Goodreads Review: My Best Everything by Sarah Tromp

It’s been a busy week, but I’m trying to make sure I balance some reading time into everything, especially since this is 1 of 3 NetGalley books I’ve recently been approved for. I want to make sure I get these read and reviewed before going back to stuff that’s been on my reader for a few years. This hasn’t been easy since I’m still in hardcore knitting mode, but when I force myself to do it, I really enjoy kicking back and reading. Hopefully I can get some quality book time in this weekend too. As for this book, it comes out on March 3rd and I thought it was a really sweet novel that brought back memories of my youth. No, I never made moonshine, but that whole period of time when I couldn’t wait to be out on my own, and yet when faced with it I suddenly realized how much I was going to miss everything I knew. It’s kind of like that. My GR review is below, and if you read this one, let me know your thoughts. 

My Best EverythingMy Best Everything by Sarah Tomp

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The book will be released on March 3.

Lulu wants to get out of her backwoods town more than anything, but with her father losing their money in bad investments and her mother being unable to leave the house due to anxiety, she has to find a way to get herself to college on the opposite side of the country. Her money-making avenue? Moonshine. With the help of her two close friends and another young man, Mason, who has a mysterious past and a history of being in trouble, she sets out to earn the money she needs to leave. What she doesn’t count on is that her feelings for Mason are going to get entwined with her plans. What she really doesn’t expect is that she’s going to see her small town in a completely different light that may change her mind and her plans for the future.

Overall, this was a sweet coming-of-age story, even if it seemed to straddle a weird line between going too slow and then moving too quickly.

The strongest part of this novel, for me, were the characters. They were interesting and had depth, their age reflective of the angst they were going through and the choices they thought they had to make to ensure their future. Their naivete was done well and believably and didn’t make the characters too annoying to read. Mason as a recovering alcoholic may have seemed strange in a different context, but the set-up of family addiction flowed well with the setting.

The plot itself wasn’t bad, but the pacing was off for me. I felt that some parts dragged while others jumped quickly forward in the narrative. Luckily, this was a mild problem. The backwoods setting was interesting as was reading about a small town culture and the whole idea surrounding moonshining. There were other things that were presented in the story as well, themes like religion, sex, and independence, and yet the author didn’t have to highlight anything for the reader. Even if there was a problem with pacing, the subtlety of the story was presented perfectly.

The narrative is in second person, and that was a little jarring for me, but the author handled it well. The tone of the story was very prose-like and poetic. The mood of the story was somber, but I also found hope in the story. I think my main issue with the book was that even though I thought the characters were strong, I was never able to really connect with the main character and wanted to know more about the others.

Overall, this was a good read and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys young adult and coming-of-age stories.

View all my reviews

Organizing My Knitting Stash

Part of this whole knitting process has been to pare down my stash, but the disorganization of it was driving me crazy. I didn’t know what I had and was blindly grabbing when starting a project. Also, I’m not well-versed in textures. I know what worsted and fingering weight are, but I was a little unclear on sport and DK, and the difference between chunky and bulky when it came to matching yarn with a pattern.

On Saturday night, I finally pulled my stash out to organize and catalog everything in my Ravelry account. I haven’t utilized Ravelry much in the past, but it occurred to me that if I had a record of all my yarn, figuring out what to knit would be a whole lot easier.

A mess of yarn: my complete stash as pulled from my closet.

A mess of yarn: my complete stash as pulled from my closet.

When I first piled it on the bed, the project seemed daunting. I realized that my stash is nowhere near as big as those of some knitters. Mine fits in my closet, and I know people who have whole rooms dedicated to their stash. But I’ve developed a minor aversion to clutter, so even this little bit feels like it needs to be used.

The process really didn’t take as long as I thought it would. I found a process that worked for me, which included pulling 5 skeins at a time, taking pictures, logging them into Ravelry, then fitting them into one of my 2 bins. Some of the yarn, like the the scraps and acrylics, went into their own plastic bags and then into a cloth bag I had available.

The "after" picture.

The “after” picture.

Talk about feeling accomplished. The whole process took me about 3 hours, but there was also some time I spent winding some yarn, which, in hindsight, I probably didn’t need to do (and also triggered the idea that perhaps I could use a swift and ball winder sometime in the future). The challenge now will be to find projects to knit with the scrap yarn that I didn’t catalog, as I only put yarn I had information for in the Ravelry stash.

My organization project also yielded a bittersweet moment. Going through my stuff meant finally pulling out an afghan my grandmother started before she passed away. The partially finished granny square project and remaining yarn had been given to me, but I’d stored it away. At the time, the loss of my grandma was still tender, and I wasn’t ready to work on this.

2015-02-22 00.20.08

It’s been several years since she passed, but strangely enough, the afghan still smelled like her perfume. It brought back some good memories, but it also made me really sad and brought to the forefront how much I miss her and my grandfather. But now that the hard part of facing the project is over, it’s now in my plans to finish it up and keep it as a reminder of her.

I’m setting a stash goal for the year. By the end of the year, I’m hoping to have all of my stash pared down to just the 2 tubs (no bags), and that includes anything I pick up at yarn hops and our new yarn store, which I’ll talk more about after it opens up. Let’s hope my current knitting frenzy evens out but keeps steady so I can use up some of that yarn.

A.

Recipe: Easy Crockpot Mexican Chicken

I’m not usually one to experiment in the kitchen, but this past weekend, I got creative. By “creative,” I mean I got desperate to use up some of the things we had in the kitchen to make dinner and avoid delivery or fast food. Even though we go through phases where we cook all the time, we also go through phases where we don’t. Right now, we’re in convenience mode, which means way too much fast food, and it’s getting tiresome.

I need to go shopping and I’ve been procrastinating doing a meal plan and grocery list. In honor of procrastinating even longer, I decided to see if I could hodge podge something together with what we had in the house. The crock pot is pretty much the best invention for this sort of lazy cooking, and I love it. I love everything about it. I like it better when we have liners, because then clean up is easy too.

I was surprised with how well this turned out, and I wanted to go ahead and share it for those looking for an easy recipe. I’m sure it mimics many other recipes out there, but it never hurts to add another variation to the pile, right?

2015-02-21 12.34.55

Ingredients:
Boneless chicken breasts (we used chicken tenderloin)
1 can of Campbell’s Fiesta Cheese Soup
1 can of tomatoes and peppers (Rotel would be good for this)
1 can of black beans
Chili powder
Garlic salt
Pepper
Shredded cheddar cheese
Tortilla chips

Directions:
Throw the chicken in the crock pot.
Season with the seasonings of your choice (I listed the ones I used above).
Pour the cheese soup over the chicken, followed by the black beans (undrained), followed by the tomatoes (undrained). To be honest, you could pour these ingredients in any order you want. The goal is just to get them in there and covering that chicken.
Put the lid on and let cook for 7-8 hours.
Top with cheese and eat over nacho chips (if desired).

We stirred this dish periodically throughout the day, but I don’t think we needed to…it’s just how we roll. About halfway through the cooking time, I was a little worried that it was going to be too watery, but by the time we were ready to eat, it was the perfect consistency and was really good over nacho chips…sort of a chicken chili nacho thing. We talked about some modifications for next time, just to change it up a bit (sour cream, more cheese soup, mexicorn), but the truth is, this recipe as is was delicious. I don’t even like black beans, but they were super tasty in this meal.

This one is going on our menu rotation, and even though it was super simple, being that it was an experiment, I feel proud that it tasted as good as it did.

A.

Sunday Productivity and a Hat for Me

The past few Sundays have been lazy. I haven’t felt too guilty about it, but some weekends it’s nice to get something accomplished. Yesterday I managed to get things done around the apartment, but we never ventured out, which is kind of silly considering it was nice yesterday and today was super cold. But sometimes things just work out that way.

A smallish chunk of time was spent at work today making up hours ahead of time for volunteer meetings I have this week. One would think working on your day off would be rough, but not so much because I find my job fun most days. Which doesn’t mean Monday will be easy, because it never is, but at least I can relax this week when it comes to making up time.

Monday

I called my brother to wish him a happy birthday. I’ve officially had a little brother for 32 years. Time flies.

I went to Stitch n’ Bitch tonight. I took a bit of a hiatus for a few months because I wasn’t knitting at all, but I’m getting my groove back. Our location rotates, so tonight we were at Hastings Hardback Cafe which is kind of my go-to location for everything because I like their coffee and I’m comfortable there. And wouldn’t you know it…I finished a project.

2015-02-22 19.47.30 2015-02-22 19.48.16

I’d originally set out to knit this one for my nephew, but honestly? I think I really like it for myself. I don’t wear hats well, but I think this one looks kind of cute and it’s comfy on my head. So he’ll get the next one I do, which I went ahead and cast on for this evening. I’d better prepare myself…8 1/2 inches of 2 by 2 ribbing is coming.

I’m finishing off the night with some blogging and movies, including The Dark Crystal and Zoolander, though I probably won’t finish Zoolander because I’m getting sleepy. But I’ve seen it about 22 times, so no biggie.

You might be wondering why I’m blogging all of a sudden after going for months with nothing. I have no answer. I go with what I’m feeling and for some reason, I was in the mood to blog tonight. I even have a few scheduled for the next couple days…so yay again for Sunday productivity!

A.

Knitting Furiously

So I’m not really furious when I knit. In fact, I’ve been pretty even keeled lately, if not just slightly depressed due to winter weather and snow and cold, but that’s nothing new. As for any sort of anger or rage, that’s been pretty non-existent for a few months now. I get annoyed by things, but I made some good decisions at the end of last year and I’m kind of reaping those benefits.

“Knitting furiously” really just means that I’ve been knitting a lot. I hadn’t picked up my needles in a long time, and then all of a sudden it was like I couldn’t get enough. I think part of it is that I realized how much stash I had and I have a yarn hop coming up and in my mind, I can make a dent in my stash big enough to warrant buying new yarn.

I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen. In fact, my hop list doesn’t include any yarn. Instead, my focus will be notions, needles, and patterns. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try to get that stash down.

I offered a few of the finished objects up on Facebook to those who wanted them. Others I knit with specific people in mind, namely my nieces and nephews, one of which I will meet for the first time this coming summer. Because I’ve been in a “hat” mood, I figured that would be the easiest thing to kick out.

Slouchy hats for young ones.

Slouchy hats for young ones.

The slouchy hats above were super easy to knit and made for good knitting while gaming. I didn’t really have to think about them. The other hat I made was a little more challenging as I actually had to count, but it still wasn’t bad. I knit it up mostly during a knit-in-public night with friends where I consumed way too much coffee and ended up pulling an all-nighter.

Felber says it looks like a little raspberry.

Felber says it looks like a little raspberry.

Sadly, I can’t find the pattern I used. My phone apparently spazzed when I tried to add it to my Ravelry queue and now it’s not there. So if anyone knows where this pattern is, please let me know so I can give credit where it’s due and add it to my own Ravelry projects list. At any rate, this one is going to my newest niece. I’m just hoping it fits on her little baby head.

I’m currently working on a hat for my other nephew. I have two patterns I’m looking at, and I’m trying to decide which one seems more “him.” I might end up just letting him choose and pass along the other hat to someone who wants it.

Other finished projects include:

2015-02-08 20.16.38

Slouchy hat claimed by my friend L (modeled by the Felber himself). This will probably be a gaming accessory, which is awesome. I ran out of the striped yarn so had to improvise and Frankenstein this one together.

2015-02-15 16.36.44

Pain in the butt socks that I only just got lucky enough to have enough yarn for. They’re meant for a young girl, so they’re going to daughter of my friend, Terry.

2015-02-15 13.31.22

Double bump dishcloths going to Erica who was quick on the claim. Not going to lie…I love these colors. I’d had the yarn forever and have no idea where i got it or where to get more.

Scarf claimed by my brother-in-law

Scarf claimed by my brother-in-law. This was an easy pattern mostly…one row the whole way…but I did get tripped up and there’s a small spot that’s kind of a hot mess. I warned that perfectionists need not apply, but I think R will rock this no matter what.

I’ve been listening to a knitting podcast to keep me motivated. The ACTually KNITting Podcast is my current cast of choice, though I’m almost caught up, so I’ll be checking out something new soon . I’m really enjoying this podcast. The woman who does it, Michelle, is friendly and has a good radio voice. Listening to her is relaxing and interesting.

The only downside to all this knitting? My hands have been hurting a bit, and since I use them all day for work as well, I will have to take the occasional break just to let them sit and do nothing. Which fellow knitters know is really not that easy.

A.

Goodreads Review: Crushed by Lauren Layne

Lauren Layne is still hanging in there as my current favorite romance author, and I was really excited to get approved to read this ARC from NetGalley. My Goodreads review is below. I also noticed tonight that I’m only one book ahead of my 2015 reading goal. Since I’ve been knitting like a maniac, I might need to take some time to read some books so I don’t get behind. Too many hobbies, not enough time. 
Crushed (Redemption, #2)Crushed by Lauren Layne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received a free ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Most of my Lauren Layne reviews are pretty similar and consist of a lot of gushing about the awesome writing and the epic feels. This one will be about the same. I seriously can’t get enough of this author.

Crushed was exactly what I expect from Layne and her contemporary romances. Her characters are likable but flawed, and in the case of those in her Redemption series, seriously damaged. The humor is balanced perfectly with the pain the main characters go through during their romantic journey. In other authors, this portrayal of emotion can easily become melodramatic, but Layne nails it. I don’t get annoyed, I get immersed in the good feels and never want the story to end.

Along with this, I think her pacing is amazing. A novel can very easily jump the characters into a relationship too fast or draw it out boringly long. Layne paces her stories perfectly, and it really showed in Crushed. The development between Michael and Chloe was real and believable.

This book is getting five stars because I absolutely loved it, but I do want to talk about two things that I questioned in the novel. This is spoiler territory, so stop now if you hate spoilers.

The first was the choice in bringing together all the characters from this series in for a cameo. I understand the appeal in it, and for the story, it was a way for Michael to get closure. It was also a way to kind of close out the series for fans (though I’m hoping LL finds a way to sneak another book in there somehow). But when the scene first happened, it seemed strange and a little out of place, almost a little forced as a way to catalyze the ending. However, some of the interactions in this scene were pure gold. Paul is hilariously sarcastic and Stephanie’s brashness cracked me up. So while the use of the scene seemed strange, I still enjoyed it.

The second thing that made me a little wary in this book was the subject of Chloe’s body size and some of the body shaming from other characters. It’s a tricky topic at the moment, as I constantly see and read things about body positivity, body shaming, health at every size, disordered eating, and that kind of thing, so I was a little unsure of how it was going to be handled. I very much liked the take that Michael enjoyed Chloe for her personality and wanted to help her build her confidence, though I have a feeling there will be critics who could (and may) pick apart the whole bikini subject. Overall, I think it was handled well and fit the storyline perfectly.

Honestly, I’m not sure if Layne could write a book I wouldn’t absolutely love. The only bad part of reading Crushed was finishing it and not wanting to read anything else…except maybe another Lauren Layne book. Now to try be patient until her next one comes out.

View all my reviews

Out With the Old, in With 2015

I love the feeling of optimism I get at the beginning of a new year, the feeling that this is going to be the year I really get it all together. Sadly, that feeling came and went in the first couple days of the new year. Don’t get me wrong, some things are going okay. I’ve made it to the gym several days, I’m not beating myself up for having a lazy weekend, and I don’t have any real angst. However, I am feeling withdrawn and not looking forward to a busy week ahead.

But I’m still optimistic for the new year.

2014 was a good year. It had its low moments, but the new apartment and the new job ended up being awesome changes. I still come home every day and feel good about my living space. As for the job, I’ve only been there a month, but I really like the work and the environment. I’m still getting used to everyone and am trying to get my confidence up, but that part has always taken me a long time. Eventually it’ll happen. Hopefully.

Me. Every day.

Me. Every day.

I have some goals for 2015, mostly to stay organized and keep myself level headed. One thing I want to do though is get back on track with my health and activity. I faltered quite a bit towards the end of 2014, and I’m back to having pain and not being able to walk long distances. This is sort of sent me into a mental spiral that goes between the all-or-nothing attitude and a heavy dose of laziness and apathy. It also makes me depressed when I think about something I want to do and realize that once again, I can’t do it. I’ve been back in the gym just to ensure I do some type of movement, so at least I’m on the right track. I was sidetracked today by not feeling well, but tomorrow is another day.

Otherwise, I’m re-evaluating some of my social commitments and am likely to be ending some of them soon, which may or may not anger people. This could also be a side effect of feeling withdrawn, so I’m going to give it until February to make any decisions. I phase like this pretty often, so maybe I just need a brief hiatus to get my mind back in all the games.

How Can I Leave

As always, I’ll try to keep the blog updated, but we know how that goes, so I’m going to just continue to roll with it and blog when I have something to say. Who knows? 2015 might be the year you can’t get me to shut up.

On that note, hope the new year has started on a high note and continues that way to the end. Happy 2015!

A.