Sunday, December 11, 2011

Challenged by Challenges

I remember the first time I heard the term "Reading Challenges"  It was in October, 2009, the year that I discovered book blogs.  I was intrigued by the idea of setting reading goals for the year, and I was captivated by the number of different challenge themes to choose from.  Since I have never had the opportunity to be a part of book club, I thought this would be a way for me to connect with an online community of like-minded bibliophiles.  For the past two years I have signed up for several challenges, but completed very few.  And I vowed several months ago that I would not join another one.  I like the idea of challenges, but in the end, I miss the freedom of choosing what I want to read when I want to read it.

But since returning to the bloggosphere I have once again been tempted.  And once again, I will cave in.  But this time I truly plan to limit my enrollment to just two - and I have great expectations of completing both of them.

The first challenge in which I will take part is not so much a choice but a necessity.  I am very much looking forward to taking part in C.B. James's TBR Double Dare Challenge, which runs from January 1 - April  1, 2012.  The premise is simple:  read only books that are currently in your possession as of January 1.  Do not purchase any new books; do not put any new books at hold at the library.  For three months just read books that you currently own.

I would say my current ratio to books owned that I have not read vs books owned that I have read stands at about 10:1 (maybe more).  It is totally out of control.  Although I have not felt like reading for the past nine months or so, that has not curbed by book buying habit.  And the guilt is starting to overshadow the pleasure of this hobby.  So I gladly join this challenge with the hopes that it will not only help me to make a dent in my TBR backlog - but also that it will jumpstart my old reading passion.

The other challenge in which I will participate with great gusto is the Finishing a Series challenge hosted by Socrates Book Reviews.  I have started the Harry Potter series at least three times in the past two years.  I originally started them in audiobook form, having fallen completely in love with Jim Dale's voice - and managed to listen to the first two books while cultivating a treadmill routine (something else that has gone by the wayside lately).  Last year I started to read The Sorcerer's Stone again, but life seemed to pull me in a different direction.  At this point I have 'cried wolf' so often that my youngest daughter, the Hermione of the Totoro family, does not believe I will ever follow through on my promise to read them.  So, in an effort to prove her wrong - and to allow myself the pleasure of reading a beloved modern day classic, I have declared 2012 to be the year of Harry Potter.  I currently have in my possession all but the first book in hard cover; all of the books on audio CD; and just recently purchased all eight movies in DVD Blu Ray.  I hope to follow a routing of reading the book first (probably combination of audio and written word) and then watching the movie as a special reward.  If I weren't so gun-shy of challenges - I would even consider starting a Harry Potter reading challenge....but I'm not sure that I can pull that off.

I am very optimistic that 2012 will be the year that I complete all of the challenges in which I have enrolled.  Of course it helps that the two challenges can be completed simultaneously -- in that the books I choose to read will count for both.  And while it is not overly ambitious --- only seven YA books in a twelve month period --- it is best for me to start with baby steps.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Photography Pastime

I just completed an online course entitled, Photo Meditations:  Infusing Your Images with Soul, taught by the amazing Susannah Conway.  If you are unfamiliar with Susannah, you simply must visit her site.  She is completely down-to-earth and has this magical way of transforming a purely cyber-relationship into one of intimacy.  This summer I took her Unravelling 1 course which led me to immediately register for this photography course.  She also plans to offer a course on Blogging this spring as well perhaps other photography courses.  I have become a groupie of sorts.

But I digress.  The purpose of this post is to share with you a "game" that Susannah taught us in the first week of the course.  It is called a Photo Scavenger Hunt and I have become totally addicted.  The purpose of the game is to build a collection of photographs that inspire you.  Inspire you to do what?  That's just it.....whatever you wish.  Some photographs I have used to inspire me to take a better picture.  Other photographs I have used to inspire me to slow down and enjoy the moment.  Some photographs I have used not to inspire but just to enjoy for the vibrant colors - or the beautiful simplicity - or the magical mood.  Well, you get the idea.

The rules of the game are simple.  First, you must have a Flickr account.  If you don't have one, it is easy to establish and free to start (although I will warn you that once you start taking lots pictures you will definitely want to upgrade to the PRO version which is a mere $25.00 a year).

After your account is set you can begin to play the game.  There are several ways to start.  You can either go to the Flickr home page and begin viewing the most recently added photos. can input a search term to focus on more specific photographs (for example - conduct a search for Christmas Lights) can visit my flickr favorites and preview a few of those.  Once you find a photo that you like - click on it.  A larger image will appear and you can click the "star" icon above the photo.  This will add that photograph to your collection of favorites.

One of my "favorites" from Flickr.
Photography by Diyosa
Now... to keep the hunt going, visit the photostream of the person whose picture you just saved.  The link to that person's account is found next to their picture near the top of the right hand column. (NOTE:  click on the photo to the right and it will take you to the larger image of this picture on my Flicker page.  You will see Diyosa's favicon and link to her account on the right hand side.  Click that link).

 Once you land on their account page (in this case, Diyosa) - go to their favorites tab and see what images they have chosen to save.  Browse through those photos and when you find one you like, click on it.  This will bring up the larger image where you can add to your favorites by clicking on the star.  Then follow the link of that photographer to their photostream....go to their favorites....browse until you find you one like....etc.

This can be done as many times - or in my case - as many hours - as you desire.  And each time you play the game you will be led to different photographers who have different favorites from which to choose.  It is a delightfully fun game which has helped foster my creative side.

At some point I plan to revisit each of the photographers from my favorites page and spend some time searching their photo sets -- other pictures that they have taken categorized by theme.  I am sure that I will find even more inspiration.

I hope I have made these instructions clear.  It is really not at all difficult and quite fun.

Perhaps in another post I will discuss how I am using Flickr to help me learn the manual mode setting on my dslr.  In the meantime I'm gonna go find me some more pretty pictures.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Finishing what we start...

I truly love December.   I love anticipating the first snow - which transforms the bleak landscape into a winter wonderland.  I love the festive celebrations and spiritual truths surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ.  And I love the peaceful rest that comes between Christmas and New Year's.  It is a time for me to reflect on the previous year by fondly remembering the highlights, as well as evaluating some necessary resolutions for the months ahead.  It is this anticipation of wiping the slate clean that energizes me - and usually causes me to take on more than I can handle.

The old saying "my eyes were bigger than my stomach" not only pertains to the dining table, but in all aspects of my life.  I immediately start to think of a new exercise routine and how I can easily fit thirty minutes of aerobic activity into my daily life.  And as long as I am at it, I could also add ten minutes of calisthenics before a quick shower.  Of course, the stress level in my life warrants some attention, so some deep breathing and beginning yoga classes would be in order.  Now I know many of you already follow this kind of healthy regimen and probably more.  But this goal is too lofty for me and I know if I attempt to incorporate all this change into my life at once - I will fail before I even start.

But this year I would like to do something different.  I would like to finish what I start.  I hope to reacquaint myself with the treadmill - perhaps 20-30 minutes four or five days a week.  Slow and steady wins the race, right?  That will be the focus of 2012 and perhaps in 2013 I can add another exercise routine to the mix.

But eating and exercise are not the only areas of my life where I tend to overextend.  I often manage to transform a relaxing pastime into a stressful event.  I am enamored by color (probably because my own personal outlook of the world is so black and white - but that is the subject of another post).  And while I really do not enjoy sewing - I love the patterns of quilt fabrics.  I have already purchased material for holiday table runners (both Thanksgiving and Christmas, neither one made so far) - matching placemats and napkins - a girly quilt for Brynn consisting of bright pinks, greens, and whites -  and a sudoku lap quilt for myself  made with nine different batik patterns of varying shades of green and purple.  I even spontaneously joined a quilt block-of-the-month group because the choices in patterns were either Jane Austen - Laura Ingalls Wilder - or Agatha Christie.  How could I resist?  That was in September.  I have yet to take those pieces out of the packaging and have been too embarrassed to pick up the other three months.

In 2012 I would like to complete one of these projects - just to say that I actually quilted.  I am tempted to declare that project will be the sudoku quilt, but it may end up being the 10 minute table runner (which took me three hours to make -- but hey, who's counting).

And then there is the photography interest that has yet to get off the ground.  I have read numerous books on the subject and purchased several of them for my own personal library.  I have taken a couple of online classes to help me develop my own creative eye - and yet I have taken very few photographs.  There is fear lurking in there somewhere.  Fear of what?  I have no idea.  But I would like 2012 to be the year that I actually get out of my head with photography and go out and actually take some pictures.  I have no expectation of the quality of these photos - just that they represent my perspective of the world.  Perhaps I will be inspired to write an essay or two from the pictures I take - or perhaps I will decide to scrapbook a few of them in a personal album.  But those goals are secondary.  I just want to feel comfortable behind the camera.  I want to learn to document my life in pictures.

And then there is the realm of books.  Since starting a book blog, my personal library has grown exponentially.  I have not read a novel in nearly a year - and yet I continue to browse (and sometimes purchase) more.  My most recent purchase was the entire series of the Harry Potter books in hard back for $40!  And here is what I have learned about myself.  The more choice I have .... the more paralyzed I become at making a decision.  When my personal library was small, I was a voracious reader - but would rarely buy one book without having read one from my own personal shelves.  Now that I have so many to choose from, I find it difficult to select just one to read for fear that there is another one that I might like better.  It is a mental illness,  I am sure.

So in 2012 I have decided not to join any reading challenges (as tempting as many of them sound).  Well, at least I did make that proclamation until I caught up on the posts of A Novel Challenge.  But even then I plan to only sign up for two challenges that I fully intend to complete.  But that will be the subject of a separate post.

I have already rambled long enough here, but hopefully you understand my predicament.  I do not want my energy and sense of anticipation to wane after January - but I want it to continue throughout 2012.  I want to start new projects - and I want to actually complete them.  I want to set goals for my life - but I want them to be manageable so that lifetime benefits can be realized.  I have much that I want to pursue in the years ahead - but I need to learn to pace myself so that I can actually enjoy life itself.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

It's Good to be Back!

I simply cannot tell you how right it feels to be blogging again --- and your kind and encouraging comments yesterday confirmed that decision.  THANK YOU!

I gave a lot of thought to reinventing "my" blog --- starting from scratch with a new domain, new name, new focus.  But in the end I decided that this blog is truly a reflection of me.   Three years ago my primary focus in life, outside family of course, was teaching and reading.  Period.  I was a two dimensional character.  But over these past three years I have not so much reinvented myself as I have discovered new aspects of me.   The butterfly is still the caterpillar - just in a different state.  I am still Molly, but in a new (and hopefully improved) way.  This blog will reflect that inner transformation.

So I decided to give the blog a new look - a facelift, so to speak.  I had maintained the same blog design for nearly two years and it signaled to me the bookishness of my personality.  I thought it might be best to change the outer design to signal to others that this blog is different - the same, but different.  I even changed my profile picture - from the one taken nearly seven years ago to one that I took myself on Halloween.  I have recently cut my hair from shoulder length to chin length --- and my costume that day was an authentic French beret.  Not really a costume, but more an inner connection with my Parisian love affair and desire to revisit that city on a regular basis.  It is not the most flattering picture that I have ever taken, but it is significant.

I currently have many posts ideas rambling around in my head - but I have promised myself that I will not stress posting every day - or even on a more modified schedule.  I will post when I have the time - and the material.  And I will thoroughly enjoy every minute of it!

Happy December to you all.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


Photo Credit
I have missed blogging.  I have missed writing for an audience (I still write daily on 750words).  I have missed the personal connection with my cyber friends.  I have missed learning about myself by sharing with others.

So what has prevented me from writing?  I could say the busyness of life (teaching six different classes each week; adjusting to life as a grandmother; preparing for the holidays), but that would not be accurate.  I could say that I needed to take a break in order to recover from the life changes that I experienced this year (the loss of my mom; the birth of my first grandchild; the departure of my youngest for an apartment of her own).  But that would not be totally accurate either.  My primary reason for not blogging is because I have felt like an impostor in the book blogging world and I banished myself from the club.

Silly, I know.  But when I first started My Cozy Book Nook reading was my primary leisure activity.  And when I first discovered internet blogs, I was drawn to those that focused on books and literature.  I joined several reading challenges, and made many online friends who were more voracious readers than myself. I owe much to these bloggers as they opened my eyes to new possibilities:  new ways to connect with others - new ways to express myself - new genres of literature.

So this morning I researched the possibility of starting a new blog.  A blog where I felt comfortable sharing all aspects of my life - not just books.  Over the past two years I have experimented in several other activities that have provided me much pleasure:  photography - quilting - scrapbooking (again) - traveling - writing.  And I want to share these various aspects of me with others.

But I ran into several challenges this morning.  For some reason I could not create a new blog using Blogger with Safari 5.1.  So I rationalized that perhaps now was the time to switch to WordPress.  But all of the domain names that I wanted to use (Beautiful Butterfly - The First Day of the Rest of Your Life - Free to be Me) were already taken.  And then there was the decision whether to pay for self-hosting or not.  I'm just not sure I am ready for that learning challenge at this moment in life.

Photo Credit
I was more confused than when I started the research, so I decided to take a shower.  I do some of my best thinking in the shower and the thought came to me:  I could still use My Cozy Book Nook for this new blog direction.  Reading has not been eliminated from my life, it just isn't the sole focus of my life anymore.  And many of the activities that I currently pursue - often take place in the Nook (it is now my craft space as well as reading room).

I know many of you have encouraged to me to do this for quite some time - but for some reason I held on to the artificial boundaries that I had set.  So I thank you --- for your patience while I learned that this blog truly is for me and whatever I choose to make it.

So I am back.  The posts will probably be rather eclectic and may not always resonate with you, my readers of the past, but they will be honest and they will chronicle the rediscovery of me.  It's funny.  This blog began on December 9, 2008.  It is now reborn on December 3, 2011.  A lot has happened in these three years, and I am quite excited to see what the next several years have in store.
Related Posts with Thumbnails