wherein i take on another project

15 Nov

When I got my DSLR camera five years ago, I fell in love with it and I fell hard. I still love it, though I sadly don’t tote it around with me as often as I used to. Mostly it comes out for events, like the annual fall photo shoot I do with my sister’s family, or the shoot I do with her kids for their annual Christmas card.

But day to day, I’m usually snapping pictures on my phone. And I’m pretty sure that’s the norm for a lot of people these days. (Instagram, back me up on that, will you?) I’m not special in that way; it’s just the way of technology and what’s happening in the world these days.

And while I’m making an effort to get back to practicing photography with my big camera, there’s no harm in also practicing with my little (phone) one, too. To that end, this week I kicked off my 365 photo project, which is basically me posting a picture a day for this series that I’m hashtagging with #mcpolishoneyear.

(Clever. Original. I know.)

If you’re interested in seeing a glimpse of my daily life (the good, the bad, the happy, the sad), then follow along on Instagram. You’ll find me at mollystrz. And if you’re looking for a little photo challenge for yourself, then go on with your bad self! Ain’t no one stopping you, and I’d love to see your dailies.

photo friday: the commute

14 Nov

The commute

Twice in my life I have had commutes that lasted at least ninety minutes going one way, and ninety to 120+ going the other. Twice may not sound like a big deal, but honest to Christmas, once was too much. For those of you out there who regularly spend three-plus hours of your day commuting, I commend you. I, personally, would lose my ever-loving mind if I had to do that again on a regular basis.

Which is why, when Swede and I were house hunting last year, we made it a point to look in places that have short commutes to our jobs. We pointed well for ourselves, it turned out, as it’s thirty minutes door-to-door for me via bus, and, on a bad day, fifteen for him by car (give or take if he rides his bike). And that works for us. We may not have the biggest condo on the block, but physical space was a trade-off for not spending precious hours getting to and from work. Also for not spending out mental space willy-nilly.

Will it stay this way forever? I dunno. Sadly my crystal ball was lost in the move. Or it might still be in one of the boxes I haven’t yet unpacked. A girl can dream to have a short commute to her job until she retires, but the world is funny that way, and what’s that old saying about how to make God laugh? Right. So I’ll just say, again, this works for us, at this point in our lives. And while it works, I’ll enjoy the (bus) ride.

mcpolish book list: year 8

13 Nov

Can you believe I’ve been reading books for eight years? Wait—keeping track of the books I’ve read for eight years? (Because let’s face it—I’ve been reading books for WAY longer than eight years. At least, like, ten.) I know, I’m kind of surprised I’ve stuck to it as well. But then, as I’ve overstated before, I love a good list. Especially when those lists relate to books.

This year, I have to say, was a good reading year. I don’t mean by volume, but in that I discovered new authors to adore, new series to throw myself into, and new stories in which to lose myself, and then be righteously depressed and moody when the book ends. (I’m looking at you, Where’d You Go, Bernadette?)

Scanning over this list, WOW, do I like to read series and read them All At Once Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect 200 More Books. I’d like to tell you that next year I will try and add more variety, not to get so in the throes of series and entire oeuvres of authors, to my reading, but…no. The reading heart wants what it wants. And as its keeper I will do my best to satisfy it. What that will entail I shan’t know until I see it on the shelf.

Anyway, check out the titles below, and if you find yourself diving into any of them, do let me know. We’ll crack open some Diet Pepsi, and I’ll make some popcorn, and we’ll discuss.

What did you read this year? Hits? Misses? Tell me! Tell me!

Books read between November 10, 2013 and November 9, 2014

  1. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie—Alan Bradley* (The first in the Flavia de Luce series, a series my sister introduced to me. Cleverly written, and the main character is a precocious young English girl in the 1950s [?] with a penchant for chemistry. Well-developed mystery as well, and just an overall fun read. Looking forward to the next in the series.)
  2. Murder with Peacocks—Donna Andrews* (The first in the Meg Langslow mystery series. Apparently I’m into mysteries now? I’m just going to go with it. ANYWAY! I feel like there is a LOT going on in this book, and it’s kind of chaotic, but that aspect actually lends itself to the overall feel of the story. Things wrap up nicely at the end, which I like, and I like the characters, and in general it got my stoked to read the next in the series.)
  3. Murder with Puffins—Donna Andrews (Ermm…hmmm… This is the second in the Meg Langslow series. [Yes, I am one of Those People who has to read a series in order. Drives me bonkers to read them willy-nilly.] It was good, though not as good as the first book [see above], and the whole plot of the mystery seemed a little disjointed/haphazard, like it didn’t really matter what was written, and it didn’t matter if it made sense/was coherent, as long as there was something on the page. It was a bit disappointing, but not enough so that I’m not going to read the next in the series.)
  4. Revenge of the Wrought-Iron Flamingos—Donna Andrews* (Here we go, back on the train of a fun mystery. Set at a reenactment fair, this was just a joy to read, funny and fast-paced, and you get to see some more of the characters’ personalities come out. What was lacking in Puffins was back strong in this one. Made me certainly want to read the next book in the series.)
  5. Crouching Buzzard, Leaping Loon—Donna Andrews* (Another success in the Meg Langslow mystery series. I love that these were written in the early 2000s, and I’m just reading them now, because it’s kind of a stitch to see how far our technology has come. Also, Andrews does a good job of setting up some future plots [non-mystery] in the book, though she also throws in some character points that I’m like, huh? Mainly, huh? Meg is a commitment-phobe? Eh, no matter. I’m still moving on to read the next one.)
  6. We’ll Always Have Parrots—Donna Andrews* (This may be my favorite book in the Meg Langslow series so far. Very funny, well written, and I pretty much flew through it in a matter of days. And now, of course, I have to wait for the library to have the next book ready for me for Kindle, which is taking FOREVER, so this might put the kibosh on this series for the moment. But just for the moment. I want to see how the house they buy starts to turn out. I’m a sucker for a good renovation story.)
  7. Sugar Rush—Donna Kauffman (I wanted to like this book. I wanted to like this book a lot. And I did, for the first half, and then I got irritated with it, but it was too late to stop and put it down and walk away from it. But Holy Mary Mother of God, for the love of all that is holy and decent, the over-explaining of Feelings. And Thoughts. And dear Christ, get ON with it. And while it takes place on a small island off the coast of Georgia, with a small town population that is nosy and everything you want it to be, that aspect of the book that I found so charming just sort of disappears in the last third of the book. And crimony, the author or maybe the editor or I don’t know WHO allowed this to happen, but my God, the dialogue and exposition was fraught with….ellipses. And there is nothing that drives me more bonkers than…ellipses in writing. There are many other ways you can convey a pregnant pause than with….ellipses. GAH. That, factored in with the fact that the “resolution” to this love story is a temporary solution at best, and none of the characters seem to acknowledge that, made me just not give a crap about the characters, and I really have no desire to read the next book in this series. Also, the world is saturated on cupcakes. I’m moving on to cookies or pies or some shit.)
  8. Owls Well That Ends Well—Donna Andrews* (Okay, I’ll make you a deal, since I’m pretty sure you all can tell where this is going. [Which, for those of you who may not know, is me reading straight through this entire series probably without stopping until I hit the end. If it ever ends. So far, I think there are 15 books in this series? So, yeah…good luck with that.] It’s obvious I really like these books, and it’s obvious that I’m not going to stop reading them any time soon. But rather than effuse over each and every one of them, how’s about I just write a little something if I DON’T care for a particular book in this series? Because otherwise it’s just going to get repetitive, and you’ll tire quickly of me being like, “Yay! Such a fun read! I want to live in small-town Virginia in a rambling farmhouse with Meg and Michael and Meg’s crazy family!” Deal? Deal.)
  9. No Nest for the Wicket—Donna Andrews* (See? Not saying anything, just recommending. Moving on.)
  10. Little Bitty Lies—Mary Kay Andrews* (It’s entirely possible that I’ve read this book before. I feel like I may have read this book before, but then again, it felt new to me at the same time, if that makes any damn sense. [Probably not.] Either way, it was a great read. Wraps up a little too fast at the end, and a little implausibly [emotional-wise, anyway], but this, IMHO, is probably the meatiest of the Mary Kay Andrews novels that I’ve read, with the most intriguing plot. Definitely a book you can get lost in.)
  11. The Penguin Who Knew Too Much—Donna Andrews*
  12. Beauty and the Billionaire—Jessica Clare* (I read this as part of my judging for the 2014 RWA RITA. Very hot sex scenes, and an interesting storyline, if not a very cohesive one. There was something just a little too…hmm…disjointed? Stilted? About it? Not all over, just definitely parts that seemed to leap from one point to the next with no bridge? I’m not really sure what I’m trying to say, but either way, I’d still recommend it, because Clare does sex scenes quite well, and this book does exactly what a romance novel should do: Take you to a dreamy fantasy world and provide a happy conclusion. This is part of the Billionaire Boys Club series, which I’d never heard of before, but I’m curious to read the others.)
  13. A Valley Ridge Christmas—Holly Jacobs* (Another book for the 2014 RWA RITA. As a Harlequin Romance you can expect the sex parts to simply be hinted at, and that holds true here. But the story is sweet and endearing, and yes, I’ll say it, heart-warming. Just how a romance should be. [If you haven’t noticed, romances should be a lot of things.])
  14. Cockatiels at Seven—Donna Andrews*
  15. A Wedding in Valentine: A Valentine Valley Novella—Emma Cane (Holy Mary Mother, if there is a romance novel that is more generically written, more blasé, and just all around uncreative, I’d like to know. Bleh.)
  16. Uncommon Criminals—Ally Carter* (The second book in the Heist Society series. I liked it, though it took me awhile to get into it, and I did find it frustrating at points. The writing in parts, especially during the caper and some of the plotting leading up to it, seemed vague, and I kept feeling like I was supposed to know what the hell was going on, and if I didn’t it was my own damn fault. In a caper, there are just parts that really need to be spelled out for the reader. There just are. Otherwise, it’s like the characters are all in on a scheme and they don’t want to share it, so the reader has no idea what the shit is going on. Or maybe EYE just need it all spelled out for me. [Let’s be real here. We all know that’s the answer.])
  17. Truly—Ruthie Knox* (Another contender for the RITA award. This? THIS is what a well written, contemporary romance should be. For all the shittily written romances out there, Knox’s writing and story reminds me that romance can be sexy AND well written and make sense and be part fantasy and part reality and FUN and engaging and page-turning and it doesn’t have to be absolutely ridiculous and trite. Thank you, Ruthie Knox. Thank you very, very much. And that’s all I have to say about that. )
  18. Hot Summer Nights—Jaci Burton, Carly Phillips, Erin McCarthy, and Jessica Clare (Another one for the RITA Awards. Can you tell the deadline is approaching? All I can read lately are romance novels, it seems. I didn’t realize until I went to input my scores that I really only was judging the first novella in this compilation. And it was meh. [Hope Smolders, by Jaci Burton] It wasn’t good, it wasn’t bad. The sex scenes were pretty hot, so that was a bonus. Of the other three stories in the book, two were also meh, but I liked the last one, about a former almost-Olympic skier and a girl who visits his ski resort town and they fall in love. That story was good (Ice Princess by Erin McCarthy). I thought the characters had great dialogue, it flowed well, the writing was pretty tight, and hot sex scenes.)
  19. I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You—Ally Carter* (The first in the Gallagher Girls Academy novels, this is something I’d have wanted to read when I was a YA. I’m not sure if the over-use of inserted phrases or exclamation points would have bothered me as much when I was 12, but I’m hoping not, and I’m hoping that my exasperation with them is only because now I’m 35 and not a tween. Anyhoo, it’s still a fun book and fun concept—an academy where they train girl geniuses to be spies—and has a good adventure with teen dramz and oh, it just makes the spy game sound like so much Seriously, I would have loved this when I was 12. Hell, I loved it now.)
  20. It Had To Be You—Susan Elizabeth Phillips* (Oh yes. Yes, definitely. If you are a fan of contemporary romance, then please, please check out Susan Elizabeth Phillips. It took me a moment to realize this book was written back in the mid-90s, but it still holds up two decades later, as far as well-written romance novels go. A good story line, very good character development, and engrossing. I can’t wait to read more of her works. I love when I find an author like this!)
  21. Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy—Ally Carter* (Book 2 in the Gallagher Girls series, and just as fun, if not funner [yeah, I said it] than the first. Looking forward to the third book, and man, do I wish I went to this school, the Gallagher Girls Academy, as a teenager!)
  22. Call Me Irresistible—Susan Elizabeth Phillips* (I just want to now read everything by this woman. And from what I can tell she’s written a copious number of books, so this should keep me busy for awhile.)
  23. Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover—Ally Carter* (Book 3 in the Gallagher Girl series. I think these just keep getting more and more fun as we get deeper into the lives of these genius girls.)
  24. The Bride Wore Size 12—Meg Cabot* (The latest in the Heather Wells series. Probably one of my favorites of the series, it’s just a fun read, is the best way to put it. A fast read, super fast, and I think Cabot has set up some potentially good story lines for future books. It’s light, it’s fluffy, and like I said, fun.)
  25. What I Did for Love—Susan Elizabeth Phillips* (I love reading a series where you encounter characters from other books. Good read, fun story, this is starting to become like Donna Andrews mysteries, where I’m just going to not say anything unless I DON’T like the book.)
  26. Six Geese A-Slaying—Donna Andrews*
  27. Plan B—Jonathan Tropper* (If I’m not mistaken, this was Tropper’s first book, or at least one of his first books, and you can kind of tell if you’ve read other works of his. I don’t mean that in a bad way, because it’s an excellent book, a great story, has tremendous dialogue like only Tropper can create, but it is not quite as refined as some of his other works are. A little over written in places, I would say. That said, I absolutely loved it, and I really enjoyed the less polished-ness of the writing. A little rough, but it works with the storyline, truth be told. It felt natural with the characters.)
  28. Swan for the Money—Donna Andrews*
  29. Stork Raving Mad—Donna Andrews*
  30. Heaven, Texas—Susan Elizabeth Phillips (This is part of the Chicago Stars series by Phillips, and while I enjoyed it, I didn’t like it quite as much as I did the first one. But it’s a cute story, though a little flat in places, I thought, and there was a lot of emphasis placed on looks and an ugly duckling becoming a pretty [not necessarily beautiful] swan, who captures the heart of an Adonis-like man. Which I was kind of like, eh, he can’t be THAT good looking, you know what I mean? I get that the characters are supposed to be juxtaposed in that way, but like I said it didn’t ring true/fell a little flat for me every time they harped on it.)
  31. Ladies Night—Mary Kay Andrews* (This may be my favorite of MKA’s books yet. Meaty, though I did feel like the romance blossomed a bit too quickly and superficially for my liking. But overall such a great read, so fun, and Andrews just has a lovely descriptive way of writing that makes me want to be friends with her characters and live in their houses. And redecorate. Even though I do not know the first thing about redecorating. Or decorating to begin with, if we’re being honest.)
  32. Only the Good Spy Young—Ally Carter* (Okay, now things are getting REALLY good with the Gallagher Girls series. While there were still a couple spots where I was like, “Huh? Who? What? What the shit is going on? Who is even talking right now? Am I missing something? Because there’s a leap here, and I wasn’t clued in,” Carter really ratcheted up the intrigue in this book. And in the nick of time, too—not that the other books aren’t a fun romp, but now Shit Is Getting Real, and it feels like the right next step for the characters.)
  33. Amy Falls Down—Jincy Willett* (Every time I read Willett I am reminded how much I absolutely love her writing. It is sharp and beautiful, and it makes me laugh and it makes me think. This book is no exception. It’s a follow up of sorts to The Writing Class, which I read a few years back, and it was absolutely fucking terrific. There. I said it.)
  34. Christmas Bliss—Mary Kay Andrews (It’s good, but not my favorite Mary Kay Andrews book. The conflict was kind of meh, and everything was wrapped up very neatly and tidily all too quickly. I think maybe this was just sort of a filler book? I’m not really sure. Good for a beach read, though.)
  35. One Hundred Names—Cecelia Ahern (I feel like Ahern’s books are so hit or miss. I absolutely loved PS, I Love You, and The Time of My Life, I didn’t care as much for Love, Rosie. And there was another one of her books that I started, but never finished because it just didn’t grab me, but I can’t remember which one. Anyhooters, this latest one I’ve read falls kind of in the middle. The premise is strong—a young woman seeks out to write the story her recently deceased friend and mentor never got a chance to write, all revolving around this list of 100 names that are seemingly not connected at all. And the story is overall good and the characters likeable, but there was just something….missing. A little spice, perhaps, a little vigor. I’m not sure. The ending was sort of flat for me, so I can’t decide if I would recommend it or not. I should introduce some sort of symbol for “Maybe? Read it and tell me what you think?” Could be useful.)
  36. Soulless—Gail Carriger* (My sister recommended this book to me, and I couldn’t put it down. The one time I did, Swede picked it up and started reading it himself. And then I wasn’t allowed to finish it until he did. Gah. Anyhoodles, steampunk romance is not a genre I generally gravitate to, but I’m oh-so-glad I did in this instance. I think the best word to describe it is “clever.” I’m anxious to read the next in the series.)
  37. Etiquette and Espionage—Gail Carriger* (Oh me, oh my, what a fun treat to read. As I’ve been enjoying Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girl series, this YA series is also along those lines—girls being trained to be informants/spies—except it’s set in a steampunk setting. So much fun, and the main character is quite the precocious young lady.)
  38. Changeless—Gail Carriger* (Second in the Alexia Tarabotti novels/Parasol Protectorate. Just read it. SUCH fun, and so clever. Love.)
  39. Blameless—Gail Carriger* (Again. Just read it.)
  40. Heartless—Gail Carriger* (I’m only going to end up repeating myself.)
  41. Where’d You Go, Bernadette?—Maria Semple* (Holy Mary Mother, I tore through this book. Semple’s writing is on target and the story is fantastical and on point and oh, this was just a joy, a JOY to read. I could not put it down, and in fact spent a goodly portion of a Sunday morning curled up on the couch oblivious to the world because I just HAD to finish it. Sharp, witty, well-drawn characters. I can’t even do it justice. Just read it. I’ll tell you that, like 1,287 people told me: You will love it.)
  42. Gone Girl—Gillian Flynn* (That shit’s fucked up, man. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.)
  43. Timeless—Gail Carriger* (A very good ending to the Parasol Protectorate series. I hear there’s a new series coming out in March and I can’t wait to dive into it. I just love Carriger’s books overall.)
  44. Heroes Are My Weakness—Susan Elizabeth Phillips* (One of her few stand-alone novels. She has excellent character development, and the setting is bracing and lovely, you feel like you’re on that Maine island with the whole cast. A fun read, and I will not lie, it was my pick for our book club in October. Well done, me.)
  45. How to Talk to A Widower—Jonathan Tropper* (The entire time I was reading this book I could have sworn I’d read it before. Maybe it’s just so steeped in Tropper style, and that’s why it felt so familiar? Or maybe I did read it and forgot to include it on a previous book list? But I feel like I would have remembered? I just don’t know. That’s not a detraction from the book, well, maybe a little, but I just love Tropper’s writing style, the dysfunctional, loving families he creates. I fall into his books and I always get the book blues—the kind of blues you get when you come to the end of a really good book and you just kind of wish it would go on forever—when they’re done.)
  46. Curtsies & Conspiracies—Gail Carriger* (Book Two of the Finishing School series, and another madcap adventure of young steampunk ladies learning to be spies. I’m not entirely sure I followed the plot—there seem to be a lot of political issues that I’m not sure I fully understand, nor do I know if they were real political concerns of the time, or something else fabricated from Carriger’s imagination. But no matter. A lovely read, and a lovely way to end Year 8 of Books.)

 

 

 

*Recommended

 

 

 

photo friday: sipping strides

7 Nov

Vice District

Back in September, a neat little brewery opened up mere blocks from the Swede/McPolish abode.

And life was good.

So we went to check it out, and lo! They didn’t have a permit to actually sell beer that first night, but rather than leave our neighborhood high and dry, they handed out free samples of all their brews.

And life got even better.

And as we sipped, Swede and I and our friend Noah, we discovered that the beer was quite delicious.

And life was grand.

Because it’s not often you can achieve the trifecta of breweries—near your house, free, and tastes good. You can usually get two of the three, or one of the three. There are those breweries that Swede and I have visited that turned out to be none of the three, and that’s just a downer.

Granted, Vice District got the whole permit-to-sell-beer thing worked out, and they now do in fact charge us to drink their product, but that’s okay, because in addition to the beer they have free popcorn, which has secured them a place in my kernel-loving heart.

I love our little ‘hood.

 

photo friday: table 12 rocks the house as well

31 Oct

DSC_0788

Last weekend, Swede and I and the DC Family traversed to Baltimore for a Family Member’s wedding. The bride—who rocked the house in Michigan—knew well to put our motley crew next to the dance floor for her wedding in Charm City.

It’s just better that way.

Pre-wedding, our Baltimore bride informed us that in addition to being next to the dance floor we were also “a stone’s throw” from the bar.

“What kind of stone?” we asked. “And do you mean a light throw, or a solid toss?”

“A light throw,” she responded.

AND SHE LIED.

It was more akin to a medium-solid toss with a modest-weight rock.

Sheesh.

On the plus side, if the bar was one leg of a triangle, and the dance floor was another, the third, closing leg was the photo booth.

Photo. Booth.

With props!

(At one point I sported both a crown and a fake hook hand.)

(I looked amazing.)

So all was forgiven.

 

stocking the bar through useless knowledge

29 Oct

Mount Gay rum

For the past six months or so, Swede and I have hit up the monthly trivia night at the yacht club. It turns out that this is a phenomenal way to stock our home bar. Three out of the six months we’ve come in first place, and are consequently in possession of two bottles of Mount Gay rum and a bottle of Dewar’s.

I knew all of this useless knowledge of mine would prove beneficial some day!

But here’s a question—where did I get all of the useless knowledge?

I don’t really know.

Well, wait. That’s not quite true. For one winning question (Category: Things. Question: These can be slow-twitch or fast-twitch. Answer: Muscles), I can thank Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s wife. She was Swede’s high school phys ed teacher, and there’s a story he tells about how Mrs. Secretary of Education once told him he had slow-twitch muscles.

But the rest of the useless knowledge, no clue. No clue where it came from. I’m guessing osmosis, though, because there is no other way I would know that Madonna’s brother is named Christopher Ciccone, and he wrote a book called Life with My Sister Madonna. I have looked, you guys, and that book does not show up on any of my yearly book lists.

Anyway, the point is that we are full of useless knowledge and now our shelves are full of booze, and if you want to join us sometime, please do. Especially if you know sports really, really well. Because we’d be six for six if we didn’t keep blowing the sports questions.

photo friday: hitting the high notes

17 Oct

Chicago Opera copy

Sometimes you take a walk at lunch and stumble across an absolutely lovely piece of architecture, like the cavernous front of the Lyric Opera House. This is Chicago, though, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

I’ve been to the opera all of one time, while studying abroad in Rome. I can’t say that I really enjoyed it, and in fact remember thinking at the end, as the main lady singer was trilling out music as her character died, “Oh, would you just get ON with it already and die?”

Probably not the most auspicious first opera experience.

But! I will also add that I recently went to the ballet with my friend Cassie, and I didn’t hate it. In fact, I actually quite enjoyed it, and wouldn’t mind going again. This after I hadn’t been to the ballet since age eight, when my mom took me to see Cinderella and I was bored out of my gourd and swore never to return.

So maybe it’s time to give opera a second chance, too.

Chicago–we call it the second city, but perhaps what we mean to say is the city of second chances.

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