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  • Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

    When I wrote my summer goals last month I mentioned wanting to read three books this summer. I am well on my way to getting that done and adding more to the list. I credit a few things for this, one of them being that I gave up Facebook back in late April. The last time I spent this much time away from the site was for the last half of 2009. I’ve done little hiatuses here and there, but it just got to be too much. I don’t have the personality where I can just say I won’t log in…because I will. I have to actually close the account. It got much easier as the weeks went by, though sometimes I felt like I was missing out on little news updates and tidbits, but I really don’t miss the drama or memes or people selling me stuff.

    So with my evenings, instead of reading status updates, writing my own, or reading the myriad of links that people post, I am instead doing things around the house, trying to write here, or reading. It’s incredibly refreshing!

    What have I read in June?


    +Eat and Run by Scott Jurek: I actually listened to this via a free Audible download. It had been on my radar for several years, particularly when I was vegetarian, and it seemed like an easy book that I could follow while listening at work. And it was. I really liked the book and the person who read it. Scott almost makes me want to run more than 3 miles at a time, but really, I’d rather hike all of those miles he runs in an ultra. It was interesting to listen to his story of growing up, how he got into running, running with the Tarahumara, and how he became a badass runner. It also reinforced my vegetarian ways…I want to go back someday. I might eat my weight in pulled pork before I go back, though!

    As a side note I only found out a week or so ago that he currently going for Jennifer Pharr Davis’ Appalachian Trail assisted speed record: read more here.

    +Becoming Odyssa by Jennifer Pharr Davis: Hah, yes, I mention her above and I also read her first book about her first thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. In 2011 she set the AT assisted speed record in 46 days but in her first thru-hike she did it as a typical NOBO hike. I bought this back in October when I was still on maternity leave as part of a Kindle bundle with her second book, Called Again, when they were on sale for like $3 total. I’ve been a fan of Davis’ ever since I followed her AT record in 2011. I went into reading this book ‘knowing’ one aspect of her persona put out on Facebook by her own page, and through news and blog articles. I really like her and support her.

    I really did not like her in this book. At first I did but then I started hating her a lot! At first I was excited to be back on the trail, but then some of her side stories just became entititled and obnoxious. It toned down a bit towards the end, though. She actually does address these shortcomings here, so it is nice to know that she realizes she’s changed and that she had some issues in the first book.

    That said, I did feel the book was poorly written. It could have been developed so much more! Maybe she wrote it a few years after the fact and forgot some details, I’m not sure. Some of the details she did write were harrowing, including hiking with a guy who was borderline stalker. I know that many women hiking alone are very cautious about who they hike with and their surroundings, so I can’t imagine being stuck around someone you just can’t shake.

    In all, it was an easy read and brought back memories from our hike. It is only my third AT memoir to read and I would be put it at the bottom of those three. The Barefoot Sister’s set is by far my favorite AT read, though I really need to Nimblewill Nomad’s account.

    +Mortality by Christopher Hitchens: This was an impulse grab off of my library’s audio book shelves. After having success listening to Eat and Run I wanted to pick up a few other books to listen to as a way to break up listening to podcasts. I was familiar with Hitchens but not really of his work. I knew he had died a few years ago and that he had quite the public profile as a writer for many major publications.

    This book is incredibly short, about two hours on audio, and it is really a very simply stated and truthful telling of facing death by cancer. There’s no sugar coating it, no glib remarks about putting on a brave face or having a battle with cancer…he pretty much just turns all the fluff about it on its head. I like his writing and I like the narrator for the audio book. I definitely shouldn’t have started here, with his death, but I think I’ll go back and read some of his other works in the future.

    In The Middle Of
    +The Wild Truth by Carine McCandless: For Into the Wild fans, this is Chris McCandless’ sister telling the rest of the story, what she told Jon Krakauer but did not have him publish. Let’s just say, they did not have a happy home life. I’m about halfway through it and will review it next month.

    +Illiumination in the Flatwoods: A Season with the Wild Turkey: I started this back in mid-spring and had to return it to the library before I finished. I love, love, love it so far. It’s set in the Appalachichola area of Florida, so definitely up my alley.

    +Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace by Anne Lamott: This is another impulse grab off of the library audio bookshelf. Unfortunately it is read by the author and I am having a hard time with her voice. I’m not sure I will finish listening to it or try to find it on paper to read later. This would be my first Lamott book.

    On Deck
    +Called Again by Jennifer Pharr Davis: Since I bought it as part of the Kindle bundle with her first book I am going to read this, too. I’m hoping for better writing and am definitely excited about the story.

    +The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon: Since I am all caught up on other Outlander novels and tv shows, I’m going to bide my time of Droughtlander with Gabaldon’s other novels that revolve around many of the same characters and other small characters in her novels.

    Got any recommendations for the coming months?


    I can’t believe it is nearly mid-June and I’m 28 weeks pregnant! Whattttt? Time has flown by. I’m slowly feeling the panic rise, that the summer is going to breeze by me and I won’t enjoy it as fully as I should, and then soon fall will be knocking on the door and I’ll be nursing an infant. It’ll happen like *that*. I know it will. So, I do my best not to foward-think too much and keep trying to enjoy June.

    Chris and I finished our last Bradley Method class the other evening. I’m so glad we took the class, it was a learning experience for both of us. I feel so much more prepared for a natural childbirth than before and I truly think that as long as me and the baby are healthy when 40 weeks approaches, there’s no reason for not having a successful natural birth. I know the cost and length of the class scares people off (10-12 weeks and $250-$300) but it was money and time well spent, especially knowing that many women desiring a natural childbirth go into it more unprepared than they think for birth itself but also for what they may face at the hospital intervention wise (based on stories I’ve read on blogs and forums…women with failed natural births the first go-round, realizing they weren’t as educated as they thought, end up making more an effort for a successful natural birth the second go-round). If you are thinking about having a natural birth, absolutely check into the Bradley Method and read the associated books that go with it (Husband Coached Childbirth and Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way).

    Now that we’re done with class I’m trying to stay focused on doing the daily workouts that are suggested, continuing to eat well, and focusing on my relaxation. I had my glucose tolerance test a week ago and I didn’t hear results for a week. Typically they don’t call anyway if there’s nothing wrong, so by week’s end I had decided that I’d probably passed the test. The nurse called me yesterday and said I did pass with a 134 and the level had to be below 140. I went online to see if I could read more about the numbers and it seemed a bit all over the board with what doctors consider passing, some say 130 and below, others said 140…but then there were women who had results in the 170s and higher so I didn’t feel so bad having a 134. What I thought was most interesting were a lot of the pregnant paleo bloggers who were failing the test, likely because their body’s weren’t even used to sugar and carbs anyway so downing the glucose drink probably threw everything into a whirl. I’m not paleo, but I have tried to watch what kind of sugar I’ve been eating, though probably not as good as I should (damn you seasonal Blue Bell ice cream flavors…and you 1/2 price Sonic shakes…), but that morning I only ate two eggs and skipped my usual morning snack of fruit and yogurt prior to the test. Anyway, the glucose drink was not awful, but it wasn’t tasty. It was an amplified Hawaiian Punch, with a twinge of a chemical after taste. If it had been offered to me as a soft drink I probably would have had two sips and called it good. Just too much sugar….blech.

    I’m realizing there’s so much to write about since the few weeks I last wrote. I’ll get to the books soon.

    Last week we also took our hospital tour. We wanted to get it out of the way so that we could work on finalizing our birth plan before my next checkup. The hospital only does tours once a week at 5pm, which was definitely annoying, but it worked out. We weren’t the only couple there, about four other couples joined us. The maternity ward itself was fairly nice and while the birthing rooms were huge, the recovery rooms were smaller and more hotel like but not nearly as nice, obviously. I’d written down a list of questions to ask and I was the only one with a list. I felt like a huge nerd, but at the same time I felt prepared. We threw the nurse giving the tour a few times, as I’m fairly certain they don’t see many natural births. While it seemed that most of our questions could be accomodated, the biggest one that we’ll have to resolve with our midwife is the issue with IVs. Since I’m not having an epidural and won’t be on pitocin, there’s no need for me to have an IV. I need to be able to move freely about without being tethered to an IV. And since I won’t have an IV I’ll be eating and drinking as I feel comfortable, hourly. I guess I worded the IV question wrong because the answer I got was “Everyone gets an IV. No food or drinks.” Well, something to that effect. Chris and I continued to prod her and finally she relented to say that they do whatever the doctor tells them to do, which reinforced to Chris and I that we have to talk to our midwife about it and get it on the birth plan that we don’t want an IV. (More information on actual evidenced based facts regarding IVs here). Our alternative if anyone insisted on having some portal set up to my veins was for a hep-lock to appease the minds of those not used to a natural/normal birth (or in the case that I end up Group B strep positive when they test in the last month and have to get antibiotics at birth.)

    So, the hospital tour really reinforced that we have to be firm in our wishes while weighing all of the benefits, risks and alternatives to suggestions by those in the hospital. But it also reinforced to labor at home as long as possible before arriving at the hospital. So many natural birth blogs and stories involve the phrase “show up pushing” if you want an intervention free birth as possible in a hospital setting.

    Finally, the books. That’s quite a stack, most of them thanks to the library. The top one and bottom two are mine, so I can take my time with them. I need to get through Birth Matters quickly since when I borrowed it from the library I was second in line. If I can recheck it I will, but I think it is a popular book. The other library books are all nursing or birth books that I want to peruse soon.

    I did start reading the top book, The Diaper Free Baby, which is about Elimination Communication. I first heard about this five years ago when we were in Florida from some friends of ours who were doing it with their son. I believe they had success with it and continued it with their second son. It really appeals to me especially after seeing all of my friends and family potty train their 2-4 year olds and how much of a pain it is to do so. The great thing about EC is that you can be a full-timer, such as the stay at home parent who starts it early and does it on a daily basis, or a part-timer such as the working parent who works with the baby mornings, evenings and weekends. There’s even the ocassional ECer who might do it a few times a week. The gist of it is that just as your baby sends you cues for hunger it is also sending you cues for the time to go potty. Since you learn the feeding cues you can learn the pee and poo cues, too. You then assist them in certain holding positions over a toilet or a small bowl when they are newborns and small infants, but as they get older and can hold their head up you can assist them to sit on infant potties, cueing them until they learn with a sort of “pssssss” sound. Apparently it works pretty well. I even asked the female half of our Bradley Birth coaches and she said after she found out about it when her son was six months old she tried it a few times and it worked, she just ended up not being consistent with it to continue. I’m definitely curious about this, so if you have input on EC please share! Plus, hey, if I can get my kid potty trained by 12-18 months I’ll be a happy camper. Chris is on board with it, too, so that helps out a lot.

    The other book I’m trying to work through is the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding which is put out by the La Leche League. Breastfeeding horror stories abound just as much as birth horror stories, so I’d like to be as knowledgeable as possible about issues and alternatives regarding breastfeeding as they occur. I plan on attending a La Leche League meeting at least once this summer and will probably sign up for the hospital’s breastfeeding class. I personally only know one person who successfully breastfed and pumped for a year, whereas most people I know did it for just a few weeks or months, switching to formula for various reasons ranging from returning to work to latching issues. So, I’m definitely in a realm of my own in this category, with few people to really lean on to learn and ask questions. Actually, we’re in a realm of our own on a lot of this, but we’re ok with that. Learn, research, apply…do our best.

    I guess I should wrap it up…I think I’ll end up writing more soon since this one was already too long!

    Growing up, my hobby, other than playing outside, was reading. Now I don’t devote nearly as much time to reading as I should, though the internet is my source of reading a lot of times these days. Anyway, this is the stack of magazines I need to weed through. Chris’ dad gave me a stack of Outside magazines, a new Yoga Journal came in the mail, as did Urban Farm, and Backpacker. So did Texas Parks & Wildlife. I have a lot to flip through!

    And then there is this stack, too! I have finally worked up the nerve to start The Girl Who Played With Fire, the second in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series. The first one was excellent but incredibly disturbing and mind-provoking that I had to give the story a rest. I think I’m ready for Lisbeth Salander again.

    Me and Mr. Darcy is a chick-lit/Austen re-mix book that I am looking forward to breezing through.

    That Used To Be Us is a political snoozer but still very interesting. Received it from my boss at Christmas and I’m still trying to finish it. It is very interesting and up to date with information from the latter part of last year. If it was leaning any way I’d say it leaned left but for the most part it is non-partisan and hanging all sorts of politicians and media out to dry.

    And finally The Heirloom Life Gardener just arrived the other day unexpectedly for me, but not for Chris since he ordered it. It’s kind of a history of Baker Creek seed company but also about getting into gardening and the plants themselves. I loved the part where he describes wandering around Mexico looking for heirloom seeds at farm stands.

    Maybe I’ll finish these all in May?

    A few months ago we were in REI when I spotted this book, Paddling the Wild Neches. Having spent the better part of spring and summer working on and around the Lower Neches River near Beaumont I thought it would be a fascinating read.

    Ever since we did our two thru-thikes I have been intrigued by those who also paddle source to end (or sea) down rivers, particularly relatively unknown or lesser known rivers such as the Neches. I think many people in Texas know about the Sabine since part of it forms the boundary of Louisiana and Texas, or maybe the Trinity and Red Rivers, or particularly the Guadalupe or Comal since are tubing rivers in the summer time.

    But the Neches? Or the Angelina? Or the multitude of other streams, creeks and small rivers that surround those two rivers? Not many except those who are familiar with the land in east Texas and even then those will be a relative few.

    The author, Richard Donovan, sets out to revisit the river and surrounding lands that he grew up on. He had a history of working for Temple-Inland, well known for their pine plantations and logging in and around the Piney Woods/Big Thicket. In the late 90s and early 00s two dams were being proposed along the river, the Fastrill Dam which would help support Dallas’ thirst for water, and the Rockland Dam, which would also help aid in Dallas’ thirst but also the surrounding ares of east Texas. The Fastrill Dam has since been stopped by the Supreme Court (if you click on the Fastrill link). As far as I can tell the Rockland Dam is still being proposed.

    So, Donovan sets off down the river starting not at the source in Van Zandt county near Lake Palestine and ending at B.A. Steinhagen Lake in the south. A couple of years later he paddles the original route but then adds in the final southern portion all the way to Beaumont with a varying group of reporters and friends to join him.

    Overall I really enjoyed this book but was disappointed in some of the lack of detail. He includes great anecdotes of the history of the area, stories about bears and albino deer (that ended up being a goat), bootlegging and days of the ‘open range’ before barbed wire and folks were able to hunt and gather on any land they pleased. The days of fencing properties occurred when too many cattle were wandering around in the middle of roads causing accidents. The fencing properties led to game theft and trespassing and a spirit of debauchery that was eventually slowed when the timber companies began putting together hunting camps.

    He also writes about the impacts of logging, not only to the local economy but to the forests. The logging of the virgin pine and bottomland hardwood forests was done heavily in the early 20th century, but provided jobs for the local towns until the areas was cleared completely and they moved to another region. Then the towns were hollow shells of their former tent camp selves. I can only imagine what the vast stands of longleaf pine looked like prior to their near eradication and subsequent replacement by tight stands of loblolly pines.

    The river itself is mostly untamed with the exception of two lakes and the salt water barrier dam located in Beaumont. At the time of the book’s writing the dam was being built; this summer it was definitely in operation….or rather not because they wanted to hold back water to the north due to the drought. Donovan also tells tales of the river being traversed by paddle and steam boats in the 1800s and I can’t imagine that because the river isn’t all that large, but apparently they did make their way a good distance up the river. Then they would be log jammed, literally, because the loggers would send all the logs they cut upstream into the river to float down to Beaumont to the mills. Sometimes the logs would get stuck when the water level dropped; the author surmises that some of these logs are still under the water and in near perfect condition.

    If you are looking for a different book to read, something adventurous but also environmentally relevant to the current politics of the Texas environment, definitely pick this book up.

    +Paddling the Wild Neches via the Conservation Fund
    +A Trip Report
    +Article on the author in Texas Monthly
    +Transcript from an interview with Donovan
    +August 2011 article on how other places are tearing dams down, Texas is going for more.
    +Drought Schmout from 2009 about DFWs largest water users. Ross Perot is on that list.

    Now it is time for some frivolous reading as I have finally got hold of a copy of The Help.

    These reads have been culminated throughout the years. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some that should be included. Send me your favorites that I should read!

    Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
    Most everyone is familiar with this book or at least the story behind it, the tragic 1996 climb of Mt. Everest in which 8 died and many more lost limbs and were injured. This was my first Jon Krakauer book and read it a lot of while doing a short backpacking trip in central Florida a few years ago. I think a lot of people, ok, a lot of outdoor people, have climbing Mt. Everest on their list of things to accomplish, whether they believe they will do it or not. After reading this book I decided going to base camp would be good enough for me! Krakauer discusses all the possible ways to die, pulmonary and brain edemas, not to mention hypothermia and freezing to death. He also touches on the history of the mountain, the history of using Sherpas to obtain the summit, the use of oxygen and going without. There is another book about this same 1996 summit attempt by another hiker who happened to be there and I would like to read it sometime because it apparently offers some counter arguments to Krakauer’s book in regards to safety and quality of those guiding the climbers to the summit. I definitely recommend this book if you are looking for an adventure story for an adventure that you might not ever get to take.

    A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
    Originally I found this book to give to a coworker for a Christmas present several years ago. The bear on the front cover attracted me to it and so I snagged it up without really knowing what it was about other than hiking and the outdoors on the Appalachian Trail. At that point in time hiking the A.T was a theoretical idea on a piece of paper in a journal, something that was not probable and just something I would write as a dream. It’s funny looking back on the story now and comparing it with my actual knowledge of the A.T, I really thought the trail was more quiet than it actually was and much more remote than it actually is! He would talk about these towns like Gatlinburg, Tennessee and you could imagine the chaos and craziness of the city. When I read the book I didn’t really understand what a thru-hiker was, not knowing that while Bryson hiked a decent portion of the trail, he did not hike it all nor has he even summited Katahdin in Maine and yet he considers himself a thru-hiker. Most people on the A.T have read the book and it often is what inspires them to get out and complete the trail. When we encounter non-hikers and tell them we hiked the A.T they always tell us they ‘read the book’. Which means they read A Walk in the Woods. Though, Bryson writes about the Approach Trail at Amicalola Falls State Park and the overloaded and overweight packs, sometimes complete with cast iron pans, with people ditching weight here and there along the trail, we did encounter a few people like that, though no cast iron pans. Our first day out on the Approach Trail we saw two guys in their 20s with packs that looked to be about 60 lbs or more and incredibly cumbersome. We have no idea what came of them and never saw them after that. While it is a great beginning entrance to the A.T there are others out there that are even better and more in depth about what trail life really is like. Bryson is an enigmatic writer and can easily keep your attention.

    AWOL on the Appalachian Trail by David ‘AWOL’ Miller
    This book I bought while at an REI store in D.C when I had some downtime during a business trip. We were in the beginning stages of planning our A.T hike and Chris wanted me to scout some gear prices and quality, so I picked up this to read on the way home. It is written in a journal style and discusses the trail more in detail than A Walk in the Woods. AWOL also writes about injuries and obstacles he has to overcome like leaving his children and wife back at home in Florida to accomplish his goal of hiking the trail. AWOL has now come out with a companion thru-hikers book to the book that the Appalachian Trail Conservancy sells for thru-hikers, listing shelters and town information and important mileage data including elevation profiles. It is probably the second most popular trail guide right now. We were able to meet him at the opening of the A.T museum at Pine Grove Furnace State park in June 2010 while on our hike and then later on while we were hiking the Florida Trail we met him again at his house where he was hosting a group of other Florida Trail hikers.

    Barefoot Sisters: Southbound and Walking Home by Lucy and Susan Letcher
    These two books also chronicle the A.T (sense a theme here?) but they are about two sisters who walk barefoot on the trail for the majority of the time. They begin their adventure walking south from Maine to Georgia and once they get close to Georgia they decide to turn around and walk back home to Maine. They are the most in depth of A.T books I’ve read, taking turns each chapter for the sisters to write about their own experiences on the trail. I could feel similarities between hiking with Chris, a husband, and the two sisters hiking together consistently, the strain of having to deal with each hiker’s emotions and challenges but also the comfort of having someone you know being there to help you through the rougher days and to enjoy the wonderful moments. I love these books, mostly because they do things in quite a different way than the average thru-hiker, taking a lot of time to hike the trail, taking a lot of time off the trail in winter—and winter hiking in general. Plus, going barefoot. If you really want to experience the AT, try this book. The sisters were in Maine in 9/11/01 so it is an interesting perspective, too, coming from being in the woods and life is beautiful to a terrible tragedy.

    Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
    This book isn’t adventure in the outdoorsy sense, but adventure in changing lifestyles. I’m sure most of you have seen the movie and while there are parts of the book that are simliar to the movie, they are most definitely not the same thing. The author did give her blessing for the changes, though. I should note that this is not a book to read when you are hiking 2,000 miles and are hungry. I picked it up in Vermont and finished it on the next to last day of our AT thru-hike. What I loved about this book was the imagery, imaging the old Roman ruins and ruins older than that she would find on her estate. Discussing food and friends and the Italian culture, this book made me want to visit Italy. And it made me want to eat. She has a few follow up books on her transition to Italian life that I need to find some time to read.

    The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball
    Another book about life transitions, the author is a writer that is firmly rooted in all the trappings of conventional life in New York city until she goes to interview an organic farmer. It’s love and so the two slowly decide to move in together but in the meantime they are planning the large organic farm co-op that is his dream and slowly becomes hers. The move to rural Vermont (New York?) where they lease some land from a friend for a year. Kristin discusses the ups and downs of planning this farm, from what they will grow and raise, including farm animals, how they will live, the depth of working a farm and what toll it takes on the two of them but how it also brings them together. Now, this isn’t just a normal organic farm, they also do it all the old fashioned way, with horses to pull plows and all the things you’d see Pa doing on Little House on the Prairie. Kimball describes the long days as achingly tired but incredibly rewarding at the same time. It definitely puts a new perspective on organic farming!

    Between a Rock and Hard Place by Aron Ralston
    If you’ve seen the movie 127 Hours this is the book that the movie is based on. I wouldn’t have thought to read the book but our library had it so I gave it a whirl despite knowing the story since I’d seen the movie. And if you’ve seen the movie it is a pretty accurate account, but the book goes into more details about his other adventurous hijinks and near-death adventures. Aron is/war an extreme athlete and accomplished in skiing, rock climbing, running and at one point was part of a search and rescue team. He was normally very prepared for his backcountry activities and at the time of his accident had been working on climbing all of the Colorado 14ers in winter, solo. He describes a few climbs that would definitely have me sitting at home on the couch and enjoying hot cocoa instead of risking my life! But like all experienced outdoors-people, sometimes we get a little too relaxed and his unfortunate lack of oversight was to not inform anyone of his whereabouts at this particular canyoneering trip. And it was of course the dumbest thing that set the whole accident off, a boulder that had been in the position for decades, perhaps thousands of years, happens to move at the very instant he jumps from it. How many years had that same boulder been through flash floods? The whole preposterous situation is analyzed by Ralston several times during his six days stuck in the rock. This book is highly entertaining and is a page turner. Perhaps on the more grotesque side and something I wasn’t expecting, is that there are pictures in the book. At first I thought it was going to be just photos of him and his previous trips until I turned one page and there it is, his sawed off hand stuck in the boulder. It’s pretty disgusting and yet very curious.

    There are lots of adventure reads out there, tell me your favorite!

    With books. The Hunger Games trilogy to be exact. Over the last week that’s what I’ve been reading. Of course I could read them all at once but other things have gotten in the way. Work for example. Went back to the field for a few days to the Big Thicket in Beaumont, so paired with my reading I don’t have much time for blogging.

    I will need to take a break from reading to tackle some creative projects though. Julia Cameron in The Artists Way writes that reading is often a good excuse not to get things done. And she’s right. Reading, at least for me, is very consuming. Ask my parents about my growing up years and books. So once I get through this I will be hitting some projects hard.

    But when I’m ready to read again, what should I read? Give me your book suggestions!

    Back in April I wrote about three books I’d bought at the used book store. I finally finished all of them, the last one last weekend. Here’s a bit about what I thought of them.

    Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States by Bill Bryson: I was familiar with Bryson’s work from A Walk in the Woods but had only thumbed through his other books at the store. This one was on clearance so I nabbed it and was immediately fascinated with the book. The book begins with the initial colonization of the U.S. and how the English language was brought over from England and the British Isles and evolved even in the several hundred years before the American Revolution. Even by 1776 American English was drastically different than it was when the initial so-called Pilgrims came over. I thought it was funny some of the criticism that their English counterparts wrote upon visiting the frontier areas of Ohio and surrounding regions. I also thought it interesting that we’ve actually held onto some of the older English words than some of the present day modern English have. Bryson also writes about the evolution of words through modern conveniences such as radio and television. This book was written in the mid 90s so it doesn’t have much about the internet in it and I’d imagine there’d be a whole other chapter on the subject if he wrote an addendum.

    I definitely recommend this book if you are interested in the English language or have an interest in Anglophilia.

    The May Queen by Various Authors: Loved, loved, loved this book. It’s all about essay’s from women in their 30s or reflecting on how life was in their 30s. The typical subjects were incorporating work to family life, realizing they weren’t at the supposed goals they’d set for themselves 10 years prior, love life and well, just every day social aspects of 30 year old women. Of course this resonated with me since I’m about to turn 31 and love having this vagabond type life but also want the settled family life, too. How frustrating it is to have a biological clock! If only I’d known to do some of this in my 20s!

    Definitely check this book out!

    Ecology of a Cracker Childhood by Janisse Ray: I have to say I was a bit disappointed by this book. I expected more ecology less autobiography. However, it was interesting reading about this woman’s childhood in the late 60s early 70s in rural and impoverished Georgia. Sometimes she was able to tie in ecology at the end of the chapter and ecology of the longleaf pine forests were more prominent in later chapters. Ray also has a few other books that sound more ecologically driven that I might check out in the future but the taste of longleaf pine ecology has left me wanting to check out Looking for the Longleaf even more, previously recommended to me by a fellow coworker.

    If you are interested in culture and ecology of the rural south this is a book to check out.

    My next books to read are to finish Northanger Abbey, and read An Everglade’s Providence, The White Queen, and Pathfinder: Blazing a New Wilderness Trail in Modern America. I might also sneak in the last Harry Potter book for the last movie in July. We’ll see. These should take me through the summer!

    What are you reading?

    Today is April 20th. And in pot smoking lingo it is 4/20. Now, I’ve never smoked pot but I do know some of the lingo and when I saw that it was 4/20 I remembered that we were on a ridge above Watauga Lake in Tennessee, somewhere near the 420 mile mark. I remembered this because there was a hiker named Strider, one of at least two named that, who was young, maybe 18, and had this desire to get to mile 420 on 4/20 so he could smoke a joint—or perhaps a few. He wasn’t anywhere around us on that date, but we were at shelter there and wondered where he was and if he’d dropped out by now. The last we’d seen him was leaving Erwin, TN.

    And so, we would be getting close to Damascus, VA now and making our way for Mt. Rogers and the 500 mile mark on Pine Mtn.

    Time flies. On the trail it is slow and meandering with only the goal to hike and get to a particular destination for the night. Back in life there are so many distractions, things to do, places to see…work.

    I know I am blessed to have been able to hike another long distance trail this year and well, I know honestly I don’t really want to do another one now, but the allure is always there. Sometimes I miss the constant layer of dirt on my legs, heading to a privy or a tree, getting to a shelter and seeing friends, and taking a break next to the trail on a log or rock.

    I’ve been following a few folks this year but it seems a lot are going slower than I expected and also that it seems the trend was a later start this year. So I am still reading about people in Hot Springs when we were miles beyond that by now. I’m ready to read about Virginia! I guess I am also looking forward to Patrice and Justin starting in June and I can’t wait to see the trail in reverse!

    Alright, enough reminiscing.

    Right now, 2800 miles later, I am trying to keep myself occupied between projects at our job. We’re back with the company we temped for last Fall and on a different project. We finished the first portion of the project last weekend and have another week or two before we go back for six to eight weeks for the rest of it. So far we are loving it and enjoy being outdoors and seeing a different part of Texas.

    And since we have some time off again I am trying to catch up on some hobbies. Namely, reading. I’ve been wading through Northanger Abbey but am finding it to be the slowest of all the Austen books I’ve read. In fact, it’s a little boring. I cannot identify much with Catherine Morland’s character either. I think I am going to put it down for awhile and come back to it later. I’m actually thinking that I like Mansfield Park more than Northanger Abbey!

    At Half Price Books I picked up three new books to read, all non-fiction. I used to shun this genre growing up but now find myself reading it more often. The books I picked up were The May Queen, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, and Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States.

    The first I picked up because it has to do with women in their 30s and shhh, but I’m almost 31. Crap. The second I picked up because of course ecology but also because it’s about long leaf pines and lost habitats. It will probably be the first one read. And the last because I figure I need to read another Bill Bryson besides A Walk in the Woods and because on the way home from an interview two weeks ago I caught A Way with Words on NPR and was fascinated.

    I should be busy for awhile!

    Patrice had sent me the Barefoot Sisters Southbound and the companion book Barefoot Sisters Walking Home. They were pretty easy reads once I got going and despite her recommendation to read the northbound first, I decided to go southbound since it was their first book and because that part of the trail was still fresh in my mind.

    Lucy and Susan Letcher, Isis and jackrabbit respectively on the Trail, are sisters who set off southbound in Maine on summer solstice in 2000. From the start you could tell that this was going to be a drama filled adventure and they were definitely hiking their own hike. Sometimes I wanted to give them a kick in the butt to speed up because I kept shaking my head that they weren’t going to make it to Georgia before winter happened. And of course they didn’t. But, I’m glad they didn’t because their winter adventures in Virginia to North Carolina were insane!

    As the title suggests, they started walking barefoot and yes to top off all the normal thru-hiker questions that get asked by others, they got lots more by their walking barefoot. I was particularly interested in a family called The Family from the North, a family that homesteaded and tried to live off the grid, including pay taxes. The Barefoot Sisters walked with the Family for quite awhile, including a harrowing snowstorm in the Grayson Highlands of Virginia. They battled frost bite, not having enough food, side adventures and all sorts of crazy moments but all I imagined was being out on the trail in the quiet of winter surrounded by snow and ice. It would have been beautiful on those sunny days, but on the stormy ones—ick!

    Of course despite all of their insane adventures going south they decided to yo-yo and go north once they got to Springer Mtn in Georgia! I really enjoyed that part because it was obviously the way we went, but also they got to enjoy spring. They also talked about hostels and people that were not around for our hike, particularly Miss Janet’s hostel in Erwin, Tennessee. While she is still a notable Trail Angel, she does not run her hostel any longer. I also liked hearing about hostels we didn’t stay at, like Elmer’s Sunnybank Inn in Hot Springs, North Carolina. We stayed at a B&B and did not get to see that hostel.

    I highly recommend reading these books, they are very well written. They also chronicle finding out about the September 11th terrorist attacks and going from a tranquil and enjoyable day in the woods to wondering if some of their friends in NYC were ok.

    I haven’t read much else lately but I will be picking up Persuasion soon. I’m battling a cold here and have been taking everything I can including lots of homeopathic type remedies, too. I really like the throat coat tea mixed with the Target version of Emergen-C. A tasty combo!

    If you read in a feed reader, drop by and tell me if you like my new set up. Not much is different other than a list of buttons to categories in my blog. I realized it was hard to navigate if you wanted to read further into the blog. I do miss the simpler version so I may be reducing the size of the buttons to make it more condensed.

    Tomorrow I will have a 2010 wrap up!

    I’m a big reader, or at least I used to be. My nose used to be in a book constantly until I went to college and life took a turn for studying and friends and I remember going to the Galveston Public Library for the first time and feeling so out of place but also like I was coming home. Growing up I was always the kid who checked out as many books on her card as she could. I would also generally read every book I checked out.

    Anyway, I always come back to reading when I need a recharge and it will usually last awhile and then I move on to other things because reading will hold you back from doing other things creatively. Julia Cameron mentions this in The Artists way, if you are always reading you won’t be creating. I have a lot of down time at work and on my first training day the guy who trained me said he’d gone through three books already. I thought he was insane, but here it is two weeks later and I’m done with Mansfield Park.

    Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes: This book I actually read on the last leg of the AT. If you’ve seen the movie, the book is completely different for the most part. Sure the basic story of renovating the house and cooking is there, but there is no Italian lover and her pregnant friend (Yang from Grey’s Anatomy) is not coming to live there. The Polish workers are in the story, though. This book made me want to eat and if you are a hungry hiker this is not a good thing. She talked about things as simple as salads with olives to beautiful pastas…oh, this is very dangerous for a hiker eating granola bars for breakfast and tuna packets for lunch. I highly recommend this book; she packs it full with little historical tidbits about her region in Italy, the trials of working with contractors to remodel the land and house, and food….mmm, food!

    Mansfield Park by Jane Austen: A few years ago I decided that watching Jane Austen movies wasn’t going to cut it and set off to read her books. I will admit that I barely read any of the classics in high school and most of the time skimmed or read Cliffs Notes or talked to friends to get by. Classics tend to bore me and only a few caught my attention like Lord of the Flies and Fahrenheit 451. Pride & Prejudice is hard to get through when you have it memorized from the movie, but it is so worth reading; Sense and Sensibility makes you really dislike Lucy Steele (she has a sister in the book that is not in the movie) even more; Emma I listened to on mp3 while on the trail and I would like to read it in print eventually, but Emma was a very naive and immature character and I was not very fond of her; and now Mansfield Park.

    After reading the book I Googled more about the book and found out I was not alone in despising this book. Fanny is so undeveloped, or maybe she is developed but she doesn’t seem fit for the story at all. When she returns to Portsmouth and realizes all that she misses about Mansfield Park, because it offers up a world of niceties versus the roughness of poverty, she talks like everyone was her very best friend at Mansfield Park and that her aunts are the best in the world. Her aunts are little beyotches. Maybe Lady Bertram might like her a bit, but there is no way Aunt Norris is attached to her. And she talks of her friends being Miss Crawford and her sister, I can’t help but want to scream. It’s like saying her friends are Caroline and Louisa Bingley. It’s all false pretenses to me. And to be in love with someone who really loves another….ah the ending with her and Edmund is so forced. I watched a few clips of some movies of Mansfield Park and I’ve found that the romance between them is so contrived, and changing Fanny’s attitude. The Fanny of the book would not be running through the halls or running across the meadow like she is shown in the movies.

    Can you tell that I thought this book was weak?

    The Gentle Art of Domesticity by Jane Brocket: I had wanted this book when it originally came out a few years ago but never bought it. We walked past the bargain bin at Brookshires the other night and I saw it there marked down to $7 from $35. Then I saw a sign that it was reduced even further to $1.75 and it was a done deal, the book went home with me. This is such a pretty little book, something to flip through and think about. It made me miss my quiet weekends back in Florida when I would stay home while Chris went hiking or fishing and I’d stay home to work on a project and rest up. Here are a few photos of what this book makes me feel and miss:



    Cookies before they are cooked.

    octagon 3

    The Pink Banana

    Ahhh….I miss having a space of my own!

    Up next on the reading is Persuasion by Jane Austen and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. While we’re talking animals, there is an interesting TED talk on how many products come from a pig. How very difficult it must be to be a vegan…Eliana are you able to avoid some of these products? I mean, like sand paper? Seriously? Who would think of that! On the other hand, I suppose it is good that it seems to be they are using the whole of the animal.

    We’re on break for four days so yesterday was relaxing with a nap, a trip to the bookstore, watching chick flicks. Today we’re meeting Chris’ dad for lunch and doing some photography at an Audubon sanctuary and then heading over to my parents house for a few nights before we head back to work.

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