2015 Year in Review: 3,872 Miles Traveled & 53 Books Read!

If I had to describe 2015 in one word, I’d probably call it busy. If you grant me two words, I’d say life-changing. Can I have two words please?

We kicked off 2015 as new residents of Asheville, North Carolina. Not long after settling in we experienced the Asheville Snowmageddon 2015. It was fun… at first. Much better after we got a snow shovel. Though, I have to say the Fall of 2014 was a lot more fun – especially for Frodo.

Asheville 2015 Pisgah National Forest

We experienced the joy of living in a National Forest, definitely an experience I’ll never forget. This also included fighting a little bit with the creatures that lived near our house. There were the birds, and the spiders. And Dave protecting our house from critter invasion…

Dave on a Mission

I finally had a chance to photograph our bedtime routine with Frodo. Yes, we still brush his teeth every night. He loves it, and so do his teeth! You can tell from the photos he has a good time.

In May, we watched a life-changing documentary, and have been vegans ever since. It’s been almost 8 months now and I only wish we had made the change sooner.

Early in July we decided to take our life on the road, and began the process of downsizing our belongings. In a few short months we sold most of our stuff, our house, our car, and purchased a truck and a travel-trailer. It was a whirlwind of activities.

We hit the road October 17th, officially house-less, beginning our journey as nomads. After leaving Asheville, we traveled very quickly to South Dakota to get our driver’s licenses. On the way, we stopped through some pretty areas I look forward to re-visiting. Columbia, Missouri was gorgeous! 

Stephens Lake Park_The Lake

Rock Port, MO had a lot of character. I wouldn’t mind going back for a few days, especially during warmer months.

We were only in Amarillo, Texas for a short time, but long enough to see some interesting things. Like a donkey. And an emu.

And then, we got crazy with it. It was at this point we further downsized and sold our truck and travel trailer, and switched to a van. Once comfortably settled in our new van, the race was on to get somewhere warm. We headed to Arizona, yet at the same time, experienced a month without hot water. Go figure.

Now we are wrapping up 2015, living in a van, living a vegan life-style, and currently chilling out in Lake Havasu City, Arizona – while we recover from the whirlwind that this year has been. And it’s been a doozy. With only traveling the last portion of the year, we still managed to cover 3,872 miles. The speed was purely insane and I hope to never need to travel that far at that pace ever again! But, we managed to get our domicile squared away, improve our travel setup, get our van repaired, and… rest in the quiet of the southwest. I’d say the travel part of this year was smashing, though speedy. But, it was worth it. Every crazy minute of it.

2015 - 3872 Miles Traveled

There’s still one aspect from 2015 I haven’t had a chance to address yet, and that’s my reading life. I set out to read 52 books, and did it (read 53 books actually), and though some were good, and some were great, many were fantastic. I figured I would highlight my favorites from this year and tried to narrow down my selection to a Top 5. I couldn’t.

Out of the 53 books I read this year, here are my Top 8 Favorites:

2015 was a great year, and 2016 will be even better. I wish everyone a happy, healthy new year!

Colors! My First Brandon Sanderson Book…

Warbreaker For years my husband has told me how amazing Brandon Sanderson is, but I hadn’t read any of his books until recently. We selected his book Warbreaker, as a book to read together – even though it was Dave’s second read-through. The story definitely lends itself to be read multiple times, so I can see why he chose it – aside from FINALLY introducing me to his favorite author!

So finally, I get it! And yes, I agree, Brandon Sanderson is extremely creative.

What makes Warbreaker so amazing, is the unique world-building and entirely original magic system Sanderson creates. The story itself is great… two sisters, one marries the God King they fear (who has never taken a living breath, so the fear is justified), and the other who… well, I don’t want to spoil anything. Let’s just say, the story is interesting and an enjoyable adventure.

But the world? It’s captivating! Who would have thought of having a way to bring objects to life by way of using color, have a city and its inhabitants who views this as normal – and a warring city who views this as blasphemous, ostentatious, and vain.

And, all the intricacies that go along with such a system… I’m not sure which I enjoyed more, the story, or the magic system upon which it was built. All in all, it may have been my first Brandon Sanderson book – but it won’t be my last!

You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You

Sharon and DaveAs a child, one of my favorite books was called “You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You” illustrated by Edward Gorey. It had alternating sections in back text, or blue text, indicating where to hand the book over and either read, or enjoy the portion being read to you.

Since Dave and I are both avid readers, it didn’t take us too long in the early days of our relationship to run into a reading-related problem. We wanted to each read a short story, of which, we had one paper copy. With only a small amount of free time each evening, it seemed like a good idea for me to begin reading the story to him aloud while he cooked dinner, and then he would read to me later on in the evening. It was a simple problem with a simple solution. We didn’t realize we were creating one of those “us” things. You know, those moments you look back on and realize it was the start of something big? Reading to each other every day is something we have done ever since, now going on nine years!

We discovered several things all those years ago when we began to read to each other. Even though we typically read very different books, it’s also nice to read something else that’s a cross-over book, something we both enjoy, and get to experience together. This broadens our reading experience.

Books are more fun with friends! You know those moments when a book makes you gasp, laugh, shriek, or jump? Even if you are in the same room with someone, this is something you experience by yourself. Perhaps you feel the need to explain what happened in the story, what made you react, but they haven’t gone on the journey with you and cannot share your experience.

Both the experience of being read to, and reading to someone else – is relaxing. It’s a great way to wind down from a stressful day, and get to be together, and from my perspective, much more fun than watching TV!

Reading with someone is like a life-hack. It’s not how the medium of reading was meant to be enjoyed, but it adds another layer that is there for the taking. Happy reading!

Your Minutiae is Not Mundane

Electronic KeyboardHave you read any novels recently that made you struggle to understand the context? When reading any book that isn’t considered “modern,” it can be helpful to be guided through the meaning by a teacher, or annotated version, or of course, your own internet-driven research.

Consider books published more than thirty years ago, when characters had to communicate by way of phone calls (long distance was expensive and costs accrued in per minute increments), or mail – which was slow. Well, mail is still slow, but letter writing is no longer a necessary form of communication.

Now consider a child born this year: 2015, who later reads a book published in 1985, when they are 15 years old. Will they struggle with understanding the culture? Will they understand how characters communicate, and the methods that they use, and realize what is missing and why? Will the mention of an Answering Machine confuse them? What about photographs not being instantaneous, movies at the theatre or occasionally at home on cable, but renting movies? Blockbuster wasn’t around until 1985 so not many people knew about it yet.

My point is this, your daily minutiae is NOT mundane. The details of your day create a small part of the collective makeup of our society and culture, and culture is sometimes lost in lack of understanding.

We now have more variety than ever before, and this carries over to our daily routines.

How old are you? Are you a teenager? How do you spend your free time? How do you get to school? Are you homeschooled (what is that like and how does it work)? Do you watch TV? Movies? Do you watch TV shows on a computer – or an actual TV?

Are you in your twenties? Did you go to college? Did you live in a dorm? Did you have roommates? What do you do for income? How do you get money you need, do you handle cash, or use credit cards almost exclusively?

What about those of you in your thirties or forties? Do you have children? Do you want children? Are you married or single? What is single life like for you? Married life? How you do meet new people?

What happens when you run out of something you need but you don’t need it the same day? Do you add it to a grocery list and drive to a story in a few days, or do you order it online to be delivered directly to your door?

How do you communicate with those you are close to, do you use the phone (what is your phone like, and is it actually a phone), do you use a computer, do you send an email, text, or chat? What is a chat message?

Your life is not mundane. Your life is context. Life is changing around us constantly and your life is interesting!

A Snapshot of my Reading Life: January 2015

ReadingThis week I’ve been working my way through reading the biography, Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. It’s a tough read for me – not because of writing style, but simply because Steve Jobs was such an absolute jerk. And I’m being polite. He was really awful to so many people, for that reason, I’d rather not read this book. However, the history of Apple and of personal computers is interesting to me, so I’m reading it – I just have to keep taking breaks. And in those reading breaks today I discovered:

  • The complete works of H.P. Lovecraft, for free, online. Sadly, prior to today, I had never read anything by Lovecraft, and I see that as a huge gaping hole in my reading life. I remedied this today by reading The Tomb (published 1917) and was astonished! It’s a page turner, and not at all what I was expecting. I shall be reading more of Lovecraft soon, as I now have his entire collection on my Kindle.
  • The blog “101 Books,” by one very determined reader to read (and review) his way through Time’s 100 Greatest Novels (plus Ulysses). Many of the books on that list are ones I have been planning to read, and his reviews are excellent. In fact, I discovered this blog today while attempting to find any other lost souls who are also bored by Virginia Woolf. I tried to read To the Lighthouse. I did. I really, really did. However, I am done trying now, and I appreciate Robert Bruce’s honesty about what he thinks about Virginia Woolf (thank you, you kind soul sir). Anyway, I have bookmarked his list of reviews and plan to read more of them, they are quite enjoyable.
  • A Knowledge Junky’s Heaven in Open Culture – the best free cultural and educational media on the web. I knew about this site, but for some reason, forgot about it. Talk about a tragedy. I spent over an hour browsing the various goodies found here and all I can say is, be sure to make sure you have time before you visit. One of my favorite finds from today was the Commonsense Composition textbook from CK-12, but there are endless treasures to be enjoyed on Open Culture.

Are any of you as tired and cold as I am? I’m ready for Spring now. Any day now.

Today I Read

Apparently if you ask people for free things, they will send you some! The 39 Dollar Experiment is pretty interesting, and definitely creative.

Anti-bacterial solutions are often in the news as being a danger to our health. What if we could reduce the bacteria we encounter, without adding new chemicals to our environment? A company by the name of Sharklet Technologies is working on doing this now. Germ-deflecting surfaces that work due to TEXTURE?! Brilliant! Finding Inspiration in Shark Tanks and Bee Hives is pretty nifty.

As far as fiction reads, yesterday I started reading In the Blood, by Lisa Unger. Wowza! So far all I can say is, how come no one recommended this book to me?! In other words, it’s all kinds of awesome.

We don't always drink wine, but when we do - it's in our dinner!
We don’t always drink wine, but when we do – it’s in our dinner!

Tonight Dave made cajun beans and rice (yes, wine included), so there may be a recipe post coming soon. What did you read today, anything interesting?