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  • Archive for October, 2016

    I was in the middle of a lot of books in September so I didn’t want to do a book report at that time. However, I’ve now finished a bunch of books and am in the middle of more! Before I launch into that I’m going to launch into a rave about how much I now enjoy listening to audiobooks because I figured out how to speed them up! I have always been super bored by audiobooks, finding only a few here and there that caught my attention well enough to listen through. Recently, though, I started seeing people talk about speeding audiobooks up because many readers are speed readers (like myself) and have a difficult time pacing through an audiobook, which is typically read at a slower pace.

    I had been listening to audiobooks through Hoopla Digital because there is no waiting period for books unlike on Overdrive. But, I had been listening through the computer and not my phone because my phone is a hand-me-down iPhone 4 and many apps, including Hoopla’s, aren’t compatible with that iOS version. Unfortunately their listening platform on a computer isn’t the same as for a device, there is not option to speed up the listening on the computer. Then I remembered Chris had bought another Kindle Fire tablet back in the summer during Amazon’s Prime Day sale and so I fired that thing up and saw I could download the Hoopla app from amazon on that. Voila! I could speed read! Life, changed!

    Read
    Voyager by Diana Gabaldon: As soon as season 2 of Outlander ended I was on such a high I had to launch straight into a re-read of the third book. This was my third or fourth reread of this book and I had forgotten quite a bit of what went on in the story. I read it fairly quickly for an Outlander book and then launched right into the fourth book which I got about a third of of the way through and put on hold. I’m so excited for the upcoming season of the show but can’t fathom, again, how they are going to cut the book down to 12 episodes.

    The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins: This book has been talked about by so many people for well over a year but I never got around to putting it on my to-read list until this spring when I got in the very long line on Overdrive. My time came up at the beginning of October and I dropped everything else I was reading to devour this book in three days. Y’all, I haven’t read a book that fast in a long time. It was captivating, intriguing, and I couldn’t pinpoint ‘Who done it’ until quite a ways through, but damnnnnn. Good book. I definitely recommend this one! That said, in my head I never saw an Emily Blunt character in my head for the main character, it was always a mishmash of Amy Schumer and Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones. Eh, I can’t wait to see the movie when it comes to RedBox!

    The Backyard Parables by Margaret Roach: This is one I listened to as a sped-up audiobook which turned out perfect because the author read the book. While I love Margaret on her podcast and through her website, I don’t have a lot of good things to say about her reading a book—there wasn’t a lot of change in tone or enthusiasm. I can imagine this is difficult for people who aren’t natural speakers and I imagine I would suck at it, too. But speeding it up made it a lot more tolerable and ideally this would have probably been a better book to read in paper. However, I did enjoy the book as it chronicled her garden over the year, talking about the ups and downs of the garden.

    The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron: The term Highly Sensitive Person has become more mainstream in the last five to six years, much like the use of introvert—we introverts and HSPs are fighting back!—and so this book has been on my radar for quite some time. I checked out the digital version (after semi-long wait). Curious if you are an HSP? You can take a self quiz here. For the book, I mostly skimmed it. It had a lot of information I already knew and frankly, wasn’t all that helpful. I think if you are just coming into some self awareness on knowing what an HSP is this might help you out quite a bit. There is also a book for highly sensitive children which might be good for parents whose children may be HSPs. As I read some reviews on Goodreads about the book I found myself agreeing: the term highly sensitive is a bit negative—to me it conjures up the thoughts of people clutching Kleenex and crying—but it is more than that, and of course HSPs are likely to be easy criers. I think what I wanted to see was a how to deal with the non-HSPs, both in how to approach people to back off when telling us we’re too sensitive but also have to effectively build up that wall for the everyday and work on the sensitivity a bit to get through life, kind of like introverts having to pretend to be extroverts from time to time when need-be.

    Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay: I have followed Roxane on Twitter for awhile now and kept seeing this book popping up here and there over the internet. This is another audiobook listen, one that was much better sped up as well. It earned 4/5 stars for me only because of the Sweet Valley Twins rants at the beginning of the book. I was not a Sweet Valley reader as a kid so I was mostly bored by this discussion. However, the rest of the book was excellent. The premise of the book is that she is a ‘bad feminist’ in that in many aspects she is a girly-girl—she likes pink, she wants kids, she isn’t interested in doing the fixer-upper or bug killing type chores—things that maybe if you want to say you are a feminist, or maybe culturally, these are things women should or shouldn’t be if they want to call themselves a feminist. You can’t like pink and be a feminist. You should want to know how to change a tire if you want to be a feminist. You shouldn’t call a man to squish a bug. Etcetera, etcetera. All of these supposed biases about who a feminist should or shouldn’t be are exactly the problems feminists are facing from the culture. Preferring pink and wanting a man to squish a bug doesn’t preclude you from being a feminist. (FYI: The notion of pink being a ‘girl’ color is a relatively new idea). I have so many thoughts regarding feminism and have thought even harder about it during this election cycle as well as after having Forest. I read something else recently about how we’ve done so much to help girls and women realize their equality but we’ve kind of forgotten to work on how to teach boys about equality—and I mean this from the unconscious bias way. We may easily say girls can do what boys can do but we easily fall into the trap of limiting boys about so-called girl things, ie: that’s a girl toy or girl book, girl color, etc. No, it’s just a toy, a book, a color.

    Anyway, the book was well worth the read; she touches not only on feminism but racism and then also on the differences in feminism for white women and people of color. Some of this I hadn’t thought much about until the last few years but my eyes are definitely opened.

    “I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.” -Roxane Gay

    In the Middle of

    The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tova Bradley

    Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman

    Blue Dahlia by Nora Roberts: I was in the middle of this one when The Girl on the Train came up and while I was sailing along with it the um, much better writing and storyline of TGotT kind of threw me when I went back to this book.

    Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon

    On Hold

    +Second Nature by Michael Pollan

    +The Journey in Between by Keith Foskett

    Abandoned
    +You are a Badass by Jen Sincero I began listening to this one but it did not get my attention. Abandoned.

    Focus for the rest of the year
    I think my goal for the rest of the year, other than digital reading and listening, is to finish up books I have left hanging around, or those I ordered but haven’t gotten around to. Those would be:

    To Finish:
    Illumination in the Flatwoods by Joe Hutto
    Lost on a Mountain Maine by Donn Fendler
    Along the Florida Trail by Bart Smith and Sandra Friend
    Paths of Desire by Dominique Browning

    To Start:
    Baby Birds by Julie Zickefoose
    Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
    Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
    The Florida Trail by Sandra Friend and John Keatley: This is a coffee table book for the 50th anniversary of the Florida Trail. It’s beautiful!

    It’s been awhile since I went out and took photos in the garden using the reverse macro technique. Since Chris got me a new 18-55 lens for my birthday, I’m using my old lens (which had some connection problems) for things like reverse macro and freelensing when I think to use it. Here’s a bit of what I shot last week; I mostly wanted to shoot the seedlings out in the vegetable garden.

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    Blackberry Lily

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    Monarch caterpillars

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    Tomato flowers

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    Red giant mustard

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    Spinach seedlings

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    Radish seedlings

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    Old CCC entrance to the park

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    Before breaking down camp and heading home after our camping trip, we went for morning hike along the Wild Horse Creek, Highway, and Ashe Juniper trails. We saw no one along the trails until we were almost back to the car. The trail starts along Wild Horse Creek which is a pretty, spring-flowing creek that looked great for exploring when Forest gets a bit bigger. The trail gently undulates and climbs but levels out after awhile. It was quiet along the trail, not a lot of activity, though plenty of plant identifying to be had for the botany geeks like us. We didn’t complete the Ashe Juniper trail, and instead took a short break at the junction of the second loop and began heading back towards the car. As much as I wanted to have done more trails in the park with elevation gain, I think we all enjoyed just being on another trail with less people.

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    After our hike up Old Baldy, Chris wanted something more mellow and less terrain oriented. The Frio Canyon Trail takes a loop around the prairie portion of the north end of the park. We hiked it after dinner one evening and it was not busy at all, which made for a pleasant walk. There was a section on the west side of the park, near the road, that felt a little bit like being in south-central Texas, near Brenham, reminding me of the Somerville Trailway; it had a slight bottomland/scrubby marsh feel to it though it certainly was not wet at the time we hiked.

    The hike was peaceful, exactly how an evening hike should be. The light just right. The air—probably a little warm but not bad. Definitely a trail that probably gets biked on more than hiked. A great place to look out for deer, turkey, and maybe even feral pigs!

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    Cassia/Senna corymbosa

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    A small sweet potato harvest from volunteers in the vegetable garden.

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    Formosa lily seed pods.

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    Rudbeckia lacinata seed heads.

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    The wild and tangled garden.

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    Visiting trees—he likes to visit the trees along the driveway.

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    Picking okra with me.

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    “Mom, let’s go NOW!”

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    My new mail and harvest catch-all for the way back to the house.

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    The Turk’s cap hibiscus grouping has established well and is now abundant with butterflies, particularly sulphurs, this time of year.

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    Every time I think the monarchs have moved on and the milkweed has recuperated from being devoured, I find a new round of caterpillars! I’m making plans to be sure to get more milkweed seeds to start for next year because of this very abundant flow these last few months. Next year I think we’re also going to try to bring the caterpillars into a tent so that they can be protected from predators and be ensured to turn into butterflies. We went for a hike over the weekend at Huntsville State Park and they have a really neat wooden structure with mesh sides that Chris liked and mentioned he might consider making something similar. That would be pretty cool to have in the garden; we’ll have to see how that works out. Either way, I’m still amazed by the sheer amount of chompers we’ve had this year. Forest has really enjoyed checking on the caterpillars and will go and scope out the plants when he knows there have been caterpillars on the milkweed.

    If you plant it, they will come.

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    In addition to caterpillars, he also likes watching the planes fly over. We’re on the flight path for IAH.

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    I was in the mood to make something wearable and relatively easy recently, something to stash-bust my yarn. I came across the Movie Night Cocoon Cardi via Ravelry (this link is Craftsy for those not on Ravelry) and it seemed perfect for the vat of acrylic yarn I have on hand. Plus, it was basically a giant granny square and there’s not much easier than that! The project was incredibly easy and I’m already planning on making at least two more for other people and think I could make a second for myself plus a third for myself using thinner yarn or crochet thread for something with more drape or maybe for using in warmer weather.

    This will be perfect for wearing around the house and to take camping, I think. It’s incredibly cozy and I’m so glad I made it! I’ve got the crochet bug so look for more projects from me in the coming months.

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    Our hike up to Old Baldy last weekend did not start well. We hadn’t been hiking all summer and so it was an adjustment for Forest to get back into the backpack and for Chris to carry him. The trouble started when we left the very busy Pecan Grove camping area to head up the trail when Forest began wailing and throwing himself all over the backpack. Not only is this uncomfortable for Chris, Forest was also trying to sneak his arms out from under the straps and trying to escape. It took us a few minutes to realize he wanted to people watch at the campground instead of going down the trail. We opted to appease him for a few minutes, walking down to the camp store and around the campground before attempting our hike up the trail to Old Baldy. That still didn’t help enough because the first quarter mile of the hike all you could hear was a wailing toddler.

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    Eventually he did calm down, which greatly helped our sanity and hiking enjoyment. The Old Baldy trail is probably the most popular trail in the park despite it being one of the steepest. Once at the top you get a spectacular view of the surrounding Hill Country!

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    Having not done any hiking in awhile, there were definitely some strenuous moments along the trail. A few spots required three and four points of contact, particularly when hiking back down. All of that did not deter quite a flow of people to use the trail.

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    A view of the Frio River.

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    Along the trail were quite a bit of fall blooming wildflowers coloring the landscape.

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    Our descent back to the campground included hiking the Foshee Trail to connect a loop with the Bird and White Rock Cave Trails. Both of those trails were relatively quiet compared to the Old Baldy trail.

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    Most of the trail along the Foshee Trail included quiet ridge walking with a few undulations in terrain. The Bird Trail was steeper as it connected back down to the White Rock Cave Trail.

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    A look back at Old Baldy.

    The hike was great but Chris was pretty beat after carrying a 26 lb toddler up that terrain. We don’t have that kind of elevation change over here in SE Texas which makes that kind of hiking a little tough.

    See the original blog post giveaway from Mr. Brown Thumb here

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