Thursday, January 31, 2019

#24in48 Readathon (Now With Mini Book Reviews)

This past weekend was one of my favourite ones of the year. It was the 24in48 readathon. 24in48 is a readathon where you try to read for 24 out of the 48 hours between midnight Friday/Saturday until midnight Sunday/Monday. It happens twice a year -- once in January and once in July -- and I seriously look forward to it more than Christmas. I've participated in it four times and have hit my 24 hour reading goal each time.
In 24 hours of pure reading time I can read between 8 to 10 books. I built my readathon stack with a lot of different options. I knew I wouldn't read all these books but I wanted to make sure I had a variety of books to choose from once I had finished a book.
My natural tendency is to be a night owl so I drank some caffeine later in the evening, took a shower around 10pm to wake myself up, and baked some banana muffins around 10:30. Yep, that would be 10:30 at night. I dove in at midnight with a fresh banana muffin, some Earl Grey tea, and Cancel The Wedding.

I'd heard so much about this book and my library doesn't carry it. I finally decided to test out the inter-library loan system and it worked really well. I really liked this story of a woman setting out to discover the secrets of her mother's past and how what she learned impacted her own story. I read for 2 hours and 17 minutes after midnight on Friday and went to bed around 2:45am.
I set my alarm for 8ish, made some coffee-hot chocolate, some more Earl Grey tea, and got some strawberries for breakfast. Then I settled in for more reading. Unfortunately, my phone timer reset itself overnight. Argh. Thankfully I've learned to take pictures whenever I pause it.

At the end, I like my stopwatch to show that nice 24 hour number so I had my phone running to catch up with my reading time form the night before, and then I timed my other reading on the iPad. Then I tracked it on paper and added it all together so I knew when my phone had caught up with my actual reading time. This is the second time this has happened to me and TIME MATH IS HARD you guys. Ugh.
The kids joined me for some reading time before they had to head off to the synagogue. These are some of my favourite times with my kids. Also I'm holding my book really close to my face because I hadn't put my contacts in yet but can't really read with my glasses.

I loved Rebecca Solnit's book of essays, Call Them By Their True Name. I tried to finish it before the readathon but I had about fifty pages left. I finished it off. I think you should read her book. She has very powerful things to say about issues facing us today.
Then I read the second book in the Binti series. I don't know if this is my favourite science fiction ever but it's interesting. This book took me a little over an hour to read. Dave always brings me a sandwich from our favourite deli for readathon lunches. It's a tradition and I love it! I took a lunch break and then dove into my next book.
I had started Renegades before the readathon. It was 550 pages long and I'd only read about 200 pages beforehand. I read the rest (350 pages) during the readathon. It's an interesting apocalyptic book about superheroes and villains. But who is who??? I think it takes place in a futuristic New York but it could also be Chicago or LA or any big city with a subway system and a shore. It took me three hours to finish this book off. (Every time I finish a book, I hit "lap" on my stopwatch to record how long each book takes me.) By the time I finished Renegades I had read for just over 8 hours and it was 5:30pm.

I have to admit, I was a little frustrated at this point because Dave and the kids had plans to be gone for most of the afternoon/evening but Dave wasn't feeling well, and Sam had a random throw up incident. So they stayed home. Sam hadn't complained of not feeling well, only threw up once, and immediately went back to eating, but we didn't feel like he should go out among people, just in case.

It's a lot harder to read when the whole family is around, even though Dave does the majority of the heavy parenting on readathon weekends :) I had frozen pizza for supper. Readathon weekends are all about easy food.
I read the first two books in Susan Coryell's series for the July 2018 24in48. Susan is Janice's husband's cousin. Her books are set in Virginia and contain a supernatural element. I really enjoyed reading her trilogy. And by 9pm on Saturday night, I'd read for just over ten hours.

Once Dave and the kids went to bed, I got a second wind (much as I expected would happen) and I picked up The Gown. I barely moved while reading this. I read it in 3 hours and 11 minutes, finishing shortly before 1am. I LOVED this book about the imagined stories of some of the women who embroidered Queen Elizabeth II's wedding gown. There was also a present day story where a woman was trying to find out her grandma's story. In many ways, with the secrecy surrounding family, this reminded me of Cancel the Wedding.
One change I made during this readathon was to drink more water. I'm always saying I should do that but I'm so bad at it. However, by 2am, when I finally gave up and went to bed, I'd drank four whole bottles of water and I felt better than I usually do at that point in the readathon. By that point I'd read for just over 14 hours, leaving 10 hours to read on Sunday, which felt quite doable.
Thankfully my timer didn't reset over Saturday night. Phew. I finished The Duchess of Bloomsbury on Sunday morning around 8:20am. I think I woke up around 7:30am. The Duchess of Bloomsbury continues the story of Helene Hanff, an American and her friendship with a British bookseller. If you haven't read 84, Charing Cross Road go and get it right now. It is a lovely book. Then read this one.
Sunday morning we woke up to a dump of snow with more expected. So I decided to get off my lazy butt and join my family in shoveling. Also, Dave and the kids were going to church so I wanted to help them leave! Ha! It was nasty shoveling because more snow was blowing around as we worked.
After all that hard work (it took about twenty minutes!), I sat down again and raced through The Unwanteds. Someone in my book club recommended it as a book Sam might enjoy. I think he would like this post-apocalyptic novel about The Wanteds (who live in the grey world and learn to fight) and the Unwanteds (who get shipped off to learn the arts).
This book took me a little over two hours to finish and by then I had just over 7 hours left to read. It's always exciting to me when I start counting down to 24 hours instead of just adding them up!!! Since Dave and the kids stayed away for lunch and some of the afternoon, I had a simple lunch of spinach dip and pumpernickel bread and dove into Sold On A Monday.
Sold On A Monday reminded me a lot of Before We Were Yours but I feel like it was a bit more hopeful. There also wasn't a present day story. I think you should read this book. I also loved the story of Lillian's experiences at the paper as a woman in the 30s. I finished this book with almost 20 hours read at 4pm on Sunday.

Unfortunately by that point, Dave and the kids were home, and Dave needed a nap. Because we often buy Oreos or Fudgeeos for readathon weekends, I told the kids if they played quietly for an hour, they could have two cookies. They played really well for almost two hours so they got three cookies. Yep, when Dave can't parent on readathon weekends, I resort to bribes so the kids will let me read. #winning

I should add that both kids joined me for about an hour of quiet reading time on both Saturday and Sunday nights but I have no pictures of this. It was really cozy and lovely though.
Girl in the Blue Coat is a story set in Amsterdam during World War II. It's about a teenager trying to find a Jewish girl. The author said the story really clicked when someone suggested she write it from a teenager's point of view, rather than an adult's. I think the story actually would have been better with adult characters. I didn't hate it but I didn't love it either. I didn't finish this book until 7:30pm because I helped Dave get supper together.
Then I had a little under two hours left to read. My book stack was down to six books from its original start of fifteen books. Plus I'd finished two books which weren't in my original stack. By this point in the readathon I'm simultaneously exhausted and just wishing I was done but also getting sad that it's almost over. I'm usually a bit of a mess. Also, I know that whatever book I choose next, I likely won't finish, so it's always hard to choose that final book.
I ended up going with The Bookshop of Yesterdays which Janice gave me for Christmas. I got so into it, I read past 24 hours without realizing it, and got the book about half done.
I finished my full 24 hours around 10:15 on Sunday night, two hours before the midnight deadline. The first time I did 24in48, I finished around 11:15pm on Sunday night. The second time I finished around 11:40pm on Sunday night. When I did it this past July, I must have been less distracted because I finished really early -- around 5:30pm on Sunday.

I was hoping to finish earlier this time but, because Dave and the kids were around more on Saturday, and Dave wasn't feeling well, I didn't get as much focused reading time. But I still read for 24 hours and read all or part of eleven books.

I hope this post has convinced you that readathons, especially this one, are really fun and that you should do one as soon as possible!

One thing I haven't mentioned is how much I love the community around readathons too. What really makes readathons fun for me is engaging with other participants through the hashtag. I participate solely on Instagram and I love visiting other readers and cheering them on when I'm taking reading breaks. After all, I know how much I appreciate the encouragement when it comes my way.

So if this post has convinced you that readathons might be for you, let me know and I'll twist your arm persuade you to join the next one. There is often some sort of readathon going on and I feel like I know the best ones to do. Ha!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

What's Up Wednesday: January 2019

I haven't done a What's Up Wednesday post since June 2018. I like answering these questions as a way to fill you in on some of our happenings. They remind me of "Currently..." posts.
What's Up Wednesday
image from here

What we're eating this week... We've been participating in a pilot project where we get to "explore" a new country each week. One thing we've started doing is eating food from that country for one meal during that week. The first week we ate all the bread and cheese when we "visited" France. Then we "visited" Niue and ate sweet potatoes (in a Moroccan stew) and bananas. Last week we ate Egg Fried Rice with Prawns when we learned about Singapore. This week we're "visiting" Uganda so that should be interesting. I love that this has gotten some new items into our menu plan and it's been fun to "eat around the world."
Thanks to some stops at Panera Bread on our recent travels, I've also consumed more than my fair share of their Cinnamon Crunch Bagels this month. Ooops.

What I'm reminiscing about... Our Disney Cruise which we left on a year ago today. You can read all my posts about it here.

What I'm loving... Every January (and sometimes into February), our grocery story carries tulips for cheap. I've loved filling our house with tulips this month.
We don't usually have this many at once but 
the kids wanted a bouquet to share so we picked up some extras.
What we've been up to... Did you read my posts about the Blue Jays WinterFest? You can find them here and here. We had the best time and Dave got to fulfill a bucket list item. We are definitely looking forward to our next WinterFest.

What I'm dreading... I don't know that I'm dreading much of anything right now but I should probably be dreading tonight and tomorrow when it's going to feel like -40C (I don't even need to translate that to Fahrenheit for you) with the wind. However, as long as it's sunny, I don't care too much.

What I'm working on... Planning our summer vacation! I'm so excited about it!!! It may involve planes, trains, automobiles, boats, friends and family -- a recipe for a good time!!!

What I'm excited about... Spring Training starts in 25 days. I CANNOT WAIT!!!!! (That's baseball in case you don't know!) I will spend a lot of time doing this:
Streaming Spring Training games to listen to while I work.

What I'm watching/reading... Well this past weekend I read all the books during the 24in48 readathon. I read eight whole books and parts of three other ones. I'm excited that I read for 24 hours and 25 minutes! (I'll be doing a whole post on my experience -- likely tomorrow -- so come back then if you want to read all about it.)

What I'm listening to... Lately I've been listening to Sam and Rachel fight as they always want to practice piano at the same time. I'm torn between being happy they want to practice and frustrated that they fight about whose turn it is. And I'm also listening to each of them play!

What I'm wearing... My moose pjs and matching plaid toque from the Blue Jays WinterFest. I'm so fashionable. Ha!

What I'm doing this weekend... I'm worship leading at church and catching up on all the things at home after a busy couple of weeks. I'll probably do some cleaning, some sorting, some errands, and hopefully play some family games. It should be a nice, normal (boring!) weekend, but those are usually some of the best weekends.

What I'm looking forward to next month... After my parents got back from their month long trip we were talking to them and asking about their future travel plans. It turns out they have another month long trip planned and they invited us to join them for part of it. We thought about it for about two hours and then booked plane tickets. So I'm excited to spend some time with my parents, escape winter for a few days, and see a part of the world I haven't experienced before.

What else is new... Nothing else new.

Bonus question: What is your family's favourite Valentine's tradition? We don't really have one. We used to eat McDonald's on Valentine's Day (because it was the least romantic food we could think of), but we've stopped doing that. Our other tradition is that the kids always make their own cards to hand out to friends.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Daily Photo : January 22 - 28, 2019

January 22, 2019 -- I usually only buy one bouquet of tulips at a time but this week I seemed to have acquired a whole forest of tulips!

January 23, 2019 -- We got the first big dump of snow of the winter this day, and although the kids didn't get a "snow day," they were having so much fun playing, I declared they could have a "snow hour" and they got to school half an hour late. But they had a ton of fun playing and the snow turned into ice that afternoon when it rained.

January 24, 2019 -- We have been doing a country of the week project, where we learn about a different country every week. This week we learned about Singapore so I cooked this Egg Fried Rice With Prawns. It was pretty good.

January 25, 2019 -- When you forget to water your flowers... Ooops. Thankfully, once I watered them, they all revived. Phew.

January 26, 2019 -- I participated in the 24in48 readathon this past weekend. Saturday morning I started off strong with coffee-hot chocolate, Earl Grey tea, and water. Plus, I had two good books to finish.

January 27, 2019 -- I read for 24 hours and 25 minutes and read eight whole books, finished off another two I had started reading before the readathon, and got about halfway through another one. Yay!

January 28, 2019 -- When you don't have great windows, and it gets down to -23C (-10F) at night, you get pretty ice patterns on your windows.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Fulfilling A Bucket List Dream

In case you missed it, I wrote a whole post about part of our experience at the Blue Jays WinterFest yesterday. (You can read it here.) Today I'm continuing the story of our day.
Another part of the Skydome we never get to see is the Blue Jays' clubhouse. However, for WinterFest we were invited to come on in! The tour started with a peek at the training room. We never did figure out what that big machine behind Sam and Rachel is for.
In the picture above you can all the bats, ready for spring. Below, you can see the helmets and the range of uniforms. This part of the clubhouse is where uniforms get fixed and where any special patches get added.

I love that in their everyday space the Blue Jays are reminded that, even though they are based in Toronto, they really do play for all of Canada!

A fun thing which happened on our clubhouse tour is that some of the personnel were trying to do actual work (as hundreds of people filed by!). I started talking to some people who sitting in the office titled, "Equipment Manager." It turns out they were the travel people and I enjoyed talking to them. At the end, the person I'd been talking with (for about two minutes -- it wasn't a lengthy conversation), asked if I wanted a ball. I said, "Yes please!!!"

After all those times of trying to catch a random ball from batting practice, all I had to do was be friendly with the travel coordinator. He definitely wasn't giving them out to everyone so I felt really honoured. (Most of you reading this probably don't care about this, but I want to remember how our family ended up with a Blue Jays 40th season official ball!)
Although the players had cleared their lockers out for the season, a few were set up to show us what they would look like during active use.
There was also a bit of a memory lane in the clubhouse. On the left is the official certificate declaring the Toronto Blue Jays a part of Major League Baseball. On the right is the lineup card from the very first game of the World Series in 1992. It was the first World Series the Blue Jays had ever played in.

During the day you could meet a few of the key Blue Jays staff and sign a "Blue Jays for a Day" contract. Dave and I were excited to get our contracts signed by Paul Beeston -- the president of the Blue Jays for many years, including when they won the World Series. He was also the president of Major League Baseball for five years.
One thing I liked is that he took a few minutes with each person. Dave is obviously giving some advice here and Paul is listening kindly. Ha!
Dave and I are really curious what kinds of conversations he had with the kids. Rachel is obviously imparting some wisdom! I also have a picture where Paul is touching Rachel's bow so there must have been some conversation about that too!
After the contract signing, we were each given an official Blue Jays chocolate chip cookie. When visitors come to the Blue Jays office, they are also offered these cookies. I just loved how the Blue Jays did little things like that to make us feel welcome and to give us an inside look at Blue Jays life.

By the way, Paul's "office" was just set up in one of the main areas so this was all a set but they had books, a plant, and pictures and it felt like you were in a real office. I was just amazed by the level of detail everywhere.
The person on the left is Robbie Alomar. He was the second baseman for the Jays when they won both of their World Series. Until earlier this week, he was also the only Blue Jays inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. (Now Roy Halladay has been inducted posthumously and it looks like he will go in as a Jay as well.) The person on the right is Pat Borders -- the catcher for the Jays in the 1992 and 1993 World Series as well as the 1992 World Series MVP. This is a picture I took while waiting in line.
Robbie Alomar is Dave's absolute favourite baseball player of all time! We were so excited when we heard he was going to be at WinterFest and obviously Dave was hoping to meet him! So when we had the opportunity to line up for a picture with him, we absolutely made it happen. This picture was taken by the fans in line behind us and we have an official Blue Jays photo which is much nicer.

I was so excited that Dave got to fulfill this dream, which he mentioned afterwards was an item on his bucket list -- which I didn't know about!
After the pictures we split up. Sam and Dave went to participate in the virtual reality home run derby and Rachel and I went "skating." Yes, they had a "skating rink" on the infield! However, because they didn't have the ability to keep it cold all day, it was a plastic skating rink. They had special skates and it was very different than skating on ice. However, Rachel was excited to skate in the Skydome. So was I!
Then Rachel and I went on the huge slide (which I didn't want to do at all but Rachel wanted company). Then we walked over to the arcade area where Dwight Smith Jr was hanging out. He saw that Rachel wanted to play basketball so he tossed her one!
Joe Biagini (a pitcher) was playing ping pong but he kindly posed for a picture with Sam and Rachel when we asked.
And then Sam and Rachel played some ping pong with TJ Zeuch, an up and coming Blue Jays pitcher. It was so fun to see all these players hanging out and playing games with the fans.

After that, things were winding down but I really wanted to find the World Series trophies from 92 and 93. So we found them and took some pictures. I so remember the winning games from each of these series and how excited all of Canada was!!!
After seeing the trophies it was time to collect our jackets and head home. We had the absolute best day ever (!!!) and wished we were free on Sunday so we could go back.

We are absolutely going to go back to WinterFest and, if they offer it over two days, we would definitely buy tickets for both days. The players change from day to day and there were so many things we would have loved to do -- or participate in -- for longer. After all we didn't get to ride the merry-go-round, we didn't get to pose inside the snow globe, we could have played catch on the field for much longer, and we didn't get to meet Ace and Junior -- the Jays' mascots.
So next time look for pictures from the top of the ferris wheel because that will definitely be on our list for next WinterFest too!!!