What I’m into (October 2014 edition)

orange tree

October has been a wonderful month, although I’m aware that a part of me is working to keep the frantic feeling that sneaks up on me this time of year at bay. October has a down-to-business feel about it: the kids’ school is in full swing, so is work, and our household is as crazy as ever.

It’s just occurred to me that it’s been almost six months now since we moved in to the new house, which blows my mind. We’re making progress, even if we aren’t anywhere near done. But I successfully located all my cold-weather clothes, have knocked a couple more projects off the list, and finally got that kitchen table I wanted to find within weeks of moving in. Hey, it’s even been six weeks or so since I accidentally made the turn to go home to the old place a mile away.

Because my life isn’t crazy enough: NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow, and I’m still thinking about doing it. I just picked up a copy of No Plot? No Problem! and I’m not sure if that book is going to talk me into it or out of it. (If you’ve ever participated, I’d love to hear your tips.)

Speaking of crazy: I finally heeded my stylist’s advice and ordered the high-speed blow dryer she’s been telling me to get for a year or two. (I have fine, thick hair that takes forever to blow dry.) It might be changing my life. Or at least my morning routine.

Northanger Abbey

What I’m watching

For once, I have something to report here.

I watched all of Outlander in two nights while Will was away.

And I finally watched the BBC’s 2007 adaptation of Northanger Abbey, done by Andrew Davies of P&P 1995 fame. (I can’t believe I didn’t realize till afterwards that Carey Mulligan plays Isabella Thorpe.)

We finally started Parenthood.

We stayed up way too late watching the World Series, and letting our baseball-loving kids stay up, too. I’m still tired.

I want to watch Death Comes to Pemberley, but haven’t quite gotten there yet.

tea and cake

In the kitchen

I haven’t been up to anything too exciting in the kitchen—I’m holding out until we get to bona fide pot roast weather. (I can’t wait.) I’ve been trying out recipes from my new Cooks Illustrated Slow Cooker cookbook, and have been drooling over Martha Stewart’s new One Pot cookbook.

What I'm into | Modern Mrs Darcy

What I’m reading

My kids are reading Heidi and Anne of Green Gables for school, so I should, too. Right? (Right.)

Also reading: The Butterfly and the Violin, The Blue Castle, The Happiness of Pursuit, The Haunted Bookshop, and Outlander.

I just started Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (the last book in the Outlander series). I’ve really enjoyed the series, but I’m looking forward to being done with it. Reading all those pages is really time consuming! As much as I don’t want it to end, I’m looking forward to having more hours to devote on non-Outlander reads.


On the blog

A smokin’ deal on Mrs. Meyers, Method, and Yes to Carrots products from ePantry. (Just for MMD readers.) Because streamlining household maintenance means more time for the important things. Like Outlander.

Halloween: love it or hate it?

Are you a savorer or a speed reader?

How to keep a great series from ruining your life. A counterintuitive but effective trick that will help you just say no to one more chapter (or episode).

“A Diamond is Forever” and other fairy tales.

Books so gorgeous they just might turn me into a collector.

And I had a post up at Simple Homeschool, though it’s not just for homeschoolers, or parents: Self-care for the highly sensitive parent.

Best of the web

How to be efficient. This Big Life Advice from Dan Ariely is the most practical thing I’ve read all month. Worth a read (and a re-read).

What’s behind the great podcast rennaisance? “When you have Ira Glass going on The Tonight Show to talk about podcasting, something is a little different.”

The conversation bloggers are having about you. (Yes they are.)

We are all quants now. A thoughtful look at the existential implications of big data analysis.

What book should you read next? Putting librarians and algorithms to the test. Not all humans trump all algorithms, but when it comes to book recommendations, there’s a place for the human touch. (YES.)

What were you into in October?

Linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been into lately. 

5 more of my favorite TED talks

5 more favorite ted talks | Modern Mrs Darcy

A few months ago I shared 5 of my favorite TED talks, and was promptly besieged for requests for more inspiration in 19-minute bursts.

These are 5 more of my favorite TED talks.

(The TED app is one of my favorites, making it easy to listen to TED talks on the go.)

Why a good book is a secret door, by bestselling children’s author Mac Barnett. This talk captures so much of what I love about reading, and children’s literature in particular. (My favorite part is the sign on the slushie machine.) I was delighted to see Barnett’s brand-new book Sam & Dave Dig a Hole prominently displayed at my local bookstore this week.

How to make stress your friend, by health psychologist Kelly McGonigal. I’m so grateful I encountered this talk when I did: one of my kids has been peppering me with questions about how to healthily manage anxiety, and this talk has helped me frame those discussions in a positive manner.

The paradox of choice, Barry Schwartz. I’m a born maximizer: NOT a good thing. Schwartz’s work has helped me learn how to fight that impulse and NOT make myself crazy. I highly recommend his book of the same name.

The puzzle of motivation, by Dan Pink. A fascinating (and funny) look at why traditional rewards don’t work—and what that means for the way we do education and structure our workplaces. Watch the talk, then read his outstanding book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. This is a paradigm-shifter.

On glamour, by journalist Virginia Postrel. This one is slow to get going; hang with it. Anyone who works with images (and if you’re online, that’s you) needs to watch it. A must-see for anyone who’s ever struggled with Pinterest envy.

What are your favorite TED talks? Which ones should I watch next?

Self-care for the highly sensitive parent.

Self-care for the highly sensitive parent

Today I’m over at Simple Homeschool talking about highly sensitive people. If you’re not a homeschooling parent, have no fear: it’s not just for homeschoolers, and it’s not just for parents.

From the post:

I‘ve known for a decade or three that I’m an introvert, but it’s only recently — after reading Susan Cain’s excellent book Quiet — that I discovered I’m also a “highly sensitive person.”

Whether or not you’ve heard the term before, that description should ring true for about 1 in 5 of you.

A highly sensitive person is someone who’s more sensitive to physical and/or emotional stimuli than the general population. They have sensitive nervous systems, are more attuned to subtleties in their surroundings, and are more easily overwhelmed by highly stimulating environments.

Interacting with people drains introverts; sensory input — sights, smells, sounds, emotional stimulation — drains highly sensitive people. (HSPs are more likely to be introverts, but about 30% of HSPs are extroverts.)

I’m an HSP to the core. In practice, that means I avoid violent movies, am easily overwhelmed by loud noises and bright lights, need time and space to regroup on busy days, and feel like my head will explode when two people try to talk to me at the same time …

Read the rest at Simple Homeschool.

45 seriously spooky (but not quite scary) books.

45 seriously spooky (but not scary) books | Modern Mrs Darcy

I dreaded Halloween story hour as a kid. (Classic HSP.) The librarian inevitably read us too many ghost stories, and I’d spend the half hour with my fingers in my ears, humming softly to myself and trying not to hear. It never worked, and I’d have nightmares for weeks. My poor sensitive soul just couldn’t handle it.

Now that I’m an adult, I still hate scary stories. I don’t read horror novels, not ever. But I do enjoy a good creepy book. I love chilling mysteries and psychological thrillers: books that make my hair stand on end, but still allow me to sleep at night.

(It turns out you do, too: I asked you on facebook for your suggestions, and you provided an impressive list of books that are spooky, but not scary.)

If you hate horror but are still up for a spine-chilling read, these are the books for you.

Spine-chilling books I love

  1. In the Woods, Tana French. Definitely disturbing, but un-put-down-able. Tana French writes an amazing psychological thriller.
  2. 11/22/63, Stephen King. This would never be defined as horror, but it is spine-tinglingly creepy.
  3. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier. A modern Gothic page-turner.
  4. The Starbridge series, by Susan Howatch. Especially the later three books set in the 1960s. Seriously creepy supernatural elements.
  5. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J. K. Rowling. All the Harry Potters have their suspenseful elements, but this one was specifically mentioned the most.
  6. The Distant Hours (or anything else by Kate Morton). She’s wonderful at psychological drama.
  7. The Sea of Tranquility, Katja Millay. This gave me serious goosebumps. One of my favorite books of the year.

Creepy classics

  1. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
  2. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
  3. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
  4. 1984, George Orwell
  5. The Telltale Heart, Edgar Allan Poe
  6. The Giver, Lois Lowry
  7. The Turn of the Screw, Henry James
  8. The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. (This link goes to the collection illustrated by Canadian artist Jacqui Oakley, who did the gorgeous covers for Anne of Green Gables and the additional L. M. Montgomery titles that appeared here.)
  9. The Nancy Drew collection (not the new Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew series), by Carolyn Keene

Reader favorites:

  1. The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
  2. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, R. A. Dick
  3. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
  4. Her Fearful Symmetry, Audrey Niffenegger
  5. Sharp Objects, Gillian Flynn
  6. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Patrick Suskind
  7. Pines, Blake Crouch
  8. The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  9. Before I Go to Sleep, S. J. Watson. (The movie with Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman is hitting theaters on October 31.)
  10. Don’t Breath a Word, Jennifer McMahon
  11. The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova

Tales of the apocalypse

  1. The Road, Cormac McCarthy.
  2. World Made by Hand, James Howard Kunstler
  3. The Andromeda Strain, Michael Crichton
  4. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card.
  5. The Stand, Stephen King.

Creepy books I’m dying to read

  1. Among the Shadows, L. M. Montgomery. A collection of nineteen Montgomery stories, unlike anything else she ever wrote.
  2. The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield. Every Jane Eyre fan worth her salt has this on her reading list.
  3. Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro. I’ve heard such good things about Ishiguro’s work.
  4. Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel. The hook: Shakespeare + a global pandemic.
  5. We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson. I’ve wanted to read this ever since I heard about it on the Books on the Nightstand podcast.
  6. And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie. Because I’ve never read a Christie novel (I know!) and I’ve heard good things about this one.
  7. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak. Because everyone says so.

Truth is scarier than fiction

  1. The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus, Richard Preston

“Creepy” might not quite cover it

  1. Flowers in the Attic, V. C. Andrews
  2. The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson
  3. Bag of Bones, Stephen King
  4. Shutter Island, Dennis Lehane
  5. Bird Box, Josh Malerman

What are your favorite spooky—but not quite scary—novels?

P.S. The next MMD newsletter is going out in a day or two. I’m talking about what’s saving my life right now, and sharing my favorite Halloween essay, ever. If you’re not on the list, sign up here.