What I'm Into (October 2016 Edition)

IMG_9031
I feel like I've lived 5 lifetimes this month. I left San Francisco and arrived in the Twin Cities! Now it's Transition Central all over again. I'm practicing self-care, spending time with good friends, and looking forward to when everything has fallen into place. In the meantime: the fall foliage is feeling highly appropriate.

 

Read and Reading

PicMonkey Collage


I do not often engage in my language geek tendencies but based on how I swooned my way through When In French (Collins), I should do so more often. Collins's book is part memoir and part ode to the intricacies of language. She delves into the history and meaning, the particular dance of learning another language, and how we use words to both build and divide. Many of the stories she shares, whether personal or research, could have been expanded into long-form essays at the very least for how fascinating they are and they will stick with me for some time. It is lyrical and lovely. It also made me want to get over to Europe asap. (Disclosure: I won a copy of this book through a Goodreads giveaway but it did not influence my opinion.)

 

I am a HUGE fan of Tana French's work. I generally can't put her books down once I start so it was a huge surprise that I had to take regular breaks from The Trespasser. I'll explain: Antoinette was one of the prickliest characters I've encountered in some time. I understood why she acted the way she did and would probably be the same way myself in her shoes but as a reader, it was exhausting. French writes complex, gritty characters but this was the first time I found the main character to be unlikable. It may have felt like a departure for French and yet I couldn't stop thinking about Antoinette's character and the choice to depict her this way. She was convincing and she grew on me but yes, regular breaks were necessary. The mystery itself was satisfying, though it lacked the usual punch (such as In The Woods and The Likeness, my favorites by French.) I loved Antoinette and Stephen's working relationship and how their understanding of each other grew over the course of the novel. I especially loved the depiction of workplace harassment/discrimination and Antoinette's specific challenges being the only female on the Murder Squad. I would love to see that topic explored more often in fiction. Overall, I thought this was a great addition to the Murder Squad series and wish it would be such a long wait until the next one.

 

A few friends on Twitter were recently raving about L.M. Montgomery's The Blue Castle and my ears immediately perked up. How had I missed out on this LMM novel for grown-ups? Admittedly, I haven't read all of her work but the Anne books played a key role in my childhood so I was eager to check this one out. Within the first page, I was feeling all kinds of spinsterly solidarity with Valancy who was 29 without any marital prospect. She lived a rather bleak life, however, so I was ready for her to get some gumption. And boy did she! I loved seeing her literally come to life and the more empowered she became, the more risks she took, from telling her mother no to actually taking a caretaking job at a time when this was quite scandalous. The character growth was tremendous. I also loved watching her relationship with Barney bloom. It was bittersweet to see her love him and accept that he would never love her. LMM took the story in interesting directions and the ending gave me so many happy feelings. 

 

I recently asked a friend if she'd read anything by Sarah MacLean, to which she replied yes. Then she exclaimed in shock, "I thought you didn't like historicals!" It's true: I'm not much for historical fiction but Sarah MacLean has totally converted me with her historical romance. Regarding her Scandal & Scoundrel series, I love how she takes inspiration from present celebrity culture, the writing is smart and crisp, and the plot moves in such unpredictable directions. Plus, her heroines are feisty and her heroes are my kind of dreamy. A Scot In The Dark was pure fun but also unexpectedly moving.

 

Dirty (Scott) had the perfect amount of wit and angst! From the moment Lydia and Vaughan first encountered each other, I couldn't put it down. Despite their inauspicious beginning, I loved how they got to truly get to know one another and how they were then able to be there for each other through tricky circumstances. I especially loved how Lydia began to form a community and attachment, after never experiencing it before. The female friendships were fantastic! And of course, I loved Lydia and Vaughan's romance, how they took a chance on each other and the ups and downs that followed. I had a goofy grin on my face by the time I was through. Looking forward to the rest of the series! 

 

You can see all the books I've read at Goodreads. My fictionnonfiction, romance, and YA recommendations, comprised of books with 4 or 5 star ratings, are on Pinterest.

Currently reading: The Complete Enneagram (Chestnut), The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (Alexander), She Reads Truth (Williams and Myers), RoseBlood (Howard)

(I read 29 books this month.)

  

TV:

HamilDoc was so great! I say this as someone who has not listened to the cast album from start to finish. Enough friends listen to it around me and I've heard enough podcast discussions of the show to appreciate what Lin-Manuel Miranda has created. The documentary was such interesting look behind-the-scenes.

I hate to say it but I'm getting bored with Once Upon A Time. I may be dropping it from regular rotation. Sometimes you just need the characters to finally have a happily ever after, you know?

This Is Us remains compelling TV. I'm curious to see where these initial storylines are going to go but if I start crying more than I laugh, I'm going to turn my back on it quick.

 

Music:

New discoveries: James Bay, Damien Escobar

Listen to the What I'm Into playlist.

 

I went to a Jenny and Tyler show at Art House North. I saw them play a few times when I lived in Nashville so it was a nice taste of my former home.

 

 

Things I Love: 

  • I dogsat for friends. Buddy is pretty low-key and it worked out well, though their trip was cut short before I could indulge in any Hallmark movies. Alas.

IMG_8681

  • Micha and I got breakfast sandwiches at Devil's Teeth and then walked down to the ocean. This was one of my favorite things to in SF and it was so weird to think how the next time we did it, I'd be there as a visitor, not a resident.
  • I finished up my last few days at work and it didn't feel real. Partially because I'm working remotely for them while they try to find my replacement. But also because I love my coworkers. I've never worked with a better team. I didn't want to think about leaving them. 

PicMonkey Collage

  • Micha and Cara put together a Going Away Party for me. We had trouble figuring out a date that would work best for everyone but in the end, I'm glad it was the night before I left town. We had soup dumplings (drooling right now just thinking about it) and I laughed so much my stomach hurt. I looked around the room at the friends gathered there and felt impossibly lucky. Plus, Micha, A, and B made some amazing signs for the party! 
  • On my last day in the office, we had donuts and cruffins from Mr. Holmes and my director serenaded me at staff meeting. Then my team took me out for pho at lunch. It was such a good send off.
  • Micha and the kids helped me load up my car and then we had to say goodbye, which was not fun at all. I kept telling Chris and Micha that I was just going on vacation and would see them next week. (This vacation is lasting a long time, I guess.) Living with their family was one of the best parts of the past year and a half. I tear up just thinking about it.
  • I got to Bronwyn's house a little later than planned but she had dinner ready for me. It was nice getting to know her and her husband a little better and I was so grateful they put me up in their guest room for the night.
  • The next day I was in the car for 10 1/2 hours, which gave me the chance to catch up on the following podcasts: Overdue, Smart Podcasts, Trashy Books, The Babysitter's Club Club, Sorta Awesome, The Popcast, Reply All, and probably a couple of others. It was a long drive but the scenery was incredible and when I finally arrived, it was to a houseful of dear friends.

14517608_10100611858487822_4506097894319020889_n

  • #CampSomewheres is one of the highlights of my year. I purposefully planned my move around our annual retreat. Whether we were eating lunch at Sundance, hiking to a waterfall, or sitting on the back deck, my heart was full.We laughed, cried, and talked about things big and small and it was perfect. We've walked alongside each other through life's ups and downs and I cannot imagine my life apart from these friendships. To sit with them and recount this past year and what's ahead and hear and see their excitement over my move to Minneapolis meant everything. 
  • I bought the coziest long cardigan from Sundance. I have worn it quite a bit already!
  • From Provo, I drove to Cheyenne and stayed at a hotel for the night. I caught up on Real Housewives, ordered room service, and went to bed early. 
  • Next I headed to Lincoln, Nebraska to stay with Deidra Riggs. I stayed with Deidra when I moved out to SF so it was a nice full circle to stay with her again. She and Michelle took me out for Indian food and I stuffed myself silly. It was so good to catch up with them!

IMG_8911

  • I stayed an extra day in Lincoln so I could hang out some more with Deidra. We had a delectable lunch at bread & cup and got some work done at Starbucks. That night she and her husband took me out for pizza at Yia Yia's and there was the perfect amount of toppings on my slice of The Greek. I was impressed. Then we stopped at the independent bookstore Indigo Bridge Books and I wanted to move in. It was so fun to get a better feel for Lincoln and more importantly, to talk about everything under the sun with Deidra.
  • The next day I drove to the Twin Cities and just like that, I became a resident of Minnesota. I stayed with Kelly for the first few days and her kitten Hermione greeted me at the door and I decided henceforth, I should always be greeted by kittens.

IMG_8951

  • A couple of days later, our friend Kristen was in town so we got together for breakfast at Edelweiss Bakery along with Kelly, Allison, and Chris Ann. I had one of the best pains au chocolat of my life. Then we walked a few doors down to Chris Ann's store LoveFeast Shop. It was absolutely darling! I'm so proud of her.
  • Kelly took me to an apple orchard so I could get cider donuts and a caramel apple. This is the real reason I moved here. It's been 6 years since I've had cider donuts and that is 6 years too long.
  • I'm presently living in my friend Annie's guest room for the next month. It is such a treat to hang out with her and her sweet dog Foxy. There's such comfort in being around a kindred spirit during times of upheaval. Plus, it's nice being able to commiserate with someone in the trenches, as it were. Single lady power!
  • I am pleased to report Five Watt has an excellent tea selection, thanks to a networking "coffee" I had there one morning.
  • My friend Sarah came to town and it was so nice seeing a familiar SF face! We met up for drinks at Butcher and the Boar. I highly recommend the Hennepin Avenue Manhattan.
  • I Skyped with my brother, sister-in-law, and niece and she is absolutely the cutest. She's saying a lot more words now- or at least more versions of words- and it is darling.

IMG_9038

  • The fall foliage! I am loving all the changing leaves. I missed this so much last year.
  • I worked at my friend Allison's house one day and it was so fun to get to know her family, especially her kids who all stole my heart. Her 3 year old told me I was magic so pretty much I will do whatever she says from here on out.
  • My friend Emily was in town for work so we grabbed dinner at The Lowbrow, which turned out to be a great place. They even had fried pickles! 

IMG_9053

  • Kelly took me to breakfast at French Meadow Cafe and I am completely enamored with that place. They have Rishi tea, vegan baked goods (for when I'm good about dairy-free), and I've never had such crispy, tasty hashbrowns in a breakfast burrito before. Kelly made my morning by wanting to talk about the Enneagram and the conversation flowed from there. I loved how completely normal it was for us to have breakfast together.

 

 

Favorite Instagram:

IMG_8966

Minnesota does fall right.

(If you want to follow me on Instagram, my user name is leighkramer.)

 

 

 

What I'm Into
 

What I'm Into Link Up Guidelines:

1. Today’s link-up will stay open for one week. The next What I'm Into link up will be Thursday December 1.  

2. Link the unique URL of your post, not your blog's home page. Readers peruse link ups months after the fact and you want to make it easy for them to find your What I'm Into post.

3. Please include the What I'm Into button or mention you're linking up with What I'm Into at Leigh Kramer.

4. Visit at least 2 other posts in the linkup!

 

 

 

 

What have you been into this month? 

Disclosure: Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click throughany purchase you make supports this site.


What I'm Into (September 2016 Edition)

IMG_8438

Half Moon Bay

September became my month of saying goodbye. In 3 days I'll load up my car and start a very leisurely drive northeast until I land in Minneapolis. I'm excited about what's to come but I am beyond sad to leave the darling community I've found here. Yes, I'll be back for visits but there's nothing like being a resident in this strange, beautiful city. San Francisco, you've been good for me.

 

Read and Reading

The Wonder (full review here, along with other September new releases) raises excellent questions of faith, doubt, and miracles. The story is densely layered, with facts and clues doled out to us in a perfectly paced manner, not only about Anna and her family but Lib herself. I raced through the last 80 pages wanting to know whether Anna would die, if Lib would ignore the rules of the watch, and just whether a miracle had occurred after all. The way Donoghue (author of Room) brought it all together at the end blew me away. Masterfully done. (Disclosure: I was provided an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest opinion.)

 

In Another Brooklyn, Jacqueline Woodson's prose weaves an evocative and meandering story of a woman making sense of how moving to Brooklyn as a young girl changed her and her sense of family. It went in such interesting directions and while it's a slim volume, it's an effective one.

 

Can I please be like Phryne Fisher when I grow up? Cocaine Blues was such a fun mystery to read. I'm so curious if we'll learn more of her backstory as the series progresses. How did she become so confident and clever and self-possessed? I haven't watched the TV show based on the books but after reading this one, I'm going to.

 

I am full on obsessed with my new discovery Penny Reid. She writes nerdy, quirky romance and I have laughed out loud with every book. I read the first two books in her Winston Brothers series: Truth Or Beard and Grin and Beard It. I am full on swooning over the brothers Winston and cannot wait to read Cletus's book Beard Science when it comes out October 18. Can we take a minute to marvel over those cross-stitch covers? The best! 

I've also read the first three books in her Knitting In The City series. They are pure fun, while also being educational (random trivia! boy bands! bitcoins!) and I have not been able to stop myself from guessing the main characters' Enneagram types.(One of my quirks.) Start with Neanderthal Seeks Human (free on Kindle and Nook!) I don't know if I've ever encountered a character like Janie before. She was incredibly endearing, even if she was a walking Jeopardy contestant. She is quirky as all get out and incredibly brilliant. She struck me as a classic Five (the need to perceive, all logic all the time), though Nine was an initial guess. She was incredibly stuck in her head and unaware of her emotions and completely oblivious to glaringly obvious things...and I loved it! The way her relationship with Quinn unfolded was so fun to watch, especially seeing what they had to teach one another. Quinn was incredibly dreamy and mysterious and so much more of a good guy than he believed he was. I loved the build up to their relationship and then seeing how they navigated dating. 

 

You can see all the books I've read at Goodreads

Currently reading: The Complete Enneagram (Chestnut), The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (Alexander), Too Heavy A Yoke (Walker-Barnes), From A Paris Balcony (Carey)

(I read 25 books this month.)

  

TV:

I watched the first episode of This Is Us and I am allllll in. I've missed Milo Ventimiglia. 

I have an alarming amount of opinions about Luann's behavior on Real Housewives of New York. She was quadrupling down on the reunion episodes and I cannot understand what Tom has over her.

 

Music:

New discoveries: Black and White by Regina Spektor (her music keeps getting better!), All The Way Up- Fat Joe, Remy Ma, and French Montana

Listen to the What I'm Into playlist.

 

Podcasts:

Every episode of Smartest Person in the Room's Hollywood Series has blown me away.  If you're not listening, you'd best get caught up.

I've been getting lost in the archives of The Baby-Sitter's Club Club, Overdue, and Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. Lots of good listening! 

 

Things I Love: 

  • The staff off-site was at the Marconi Center and the grounds were incredible. I sat on a bench for a while and just stared out at the water and listened to the birds. It was so peaceful and centering.
  • At Book Club we had a rousing discussion about Assata. I'm so glad I could go one last time before moving. It's one of the best book clubs I've ever been a part of and I wish there was a way I could magically appear when they meet in the future.

IMG_8426

  • Cara and I went to an A's game. It was SUPER HOT but I love me some baseball, even when I don't have a vested interest in the outcome. It was great to eat a hotdog, catch up with Cara, and then leave after the 7th inning stretch because we'd sweat enough.

IMG_8435

  • Laura and I went to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Half Moon Bay for drinks and the view. What a life! Some day I'm going to splurge and treat myself to a room there.
  • Julie and I ate dessert first at Holy Gelato and then followed it up with burritos from Gordo Taqueria. We barely stopped talking to eat. I'm going to miss our wide-ranging conversations!

IMG_8512

  • I got together with my cousin Nick and his girlfriend Erin in Berkeley. We had brunch at Cafe M, then headed over to their place and basked in the sun in their backyard. They let me help them figure out their Enneagram types (glorious!) and then sent me home with lemons from their tree. I have loved getting to spend time with them this past year and a silver lining is that Erin's family is in Minneapolis so I'll get to see them when they visit.

IMG_20160918_212618

  • Chris, Micha, and I went out for a special roommate dinner at Bistro Central Parc. We had an heirloom tomato salad, escargot (my first!), and a heavenly charcuterie that included foie gras, rabbet rillette, and chicken pate. If that wasn't enough, my steak frites was perfection. Definitely the second best dinner I've had here! More than that, it was lovely to spend time reflecting on what SF has taught me and what this past year of living together has meant for all of us. 
  • Johnny and Christy had me over for Johnny's infamous pizza and it was absolutely incredible. He has special bricks for his oven and a very specific recipe. I'm so glad I got to experience it! Within a week of meeting Johnny and Christy, they invited me out for a spontaneous dinner after work one night and I have loved getting to know them ever since. They are a delight!
  • Laura P. indulged my need to eat at Holy Gelato as much as possible before leaving. This time around I had The Bomb and Irish Morning. I'm so glad we got to have one last get together before she went on vacation!

IMG_8563

  • While I still had a couple of weeks left in town, the time came for me to leave Chris and Micha's house as their roommate. Micha created a shrine for me, including my name spelled out in Oreos. B made me a drawing and A made me a special paper airplane. Baby Ace gave me lots of snuggles. After the boys were in bed, we ordered Nan King and watched The Great British Bake Off. It was a perfectly ordinary night and it was everything. 
  • I stayed at Zack and Laura's for two nights, which involved watching Real Housewives of Orange County with Laura, snuggling their dog Artie, and lots of R&R.
  • My last night with Laura, we got giant margaritas at Latin American Club, which was probably the best margarita I've ever had, went on a few field trips in the Mission, then ordered amazing Mexican food and watched Austenland. I knew Laura before I moved here and getting to live in the same town was such a gift. I'm going to miss seeing her face every week.

IMG_8597

  • I went to B's soccer game at the Marina Green. Kindergarteners playing soccer is the best! Plus, that view.

IMG_8604

  • Micha and I have matching Outlander shirts! Aren't they the best?! I got them from Jordandené. (It was the September shirt so act fast if you want one!)
  • Then I headed to Katie and Brian's house to stay in their spacious guest room for the week. Their boys crack me up! It was fun joining them for a Rabbit Feast, the presidential debate, and dinner.
  • About a month after I started working, my coworker Lydia took me to a pho restaurant a few blocks from the office. I have been obsessed ever since. I have easily eaten there the most and I'm glad she and I could go one more time together. It was good to catch up and indulge in comfort food.
  • I got one last haircut from Gaby. I hope I can find a Hair Whisperer in MSP!
  • Barbara and I got good salads at Spinnerie. I'm going to miss working with her every day! I seriously work with the best team.
  • My friend Kristal had never been to Nopalito and I am so glad I could introduce her to it before I go. Such a good meal as always! 

 

 

Favorite Instagram:


IMG_8524


Magical dinner with @hohorst and @michahoho, two of the best people I've ever known. This past year together has been an immeasurable gift. #TheYearOfLeigh #nomohoho


(If you want to follow me on Instagram, my user name is leighkramer.)

 

On The Blog:

I announced my move to Minneapolis and how I made the decision, including a metaphor about tuning forks. 

 

What I'm Into
 

What I'm Into Link Up Guidelines:

1. Today’s link-up will stay open for one week. The next What I'm Into link up will be Tuesday November 1.  

2. Link the unique URL of your post, not your blog's home page. Readers peruse link ups months after the fact and you want to make it easy for them to find your What I'm Into post.

3. Please include the What I'm Into button or mention you're linking up with What I'm Into at Leigh Kramer.

4. Visit at least 2 other posts in the linkup!

 

 

 

 

What have you been into this month? 

Disclosure: Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click throughany purchase you make supports this site.


What I'm Into (August 2016 Edition)

  IMG_8353

Golden Gate Bridge, as seen from the Land's End Labyrinth

It doesn't feel like August in the Bay but as I told a friend the other day, I'll never be mad about sweater weather, even if it's in the summer.This month turned out to be rather surprising and filled with logistics and decision-making and good books and soul stirring conversations and even a quick trip thrown into the mix. 

 

Read and Reading

PicMonkey Collage
 

I'm a little swoony over Shatter Me (Mafi.) Gorgeous, unique writing, though I can see how it might not be for everyone. It was spot on for me- I wrote down so many quotes. We get a stream of conscious from Juliette, complete with repetitions and lines stetted out. It made the action feel that much more immediate. I really felt like I was there with Juliette and Adam, which made it a hard book to put down. I'm really drawn toward stories about people with unusual abilities who go from seeing them as a curse to seeing them as a gift. I'm curious to see how this will play out for Juliette in the next book. Also curious to get more of Adam's story. He's dreamy yet mysterious and I hope Juliette is right in trusting him.

 

I loved Bracken's take on time travel in Passenger and especially loved the main characters. She takes the novel in such interesting directions with Nicholas being a freed (biracial) slave and the complications that develop for that time period (and others) when he and Etta contemplate romance. The ending threw me- it had been a 5 star read up until that point- but I'm more than willing to see where Bracken takes us with book 2. 

 

I love a good past-present story and A Paris Apartment (Gable) fit the bill. April goes to Paris for work to escape her life so she doesn't have to make a decision about her husband's infidelity. We come to see that "escape" is a common theme in April's life and it makes some of her decisions more understandable, even if I didn't agree with them. I loved learning more about her job as an appraiser. I don't think I'll ever look at furniture the same way. It was uneven in places but that could be more because I did not understand or agree with April's passivity, nor why Marthe's story mattered so much to her. Her relationship with Marthe- the long dead original owner of the apartment she's evaluating- bordered on co-dependent. That said, I did enjoy learning more of Marthe's story through her journals. There was some lovely character growth and while I feel uneasy about Luc's (Parisian solicitor) role, I was sad when the novel ended.

 

The first chapter of Missing, Presumed (Steiner) perfectly captured the horrors of online dating. (Although Manon and I respond to those horrors VERY differently.) That's not what the plot is about but I loved the picture it painted of our main character and how her singleness factored in to the coming events. Fast-paced with lots of twists and turns, this was quite the enjoyable ride leading up to a deft combination of people and events. While I was impressed by all this, the last chapter was a bit of a letdown, if only because I am not such a forgiving person when characters behave badly.

 

I included Necessary Trouble (Jaffe) in my August New Release round up post but I cannot stop singing its praises. If you asked me a month ago what the Tea Party and Black Lives Matter have in common, I would have said, "nothing." But after reading Necessary Trouble, I can now point to any number of post-2008 movements and see the common threads. Whether Walmart employees or environmental activists, Jaffe shows how the deep dissatisfaction with and anger over the present state of affairs has been channeled into action and change. It's no longer business as usual. People are risking arrest and starting movements to disrupt the system and it is often working. (Glory be!) Jaffe shows each movement's strengths and struggles and I was particularly impressed by how she delved into the racism of certain segments of the Tea Party. I also loved the emphasis on intersectionality and the way class was highlighted as a common bond. Well researched and incredibly engaging, I underlined and asterisked my way through this book. It's a game-changer and definitely going on my Favorite list for 2016. If you read it, let's discuss. (Disclosure: I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

 

 

You can see all the books I've read at Goodreads. My fiction and nonfiction recommendations, comprised of books with 4 or 5 star ratings, are on Pinterest.

Currently reading: The Complete Enneagram (Chestnut), The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (Alexander), To Bless The Space Between Us (O'Donohue), Left Of Boom: How A Young CIA Case Officer Penetrated The Taliban And Al-Qaeda (Laux), The Wangs. Vs. The World (Chang), Assata: An Autobiography (Shakur)

(I read 20 books this month.)

  

Music:

New discoveries: Cobi, Basia Bulat, Kathryn Calder, The Weather Station

Listen to the What I'm Into playlist.

 

Podcasts:

In The Baby-Sitter's Club Club, Jack and Tanner are going book by book through Ann M. Martin's beloved series with hilarious results. I was trying not to laugh out loud on the bus while they discussed the Gothic and Marxist influences present in Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls. (But also: they had a point. Who knew?!)

My friend Laura Tremaine launched her podcast Smartest Person In The Room and it is amazing. She's started us off with the Hollywood series and I was fascinated by her interview with Disney screenwriter Phil Johnston in the first episode. I learned so much!

Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile launched their Enneagram podcast The Road Back To You, featuring short interviews with people about their type (i.e. Shauna Niequist talks about being a 7, Nadia Bolz-Weber talks about being an 8.) Their forthcoming book releases in October and it is fantastic. 

I've been delving into Overdue's archives and loved their discussion of A Prayer For Owen Meany and did not stop laughing when Dame Margaret and Dame Sophie took on the problematic Flowers In The Attic.

Code Switch has been on fire! Struggling School, Or Sanctuary?, Say My Name, Say My Name (Correctly, Please), and Nate Parker's Past, His Present, And The Future Of "The Birth Of A Nation" are all well worth listening to.

I really appreciated The Lively Show #162: A Lively Adventure- What Knowing Feels Like (& What To Do When You Don't Know).

In The Smart Podcast, Trashy Books archives, episode #118 Discussing Rape, Trigger Warnings, And Also What We're Reading made me think about the importance of including trigger warnings for rape when I'm writing book reviews. It's not something I've thought to do if it's not a major part of the story but their discussion was eye opening.

The Popcast's episode #156: Pop Culture Comforts and Deconstructing Ryan Lochte was great not only because there was a personality type segue I inadvertently contributed to but also because I now hold the coveted title: Friend Of The Show. Yesssssssss.

Making Friends on Reply All about blew my ever loving mind. I had never heard of Tulpas (intelligent companions imagined into existence) before and while it sounds like imaginary friends for grown ups or a mental health diagnosis, I guess maybe it isn't??

 

 

Things I Love: 

  • I'm super grateful for the friends who dropped off food and flowers and who took me to medical appointments while I was convalescing from kidney stones and for all the rest who offered to help. It meant so much knowing I could turn to them.
  • After having the house to myself for most of July, the family I live with returned from their vacation. It was so good to be reunited, especially with darling Ace.
  • I won a Goodreads giveaway! This is the second time it's happened this year. Maybe my giveaway luck is changing.
  • I also won an ARC of Katee Robert's forthcoming novel. If there's an author you enjoy, make sure you follow them on FB and join any private FB groups they have. Between advance excerpts and giveaways and insights into their writing process, it is more than worth it.

IMG_8231

  • I flew off to the Twin Cities for a long weekend to catch up with friends. Kelly, Allison, and Chris Ann took me to Ox Cart Ale House for dinner. We started off at the roof top bar but had to move downstairs due to a storm. They were apologetic about the weather but I was in heaven. I have missed the rain so much! Plus, dinner with these friends is perfection no matter what else is going on.
  • I stayed with Kelly for two nights and got to hang out with her kids and experience her town. So much fun!

IMG_8257

  • Addie (and her kids) took me to Minnesota Center for Book Arts (amazing!) and then we walked across the Stone Arch Bridge. Then we tucked into some fried food at Wilde Roast. I was thrilled to see the restaurant had a sign welcoming all refugees and Muslims. I'm all for businesses standing up against hate in tangible ways!
  • Then I stayed with my friend Annie for a night. We ordered food in and talked the night away before watching the Olympics. It was so normal and right and completely relaxing.
  • In the morning, she and her friend took me on a long walk by two lakes in her neighborhood. The weather was perfect! It was beautiful and I left my phone at her house so I have no pictures of any of it. 
  • My friend Rachel is moving away so we met up for dinner at Nopalito and one last outing to Holy Gelato. I've loved getting to know Rachel and her husband this past year and I'm so glad they've been a part of my SF adventures.
  • I caught up with Cara, which was must-needed since we hadn't seen each other since FFW. Oakland is just a bridge away and yet I never go into East Bay, which constantly surprises me. It's good to get out of the city.
  • Micha and I ordered our favorite Chinese food from Nan King in honor of her birthday. Nothing says "here's to another year!" like their amazing spring rolls.
  • Laura T. and I had my favorite chicken pho for lunch and then we stopped by Batter Bakery for some phenomenal cookies. I'm going to need more of those cookies in my life.

IMG_8356

  • I had hoped to see the sunset at Sutro Baths but it turned foggy the night I planned to meet up with Laura P. So we turned to Plan B and checked out the Land's End Labyrinth. What a view!
  • My stylist Gaby at Modern Salon is a hair whisperer. She also told me my eyebrows are amazing and I've never felt so happy about my low maintenance beauty routine and good genes paying off. If you're in the Bay Area, I highly recommend her.
  • I actually solved an HaBO at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books! This may be the first and only time my Robin Jones Gunn knowledge has come in handy.
  • The September issues of In Style and Vogue!
  • I'm presently away at an off-site for work so I'll add in all the awesomeness later. I really love my coworkers and last year's off-site was so much fun!

 

 

Favorite Instagram:

IMG_8166


When friends ask if they can help, always say yes. So much loveliness results.


(If you want to follow me on Instagram, my user name is leighkramer.)

 

On The Blog:

I shared the 5 pillars of my ideal single life, something I've spent a lot of time thinking through and then living out the past several months. 

 

 

What I'm Into
 

What I'm Into Link Up Guidelines:

1. Today’s link-up will stay open for one week. The next What I'm Into link up will be Saturday October 1.  

2. Link the unique URL of your post, not your blog's home page. Readers peruse link ups months after the fact and you want to make it easy for them to find your What I'm Into post.

3. Please include the What I'm Into button or mention you're linking up with What I'm Into at Leigh Kramer.

4. Visit at least 2 other posts in the linkup!

 

 

 

 

What have you been into this month? 

Disclosure: Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click throughany purchase you make supports this site.


What I'm Into (July 2016 Edition)

IMG_8008
View from the family farm 

July in the Bay Area is strange because it doesn't feel like summer. It stays cool (50s and 60s) and foggy for the most part and just about everyone goes away. I've found myself hibernating as if it were winter, as a result. But I did have some literal rays of sunshine thanks to a trip back home and a few glimmers of what might be next for me.

 

Read and Reading

  PicMonkey Collage

Murakami has been on my To Read list for ages and I'm happy he lived up to his reputation in Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage. This was such a lovely, nuanced look at identity, friendship, and loss. I'm quite drawn to characters who begin to take control of their lives, whether by examining the past, working on self-growth, or literally taking action to move forward. Watching Tsukuru confront past pain and make connections with how it had stunted him was a gift, as was the hopeful if unresolved ending.

 

What if the Fairy Godmother wasn't the hero but a villain? But let's go one step further. What if the Godmother was just a cog in the machine and the true villain is Story itself? With this premise, Ash & Bramble takes its readers on one hell of a ride. The Godmother has the power to take everyone's memories but our heroine has some unexpected power of her own...she just has to fight Story long enough to remember how to use it before she's typecast as Cinderella forever. I loved seeing how Story itself becomes both a power-hungry character and a plot device, especially as the other characters tried to resist the plots laid out for them and choose their own path forward. The author's creativity was pure delight. (I got an advance copy of book 2 Rose & Thorn- review coming in October.)

 

Everyone is right: do NOT read Before The Fall (Hawley) on a plane. But once you're between travels, by all means pick this one up. I loved how Hawley built the story, starting with a plane crash and then introducing us to the survivors and the deceased, while interspersing the present day investigation. The role of media in tragedy and what an unruly beast it can be was quite fascinating. My heart rate was elevated whenever I read a scene involving a Fox News-like newscaster, similar to how I react when someone is spreading outright fear and misinformation. I haven't read anything by Hawley before but he's got my attention now.

 

Rich And Pretty (Alam) is a bittersweet portrayal of two friends who are brought together out of obligation and nostalgia, instead of the closeness and inseparableness that used to mark their friendship. This is what happens when hard things remain unspoken, when we do not allow our loved ones to be who they are becoming.

 

If you're looking for a great contemporary romance, I highly recommend the Girls Night Out books by Victoria Dahl. Start with Looking For Trouble

 

You can see all the books I've read at Goodreads

Currently reading: The Complete Enneagram (Chestnut), The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (Alexander), To Bless The Space Between Us (O'Donohue), Assimilate Or Go Home (Mayfield), Necessary Trouble (Jaffe), The Road Back To You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery (Cron and Stabile)

(I read 35 books this month. Travel + no tv + sickness = lots of reading time)

  

Music:

Good As Hell by Lizzo is EVERYTHING. I've had it on repeat this past week.

I've been loving this Life Is A Romantic Comedy playlist.

Listen to the What I'm Into playlist.

 

Podcasts:

New podcast find: Overdue. I cracked up over their takedown of A Walk To Remember and I loved re-experiencing The Likeness, which is my favorite by Tana French.

I don't listen to audiobooks but I really enjoyed learning more about that world when Adam Verner appeared on What Should I Read Next?

The Lively Show Episode #152: When You Want All Of The "Answers" Right Now was just what I needed to hear. 

Stolen Valor on Reply All was about military imposters, something I didn't realize was as big of a thing- at least not the way some people are handling it.

Invisibilia's The Problem With The Solution is exactly why I love this show. What if we did approach mental health differently in the US? 

 

Things I Love: 

  • I headed back to my Chicago suburb hometown for our family reunion and the 4th of July for the first time in 4 years. I cannot tell you how giddy I was on the plane!

IMG_7923

  • I've heard good things about eShakti for a while but I finally bit the bullet and ordered this navy fit-and-flare dress (with pockets!), which I debuted at the parade. It fits like a dream! I went ahead and ordered another dress, which is just as good. I love them for offering custom options and hemming the dress to one's height. If you want to try it out, this will give you $25 off your first purchase.

IMG_7940

  • My hometown's 4th of July parade is AMAZING. Of course, I'm biased as a townie but we've always had the Who's Who of Illinois politicians walk in it and even Bob Dole walked it the year he was running for president. But the real reason I love it is the creativity of the floats and the chance to cheer loudly for all of my favorite businesses and organizations and honor the veterans and POWs who come through. I view patriotism differently as an adult but this parade is where it all started. 
  • I watched the parade with my best friend and her family, which was such a treat and the best way to kick off the week. Afterward, we headed back to their house to grill and chill with their friends.
  • I got to see my friend Ellie (the one who wrote Chase Away Cancer, as reviewed here!) We sat in a park with Starbucks while her kids ran around and it was too short as always but it is such a treat to spend time with her. It seems like every other time I come home, life interferes with seeing each other so I do not take it for granted.
  • I caught up with Shelly over lunch at Egglectic. Our schedules haven't aligned in ages and we only got to say hi at FFW so I'm glad it worked out for us to have a proper catch up. She's a gem!

IMG_7955

  • Erin, Annie, and I had dinner at Graham Elliot Bistro. We sat on their back patio and the weather was just cool enough for this to be perfect. The food was amazing, as was the conversation. Erin and I drove back with the music blasting and it was almost like we were 16 again.
  • In sadder news, a day or two before I flew home, my great-uncle died. He's my grandpa's last surviving sibling and was almost 98 years old. I was glad that it worked out for me to go to his funeral and be there for my grandpa and for my uncle's family. He was in the Army during WWII so an honor guard was at the cemetery, which is always moving.

IMG_7962

  • Next I went to be with my friend Megan and her family for a night. I love spending time with them. I can never believe how big the kids are getting...even when I just saw them a few months before. Plus, Megan and Al are some of the best hosts I know and I always feel spoiled by their care.
  • Donna, Jill, and I convened at Front Street for dinner. I will love that place always and forever. It was good to catch up over salsa and burritos.
  • At last, my brother, sister-in-law, and sweet baby niece arrived! She wasn't sure what to make of me at first since I wasn't a floating head on a computer screen but I eventually won her over.
  • I don't keep social media on my phone other than Instagram so it took a day or two to learn about the horrible killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Once I found out, I was heartened to see people who have otherwise been silent about Black Lives Matter speaking up and speaking out. Then the next day I woke up to the news about the cops who were killed in Dallas. But it's not an either/or situation. These are trying times but I have to believe the more of us who speak out, the sooner systemic racism will be dismantled. I have to trust love will win.
  • PORTILLO'S HOT DOG AND FRIES.
  • We went out to the farm to set up for the family reunion two nights before, by which I mean I chatted with various relatives while other people put the tent together. Then I went down to the creek with my cousins and talked about anything and everything and it was as magical as it always is. I breathe easier out there, I sometimes think.
  • My "twin" Laura and I cozied up at SereneTeaz. I got my usual Irish Morning and then we proceeded to solve the world's problems. Like we do.
  • My parents had my other grandpa over for dinner. We made kabobs, which was fun, and sat outside. You never know what the weather will be like in early July but it rained and cooled things off for us.

IMG_8062

  • The reunion was as lovely as ever! We took over the family farm, a lower turn out than usual but 140ish people is no joke. It was great catching up with a bunch of my second cousins who I haven't seen since the last time I was home for the reunion. And I, of course, loved all the extra time with my cousins and aunts and uncles and Grandpa.

IMG_8076

  • This is my baby love, taken one year apart. I told my brother I want us to take the same picture every summer, for as long as our parents own the house.
  • Back in SF, I enjoyed the sunsets and a break from the humidity, though I missed the fireflies.
  • Laura and I managed to actually snag a table inside Andytown Coffee. That's never happened for me before! I was all about their fresh ginger tea that afternoon.
  • I got another delivery from Blue Apron and had Julie over for one of the meals. I like cooking and improvising in the kitchen but it's also nice to have someone send you the exact ingredients you need in the right proportion. I haven't been able to entertain much since moving to SF so it felt extra nice to cook for a friend.
  • I'd never heard of #24in48 before this year but since I've been laying low this month, I thought I'd see how much I could read in one 48 hour period. I didn't keep strict track of my time so my estimate is around 18 hours. If I hadn't had to work Sunday morning!

IMG_8126

  • My friend Jessica was in town for work so we met up for breakfast at Brenda's French Soul Food. The food was as incredible as the conversation. I'm so glad we've been able to keep in touch since I moved away.
  • Watching Hillary Clinton accept the nomination for president. So many goosebumps and I kept tearing up! What a historic moment. She's not a perfect candidate but her speech for the DNC gave me hope.
  • One last sad news: I closed out the month with kidney stones. This was a painful bummer on many levels, not only because I missed out on hosting book club. But in the good news department, I immediately knew what was happening (as opposed to last time, when I thought I had food poisoning for the first three days. Oy.) I also had a number of local friends reach out with offers to help, which is heartening for this single lady.
  • I haven't sang Ezra The Cat's praises lately but he has been a very loyal nurse cat and the best snuggler I know.

 

 

Favorite Instagram:

IMG_8007

This creek (pronounced "crick") is my favorite place at the family farm. Tonight I sat there with two of my favorite cousins, our feet dangling off the footbridge, and we talked about everything under the sun. The same thing we've been doing for decades now. We cracked up over inside jokes one minute and the next, talked about the ups and downs of life. I don't know what I'd do without all of them.

(If you want to follow me on Instagram, my user name is leighkramer.)

 

 

What I'm Into
 

What I'm Into Link Up Guidelines:

1. Today’s link-up will stay open for one week. The next What I'm Into link up will be Thursday September 1.  

2. Link the unique URL of your post, not your blog's home page. Readers peruse link ups months after the fact and you want to make it easy for them to find your What I'm Into post.

3. Please include the What I'm Into button or mention you're linking up with What I'm Into at Leigh Kramer.

4. Visit at least 2 other posts in the linkup!

 

 

 

What have you been into this month? 

Disclosure : Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click throughany purchase you make supports this site.


What I'm Into (June 2016 Edition)

  IMG_7872

This past Wednesday marked my one year anniversary of living in San Francisco. I never imagined I'd still be living in the same house a year later- it was just supposed to be housesitting for a month until I found my own place! But living with my friends has turned out to be one of the best parts of this whole experience. I've learned so much and grown more into myself as a result. Thanks, SF. 

 

Read and Reading

PicMonkey Collage

Three high school misfits band together in their small rural town the debut YA novel The Serpent King (Zentner). It's their senior year and while they long to graduate, their futures do not all hold the same possibilities, making this a rich coming of age story. Questions of identity are raised: how well do we know ourselves and others, especially when people try to limit or make us smaller than we are. The impeccable character development and bold plot choices made this book hard to put down, as well as hard to forget. I could not love it more.

 

The Forbidden Wish (Khoury) is my favorite retelling of Aladdin yet. This time around we get jinni Zahra's perspective, from when she's trapped in the lamp to when Aladdin stumbles upon it and sets her free. She may have to grant him three wishes but she's trying to figure out a way to set herself truly free, even if that means manipulating Aladdin and hoping the King of the Jinn keeps his word. She is a true badass and I loved all the feminism flowing through the pages. Khoury is a marvelous writer for the way she introduces us to Zahra and her tragic past and how that directly impacts her relationship with Aladdin. I raced through the book, unsure how it would end even though I know how the story of Aladdin works.

 

At the top of my Books I Gush Over list, you'll find All The Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation (Traister). This is a remarkable undertaking, not only because of the scope of Traister's research and interviews but because of how well it's compiled together. She manages to validate a number of singles' experiences, while also acknowledging her shortcomings, namely the bulk of her examples are white women in their 30s and 40s in NYC. However, she does feature stories from Women Of Color, as well as drawing from research and other works. What I loved is how validated I felt as a single woman. There was good food for thought- I especially loved the chapters about cities and friendship. There's also pointed critiques of society and religion, which is much needed in this age of marginalization. You don't need to be single to gain insights from this book- in fact, I'd encourage everyone to read it. But if you are single, you'll walk away feeling heard and seen and maybe even inspired.

 

I'm joining the chorus to say every woman should read Come As You Are (Nagoski), whether single, married, virgin, lackluster or on fire sex life. I learned so much from Nagoski (her fact checking about the hymen blew my mind) and truly appreciated her resounding exhortation, "you are normal." Her insights will go a long way toward undoing the misinformation so many of us have been fed and even patriarchal oppression. I feel incredibly empowered!

Nagoski appeared on Smart Podcasts, Trashy Books to discuss Come As You Are, as well as her first romance novel How Not To Fall, which uses the pen name Emily Foster. Nagoski read Fifty Shades Of Gray in the course of her research and was so angry about it, she decided to write "a feminist, sex-positive, medically accurate way to tell a story about a college senior who experiences her sexual awakening at the hands of a more experienced man." Nagoski/Foster has an unusual writing voice, which is different from the tone of other romance novels out there. Annie, our heroine, almost addresses the reader directly and gives us all of her thoughts. She is finishing college and speaks with the slang and vernacular that's typical of a 22 year old. This was off-putting at times but didn't detract from my reading experience. Additionally, the two main characters are nerdy scientists and there's lots of science talk, some of which went over my head but it was unique enough, I didn't mind. It's an interesting coming of age tale, while also exploring how relationships succeed and fail and what our part is in all that. I had a hard time putting this one down and it made me feel so many different emotions, especially because it's a duology and does not end on a happy note. I am DYING to know what happens next. (I tweeted Nagoski and she told me book 2 comes out December 23. Yay!) I'm glad Nagoski decided to try her hand at writing romance because what she included and omitted was quite telling. On the Romance Novel Spice Scale, the sex scenes are very explicit- this is where the sex educator in her comes out to play- so skip this one if that's not your thing. (Disclosure: I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

 

As a long-time Top Chef viewer, I had a barebones sketch of Padma Lakshmi's life but it turns out she is so much more than what I had gleaned. There is much more honesty and vulnerability in her memoir Love, Loss, and What We Ate than I would have guessed and as such, her decisions don't always come across in the best light. Yet that's what makes the writing so compelling. I appreciated her advocacy for women's rights from the options for women growing up in India to how endometriosis has impacted her life and health. Plus, there was some fun behind-the-scenes on Top Chef. I haven't tried any of the recipes but there were plenty that made my mouth water.

 

You can see all the books I've read at Goodreads

Currently reading: The Complete Enneagram (Chestnut), The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (Alexander), To Bless The Space Between Us (O'Donohue), Good Christian Sex: Why Chastity Isn't The Only Option- And Other Things The Bible Says About Sex (McClenaghan), Glass Sword (Aveyard), A Bollywood Affair (Dev)

(I read 35 books this month. A new record. Yay for stress reading!)

 

TV:

Must-see TV: Real Housewives of New York, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Southern Charm, Outlander

 

 

Music:

New: Twenty One Pilots, The Strumbellas, X Ambassadors

Listen to the What I'm Into playlist.

 

Podcasts:

I've been a big Gene Demby fan for a while now and love whenever he pops up as fourth chair on Pop Culture Happy Hour. But we no longer have to wait for his guest appearances! Code Switch has a podcast now and it is EXCELLENT.

Smart Podcast, Trashy Books had a fascinating episode called Closing The Door at the Intersection of Religion and Sex, interviewing Dr. Kristen Nielsen Donnelly, who is conducting research about the relationship between romance novels, religion, and sex. I really enjoyed listening to their discussion of whether and how religion is portrayed in romance novels and novels with strong romantic themes. 

Invisibilia's second season finally started and it's blowing my mind per usual.

 

Things I Love:

IMG_7723

  • Alysa and I have been internet friends for a while so when it turned out she and her family would be in California for the summer, we conspired a get together. I drove down to San Jose to hang out with her and her kids for the afternoon and then we topped off the day with a baseball game and fireworks. It was so much fun to hang out in person, as well as meet her family, and I loved getting to talk baseball with her, too.
  • Alysa found us a wonderful place for dinner: Delicious Crepes. The batter was vegan, which meant I got to eat crepes for the first time in ages because dairy-free crepes are hard to come by. It was incredibly delicious!
  • Sweet B graduated from preschool (complete with cap and gown!) and I was honored to accompany the family to his graduation, followed by a fantastic dinner at Sunset Reservoir. 
  • My friend/coworker Katie and I debriefed our VBS experience over mules and appetizers at Sunset Reservoir the next night. This could be the closest I get to Cheers.
  • I happened to have the day off work when Senator Chris Murphy started his filibuster over gun control. I was glued to the coverage and so proud to be a Democrat. Similarly, I was over the moon when Representative John Lewis led his colleagues at Congress in a sit-in less than a week later. I highly recommend listening to Lewis's speech if you haven't already. I am hopeful for change thanks to these brave men and women.

IMG_7825

  • Rachel and I explored the Japanese Tea Garden. I could not get over how intentional every part of that place is, from how the stones are raked, to how the bushes are trimmed, to what's in the ponds with the koi fish. It was such a serene, peaceful experience. 
  • We couldn't leave without getting tea. I tried Hojicha, which had a nice smoky flavor. I'm not much of a green tea drinker but I would totally get it again.

IMG_7853

  • Micha and I ordered our favorite Chinese food and watched Outlander together, along with taking prom photos in front of the sunset, before she headed out of town. It's been so fun to watch Outlander together this year and we're sad we won't be together for the finale. I'm really glad we made the most of this.
  • My team at work has had our fair share of bonding experiences lately and this included cleaning out our rooms at the building we rent. Barbara, Sarah, and I transformed that place and had a good time in the process.
  • I found my new favorite underwear at Naja and the company is even better than I guessed: they are all about social justice!
  • I was way past due for a haircut, like two months past, and I finally got my act together and saw Gaby. She is such a miracle worker. I feel like myself again!
  • My coworker Jason hosted a Pride BBQ and I helped him set things up in his awesome backyard patio. It was really fun getting to know more of the LGBTQ group at church, as well as catching up with friends. Good food, good conversation, great night. My only disappointment is not making it over to the Trans Parade, which was a few blocks away. Time got away from us!

IMG_7902

  • My friend Jennifer was in Palo Alto for a work conference so we met up for dinner at Oren's Hummus, which has the best hummus I've ever tasted. Truly incredible! It was great catching up with Jennifer and talking about all that's changed in Nashville since I moved away.

IMG_7911

  • I celebrated my one year anniversary of living in San Francisco by getting gelato from Holy Gelato with my friend Rachel and then going to the Moraga Steps, which is a gorgeous community-inspired project. It was super cold and windy but worth it.
  • A friend gave me a free trial to Blue Apron so I gave it a whirl and was pretty impressed with all 3 meals they sent. I'm thinking it might be a nice treat once every month or so.

 

 

Favorite Instagram:

IMG_7866

I'm going to miss this #ACEface while he's away.


(If you want to follow me on Instagram, my user name is leighkramer.)

 

 

 

What I'm Into
 

What I'm Into Link Up Guidelines:

1. Today’s link-up will stay open for one week. The next What I'm Into link up will be Monday August 1.  

2. Link the unique URL of your post, not your blog's home page. Readers peruse link ups months after the fact and you want to make it easy for them to find your What I'm Into post.

3. Please include the What I'm Into button or mention you're linking up with What I'm Into at Leigh Kramer.

4. Visit at least 2 other posts in the linkup!

 

 

 

 

What have you been into this month? 

Disclosure : Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click throughany purchase you make supports this site.