Our August at a glance: August in our home means birthdays (my oldest and my husband, plus a cousin and a brother-in-law), anniversaries (our 12th this year. Go us!), summer band, and back to school for everyone. (You can follow me on Instagram here.)

I’m joining up with Leigh Kramer and friends to talk about What I’m Into in August.

Books

Attachments: A Novel: Funny. Interesting premise. I could be friends with two of the main characters.

Fangirl: I liked this one (mostly), but not as much as Attachments or Eleanor & Park.

The Girl You Left Behind: A Novel: The story of a painting originating in Northern France in WWI and its journey. Fascinating. I’m quickly becoming a Jojo Moyes fangirl.

The Invention of Wings: With Notes (Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 3): I loved the narrative voices in this novel, and I loved the imagery: “The sun looked like a little white button stitched tight to the sky.” Isn’t that lovely? I enjoyed the setting of the 1840s, the beginnings of Abolition and the hints of Women’s Rights for our nation – all tied together in this novel.

The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike Book 2): Graphic. Disturbing. A little gross. I couldn’t put it down. I love Cormoran Strike (and Robin!).

Still Life with Bread Crumbs: A Novel: An interesting novel about a woman, waning in her career as a professional photographer, getting a new start in a small town.

Mary Poppins: Very different from the movie, but still enchanting and fun for my kids.

Beezus and Ramona (Ramona Quimby Book 1): My boys and I have decided that their sister is exactly like Ramona.

Treasure Island: We listened to this on audio. More on that in a minute.

Music

I should just re-categorize this as Spotify. It’s pretty much my sole source of music (Follow me here).

Vienna Teng: I love this album. My husband introduced me to her through the song “The Hymn of Acxiom.” It was the ballad for one of the top DCI shows this year. (Drum Corp International. It’s like Nascar or March Madness for band nerds.) I’m embedding a video where Teng explains her composition process for this song:

And here’s a link of the Bluecoats playing this ballad in their DCI show “Tilt.” I started it at the ballad, but watch the whole show. It’s great. (Amateur video. The official video isn’t available.)

Jim Weiss on Spotify! Jim Weiss is on Spotify! I learned about this from The Art of Simple Podcast. I can get an extra 15 to 20 minutes of read aloud time for my kids WITHOUT HAVING TO READ ALOUD. Entire books are available along with folk tales, short stories, as well as history and Shakespeare for kids.

Kid Grooves: The most requested playlist in our home.

Podcasts

I’ve been walking in the mornings, and I love listening to podcasts. I ran out of Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me Back Logs, and I’m all caught up with The Art of Simple. I need some new ones.

Television and Movies

Arrow (interesting but has “roll my eyes” moments), Last Comic Standing (Really like the judges and format. Watch the Best 100 jokes episode to see if you’d like it.), The Amazing Spiderman II (needed some better plot arcs, good overall), The Muppets Most Wanted (I’m glad we waited for RedBox), How to Train Your Dragon II (excellent!)

Come see what everyone else is into at LeighKramer.com, and share your current favorites in the comments!

This post features affiliate links. Thanks for supporting KellyWiggains.com.

taco casa
Scene: Local Taco Casa, lunchtime.

Characters:
Kelly, mom in mid-thirties
Keynan, seven-year-old son
Parker, six-year-old son
Hannah Beth, three-year-old daughter
Woman in Adjoining Booth

After finding a booth, grabbing forks and napkins, and getting the drinks situated, Kelly sits in a booth beside Hannah Beth and across from Keynan and Parker. 

Keynan: “Mom, what’s the country with all of the ice?”

Kelly: “Iceland?”

Keynan: “No, it starts with an A.”

Parker: “You mean A-LASK-A.”

Keynan: “No, it’s the one at the bottom.”

Kelly passes out tacos, enchiladas, nacho chips, and beans from a tray.

Kelly: “Oh! Do you mean Antarctica? It’s a continent.”

Keynan: “Yes, Antarctica. Is that where the penguins live? The ones with four arms.”

Kelly: “I don’t think penguins with four arms exist.”

Kelly opens straw wrapper for Hannah Beth. Picks up straw wrapper Parker shot at Hannah Beth.

Keynan: “Well, I think it would be fun to travel to Antarctica and ride on the backs of the penguins with four arms.”

Kelly: “You’re right. That would be fun. But penguins don’t have four arms, and even if they did, I don’t think we could ride on their backs.”

Keynan: “Katara and Aang rode on penguins with four arms.”

Kelly: “Well, yes, but Avatar is a cartoon, where people draw the characters and put them into motion. So, they aren’t real. Someone decided to draw an extra two arms on the penguins to enhance the … what in the world?”

Parker looks up, enchilada dripping from his face, chili and melted cheese covering his fingers.

Parker: “What?”

Kelly: “Have you put any of that Chilada in your mouth? It’s everywhere. Here, use a knife. You can’t eat enchiladas with your hands.”

Kelly passes out more napkins. Motions for Parker to use his.

Hannah Beth: “Hey Mom, I have a joke. Knock, Knock…”

Parker: “AAAAAAH, the napkin’s in the chili!”

Kelly: “Get another one.”

Hannah Beth (louder): “Mom! Knock, knock.”

Kelly: “Who’s there?”

Keynan: “Mom, do you see those guys over there? Are they all twins?”

Parker: “They are! They’re twins! Mom, wouldn’t that be cool if we were all twins?”

Kelly turns her head to glance in the direction of the boys’ pointing and staring. Hannah Beth stands up in her seat and starts to twirl on the spot, pulling her dress up past her shoulders.

Kelly: “Okay, first of all, please don’t point and stare. Both of you. Stop looking at them. Look at me. Okay, those guys aren’t twins. They look nothing alike. They are simply men who work for the same company. They must have to wear a uniform. See, here are a few more of them.”

Men in uniformed City Maintenance shirts, jeans and baseball caps pass, carrying lunch trays. 

Hannah Beth: “Tortilla! Mom! Did you like my joke? I said tortilla!”

Kelly turns to face answer Hannah Beth who is still standing on the booth seat with her dress in the air.

Kelly: “Woah! Put your dress down! And hee-hee. Tortilla! I get it. Okay. You need to sit down on your bottom and eat your lunch.”

Keynan: “Mom, where is Alaska? I know it’s big, but I can’t remember. Can we drive to Alaska?”

Kelly: “I’ll get my phone out to look, but you need to start eating.”

Kelly places taco back on its wrapper. Finds iPhone. Opens up the Maps App. Keynan takes one bite of his taco then continues to talk about traveling the world. 

Parker starts to sing: “This is the moment. Tonight is the night. We’ll fight till it’s over, so we’ll put our hands up, like the ceiling can’t hold us…”

Kelly: “Okay. I pulled up directions from our house to Anchorage, Alaska. See?”

Keynan: “Can we drive there sometime?”

Kelly: “I’ll have to talk to your dad about that. It would take, let’s see, 3 days and 2 hours.”

Kelly glances down at Hannah Beth. Finds nacho cheese in Hannah Beth’s hair. Kelly wipes and tugs at the glob with a napkin. Hannah Beth protests.

Keynan: “Mom, you know the Buddy movies? Those movies are real, and they live in a town in Washington. Could we go see them in Washington? Is it close to Alaska? Because in one of the movies the Buddies fly to Alaska in a plane.”

Kelly: “Well, the Buddies use real people and animals to play in the movies, but they don’t actually live in Washington or travel to Alaska to help a husky complete the Iditarod. Someone wrote a story about that, and a movie company paid actors to tell the story.”

Keynan: “But the people are real. They aren’t drawn like Avatar.”

Kelly: “Right, but it’s still not a true story. It’s fiction, which is a story that someone made up.”

Keynan: “So, what’s real then?”

Kelly: “Well, real is actually happening, and fiction is when you pretend something happens.”

Keynan: “Mom, did you know Taco Casa has been here since 1972?”

Kelly: “What? No, we watched this place being built, remember? It’s only been opened a few months.”

Keynan: “That sign says Established 1972.”

Kelly: “Oh! Right, well, the Taco Casa franchise started in 1972. I’m not sure where the first one was built, but it’s a chain of restaurants. So, you can see other Taco Casas at other places, but the first one was built in 1972, I guess.”

Keynan: “What’s a franchise?”

Kelly: “It’s a business with more than one location. Franchise means that the people at this location can use the Taco Casa name and sell their food.”

Conversation continues in the same vein until a woman sitting in the adjoining booth turns.

Woman in Adjoining Booth: “I just want you to know. You have the most well-behaved children. I taught school for 35 years, so I know. They are precious.”

Kelly looks at Hannah Beth who is digging nacho cheese from a bowl with her finger. Then over to Parker who is still singing “The ceiling can’t hold uuussss. Like the ceiling can’t hold uuuus.” And Keynan who has finally decided to eat his lunch. 

Kelly: *slow blink*

And scene.

Approximate running time: 15 minutes.

Photo Credit: jypsygen via Compfight cc

Yesterday, I listed some of my recent and perennial favorites for Summer Reads. Today, I’m joining the Twitterature bandwagon once again to mention what I am currently reading. Join the fun over at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

twitterature-graphic1

Recently Finished:

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter: A story of 60 years unfolds, involving an Italian inn keeper, a young actress, a screen writer, and one of Hollywood’s biggest movie flops Cleopatra. This is a book where I loved the themes and characters, but I know some of the content would upset my friends. Love it. Won’t recommend it.

Delicious!: A Novel by Ruth Reichl: Billie Breslin left California and her past to work at famed New York food magazine Delicious! Yet, when the magazine suddenly shuts down, Billie stays to field customer complaints and finds a new pen pal from the past. I wanted to love this book more, but I think some people just have to get their first novels out of the way to write a better one later.

The Martian: A Novel by Andy Weir: I gave this book to my husband without reading it first (rare); however, when someone describes a book as “like Castaway in space,” I knew my husband would love it. And I probably wouldn’t. I was right. Tyler loved this book. He says it’s funny and interesting not because of what happens, but because of how it happens.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell: I actually read this book a few months ago, but I never mentioned it on the blog. Why would reading a book about teenagers falling in love be interesting? The characters. You can’t help but cheer on these two kids as they navigate the murky waters of adolescence. (The Kindle edition is currently $5!)

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green: I love John Green’s novels. I love John Green on Twitter. I love John Green on YouTube. He’s just a remarkable human. However, I avoided reading this book for over a year. Cancer hits a little close to home, so I expected to spend weeks sobbing over this book. Guess what? I didn’t. I barely teared up reading this book, but you know what? I still loved it.

Pardonable Lies: A Maisie Dobbs Novel by Jaqueline Winspear: I actually mentioned this book yesterday, but I did just finish it. I’ve been wanting to read Maisie Dobbs for a while now, but someone lost the first two copies at my library. I decided to go ahead and grab the third book of the series. And I enjoyed it even without reading the first two novels.

The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautifulby Myquillyn Smith: Also mentioned yesterday. Also finished it this month. Also loved it. I recommend the hardback.

In the Middle

The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag: A Flavia de Luce Novel by Alan Bradley: I’m reading the second Flavia De Luce mystery, and I’m loving hanging out with Flavia again.

Jayber Crow: A Novel by Wendell Berry: My friend gave me this book months ago, and like the terrible person I am, I keep putting it on the back burner. No more, I say. No more.

What are you reading this month? Find more books to add to your stack at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

Today is a good day to buy YA for your Kindle. Here are books I liked reading and one I’m interested in snagging myself:

Eleanor & Park (Ira Children’s Book Awards. Young Adult) by Rainbow Rowell: $5

Looking for Alaska by John Green: $4.99

Paper Towns by John Green: $4.99

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green: $4.99

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell: $5 (I haven’t read this one. Reviews from people I trust come as a mixed bag.)

Cinder: Book One of the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer: $2.99

I usually don’t post twice in a day, but I figured this was a quick way for you to see the deals!

Go grab a book!

Summer time is a great time to pick up a book. I’ve had several friends ask me for some recommendations as they head to the library for story time with their kids or to the beach without their kids. So, if you need some hints, these are some of my favorite reads.

summer reading suggestions

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion: This is my recommend of the summer. It’s funny. It’s sweet. It has all the elements of a great summer read, and anyone would like it. Seriously, anyone. (A little language, a little talk of hanky-panky, but nothing explicit). A socially awkward professor of genetics decides he needs to find a wife and goes about it in the most scientific way possible, creating a 16 page questionnaire.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley: A precocious eleven-year-old turned detective in 1950s Britain sets out to solve a mysterious death in her back garden. Plenty of mystery and intrigue, Bradley’s funny and observant Flavia de Luce and her commentary on life make the novel stand out. I’m working on the second in the series called The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag. Also, just from random internet searching, I found out a television series is brewing, too. (I wrote a review for The Library Adventure here.)

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear: I’m a new reader to Maisie Dobbs novels, but I love these. Set in England in 1930 in the midst of a Depression and recovery from World War I, Maisie Dobbs serves as an Investigator/Psychologist. In Pardonable Lies, the third in the series, she’s on the case to fight for a girl accused of murder, her best friend’s brother, the circumstances surrounding a young pilot’s death in France, and, in the end, Maisie’s own life. These books came out in the early 2000s, so they should be easy to find at the library. (As of this post, Pardonable Lies is only $2.99 via Kindle).

Me Before You: JoJo Moyes: A romantic story of redemption and love between two unlikely characters: a young waitress and a paraplegic. (Warning: I cried reading this.) Also, Don’t Read With Your Eyes.

The Lunar Chronicles: Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress. This YA series is fun, sweet, and packed with adventure. It takes on fairy tales (Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel) and sets those fairy tales in a futuristic society with Lunar queens, cyborgs, and space ships. And it works. (Cinder is only $2.99 right now. Grab it!)

Notes from a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider: This is a great book if you need to scale back your life. I’ve been following Tsh for years, and I always love what she has to say. I wrote a review here.

The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith: Looks like a design book, but it’s more a book about embracing where you are now and eliminating your insecurities to create the home you love, no matter the circumstance. It’s beautiful. I recommend buying the hardback for $13.32 right now.

One Summer: America 1927 by Bill Bryson: This book focuses on pivotal moments in culture during the summer of 1927 through stories about several historical characters: Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, Al Jolson, Al Capone, Herbert Hoover, Calvin Coolidge, and others. (I wrote a review of it here.)

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty: I read this book last summer and loved it. It’s breezy reading, but it has some meat to it, enough to leave you wondering and thinking.

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton: The opening scene of this book is chilling and jarring. The rest of it is also fabulous.

Someday, Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham: I’ve talked about this book before at The Library Adventure. I recommended it on my Christmas Gift List, and I’m recommending it again. It’s funny with Gilmore Girls-esque banter.

My Go-To, Always Recommend First Before Just about Anything Else Read:

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls: A memoir of compelling depth, warmth, and fascination. Follow Walls and her remarkable journey through childhood with her nomadic family, led by her unconventional parents. If this girl can survive childhood and live to tell the tale, then there’s hope for all of us. The reason why I love this book: Jeannette Walls is absolutely grateful to her parents and feels genuine love and affection for them, despite their flaws.

What are you favorite books to read in the summer?

Photo Credit: nicadlr via Compfight cc

David’s Veins

June 30, 2014 — Leave a comment

“Look at his veins.”

My husband whispered to me.

“Seriously, you can see his veins.

Michelangelo, David, 1501-04 

Tyler and I stood dumbstruck in the Accademia, the museum in Florence, Italy, housing Michelangelo’s famous statue of David. From just about everyone, we knew to take the time to visit him. David impresses everyone. He’s not cliché. He’s not touristy. You can see his veins.

For those who don’t know the background, Michelangelo accepted the commission to create a sculpture for the top of the Duomo, Florence’s iconic domed church. With a slab of marble other artists had rejected (many saw it as too flawed, too big, too much), Michelangelo created the definitive symbol of a Renaissance Man.

As my husband and I listened to an audio guide on our iPhones, David stood in all of his glory – all 17 feet of him, with nothing more than a few rocks and a sling and the power of God dwelling in his perfectly chiseled body, ready to face down a giant. He’s relaxed, composed, a little wary, but poised for battle.

My husband and I walked in slow circles, over and over, taking in every detail of David. I marveled at his muscles, his composure, the features of his face. And then, I would remind myself – he’s not actually human. Of course he’s marble and stone, but he’s so incredibly human that he tricks you. I mean, you can see his veins.

The hall leading up to David’s special cathedral features unfinished sculptures created by Michelangelo. These sculptures, for whatever reason, remained unfinished by the master and left for other projects. Roughly cut, the bumpy chisel marks still visible, art historians named them The Prisoners because the sculptures stay captive in their block marble holding cells. Looking at The Prisoners and then looking at David in his polished nakedness, it’s easy to see Vasari, a friend and contemporary, saying Michelangelo’s subjects emerged from the marble like a person emerging from a pool of water. It’s quite breathtaking.

Michelangelo worked in a fever. He would chisel away for hours on end until his prisoner trapped in marble would emerge. He didn’t sketch something out beforehand or use a model. He didn’t go back to add on embellishments. He saw the art and released it.

Too often, I look at the ideas of others, and they seem so polished and beautiful. My own ideas feel locked, held back by imperfections, by lack of inspiration, huge barrier blocks holding onto my ideas, not releasing them. In comparison, my work is amateur and insignificant.

And yet.

I don’t see behind-the-scenes. I don’t see the consistent hard word that comes along with the polished, the beautiful, the inspired. The every day hacking away, slicing off the rough patches and edges, cutting to the heart of the matter.

Before I can get to the veins, I have to do this work, and I can’t wait around for the perfect slab of marble to create it.

My first piece of editing advice to anyone is this:

Before you hit “Publish” or “Send,” take a quick minute and read your words out loud.

That’s it.

Reading a piece of your writing out loud, intentionally, will help you catch typos and misspelled words. Plus, when you read your writing objectively, you’ll hear the tone of your words. Don’t assume people will understand what you mean. Nine times out of ten, I change a word or two. I’ll rephrase something to soften the tone. I’ll reword a sentence to make my meaning clearer.

Yes, you may look like an idiot in Starbucks. Yes, you may not think you have time.

But, trust me. It helps.

Do you have a quick and easy editing tip?

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Book Recommending a person.jpg

When a friend recommends a book to me, I take it seriously, especially when the recommendation is not just, “This is a great story.” When I hear words like, “This novel impacted my faith,” or “I thought about this book for months,” I know I’m dealing with something much more delicate.

When I read a book on a friend’s recommendation, I not only learn about new characters or find an author’s voice, but I also catch a glimpse of my friend, the fellow reader. Reading a beloved book of a friend is like being trusted with a secret, almost as though I’m having a conversation through the shared words, and the experience is, in some ways, more private than an actual conversation over coffee or at dinner.

Reading is a solitary activity for the most part, but being a book lover is more about community. Trusting a friend with a treasured book involves a level of vulnerability. The book’s words become reflections of the reader as well as the author. When we say, “Oh, please read this book. I absolutely loved it,” we are sharing a part of ourselves with another person. Books are intimate.

When I’m in a crowd, especially a crowd of new faces, I listen for book titles dropped in conversation as touchstones. Somehow, I learn more about a person when I hear books they loved or hated. I’m not saying I never like someone who doesn’t like the same books I like. I have friends who despise Jane Austen or love Thomas Pynchon. We are still friends. I don’t disown people because of book preferences. But, when I hear that familiar quote from a touchstone book, I know I’ve found a kindred spirit.

So, let me in on your secret: What’s a book you’d recommend that’s a little window to your soul?

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La Passeggiata

April 2, 2014 — Leave a comment

Our first night in Rome, Tyler and I headed into town via the Metro up to Flaminio station near the Piazza del Popolo. From there, we walked along the Via del Corso, a long straight street in Rome that closes down every night for walking. As a long-standing tradition, everyone in Rome finishes up work, and before heading home or to a restaurant to meet friends for dinner, they take a long walk. Sometimes they shop or buy ingredients for dinner, but it’s mostly just to socialize – maybe to show off a little, too.

The street lights glow a soft amber color. The shop owners stand around outside, talking to passersby. Old Italian men with their wool hats and coats and spiffy scarves gently push the elbows of their lady friends in heels and hats farther down the street. Teenagers in skinnies and Pumas light each other’s cigarettes and laugh on their way to the Spanish Steps or the nearby (and gigantic) McDonald’s. Street vendors shoot neon spinners in the air to attract the passing tourists.

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We ventured over to the Spanish Steps and then down towards the Trevi Fountain to throw in our lucky coin, assuring a return trip. We walked the winding paths leading over to the Pantheon. At the Pantheon we sat and watched a guy take an extended exposure shot of the passing crowds. We found a gelato shop, where I tried some made from rose jam. It was my favorite of the trip – light, fresh, and creamy. We wandered by the Victor Emmanuel Monument and then climbed to the Piazza del Campodoglio, where we could see the line of the Forum, the Arch of Constantine, and the Colosseum in the distance. There, the city was quiet and peaceful.

I loved being a part of this. It’s like Rome says, “Let’s take a few moments of every day and remember we are all in this together.” Rome doesn’t forget its past. It builds on top of it, or it saves and appreciates it. The streets bustle with modern-day life, but they still recognize the beauty of its history. Trevi Fountain, a gorgeous display of sculpture and art, was completed in 1762 to celebrate the re-opening of some of Rome’s ancient aqueducts. Now, it’s visited by lovers and by crowds of teenagers, by old men before grabbing some wine with friends and by tourists who want to catch some of the magic of A Roman Holiday.

I know visiting Italy for ten days will not make me an Italian, but I want to bring a bit of Italy into my every day life. I want to take time every night for a stroll or to catch up on the day with friends. I want to celebrate history right along with the present. Why not make something simple, like a water source, also be beautiful? Not all of Rome is in a museum. Most of its beauty and life is free for the taking.

I want a part of my day, every day, to somehow remember, “We’re not alone in this life. Let’s be together.”