Moments of 2020 – 18


Moments of 2020 is a year-long project for 2020. You can read more about my projects for 2020 here.

Books I Read This Week 2020 – 18

Here are my goodreads reviews. If you’re on goodreads, add me as a friend so I can see your books too! I also have an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.


Days of Distraction (3 stars): I liked this story of an Asian American woman and her relationship with her family, her white boyfriend and with her job. The way she wrestles with her identity throughout the book seemed real and honest. The way the job was depicted felt a bit more caricaturish to me, but also had lot of traces of honesty. I’ve never lived in Ithaca so I can’t speak to her depiction of the town but overall I connected with her and her grappling for identity and belonging.


Valentine (5 stars): This is the best novel I’ve read this year so far. Like last year’s Plainsong, this novel was slow, quiet, and profound. The blurb says it is an: “exploration of the intersections of violence and race, class and region in a story that plumbs the depths of darkness and fear, yet offers a window into beauty and hope.” But what it doesn’t say is that the characters in this book are strong, strong women with giant hearts. This book is about how resilient we are, how strength and vulnerability can live hand in hand. It’s about the power of community and connection and looking out for each other. I loved every minute I spent with it.


The Book of Longings (5 stars): Sue Monk Kidd is an exceptional writer. Her ability to tell stories, to create characters and dialogue are simply unparalleled. I am not religious and know very little to nothing about the life of Jesus. When I first read about this book, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read it. I am not all that interested in religion and historical fiction is not my top genre. But I’ve loved her writing in the past so I wanted to at least try. From the moment I started the book, Ana took a hold of me and wouldn’t let go. I didn’t want to put the book down for even a moment. In between meetings, as I was cooking, even in the bathroom, I snuck this book into all my free moments. I swallowed it whole and it spread all over my soul. It is absolutely beautiful.


Hidden Valley Road (4 stars): This was a fascinating tale of a family with 12 kids (10 boys, 2 girls) six of which ends up being schizophrenic. There’s so much in this book about being a family, a wife, a sibling, a brother, and even a little sister. There’s so much about the way research and medicine works. So much about mental illness. So much about what it means to grow up in a family this big, this broken, and it’s just so hard to believe that this is a true story.


Latitudes of Longing (4 stars): “The entire island rises up to the occasion. The birds, insects, trees, waves, and the setting sun all play their part in a larger symphony, orchestrated by the fingers in communion.”

This book has four sections that seem not connected at first glimpse but are connected by a thread that goes across the characters so each one has a character from the previous connecting them even as they go back and forth in time.

“Death …” Chanda Devi reflects on the word as cicadas, frogs, and flies intervene. “Ghosts do not live where they died. They return to the place where they felt the most alive. They have struggled, lived, and enjoyed their time there so much, they cannot let go.”

My favorite by a large margin was the first story. Chanda was one of my favorite characters and the bits of magical language mixed in with the magical realism made me fall in love with the location, the characters, the love, the writing. All of it. She was the most vivid character in the whole story, for me.

“Yes,” she agreed with him. “Perhaps that’s how time is for some of us. It doesn’t fly. It sits still.”

The second story about a boy and a mom who are long lost to each other was heartbreaking. That evocative writing is uplifting when applied to love and devastating when applied to torture and imprisonment. It was hard to read the story. In fact, both the mom and the son’s stories were really hard to read.

“The best stories are the ones that are still to come, Ghazala. Close enough to hear, smell, and admire. Yet out of reach.”

By the end of the book, I was less connected than I was in the beginning. Even though I loved the imagery in every story and the writing never lost its power, none of the other characters took my breath away the way Chanda did.

“And then you went on to say the most beautiful thing I have heard. ‘It’s love,’ you told me. ‘Faces change and are misleading. Sometimes you may not recognize who the person really is. But love is love. So long as you feel it, give it, and receive it, it is enough. It connects you to everyone and everything.’ ”

All in all, the lyrical language and imagery in this book will stay with me for a very long time.

with gratitude to netgalley and Random House for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.


Master Class (3.5 stars): I read this whole story in one sitting. The dystopian future where they separate the kids by their IQ and ability to succeed in school, the ways mothers sacrifice for their kids, the way the man you married who was already a bit evil turns out to just get more and more evil seemed a bit cliche. I still liked it and the pace kept me engaged the whole time.


And there we go, grateful to be reading.


Books I Read this Week 2020 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2020 here. I am also tracking my books in real time on Good Reads here. If you’re on Good Reads add me so I can follow you, too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

Moments of 2020 – 17


Moments of 2020 is a year-long project for 2020. You can read more about my projects for 2020 here.

Books I Read This Week 2020 – 17

Here are my goodreads reviews. If you’re on goodreads, add me as a friend so I can see your books too! I also have an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.


The Anxiety Skills Workbook (5 stars): “Hopefully at this point you are starting to realize that worry isn’t a reliable predictor of the future.”

If you, like me, tend to worry often and sometimes ceaselessly this workbook will be an invaluable tool for you. I’ve always been a worrier and before this book, I was familiar with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) so many of the CBT strategies in this book were not new to me.

There are two things that make this book magical, for me. One, it lays out the concepts in a really simple, easy to understand way. There are several examples that we visit again and again through each chapter, making it easy to find some ways to relate to the content and personalize it.

Two, the exercises themselves are invaluable. Being able to have a simple template to use to practice each concept and have ways to apply the concepts to my own individual life means that I am not just reading this book but I am using it and internalizing the concepts through practice.

“Worry is an unhelpful thinking response to a potential problem.”

If you suffer from anxiety and would like a practical set of tools to help you do the hard work, this book is going to go a long way in helping you. This is not a miracle cure, and it might not even be the methodology that works best for you, but for me, a lot of what’s in this book is incredibly helpful in being able to contextualize my thoughts and separate my thoughts and feelings from the facts.

With gratitude to netgalley and New Harbinger Publications for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.


Truth or Beard (4 stars): I read this book in one swallow. I’d seen this series everywhere and so many people said they loved it. It was finally my turn at the library and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. It did not disappoint at all. I loved every minute I spent with these characters and I can’t wait to read more of this series.


You Are Not Alone (3.5 stars): This was a great mystery without all the twisty novels with all the unreliable narrators we seem to get lately. Instead it had the evil characters, high tension scenes, and slow unraveling the good mysteries have. I enjoyed my time with it!


The House in the Cerulean Sea (5 stars): I loved every single minute I spent with this amazing, unique story that has more heart than anything I’ve read in a long, long time. It was cute, sweet, kind, loving, and reminded me a bit of Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series but it wasn’t as bizarre and it had a lot more heart. I had read that this was the best novel to read during the pandemic and that’s 1000% right. A beautiful ray of light in these dark days.


Getting Schooled (3 stars): Quick, sweet story that felt really short but was a lovely distraction for a brief period of time.


I’d Give Anything (4 stars): “You really think they don’t?” asks Avery. “Not only that, but I’m beginning to believe that the bad might not take anything away from the love. I mean, it’s possible, isn’t it? They might care about us just exactly as much as we always thought.”

I’ve long been a fan of Marisa de los Santos. I love her storytelling and her characters. They always stay with me long after I finish the story and this one was no exception. This is the story of Ginny Beale who is very close to her brother and has a tight group of friends during high school. She ends up having a falling out with all of them. Except for one, with whom she ends up making up and staying lifelong friends.

At the very beginning of the story, she finds out her husband is part of a scandal and it unwinds her whole life. Making everything fall apart and when chance encounters cause her to realize all the misunderstandings she’s lived her life with, she starts putting the pieces back together.

“Lately, I’ve been thinking about it this way,” says Gray. “They love us. And they’ve done something bad that hurt us. You’d think those facts would cancel each other out, but the crazy thing is that they don’t.”

This is a story about the insidious nature of secrets. How they have a way of breaking people, families, friendships, and lives. A way of weaving thorns through your soul and ripping you from the inside out. It’s about forgiving. It’s about mending. It’s also about honesty and owning up to the truths of our lives.

It’s a beautiful story and I loved the time I spent with it.

with gratitude to edelweiss and William Morrow for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.


And there we go, grateful to be reading.


Books I Read this Week 2020 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2020 here. I am also tracking my books in real time on Good Reads here. If you’re on Good Reads add me so I can follow you, too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

Moments of 2020 – 16


Moments of 2020 is a year-long project for 2020. You can read more about my projects for 2020 here.

Books I Read This Week 2020 – 16

Here are my goodreads reviews. If you’re on goodreads, add me as a friend so I can see your books too! I also have an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.


Brunch and Other Obligations (4 stars): “Brick by brick, their ideas about who they should be cover up who they really are.”

I loved both the cover and blurb of this book and as the shelter-in-place due to pandemic continues here in California, I find myself reaching for books that promise to comfort me. This looked to be just the recipe for that.

And it didn’t disappoint.

This is the story of three women each of whom is best friends with Molly but the three are not friends with each other. Molly passes away and leaves each of them a thing and a little note. She also asks them to meet once a month for breakfast.

The story is the year during which these non-friends meet monthly, go through their own journey of recovering from the grief of losing their best friend, and also try to uncover the reason Molly chose to give that particular gift.

“In some friendships, honesty is the same as love.”

The story flows easily and the characters are real and flawed and frustrating and lovable. There are parts where the writing got in the way for me and jarred me out of the story. There were bits where I wish the author had gone deeper.

But overall, I enjoyed my time with this cozy, sweet story.

with gratitude to netgalley and She Writes Press for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.


An Artful Path to Mindfulness (5 stars): I am a huge, giant fan of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). A few years ago, I was really really struggling at work which ended up impacting my life and made me extremely unhappy. I was lucky that my company offers a free MBSR course, so I took the eight-week course and it completely changed my life. My sadness went away, I slept better and felt hopeful again.

As a person who loves art (and MBSR) and introspection, this book feels like it’s written for me. Much like the MBSR curriculum, this is a nine-week course with specific activities each week. Each week contains some movement/meditation, some art, some journaling.

You can of course read the book cover to cover for the takeaways and new ways to approach mindfulness, but my personal recommendation would be to do the book slowly, intentionally as it’s written to be used. The biggest part of the MBSR course, for me, was making the time 3x a week, for so many weeks in a row, to be present and silent and aware again and again. This is always a practice so the repetition and continual showing up is a crucial part of the experience.

with gratitude to netgalley and New Harbinger for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.


Mastering the Art of Perspective (5 stars): I have been learning to draw for years and years and years. I am especially interested in urban sketching or other ways to draw scenes and places. The two hardest parts of drawing scenes, for me, are the people and getting the perspective right.

Perspective is exceptionally challenging, for me, so I was excited to see this very step by step and very logical way to see and use perspective. This book breaks the different types of perspective (single, two point, three point) into very clear step-by-step explanations. If you follow instructions meticulously (as the author recommends) it helps give a very clear way to understand perspective.

And then, as with all things, repetition is how we master it.

If you’re struggling with perspective like I have been, this is an excellent place to start.

with gratitude to netgalley and Quarto Publishing Group for an advanced copy in return for an honest review.


If I Never Met You (3 stars): This was a lovely story and I really enjoyed my time with it. The only reason I didn’t give it a higher rating is because I’ve read many stories with this plot (in fact the same exact plot) before and they were just as enjoyable so this didn’t stand out in any way for me. It was a fun, sweet story and if you like something light and sweet (which i definitely did) you will enjoy this.


Crochet (4 stars): If this beautiful and colorful book doesn’t get you motivated to crochet, I don’t know what will. This is a well-rounded book that covers all the basics (types of yarn, washing instructions, color choices), all the stitches (very basic to pretty complicated) and then has lots and lots of ideas.

I will admit that while I remember how to knit, I can’t seem to remember how to crochet and the diagrams in this book weren’t enough to get me there. I had to look up a few basic stitches in video format so I could really follow. Once I got the gist of it, it got easier.

The projects in this book are really beautiful with a very wide variety and skill level. There are clothes, pillows, blankets, bags, jewelry items, toys and more. I loved so many of the ideas that I wish my experience with crochet was strong enough to do them all now. I can’t wait to work my way through this book.

with gratitude to netgalley and DK publishing for an advanced copy in return for an honest review.


Providence (3 stars): I’ve read two if Barry’s books (Jennifer Government and Lexicon) both of which I liked. Providence was totally different from both of them and much more like a Space Opera. The use of language and the pacing were very similar to Barry’s other books and are often the best parts of reading one of his novels, for me. There were some interesting twists in this story and I enjoyed the time I spent with it, however I don’t think it will end up staying with me for very long.


And there we go, grateful to be reading.


Books I Read this Week 2020 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2020 here. I am also tracking my books in real time on Good Reads here. If you’re on Good Reads add me so I can follow you, too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

Moments of 2020 – 15


Moments of 2020 is a year-long project for 2020. You can read more about my projects for 2020 here.

Books I Read This Week 2020 – 15

Here are my goodreads reviews. If you’re on goodreads, add me as a friend so I can see your books too! I also have an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.


Fierce, Free and Full of Fire (4 stars): “When this environment gets one part of you but that environment gets another, when you tuck away one piece in front of this crew but pull it out proudly for that one, when the hidden you is screaming in protest because she is not allowed to speak, whatever felt solid about your core self-dismantles. This is an unhappy, unhealthy way to live.”

Even though I’m not Jen Hatmaker’s usual demographic, I’ve read and really enjoyed several of her books. Regardless of my background or beliefs, she usually has sound advice/perspective and as with all self-help books (which this definitely leans towards being) I can choose what works for me and leave the rest.

And there’s plenty of great advice in this book.

It’s structured around basic tenets like “I am wired this way”, “I deserve goodness” or “I need more connection.” Each chapter covers an area and each area offers a combination of Jen’s thoughts, a researcher or some science and then Jen’s personal stories. Many of them have things you can do to help yourself, shift your thinking, or next steps you can take.

There was a lot here and I highlighted much of the book. All told in Jen’s typical honest, straightforward and funny style. While there might not be a lot of new ideas here if you’ve been following Jen for a while, the book is organized in a way that makes the content really easy to consume. As many of these were not new to me, I found myself wishing for more. I wished her personal stories went deeper. I wished there were a handful of other stories, too. In some cases, where my issue was similar to hers, her words were very resonant and help me get a pep talk. In others, where my style/issues might be different, I found myself wishing for more.

The last part where she lists her single sentence for each chapter was very powerful and brought so much of the guidebook part back in focus for me. After seeing that, I almost found myself wishing there were little pause moments at the end of each chapter for Jen to do more of that with an encouragement for the reader to do the same along the way instead of at the very end when there’s just so much to process.

As with her other books, I enjoyed my time with this one, took a lot of notes, and have much to think about. Here’s to more of us being fierce, free and full of fire.

With gratitude to netgalley and Nelson Books for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.


Mum & Dad (4 stars): This was my first Joanna Trollope novel and I really enjoyed this layered story about family, legacy, adolescence, marriage, and the layers and layers of lives we each live.

This story is about Gus and Monica who are living in Spain, running a vineyard. Their three children, Jack, Katie, and Sebastian and their families. There are a lot of characters in the story between the parents, their kids, he kids’ partners, and the kid’s children, there are 13 right there. Then there is the help staff in the house in Spain which has at least 2 more main characters. Amazingly, I had no trouble keeping track of any of them.

Some characters are better developed than others and there are a handful that I definitely wished I could learn more about (Daisy and Nic come to mind.) But each of the characters are quite distinct and the story is mostly about the parents and their three kids in trying to decide what will happen now that the father has had a stroke.

I liked the way the story shows how each character has a complicated life and many different things they are juggling at the same time, some great, some really hard. In life, most of the time, this is the case and then something big happens (like the stroke) and it just mixes in with all the other big and small things that are already happening to you so you have to sort through it all. I felt that part was really realistic and well done.

By the end of the story, I was invested in each of the characters and really enjoyed this family story and stayed up way too late to finish it.

with gratitude to netgalley and Mantle for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.


Drawing and Painting Expressive Little Faces (5 stars): What an absolute gem of a book!

This book does exactly what it promises. It breaks down the steps of creating a small, expressive face into small, consumable parts. It gives you many different permutations of face shapes, eyes, noses, mouths, and hair. It covers shades of skin and also mentions a few tips when using a real person as a reference.

Each of the sections is very simplified to show you how much can be done with simple steps. As with everything else, the key here is practice practice practice. These look easy but are often not until it’s become second nature which takes a lot of practice. It also takes practice to notice subtle differences across features and to notice shade variations.

There are also a lot of details in the author’s drawings that are not outlined like many ways to draw hats, jewelry, glasses, beards, etc etc. but this is a fantastic starter book to use to draw your first 1000 faces. After which you can worry about how to add more and more detail.

With gratitude to netgalley and Quarto Publishing Group for an advanced copy in return for an honest review.


The Sun Down Motel (4 stars): I really enjoyed my time with this mystery novel with a paranormal element. Lately, it’s rare to find a story that doesn’t have a mind-bending twist or some story element that makes you revisit the whole book. This one, however, is not like that. It’s just a straightforward, awesome mystery. Solid on both character development and plot and with pacing that felt just right for me.


Redhead by the Side of the Road (4 stars): Anne Tyler is one of my favorite authors. Her ability to write books about ordinary people, ordinary places, and ordinary lives is unparalleled. I always find myself thinking about her characters long after I finish one of her stories. My biggest beef with this novel is that it was a novella. It felt like a long, beautiful character study. And I loved it and wished there was more.


Undercover Bromance (4 stars): I love and adore this series. The books are fun, the characters are three dimensional, the dialogue is realistic. There are many laugh out loud funny moments in it and some deep, real messages too. It’s a unique talent to be able to do all of this in one book, and the author hits the ball out of the park every time.


Navigate Your Stars (5 stars): A beautiful, moving commencement speech and beautiful art that goes along with it. A great story about working hard, learning the value of being yourself, and understanding the complex choices we each navigate with where we are, what we have, and who came before us.


And there we go, grateful to be reading.


Books I Read this Week 2020 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2020 here. I am also tracking my books in real time on Good Reads here. If you’re on Good Reads add me so I can follow you, too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

Stories from 2020 – 15

Prompt: Play – 02 | What are your childhood memories of play and playing?

One of my most favorite toys as a kid was the Speak and Spell Electronic Game. I remember seeing it during our trip to America and begging my parents to get it for me. When a few weeks later I received it for my birthday, it was the best present I had had in years. 

I played with that toy for months. Especially as a non-American, it was one of the best ways to learn how to spell words that were new to me. And having a toy that spoke out loud was extremely rare in those days, not to mention one that was so computer-like.

Maybe this was my first foray into computers and my first glimpse into the joy they gave me. Or maybe it was just a really fun way to learn. Either way, some of my best childhood playing memories have this toy in them.


This year I am planning to do something different than last year. Around last September, I stopped taking a lot of daily photos which then meant I also stopped scrapbooking. I have several of the Story Kit’s piled up. So I decided to switch gears a bit and see if I can use Ali’s prompts to tell my stories. I might (or might not) also turn them into scrapbook pages. In the meantime, I will just enjoy telling my stories.

Stories from 2020 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2020 here. The prompts are from Ali’s Story Kits unless mentioned otherwise. I have started an instagram account for these, we’ll see if I keep it up.

Living Wild – 15

Weekly Intention: As I am shifting away from some of the most intense work (hopefully) at work, my intention is to continue to establish some routine. The yoga, the walks, the drawing, the food. Let’s continue that. Let’s also add journaling and some other exercise. Some kid time. Let’s see how I can get there.

This month’s intention is: Call of the Wild: Go on adventures. Venture out into the wild. It’s calling for you. Where are you holding back? Well now, it’s going to be hard to venture into the wild. But maybe I can think of ways to bring more of the wild inside? Longer walks. Maybe I can think of where I am holding back?

One way I will show up this week:  patient.

I will go into the wild:  for now i will continue my daily walks and sit in the back yard when possible.

This week, I will pay attention to: establishing more of my routine and also to my tone.

One new thing I will begin this week: the MBSR exercises/journaling.

One magic I will create: the 100 days of noticing is great. maybe i can get something else for my desk? Some smells?

One thing I hope to release: still each day i will let go of it all and start over.

One thing I will join in on: more of my high school zooms, maybe a kids’ school one, too?

One area I will practice being open: the future of all this.

I am looking forward to: getting some fresh groceries + flowers.

This week’s challenges: balancing work and personal time.

Top Goals: i am going to continue to do the next right thing everywhere i can.

I will focus on my values (love, learn, peace, service, gratitude): i am getting to lean into all of these right now.

This week, I want to remember: that everything is going to be ok and that this is the time to lean into love and kindness and generosity.


Living Wild is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2020 here.

Weekly Reflection 2020 – 14

The Wildest Part of this Week was: I’ve been behind. I keep meaning to write and then the weekend comes and goes and I just don’t manage to write. I am not even sure how I can call out a particular part of the week as wild anymore as we’re all living in new normals where it all feels pretty wild and pretty normal all jumbled into one.

Top Goals Review:  still actively doing covid work.

I celebrate: getting a whole weekend without work this weekend, the first in a few weeks.

I am grateful for: for being safe. for my family. for some downtime this weekend.

This week, I exercised: i started doing daily yoga this week and am still taking the walks with Jake. That’s about it here.

This week, I answered the Call of the WildJust the fresh air I get from being outside, not much of wild here.

I embraced Silence of the Wilderness: I did some scrapping this weekend, some OLW journaling and i have plans for this coming week.

This week’s Wildcard was: no major wildcards this week.

I said yes to: joining a zoom call with several of my highschool friends. it was lovely.

I said no to: going out i guess. i haven’t been anywhere except the perimeter of my house in a long long while.

Core Desired Feelings (leap, soft, release, join, delight) Check-in: i am working on doing all of these. taking a leap wherever i can at the moment. trying to release the anxiety i have. being soft with myself and my family. and joining whenever i can. the delight is mostly limited to flowers at the moment. oh and delighting my son with all the hardware i have at home.

My mood this week was: still pretty tired.

I am proud of: all that we got done this month, it was intense

I release: any anxiety around the future. the future is unknown so i can’t control it by being anxious, i am going to try to take it as it comes.

Here’s what I learned this week: i learned that i look for ways to be anxious, no matter the path i take.

What I love right now: I love the warm weather. i love my family. i am so grateful.


Weekly Review 2020 is a year-long project for 2020. You can read more about my projects for 2020 here.

Moments of 2020 – 14


Moments of 2020 is a year-long project for 2020. You can read more about my projects for 2020 here.