Friday, March 27, 2015

A(n Otherwise Unmemorable) Day In My Life

"A Day in the Life" Blogger Event, hosted at Love, Laughter. and a Touch of Insanity

 Today's the day that some of us are taking Trish up on her invitation to share A Day in the Life. I'm reporting on the events. such as they were, of Monday, March 23, 2015.

I had an amazing case of Sunday-night insomnia; I don't think I slept more than 3 hours total all night, but since I got in some solid reading time after I gave up on sleep and got out of bed, it wasn't completely useless.

Despite the wakeful night, I am officially up at my normal weekday time of 5 AM--this is necessary in order to get through Greater LA traffic and get to work by 8. I've showered, dressed, fed myself and Winchester breakfast (not the same breakfast), and am ready to get in the car by 6:30. I detour a little from my usual commute route to drop Spencer off at school (he's not usually with us on Sunday evenings), but traffic is surprisingly not horrible, and I'm at work almost on time. (I'm salaried, so this does not actually matter to anyone but me.)

the desktop on my desk at my office
This makes every day Take Your Dog to Work Day.
Although productivity experts advise against starting your day with email, I do it anyway; I catch up on my work, blog, and general Gmail inboxes first thing in the office. (I also discover that my employer seems to have, once again, blocked Twitter access. I've expected it to happen for a while, to be honest, but am bummed that it's happened on the day that Bloggiesta Twitter chats are starting.) (NEXT DAY UPDATE: Either the block was removed or it was some other glitch, because Tweetdeck works again!)

I don't have meetings today, and I'm working on assorted projects: reconciling the agency's investment portfolio statement from last month, preparing my portion of a contract proposal that will be submitted at the end of this week, and reviewing bills and deposits to ensure they are recorded on the correct accounts. (Now you know why I blog about reading instead of accounting.)

I take my lunch break at 1:00; I prefer to take it as late as possible, so I have less of the workday left afterward. I stay at my desk to eat the lunch I brought from home (an even less advisable practice than starting the day with email) and read some blogs while I eat.

At 3 PM, I realize that I haven't yet called my dad to wish him a happy 86th birthday, so I remedy that. We had his family birthday dinner this past weekend, but that doesn't get me off the hook from speaking with him on the day itself! He's had a busy day and is going out with friends tonight--it sounds like he's getting plenty of attention, which is usually what he wants most.

Stitch Fix #2, received 3/23/2015
Stitch Fix #2: two blouses, a blazer, a skirt, and a dress
The afternoon drive isn't terrible either--hard to believe this is Monday!--and I'm home at around 5:15. There's a package in the mailbox--it's my second Stitch Fix (this is my referral link), and I like everything they sent me this time. (Paul likes nearly all of it too, but none of it would fit him.)

Paul has taken Winchester for a walk by the time I get home, and after catching each other up on our days, we settle down with a simple dinner (leftover pasta for me) and some of last week's TV on the DVR--tonight, it's Arrow and Broadchurch

Words With Friends (not werewolves)We are not night owls. After we turn off the TV, we take Winchester out one last time for the night, and then we all head up to bed. I play Words With Friends and then read a bit before I turn my light out a little after 10 PM, hoping to sleep better than I did the night before. (NEXT DAY UPDATE: mission accomplished--sleep achieved!)

Sleepy Winchester
"Put the camera down, Mom. It's time to go to sleep."
Hope you're having a good day today! 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

From Me to You: 5 Best Bits of Blogging Advice #Bloggiesta

After eight years of doing this, I thought I might be able to put together a response to the special Bloggiesta request for our "best blogging advice." For me, it all comes down to this credo:

3Rs Blog Credo: "There is no one right way to do this"

Then again, you have to have a few rules in place in order to know when and whether to break them, right? With that in mind, I offer you my top five blogging guidelines:
I'll close with a few words from one of my five all-time-favorite movies, Almost Famous, with some minor paraphrasing of what Penny Lane always tells the girls:
"I always tell the girls bloggers, never take it seriously. If you never take it seriously, you never get hurt. If you never get hurt, you always have fun. And if you ever get lonely, just go to the record store on the Internet and visit your friends."
a quote from Almost Famous, modified for bloggers (not Band-Aids)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sunday Slowdown: Bloggiesta (and Birthday!) Week

The Sunday Slowdown on The 3 Rs Blog
I'd like to say a hearty "thank you!" to everyone who stopped by to comment on my Sunday-on-Monday Blogiversary post! I have no idea whether there are another eight years left in this thing...but then again, I had no idea when I started that there would be eight years of this thing to begin with, let alone that they'd be such fulfilling ones. I know that now, of course, but I'm taking it one year at a time. (On a related note, my Tiny Triumph of the week is reporting that the Blogiversary post officially brought Bryan back into the book-blogger fold.)

In the spirit of "taking it one year at a time," it seems fitting to dedicate some time to blog maintenance and improvements at the start of a new year. The first-ever week-long Bloggiesta begins tomorrow and runs all the way through Birthday Weekend! The timing is right all the way around, but I may not get to some of my tasks until later in the week; I'm taking a four-day weekend, starting on Friday, for the aforementioned birthday.

Spring 2015 Bloggiesta March 23-29

Bloggiesta To-Do List, (mostly) in order of priority

  • Back up the blog and the current template files (I do this semi-regularly, but I've missed a couple of months)
  • Catch up on writing book reviews, as I'm about three books behind right now
  • Update Review Archive spreadsheet (doesn't include 2015 at all yet!), Reading Tracker, and LibraryThing catalog
  • Format drafts and create graphics for reviews of the books I'm currently reading, and the ones I plan to start next
  • Go through links I've saved as potential blog fodder, and
  • Purge the links that are outdated and/or no longer inspiring me
  • Start outlining/drafting posts related to links that still intrigue me, and/or put together a link-roundup post to share them
  • Check out the Mini-Challenges for this Bloggiesta for other ideas
  • Develop action plan and timeline for migrating the blog to self-hosted Wordpress (because I'm tired of yapping about it and need to start making it happen!)
It's a longish list, and it may turn out to overly ambitious, but you can't deviate from a plan unless you have one to begin with, right? 

A Day in the Life Blogger Event, March 27 www.lovelaughterinsanity.com
I have one other project that I'm not including in the Bloggiesta list: preparing for Trish's "A Day in the Life" Blogger Event this coming Friday, March 27 by tracking one of the days in my life this week. 

fortune cookie advice about writing a bookOne more thing that happens tomorrow: my dad turns 86 years old! The family went out last night to celebrate at P.F. Chang's, and I got this bit of advice from my fortune cookie. Several friends on Facebook and Instagram have agreed. What do y'all think? (It's OK if you say no.)

The Weekly Winchester, special meme edition

I took a photo of the dog last weekend that just begged to be memed. I did it twice, and I'd love some more suggestions--if you have any, leave them in comments! You are also more than welcome to use these for your own purposes, and let me know if you'd like the original photo to create a meme of your own. This is all in service to the cause of Winchester's eventual world domination.

Winchester memes The Princess Bride: "You keep using those words"

Winchester meme: I'm Totally Judging You #JudgeDog

This post is going up a bit late on Sunday, and I anticipate spending the rest of the day on reading, errand-running, and cooking. It's possible all or none of those things will happen. What's up with you this weekend?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Shelf Awareness Book Talk: LIFE FROM SCRATCH, by Sasha Martin

National Geographic (March 3, 2015), Hardcover, ISBN 1426213743 / 9781426213748)
Nonfiction; memoir/food (with recipes), 336 pages

A version of this review was previously published in Shelf Awareness for Readers (March 6, 2015). Shelf Awareness provided me with a publisher-furnished galley to facilitate the review, and compensated me for the review they received and posted.
Flavors, fragrances, and the experience of recreating family traditions in the kitchen make food an effective gateway to memory, but when food writer Sasha Martin decided to “cook (her) way around the world,” she was looking forward, not back. A well-traveled graduate of the Culinary Institute of America settling into life as a mother and wife in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Martin challenged herself to broaden the tastes of her young daughter and picky-eater husband by preparing a meal from a different country every week, which she documented on her blog, Global Table Adventure. She didn’t anticipate that this four-year project would bring her to reexamine her own past and reconcile what “family” truly meant to her, leading to Life From Scratch: A Memoir of Family, Food, and Forgiveness.

Martin’s Boston childhood was defined by the creative cooking of her mother, whose erratic behavior brought Sasha and her brother Michael to the attention of the foster-care system. After several difficult years, her mother placed Sasha and Michael in the care of family friends. The Dumonts promptly moved the children across the country, then relocated to Europe, where life really didn't get much easier for them...and where Sasha's foster mother barred her from the kitchen. Years later, returned from abroad and reconnected with her own mother, Sasha actively pursued food and cooking as a means to make peace with herself and her troubled past, and to create bonding experiences for her new family.

Life From Scratch features nearly 30 recipes—some from the Global Table Adventure blog, and others for dishes that Martin grew up with. While there are no photos included, the recipes are written in clear and conversational detail; a “glug” of olive oil isn’t a precise measurement, but most home cooks will understand exactly what Martin means, and many readers will relate to the ways that Life From Scratch connects food and family.


Book description, from the publisher’s jacket copy
196 recipes. 196 countries. 196 weeks. With this ambitious goal in mind, food writer and blogger Sasha Martin set out to cook - and eat - her way around the world. But Martin’s project proves more than a culinary challenge as she attempts to navigate the vicissitudes of marriage, motherhood, and failure and success, all inextricably linked to her troubled past. As cooking unlocks the memories of her rough-and-tumble childhood and the loss and heartbreak that came with it, Martin is more determined than ever to make peace and give her own family the best of the world. From the tiny, makeshift kitchen of her wildly creative mother to a string of foster homes to the house in which she launches her Global Table Adventure, Martin’s journey of self-acceptance and discovery shows the power of cooking to bond, to empower, and to heal.
From Chapter One:

“I am missing two fingerprints on my right hand. The neat spiral of lines on my ring and middle fingers suddenly flatten out, melted into circles that fan outward like the tail of a peacock. I first noticed the marks in fourth grade, when my school started filing fingerprints for the police. I wondered why mine looked so different from those of my classmates.

“After school, I asked Mom about it. But she was driving, She couldn’t inspect my fingers. Decades later I found out the truth: At age one I’d toddled over to an open broiler while Mom was making hamburgers. Her back was turned for a second to grab a pot holder. When she came back from the hospital, where they treated my third-degree burns and blasted her for child abuse, she found the shrunken packs of meat on the still-open grate. Cold. Congealed.

“She never made hamburgers again.”

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Monday, March 16, 2015

The Sunday Slowdown, Special Monday Edition: Blogiversary! 8 Years of The 3 R's

The Sunday Slowdown on The 3 Rs Blog
I started this blog eight years ago today: March 16, 2007. I’ve been at it longer than any job I’ve ever had, except for my current one. Sometimes I think one of the reasons I haven’t seriously looked for other employment for a while –something closer to home, at least–is the outlets and opportunities this blog has given me. They are sources of creativity, expression, and satisfaction I don’t need to look for in my day job now…and so I don’t.

The biggest source of satisfaction blogging has brought me is the community I’ve found, and the friends I’ve made. There are so many of you I’d love to shout out here, and so many more I would unintentionally leave out if I attempted to do so…but I’m going to attempt it all the same.

8 years of The 3 Rs Blog: 3/16/2014

I’ll start by mentioning two other bloggers who started on March 16, 2007. Hannah (Word Lily) is a less active book blogger these days, but you can find her often on Twitter and Instagram. Suey is still regularly posting at It’s All About Books in between organizing the quarterly Bloggiesta event; sign-ups are open now for the first-ever week-long Bloggiesta, March 23–27. Happy eighth blogiversary to us all!

Many book blogs have come and gone during that last eight years. Some have cut back, and some have left and come back. Some don’t technically have “book blogs” any more, like Trish and Bryan, but it feels like they’re still part of the tribe. On my eighth blogiversary, I’d like to mention eight book bloggers who have been fixtures in my feed reader for most of those eight years. I rarely skip their posts—although some don’t post as often as they once did—and I’m privileged to have met most of them in person, and to call them friends.
At my most recent count, there were nearly 150 book blog feeds in my reader. Some are inactive and need to be culled, and I don’t add new ones nearly as often as I used to, but I do try to keep up. I am so glad to be part of this community, no matter what.

In honor of this occasion, here are Eight Things That Would Never Have Happened If Not For Book Blogging::
  • Getting paid to read and review books. I don’t get paid for talking about books here, but I would not have been offered the chance to be a paid book reviewer if I hadn’t been able to provide samples from the blog to support my application to write for Shelf Awareness.
  • Making friends from all over. I’ve gone from the pen pals of my youth to marriage to a man I met via an online dating site, so the idea of making genuine connections through writing wasn’t strange to me, but the give-and -take of blogging has introduced me to people like me—and people I like—from all over.
  • Learning about publishing. When I started this blog, I wanted a place to record my thoughts about the books I read, which I usually bought or received as gifts. I had no idea that I’d be able to get books directly from publishers and read them before they were published, but as my exposure to the industry grew, I became curious to know more about it and understand it better, and I feel like I have a small but genuine place in it.
  • Learning about the writing life I’ve had the chance to get acquainted with writers—those who write books, and those who write about them (and sometimes they’re the same people). I’ve learned about what the working life of a writer is like. One of the things I’ve learned is that I’m not in a position to make it my life’s work, but I care enough about doing it to want it to be part of my life, period.
  • Being part of the change in the publishing industry, Book blogging became big at a time when the ways in which books were produced, published, and promoted were in a state of flux. Ebooks and self-publishing exploded as major publishers consolidated and marketing budgets shrank. There was more to read than ever, and bloggers became a trusted source to help readers sort through it all.
  • Event planning and participation. I’ve planned and participated in panels related to book blogging at several conferences. I was part of the team that founded and grew the “virtual conference” Armchair BEA, which runs independently during Book Expo America week. I’m currently one of the veteran bloggers coordinating the Book Blogger Buddy System.
  • Changing what and how I read, part 1. For the last couple of years, I’ve found myself able to walk out of bookstores empty-handed…and it still feels weird. Thanks to advance copies, I rarely buy print books any more. If I didn’t get a new book in galley format and I don’t want to wait to read it, I buy it in ebook or audiobook. (To be honest, getting an iPhone probably played a bigger role in my audiobook conversion than blogging, but book bloggers have helped guide me through it.)
  • Changing how and what I read, part 2 My reading interests have shifted and expanded during the past eight years. I read less “women’s fiction,” and opened up to both the more literary and genre-oriented ends of the fiction spectrum. I’ve found that books about interesting topics appeal to me, and often find myself more excited about reading nonfiction than fiction. I’ve learned I’m not too old for (some) young-adult literature. And I strive to engage more fully and thoughtfully with whatever I read.
my inscribed galley edition: BRUTAL YOUTH by Anthony Breznican

I had lunch with a writer the other day; I’ve been supportive of his debut novel since it came out last summer, and he wanted to thank me. That’s yet another thing that would never have happened without book blogging.

Even if you rarely comment here, I hope you will today, because I have a couple of questions for you:

  • As I mentioned earlier, I don’t add new blogs to my feed reader so often these days. What newer book blog would you recommend to me?
  • What’s something that would never have happened to you without book blogging?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Sunday Slowdown: Saving Time with Bullet Points

The "Sunday Slowdown" at The 3 Rs Blog
This is the first day of Daylight Savings Time, which means no one will really know what time it is all day--we just know we have an hour less of it to do anything. Therefore, I'm going to speed through a few bullet points before I slow down for (most of) the rest of this Sunday.
  • I'm happy to tell you one thing we're not doing this Sunday: going to visit the hospital. Kate's leukemia is officially in remission, and she was discharged on Wednesday! It's not all over yet, of course. She will be continuing chemo as an outpatient for some period of time--we don't yet know how long--but now the goal is holding the gains and holding off a relapse. We're optimistic, since she's done so well so far.
  • I finished two books this week, but I'm not sure I feel like writing up my thoughts on either of them just yet. I will do that, but I may want to get to reading something new today. The #flashreadathon is still going on, all weekend long.
  • This blog will be 8 years old one week from tomorrow. I don't really have any big festivities planned for the occasion, but I think I'll be taking a little break between now and then...and maybe I'll find some celebration inspiration in the meantime. Or maybe not, and we'll just get back to business as usual. 
  • On that note, I have a little early blogiversary gift to share with you, if you'd like it--please help yourself to this blog graphic that defines the Book Blogger Paradox.
The book blogger's paradox

The Weekly Winchester

Winchester went for a grooming yesterday, and came home wearing this cute little spring bandana. That lasted maybe ten minutes.

Winchester's spring outfit (for photos only)

What are you up to on this late-starting, hour-shorter Sunday?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Announcing The Book Blogger Buddy System 2.0!

2015 got off to a rocky start in the book blogosphere. There’s been some real negative energy, and our sense of community feels a little shaky. I’m excited to be part of a group of veteran bloggers responding to this challenging climate by re-launching the Book Blogger Buddy System.

The Book Blogger Buddy System is on Tumblr

The Book Blogger Buddy System, as originally launched in October 2012, was designed to foster direct connections and mutually supportive relationships between bloggers by playing "matchmaker" between pairs of bloggers with compatible interests, Buddy System 2.0 wants to bring that back, with a focus on creating mentor/protege matches between more- and less-experienced bloggers.

The Book Blogger Buddy System’s new home on Tumblr reflects a new emphasis on sharing experience and expertise. It’s a Q&A forum where you can submit questions about any and all aspects of book blogging--critical, technical, social, ethical--and get thoughtful, knowledgeable answers and advice. We hope it will be a place where newer bloggers can find guidance from blogging vets, and where vets can trade information with each other. The matchup form is live and linked at the Tumblr, too. Please submit your info if you're interested in a match--and once you've done that, please be patient! It may be a little while before we move ahead with that phase.

It's fitting that the Book Blogger Buddy System is launching as a group project this time around. This is the team behind the Tumblr:

Florinda, The 3 R's Blog
Teresa. Shelf Love

Come visit the Book Blogger Buddy System. Check out our mission statement, and bring your blogging questions (and answers)!