5 Reasons to Read Even When You’re Crazy Busy

books

So as you all probably know, I’ve been insanely busy for the past month or so. Now that we’re finally all moved into the new house I am working like a madwoman to get ready for a craft fair on September 11th and 12th – Born in the Barn in Sheridan – which I am really looking forward to but also waaaaaaay behind in prep for!

So even when I’m really busy like I have been, I try to make reading a priority. I know that reading is not as important to most people as it is to me. I am, after all, an artist who makes primarily book related items. Nevertheless, I think reading – reading anything! Newspapers, contemporary fiction, nonfiction, the dictionary – is an important habit that all people should obtain. Here’s why.

1. Reading makes you smarter. Reading improves communication skills tenfold, and thus comprehension, conversation, and overall well-being improves as well. Kids that read statistically score higher on tests; though not as aptly tested, I’m sure the same goes for adults. I firmly believe that the reason I did so well in high school and college is because my parents urged me to read as a child, and I soon discovered on my own how much I loved it.

2. Reading keeps you grounded. Sometimes life gets so busy and stressful and complicated that delving into another story entirely helps you sort out your own junk. I find that when I don’t read for long periods of time I am more apt to let my schedule overcome me – which leads to increased stress levels. Reading, even if for only five minutes before bed, helps me figure out my problems of the day and allows me to handle everything a bit better.

3. Reading improves mood. Seriously. Even if the book you are reading is really sad, your mood will be improved by the knowledge that your life isn’t so crappy as the one you’re reading about. Reading is a way to escape into another world, and no matter which world it is you go to, you come out feeling just a little more alive.

4. Reading helps you sleep. If you read for a while before bed it helps to quiet your thoughts from the day and ease into a peaceful rest. Especially if you’re physically exhausted, a couple pages in and you’ll be sound.

5. Reading is fun. Obviously this is the most important reason. Reading is entertaining. Find the right book – something that interests you, not your coworker or the hosts on The View – and you’ll find that reading is one of the most enjoyable leisure activities in existence. And this is a good enough reason to make it a habit worth keeping.

What book/books are you currently reading? I’d love to hear about them!

Read This: Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

“Every man’s island, Jean Louise, every man’s watchman, is his conscience. There is no such thing as a collective conscious.”

IMG_3468

As with any highly anticipated sequel, there are people out there who say that Go Set A Watchman, Harper Lee’s surprising second to To Kill A Mockingbird, does not live up to expectations. I, however, disagree. This book did not disappoint, in spite of the intense adoration I’ve had for To Kill a Mockingbird since high school. Though GSAW is different than I maybe expected, and has some hard moments and a rather large dose of reality, the book really did capture the spirit of it’s predecessor, just in a more adult and mature sort of way.

IMG_3463

Jean Louise Finch (Scout) is back in Maycomb, Alabama to visit her father. She now lives in New York City and has a career – as you could have guessed from her early years depicted in TKAM, she is a very independent woman. Though she’s a big city woman now, going back to Maycomb is still like going back home – except this time she starts to notice how things are changing, and she doesn’t like it.

While focusing on her adult life, there are many new anecdotes from Jean Louise’s childhood which are charming as ever. In this way, it was almost like reading TKAM afresh, but with adult eyes. In this novel she is the woman Atticus raised her, but her hardheadedness proves to be problematic in the end. She sees the world a certain way, and when she realizes that those she loves may not see it the same way as she does, she starts to question everything she knows. The main conflict in the novel revolves around civil rights – Jean Louise, of course, believes in absolute equality among men (she is Atticus’s daughter, after all, and who was he but the man who defended a black man on a charge of rape and got him acquitted?), but she comes to find out that Henry Clinton, her long time friend and current suitor, her uncle Jack, and even her father have the stereotypical Southern beliefs that she was raised (or so she thought) to despise.

“Remember this also: it’s always easy to look back and see what we were, yesterday, ten years ago. It is hard to see what we are. If you can master that trick, you’ll get along.”

Go Set a Watchman was actually written before To Kill a Mockingbird, but when Harper Lee sent it to the publishers they suggested she pull a narrative from those childhood anecdotes and write a book set in that more innocent time. I think in many ways TKAM is a far more enduring classic (which is why it has remained popular for over fifty years, and why this new novel of Lee’s was so highly anticipated from the earlier novel’s fans), but Go Set a Watchman is a nice companion to the novel, and when reading it with TKAM in mind it is quite charming and pleasurable. I will concede that on its own, GSAW may not be a fantastic novel – most of the assertions, claims, and credibility come from knowing the characters in TKAM and thus had you not read it before digging into GSAW, the book would probably fall flat.

IMG_3466

For those who tout this novel, however, as a failed comment on race or even racist are looking at the story completely wrong. One must remember while reading it that it was written in the fifties – the way of thinking at that time was completely different from our thinking now. The novel is not supposed to be focused on segregation, the NAACP, and white supremacy, but rather on the relationship between father and daughter, and how this can change from childhood to adulthood. The thing to take away from GSAW is not that Atticus is a hateful bigot, but that Jean Louise, who had been blinded to her father’s true character by his seeming lack of error as she grew up, loves her father despite the fact that they now seem to have opposing views of the world.

So all in all, I recommend this novel if you’re a fan of To Kill a Mockingbird. If you’re not a fan of To Kill a Mockingbird, shame on you and go read it again. If you’ve never read To Kill a Mockingbird, BOO on you, go back to school, and get some culture. 🙂

IMG_3464

Read This: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

“What matters to you defines your mattering.”

IMG_3012

I’m on a John Green kick. Honestly, it seems like everything he writes I can’t put down, which is definitely how it’s been with An Abundance of Katherines.

I particularly like this book because it is humorous and highly relatable. The other John Green books I’ve read have had a mask of humor hiding a rather dark and twisty plot. This one is light-hearted, which is refreshing.

IMG_3014

An Abundance of Katherines is about a grown-up child prodigy, Colin, who has only ever dated girls named Katherines – 19 Katherines, to be exact. When he graduates from high school and gets dumped, his best friend – an overweight, funny muslim named Hassan – convinces him to go with him on a road trip, which lands them in Gutshot, Tennessee. Here, they meet a girl named Lindsey and her mom Hollis, who hires the two of them to interview factory workers for a documentary she is making.

“Here’s to all the places we went. And all the places we’ll go. And here’s to me, whispering again and again and again and again: iloveyou”

Along with interviewing the factoring workers, Colin is intent on figuring out his Theorem: a theorem to essentially predict how a relationship will turn out, based on variables like popularity, attractiveness, age, etc. Ultimately, it predicts dumpee vs dumper. (He has been dumped by every Katherine he has ever dated, which is 19 Katherines.)

He is very thorough in describing the Theorem and the math behind it, and this is probably the only type of math I’m okay with reading about. There is just an element of hilarity throughout the whole book that makes it an entertaining read. There is also, however, an underlying theme of the search for acceptance – not only in society, but acceptance of yourself: quirks, eccentricities, and all. It also goes into great depths about what it means to matter in this world, and paving your own path to importance. I definitely recommend this book if you’re in the mood for a fun, quick read.

“Books are the ultimate Dumpees: put them down and they’ll wait for you forever; pay attention to them and they always love you back.”

10 Books That Should Be Made (or Remade) Into Movies STAT

So, I’m not one of those people who obsesses over books and consequently hates their movie counterparts (I do obsess over books, but I also obsess over their movies). You know the type – they whine about book scenes left out of the movie, characters whose hair is the wrong color, music choices that seem too upbeat for the moment, etc., etc. Minutiae is what I call all of this.

IMG_2048

I love movies based off books because the movie is someone’s artistic interpretation of a novel that is already a work of art. So it’s basically turning art into more art, and who can hate that? Some of my absolute favorite movies are based off of books: The Great Gatsby (2013), Anna Karenina (2012), Pride and Prejudice (2005) (though many people fault this movie for being too “artistic”, which I think is absolutely ridiculous), Jane Eyre (2011), the Harry Potter series, Divergent (2014), and I could go on and on. When one of your favorite books becomes a movie it’s just adding to the magic of the story – it’s like the book will never truly end, and that is a special thing. There are many other books I have been anxiously waiting to become movies though, so if any of you reading this are movie producers…GET ON IT! Note that a few of these books are already movies. I know, I know, but honestly, some things just deserve to be updated.

1. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. This short novel would make an awesome movie, no doubt about it. I know that not a lot of people know about it, but that definitely shouldn’t be a reason for its absence in the big screen world. Ethan Frome has poignant themes and stark imagery – perfect for translating to movie. Ethan is stuck in a marriage to a sick, cold, and bitter woman, but when a young Mattie Silver enters his world (hired by his wife to help keep the house) it’s like he’s seen spring again. So they start an affair, and we all know that movies about affairs are too juicy to resist.

IMG_2261

2. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I know that the 1939 version of this movie is still highly regarded and loved, but to quote the famous line “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” I think that the strides we’ve come in cinema and technology could make an absolutely amazing version of this timeless saga. Joe Wright, this one’s for you. Scarlett O’Hara’s trying and inspiring survival through the Civil War and Reconstruction is a story that should be told again.

IMG_2542
Gone With the Wind Bookmark by Peels and Posies on Etsy, $6

3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. There are a few versions of this movie available, but like Gone With the Wind, I think major things could be done for this story. Imagine Baz Luhrmann directing it – it could be a masterpiece. Wuthering Heights is a dark, twisted love story, which is what people want to see! Cathy and Heathcliffe love each other deeply, but are too selfish to do anything about it, so they end up simply destroying everything around them. So full of heartache and tribulation and beautiful images of the moors, what could be a better movie than this?

IMG_2991

4. House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. Honestly, I think every Edith Wharton book should become a movie because I love them so much. House of Mirth would be great on film because the story of Lily Bart is so relatable, heart-breaking, and tragic. When a strong character is the center of a story, you know it’s going to be a fantastic movie.

IMG_1986
House of Mirth Bookmark by Peels and Posies on Etsy, $7

5. The Wrinkle in Time Quintet by Madeleine L’Engle. Take a hint from Narnia – this classic childrens’ series needs to be made into a  series of movies. While I obviously hope that children will continue reading the series through the ages rather than skipping the books for the movies, I think movies could do the series a service. Because Narnia has been made into a couple of movies, kids know about the series and are more interested; I could see the same thing happening with The Time Quintet. The series is based on the Murry children, who are the children of scientists and are intelligent young things. They are forced to grow up quickly as they find their world in danger from evil forces in parallel universes.

IMG_2993

6. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I cannot believe that this hasn’t been made into a movie recently. Sci-fi always has a huge following, especially when it hits the big screen, it seems, and this story deserves a rank among the best. It’s about a future society that has banned all reading material and is simply obsessed with technology (sound a little familiar?). The story focuses on the firemen, whose job is to keep fires at 451 degrees – the temperature that burns paper. When Guy Montag, a fireman and the main character, meets Clarisse McClellan, a girl who loves people, nature, and simplicity, his eyes are opened to possibility that destroying the practice of reading might not be so good after all.

IMG_1523
Fahrenheit 451 Bookmark by Peels and Posies on Etsy, $7

7. Any Agatha Christie books. I love the old Agatha Christie movie renditions – so debonair, so classic! – but I think we need a couple new ones. Maybe directed by Wes Anderson. Kind of like how they redid Sherlock Holmes except more quirky and less dark. Those would make for great movies. Agatha Christie basically invented the modern mystery story, so all of her books are pretty flawless. My personal favorites: Death on the Nile, And Then There Were None, and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

IMG_2997

8. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. This is a new favorite for me, and I think it would make a really cute movie. It would fall into the ranks of movies like The Spectacular Now or the Fault in Our Stars; a deep-feeling story about the inner lives of teenagers muddling through this weird world of ours. What I like about Stargirl is that it is optimistic – not many movies about teens are, these days. Stargirl is a quirky, individualistic, fantastic character, one who refuses to back down and disappear into the realm of social norms and peer pressure. With the beautiful Arizona setting and the humorous tone, Stargirl would make a wonderful movie.

IMG_0543

9. Macbeth by Shakespeare. I’m sure there are lots of versions of this on film, but I really think a Tim Burton version needs to happen. With the witches and the potions and the crazy wife and the murder…it would be a thriller no one would soon forget.

IMG_1534
Macbeth Bookmark by Peels and Posies on Etsy, $7

10. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. This book. So dark and funny and twisted and weird. The perfect setting for a movie. Another option for Tim Burton or Baz Luhrmann. It takes place in this huge house with this messed up family, the Blackwoods. As the story progresses, you discover that this family has a very dark past – a past of poisoned sugar on the blackberries one  night six years ago at family dinner. Only three of the Blackwoods are left, and two are seriously impaired. The narrator, Merricat, seems the most likely culprit, but was it her? See how perfect this movie would be?!?

IMG_2995

So these are my top ten choices for books that need movie counterparts ASAP. What about you? What books would you like to see made into movies? Leave your opinions in the comments!

PS: If you’re curious about these books, I’ve got more in-depth reviews on a few:

House of Mirth

Stargirl

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

To Read: House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

re

Edith Wharton will always be my favorite author. That being said, I am rather ashamed it took me so long to read her first and most acclaimed novel, The House of Mirth. Part of me was afraid that it wouldn’t live up to the high standards the world of classic literature has given it. Now that I’ve actually read it, I can assure myself and everyone else that there was no disappointment to be had.

IMG_20150111_175832

Joy and laugher are lacking in this book, which is perhaps shocking to those who do not know Wharton and did not pick up on the irony of the title. Mrs. Wharton has a knack for throwing her characters into a harsh and judgmental landscape, and it is no different for Lily Bart, the protagonist of the novel.

Though without money herself, Lily plays a leading role in 1900s New York high society, essentially existing off the sumptuous charity of friends. Her mother, long since gone, raised her to abhor dinginess and poverty, and since she is not rich, has made it her goal in life to capture a rich husband. In trying to attain this goal, she ends up sacrificing her beliefs, morals, and reputation; in the end, she has nothing to show for her life except debt.

The saddest part about Lily’s steady decline into deprivation is that she had a chance at true love but squandered it. Lily has a hold on Lawrence Selden’s heart from the very beginning of the novel; his love, in a sense, becomes the antagonist, because her life’s purpose is to snare a wealthy husband but the man who loves her and whom she loves is not rich. “The only way I can help you is by loving you,” Selden tells Lily in an early fit of passion. Though she finds herself on many occasions craving his love, she turns from it again and again – but not because she is cruel or selfish. She is fastened in a vicious cycle that she cannot escape from, one of ritual, social mores, and maintaining reputation.

IMG_20150111_180320

Lily and her chance at happiness are always circling but never meeting. Cruel circumstance and haughty breeding have doomed her, and in the end this ruins not only Lily herself, but the few who love her as well.

The House of Mirth is a great book to curl up with and enjoy in these harsh winter months, and though it is not a happy read it comes highly recommended. It is the kind of story that you simply cannot let go of for a while.

IMG_20150111_180230

I have tried hard – but life is difficult, and I am a very useless person. I can hardly be said to have an independent existence. I was just a screw or a cog in the great machine called life, and when I dropped out of it I found I was no use anywhere else. What can one do when one finds out that one only fits into one hole? One must go back to it or be thrown out into the rubbish heap – and you don’t know what it’s like in the rubbish heap!

The Old House: A Tragic Tale About House Mice

DSCN6186So I had a bit of a breakdown this weekend.

Grant and I live in a rental house that is approximately 100 years old. With living in a house this old, I have had to face and grow used to all sorts of crawly things. Until this weekend, in fact, I was very proud of myself – I have become a master wasp killer (sometimes I have to assassinate up to 6 a day in the house), I am no longer fazed by the giant hairy spiders that blend in so well to our outdated brown carpet, and I don’t freak out so much about rollie-pollies on the rugs. Insect realm – dominated. So suffice it to say, I never expected the absolute frenzy I went into when I discovered that a band of mice had not only moved in under my kitchen sink, but had found their way into my kitchen drawers as well. My kitchen drawers that contain all my cooking necessities. My kitchen drawers which hold silverware, spatulas, can openers, etc etc!!!

Of course, I didn’t discover this misfortune until after dinner on Friday. I was washing dishes and noticed a chunk had been taken out of the silicone spatula I had just been using to flip quesadillas. I took a closer look and with much squinting saw that this missing chunk was the result of tiny teeth. Mouse teeth. So I cautiously opened the drawer where the spatula came from and saw what I feared the most – droppings. Everywhere. I tore open the rest of the drawers and they were ALL CONTAMINATED!

I seriously almost died.

The only thing I could think for about fifteen minutes were the words “Bubonic Plague.” After the shock wore off a bit, Grant and I ran to town to get DeCon and mouse traps and of course a little frozen yogurt to temper the surprise of it all.

The next day I got busy scouring every inch of the kitchen. My mania reached its culmination when I started questioning the viability of the dish soap I was using and wondering if it was worse to ingest mouse poop or Lysol.

When it was all said and done we did catch two mice (and somehow, after all the terror they put me through, I was still saddened by the sight of their limp little feet) and my kitchen is cleaner than it ever has been. Neither Grant nor I have contracted the Bubonic Plague, either, which is a good sign, I think.

Living in an old house has its ups and downs, but ultimately, I wouldn’t change it for a thing. There is character here, and the creaking floors, holes in the sideboards, and cracks in the walls are merely reminders that we aren’t the only ones who have lived here, that there are stories in these walls.

“She lay for a long time listening to the mysterious sounds given forth by old houses at night, the undefinable creakings, rustlings, and sighings…which sounded like the long murmur of the past breaking on the shores of a sleeping world.”
― Edith Wharton, The Buccaneers

Book Recommendation: Looking for Alaska by John Green

 DSCN7758

No, this book is not about someone with really poor geography skills. Looking for Alaska by John Green is a harrowing coming of age story that centrals around Alaska Young, a beautiful, emotionally troubled teen.

DSCN7747

The story begins when the narrator, a boy called Pudge (Miles Halter), decides to discover his “Great Perhaps” (from the last words of Francois Rabelais) and leave his normal high school to go to a prestigious boarding school in Alabama. Though Culver Creek is not at all as extravagant as he had expected, he does end up grasping that elusive Great Perhaps when he becomes close friends with Alaska (the girl for whom he also has incorrigible feelings), his boisterous roommate The Colonel, a boy called Takumi, and a girl named Lara. And when a tragedy hits their friend group, they don’t let it destroy them, but rather grow even closer because of it.

I’ve got to say, I’m rather impressed by John Green. The first book I read by him was The Fault in Our Stars, which was really good, but – I felt – a little flat in terms of characters. The themes were rich and thought-provoking, but it seemed like all the characters had the same brain stuffed in different bodies. Looking for Alaska, on the other hand, does not have this problem. All the characters are elaborately unique: The Colonel, a short, poor boy with a huge brain and an even huger heart, Miles Halter, a timid boy who never had friends until getting to boarding school, Alaska Young, a girl so troubled by her past that she’s let herself become entangled in a sticky web of suffering, and even the secondary characters are full of life.

DSCN7753

“I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was hurricane.”

What is really fascinating about this book is that everything and everyone in it is brutally honest – there is no sugarcoating. These kids aren’t the image of perfection – they make a plethora of mistakes, including but not limited to drinking, smoking, and hooking up (“But there was so much to do: cigarettes to smoke, sex to have, swings to swing on. I’ll have more time for reading when I’m old and boring.”) – and they know that what they are doing isn’t necessarily on the straight and narrow. Nevertheless, their knowing rebellion is refreshing, and I found myself rooting for them in spite of it all. Furthermore, with their honesty in regard to their own actions also comes an honesty in their way of looking at the world – they are not blinded by what others of their age, perhaps, are.

“What is an ‘instant’ death anyway? How long is an instant? Is it one second? Ten? The pain of those seconds must have been awful as her heart burst and her lungs collapsed and there was no air and no blood to her brain and only raw panic. What the hell is instant? Nothing is instant. Instant rice takes five minutes, instant pudding an hour. I doubt that an instant of blinding pain feels particularly instantaneous.”

This novel delves into some really deep issues about life, death, love, and friendship. If you feel like a quick read with some profound themes, I definitely suggest this one.

DSCN7755

“Alaska finished her cigarette and flicked it into the river.

‘Why do you smoke so damn fast?’ I asked.

She looked at me and smiled widely, and such a wide smile on her narrow face might have looked goofy were it not for the unimpeachably elegant green in her eyes. She smiled with all the delight of a kid on Christmas morning and said, ‘Y’all smoke to enjoy it. I smoke to die.”

Divergent: A Series Worth Reading

Divergent Brooch by Peels and Posies on Etsy
Divergent Brooch by Peels and Posies on Etsy

As a bibliophile and an avid reader, I know I shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover. However, sometimes the artist in me judges in spite of it all. Recently, I discovered the err in my ways. A couple of years ago, my mom gave me one of the ugliest contemporary novels I’ve seen in a while – a cliche ring of fire, dark city scape, rolling clouds – and urged me to read it. I thought Divergent was about robots or some other sci-fi theme I don’t typically want to immerse myself in, and so I let it gather dust on my bookshelf.

However at the beginning of the year I decided to finally pick the book up (after seeing the movie trailer which piqued my interest), and I am so so glad I did.

The Divergent series consists of three books in which the narrator, Tris Prior, grows up in her identity – both what society marks her as and what she marks herself as. The series takes place in a post-apocolyptic Chicago, where the citizens are divided into five factions, based on their primary character quality: Abnegation (Tris’s starting faction), for the selfless; Dauntless (Tris’s chosen faction), for the brave; Amity, for the peaceful; Erudite, for the intelligent; and Candor, for the honest.

Divergent Hair Pins by Peels and Posies on Etsy
Divergent Hair Pins by Peels and Posies on Etsy

The pivotal issue in the story is that it is not in man’s nature to be just one thing, and Tris Prior must grapple with not only her own inner stuggles, but with her broken society as well.

This series has an extremely engaging plot and relatable characters. I highly recommend both the books and the movie (but obviously, read the books first!).

Check out this Divergent-inspired gift guide I put together. For the complete collection, follow this link.

divergentgift guide copy

1. Carnival Photography by Carolyn Cochrane on Etsy, $30 // 2. Teal Constellations Print by Elise Mahan Fine Art on Etsy, $12 // 3. Be Brave Pillow by Belles and Ghosts on Etsy, $36 // 4. Be Brave Inspirational Print by Sweet Peony Press on Etsy, $10 // 5. Black Air Plant Pod by The Yarn Kitchen on Etsy, $21 // 6. Black Gothic Fairy Tale Crown by Neesie Designs on Etsy, $17 // 7. Bird Cake Topper Set by Ross Lab on Etsy, $28 // 8. Eye Moon Original Drawing by The Micromentalist on Etsy, $84 // 9. Grab Life Painting by Messy Bed Studio on Etsy, $99

Visit My Etsy Shop, Peels and Posies! Now OPEN.

I had a striking realization the other day, the kind that sort of makes your stomach twist in knots and feel ashamed of the day you said you’d ever do anything worthwhile/graduated college/heard your parents say they were proud of you. Here it is – I make excuses. The kind veiled by logic so they sound relevant. You know – well, I haven’t done such and such because I work all the time. Or I haven’t actually opened my Etsy shop because I’ve been making stuff for it. Well, I could keep making stuff alllll the time, but the bottom line is that I have to open someday. And that day is today!

peelsandposiespostcard-01

Peels and Posies is a shop devoted to hand-made, whimsical home decor, the kind that I would want (and consequently have) in my own home. Everything I make has been inspired by either books, woodland creatures, flowers, or food. So essentially, it’s all just a conglomeration of the things I love most. And I feel like there are others like me out there.

One of the nice things about my shop is that most of my products are made from recycled materials like cardboard, egg cartons, fabric scraps, etc etc. Ties in nicely with my Consider the Peel theme, eh? Wink wink.

I will make custom orders, and if you are interested in contacting me separate from my shop for independent contractual work (for paintings, family crests, individualized home decor, etc.) just email me and we can sort something out. Hope you enjoy perusing my work!

😉 Here are a few samples of what I do:

DSCN3609DSCN3691peelsandposies_product-badge

The deliciously dapper deer graphics are designed by the ever talented Mickenzie Robbins. View her profile here.