was my first book by James Rollins and I was in for a rolicking ride.
Two marine biologists are diving in the Indian Ocean. They discover that the water appears to be infected with what looks like an algae bloom. Within hours plague-like symptoms start appearing on their bodies.
On Christmas Island, a mysterious epidemic is raging. This illness is attacking both humans AND animals. Any living creature in the water and on the land that comes in contact with the algae begins to exhibit symptoms, crazy behavior and eventually dies. Dr. Lisa Cummings and her colleague, Monk Kokkalis, of the SIGMA Force are dispatched to the island to help find the source and hopefully the cure.
On the other side of the world Gray Pierce thwarts the schemes of a murderous assassin - a killer who holds the first clue to the discovery of a possible cure.Time is an enemy as Pierce and an unlikely ally are drawn into an astonishing mystery hidden deep in antiquity and in humanity's genetic code.
Combine the centuries old plague, throw in Marco Polo, the Vatican, a twisted terrorist organization (really bad people,) heroes with the SIGMA Force (that would be the good guys) and James Rollins has a page turner! The man can write!
Rollins has an incredible ability to yank you right into a story and keep you on a wild roller coaster ride page after page. He builds likeable characters, horrifyingly possible circumstances and plot twists and turns that keep you gasping. I literally kept having to close the book to breathe.
This was my first book by Rollins. I heard him speak at The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale and thoroughly enjoyed him and his stories. He wrote the novelization of the current Indiana Jones movie and was also there to talk about his newest book, The Last Oracle. The Judas Strain was the precursor to The Last Oracle and coincidentally my son gave it to me to read! I traded him my new book and we both enjoyed good reads!! Now I'm ready for the next one!

Summer house guests abound, schedules are full and the monsoon rain may make its return in today or tomorrow. Lets keep our fingers crossed! I went to lunch with my oldest son and his little family on Monday. We discovered Joe's Farm Grille (In Agritopia in GIlbert.) It had been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network this week and my son wanted to go for lunch before they move away. Great food and a terrific location! They've revived the ol' family farm and farmhouse and it was so much fun to be there. Yum! Not only that, the company was great. I will miss my time spent with them. How can 125 miles seem so far?!?

Life is getting wild and busy and time is flashing by. Is it just because I am older? I swear I will make every encounter a memory so I don't forget and can hold on to things longer. I'll try anyway!

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Few of My Favorite Things

Monsoon rains, gully washers, dark clouds, thunder and lightning and saucer-size drops. I love them all. The air is full of waiting and suspense. I have always loved rain storms but I especially love the summer monsoons. The kid in all of us comes out in the aftermath too - skim boarding down streets, rushing through dips and splashing in puddles!

This weekend we were blessed with not one but two great storms. These were the knock-your-socks-off kind of storms that literally shut down freeways, flooded neighborhoods, and made even my tile roof leak. But I must admit that I love them all! They bring back great growing up memories, they smell like the desert is blooming and they provide an intimacy that seems lost on a bright and sunny day. Best of all I am grateful for rain in this desert.

Fun dates keep the smiles in our marriage! This weekend we continued our "research" into fun, cheap, and easy dates!! We laughed at ourselves as we dressed in vintage "cow" and got free food from Chik-Fil-A! Yum! We also enjoyed free Slurpees from 7/11 but laughed at their size - 7.11 ounces!! We have cataloged months worth of fun dates this year and it just proves to me that we are having as much fun now as we did when we were first dating, eons ago!

Great conversation!! I love when the give and take of conversation gets past the basics, the platitudes, and the niceties and into deep conversing! I have sons that I can really talk with. I love it when we have the time to really share and talk. My daughter and I are finding time to really listen and talk to each other. How I enjoy when good friends have time to really visit with me, when I just click with someone and you can instantly engage in great conversation. I cherish this kind of time and this kind of friendship. It takes work to set your own thoughts aside and to really listen to someone else but it is when spirit truly speaks to spirit and it's wonderful!!

Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes!! We have been so blessed with a bounteous garden this year! I've learned how to use what I have ---- to can, bottle, dry, and create! Tomato soup, tomato salads, tomato sandwiches, tomato tortillas, tomatoes in every kind of dish you can imagine - Now it's pumpkin time! I've baked them and frozen them and added them to meatloaf! The zucchini have finished for the season but the freezer is loaded with bags ready to add to zucchini "crab" cakes, galabacitas, zucchini bread and muffins and even brownies. If nothing else gets done this summer it has been the summer of learning in the kitchen. I love the bounties of full pantries and produce baskets!

Books, Books, Books! I love the quote:
"I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves. " ~Anna Quindlen, "Enough Bookshelves," New York Times, 7 August 1991
I grew up in a reading house, loved (and love) libraries, and still want to bring more and more books into my life.
I've raised readers - and now teach little ones to fall in love with stories and books. Believe me, there is no greater job! Books bring me solace, comfort, companionship, adventure, and peace. I am empowered when I read a book!
"Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labeled "This could change your life." " ~Helen Exley

This post has been a fun one for me - I learned to add photos from my computer and from the web, I practiced focusing my gratitude for the day, and it feels great to count my blessings!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Princess and the Hound

He is a prince, heir to a kingdom threatened on all sides, possessor of the animal magic, which is forbidden by death in the land he'll rule.

She is a princess from a rival kingdom, the daughter her father never wanted, isolated from true human friendship but inseparable from her hound.

Though they think they have little in common, each possesses a secret that must be hidden at all costs.

This summation from the inside cover seems a good beginning to the book, The Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison. The cover is a beautiful draw and I was intrigued. Now keeping with the title I assumed that a princess or at least a female would narrate or guide this story, not so. The story is instead told from Prince George's vantage point, a twist for many a fairy tale. (But the luscious cover will probably keep those male readers away!)

I really did like this book, but felt it lacked something - some sparkle maybe. It certainly was not a riveting book, although I enjoyed getting lost in its story. The plot was uneven in places and began to lag towards the end. As much as I had been enjoying it, at one point, I glanced at how many pages I had yet to go to be finished and I felt that the author had already said it all.

I did enjoy George's emotional and poignant growth and found some of the supporting characters such as Henry appealing. I would have liked to see him more involved in the story.

This story is one that I have found difficult to explain to others without giving too much of the plot way and now find writing about it to be the same. I enjoyed the "ride" but don't know if I truly got my money's worth!


I got emergency babysitting detail for sweet baby Jase today. What a fun time I had playing with him. Of course I had forgotten how much time a little 14 month old needs!! We giggled, tickled toes, discovered and sang songs. Having this sweet little one in our lives makes us so happy. It seems like just yesterday that my little ones were this size and now they have babies of their own. Where did the time go?? Because of babysitting I missed attending a book signing in Glendale where I hoped to meet a fellow blogger. Please forgive me for not coming. I will try to come another time!!

Lunch dates with another good friend this week was a real refreshing treat for me. I don't get to do it often enough - but in these economic times it's probably a good thing. Guess next time I'll just invite others over for fresh garden salsa and chips!!

Rich and I are studying A Heart Like His by Virginia Pierce for our weekly FHE. We've started our experiment together and it's a great experience so far. We're motivated. We miss having so many others be with us, so we decided to kind of change our modis operandi!! We'll get back to doing Game Night soon as well. Boy, I like this not working stuff!