I do not know who Elena Ferrante is – nor does anyone for that matter – but she has written a series of novels that have latched into my heart and brain and will stay there. Like other characters in books that I love, the characters are what stay with me. If a writer can create a story around people who you forget are fictional, they have done a great job indeed.

I am not one to retell the plot in my reviews. Instead I like to get right into it.

First of all, the covers. They always say not to judge a book by its cover and honestly I judged these and judged them hard. I’ve seen them in my local bookstore many times, but skipped over them because, frankly, they look like boring Chick-Lit. Not that there is anything wrong with Chick-Lit – I used to be a huge Emily Giffin fan in my early 20s – but it is not a genre I enjoy anymore because I can never relate to or sympathize with the characters.  With these covers I assumed that they would be fluff, written about women who are cliche and lead boring lives.

I was way wrong.

I had heard a few podcasts mention how great these were but I was skeptical. Finally, while visiting someone in Ohio, I stopped off at an independent bookshop determined to buy something to lend my support. I saw “My Brilliant Friend” (Book 1)  on display in the center of the store. As my husband tried to rush me out, I thought, “Why not?” I took it to the register and walked out with the book in hand. It took me a few weeks to begin reading it and once I did I couldn’t stop.

I read the first three novels back-to-back with other shorter books in between. I did not start on the fourth right away because I wanted to savor the last book, these characters and the story Ferrante weaved.

The characters are flawed in a very real way. Every single person you feel like you could know or have known, could be a neighbor or even someone in your own family. Hell, they could even be yourself.  I found myself rooting for and against every character, even the “bad guys.” In my opinion there were no good or bad guys. There were, of course, more obvious bad guys but when it came down to the root of the story, everyone was trying to survive the best way they knew how and the only way they knew how.

They all embarked on lives, careers, marriages, and parenthood in a way that is honest.  People fall on hard times, people grow apart and back together, marriages happen out of convenience or out of trying to escape. We have all had a friend we loved but also hated, felt safe with and feared, celebrated yet resented.  We’ve all idolized people or a life we long for, the what-could-have-beens and the what-should-have -beens.

This book has all of those things and so much more.

The Neapolitan Novels are not filled with jaw-dropping moments (although, I admit, I did at least once), I doubt anyone will cry their eyes out. I also believe that these are autobiographical novels…. But what will capture you are how real these people and their stories are. The plot is not one that is a “what happens next!” kind but somehow Ferrante kept me engaged so deeply that I felt I was in Naples, Italy growing up along side Lila and Elena. I felt their pain, their loss, their struggles, their joys, their lust, their anger…all of it.

When I read the last pages and last sentences, I felt like I had experienced an entire life. In fact, these novels span and entire lifetime from a very young age to old age. I’ve read a few books like this (most recently “Panchinko”) but none have done it so successfully as these novels. They are deep and engaging.

If you are looking for a real, gritty, honest set of novels about two female friends and their lifetime together, this is for you. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

to my favorite yoga pants.

I was inspired to ditch these much loved, much adored, much used yoga pants by Kacy Paide of The Inspired Office. Her series on minimalism goes through a items one by one and explains why it is time to part ways. If she can part with 31 items, I can too.

I am not someone who has a tough time tossing things.  In fact, in 2016 I got all of my keepsakes down to a single box. [Read about it here!] Where my issue is when something has to be replaced when I feel like what I have is good enough. And replacing something you love so much is a challenge. Each time I’ve tried, I’ve talked myself out of the purchase because the pants could see just one more day…or one more week. OK, another month.

Last night, I made the executive decision my yoga pants must move on and I from them.

 

Image result for victoria's secret classic yoga pant

It started a few months ago. The in seam started to separate and I sewed them up. I’m not a great sewer so it is not sightly. These pants have been splattered with vacuum cleaner dust. They have had face wash dropped on them. Toothpaste, dog slobber, and I am sure some coffee has made its way on to the fabric at some point. They have been washed and washed and washed. I love them and keep them because they are so soft and so comfortable! They are well-worn to say the least.

Last night my husband noticed the poor sew-job on the inseam. He pointed to the exposed loops – yes loopS – and laughed. Then, last night, I went to pump out some of my face wash and a huge spray of it squirted right onto them. It is a gel cleanser so it got right in. I wiped them down with a wet rag in an attempt to salvage them for the night, but alas…. I decided it was time.

So goodbye, discontinued Victoria’s Secret classic yoga pant. We’ve spent a lot of good times together and a lot more messy times. It is time for us to part ways. Thanks for the memories….

Hello Readers!

The last quarter of 2016 was an odd one for me and I did not do much reading at all. I had lost my passion for it – along with other things – due to reasons I’d rather not discuss on the internet. ha!  Let’s just say I was taken out and lost a lot of the joy I usually find in many things. I am back to it and in January I culled my To Be Read (TBR) list and decided to begin the Re-Read Project to ignite the bookworm in me once again.

All 3 below are so different from each other and makes for great, diverse reading.

As a bonus, queued up is :

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania It is a story that many of us think we know but don’t, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly, switching between hunter and hunted while painting a larger portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era. 

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The 3 Books I am Excited to Read

Sleeping Giants (Themis Files #1)

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth…But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand

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Girl Waits with Gun (Kopp Sisters, #1)

When the sheriff enlists her help in convicting the men, Constance is forced to confront her past and defend her family — and she does it in a way that few women of 1914 would have dared.  

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Pachinko

follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan.

I must admit, Christmas is not my favorite of holidays. There I said it.

Image result for comfort and joy

I am more of a Thanksgiving and Fourth of July kind of lady.  The biggest reason why is because there is so much comfort, joy, and excitement buzzing around and then come January 2nd – or whatever work/school day follows – the magic in the air fizzles and vanishes, never to return until next year. So many of us forget that comfort and joy should be with us all year! Why reserve it for 25 days out of the year? It got me thinking what brings me comfort and what brings me joy throughout the year.

 

Below are just 3 of my seasonal comforts throughout the year. What are yours?

 

WINTER COMFORTS

  • Homemade soups
  • Leggings and sweaters as lounge wear
  • Dinners and Gatherings with family & friends

SPRING COMFORTS

  • Opening the windows in the house for fresh, spring air
  • The end of daylight savings time – Spring forward!
  • The start of baseball season

SUMMER COMFORTS

  • Cookouts
  • Ceiling fans
  • The option for my hair to air dry

FALL COMFORTS

  • Backyard firepits
  • Root vegetables
  • The scents of cinnamon, cloves, pumpkin….

Not to sound cliche, but this Fall has been one of transitions. At the end of September, there were some things churning in my brain and spirit craving a reformation. I hit a point of feeling like a failure and without any map to tell me how to get out of the detour.  And I did what I usually do: [pit]bulldoze past it on the outside, but on the inside there was a nagging voice, tugging at my heart saying, “There’s got to be more…”

After a few weeks of trying to ignore that voice thinking it wasn’t worth listening to, I had an intervention with myself. I signed up for an 8-week Mindfulness & Stress Reduction Class, I set out a goal to find a new job by December 31st, to really take my meditation seriously, in order to get out of this funk. One of the sources of my funk was being turned down for a role with my company. I was told I was perfect in every aspect but missing a key piece of experience.  Needless to say, I was bummed. My goal of December 31st was ripped out from under me and I had to redirect. After about 2 weeks of that usual self-pitty, I picked myself up and kept going.

I dedicated more effort to my mindfulness practice – on and off the cushion or yoga mat – and really worked hard to know and believe that being turned down for this role was opening the door to another. That my “job” was to be happy.

A few days later I got a call from a person within the company who I was working with on a project. He said he suggested me to another person for an open role. After 3 interviews and a lesson in patience, I am happy to report I was offered another, even better position at my current company that I start December 16th.

Which leads me to my first favorite; Kundalini Meditation and Yoga. I did the following meditation every day for 40-days and it really helped me mentally. It wasn’t about me “getting something” but more about getting to feeling good in general. I highly suggest you try it. It is only 11 minutes and I swear you will feel so much better.

Image result for sa ta na ma meditation instructions

 

Speaking of Feeling Better, I also listened to the reading of Just Be Glad. This was written and published in 1912. Here is the audio reading that I used. It is so inspiring and reminds you that “all things gather where life is a song.”

 

As the 40-day Kirtan Kriya came to a close, I wanted more. I searched and found some excellent You Tube channels and play lists of Kundalini Yoga. Below are my current favorites. I am doing the 40-day program with Kundalini Lounge: along with Kimilla’s.  Both are excellent!

On another note, in 2016 I discovered the phenomenon of Minimalism and Simple Living. Now, I’m not a huge fan of the empty room, white walls and all white furniture, dishes and rugs, but I do love the idea of only keeping what you love and keeping a clean open space. It’s more of the lifestyle rather than the decor that I like so much. With that I have culled my makeup routine down to 4 steps. Yes, four.

my favorite foundation is IT Cosmetics CC cream and the powder to set. i’ve been using this since early this year and it is by far the best I have ever tried!

Image result for it cosmetics cc creamImage result for it cosmetics cc+ airbrush perfecting powder spf50+Image result for it cosmetics airbrush brush

 

 

What are your current favorites?