Misty morning

This month, I hardly left Winter Haven. Spending so much time in my own area gave me a chance to catch up on some tasks around the house and to explore more of my surroundings. And read voraciously.

I spent a lot of time at the Circle B Bar Reserve. This was the magical place where I saw my first live armadillo, discovered multiple gators lounging just feet away from the walking trail, and furthered my passion for spiderweb photography.

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Other highlights included doing some quality cooking and baking, putting together a 1000-piece puzzle, and training for a half-marathon. It was the simple things that made January such a great month.

I did get out of Winter Haven at the end of the month for a weekend trip to Bradenton, where I spent time with my grandparents and revisited Palma Sola Botanical Gardens.

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Here’s everything else that I got up to in January.

What I’ve Been Reading

Holy cow, I can’t believe how much I was able to read this month! I’m already well on my way to reading the 50-book goal I set for myself this year, and I’ve surprised myself by delving into genres that I usually wouldn’t bother with.

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem: This was one of those books that I was going to read “eventually,” but when Emma Watson started her book club and named this as the first read, I went straight to my local library and found myself a copy. Though difficult to read at times because of the staccato storytelling, I did appreciate the lists and anecdotes that detailed some of the situations Gloria encountered during her lifetime of traveling around the US as a women’s rights activist.

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Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff: Everybody seemed to love this book, which made a lot of the 2015 “Best Of” lists and uses very intense descriptions and characterizations to show both sides of a struggling marriage. I was interested enough by the suspense of the relationship woes to keep reading until the end, but then I couldn’t decide if I had even liked the book. I read through reviews and found myself agreeing with every single negative review, but then I agreed with all the positive ones, too; I don’t think I’d recommend this book, but I don’t mind having read it.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal: After hearing this title mentioned over and over again, I had to pick it up and see what all the hype was about. It’s a food-centric novel told from the perspectives of several different characters. I loved the Midwest charm, the vivid imagery, the intriguing connections among the characters, and the way that food was used to further the plot and add to the characterization and setting.

#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso: An email from Cincinnati’s Library informed me of some new ebooks they had, and this one caught my eye, so I quickly downloaded it and powered through it. I loved the little lessons about managing others while maintaining your personal style, mixed in with the story of Sophia’s transition from selling stolen goods to creating her own vintage clothing business on ebay, which eventually became the retailer known as Nasty Gal. I noticed a lot of negative reviews for this book, but as someone with absolutely no business experience, I found #GIRLBOSS to be a great introduction to the entrepreneurial world.

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Some Girls by Jillian Lauren: This was a very alternative take on the travel narrative, but it came highly recommended. It is the travel memoir of a young woman who can’t get her footing in the acting world and ends up accepting a position to work in the Prince of Brunei’s harem. Its combination of sordid details and exceptional storytelling made me zoom through the whole thing in just a few days.

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr: I found this thin little book in a thrift shop and bought it to add a little more diversity to my classroom library. Before bringing it to school, I read through and found myself touched by the sad story of young Sadako, as she and her loved ones endeavored to make 1000 origami cranes as she lay dying from leukemia due to the the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery: It seems like everybody is always mentioning this book, and I wondered what I was missing out on. After finding a digital copy of it, I discovered that I had been missing out on lovely illustrations, poetic language, and keen observations on human nature. Such an adorable read.

What I’ve Been Watching

West Wing: I looooove political dramas, and I really can’t explain why I’ve never watched this show before. It’s heartwarming, intelligent, and dramatic. I’ve been wanting to watch something else like House of Cards, Kings, or Political Animals, which were my main reference points for political series, but this show is so much more epic and sweeping than I could have imagined. I’ve powered through the first 2 seasons this month!

Galavant: This show is so campy and so clever and so ridiculous, and I absolutely LOVE IT! It was released last year as a single-season musical event, and was unexpectedly picked up for a second season, which only aired throughout this January. The premise is a knight on a quest to save his beloved princess, but the plot has all sorts of twists and turns, and meanwhile the show pokes fun at the feudal system, modern democracy, the network TV system, and so many other things. It is hilarious and adorable, and I highly recommend it.

Agent Carter: This is another show I fell in love with during its first season last year. Agent Peggy Carter was the love interest of Captain America in the Marvel movies, and this show continues Peggy’s story after WWII ended and Steve Rogers was presumed dead. With the help of Howard Stark (Iron Man’s dad) and his butler, Jarvis, Agent Carter battles Russian spies, evil inventions, and sexism in the workplace. This season, the setting moved from NYC to LA, and I’m loving the old Hollywood feel so much.

I was also happy to have Bob’s Burgers, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and New Girl start up again!

What I’ve Been Listening To

I don’t listen to much music, but this month, my house-cleaning soundtrack has been Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett’s “Cheek to Cheek” CD, which I got for Christmas and am absolutely in looooove with! Big band music is just about the only genre of music I enjoy, and this album completely lived up to my expectations.

Rising Strong by Brene Brown: I listened to this audiobook at the recommendation of Elizabeth Gilbert on her podcast “Big Magic” (currently reading her Big Magic book). Rising Strong was about being vulnerable in the creative process, about changing our outlook on life in order to believe the best of people, and about rising strong to own our failure and look at the way we tell ourselves the stories of our own lives. I wouldn’t usually sit down to read through an uplifting self-help-ish book, but it was actually really nice to listen to it as I organized my classroom on a teacher workday!

On the Blog

In case you missed anything on my site, here are the posts I published this month:

I hope your February is off to a fantastic start!

Love, Elizabeth