Reading 2012

I had a slow start to the year with my reading but thankfully, by the end of February I finished a book and then kept on reading. It wasn’t until summer that I picked up some momentum and have been enjoying the time I’m making for more steady and consistent reading.

Out of Africa

Simplicity Parenting

Playful Parenting

The Sherlockian

This was a Christmas gift from my mother- and father-in-law. It was a fun read and the ending left me indignant at a choice one of the character’s made. I loved that the author could bring out such a strong reaction in me.



The Man Who Went Up in Smoke

The Man on the Balcony

The Laughing Policeman

My mother- and father-in-law both read the Martin Beck series in Ireland a few years ago. After they moved her to Seattle they loaned the books to James and now I have the set of 10 books in the series. The main character of the books is Martin Beck, who is a Swedish police detective. The books are considered classics in crime fiction and what I love about them is their slow, steady pace and tight writing. There is no sensational scenes or amazing discoveries during the investigations. What Jowall and Wahloo have created are stories about the procedural nature of detective work, the plots of the books and the characters tick along and while I reading I have come to care about the main character and his world.

While attaching links to the titles I noticed that the covers on Amazon are not the same as the covers on the ones I’m reading. I’m reading the Harper Perennial editions and love the covers. I managed to track down images of these strikingly simple covers and have included them above. I also like that when the 10 books sit on the shelf, side-by-side and in order, they spell out Martin Beck. Nicely done.

Francesca’s Kitchen

Villa Mirabella

I discovered a new author, Peter Pezzelli, whose books I am enjoying. I like Francesca’s Kitchen the best of the two and both were light feel good summer reads.

A Year in Provence

On Rue Tatin

When summer rolls around I find myself wanting to read travel biographies. This summer I decided to reread two of my favorites, both set in France. One related to Normandy where I lived one summer as a teenager, the other was set in Provence an area I’ve longed to visit.

Full House

Star Sullivan

Last month, while researching whether there were any new books out from some of my favorite authors I spotted that Maeve Binchy wrote two novellas that I hadn’t read. So I ordered them, thrilled that there was still some of her work to enjoy. Tragically, I learned of her death just before my newly ordered books arrived from Europe. I read them feeling sad that one of my favorite authors and fellow country woman was no longer in the world. A new novel will be published post-humously in October and then there will be no more. The sad passing of a lovely lady with a wonderful talent. What I loved the most about her books were her characters. She had an amazing ability to create people who stay with me long after I finish one of her books. They seem like real people, resembling people I knew, or could expect to bump into, in Ireland.

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

I never read this series and have wanted to read it aloud to my children. I had an opportunity in August to read this out loud as the girls while they were helping my friend Laura by punching out some appliques that will be used for her Glittersweet bags. Even Ethan at 3 years old really enjoyed the book and would ask me afterwards to read to him from “the wardrobe book”. Very sweet.

Simplicity Parenting

I reread this excellent parenting book this summer, which I’d first encountered it at the start of the year. It continues to inspire the efforts I have been making to ensure that our family life is as simple as we can make it, without lots of stuff or activities complicating our home life and lots of down time to enjoy together.

A Visit From the Good Squad

I read this for the September meeting of my bookclub and was disappointed with it. I had the bizarre experience of being drawn into it while I was reading it but in between reading I had to force myself to pick it back up. Each chapter is like a separate story for a character in the book who is somehow connected to the two main characters of Bennie and Sasha. There are also chapters for back story on Bennie and Sasha. Some of the chapters were better than others.

There is a quirky chapter that comprises slides which is the slide journal kept by a young girl about her family. I actually liked that chapter. By nature of the way the book is written (with the chapters varying in both central character and timeline) I expected to have to work a little to piece the sections together and figure out how this person related to the main characters. However it felt very choppy.

The biggest difficulty I had with the book is that I didn’t care about the characters or the world they inhabited. I was interested in them while I was reading but when I put the book down I didn’t care to find out what happened to them. I’ve never had that experience before where I was interested while reading but didn’t care about it between readings. Very strange feeling.

My Regular Name

I removed my oven door yesterday so I could completely clean the inside. Now I can’t get the door back on. Today I have been searching online for videos to help me figure out how to restore my oven, my sanity and my aching biceps to normal working order!

As I searched online Sean (my four year old) was ‘writing’ on the notepad of my iPad. Have you ever tried to follow an instructional video with a little one asking you, “How do you spell…?”, over and over? After a while, I decided to stop for a moment and give him some undivided attention.

Sean: “How do you spell your name?”
Me: “S…U…S..A…N.”
Sean: “No, I mean your regular name?”
Me: “My regular name???”
I had a puzzled moment trying to interpret the request. Lightbulb!
Me: “Do you mean ‘Mum’?
Sean: “Yeesssu.”
Me: “You can spell it Mum or Mom. M…U…M or M…O…M.”
Sean: “Thanks.”

So there you have it. My “regular name”. I’m grateful that when I checked later he at least went with the spelling for “Mum”!

Hiding from the Heat

blue sky

You see that image above? This is not my friend.

It is currently 83F in Seattle and I am hiding out in the library of our ground floor/basement (never know what to call it but I love it because it is full of books and cool-in both senses of the word!).

The forecast for the rest of the week is more of this with temperatures possibly reaching the 90s mid-week.

I find myself working to keep on the good side of grumpy. I’ve been having rain fantasies and living-elsewhere-for-the-summer fantasies (a colder elsewhere, like Ireland).

This afternoon I’m fantasizing about my oven. About how nice it would be to bake bread, or a pie, or roast a chicken and root vegetables.

I’ve made a deal with myself that this winter I’m going to sit on our porch in wool socks and a fleece, with a cup of hot tea or coffee and enjoy the chill and feel very grateful for the rain…and I’m going to do this regularly throughout the winter!!!

For now, I’m going to enjoy half a glass of chilled Riesling (one of the few things I truly enjoy in summer) in my cool library and read some more of the excellent book by Kathleen Flinn that I’ve been whipping through the last couple of days. If I can’t cook in the oven I can at least read about it. Sigh!


Summer 2014 Day 3

Summer 2014 Day 2


Some photos before bedtime:

Me with Ashley, Caitlin, Ethan and SeanMe and Ashley


Another summer is here. We’ve had a very full school year with Ashley in 6th grade, Caitlin in 4th grade and Ethan and Sean in preschool for the first time. I was able to find a class in the local community center that they could both attend. Lots of people thinking they’re twins because of this but at 15 1/2 months apart it’s understandable 🙂

I have some personal goals this summer and I’ve decided that I need a little public accountability to achieve them. I want to have fun with the kids and I want to make sure that I am aware of the highlights of each day so that I don’t let the lowlights fool me into thinking that there was more lows than highs.

I’m also trying to lose weight. I’ve never been in this position before. Never been on a diet or worried about my weight. However, I turned forty last month (and love it!) and realized that I want to get back to my optimum weight. Ideally 126lbs but going for 130lbs by the end of the year. For the summer my goal is to get to 137lbs (you know the ideal pound a week for long term maintenance of the goal weight). I started an ab workout at the start of June and I’m loving it (that wasn’t the case at the start and I had to tweak it because of some back pain). My goal is to keep it up during the summer. Three days of ab workout followed by one rest day.

There are 68 days of Summer vacation this year (about 10 weeks). I hope putting this together each day will help me keep the Main Thing the Main Thing. Think: Fun and Fit!

So here we go. My first Summer Report. Wish me luck!!!

Summer 2014 Day 1





Hello Summer Brain!

Driving Over Lemons

For Ashley and Caitlin, today is officially the first day of summer. It is the first Monday morning that they don’t have to get up at their usual time of 7am and then go to school. All the children seem to be embracing this first day of summer. It’s almost 9am and everyone of them is still asleep!

Most surprisingly even Sean, our early morning alarm clock, has jumped aboard (or should I say cuddled up) to the big summer sleep. He is usually awake by around 6am and likes to play quietly in his room until just before 7. Then he tries to wake Ethan by calling out, though it really sounds more like a groan. He doesn’t touch Ethan to wake him, strangely enough. If he is unsuccessful waking Ethan, he then calls out for either James, myself or Ashley until one of us comes to let him out of his room.

So here I am having a slow start to a peaceful summer morning. I’ve seen James off to work. I’ve eaten a leisurely, uninterrupted breakfast and researched some online sites on planting parking strips for some gardening ideas. And now I have some time to write a blog entry. I’m loving our summer already 🙂

Although, unlike the girls, today isn’t the first real day of summer for me. That was Friday. And no, it wasn’t because it was the last day of school. Nor was it the successful unveiling of the final assembly slideshow and the yearbook distribution to the kids. Those are all the hallmarks of the end of the school year but it happened when I settled into bed on Friday night.

Exhausted from all the work with the school photo projects and end of school year activities, I snuggled down to read book nine in the Martin Beck series I’ve been reading on and off for more than a year. As I read the first couple of pages my brain stopped and said “no”. It felt like a winter read. A detective story that for me is best read on dark evenings either by a fire or under a duvet. Not under a sheet and lightweight blanket with the sun still coming through the blinds. That’s when the image above popped into my head. I wanted to read travel literature again and that’s when I knew it was summer.

I returned Martin Beck to my borrowed books shelf and reached for Driving Over Lemons. Ian and Janet gave me this book (nearly a decade ago?) written by Chris Stewart who retired as the original drummer for Genesis before the group became a huge success. This book tells of his adventure buying a remote farm in Andalucia in Spain and relocating there with his wife to live a fairly idyllic life (after all the trials and tribulations of settling in to a new life in a foreign country).

When I finish this lovely little book I have a number of other books of travel writings left over from last summer, when a similar transition hit last October and my brain stopped and said “enough” of summer reading. I love the seasonal cycles and how my mind and body have their own ways of marking the beginnings and ends.

So here’s to a glass of chilled Riesling, relaxing in my sunny well-tended back garden, happy children keeping themselves occupied (well it is my dream after all) while I read about other people’s travels and imagine the possibility of some travels of my own this summer. Cheers!

Simple Summer Goals

Tomorrow is the last day of school. Another summer is almost here. Ashley graduates from elementary school tomorrow, so this is a milestone summer for her. Next stop middle school.

I’ve spent the last couple of months investing a lot of time and energy into putting together our elementary school’s yearbook and working with James on the school’s end of year slideshow. Thousands of photographs. It’s almost done and today, as I finish my role in the slideshow, I found myself thinking about enjoying a simple summer with family and friends. Seeing all the photos of our school community reminds me that we live in a wonderful neighborhood. We are not going to fill up our summer with summer camps or music lessons. We will have lazy days, flexibility, and fun. We will enjoy our neighborhood and our community. And yes, I include myself in that too!

Keep living things alive and happy-feed and water family and plants. Play with husband, children and friends. Read to myself and the children.

Maintain a comfortable home-keep fridge, freezer, food pantry and clothes and linen closets stocked.  Pick up books, toys and clothes. Garden.

Play with our photo archive-delete the dross and create memories (frames, albums, slideshows).

Okay, that’s my simple plan. I’m all set. Here comes the summer!!!

Right Now I’m…


…enjoying a cup of morning coffee prepared the café au lait way. My favorite decaf French Roast. Yummy.


…planning a delicious looking new cake recipe for Ashley’s half birthday today. She’s halfway to 11. How did that happen? She chose a chocolate cake with coffee frosting for her half cake. My girl likes coffee. She loves coffee ice cream and I have allowed her to drink decaf café au lait with me now that she is 10. I think it helps her feel older and allows us to bond as we share a coffee break together.

The Lord of the Rings -The Return of the King

…looking forward to our dinner and movie night with grandma and granddad this evening. We have been watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy and will watch the final installment tonight. It is so much fun to have Ian and Janet join us on Friday night for this family time.

2013 Focus 03 March

…excited for the month ahead. Since the start of the year I’ve been keeping a checklist for each month over the light switch in my closet. I have nine items on my list that add a great deal to my happiness. They are little things that I often neglect and now I have finally decided to make myself more aware of their importance by tracking them. I check the list each night before I get into bed and again in the mornings before I start my day. I find little checkmarks to be the best reward to motivate myself.

…happy to have scheduled solo voice lessons for myself again, starting today! James and I have a duet lesson together every other week and it is great fun singing with him. I have missed having a solo lesson since we started the autumn/winter session of duet lessons so decided it was time to sing solo again too.

…motivated to lose 10 pounds between now and my birthday in May. I will add exercise to each day, drink a glass of water each time I feel like eating outside of designated meal/snack times and get adequate sleep.

…committing to twice weekly check-ins with my friend Pauline to keep focus on my monthly checklist and encourage Pauline to focus on what’s important to her each month.

Okay, time to make a phone call, play with my boys, run an errand, sing some songs, bake a cake, prepare a dinner and enjoy my day and my family. This is good start to a new month.


Happy New Year. A trip to the Oregon coast and the first week of school have made for a pleasantly full start to 2013.

As a result of our stay at Cannon Beach we had to defer our first Friday dinner and movie night of the New Year.  Continuing a budding tradition that started in December, Grandma and Granddad braved the rapidly dropping temperatures and joined us for dinner and a movie. (They get a ride home at the end of the night, which was probably very welcome tonight with the temperature below 30F!)


Tonight we ate Swedish Meatballs, mashed potatoes, peas with Lingonberry preserves. Then we watched Chimpanzee, a Disney documentary set the rain forest in West Africa. We all enjoyed this beautifully shot and absorbing glimpse into the lives of these chimps. Our viewing was enhanced by a few additional rainforest fact supplied by Caitlin who has been studying rainforests in school. I learned about buttress roots, luminous fungi and Gabon Vipers. I go to bed tonight a little wiser 🙂

To date we have watched the following films as part of our dinner and movie night (we watched Brave after dinner on Christmas Eve and  A White Christmas after dinner on Christmas Day):

E.T. The Bishops Wife

It's a Wonderful Life Brave

A White Christmas A Christmas Carol