About Autumn

I'm a blogger from Pennsylvania, USA. I study rocks, read far too much, and try to enjoy the wonderful natural world around me.

data obsession

The first week of the year passed uneventfully. I returned to work after having 12 days off (my first vacation) and settling into new routines. I have started reading in earnest and I now have 5 books in progress. I have never really been able to focus on one all that much- unless it’s an absolutely engrossing novel!

One thing I stared in the First Week was a temperature blanket. I have been wanting to crochet an afghan for a long time. Essentially- you work a blanket row by row, and the row color corresponds to the daily temperature. My blanket pattern I chose is Apache Tears. While my “tears” are not as long as the ones featured in the pattern (I am one row shorter) I still think the effect will be similar.

My color range & color names:

Temperature Range Color Yarn Brand
0 deg & Below  Pale Plum Red Heart Super Saver
1 deg – 15 deg  Medium Purple Red Heart Super Saver
16 deg – 30 deg  Lavender Red Heart Super Saver
31 deg – 45 deg Light Periwinkle Red Heart Super Saver
46 deg – 60 deg Aruba Sea Red Heart Super Saver
61 deg – 75 deg Turqua Red Heart Super Saver
76 deg – 90 deg Jade Red Heart Super Saver
91 deg & Higher Cool Blue Ombre Caron One Pound

I don’t have any good progress pictures yet- I hope to share one with you in a few days. I have been keeping track of my temperatures and colors in my Traveler’s Notebook weekly planner. It’s been a lot of fun to have a project I have to collect data for. I hope to put everything into a big Excel sheet so I can do some basic math with it to figure out the statistics of temperatures and colors for the year… maybe that is too much, but it’s the scientist in me!

Do you have any big year-long data-based projects like this? I’m also keeping track of my pages read this year in Goodreads and a big Excel sheet… are there others out there like me?

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a year of enlightenment

Happy New Year, readers! I hope you were able to celebrate in the ways that you wished. I greeted the Year from the comfort of my own home, by playing card games with my family.

Today, as I dwell on what the Year will contain, I wanted to share with you my Word for 2019 and my 2019 Resolution.

My Word for 2019: Enlighten

My 2019 Resolution: Read 31,000+ pages without buying a single book.

Last year, I challenged myself to complete a senbazuru. I completed my challenge on Sunday, December 30. The project was definitely hard- I battled procrastination and lack of motivation throughout most of the year, but I managed to finish everything on time. While I did not fold my last crane with a particular wish in mind, the peace and happiness I feel due to the completion of the project is more than enough.

This year, I wanted a reading goal, as I thoroughly enjoyed my 2017 Resolution, which was read 100 books. The most I have ever read in one year was right around 30,000 pages, back in 2015. I have come close, but not quite reached the 31,000 pages mark.

I also wanted to have another facet to this project: no buying any books in 2019. I spend a lot of money on books that I read and subsequently donate. Thanks to my job, I have access to a gigantic library, where I can loan any book imaginable. Additionally, I have become a steady patron of my local county library. While I do not have any hard facts or statistics about the subject, I feel that loaning books from the library is better for the environment. Two worthy reasons for going on a book ban: saving money & helping the environment.

My Word for 2019 simply felt right. It came to me this morning, as I was waking up. I want to live with more enlightenment in my life. For a long time, I have experienced growth without development. To me, enlighten will symbolize the development of mind and spirit in my post-college life.

Since I have shared my 2019 Word and Resolution, if you care to share yours, leave a comment! I will stay accountable for my goals on this blog. Again, I hope you have had a Happy New Year, and I wish you all the best for 2019!

winter days

I hope you have had a happy Christmas, and an enlightening Winter Solstice.

These last few weeks have been busy due to holiday preparations. Some days I felt like I was moving a million miles an hour. Every second of it was worth the while- my holiday break has been wonderful. I haven’t ever had a real holiday break before, even while in college. Getting some time to slow down and breathe has been rejuvenating. I have been reading plenty and working on wrapping up a big project.

On January 1, I began to fold senbazuru – 1,000 paper cranes. If I finish all of them by December 31, I will be granted a wish. While I have experienced long bouts of procrastination, I have continued on with my efforts. I have 360 left to fold, and still no idea what I will wish for. I don’t know if I would wish for anything, and if the ancients deem me happiness and eternal good luck, I would consider myself very blessed indeed.

the beginning of something new

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Every time I dream, I see rabbits dancing in soft snow, then they all go home to their burrows to sleep under homemade quilts. For breakfast, they sip mugs of tea and munch on a stroopwafel. Then, they go about their little rabbity days, living quietly in the forest. I envy the dream-rabbits most days, but on others, I know that one of the dream-rabbits is me.

I have been blessed with the opportunity to start over. I started my new job on October 1st, and I adore everything about it. My body and mind feel refreshed after five years of student life. Since I work a “typical” 40-hour work week, I feel that I have more time than ever to live a life. I am crafting, writing, and reading more. The last few weeks have felt clumsy, as if I’m learning to walk again. Words aren’t flowing as they did before college, and my stitches are untidy- but I am trying. It’s as if I’m rescuing myself from a raging sea with an inflatable raft and an oar.

Blogging, podcasting, and sharing on Instagram reach out to me in a new way. I have been thinking about my old blog from high-school and this blog a lot. I have missed having a platform to discuss books, crafting, writing, and life.  While looking through the archives of my high-school blog, I couldn’t help but smile and remember all of the days I had spent happily writing and sharing my thoughts and projects. Now that I’m older, I read blogs that are more about “this is my life and what interests me” rather than themed blogs or magazine-style blogs.

I will begin here anew, too. I want to make this place my little rabbit-burrow, a comfortable place to visit and read. Please, make yourself a cup of tea and stay a while. I may not have much to say yet, but make yourself at home. You will always be welcome here.

The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley

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Pan Books, 2015. ISBN: 978-1-4472-1864-7

Summary, from back of book:
Maia D’Apliese and her five sisters gather together at their childhood home of Atlantis- a fabulous, secluded castle situated on the shores of Lake Geneva- having been told that their beloved father, the elusive billionaire they call Pa Salt, has died.

Maia and her sisters were all adopted by him as babies and, discovering he has already been buried at sea, each of the is handed a tantalizing clue to their true heritage- a clue which takes Maia across the world to a crumbling mansion in Rio de Janerio in Brazil. Once there, she begins to put together the pieces of where her story began…

Eighty years earlier, in the Belle Epoque of Rio, 1927, Izabela Bonifacio’s father has aspirations for his daughter to marry into aristocracy. Meanwhile, architect Heitor da Silva Costa is working on a statue, to be called Christ the Redeemer, and will soon travel to Paris to find the right sculptor for his vision.

Izabela- passionate and longing to see the world- convinces her father to allow her to accompany him and his family to Europe before she is married. There, at Paul Landowski’s studio and in the heady, vibrant cafes of Montparnasse, she meets ambitious young sculptor Laurent Brouilly, and knows at once that her life will never be the same again.

My thoughts:
It took me a while before I realized that this is the first book in a series. This is both a good thing and a bad thing, as I have almost 60 books to read lying around the house. However, this can be amended and I will try to find the others at my local library. This book was an enjoyable dip into Brazilian history, and while the premise is a little… outrageous, I liked it.

Okay, okay, the premise is truly outrageous. Six women that have been adopted by a billionaire named Pa Salt meet at their childhood castle on the shores of Lake Geneva. First, what on earth is a billionaire doing adopting six girls? Second, why isn’t he married, and what relation does the nanny have to him? Then third, what does he do for a living? While I know the author wanted me to simply accept the situation, I couldn’t. I like a decent amount of exposition, especially for a book as thick and with a wild as premise as this one. I struggled through every scene set at Atlantis. These were the parts that drug for me, and the places where I would stick in my bookmark and set the book down. However, I really loved the historical sections set in Brazil and France.

Lucinda Riley is an excellent writer of historical fiction. Brazil leapt to life from the page, and I was immediately cast into the Bonifacio’s opulent mountainside villa, I felt the wind whipping at my back on the top of Corcovado Mountain, and I could feel the clay under my fingers in Landowski’s studio. The dialogue was top-notch, and the language of the Roaring 20s felt natural to read. I felt deeply for Izabela, and I waited for the chapters dedicated to her story with baited breath. I wish that I had felt the same for Maia, but her life was too outrageous for me to accept.

Overall, this book wasn’t a quick read- at over 600 pages, I whipped through this book in a matter of days, even with the slow parts. While the life setting was a little wild, the historical settings were pitch-perfect and flowed. Even though I have many other books to read, I will keep this series at the back of my mind to look for while at the library.

Acquired Tastes by Peter Mayle

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Bantam, 1993. ISBN: 0-553-37183-5

Summary, from back cover:
In Acquired Tastes, Peter Mayle, the erudite sojourner and New York Times bestselling author of A Year in Provence and Toujours Provence, sets off once more, traveling the world in search of the very best life has to offer. Whether telling us where to buy the world’s best caviar or how to order a pair of thirteen-hundred-dollar custom-made shoes, advising us on the high cost of keeping a mistress in style or the pros and cons of household servants, he covers everything the well-heeled – and those vicariously so inclined- need to know to enjoy the good life.

From gastronomy to matrimony, from the sartorial or baronial, Acquired Tastes is Peter Mayle’s most delicious book yet- an irreverently spiced smorgasboard of rich dishes you’re sure to enjoy.

My thoughts:
When the Chicago Sun-Times only says a book is “Intriguing.” in the endorsement of a book, you know it’s going to be a flop. I was very disappointed in this book, especially after being an ardent fan of A Year in Provence. This book felt empty in comparison. Yes- the articles were funny, but they felt too lordly for me. Possibly this is my own personal feelings for the wealthy, but the knowledge that Mayle had actually lived this life made this book rather distasteful. I would have much rather read a book by a “poor” man experiencing these things for the first time rather than a man who had actually lived the life.

Obviously, this is not the cream of the crop concerning Mayle’s work. He has the ability to write delightful gastronomic adventure stories- pick up any of his Provincial books and you’ll find yourself lunching in the French countryside. This book fell short of that standard. Obviously, these articles were intended for being in a magazine, as they are written perfectly for a short column, but as a book, they don’t work together. His sense of humor changes from here to there, and occasionally he waxes on a little more than he should have, while in other cases (especially concerning the caviar) I would have appreciated more context.

Alas, not every book is perfect. While I have written some “I’m disappointed” reviews lately, this was a quick read, well-suited for a summer afternoon without many cares in the world. A great book for when I want to read without paying much attention to it, like I have been with Tess of the D’Urbervilles. This book is definitely that can be tossed aside for whenever a better book comes along, and provide a brief interlude when another book becomes too heavy.

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

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Grove Press, 1993. ISBN: 0-8021-1516-0

Summary, from inside flap:
When Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen was first published in Japan in 1988, “Banana-mania” seized the country. Kitchen won two of Japan’s most prestigious literary prizes, climbed its way to the top of the best-seller list, then remained there for over a year and sold a million copies. With the appearance of the critically acclaimed Tugumi (1989) and NP (1991), the Japanese literary world realized that in Banana Yoshimoto it was confronted with not a passing fluke but with a full-fledged phenomenon: a young writer of great talent and great passion whose work has quickly earned a place among the best twentieth-century Japanese literature.

Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen is an enchantingly original and deeply affecting book that juxtaposes two tales about mothers, transsexuality, kitchens, love, tragedy, and the terms they all come to in a pair of free-spirited young women in contemporary Japan. Told in a whimsical style that recalls the early Marguerite Duras, “Kitchen” and its companion story, “Moonlight Shadow,” are elegant tales whose seemingly simplicity is the ruse of a masterful storyteller. They are the work of a very special new writer whose voice echoes in the mind and soul.

My thoughts:
Once again, the description directly from the book doesn’t truly discuss the book at all. There are two short-stories in Kitchen, but I firmly believe that their overall tone and meaning vastly varies. I can see how Yoshimoto’s work was briefly popular on Instagram, as they are simple and short, but I think they do have deeper meanings than what once reads at first. I was interested in this book because I am a fervent fan of all things Haruki Murakami, and I wanted to experience more contemporary Japanese literature. In the end, I wasn’t impressed, but I did enjoy the stories.

First, “Kitchen” and “Moonlight Shadow” have some things in common, but I do not think they are overtly incredibly similar. Both stories are about healing after death, and what it means for love and family for the characters. However, “Kitchen” more has do to with the protagonist finding her place in the world, and in “Moonlight Shadow” the protagonist comes to terms with the death of her boyfriend. Casting these stories into one big genre of recovering after loss isn’t exactly the best place. “Moonlight Shadow” is definitely about emotional recovery after a loss, but “Kitchen” is, by far, a coming-of-age story. While the events that lead the protagonists to this place are similar, “Kitchen” has a slightly darker air than “Moonlight Shadow.” The protagonist of “Kitchen” is not as free-spirited as the summary implies- rather, she is very dutiful and bound to the other characters in the story, which leads to her realizing her place in the world and what she needs to do. “Moonlight Shadow” is much lighter, and more full of mystery and hope than “Kitchen.”

Knowing this, I liked the language and style of Yoshimoto’s work. Since I am not reading this in the original Japanese, this is more a commentary on the translation. Over the years, I have become very particular about translators, and I am known to find a new translation of a book if the first was poor. The translation of this book is airy and similar to early Marguerite Duras. However, the style of the work is very close to what I associate “Japanese literature” to be. The protagonists appear to be detached from the world, with astute observations and rambling thoughts. Action is abrupt, but feels natural to the world the characters live in. I often associate this type of literature to being like an out-of-body experience. You can see, hear, and feel everything going on around you, but there is this personal narration that you wouldn’t have, if you were operating completely within your world. Reading Japanese literature is like being at the helm of an out-of-body experience for the protagonist.

Out of the few Japanese authors I have read (primarily Haruki Murakami and Kobo Abe) I feel invigorated in my bookish scramble thanks to Banana Yoshimoto. There’s something so different about Japanese authors. I think it has a lot to do with how different Japanese and American cultures are, and how curious I am about the culture and values held by Japanese people. While not every aspect of a culture can be represented by a single book, reading many different books will help me understand what Japan is like. I really struggle with this as I do not want to be perceived as a weeb, especially after my high school years of being a manga fanatic!

In the end, this book featured two simply written short stories about two women in eerily similar circumstances, and how they grow and change after death in their lives. While the plots may be close, the endings are very different and signify how individuals move on from death in different ways. This book is an interesting peer into Japanese culture, and how citizens deal with death after the fact. The translation is good, and the style of writing simple, succinct, and packing a punch when it needs to. Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto is a good introduction to Japanese literature, and for once, the accolades are correct.