somewhat bookish.

Three Three Three: February February 22, 2015

Filed under: Motherhood — cransell @ 9:00 pm

What’s New: You are now a Big Girl Bed kid! You are really loving it and SO proud. Whenever someone comes over to the house, you immediately ask if they want to see it! This new freedom has meant the end of napping at home, something you had been resisting for a while (you still go to your room for “quiet time”). Since you aren’t napping, you go down like a ROCK at bedtime. So tired!


Toddler Skills: Your daycare has been doing lessons around Black History month, and it has been so awesome. You are really into it and come home telling us about George Washington Carver (“he’s a scientist”) and President Obama (“he gives speeches”). We’ve been getting you library books to support this and are just SO thrilled that you are showing an early interest in history.


Moments to Remember:

You’ve been talking about Martin Luther King, Jr. since the holiday last month, and one of the things you’ve told us about him is that “He got shot.” We’ve just said, yes, to this and moved on because we haven’t been really sure what that means to you. A few weeks later you had your 3 year doctor’s appointment and had to get an injection as part of your TB skin test. When Mommy was asking you about your visit later, you said that you got a shot “like Dr. King!”

Despite the fact that you have only been three for a little more than a month, you are constantly talking about how you are going to turn 4. And that you are going to have a Hello Kitty birthday party when you do. You seriously talk about this every day. Slow your roll, little one.


Likes: Sharks. Treats. Your big girl bed. Dr. King. President Obama (“He loves me.”). Eating snow “like Sven”. Cinderella. Charlie (and especially getting your picture taken with him). Dragons Love Tacos. Books about ballerinas. Taylor Swift. You are always saying you want to “shake it off”.


Dislikes: Being sick. It makes you super whiny and tantrum prone (which is completely reasonable).


Adventures: Grandma and Pop Pop came for a visit! We went to Baltimore to visit the Aquarium! (Other than that it’s been a string of mild colds with a brief stomach bug thrown in. Yay, Winter!)


What I Read: January 2015 February 12, 2015

Filed under: Random Reading — cransell @ 10:30 pm

My goal for January was to read 12 books – and I finished FIFTEEN (yes, I am proud). 10 were fiction, 5 non-fiction. 8 on the Kindle, 7 in print.

The Last Chinese Chef: A Novel by Nicole Mones (2007).
A novel about grief, romance, and Chinese food. Lots of lovely food descriptions, if that is your thing.

French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters by Karen Le Billon (2012).
Part common sense, good read. Part total guilt trip. Snacks for lyfe.

Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce (1983).
This was one of my favorite books as a girl and I cannot wait to introduce Frances to it. A fantasy novel about a girl who wants to become a knight, and so she hides her gender and heads off to the capital to train. That said, it doesn’t really hold up to adult reading. Probably best left to the tweens.

Siberiak: My Cold War Adventure on the River Ob by Jenny Jaeckel (2014).
A pretty straightforward look at the author’s exchange experience in the Soviet Union in 1988. Having been an exchange student myself (in Germany in 1995), I found it really nostalgic and relatable. My one complaint is that although the book is larger than the standard size, the writing is still very small, and was sometimes hard to read. I got this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer’s program.

Best Food Writing 2014 by Holly Hughes (2014).
The title explains it all. I love food writing, but this was not particularly memorable (a month later I remember two of the essays – one about the creator of the Cronut, and one about prison food).

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett (2013).
I think I would read anything Patchett writes. This is a collection of essays, published over decades in various magazines, proving that at the end of the day, Patchett is just an excellent writer. Period.

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry (2014).
When the Headmistress of a finishing school keels over at dinner, her charges decide to bury her and try to keep the school open. Sort of “Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead”, but in Victorian England. An entertaining YA novel.

Station Eleven: A novel by Emily St. John Mandel (2014).
A beautiful, post-apocalyptic novel about the world after a pandemic. Haunting, gripping, but not creepy. Really good, highly recommend.

The Snake Has All the Lines by Jean Kerr (1960).
I have a soft spot for books from this era written by smart, funny professional writer mothers. Or maybe I’m just in awe of a woman who had 5, not grown boys and was a playwright! Jami is also super into Jean Kerr now!

Many Conditions of Love by Farahad Zama (2009).
The second book in the “Marriage Bureau of Rich People” series. A fun book in it’s own right, and also an interesting glimpse into life in India.

W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton (2013).
I like this series, but wasn’t crazy about this entry. Just meh for me.

Ruby Redfort Catch Your Death by Lauren Child (2015).
Another fun Ruby Redfort offering – having failed her survival challenge, 13-year-old Ruby is in danger of being kicked out of the secret spy agency, Spectrum. At the same time, there is something odd in Twinford – jewels disappearing, strange animal sightings, an evil SCENT plot. Lucky that Ruby is still on the case. I got this book through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (2013).
A romance novel with a male protagonist! That alone made it interesting. And then what a character – an Asperger’s having, brilliant geneticist trying to figure out love and romance. Enjoyable.

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman (2012).
It took me 8 months to read this one. Clearly well written, but just hard as a parent to read a story of a child torn between two families.

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher (2014).
A slim novel comprised of letters of recommendation by a professor of writing at a middling liberal arts college. Professor Fitger is sometimes funny, sometimes awkward, sometimes pompous, but it’s overall an amusing peak at academia.


THREE!!! January 27, 2015

Filed under: Motherhood — cransell @ 10:27 pm


What’s New: You are THREE! This is both totally mind-blowing and completely unsurprising. You SEEM three. You spell your name. Earlier this month you told us it was Dr. King’s birthday and that “He’s a preacher.” We are figuring out where you’ll go to preschool in the Fall. You’re BIG.

Toddler Skills: Your teachers are always commenting on how well you concentrate during lessons. Even when other kids get distracted, you stay laser focused. If there is stuff to learn, you want to learn it.


Moments to Remember:

You like to play Teacher: holding up puzzle pieces and asking us what color they are, or what that letter is. When we were at Grandma and Pop Pop’s you had us all do “circle time” and sing songs like you do in the mornings at daycare. I’m starting to see glimpses of my childhood in the games you play.

You are still small enough to snuggle. We can rock you in the Glider in your room and carry you to your crib. You like to crawl up on my lap sometimes if we are watching TV and cuddle. A big girl bed is not too far in your future, but I hope the cuddles continue for a long time.

After your bath with Mommy, you like to “hide” cuddled up in towels in the chair in your room as we search for Frances, waiting to pop your head out with a big smile to say “here I am.”

You can spell your first name, and you know your last name. But if we ask you to spell it, you say F-R-A-N-C-E-S. If it’s some part of your name, it must be spelled Frances!


Likes: Yoga. Dresses. Eating snow. Having your picture taken with Charlie (it’s really the only time you ask to have your picture taken, and we must do it a few times a week). Dragons Love Tacos. Dancing. Taylor Swift (we were dancing to the radio the other day and you told me you wanted to “Shake it Off, Mama”. Your new toys.


Dislikes: When the things you want don’t happen IMMEDIATELY. Saying “one minute” (usually) doesn’t fly with you.


Adventures: Your birthday is obviously the biggest adventure of January, but you and I also went on our first road trip together – to Grandma and Pop Pop for MLK Day weekend. You were a total trooper and it was great fun.



2014 in Book Statistics January 7, 2015

Filed under: Somewhat Bookish — cransell @ 9:00 am

Five Star Books of 2014:
84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.
Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown.
Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage by Molly Wizenberg.
An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler.
Greenglass House by Kate Milford.
The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier.
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin.
Truth & Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett.

Total Books Read in 2014: 63

Number Read in Best Month: 9 (August)
Number Read in Worst Month: 2 (March)

Total Books Read in 2013: 75
Total Books Read in 2012: 64
Total Books Read in 2011: 130
Total Books Read in 2010: 130
Total Books Read in 2009: 200
Total Books Read in 2008: 80
Total Books Read in 2007: 122
Total Books Read in 2006: 70

Fiction/Non-fiction Split:
2014: 66%/34%
2013: 60%/40%
2012: 72%/28%
2011: 70%/30%
2010: 68%/32%
2009: 84%/16%
2008: 63%/37%
2007: 50%/50%
2006: 59%/41%

Percentage of Books by Women (Overall/Fiction/Non-fiction):
2014: 83%/82%/90%
2013: 68%/69%/67%
2012: 61%/67%/53%
2011: 59%/58%/62%
2010: 55%/54%/59%
2009: 44%/44%/ 42%
2008: 68%/70%/67%
2007: 60%/57%/68%
2006: 74%/88%/55%

Kindle vs. Print Books:
2014: 45%/55%
2013: 53%/47%
2012: 73%/27%


What I Read: December 2014 January 6, 2015

Filed under: Random Reading — cransell @ 9:32 pm

I read 6 books in December – evenly split between fiction and non-fiction, Kindle and hard copy.

How to Catch a Bogle by Catherine Jinks (2013).
A fun kid’s book that I heard about from the Booklist blog. Birdie is a 10-year-old Bogler’s apprentice in Victorian London, which basically means that she’s bait for those monsters who live in places like chimneys and wells and other dark places and who like to eat children. Despite that description, Birdie loves her job and resents the interference of a well-meaning “improver” who tries to “save” Birdie from her chosen profession. I love children’s chapter books with strong, interesting female characters and then definitely fits that description.

Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China by Fuchsia Dunlop (2008).
I read SO many food memoirs. I really liked this one, even though I had avoided it for year’s, because I can’t tolerate spicy food (damn you Scandanavian forebears, with your love of dairy and complete lack of peppers), and why read about food you can’t eat? But this was interesting enough, and Dunlop’s enthusiasm for Chinese and especially Sichuan food was great enough, that I enjoyed it anyway!

Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay (2014).
I really like Roxane Gay. I think she is super smart and a great writer and I was excited to pick up this collection of essays. I love essays! I love modern feminist writing! And I was just sort of MEH about this. I think I’m not that crazy about pop culture criticism? Maybe because I am just not up on enough of it anymore. This book wasn’t bad, just not as awesome as I was expecting it to be.

Ruby Redfort Take Your Last Breath by Lauren Child (2013).
This is a children’s book series about a 13-year-old secret agent (sounds awesome already, right?). Amusingly this is a series that was written, because the author Lauren Child has another series (Clarice Bean), in which the main characters favorite books were Ruby Redfort mysteries, which didn’t exist until Clarice Bean fans started clamoring for them. I love that! Anyway, this is the second book in the series, and is great fun.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (2014).
I loved this book. LOVED it. So much so that I have made it my book club pick for next month. It is an autobiography of the childhood of children’s/YA book writer, Jacqueline Woodson. And it’s in VERSE. It’s an autobiography in POEMS. I don’t usually do so well with poetry. I like it in theory and I like individual poems, but I can’t just sit down and read a book of poems. But I devoured this – and I think it’s because, it has something that most poetry is missing and that’s a plot, a narrative arc. I like when people do beautiful things with words, but to read a whole lot of that beauty, I want to also get a story, and Brown Girl Dreaming just hit all those notes amazingly well.

The Girl Who Saved the Queen of England by Jonas Jonasson (2014).
I read very little literature in translation. I don’t know why exactly, it’s just one of those things. I mostly read books that were written in English. But I picked this one up (originally written in Swedish), based on the recommendation of the NPR Book Concierge. And it was so good – funny and unexpected and delightful. And amazingly, a lot of the online reviews on GoodReads say “not as good as his first book”, so now I am REALLY excited to read that. Well worth checking out!


Twelve Books or Bust January! January 1, 2015

Filed under: Random Reading — cransell @ 11:00 am

I decided I wanted to do a stretch reading goal in January. In my most reading-heavy month in 2014, I finished 11 books (although a more typical month is 3-4), so this January, I’m going to read TWELVE books. This will serve two purposes: 1) Make me happy in an otherwise cold and gloomy month, because I love to read. 2) Keep me from wasting SO MUCH time on the internet. I mean, I love the internet, but surely I could stand to be a little more judicious in my internetting. And now I won’t have time to mess around, because I’ve got to get reading.

I have two basic guidelines to help me do this. (The beauty of challenging YOURSELF, is that YOU make the rules!)

1) Children’s chapter books are okay. Encouraged even. Probably all of my books will need to be no more than 300 or so pages in order to get this done. I can’t read twelve 600 page books in a month, that’s for sure!

2) The books must be finished in January, but they do not have to have been started then. I have a number of half finished books floating around in the universe. This is the month to finish them!

Anybody else been wanting to up their reading? You should do an “X Books or Bust” Challenge too! It could be any number of books – even one!

Alternatively and/or additionally, any suggestions for good, not-too-long, quick reads? I could use some!


Secular Tithing 2014 December 31, 2014

Filed under: Life List — cransell @ 5:00 pm
Tags: ,

One of my life list goals is to give 10% of income to charity for one year – something I’ve been thinking of as “secular tithing”. I’m still a long way from that goal, but I decided to start this year by giving 1% of my take home pay to charity. Just trying to get in the habit of giving regularly. In 2015, I hope to up it to 2% and then maybe in a decade, I’ll be up to my goal amount. :) Here is who I gave money to this year:

January: DC Central Kitchen
I hoped to focus my money locally this year (although you will see, I didn’t always), so I started with DC Central Kitchen, a wonderful organization that serves dual roles as a provider of meals to homeless shelters and transitional housing, and as a vocational program, training unemployed individuals for culinary careers.

February: Russia Freedom Fund
I love to watch the Olympics, but Russia’s treatment of LGBT individuals is truly horrifying, so I felt I needed to so something to offer some support and solidarity to queer folks in Russia, hence this gift.

March: St. Baldrick’s
My cousin shaved her head to support children’s cancer research, making this an easy choice for my March contribution!

April: Columbia Heights Community Market
Donations to this farmer’s market are used to provide matching funds for food stamp purchases – doubling the amount of fresh produce that those recipients can buy!

May: DC Abortion Fund
The DC Abortion Fund provides grants to women who cannot afford the full cost of an abortion. My gift in May was specifically to support a woman who was having to travel from out of state because she couldn’t get the procedure she needed where she lived, an all too common occurrence these days as a woman’s right to chose is restricted more and more.

June: ScholarCHIPS
ScholarCHIPs is a wonderful organization, founded by the granddaughter of the Education Director of Frances’ daycare. They offer college scholarships to children of incarcerated parents (CHIPs). This is generally a great idea, but became more relevant after I had federal jury duty in June. We convicted the individual charged, who had three children. Although convinced of his guilt and that our decision was just, it really struck me the effect that his incarceration would have on his family, and this seemed like a good concrete way to try to make life better for those affected – the innocent bystanders of the criminal justice system, if you will. If you are aware of other great organizations that support the children of incarcerated parents, please let me know!

July: Donors Choose: Barnard Elementary
I love Donors Choose – there is something so satisfying about funding projects for students/teachers. Barnard Elementary is our neighborhood DCPS school and even before I started my 1% project this year, I’ve tried to help fund at least one project a year.

August: Mary’s Center
Mary’s Center is a local non-profit that provides health care, social services and family literacy support. I gave to them though, for their support/creation of Briya Public Charter School, which I read about in the Washington Post and was totally inspired by!

September: Donor’s Choose: Barnard Elementary
Couldn’t decide who I wanted to give to this month, so I just went back to Donors Choose and found a different project at Barnard that needed funds.

October: Gilchrist Hospice
This was a donation that I gave in memory of a coworker’s mother. I will always support hospices though – they do great work, easing the end of our lives and supporting the families of the dying. So important.

November: ArchCity Defenders
Like a lot of folks, I have really been disturbed by what has happened this year at the intersection of race and law enforcement. This article in the Washington Post encouraged me to support ArchCity Defenders who represent low-income clients who are dealing with what can only be described as harassment (and a poverty tax) by their municipal governments.

December: Capital Area Food Bank
Another gift inspired by a Washington Post article. Given the struggles that many folks in our area are having getting enough to eat, it seemed especially important to give to the Food Bank this month.



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