My Love-Hate Relationship with Valentine’s Day

my love-hate relationship with valentines day

When I was a little girl, Valentine’s Day was a special time. The green and grey corridors of my school would be awash in reds, pinks, and whites. It was an intense pop of color among all the grey plaid jumpers the girls wore and blue shirts and pants the boys wore. The teacher would lead us in crafting a box where classmates would dutifully deliver Valentines designed with She-Ra, He-Man, Rainbow Brite, or G.I. Joe. It was fun to pick out what I’d give my classmates, and even more fun to read through them all at the end of the day and see if I could read anything into the one I got from my secret crush.

Oh, to be 8 again!

As I grew older, the appeal of the day lost its luster. Don’t get me wrong: I still enjoyed putting out Red Hots candies and Sweetarts, but it seemed that there was a ton of pressure on adults to get it right, and it all boiled down to the bottom line. How much money did you spend on your honey? Did you upend both of your lives for the entire day to make ‘A Grand Gesture?’ No? Well, then you’re obviously not in love like you thought.

Ahem. BS!

All of these feelings were reaffirmed when I met the man whom I now call my husband. “Valentine’s Day is just a commercial holiday manufactured to sell greeting cards, flowers, and chocolates,” he said as he handed me all three of those things on our first Valentine’s Day together. In a bold move that later solidified our mutual affection and everlasting bond, I asked why he bought me stuff if he thought it was all bull. He did it all because it was expected. Once we compared notes and realized we both would rather celebrate milestone dates in our relationship (first date, wedding anniversary, etc.) we ditched the Valentines and never looked back.

Whether you’re like my husband and me and eschew this holiday, or if you count down the days until you can surprise your honey with the biggest box of chocolates imaginable, I have some books that will appeal to your Valentines sensibilities.

be mine sally j shimBe Mine
by Sally J. Shim
Guys, you really need to stop buying us ladies those giant red heart boxes of assorted chocolates. They’re never as good as we think they’ll be, and there’s always at least one variety that makes us gag. Why not make something instead? From adorable greeting cards to eye-catching garlands, this book will become your go-to resource for everything Valentine’s Day. Your sweetie will be impressed and amazed when you present him/her with an in-your-face pop-up card or a personalized message in a (tiny) bottle, complete with confetti hearts and an honest-to-goodness cork sealing the deal. The supplies are easy to acquire (you crafty people may already have a lot of them already) and the instructions are clear and easy to read. Just a little bit of time with some scissors and glue will impress your Valentine more than some random card you grabbed at the market on the way home from work. The thoughtfulness and effort you put into any of these projects will show your love in a way a store-bought something can’t.

one pan two plates carla snyderOne Pan, Two Plates by Carla Snyder
Sure, for Valentine’s Day you could make a reservation at a favorite restaurant, and wait before and throughout the meal for your food to arrive because you are eating out on one of the busiest nights in the restaurant industry. It’ll probably cost a pretty penny (more, if you’re going the valet route with the car) and depending on where you go, the atmosphere might not be quite as intimate as you’d hoped. Instead, why not cook at home? You can cook together, which is an activity that can actually be fun and bring you closer together. Or you can surprise your lovey with a home-cooked meal that will be just the perfect amount for the two of you. Most, if not all, of the recipes in One Pan, Two Plates are so quick and easy to make you’ll probably want to keep making these recipes all year long. All recipes include a beverage pairing and ways to make the meal more filling. Sauteed pork chops with sweet potato, apple, and mustard sauce is tart and flavorful and takes 40 minutes. Balsamic turkey with artichokes and eggplant caponata marries some really complex flavors and is ready in just 30 minutes. You get the idea. So tie on that apron and get cooking!

tinder nightmares unspirationalTinder Nightmares
In the grand tradition of Richard Benson’s F in Exams and F This Test comes Tinder Nightmares. Benson compiled some of the most outrageous and ridiculous answers college students used on tests and exams. Now the infamous Unspirational shows us the absolutely absurd side to the dating app Tinder. I mean, assuming there’s a side to Tinder that isn’t absurd. Granted, I’ve never had the need to swipe right since I was married years before Tinder was invented. But it doesn’t take a seasoned Tinder user to appreciate the cluster of stupid in this book. It’s full of bad pickup lines like “Hey, did you fall from the sky? Cuz you look like a dead bird.” You’ll also find bizarre date ideas like “I would take you on a date to Popeye’s for some light appetizers. Then, I would bring you back to my place for some TV dinners, grape soda, and two hours straight of Full House!” I like to think these are trolling texts, but I’ve met enough people to know that sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.

This year I decided we shouldn’t let Valentine’s Day slip by unnoticed. That’s why my husband and I have plans to see the Deadpool movie on February 14th. We’re going to pig out on movie theater popcorn and puns courtesy of Mr. Sir Deadpool, Esq. Then we’re going to go back to our place for a jointly-prepared, mutually agreed upon home cooked meal, and we’ll follow it up with binge-watching old episodes of The League. Because that’s what romance means to me.❤

Imagine a Blogger’s Holiday

books for bloggers‘Tis the season for giving, and as you may have seen here on A Reading Life, we love the idea of giving friends and family books, books, and more books for the holidays. Leslie wrote about book-gifting traditions in her family, and we bombarded you with our staff members’ favorite books, music, and movies of 2015.

I’m here today to offer a different perspective. I’d like you to close your eyes (well, after you read this part first!) and imagine a holiday made especially for bloggers, specifically those here on A Reading Life. Do you hear each blogger’s distinctive voice? The types of books or music they usually enjoy? Okay, somehow you need to know to open your eyes now, even if you’re not reading this because I told you to close your eyes and you’re obviously an excellent listener. Are you back? Great! I’ve been thinking a lot about my fellow bloggers and have decided to share with you and with them the books I would give them if I had a pile of cash at the ready. The good news is that all of these books are available at the library, and I happen to know they all frequent it.

Heartwood
Heartwood, you post about books that may have skipped our radar the first go-round and new translations of epic reads. You have a firm grasp of worldwide literary fiction, but I have something more localized in mind. I offer you Writing America: Literary Landmarks from Walden Pond to Wounded Knee by Shelley Fisher Fishkin. This book straddles the line between fiction and nonfiction–those good ole 800s. It takes the reader on a journey throughout the lower 48 and offers deep insight into the places that birthed America’s greatest words, from The Paul Laurence Dunbar House in Dayton, Ohio to Angel Island in San Francisco. There’s even a chapter featuring the 135th Street Branch of the New York Public Library, where the Schomburg Center for Research on Black Culture resides. You will love this book about books featuring a library!

Jennifer
Girl, you read all the books I am too afraid to even pick up, let alone read! But I finally found something we can both agree on: Charles Bukowski on Cats edited by Abel Debritto. Sure, there’s a black cat on the cover, its back arched and ready to pounce. But what else could this book shelved in the poetry section have to offer? I’ll tell you: filthy, hilarious poems about cats and their undermining ways, and excerpts of prose that tell you just what is going on in those feline minds. At 3 am. In the alley below. Nonstop. There are also some very heavy words, but I know you’re good for it.

Leslie
If there’s one thing I learned early on in my career it’s this: never recommend a picture book to a children’s librarian. Either they’ve already read it and loved it, or they’ve already read it and hated it. This goes doubly true for you, the librarian who buys those picture books for the library! But I’m going out on a limb here to bring you How the Library (Not the Prince) Saved Rapunzel by Wendy Meddour and illustrated by Rebecca Ashdown. The message is solid: you don’t need a man to get things done for you. But it’s delivered in a way that is compelling for storytelling purposes. The text is conversational, and the illustrations are humorous and action-packed. If you can’t use it for preschool storytime, you could totally read it with your granddaughters at home!

Linda
You write these amazing Did You Know? posts for the blog, and I always learn something new! But you also run the successful and fun Crochet & Knit Club at the Evergreen Branch, so this book speaks to those creative fiber urges I know you have. Knitless: 50 No-Knit, Stash-Busting Yarn Projects by Laura McFadden has a plethora of ideas for you to use up those remnants I know every crafty lady has. There’s a huge range of project difficulty, as well as different uses–wearables, home goods, gifts, and more. No matter what color or type of yarn you have leftover from a project, there’s something in here that will speak to you!

Lisa
Although you’ve been focused on blogging about music this year, I know you have an adventurous palate and love to cook. I confess I couldn’t pick just one book for you, so you are getting two! My Life on a Plate: Recipes from Around the World by Kelis marries a little bit of musical memoir with recipes and an obvious talent for cooking. I had no idea that Kelis became a chef via Le Cordon Bleu, but paging through this cookbook made it obvious that girl is talented no matter what she does. And if you want to get a little more focused in your culinary adventures, Fermented by Charlotte Pike is just what you need. It covers kimchi, yogurt, labneh, miso soup, and more. You can also learn to make drinks like mead, kombucha, and lassi, though I know you will still prefer Priscilla’s lassi the best!

Margo
Not only have you founded and successfully run the overwhelmingly awesome Southside Book Club, but you also have a love of food and cooking. Therefore I give to you the gift of Simply Scratch: 120 Wholesome Homemade Recipes Made Easy by Laurie McNamara. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Laurie’s blog, but the Simply Scratch book follows in the footsteps of the Simply Scratch blog. Laurie doesn’t take premade shortcuts, preferring instead whole food options I know you’ll appreciate. I think you’ll find a lot to love about Simply Scratch, and maybe even find a recipe to bring to the next Southside Book Club meeting in February.

Richard
Science is your thing, and it’s definitely an area where you know more than I do! However, I know you really liked 2014’s What If?, so I now give to you Randall Munroe’s newest tome of amazingness, Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words. Munroe is a genius, this we know. He proves it yet again with this book, where he uses only the “ten hundred most common words” to explain very complicated processes. Everything from toilets to car engines, microwaves to space exploration. Of course Mr. xkcd illustrates throughout, so we get simple words and basic pictures to help us along. This book is also ginormously tall, so it can be used for other things besides reading: flattening posters, shooing the dog off the couch, or knocking something off a tall shelf.

Ron
Like Lisa, this year you dedicated a lot of blogging to music. I’m really happy you both do this, as I am no good at explaining what music sounds like and why it would appeal to anyone other than me! You’re also into some out-there fiction, a lot of it touching on Science Fiction. Therefore you get Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong. Down below I’m going to post a quote from the dust jacket and you’re going to see why I might think this would appeal to the guy who can dig into Science Fiction and loves seeing an absurd plot travel along at light speed.

From the disturbed imagination of New York Times bestselling author David Wong, and all-new darkly hilarious adventure. Nightmarish villains with superhuman enhancements. An all-seeing social network that tracks your every move. Mysterious, smooth-talking power players who lurk behind the scenes. A young woman from the trailer park. And her very smelly cat. Together, they will decide the future of mankind.

In case that doesn’t hook you, on the back cover there’s also a life-size photograph of a cyborg hand (I assume–it has metal joints sticking through the skin) flipping you the bird. And did I mention the sidekick slash familiar c-a-t? You need this book in your life!

Just in case Santa is reading this, here are some books I wouldn’t mind finding under the tree:

carol wants

Nerdy Nummies: Sweet Treats for the Geek in All of Us by Rosanna Pansino
I am a nerd! I am a geek! And I love to make and eat sugary treats! Rosanna is behind the incredibly popular web series Nerdy Nummies and all of her talents translate perfectly into this book. The book starts off with teaching you the basic building blocks for the recipes that follow. And OMG, the things I could make with this book! D20 cookies! Motherboard cake! Mana and health potions! Can we just call this the gift that keeps on giving? Because it totally will be.

Notorious RBG: the Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! I am awed and inspired by this woman, and this book goes deep into her life while still being entertaining. The Tumblr of the same name is simply incredible, but if I had this book on my shelf I could get my RBG fix even when the power is out and I’m forced to read by candlelight.

Small Scenes from a Big Galaxy by Vesa Lehtimäki
I love LEGOs. I love Star Wars. And I love a great mash-up! Vesa originally created this book as a birthday gift to his son. Using the snowy scenes inspired both by his native Finland and the planet Hoth, Vesa composed photographs that became a sort of retelling of the space saga I love. Not only are the photos incredibly detailed and fun to look at, but I could get some serious macro photography inspiration, too.

So there you have it. Unfortunately, I don’t have a bucket of money to buy you bloggers these incredible books, but it’s the thought that counts, right?

Happy holidays!

I Guess I’ll Grow Up: Adulting for Beginners

Adulting for Beginners

I was born middle-aged. I was always the kid that adults called an “old soul.” I was the responsible, dependable one, even though I was a middle child. Despite all that pressure (thanks, adults!), or maybe because of it, I’ve always prided myself on being hilariously spontaneous and incredibly forgetful when it comes to certain aspects of my life. The pressures and stresses of life have gotten to me recently, and because of that I’m making a pledge to take adulting more seriously.

Adulting, as described by Grammar Girl:

Adulting describes acting like an adult or engaging in activities usually associated with adulthood—often responsible or boring tasks. On Twitter, adulting often follows a sentence as a hashtag (#adulting) and can be used seriously or ironically.

01 - why grow upLet’s start with the philosophical. Why Grow Up?: Subversive Thoughts for an Infantile Age by Susan Neiman really cuts through to the heart of what my generation is going through right now (the struggle is real, yo). While some people might react to the word philosophy like a curse, I’m always intrigued to think about human existence, thought, and behavior on a macro, rather than a micro level. Details can be great, but the bigger picture is usually more helpful to someone like me, especially when first getting to know a new topic. Even though the author of this book is a philosopher, she peppers her references with humor and understanding, making the reading material more accessible to little jokers like me.

02 - life changing magic of tidying up 03 - keep this toss thatI often have a difficult time finding something specific that I just know I have. Somewhere. Maybe. Hopefully? To the rescue comes The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. This has been one of the most-requested library books of the last year, and I can see why. I have friends who have read this book and swore that it changed their lives. I am holding out hope for myself: if I can train my brain, I can do it! And if that fails (or just takes longer than I want) there’s also the more hands-on book Keep This, Toss That: Unclutter Your Life to Save Time, Money, Space, and Sanity by Jamie Novak. Keep This has the same spirit of choice that’s reminiscent of the Eat This, Not That books. What really appeals to me most about this book is that you know, from the title alone, that you will be able to keep some things. Sure, I know I should probably ditch some junk I’ve been holding onto for who-knows-what reason, but I also don’t think I’m a compulsive hoarder. Some of these sections are no-brainers, like tossing clothes that don’t fit, are in bad repair, or are so out of fashion that I wouldn’t want to wear them anyway. When dealing with the basics of adulting, however, sometimes you gotta start with the obvious stuff and work your way up!

04 - how to archive family photosGoing through “clutter” (aka artifacts of a geeky life well-lived) will definitely bring me back around to the fact that I am the de-facto family archivist. How to Archive Family Photos by Denise S. May-Levenick is a fantastic toolbox of techniques and options for digitizing and organizing all your family photos. I have literally boxes and boxes of old photographs, slides, and memorabilia. Right now I need the most help with photo organization, and ways to give far-flung family members easy access to them. But this book takes it a step further and offers up specific projects for your historic gems, including a photo quilt. A. Photo. Quilt! How awesome would that be?

05 - little book of lunchLet’s not forget food. Eating and adulting really go hand-in-hand. I am guilty of often zapping a frozen meal and calling it my lunch. While I find it filling and fast, I do wonder if I end up depressing my colleagues in the lunch room, who all seem to find beautiful and delicious-looking options they create themselves, including one intrepid genius who makes beautiful mason jar salads. Luckily The Little Book of Lunch by Caroline Craig & Sophie Missing covers everything from salads to sandwiches, from quiches to cupcakes. There’s even a section on choosing the right food containers for the meal you’re cooking, and tips throughout designed to ensure your gorgeous feast doesn’t turn into a soggy mess. Dishes like these call to me: chorizo with couscous, roasted peppers & tomatoes, carrot & lentil soup, whole wheat pasta with broad beans & bacon (BACON!), parma ham & tomato pasta, orzo pasta salad…are you drooling yet? Quick: to the kitchen!

06 - real simple guide to lifeHave I not caught your interest yet? Think this is all child’s play? Looking for the nitty-gritty? Any other adulting topic is covered, at least briefly, in The Real Simple Guide to Real Life. Promising “adulthood made easy,” this book is published by my favorite magazine, Real Simple. It reads like the magazine, too, even including a snappy introduction by editor and adulting expert Kristin van Ogtrop. Everything is covered: health, money, keeping your casa spiffy, and even dealing with emotional dysfunctions that go along with being an adult out in the real world. Side note: if anyone finds passage to the “fake world,” please buy me a ticket.

07 - roadmapJust in case you aren’t happy with the path your life has gone, I offer one more resource. Roadmap: the Get-It-Together Guide for Figuring Out What to Do with Your Life by the folks at Roadtrip Nation. This book is an easy-to-understand guide to figuring it all out–even if, at this point, it might be more honest to say you’re figuring it all out for the second, third, or even fourth time. Along the way you’ll be met with challenges, worksheets, and encouraging graphics such as this one, which I may just hang up over my desk at the library:

action

Since I am still struggling through immaturity on the path to adulting, I have to leave you with this disclaimer: I have not yet read these books. They sit atop my TBR (to-be-read pile), and will soon be read. Promise. Promise! Reading these books will represent my vow of taking adulting seriously.

In the meantime, I want to know: what books can you recommend for making the leap from immature adolescent thirty-something to full-blown (yet still fun) adult? The most helpful responses (or most witty, depending on how much I’ve matured) will be featured in a future blog post here on A Reading Life.

Stranger Than, er… , Non-fiction!

As I search for non-fiction books to read, I come across many titles that, while not of interest to me, are unusual, surprising or outlandish. Welcome to the world of: Stranger than, er…, non-fiction!

HairSome titles are certain to raise an eyebrow, pique the interest, even if the topic is not compelling enough to warrant reading the book. Such is the case for Plucked: A History of Hair Removal by Rebecca M. Herzig. Firstly, it never occurred to me that there is a history of hair removal! Reviews tell of clamshell razors (that would mean an actual clamshell, not something shaped like a clamshell) and lye depilatories, leaving me to speculate what other horrific devices and potions have been applied to bodies in pursuitity of less hirsuitity. Also examined are the changes in American culture, moving from the perception of hair removal as savagery, to the perception of female body hair as signs of political extremism, sexual deviance or even mental illness. Heck, I just might be interested enough to pluck this book off the shelf.

WhittlingThe Art of Whittling: Classic Woodworking Projects for Beginners and Hobbyists by Walter L. Faurot
One thing we simply don’t hear enough about these days is whittling. This book, originally published in 1930, contains projects (and here I might note that I never would have conceived that there are whittling projects) such as continuous wooden chains and ships inside bottles. Hey, there are also instructions for making working wooden scissors and entwined hearts! Beards are back, maybe whittling could become the next hipster hobby!

BeanieThe Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion and the Dark Side of Cute by Zac Bissonette
I must confess, I never could understand the soaring values of Beanie Babies. The creator of these plush animals became a billionaire, not so much through anything he did as through the feeding frenzy of collectors who saw the toys as their ticket to Easy Street. Stories of people buying tens of thousands of Beanie Babies, and even killing for them, fill this tale of what’s been called the “strangest speculative mania of all time.”

VietNamEating Viet Nam: Dispatches from a Blue Plastic Table by Graham Holliday
When I lived in Malaysia, hawker stalls (food carts sitting along the roadside) became my favorite places to eat. Most foreigners avoided such places, fearing disease or bad food, but I discovered a world of cheap tasty delicacies that define many of my Malaysian memories. In Eating Viet Nam I find a kindred spirit in Graham Holliday, a Brit who moved to Vietnam to teach English but ended up searching for the best street food. The writing is humorous, and I was sold by the line, “As the pig’s uterus landed on the blue plastic table in front of me, I knew I’d made a mistake.”

CowedCowed: The Hidden Impact of 93 Million Cows on America’s Health, Economy, Politics, Culture, and Environment by Dennis Hayes and Gail Boyer Hayes
This book takes the interesting concept of examining whether cows, which are an extremely important currency in the U.S., actually make sense economically. We get cow history, usage, treatment and sustainability. I was hoping for a discussion of methane, but apparently this will have to wait.

In retrospect, I might enjoy reading some or all of these books. I ran across them by perusing the on-order non-fiction titles on the library’s website, and I must say I was amazed at the variety of topics people find worthy of book status. If you’re not a non-fiction reader, challenge yourself to find one title that looks interesting. Oh, and read it. Perhaps you’ll soon find yourself whittling a tool for hair removal that will sell by the billions until you’re rich and can travel to Viet Nam. With your cow. Stranger things have happened.

New Year, New TBR

I am waving a white flag of surrender, admitting defeat, giving up. I had an uber-ambitious list of reading resolutions in 2014 and I did not complete it. However, I did manage to cross off 8 of the 12, meaning it’s by far my most successful set of resolutions I’ve ever attempted. Here’s a last look back at what I wanted to read last year:

  1. Read something a library patron recommends
  2. Read this year’s Everett Reads! book 
  3. Read something difficult, either due to subject matter or writing style
  4. Read an award-winning book
  5. Read something that is super-popular 
  6. Read a book that was the basis for a TV series or movie
  7. Read a classic work of literature
  8. Read an annotated classic work of literature
  9. Read something that will help me plan for the future
  10. Read something that will help me reconcile the past
  11. Read a graphic novel 
  12. Read an entire series that is new to me

Not bad, right? Granted, I could have done more. But by the time the leaves started changing colors I realized I was left with the most challenging selections. I was running short on both time and desire to actually put in the work required to complete my list. And it definitely felt like work. As someone who was once forced to read a bunch of books against my will (aka required summer reading in school) I didn’t want to resent reading, and that’s what it started to feel like: resentment.

With that in mind I’d like to tell you what my plan will be this year: nothing. Don’t get me wrong. I will be reading. I’m not a monster! I just won’t be planning it out ahead of time. Instead of a list of reading resolutions, I want to show you some of the books I missed out on last year that I hope to read this year. But I’m not going to lose any sleep if I don’t read them all!

Carol’s 2015 TBR (To Be Read):

textsTexts from Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg
Synopsis: Hilariously imagined text conversations–the passive aggressive, the clever, and the strange–from classic and modern literary figures, from Scarlett O’Hara to Jessica Wakefield
Why I want to read it: A book that fictionalizes electronic communication between some of my most beloved literary characters, from Sherlock Holmes to Nancy Drew. How could I skip this one?


steampunkThe Steampunk User’s Manual
by Jeff VanderMeer and Desirina Boskovich
Synopsis: A conceptual how-to guide that motivates and awes both the armchair enthusiast and the committed creator.
Why I want to read it: Steampunk! I just started getting into reading steampunk fiction in 2014, and I’d like to learn more about the subculture before I attend Emerald City Comic Con (ECCC) in March.

 

jackabyJackaby by William Ritter
Synopsis: Newly arrived in 1892 New England, Abigail Rook becomes assistant to R.F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with the ability to see supernatural beings, and she helps him delve into a case of serial murder which, Jackaby is convinced, is due to a nonhuman creature.
Why I want to read it: While I hope hope hope (!) the sequel to Libba Bray’s The Diviners will be out in 2015, I’d like to read Jackaby to tide me over, since it sounds like it might be a literary kindred spirit.

 

batmanBatman ’66 Vol. 1 by Jeff Parker
Synopsis: DC Comics re-imagines the classic Batman TV series in comics form for the first time! These all-new stories portray The Caped Crusader, The Boy Wonder and their fiendish rogues gallery just the way viewers remember them.
Why I want to read it: My favorite Batman was always Adam West, and I am obsessed with that campy portrayal of the Dark Knight in all forms, including this new comic series. It’ll also help get me in the mood for ECCC, where I’m sure to encounter at least a few amateur caped crusaders from the Pacific Northwest.

dont touchDon’t Touch by Rachel M. Wilson
Synopsis: 16-year-old Caddie struggles with OCD, anxiety, and a powerful fear of touching another person’s skin, which threatens her dreams of being an actress–until the boy playing Hamlet opposite her Ophelia gives her a reason to overcome her fears.
Why I want to read it: Um, did you read that synopsis? Swoon!

Regardless of whether or not I read all or any of these appealing books in 2015 the fact remains there are some great books out there. What’s in your TBR?

Embracing the Stereotype: The Modern Cat Lady

Growing up I had zero love for cats. In my defense I had every reason to keep my distance. None of my extended family had cats, and all my cat-loving friends tended to house whatever the feline equivalent of Cujo is. One friend in particular seemed to have an aversion to cleaning the litter box, so as a result the house just reeked. I thought that was how all cats smelled. I thought that was how all cats behaved. All of that changed in 2007 when in one afternoon I found myself with two kittens of my very own.

Over the ensuing years the number of cats in my house has fluctuated. Now my husband and I share our home with three, yes three darn cats:

  • The Dude, his name a blatant The Big Lebowski reference meant to win over my father-in-law, does indeed abide, though he can be a total spaz, too.
  • Tonks, named after my favorite Harry Potter character, is fiercely obsessed with all humans.
  • Gypsy, who was named after the squeaking heroine of MST3K, is the stereotypical ‘fraidy cat.

And stereotypes are what we’re talking about today, people. For one day I woke up and realized one giant truth about myself: I’m a cardigan-wearing, library-working, crazy cat lady. And I’m totally owning it! If you, like me, want to embrace the crazy cat lady stereotype, you’ll want to check out these books stat.

67 ReasonsFirst, let’s establish that cats are better than dogs. Don’t believe me? You definitely need to read 67 Reasons Why Cats are Better than Dogs by Jack Shepherd, who is responsible for launching the Animals section of BuzzFeed. Did you know that cats are better engineers, won’t eat your baby, comfort the afflicted, face their adversaries head-on, and are extremely hard workers? It’s true! Much like the website, this book is packed with imagery that proves point after point.

CHNA7291*catlady_case_1stPROOFS.inddat Lady Chic by Diane Lovejoy showcases dozens of glamorous, stylish, and posh women and their cats. These portraits range from classical paintings to iconic black-and-whites from Hollywood’s heyday to full-color photographs from the last few years. Marilyn Monroe, Ali MacGraw, Lana Del Rey, Lauren Bacall, Keira Knightly, Eartha Kitt, Twiggy, Ursula Andress, Eva Longoria, and of course Lee Meriwether dressed as Catwoman. These women embrace the stereotype and challenge it at the same time.

Cat PersonCat Person by Seo Kim is a collection of comics that started out as the author’s challenge to herself to create one new comic each day. I can tell she’s a true cat lady at heart because her cat, Jimmy, is featured in many comics in the front and back of the book. My favorites include the ways to hug a cat, different cat charades (imagine what chicken nugget and slug look like; if you have a cat this should be easy), and the horrible fate of unattended food left in front of a computer screen, Skype call in progress. Sometimes the panels so reflect my own life that I do a double-take. I’ve definitely found a kindred spirit in Seo Kim.

CatificationOnce I realized that being a cat lady isn’t so bad, I decided to see what more I could do to make life as a cat under my roof more enjoyable. That’s when I picked up Catification: Designing a Happy and Stylish Home for your Cat (and You!) by Jackson Galaxy and Kate Benjamin. I don’t have TV any more, so I hadn’t heard of Jackson Galaxy or his TV show, My Cat from Hell. But now I realize that Jackson is a genius. Yes, this book is packed with projects you can make to keep your cats happy and healthy inside your home. But it’s also got some great tips on recognizing your cat’s mood. You’ll also learn how to ensure your indoor-only cat can still have his animal instincts met (hunting, climbing, and so on). A happy cat is a happy cat lady. If this isn’t already a saying, I’m making it one.

PetcamSo what holiday gifts do you buy the modern cat lady in your life? Start with Petcam: The World Through the Lens of Our Four-Legged Friends by Chris Keeney. Any cat lady will appreciate all the trouble the three cats in this book went to in order to take some snazzy pics of their daily lives. Botty, Fritz, and Xander each wore small cameras around their necks and took photos of the places they traveled, the things they did, and the faces they saw along the way. If you think you’d like to get your cat lady a pet camera for her furry friend you may want to check out the back of the book before wrapping it. There are all kinds of tips and resources that will get you started.

Does your modern cat lady also work with customer service and/or social media? She’ll appreciate opening up QR Codes Kill Kittens by Scott Stratten. Scott was named one of the top five social media influencers in the world by Forbes, and his author photo on the dust jacket includes an adorable black cat. Consider:

If you knew that your terrible business decisions could cost a kitten its life, would you still do it? Of course not. No one wants to hurt a kitten, and no one wants to damage their own business through easily avoidable mistakes. But the trick is knowing which things are the wrong things to do.QR Codes

That’s where this book shines. Using real-life examples and plenty of illustrations, your modern cat lady will learn just what ideas that might seem great are actually hurting her image, both online and in real life, or IRL if you’re nerdy like me. Give your modern cat lady this book and she’ll thank you. In hashtags.

This year we at the library are participating in a Secret Santa game. Whoever is my Secret Santa knows me pretty well. I’m still not sure if this is a coincidence or killer intuition. But on the day I planned to write this post I received this little gift.

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You don’t have to live life avoiding the cat lady stereotype. Embrace it. Own it. Be it. Love it. You can thank me in hashtags and/or catnip.

Give Homemade: The DIY Guide to Gift-Giving

Don’t let this holiday season get the better of you! I say start now, gather supplies and ideas, and get to crafting the perfect DIY gifts for friends and family. The library is a great place to start looking for inspiration. No matter the recipient, I guarantee you can find a great DIY gift idea at the library.

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Whether you’re looking for your baby’s first holiday gift or you want to dazzle a mom-to-be, you need to check out Cutest Ever Baby Toys to Knit by Val Pierce. For adorable toys, check out Tusker the Elephant (cover image; project starts on p.86), Rainbow Butterfly (p.92), and Freddy Fox (p.78). For other cute baby items, try Little Bunny Bag (p.39), Goody Two Shoes (newborn booties-p.36), and Under-the-Sea Mobile (p.83). My favorite project by far has to be the Soft and Squishy Playbook (p.22). It’s a knitted play book with a different object (car, teddy bear, etc.) on each page. Research shows it’s never too early to introduce children to books and this is a sweet way to begin.

If you’ve always wanted to dabble in chemistry look no further than Homemade Nail Polish by Allison Rose Spiekermann. I’d never really considered what would go into making your own nail polish at home, but apparently it begins with a good face mask so the solvents don’t send you face-down on the work bench before you even get to the color mixing part. And speaking of colors, I learned you can use eyeshadow as a color base for nail polish and that there are many different types of glitter. Who knew?! There are sections in the back for troubleshooting and perfecting your mixes as well as tips for applying the perfect manicure and designing your own nail art. So maybe if you don’t have time to make your own nail polish you can at least set up a lavish manicure to pamper your BFF.

Do you know your away around a pair of pliers? Have you always wanted to use your butane torch on something other than crème brûlée? Then you’ll want to check out The Jewelry Maker’s Design Book: an Alchemy of Objects by Deryn Mentock of Something Sublime. The first section of the book contains descriptions of all the tools you’ll need, as well as techniques you’ll want to become familiar with before you start selecting beads. The bulk of the book, however, is packed with specific projects to help focus your efforts on a balanced and beautiful piece. I was really thrilled to see old pieces of jewelry, like brooches, used in designs for necklaces. I have a large amount of inherited jewelry that I don’t know what to do with–but now a plan is forming, and I think I like it.

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The pouches, bags, blankets, clothing, and accessories in Project Teen: Handmade Gifts Your Teen Will Actually Love by Melissa Mortenson definitely appeal to me, someone who hasn’t been a teen since The Cranberries were popular. Melissa is the genius behind The Polka Dot Chair, one of my favorite DIY blogs. Even if her book is checked out you can always hit up her blog for an amazingly creative selection of projects that range in both difficulty and time required. And, much like her book, there’s truly something for everyone. In particular, who wouldn’t want one of her Swim Bags (p.20)? The wide opening and flat bottom make this tote bag ideal for book lovers as we cart home our latest selection of library books each week.

Not ready to take up a needle and thread or put the pedal to the floor with a sewing machine? No Sew Love by Ashley Johnston of Make It, Love It is just what you need. There are 50 projects that require zero sewing and the finished products look stellar. The Fabric Wristlet Key Fob (p.122) is a cheery, practical gift that you could personalize for pretty much anyone on your gift list. The Leather Fringe Necklace (p.110) looks simple and chic enough to make for my entire gaggle of girlfriends. But the project that really has me sold is the Basic Skirt (p.130). It’s a skirt that requires no sewing, has an elastic waist, and is a decent length. Not only could I make a bunch for my friends but I could totally practice my technique on skirts for myself. Total win-win!

Bibliophiles and librarians alike will adore something from the Little Book of Book Making: Timeless Techniques and Fresh Ideas for Beautiful Handmade Books by Charlotte Rivers of Lottie Loves. From simple binds to complex fold-and-cuts, there are a wide variety of projects inside this book. You’ll not only learn the skills to bind books, but you’ll also find beautiful and sometimes quirky designs for the cover. There are also interviews with artists where you’ll find even more inspiration. The one that really caught my eye was Cathy Durso (p.84) who specializes in embroidered book covers. If you’ve ever done embroidery or know someone who has, you understand how very special this is. The cutest image of one of my favorite animals, the narwhal, is featured on the opposite page. Mom, are you reading this? I would love a book embroidered with a narwhal, please!

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Got Sharpies? I have dozens of colors at home and plan to use them all to create projects found in Make Your Mark. Before diving in, you should pay attention to the suggestions for testing your pens on different materials before you get rolling. What looks great on glass may bleed like crazy on wood. For those of you experienced at what I call free-handed doodling, you shouldn’t have any problems. People like me, however, who dream of being an artist but tend to not quite have a brain for creating patterns will enjoy the pattern templates scattered throughout the book. I’m dying to make something like the Kitchen Word Canvas (p.32) because it looks like it could be a quick, simple, and inexpensive project that will cheer the home. The best part is that it’s completely customizable, so I could make a holiday-specific one, one for a guest bedroom, and the list just goes on. The ornaments on page 52, with their stark white-and-blue color combination and modern patterns, look like something someone would have hanging in their home year-round.

No DIY or crafting post would be complete without mentioning gifts created from mason jars. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know mason jars have made a huge comeback in recent years as the popularity of home canning has grown. However, you may be unaware that there are so many cute and creative ways to use them, including as gifts. DIY Mason Jars by Melissa Averinos and Mason Jar Crafts by Lauren Elise Donaldson cover everything from soap dispensers to terrariums. I feel like these are crafty gifts that will hold up over time, as that mason jar silhouette is just simply timeless.

In fact, you should really pay attention to this terrarium idea and check out the episode of DIY Dammit where Joselyn Hughes and Tyler Oakley made these adorable and portable pieces of earth. You’ll really get a feel for the technique, as well as how important it is to keep your sense of humor whenever crafting.

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If for some reason your best-laid plants don’t come to fruition or if you have to give gifts on a large-scale, you may want to check out the Urban Craft Uprising winter show, December 6th and 7th at Seattle Center. My friends and I go every year and I usually end up buying gifts for everyone on my list (and way too many for myself). Everything at UCU is handcrafted by artists and designers, most local to the Pacific Northwest. You can support the indie craft revolution happening in your own backyard!

Now if you’ll excuse me I need to unearth my hot glue gun, spray paint, and torch. It’s gift-makin’ time, and I mean business!