Friday, December 30, 2016

Like sands through the hourglass

A few things have been constants for me the past few years: the desire to see and experience; an insistence on not waiting for tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year to do something I want to do; the need to view myself in the context of what I am doing for others while still maintaining a safeguard on my self care; the feeling of a continual sinking into myself and becoming more and more myself than I've ever been, which is weird as I've always felt like someone who was fully and fiercely herself; and the knowledge that time is slipping through my fingers faster than I ever thought possible.

At the end of each year, I like to look back over it and think about it in relation to other years. On a personal level, part of me feels like I flew this year and part of me feels like I spent much of the year poised on the precipice of flying on to something new, getting my ducks in a row for whatever that might be. I'm not being intentionally vague. I feel change coming and I am one to always trust my gut. I don't know exactly how it will manifest itself, but I know it's always better to meet new opportunities with your house in order.

In comparison to 2015, this year I tried fewer new recipes, read more books (128 so far this year, 104 last year) and less magazines, watched less TV and went to the movies zero times. I was less productive but more centered, less organized but more open to operating differently. I worried less and lived in the moment more, became more cognizant of my aging dogs, accumulated more eye wrinkles, and felt more tied to the shore than I felt tied to my home.

This year reminded me that there are people who will think critically and connect the dots and people who won't; and people who fear everyone different from them and people who don't. It has upped my activism ante. It has shown me that I can coexist with people who think differently than I do if they can converse intelligently but that I don't gel well with fear mongering or stupidity. I spent a lot of 2016 being tired in my soul of a lot of things not directly related to politics or politicians - but more related to the reactions of people I personally know to things - we don't exist in a vacuum and at some point your viewpoints are who you are. And when someone shows me who they are, I believe them.
Personal experiences in 2016:  I saw a family of baboons scampering along the road in South Africa and watched the sun rise in African skies on safari; I tapped my feet to music in New Orleans; slept out for homeless youth; spent my 39th birthday largely unshowered but happy; joined Jana on The Armchair Librarians podcast even though I detest recording my voice (we're on hiatus until the new year, check out our old episodes here); lost a friend I've had since junior high; gained three new members of my aunt army - Natalia, MBD, and Libby; visited the Chinese Lantern Festival, Magic Gardens, and Liberty One Observation Deck in Philly; celebrated my mom's 60th birthday on the beach; attended Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel + Sting, Counting Crows, and Bruce Springsteen concerts; lost my Gamma; spent MFD's birthday in the butt of a large fake elephant; freaking MET Bruce Springsteen and Jodi Picoult at author events at the library; enjoyed girls weekend at the lake, one up the mountains and two at the shore; went tubing for the first and possibly the last time and went whale watching for the first of a few more times; celebrated my niece's first birthday; looked back on a year of shore house ownership; stood on the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland with my Dad on his 60th birthday; heard bagpipes played in Scotland; proudly sent MFD off to deliver supplies to Standing Rock and soon after experienced the distress that is being many miles away when your partner has been injured; exchanged countless hilarious and WTF texts with my people; started wearing leggings; and so many other smaller moments.

Smaller in relation to those bigger plucked out and listed above, but smaller overall? No. Life is lived in the small moments, not the highlight reel. Mine is, anyway. It's in every grain of sand. I'm betting yours is too, which is why it pains me when people get caught up in the illusion that everyone else's life is more grand than theirs is. Bullshit. We all have a sun dappled existence with light and dark spots. I will venture to guess that people who appreciate it all, big and small, light and what they can bring forth from the dark, enjoy the ride more though. Something to think about.
I'm a sucker for the year's best nine on Instagram. Instagram is where I am most active on social media - follow me there!

Worldwide 2016 is viewed as a dumpster fire, and on many levels I agree. No year is all bad though, and even when it's more grind than glory, there is something salvageable. This year I am reminded that character is built in the trenches and not on the mountaintops and that we can all use some more character.

August 2017 will see me enter my seventh year of blogging in this space. Seven years (waiting for my best friend Laura to check my math). In a lot of ways, it feels like I've always been doing this. And my reasons for doing it haven't changed - I like to have a place to document my life and thoughts, whether zero people read it or 10 or 100 or you get the picture. It is as true of a reflection of my life as it can be without sharing shit that I don't personally want on the Internet. I am a what you see is what you get person both face to face and in this space. So while what appears here content-wise changes based on what's going on in my life and what I'm into at the time, one thing that doesn't change and that never will is that when you open this website, the real me is here. I appreciate you for reading. If you ever want to drop me a line, you can find me at

I'll catch you in 2017, eh? If you're going out tomorrow night, be safe. If you're driving don't drink and if you're drinking don't drive and all that jazz. If you are interested in mummery and what MFD does on New Year's Day, check back on January 1 for a post on where to find him on TV or streaming TV.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Thursday Thoughts from in between

1. The week between Christmas and New Year's always feels like no man's land to me. It's like simultaneously a lot of stuff is happening and very little is happening and it goes quickly but also really slowly. I'm looking back on the year but looking forward to a fresh start in the next. Straddling the abyss, floating in the ether.

2. Vietnam Vets picked up yesterday. Goodbye, all the things. Everything must gooo. Sorry for the dark pic, I cannot wait to have my house back to normal so there are actual lights and not soft Christmas lights lighting the interior. I have more to purge, but a lot of it is kitchen-related and requires wrapping and boxing and I didn't have the supplies this week.

3. Monday we were on tour, visiting with Gram, the Doyle aunts and uncles, and then at Mom & Rich's.
4. Wearing this week. And thinking I'll be throwing all the nail polishes out. At least the light purple (Significant Other Color) and the glitter. They're not working for me. Shirt from Feminist Apparel, but it was part of a subscription box so I'm not sure if it's on the site but a lot of my other favorites are (like this one and this one). Feminist Apparel is a local Philly company and they rock.
5. Reading this week. Well, the favorite reads of 2016 from Tuesday's special Show Us Your Books link up, duh. Otherwise, I finished Rosarito Beach and started Bruce's book...even when I love the subject matter, I would absolutely always prefer fiction to non-fiction. The bottom three covers: I used a giftcard from MFD to pre-order the newest Fina Ludlow book by Ingrid Thoft coming out on January 10, as well as this, which appeared on a few favorite reads of 2016 lists, and this, which appeared on one.
6. Spoiler alert: we both died. Quickly. Then I made an egg bake which is the healthiest thing I've eaten in recent memory. We also discussed how we both always died early on the Oregon Trail in school. We need some savvy survivors to play with us so we have hopes of someone else carrying us to the promised land.
7. A gift from Treat Lady. We're finally going to find out what Mae is aside from pug, which will end the speculation we've been doing for years. My vote is for part troll or she-demon. LOL

8. I'm finally cutting ties with Snapfish after using them to store my photos since 2000. Everything will live in Google photos now.

9. Reminder, on appearance; and in remembrance of a fierce force in this galaxy, mental health and addiction advocate, and honest woman who showed little girls everywhere that they could raise a rebellion and save an empire:

10.  E-card of the week

Linking up with Kristin & Joey

Stuff, Things, etc.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Shit MFD Said: Vol 36

Me: There's some taco meat in there too.
MFD: Brownies?
Me: No.
MFD: I heard brownies.

MFD: What was in that box?
Me: Stuff for me.
MFD: It was probably for me. Probably Gold.
Me: Not for you and not gold.
MFD: Frankincense? Myrrh?
Me: None of the above.

MFD: Did you go Back to the Future to get those pants?
Me: They're trees!
MFD: Steph, did you borrow those pants from Debbie Gibson?
Me: It's Christmas and they're trees.
Stephen: Where did you get those leggings?
MFD: 1980.
Me: Shut up!
MFD: Steph, Tiffany called. She wants her pants back.

Me: Mae would not go to the bathroom.
MFD: Did she have her sweater on?
Me: It's 60 fucking degrees.
MFD: She doesn't like to get wet.
Me: This is not a household for special snowflakes.
MFD: I guess not.

Pushing the ornament boxes close to the candle on the coffee table
Me: You are ridiculous right now. You almost lit yourself on fire.
MFD: Wouldn't be the first time this month.

Watching Christmas Vacation beginning driving scene
MFD: laughing That's totally me.
Me:  Everything about you is Clark Griswold.

All read and approved by MFD before they go live...
Shit MFD Said Vol 1Shit MFD Said Vol 2Shit MFD Said Vol 3Shit MFD Said Vol 4
Shit MFD Said Vol 5Shit MFD Said Vol 6Shit MFD Said Vol 7Shit MFD Said Vol 8
Shit MFD Said Vol 9Shit MFD Said Vol 10Shit MFD Said Vol 11, Shit MFD Said Vol 12, Shit MFD Said Vol 13, Shit MFD Said Vol 14, Shit MFD Said Vol 15, Shit MFD Said Vol 16, Shit MFD Said Vol 17, Shit MFD Said Vol 18, Shit MFD Said Vol 19, Shit MFD Said Vol 20, Shit MFD Said Vol 21, Vol 22, Vol 23, Vol 24, Vol 25, Vol 26, Vol 27, Vol 28, Vol 29, Vol 30, Vol 31, Vol 32, Vol 33, Vol 34, Vol 35

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Show Us Your Books - Favorite Reads of 2016

Welcome to the special year end edition of Show Us Your Books, in which we talk about our favorite reads of the year. 

This year I read 124 books. Out of those, I chose 11 as my favorite reads. The books on the list below are not necessarily the most critically acclaimed or best written books - this is Life According to Steph, not the New York Times best seller list - but they are the books that were my favorite reading experiences of this year. 

Linkup Guidelines:
The next regular monthly Show Us Your Books linkup is  Tuesday, January 10, 2017. This link up happens the second Tuesday of every month.
1. Please visit and comment with both of your hosts, Jana & me
2. Please display the button (need it? let me know) or link back to us on your blog post
2. Please visit a few other blogs who've linked up and get some book talk going!

You can see all Show Us Your Books posts here, and you can see my post like this from last year here. In no particular order, here are my favorite reads of 2016:

Dodgers by Bill Beverly - I loved this book from beginning to end. It gave a glimpse into a life that's totally foreign to me - the criminal drug element and hierarchy of the streets. Beverly didn't go deep enough to overload you with info, but just far enough to make you realize it is a life with totally different rules that you can't even imagine. I loved the main character.
ARC ebook from Netgalley

Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver - I found this read emotional and moving. I was a little ragged and achy inside when I finished it. I don't know if it hit me at a good time or what, but the entire reading experience with the story and the words and all of it was beautiful. This is one of the things I really love about reading - the after feeling. I still feel it when I think back on it.
library hardback

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy - I read this beginning to end in less than 24 hours. I loved the story and messages in this book. I thought Willowdean was just the right combination of kickass and vulnerable and enjoyed the blossoming of her misfit friends. Thoroughly enjoyable.
library hardback

Brutality (Fina Ludlow #3) by Ingrid Thoft - The third book in the Fina Ludlow series did not disappoint. I had to stay up until 1 a.m. on a work night to finish it. I think Fina is a kickass female lead character and if you like mystery thrillers, you might enjoy the Fina books. This entry is really a vote for all three Fina books.
e-book, kindle

Water From My Heart by Charles Martin - Have I mentioned how I hate the star rating system on Goodreads? I hate the star rating system on Goodreads. But this is a flat out five star for me. It gutted me in a wonderful way. I do love a good redemption story.
Library, hardback

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly - Based on actual occurrences of women in Nazi camps, specifically Ravensbruck. Good Lord, this story. World War II stories are so hard to read, which is exactly why they must be told and re-told and read in all of their incarnations. So we don't forget how terrible humans can be to each other. And so we don't forget how resilient the human spirit can be. It was a very emotional, very good read. I liked the alternating viewpoints. I haven't been able to pick up a WWII book since, but it's almost time to.
Free ARC from Netgalley

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain - I was a huge fan of The Paris Wife, and McLain did not disappoint in this similar undertaking. McLain takes actual history of actual people and crafts novels around them. This time her main character was Beryl Markham (who wrote West with the Night) and Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen (Isak Dineson, writer of Out of Africa) filled it out. This was a beautiful and romantic novel tinged with loss, triumph, and hardship. I truly enjoyed it.
library hardback

Valley of the Moon by Melanie Gideon - This started a little slow for me. Depressing as hell too, in places throughout. But I genuinely wanted more story from every character, and by the end I sat in a parking lot to finish it before driving home after getting off the train. It was beautiful.
free ARC from Netgalley 

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch - I ripped through the Wayward Pines trilogy in a week, and I really wanted more from Crouch. This is not a continuation of the Pines series, but a force in its own right.I was glued to this book, which is saying something as it concerned quantum physics and I cared about them for once in my life. A great read. Discussed on The Armchair Librarians here.
free e-copy from Netgalley 

The Mothers by Brit Bennett - I couldn't put this down. I loved the writing itself, specifically what I came to think of as the Mothers' chorus, and the way the story was told. Read it. 
library hardback

Faithful by Alice Hoffman - I fell headfirst into this book. Great characters and relationship work by Hoffman. Sad and hopeful and full of love from unlikely sources and redemption.  
Free e-copy from Netgalley 

What were your top reads this year? 

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Monday, December 26, 2016

TWTW - the last Christmas

Not mine or yours, of course. Rest in peace, George Michael. I loved you. You've done us dirty, 2016.
Friday I had an early dismissal and we wasted the night away watching the Seinfeld Festivus episode and all of the Christmas episodes of The Office. I didn't want to go out into the melee to get flowers so I ordered from Urban Stems and they were fabulous - they're only in certain cities, but check them out. Fair warning: if you use that link I get $15 off and you get $10 off. I got these lovelies for $27 with delivery. From myself to myself. The delivery guy at my office laughed at me.
Christmas Eve on Saturday! It was a pretty chill day at home, I finished a book and MFD decorated the tree despite my pleas to leave it with just lights. My mom also came to drop off cookies and ham and have coffee with us.
Annual Christmas Eve at Sandy's with my dad & Carol's friends and our friends and some of MFD's family and Aubrey's family and my brothers and lots of love. It's always a great festive start to the holiday.
The sleigh stopped at Billy & Sue's next. The little girls, my cousin Gabriella and Lola Jean, were the hit of the party of course. And Lola's baby doll, apparently. Christmas conversation: titty bars. Don't ask. 
MFD, Debbie, and I drove around to the two super decorated cul-de-sacs in our neighborhood before heading home, where we watched A Christmas Story and I ate 489 cookies before falling asleep on the couch and never going up to bed. MFD was in and out for midnight mass and then he left to do Code Blue volunteering for the rest of the night. 
We met at Lola's house in the morning and had breakfast with them and my Dad & Carol. Despite my brother's protests and with her mother's blessing, we got Lola Jean a bounce house. Years of fun coming up! Also, pick which hair is mine and which is my brother's? 
Santa's sleigh pointed to my mother-in-law & father-in-law's house next. We hung out there for a while and will pop in again today. ho ho ho mofos
Under our own tree, it was both a bookish year and apparently a shit-themed year. The 1990s brought me some Docs too.
I putzed around in the afternoon cutting up some veggies and putting a ham in the oven. Mom and Rich, Swan, Pop, and Debbie came over for a relaxed dinner. MFD woke up most of the way through, ate, and went back to sleep. It was a perfectly chill way to close out Christmas Day. The dogs were of course pleased to see Swan, their new designated babysitter when we go away. Mae in particular adores him.
We were all beat so they left a little before 6. All the dogs and MFD were snoozing and I just sat in the glow of the Christmas lights and watched Christmas Vacation before heading up to bed at 9. A merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Christmas 2016 in the books. I feel very thankful for framily and the generosity and love from everyone. More visiting to come on this day and this week. I hope yours was very merry.

Favorite reads of 2016 coming tomorrow for a special edition of Show Us Your Books with me & Jana. If you got bookish gift cards, get them ready!

Linking up with Biana at B Loved Boston for Weekending

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas cards she sends me, with her regards

Fellow Bruce Springsteen fans know I'm singing the first line from one of my favorites, For You, and substituting Christmas for Princess. As you can see, there are no princesses in this Christmas card. We went with the reality Christmas card this year - no showers, no makeup, no problem. Real life at the shore, and thanks to Joe for taking the photo.
On Christmas Eve Eve, I'm wishing you and yours a very merry everything. Including Festivus, which is actually today.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Thursday Thoughts - 'Twas the one before Christmas

1. Now it can be Christmas, because I've seen the holiday light show at Wanamaker's. I mean Macy's. Philly friends, it goes until December 31 and the Wanamaker's link right there will give you show times. 
2. I love that there's a carousel right in the middle of the City Hall courtyard. 
3. It is indeed Christmas time in the city, and the big ass tree in front of City Hall with the awesome Liberty Bell topper even has my neighborhood in the bottom cutout. 
4. Have you watched How Lovely to be a Woman in 2016? Nailed it.  

5. MFD did Code Blue earlier this week. The dogs were quite pleased and spread out all over his side. In burn news, his hands are healing really well and he does not need skin grafts. 
6. I am in a really good purging groove right good that what I'm looking forward to most in my downtime next week is getting rid of shit. The main thing that has slipped in the past year with the management of two houses is that I did not stick to one in and one out. And I did not come up with a solid storage system for things for the shore that I need to store at home. It's time to right those wrongs. 
7. Congratulations to Brittany for winning the annual Show Us Your Books holiday giveaway. Don't forget to link up on Tuesday with your favorite books of 2016. Readers, check back armed with your Christmas gift cards! Currently reading:

8. It's not Christmas until I spend eleventy billion unnecessary dollars at DiBruno Brothers on our holiday favorites: pepper shooters, black lava cashews, sweet sopressata, port wine spread, and Prima Donna gouda. And then MFD eats something he's not supposed to eat and pisses me off. 

9. Reminder:

10.  E-card of the could I resist?

Linking up with Kristin & Joey

Stuff, Things, etc.

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