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How to read and enjoy more books this year - Kohler Created

How to read (and enjoy) more books

By | Books | No Comments

How to read and enjoy more books this year - Kohler Created

I’ve received the question of how I read so many books from several friends, so I thought I’d do a little post about it. It’s no secret that I love to read, and next to CrossFit it’s probably my most passionate hobby and has been for a long time.

I don’t remember specifically when I started loving books so much, but I know it came early and that my parents were definitely integral. I was read to early and often and trips to the library were very much routine and consistent. I remember doing the Book-It program in school, and entering reading contests that I won on occasion. Books were also a lifeline on our family vacations because, in those days, there were no cell phones or in-car DVD players, not that my parents would have bought one anyhow.

How to read (and enjoy) more books - Kohler Created

At some point, I started carrying books like most kids carry security blankets, and I still do. I have a book with me wherever I go, even movie theaters. And while I wouldn’t expect any of you to take on my book as security blanket habit, there are some other habits I have that allow me to cover 40+ books a year. So here are a few of my tips!

Set a reading goal or intention

It doesn’t have to be formal or yearly, you can set smaller goals, the key is to make them SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound). For me, I just focus on trying to read at least two chapters of something every day and finish at least 3 books every month. GoodReads has a great feature to set goals, so definitely check it out.

Make a booklist and plan your reads

I find some of the biggest motivation to read a book is the book I want to read next. I have a HUGE list of books on GoodReads and I’m constantly adding to it from podcasts I listen to or people I follow on social media. You can also easily create a lists on Pinterest, your local library’s website or through Amazon wish lists (they can integrate with GoodReads now).

Block out/carve time where reading works best

Have 30 minutes before you fall asleep every night? Subway commute? Time between classes? Find little consistent nooks of time and they will add up fast!

How to read (and enjoy) more books - Kohler Created

Read multiple books at once

Some people legitimately can’t do this and I totally understand. But one of the ways I keep it fresh and moving along is reading multiple books at once. That way you can jump into whatever book fits your mood at the moment. I typically have one non-fiction and 1-2 fiction books going at once, but it just depends on the book.

How to read (and enjoy) more books - Kohler Created

Find a format that agrees with you

What a world we live in that we can even have this luxury. It took me a while, but I finally do really well with electronic books, and now enjoy books (often concurrently) in both formats. I typically read traditional books during the day and pop the Kindle open at night after KK falls asleep. I’ve done a few audiobooks, but I find they are difficult to pay attention to if I want to do other things. I prefer podcasts for that.

Make it social

Read with friends, in a book club, with your spouse, as a family, or just connect with others who are reading books you are into. Social media applications like GoodReads, Pinterest, Amazon, or just a Google spreadsheet make this ridiculously easy to do. I also have connected with a ton of book-lovers via Instagram through the Explore option.

In the end, the most important part of all this is that you’re reading, learning and ENJOYING it whatever your goals or current reads are. Thank you for letting me share my love of reading with you!

Have any reading tips? How do you fit reading into your daily life?

Our Summer Reading List

By | Books, Jessica, Neil | 10 Comments

Nook Color

I have been looking forward to summer for no other reason than reading something, anything, that has nothing to do with work or school. I’m embarrassed to say that the last time I was able to get through a book was Christmas. It’s shameful, but impossible to avoid it seems. I feel like there is always something practical I should be reading. A design tutorial or new coding language, an industry publication, basically anything I feel will improve my skills or help me professionally. It’s a vicious cycle because, while no one would argue that it’s good to work hard and be successful and always strive to be better, sometimes it’s necessary to just, …be. To do something just because it feels good and makes me happy.

Enter my Precious Nook. It’s a book hoarder’s dream! I’ve always been the type to tuck books into my purse (even when I know it won’t get a chance to read them), and now I carry no less than fifty titles with me everywhere I go. And I’m constantly downloading more, it’s like crack. Neil’s taken quite a fancy to it too, and has requested a few downloads as well. With so many choices, it’s all too easy to end up reading multiple books at once. So what are we reading this summer?

Summer Reading

  1. After reading Nasty Bits, I added every title by Anthony Bourdain to my reading list. Neil and I both love his writing style and his sense of humor. Since I started kind of in middle, I thought it best that we go back to the beginning with Kitchen Confidential. Look how young he looks!
  2. I bought StiegLarsson’sThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo before getting the Nook and have subsequently downloaded the whole group. I’m about one-fourth of the way through the first one, and I have to admit, I’m finding it a little slow to get into. Everyone says that will change soon, and I hope so because everyone seems to rave about the series and I’d hate to burn through the whole series and disagree (I wasn’t much a fan of the Twilight series — sorry Rach!).
  3. As a relatively new runner, people are constantly telling me to read Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run, so it was one of the first titles I picked up. I can’t wait to start. Hopefully it gives me a little more motivation, as I’d love running to stop feeling like a chore and more like a treat.
  4. We’re saving The Yosemite by John Muir for a backpacking trip, but can’t wait to read about his travels in the high Sierra. I have no doubt it will leave me feeling inspired.
  5. The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power probably necessitates some explaining, but all I (Jessica) can really say is that I’m totally entranced by religious fundamentalism, especially when it comes to social issues and family structure. I’m weird like that?
  6. We picked up A. Lincoln: A Biography off of someone else’s reading list. I’m a U.S. History junkie, and I always love how presidents came to be presidents.
  7. After reading I, Elizabeth: A Novel, I picked up one of Phillipa Gregory’s most popular titles, The Red Queen. It’s safe to say that I’m more than a little Monarchy-obsessed, especially anything to do with the Tudors.
  8. I actually know very little about The Last Chinese Chef. I downloaded it on a whim because the reviews caught my eye, and I wanted something food-related that was deeper than a cookbook, something along the lines of Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life, which I enjoyed immensely last year.
  9. Although it’s at the bottom of this list, I’ve already dived into the pages The Lost Dog’s. Being that our little Clive-o is a rescue himself,  the tragedy and amazing recovery of Michael Vick’s dogs was a must-start-now read.

It’s a pretty random assortment isn’t it? Will we get through all of these books? I’m not sure yet. I’ve come to realize this week that we have unwittingly packed my summer schedule to the gills. In addition to moving, home projects, freelance work and all the fun stuff we’ve planned, I accepted a new job offer on Monday. I’ll be a Digital Marketing Specialist for the University’s online education program! I’m very excited, but hoping I’ll make it out of the next three weeks alive.

What’s on your summer reading list? Have any recent reads you’d recommend?

Meeting Ree Drummond – Pioneer Woman Book Signing (St. Louis Edition)

By | blogging, Books, Cool Stuff, Food, Jessica | 11 Comments

Pioneer Woman Book Signing

I’ve been squealing online for weeks about the Pioneer Woman book signing that happened in St. Louis over the weekend. I’m not a crazed PW fan or anything, but when your freelance and grad school ambitions keep you from getting out much (read: keep you from getting out at all), you tend to get excited by almost anything out of the norm. I’m wearing clean socks today!

My best friends (Anja, Rachel and Liz) and I decided to make a FULL weekend of it, so we booked a hotel room and made the two-hour (five hours for Rachel and her friend Allison, that’s dedication) drive to St. Louis. Somewhere on that car ride we became the CIA, hell-bent on stalking our target and being FIRST in line. Nothing is worse than a book talk/signing and being the last in line and in the back. So after scoping out our target, the St. Louis Public Library, we grabbed lunch and headed back to what we thought would be no line.

We weren’t first. We were somewhere in the area of 30-35th in line.

Fail.

Apparently in the midst of our relaxed mall Mexican-fusion lunch and our sidetrack to Williams-Sonoma, we’d been compromised and beat to the punch by some really insanely loyal fans. I’m talking people bringing at least five books and a gift. A gift!? I thought that was a little strange. Don’t get me wrong, if Eddie Vedder showed up for a book signing, I’d bring a gift (the gift of ME. Sorry honey, celebrity encounter rule!), but it just seemed a bit, I don’t know, over the top? I’m not talking about trinkets either, I’m talking gift baskets. Google “Pioneer Woman Book Signing St. Louis, I dare you. She even apparently has haters, but I won’t even go there.

Pioneer Woman Book Signing

So after waiting two hours in line, we finally filed into the library, conveniently cleared of patrons and lined with more chairs than I could capture with the camera.

Pioneer Woman Book Signing

Pioneer Woman Book Signing

Look at the scowl on that woman’s face. I’m thinking she wasn’t so amused by my charm. Or my huge camera lens.

Pioneer Woman Book Signing

The talk didn’t actually go that long, I think the people who weren’t there for the signing were kind of peeved. She was very shy and seemingly still baffled by her fame. She answered a few questions, and fielded a few to her husband, Marlboro Man, who had tagged along. Rachel was so impressed that they had driven to St. Louis because it meant they drove through Springfield to get there. In the true spirit of being Neil’s wife, I was just wondering what they had driven.

After the talk, they released us in groups to get our books signed. Here are the girls waiting after Marlboro Man had signed our books. I swear I saw an old lady try to cop a feel. Apparently his reverse side is quite famous?

Pioneer Woman Book Signing

Pioneer Woman Book Signing

This girl is smug because she was first in line.

Pioneer Woman Book Signing

And Rach…

Pioneer Woman Book Signing

And all of us…

Pioneer Woman Book Signing

And ME!

Pioneer Woman Book Signing

Our signed copy.

In case you’re wondering, no, I haven’t read the book, Black Heels and Tractor Wheels, yet. It looks good, and it’s an incredibly gorgeous looking book. It’s even beautiful beneath the jacket it if any of you true bookworms decide to take a look. I typically save these books for travelling, and the next time that looks to be happening is June, though I might try to sneak some reading in here or there before then if I can manage it.

I had so much fun going to this event, for more reasons than just having the opportunity to meet Ree. Maybe some of you can relate, but I feel like blogging is sometimes the more socially acceptable alternative to being a Trekkie. Despite the fact that the Internet is so mainstream, there still seems to be a stigma surrounding those who meet, operate businesses and socialize online.

Maybe it’s because so much of my life and occupation involve technology, but I just don’t get it. I’ve met and maintained my best relationships online (including with Neil), and operate a business that has exploded over the past year because of Twitter and this blog. Some of my family and friends think I’m a bit strange for blogging, etc. but at events like this, everyone has a huge camera and a netbook, and you knew in an instant that they were there doing the same thing as you, and it’s thrilling! I don’t say it enough but thank you so much for continuing to read and watch us grow, and for giving us a community to feel a part of.

So on that note, are you reading any good books lately?

Ever Take a Cooking Hiatus?

By | Books, Misc., Movies, Relocation | 8 Comments

Fruit Salad and Lettuce Salad

Ever go on a cooking hiatus? We’ve been on a bit of an unexpected one this week. I’ve had yearly planning meetings at work, and what I thought would be the perfect amount of food (you know, based on those standard FDA portion sizes) ended up being wishful thinking. The portion sizes were HUGE, leaving us with tons of leftovers. My boss and I have been splitting them up, and for the whole of this week we’ve subsided on two tubs of fruit and mixed greens salad.

I feel like I’ve been on a surprise detox, and I have to tell you, I feel GREAT! Sure, I’m getting a little burnt out on salad greens, but the fruit can keep on keepin’ on as far as I’m concerned. I could do this all the time, although I am very much missing our kitchen adventures. We’ll be back this weekend, promise – with bread!

How was your Valentine’s Day? Ours was fairly low key. We had work all day, then took Clive for a long car ride, ordered our favorite pizza and watched Inception. Have you seen it? We thought it was pretty awesome, though not as good as all the hype made it out to be. I think I was expecting more twists and turns in the plot? What did you think?

Nook Color

Nook Color

My V-Day/early birthday gift from Neil: A new Nook Color! I’ve been completely obsessed with downsizing my enormous book collection (see just a piece of it here) in preparation to move, and I think this is the perfect way to do it without sacrificing my book fetish. I’m finally going to read the Harry Potter Series, among a ton of other books. They all feel right at my fingertips, I feel so powerful! Okay, maybe not. But I will be beyond happy if I didn’t have to move all those books again.

Weekend Recap: Hampered by the “Blegh” and the “Creeping Crud”

By | Books, Jessica, Local Food, Neil, Rant, restaurants | 3 Comments

New Book

Good crud-time reading this weekend. I’m just getting around to this one…

Neil and I have words for everything. We’re geeky gamers, and par for course we also work in IT, never see sunlight, and have little exposure to people and their germs—short of going to the gym and out to dinner once a week.

So if someone comes to work sick, we might as well lick toilet seats, because we’re going to get it. And boy did we ever get the Creeping Crud, as Neil calls it. Early Sunday morning I woke up feeling like an eighty year-old who had been hit by a bus. I laid down on the bathroom floor (a childhood habit when I was sick) and didn’t leave till noon. Neil came down with it soon after, and we rotated in and out of the bathroom. We camped out on the couch and tried to work, but apparently our strain of crud causes brain damage because even watching movies was completely arduous.

Diet of the sick

Neil managed to drag his corpse into work today for his first day at his new job, and I’m here trying to shake the persistent sweaty fever that has me completely worn out. We haven’t been able to even think about food, and have subsisted entirely on soup (recipe coming soon!), toast and fruit.

I was hoping to post a great weekend summary of all the things we had planned, and although much of it was hampered by the flu, we still had some fun.

Friday night we had a great celebratory dinner at one of our favorite “fancy” restaurants, Jina Yoo’s. I say fancy because in a world where we’re constantly trying to save, $70 is a lot for dinner out. I wanted the whole weekend to be special for Neil to celebrate his new job. My inner monologue is now laughing at me.

Shrimp bad hair day

It was an awesome dinner. We started the dinner with an appetizer called “Shrimp’s Bad Hair Day,” deep fried U12 gulf shrimp wrapped in fillo threads drizzled with a secret sauce, that tasted a little of a few things I know I have in my pantry. Sorry about the phone pics. I’m just not ready to be one of those people dragging their cameras to restaurants yet.

We then ordered four sushi rolls. I had a Ruby Roll with beet tempura and cream cheese, and a Scallifornia with scallop and spicy mustard. Neil had a Green Dragon Roll with salmon, avocado and eel sauce and another one that must be really new because its not on the online menu yet. They were so good, and we’re those obnoxious people that dissect every flavor of our meal and I definitely think those sitting around us took notice. Oh well.

Breakfast at Ernie's this morning

Saturday morning we woke up and the first word out of Neil’s mouth was “Ernie’s.” Ernie’s is a local legend breakfast spot. Narrow and tiny and still designed for the patrons who might have shown up 50 years ago they have amazing greasy breakfast food in portions that aren’t disgustingly obnoxious. We love going there.

We spent the rest of Saturday working on our blog redesign. That’s right, if you haven’t heard via Twitter, we’ve been long overdue for an upgrade and overhaul of the site. Our tastes have changed, we’ve grown a bit, and its just time. I think anyone who is in blogging for some time will at some point hate their “look.” We also want to be better about incorporating our business into the mix. It’s coming, just a few days delayed because of our Blegh.

So, definitely some good and bad this weekend. I just hope we’ll shake it soon. School is officially back in session, we have tons of work on our plates, and lots of ideas to experiment with in the kitchen.

Have you been stricken with Creeping Crud lately? Just feeling a little Blegh?

Kitchen Cookbook Staple: Too Many Tomatoes, Squash, Beans, and Other Good Things…

By | Books, Gardening | No Comments

Too Many...Cookbook

Too Many Tomatoes, Squash, Beans and Other Good Things is definitely not applicable to my garden this year but it would have really come in handy last year when I was covered in tomatoes and grew tired of canning and eating fresh tomato sauce. I know, the absurdity of such thoughts in light of how unsuccessful we were this year.

It isn’t a new book (first published in 1976), but one I recently came across in our University Library. It was sandwiched in the tiny vegetarian section so I decided to give it a look. Within an hour I had tracked it down on Amazon and purchased a copy for myself. The premise is pretty fantastical. Organized alphabetically by garden vegetable, each chapter begins with notes on growing and harvesting the vegetable, how much yield to expect, nutritional notes, and information on cooking, freezing, storage and basic preparation. It also lists complimentary herbs, something I’ve always wanted in a cookbook.

Too Many...Cookbook

Too Many...Cookbook

I adore that it has both simple and intermediate recipes. Nothing is overly sophisticated, and many of the recipes are just simple ways to enhance the flavor and enjoyment of your favorite vegetables. They also don’t call for the use of processed or convenience foods. It’s a treasure trove of helpful advice and simple recipes that help tame the tide when your garden runneth over. I highly recommend it for anyone’s collection, foodie or not.

Used copies are available on Amazon (for less than $10), and if you live in Columbia, my copy is due back September 21st.

Back to School

By | Books, School | 2 Comments

My textbooks

I’m excited to be heading back to school on Monday. Although I officially started this summer, it really only felt like I was wading in the pond. I fully jumped in this semester, taking two hefty assessment courses. Ironically, for as big as the course load will be, these are my only two books for both courses. One was published in 1987 and isn’t even in print anymore. Hopefully I wasn’t steered wrong and this is in fact the book I need. I found this interesting:

Textbooks

I guess if it worked for someone working at Apple in 1993, then it’s probably a good book right? I can’t get over the old-school Apple business card!

All in all, it feels so good to be back. Last Fall I felt like I was never going to pass the GRE and that I might be forced to re-examine my goals. It was excruciating to watch everyone on campus moving forward and feeling like I was stalled out on the side of the road. It’s nice not to feel like a total phony in the school supplies aisles. No matter how old you are, nothing beats the smell of crayons, office supplies and stationary.

What are your goals for this Fall?

Book Review: Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

By | Books, Jessica | 9 Comments

DSC_0533

I very rarely get the opportunity to read Chick Lit. Let me rephrase that. I rarely get to read anything that doesn’t involve the words “non-fiction” or “case study.” I usually hoard a few titles for our vacations every year, and this year finally got around to reading Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert. I had only a vague idea of what the book would be like (a woman travels right?) so I dove in one night while sitting by the early evening campfire with Neil.

In the first hour I’m pretty sure my scoffing and grumbles could be heard around the campground. I almost stopped reading. I hated Gilbert. The no nonsense “just get over it” part of me wanted to scream at her through the book. She felt trapped in her marriage and seemingly every night was spending hours secretly locked in the bathroom sobbing uncontrollably over how and when to end it and what life would mean outside the expectations that seemingly all women face. You get married. You have babies. You’re a mother and a wife, and whatever follows is nothing different than anyone else before you. Sound harsh? Well in the moment that my eyes rolled over that sentence I perked up. Well actually it was a little before that, on page 11:

“I saw the joy in her face and I recognized it. This was the exact joy my own face had radiated last spring, the day I discovered that the magazine I worked for was going to send me on assignment in New Zealand, to write an article about the search for giant squid. And I thought, “Until I can feel as ecstatic about having a baby as I felt about going to New Zealand to search for a giant squid, I cannot have a baby.”

Exotic locations and giant squid aside, this situation has seemingly been on repeat for me my entire life. Growing up, I never wanted to be mommy when we played house, never fantasized about my would-be husband or my dream wedding and never secretly bought shit for my unborn children. Even at eleven, it all felt so prescribed, like a factory conveyer belt where nothing can deviate from a single form line. My dad always used to say that he was raising me to be exceptional in anything I chose, always emphasizing that doing what everyone else did for the sake of fitting in or not being uncomfortable was as bad as not trying at all. So as someone straddling the “childfree or not” fence and not looking to follow what most people typify as the “American dream,” Gilbert had my full attention.

Still reeling from the bitter divorce and break-up with her first post-divorce relationship, Gilbert quits her job, puts her belongings in storage, and secures an advance from her publisher for a book about the loosely planned year-long trip to discover God and the nature of her existence.

“I wanted to explore one aspect of myself set against the backdrop of each country, in a place that has traditionally done that one thing very well,” she writes. “I wanted to explore the art of pleasure in Italy, the art of devotion in India and, in Indonesia, the art of balancing the two.”

You never really get a picture of the extent of her metaphysical crisis, only that she came close to suicide, and struggles with depression and anxiety. Each time she touches upon depression, or uncomfortably dark moments or experiences, she tends to interject a lot of humor to seemingly cloud the issue, ready to move on. In fact, you never get a picture of any of her real-life baggage while she’s traveling. Everything is carefully crafted and anything negative is tucked away. Kind of like Disneyland.

Each country brings about its own reformation. Italy makes Gilbert feel whole again. She attempts to master indulgence and self-love without questioning if she deserves it or not. In the process she explores Italy without a map, taking in the food, history and language, and why Italians are so successful at being…Italian. Italy serves as a band-aid. India serves to strip away the indulgence of Italy and focus inward with the goal of being self-fulfilled and self-reliant through meditation and the ability to quiet one’s own mind. Bali serves to balance the natures of both, although Gilbert admits in the book that by the time she got to Bali, all the goals she had set for herself in the trip had already been met.

Overall, it was a fun light read that makes you think about your own life. If you love food and travel with a bit of history and talk of religion that isn’t evangelical Christianity, it’s a look both backward and forward with a breath of fresh air. For me, it was the reassurance that life outside “married and pregnant by 30” is not only possible but optimal if you become the administrator of your own happiness. If you read other reviews you’ll find that the bulk of readers find her to be unaware of her privilege and self-absorbed. I don’t disagree. What I do think though is that any journey of SELF-discovery can’t be anything but self-absorbed. You can’t find yourself unless you self-analyze and you can’t write a book about it unless you use the word “I.”

So will I see the movie? Of course. Neil’s taking me tomorrow. He just doesn’t know it yet.

Review: The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

By | Books | 3 Comments

alicebook

I have an unwritten rule about cookbooks. I don’t buy them if there are no pictures. It may seem childish, but I typically like to see what I’m cooking, mostly to know if I myself am failing the recipe. Few chefs get a pass at this rule. Alice Waters is one of them. If you’re a foodie, you definitely know who she is, but if you’re not, here’s a little praise. She is who I would consider to be the founder of California cuisine and one of the birthers of the public health food movement. She not only promotes healthy food, but local and organic when at all possible, sourcing menus for her legendary restaurant Chez Panisse locally and through small, independent producers. She’s is legendary, and definitely one of my top five favorite chefs of all time.

The Art of Simple Food is a bible-like tome of healthy, organic eating from start to finish. The recipes aren’t groundbreaking, but the simplicity and approach is reminiscent of the way your grandma might have cooked, without a recipe and from the knowledge of how food behaves. She not only details how to grow your own food, but how to harvest, prepare and serve it. The fresh ingredients are main stage. None of the recipes are overly detailed or complicated, meaning she doesn’t just throw shit in there for good reason (excuse my language, but I didn’t feel like mincing words). I particularly loved the how-to sections on staples such as homemade broth and soaking beans and legumes.

Waters mantra is to eat locally and sustainably, eat seasonally, and shop at farmers markets where possible. The goal is that if people form the right relationship or rekindle a love with what is around them, that they’ll respect and take care of it. Not only that, but they’ll be more likely to take care of themselves. I highly recommend this book as a staple for any kitchen where this message is aspiration or already a way of life.

I hope to share some of my gleaned inspiration from this book next week!

{image and another awesome review via Treehugger}