Currently • January 2019

Many bloggers do a regular “Currently” series to share what they have been reading, watching, doing, thinking... Let’s try it!

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READING:

Just like last year, I pledged to read forty books in 2019. We’re less than two weeks in and I have already finished three: one that I think I’ve read before (The Piano Shop on the Left Bank — It wasn’t too memorable the second time around either), one that was more of a workbook and not terribly innovative (The Curated Closet), and one that was overhyped, predictable advice from a self-absorbed, preachy cheerleader (Girl, Wash Your Face).

I used to read one book at a time, but since rediscovering my public library and its digital collection, I put holds on several of the books on my To Read list and I never know when they will become available. Sometimes, like right now, I have to juggle several books at once — what a wonderful problem to have! Here’s my current stack:

WATCHING:

  • We just finished season 2 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime. The dialogue is so fast-paced and witty — just what you’d expect from Amy Sherman-Palladino, the creator of Gilmore Girls (which I confess is one of my guilty pleasures). The costumes and sets epitomize New York in the late 1950’s: Upper West Side apartments, gritty Greenwich Village clubs, department store make-up counters, full skirts, great hats and shoes and purses, and even a summer holiday in the Catskills (it’s Dirty Dancing redux and Midge is Baby)! I’ve loved Midge’s style since the first episode, but this season, my eye has been on Rose, especially in — *spoiler alert! — the Paris scenes! It’s been a long time since a show has captivated me like this one. I can’t wait for season 3.

  • While we wait for more Mrs. Maisel, Eric and I have been searching for another new(-to-us) series to binge. Last week, we finally landed on The Americans. This show is set in Washington DC in the 1980’s. Philip and Elisabeth Jennings are KGB spies masquerading as typical suburban parents/travel agents who just happen to live across the street from an FBI agent. We do seem to gravitate toward 20th Century period pieces, don’t we? Is it wrong to be a little nostalgic for the Cold War? Now before you get all political, I’m simply stating that spy dramas were so much more intriguing when we feared the Soviets. Let’s face it, James Bond movies really haven’t been the same since. I have to say that I could do without the gratuitous bedroom and torture scenes though.

  • OK, yes, I did watch the new Netflix series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, and, if you know me, that shouldn’t be a surprise. I read Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, a couple of years ago. Rather than transforming my life, it was really more of a validation of what I already do. I am definitely not a sentimental saver. I do believe in a place for everything and everything in it’s place. I really love having a capsule wardrobe…BUT I’m not Zen enough to thank my unwanted clothes for their service and I know that not everything in my house truly “sparks joy.” Some things are just necessary. As with most books, I don’t think that the KonMari method translates well on screen. Marie, who relies heavily on a translator, is a cross between a pixie fairy godmother and a Stepford wife. The families on the show were also a set of archetypes — empty nesters, burned out millennials, a widow, newlyweds, etc., and some of their comments really bugged me: “When I’m mad at my husband, I go shopping. I like to hit him where it hurts — in the pocketbook.” and “It’s my fault that our apartment is a mess. I’m the mom. I should be able to do it all.” Eek! I think my life will be tidier without this show.

LISTENING TO:

  • After a month of Christmas music, we immediately turned to our old friend, Jimmy Buffett. Songs about summer, sailing, and boat drinks are the perfect antidote to a post-holiday malaise.

  • Movies have also influenced my music selection recently:

  • And when in doubt, it’s always cool jazz — George Winston’s Linus and Lucy or Vince Guaraldi Radio on Pandora.

  • I guess since I’m confessing all of my guilty pleasures in this post, I’ll admit that I loved listening to Shaun Cassidy on Pat Francis’ Rock Solid podcast. Is it weird that the 10-year-old girl in me swooned over the music of her childhood while the 51-year-old woman felt oddly proud of how intelligent, thoughtful, and authentic Shaun Cassidy has become? Anyhoo… I know I’m late to the party, but I think I’m finally getting into podcasts. Do you have any suggestions?

PLANNING: Another trip to Paris in February! In 2017, I went alone and did just want I wanted for seven glorious days. In 2018, I shared the trip with a fellow movie-loving, book-devouring, francophile who reveled in my cinema and literary tours and immediately fell madly in love with the City of Light. This year, I’m traveling with Eric’s mom and her best friend who are both discovering Paris for the first time. It is such a fun challenge to plan for travelers with different interests while satisfying my own need to reconnect with the Paris that I know and love. I seriously think I might like to do more of this — customized tours for women, couples, art lovers, book lovers, movie lovers…pourquoi pas?!

2018 Goodreads Challenge

(347/365) • Follow me on Goodreads “We are readers. Books grace our shelves and fill our homes with beauty; they dwell in our minds and occupy our thoughts. Books prompt us to spend pleasant hours alone and connect us with fellow readers. They invite us to escape into their pages for an afternoon, and they inspire us to reimagine our lives.”

- Anne Bogel, I’d Rather Be Reading

2018 Goodreads Challenge
  • Goal: Initially 30 books (I read 30 last year), but reset to 40 in July

  • Books Read: 50 (…so far! The year isn’t over yet.)

  • Books Set in Paris/France: 23

  • Books Set in Wisconsin: 1

  • Books Borrowed from the Library: 39

  • Books for Professional Development: 2

  • Children’s Books: 3

  • Biographies | Historical Fiction: 28

  • Favorite Book(s): Paris By the Book, The Nightingale, The Power of Moments, Forever Paris

  • Least Favorite(s): Uncommon Type (Tom Hanks), Bonjour Kale (Beddard) 

chez Madeline?

(331/365)

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“In an old house in Paris that was covered in vines Lived twelve little girls In two straight lines…” - Ludwig Bemelmans, Madeline

And the winner is...

(297/365)

"There are many little ways to enlarge your world. Love of books is the best of all. - Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

books

Last May, I blogged about The Great American Read on PBS -- the series that "celebrates the power, passion and joy of reading through the lens of America's 100 best-loved books as chosen by the public." This fall, I have really enjoyed the episodes that curated the books into collections such as Who am I?HeroesVillains and MonstersWhat We Do for Loveand Other Worlds.

Spoiler Alert! DO NOT read any further if you don't want to know the results of the voting!

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To date, I have read 59/100 of America’s favorite books. Last night all 100 books were ranked in order.

Some of the rankings shocked me:

  • Hemingway at #66 (The Sun Also Rises) - No! 

  • Le Petit Prince #33 - mais non!

  • The Catcher in the Rye at #30 - absolutely not!

  • The Great Gatsby was #15? How is that possible?

Throughout the show, the top five books were revealed:

  • #5 Lord of the Rings (read it, saw the movies, studied the archives at Marquette)

  • #4 Pride and Prejudice (read it countless times, saw all the movies -- especially love the PBS series with Colin Firth)

  • #3 Harry Potter (read all the books in the series, saw all of the movies)

  • #2 Outlander (the only book of the top 5 that I haven’t read, although I have watched the series on Starz)

And America’s favorite book is: 

TKAM

Read it, taught it, love it!

Measurement

July 30, 2018 (211/365) "The true measure of a summer well-spent is how many books you've read (and how many empty bottles are in your recycle bin)!" - N.C.

"How's your summer going?" --  It's a question that is often posed to educators who are "off" in the summertime. I have spent a lot of time at school, so one could argue that this hasn't been the greatest summer for me. However, a very wise friend has developed her own measure of a successful summer "break" that involves books and wine. By her accounting, 2018 has been quite a good summer for me. There has been a respectable quantity of rosé, unoaked Chardonnay, and lavender cider bottles in our bin throughout the summer and I have read several books -- so many that the "To Read" shelf of my Goodreads account is dwindling fast.

Here's the rundown of what I've read so far:

Any suggestions -- wine or books -- to make my summer even better?

My Type of Project

July 2, 2018 (183/365)

"There are only two places in the world where we can live happy: at home and in Paris." ~ Ernest Hemingway

Thanks to Eric, I finally have the vintage Royal typewriter that I have wanted for years. Ernest Hemingway wrote both The Old Man and the Sea and my favorite A Moveable Feast on his Royal Quiet de Luxe. Hemingway's 1940's Royal was still At his home in Havana (now a museum) until 2007 when it sold at auction for $2750. Mine sits on a card catalogue in our living room along with a few favorite books including A Moveable Feast. I'm not very crafty, but I love today's little project -- a framed copy of my favorite Hemingway quote, typed on my Royal.

The Great American Read

 May 22, 2018 (142/365)

“Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.” - Henry David Thoreau

Anyone else excited to watch tonight's première of The Great American Read on PBS? The series "celebrates the power, passion and joy of reading through the lens of America's 100 best-loved books as chosen by the public." The list is included on the PBS website. I've read only 54/100 -- I'd better get busy! 

Plans for Spring Break

March 26, 2018 (085/365)

“Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.” - Anna Quindlen, How Reading Changed My Life

Help me plan my Spring Break travel plans -- Books suggestions, please!

Givenchy

March 13, 2018 (072/365)

"His are the only clothes in which I am myself. He is far more than a couturier, [Givenchy] is a creator of personality." ~ Audrey Hepburn 

Iconic French couturier, Hubert de Givenchy, passed away yesterday at the age of 91. Givenchy's New York Times obituary states that "Mr. Givenchy was emblematic of a generation of gentlemanly designers who established their couture houses in postwar Paris, nurturing personal relationships with customers and creating entire collections with specific women in mind." The woman with whom he had the closest relationship was, of course, Audrey Hepburn. Givenchy's designs appeared in many of Audrey's most memorable films including Sabrina, Funny Face, Charade, and How to Steal a Million -- all of which are set in Paris and all of which we watched during our recent trip. In fact, we were so enamored with Audrey and Givenchy dresses that we visited the flagship atelier and I purchased this charming book.

Packing for Paris

February 12, 2018 (043/365) • J-8 avant Paris

“I took only one suitcase and a cosmetics case...but I was worried about books." - Martha Gellhorn (aka Mrs. Ernest Hemingway III), Travels With Myself and Another

There are so many iterations of "What to Pack for Paris in the Winter" articles and blog posts, and here's one more: 

  • LUGGAGE & HANDBAGS: Even when I check a bag, my Swiss Army carry on is the perfect size for a week to ten days in Paris. I also love eBags Packing Cubes to keep my things organized. For my electronics and carry on essentials, I usually take my Lancel Elsa bag (similar to this one, only older -- purchased in Paris in 2009). For everyday walking around, I prefer a small cross-body bag like this one from Coach or this Chanel WOC (purchased in Paris in 2013) to more safely carry my essentials (passport, cash, bankcard, phone, etc.).

  • FOOTWARE: My #1 bit of packing advice is take COMFORTABLE walking shoes! Poor shoes impact one's feet, back, and attitude! Don’t be a slave to fashion (even during Paris Fashion Week)! That being said, there are a lot of boots and flats that are both comfortable and fashionable. Here are my choices for this trip: Bandolino flats (I have these in black and burgundy) and these Lucky booties.

  • OUTERWEAR: The average high temperature in Paris for February is in 40’s. Although mild weather is expected next week, Paris has experienced both flooding rains and significant snow accumulations this month. I plan to be prepared for a variety of weather situations. A good mid-weight coat is key, along with accessories such as gloves, scarves, sunnies, and, despite what Audrey says in Sabrina, an umbrella.

  • CLOTHING: In Paris, black is always chic, but to avoid being boring, I pack a variety of jewelry and accessories. A good capsule wardrobe is appropriate for everything from a stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens to tea at the Ritz.

  • PERSONAL ITEMS: Don't forget pajamas, slippers, undergarments, and socks. I pack my favorite hair and skincare products, toothbrush and toothpaste, hairbrush and hairdryer (Yes, I do need my powerful, ionic hairdryer), daily contact lenses, makeup, Advil, and band-aids.

  • ELECTRONICS: Some people are able to unplug when on vacation, but I enjoy staying connected. These days, I travel with quite a bit of technology:

    • Voltage converters and plug adaptors for France. A voltage converter is absolutely essential to avoid frying your phone battery and even your hair.

    • Laptop: My 12" Macbook is perfect for everything from editing photos to watching movies -- all set in Paris, of course.

    • Mobile phone: iPhone X with the Verizon TravelPass (for $10/day, I can use my phone exactly as I do in the US, including calls, texts, and data)

    • Camera: As much as I love my Sony a6000 DSLR, I think I'll rely on my iPhone X this time. I intend to focus on the daily delights that make Paris special rather than yet another requisite tourist photo of each landmark and monument. I'd like to try to enjoy the moments as they happen rather than obsessing over lighting and focus.

    • iPad Mini 4 for movies, photos, Facetime with Piper (and Eric), and especially books. Unlike Marty Gellhorn, I no longer worry about the bulk that essential reading material adds to my suitcase. So, all my francophone and francophile friends, what should I read this time? Send me your favorite set-in-Paris reading suggestions. Merci!