What I’ve been reading

Bookshelves with Red, orange, yellow and green books

My reading lately has taken me deeper into the problems of the climate crisis and capitalism and also currency, creativity, and coaching. All the Cs have a home. 

Coach the Person Not the Problem by Marcia Reynolds
The best book on coaching that I have read so far. 

Having and Being Had by Eula Biss
I tried not to read this book. But I was sucked in and I’m glad that I was. 

Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing by Jacob Goldstein
A seriously fascinating read. Money has no real value. That’s a mind-bender for you. 

All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson
We have to face climate change. It’s difficult and deep but also more urgent than most people realize.

The Creative Cure: How Finding and Freeing Your Inner Artist Can Heal Your Life by Jacob Nordby
I’m a fan of Jacob’s book Blessed are the Weird and equally at home with his latest book. Humans are creative. All of us. Without exception.


Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

Finding your purpose

Black and white tarot card with message "let your intuition guide you, you are what you have been looking for" is displayed, held in a woman's hand.

I was intrigued by this quiz on finding your purpose on the Greater Good Science Center website: Purpose in Life Quiz | Greater Good 

Most quizzes are of questionable value (other than the fun factor), so I’m always especially interested when they have a little science behind them.

The results were interesting and sobering. I have work to do on aligning with my purpose. 
The results page linked to the VIA Survey of Character Strengths which I’ve done a couple of times, and I decided that today seemed like a good day to retake it. My top five traits have stayed somewhat consistent, but this time, Creativity came out on top.


Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

My Electric Slide

My quilted art doesn’t typically lean toward bright colors – until now. It started with a red block that’s an improvisational take on a traditional log cabin quilt design. It’s all red fabrics with a metallic gold center. I thought it was a good idea and planned to make a whole quilt of these blocks. After I finished one, that was a hard “no.” Frankly, I hated it, and it sat around the studio for weeks looking awkward. Then I got the idea to cut it into three pieces and reassemble with red sashing. Yeah. Nothing like some red sashing. And then I thought–how about an electric blue border? Well, that’s where it started getting funky. And cool. And now it’s going to be a set of three quilts. 

Can you feel it? It’s electric. 


From the Game Room: Splendor

Splendor set up for four players.

Splendor is a modern classic board game for 2-4 players, who assume the role of Renaissance gem merchants, building up their wealth in gemstones, gem mines, hiring artisans, and building shops, seeking to attract the notice of the nobility. Players acquire single-use gemstone tokens, then trade sets of those tokens for cards that represent gem mines, artisans, and shops, which are used as permanent gems. The higher cost cards also confer “prestige” (victory) points. Collecting sets of the same color cards enable one to purchase the higher cost cards and attract the attention of nobles, which also provide prestige points. The goal of the game is to gain at least 15 prestige points. 

How to Play Splendor by Watch It Played

This is a lightweight, fun family game that has broad appeal. There is little to no conflict between players as one player’s actions do not directly affect the other players, other than the availability of specific gemstone tokens, cards, or nobles. This also enables you to play the game asynchronously, a turn at a time, rather than at a single sitting. All you need is something, such as a token or index card, to indicate whose turn it is. 

There is an expansion, Cities of Splendor, which offers additional cards and twists on the rules, and a retheming of the game, Splendor Marvel, which also adds some new rules. There’s also an excellent Splendor app for phones and tablets, that can be played solo against a selection of AI opponents, pass-and-play, and online (if you have an account). The app contains a nice tutorial and challenges to help you improve your game. For more info, see this iOS app review or Android/Chromebook app review.

Any way you play it, Splendor is a worthy addition to your game library.

Rethinking – and Remaking – Plastic

white and blue plastic bottle on beach shore during daytime

I’ve been trying to reduce plastic packaging in my life. I recycle everything that I can, but plastic is a low-value recyclable, and sadly, a lot of it never gets a chance at a second life; only about 29% of plastic bottles are recycled. People in the future will dig up our landfills and wonder, “What were these people thinking?!”
So I especially love this story about entrepreneur and engineer Nzambi Matee, who is turning plastic bottles into bricks: Kenya’s Nzambi Matee recycles plastic to make bricks stronger than concrete. I am looking forward to the day when recycled plastic is as valuable as finding oil and also when we stop creating stuff that we just throw away.


Photo by Brian Yurasits on Unsplash

Roll Tide (Powder)

I’ve been following @gocleanco on Instagram and learned about using powdered Tide laundry detergent for, well, everything. As part of our Kitchenette Cabinet Painting Adventure of 2021, we removed some corner turnaround racks. And how do I put this … they were disgustingly dirty. Barkeeper’s friend, a Go Clean Co. standby, didn’t make a dent. 🙁 I also tried Method all-purpose cleaner and even a white eraser sponge. Finally, I dissolved one teaspoon of Tide in some very hot water and let it sit on each tray for 10 minutes. Then I scrubbed with a dish brush and let it sit for another 10 minutes. I scrubbed again and rinsed. WHAT A TRANSFORMATION. I mean, they were almost good enough to go back in as-is. 

I decided to stay true to my overachiever self and paint them for a like-new facelift. I found a very close color in plastic-friendly spray paint. Handy-tip: both trays had globs of varnish on them that I could get off with light sanding. Sanding was remarkably effective. I was able to get a couple of coats done before the temperatures dropped, along with 15 inches of snow. I need things to warm up a bit before I can do the final coats, but they look great. 

Note to self: always take before pictures. Especially of the gross cleaning projects. 

What if you are enough; what if you have enough

person holding dandelion flower

At about this time two years ago, I read What if this were enough? a book of essays by Heather Havrilesky. After a prolonged self-improvement/professional development rampage, I was having a bit of an existential crisis and that somehow led me to Havrilesky’s book (along with Oliver Burke’s delightful The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking and Anne Lamott’s essential book, Almost Everything: Notes on Hope).

My kitchenette remodel notwithstanding, I have started to train myself to be satisfied with what I have and who I am. Our society is a bit relentless and promoting the ongoing pursuit of acquiring more and more and becoming better and better. It’s exhausting. 

We all need a time out. Or maybe we just need an out. 

Something about this book sticks with me in a way that others often don’t. It’s a cautionary tale about striving for a perfect state of perfection. Havrilesky reminds us there is no ideal version of us waiting in the future. All we have is our imperfect selves in the imperfect now.

You don’t need to be thinner, richer, better dressed, a fancier car, three vacation homes, new jewelry, an Instagram-curated life to love yourself as you are right now. It’s a standing invitation that we can accept at any time.

So why not now? Love yourself. You can still grow and improve if you want to, but you deserve love right now. 

Check out this PBS Books interview with Heather Havrilesky.

Poppin’

Photo of a folded quilt

I’ve been taking a few quilt classes to level up my skills and learned a technique called popping the seam. You can use this technique when four blocks come together at an intersection, and the combined seam allowances create an unwieldy lump. Popping the seams flattens the intersection by distributing the seam allowances. It’s nothing short of magic.

See for yourself.


Photo by Nathan Bang on Unsplash

Adventures in Painting: The Kitchen Cabinet Edition

Bright paint stripes on a white background

We have a kitchenette in one of our bedrooms. It’s small but includes an apartment-sized refrigerator, a microwave, toaster oven, coffee maker, electric teapot, a sink, and a handful of cabinets and drawers. We’ve been slowly remaking it. In addition to the appliances, we added a pullout trash and recycling station to one of the cabinets. We updated the light fixture, faucet, and switch plates. We removed the mismatched and chi-blocking shelving and repaired and reskimmed the drywall. We painted and added a mirror behind the sink. We added a new smaller shelf for coffee cups. We added artwork. We are down to the last couple of to-do’s: painting the cabinets and fixing the grout. 

The cabinets are builder standard oak cabinets from the 80s. We had similar cabinets in a former kitchen that we had professionally painted, and the transformation was incredible. It completely updated the kitchen at a fraction of the price of new cabinets.

Given the much smaller scale of the kitchenette, we decided to DIY it. I found some inspiration from a fellow DIYer and that led me to General Finishes paint. The prep work is significant: clean, sand, clean, sand some more, clean some more, apply sanding sealer. Then paint, let dry, paint a second coat, let dry, top coat, let dry, a second coat, and lots more dry time. 

It’s going well, but it’s a long process. And frankly, I am afraid to be anything but thorough lest we risk having to start all over again. Plus, we discovered that one of the drawers needs repair work and the turnaround rack in the corner cabinet was unbelievably filthy. 

We ordered new hardware and hope that we found an exact match for the hinges, and the new handles are very ooh-la-la. 

Maybe an update and big reveal next month! Stay tuned…

The Minimalism Experiment Continues

Coffee cup on a white background

Now that I think about it, I’m not sure how I stumbled upon The Minimal Mom on YouTube, but now I’m a regular viewer. I have taken many small steps toward minimalism, including reading The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker. I now know that I misunderstood a key tenant of minimalism. It’s not the same as minimalism in art, and it doesn’t mean forsaking all possessions (although it might). It means having enough. It means having what you need.

I can now see that my particular challenge is in having multiples (10 pairs of jeans, three sets of flatware, five Christmas trees, three sets of queen size sheets …. and we no longer have a queen-sized bed!) and also in keeping things that I no longer need either because they are nice or because I spent a lot of money on them. But they don’t pass the “do I need this?” test.

Here’s the interesting thing: now that I have started, it’s becoming increasingly easier to let go of things. This video on coffee cups (at the 9:44 mark) really hit me because I love coffee, and I have many, many coffee cups. So many that some that go unused. She mentions that coffee cups need to fulfill their purpose. But I only use a small subset of my coffee cups. That means I had about a dozen cups that weren’t fulfilling their purpose. WE CAN’T HAVE THAT! Coffee cups must fulfill their purpose! 

And now I can’t stop. We’ve Freecycled and dropped off two loads at Goodwill, and two stacks are waiting by the door. 

And I have found that by taking away what I don’t need, I see what remains more clearly. And I appreciate it. And it stands out and all remaining coffee cups are fulfilling their purpose.


Cover Photo by Weronika Karczewska on Unsplash