31 Days

It’s October again – just like clockwork.  And that means it’s time for joining The Nester’s 31 Days writing challenge.  Writing for 31 days, with or without a topic, and being part of a community of writers sharing their lives and hearts every day through October.

I’m writing about my home this year.  I actually started this earlier in the year, and it’s still something dwelling deep in my heart, this desire to purposefully love where I live, every day.  So, I am.

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Ever since I first moved out of home when I was 17, I’ve longed to make my home my haven, my nest, the place where I feel, well, home.  I’ve had visions dancing of decor and renovating and the perfect kitchen and open plan living.  I’ve dreamed and planned and cut out pictures and spent hours reading home decorating magazines and browsing blogs and design sites.  Lots of thinking and not much doing.

21 years on from that first place of mine that wasn’t with my parents, I still feel like I’m in a holding pattern, waiting to start making my home.  I’ve been in my house for 5+ years and when I fist bought it, I thought I knew just how things were going to go.  I had been renting for 5 1/2 years after my husband and I separated and I was so happy to call this place mine.  I started planning, kept dreaming and wishing and over the last 5 years I have painted, pulled up carpets and sanded floorboards, planted a garden with fruit trees, pulled out a fireplace and filled in the hole and renovated a bathroom – all DIY.

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But I still feel like I’m waiting.

Not waiting to feel like I’m home, because I felt that the first night we moved in.

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Waiting to start, to really be living in this space.

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Waiting to be ready to decorate, to design, to make our space truly ours, a place that reflects us and who we are.

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I’ve collected artwork and frames and pretty things and furniture to make-over and paint samples and a thousand ideas of how I want to bring our home to life.

And I’m still waiting.

I’m still hovering in a holding pattern.

Exactly why, I don’t really know.  A large dose of fear, of I-want-to-be-ready-before-I-start, wanting to do it all at once, lack of confidence in my self, in knowing my style.

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Not knowing where to start.

Not having enough money.

Not having enough time.

Not having enough faith in my self.

I don’t want a perfect house.  That’s not who we are.  We live life out loud, with cats and dogs and chooks and mess and love and dust and dirt trekked in from the garden.  But that’s where the beauty of our life can be seen, and that’s what I want to capture in our home.

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So I’m going to stop waiting for the perfect time – because there isn’t one – and just start truly appreciating and loving where we are, right here, right now.

The funny thing is, after 5+ years of living here, we’ll likely be moving out in the next 6-12 months as our family changes.  I’ve had things packed away (rather than having to manage allthestuff) and haven’t done much in the way of prettying things up as I truly want to.

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But we’re still here.  We’re still living life within these walls and I want to fully love where I’m living at any point in time.

For now, that means fully settling in to where we are today and leaning into what’s around us, even if we won’t be here tomorrow.

31 days of loving where I live.  Some DIY, some inspiration, some questions and a whole lot of love.

Right where we are.

How about you?  What does it mean to you to love where you live?

You can follow me through this month via the links below:

Day 2 – The little things

When enough is enough

Norris Inked

This post is part of the Blue Bike Blog Tour, which I’m thrilled to be part of. To learn more and join us, head here.

It’s a funny thing, life.

Just when you think you’ve got it all worked out, there’s often a great big reminder that actually, no, we don’t.

I was made redundant from my job today, so it seems like a very appropriate day to talk about work – only I’ll be writing from a completely different perspective than when I read Notes From A Blue Bike a few weeks ago.  A perspective that changed in a few moments, with a few words spoken by my boss who has the responsibility of delivering the news.

I’ve run the gamut of definitions when it comes to work – I’ve volunteered, worked full-time/part-time/shift work, studied whilst working, worked before I had kids and as a parent, worked as a full-time mum and in the workforce as a single parent.  Now, for the first time, I find myself unemployed.

Funnily enough, I actually asked for this.

Not in the sense that I asked to be made redundant, or wished that I wold lose my job, but last year, I awakened to the true desire of my heart to work more at home as a wife (to-be) and mum, more than in the workplace, but felt that I wasn’t in a position to be able to make that happen.

In the 3 years and 2 months I worked in my job, my working hours ranged from full-time, to 4 days a week, back to full-time, until I finally settled on working 3 days a week as the best balance for our family.

It took constant assessing, experimenting, give and take and just being intentional to find my rhythm – not just when it came to work, but to life in general, because paid employment is just one aspect of work in our lives.

2013 presented many learning opportunities for me to work out what does and doesn’t work in my life, in our family, and I had a rude awakening as to just how much I struggled with saying ‘no’, for fear of disappointing people – and the impact that had on all of us.  I had to eventually say ‘no’ to some things that I should never have said ‘yes’ to, and it was a painful experience.

But they were some of the best, most enlightening experiences I have ever had.  They were lessons in saying brave yes-es and strong nos, and working out what it takes to keep the rhythms of life more gentle than discordant.

They helped me define what work – paid or unpaid –  is important, and what isn’t.  And you know what?

Most of it isn’t.

Working to provide an income is important.  Working to please other people isn’t.

Working to give my family what they need is important.  Working to get more stuff that they want isn’t.

Checking Facebook/ Instagram/ Pinterest/e-mail a hundred times a day on my iPhone isn’t important.  Checking in with my kids and my love every day is.

Cooking basic, clean, healthy food for my family is important.  Stewing over any number of things that I *could* worry about isn’t.

Boundaries are important.  Constantly wanting more isn’t.

Enough is an ongoing, constant evaluation, when it comes to working.  Sometimes the balance requires less effort and more intention, sometimes it’s simply knuckling down to just do what needs doing right then and there.  Sometimes it’s more giving and less taking, and vice versa.

My working life looks very different right now, and I don’t know what enough will be.  I love Kat Lee’s personal motto, ‘Do as little as possible, as well as possible’.

Define.

Refine.

Assess.

Put boundaries in place.

And when you work out what the minimum is that is required for your life, do it to the best of your ability.

Work out what the essentials are for you to live a truly authentic life, and live them well.  With passion and joy.

Get rid of everything else – stuff, the yes-es that should have been nos, worry and fear, expectations.

This is how we find our definition of enough.

I have no idea what makes up enough for me right now.  And that’s ok.  It an ongoing process for life, sometimes requiring more focus than at other times.  I do know quiet, contemplative time is needed, and that I need to find it amidst the everyday of my life (that generally involves *a lot* of noise).

I also know that right now requires coffee, books, knitting and conversations – for now, that is part of my work.  That is a big part of enough.

There will also be walking, and baking (gluten-free) bread, and doing laundry.  And the dishes.  And cleaning the toilet.

And it will be enough.

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Time to hit the road

Augustine Inked

This post is part of the Blue Bike Blog Tour, which I’m thrilled to be part of. To learn more and join us, head here.

I feel completely unqualified to write about travel.  Simply because I haven’t travelled much in my adult life.

I have had the great fortune of travelling around a lot of Australia (and it’s a reaaallllyyy big place!!!), most of my holidays occurring when I was a kid and my mum and dad were still married.  So basically, before I was 16.

20+ years later, and my family and I have stayed closer to home.  We have had some wonderful trips across the country, but have been very limited by a lack of funds to be able to do this more often.

Well, that’s always been my thinking.  No money for holidays and travelling, either within Australia or anywhere requiring a passport.

I’m starting to realise what a lie that is.

Yes, you need money to travel.  But my perception of never having enough money has always been because I’ve never made it a priority.

I don’t need anything fancy for a holiday.  Give me a tent, a fire and some food, and I’m a happy girl.  Really, I’m that easily pleased.

But I still haven’t made that a priority, for a whole variety of reasons.  That right now seem really lame.

My eldest son is 16, and in the last few months it has struck me with stunning clarity just how little time we have left as a complete unit under one roof full-time, this little family of mine.  In a few years, he will be finished school and off to live out his adventures in the world.

All of a sudden, going places as a family seems reaaallllyyyy important.

I don’t care where, just as long as we’re together.  Somewhere.  Anywhere.

In the ongoing, beautiful process of putting our family back together, I want us to see new things together.  To have new experiences together.  To make memories together.

I don’t care where that is.  I just want us to do it together.

I am admitting my smallness in the enormity of the world.  To quote Tsh, I want to experience ‘the best way to understand our smallness is to leave our comfort zones and start exploring, one foot in front of the other‘.

There’s a whole world out there.  I’d better get started.

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Let’s take a ride

Since January 1, I’ve been writing about how I want to live life differently, how I plan for 2014 to be The Best Year Yet.

So far, it’s working.

I know it probably sounds a bit presumptuous to be saying this on the 3rd of February, but given that fact that my good intentions and yes, resolutions, have always gone out the window by now, I’d say that doing things differently is working out for me.

So to have the opportunity to review Notes From a Blue Bike at this time has been incredibly fortuitous, as this beautiful book – part memoir, part travelogue, part practical guide – has encouraged and affirmed so much of what I’ve been thinking about and implementing in my life.

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Notes From a Blue Bike is written by Tsh Oxenreider, founder and main voice of The Art of Simple.   She says ‘It doesn’t always feel like it, but we DO have the freedom to creatively change the everyday little things in our lives so that our path better aligns with our values and passions.’ 

Yes, we do.  We have the freedom to make the choice to live slower, with intention, thinking about the choices we make and making decisions that mean we are living in harmony with our core values and beliefs, as opposed to continually striking a discord.

For the next week, I and other bloggers around the world will be writing about various aspects of life as Tsh focuses on in the book – food, education, travel, entertainment and work.  Come on over here to join in the fun, and as of Tuesday 4th of February (US time), you can grab a copy of the book here (I’ll update local Australian sources as I find them).

In the meantime, watch the trailer below.  You won’t be able to help but start asking yourself questions that might just change your life.

About the book

Life is chaotic.  But we can choose to live it differently.

It doesn’t always feel like it, but we do have the freedom to creatively change the everyday little things in our lives so that our path better aligns with our values and passions.

The popular blogger and founder of the internationally recognized The Art of Simple (formerly known as Simple Mom) online community tells the story of her family’s ongoing quest to live more simply, fully, and intentionally.

Part memoir, part travelogue, part practical guide, Notes from a Blue Bike takes you from a hillside in Kosovo to a Turkish high-rise to the congested city of Austin to a small town in Oregon. It chronicles schooling quandaries and dinnertime dilemmas, as well as entrepreneurial adventures and family excursions via plane, train, automobile, and blue cruiser bike.

Entertaining and compelling—but never shrill or dogmatic—Notes from a Blue Bike invites you to climb on your own bike, pay attention to who you are and what your family needs, and make some important choices.

It’s a risky ride, but it’s worth it—living your life according to who you really are simply takes a little intention. It’s never too late.

About the author

Tsh Oxenreider is the founder of TheArtofSimple.net (previously Simple Mom), a community blog dedicated to the art and science of simple living. She’s the author of Organized Simplicity and One Bite at a Time, a regular contributor to (in)courage, an advocate for Compassion International, and a top-ranked podcaster. A graduate of the University of Texas, Tsh currently lives in Bend, Oregon, with her family. Learn more at TshOxenreider.com.

 

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One down

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Did you hear that?

Whoooosh.

That was the first month of 2014.

I’m struggling to wrap my head around the fact that it’s the end of January already.

I know that the older we get, the more quickly time passes, but seriously?

The speed with which this month has passed has served as a reminder that time is finite, and we are to use our time well.  I came into January planning to take the time to think about my goals and intentions for 2014 and beyond, and to really look at how I would implement all this into my life.

Just like I have for the last I-don’t-know-how-many years.

But for the first time, I’ve actually done what I set out to do – the difference this time was that in being intentional, I’ve realised this wasn’t an activity that would take a few hours and I’d be on my merry way.  So far, it’s taken all of January to sort through allthethings in my  head and to get them on paper, to see them take form in a way that makes me think ‘this can actually happen’.

It’s all still a work in progress, but I’m learning that that’s the point – it’s always a work in progress.  It’s taken me all of January to sort and tease out and plan and listen for God’s words to see what this year is going to look like, what changes need to be made and what goals will be made real.

I’m nowhere near ‘there’ yet (finishing planning) and it’s a step forward, a step back in implementing changes and new habits, acting on my intentions.

But it’s still progress, because even when I stumble, I’m falling forward.  I’m learning to breathe in grace and breathe out love when it doesn’t go to plan.  I’m learning that the unknown doesn’t have to be known now, and that whatever fills the space I can’t see clearly will be ok, because God can see what I can’t.

So tomorrow is a bit like January 1 for me, figuratively speaking.  Some new things to come, and old things to put away.  Onward and upward, keep falling forward.

What about you?  How is 2014 panning out so far?  How is your dreaming and planning and goal-setting progressing?

2014 – The best year yet

I have lived the vast majority of my life in fear.

Fear of failure.

Fear of getting it wrong.

Fear it won’t be perfect.

Fear of disappointing someone.

Fear of offending someone.

Fear of conflict.

Fear of never being good enough.

Fear of not having enough.

Fear of not having control.

I could go on, and on, and on, but I think you get the idea.

It’s taken me until I’m 37.5 years old to truly realise that every area of my life has been shrouded in this cloak of heaviness, greyness, despair and hopelessness, to varying degrees, just subtle enough for me to not really recognise it for what it was.

But now, this year ahead, and for as long as I have left here on this earth?  No more.

No more letting fear stop me from doing what I was created to do, distracting me from my purpose and convincing me that I’m not enough.

I’m not under any illusion that there won’t be times when I will be afraid, but I don’t have to make choices out of fear.  I’ve known this intellectually for a long time, but it’s only now that that head knowledge has filtered down into my heart and soul.

And it comes from knowing that I am loved.  Wholly, truly, completely, wildly and unashamedly loved.

It’s time to start living in the truth, and not in fear.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”  – Marianne Williamson

One of the biggest frustrations I’ve had with myself in my life is my lack of discipline and following through with goals I’ve set and intentions I’ve had. Virtually every time I’ve failed at something, it’s been because I’ve given up when it got too hard.  My inner spoiled brat would throw a tantrum and whine and cry and I’d give in and give up.  Funny, I don’t do that with my own kids, and yet my inner brat gets the better of me nearly every time.

Baby’s now being put in the corner.

2013 ended on a great note in regards to goal-setting and achieving, in that I completed my first Whole 30 program, and completed a 6.8km local fun run (the longest distance I’ve ever run).  It took me four goes to stick to and complete the Whole 30, and there were so many times I wanted to give up during training for the fun run.  But I didn’t, and that sense of achievement that came from following through on both goals was amazing.

So I’m taking that into 2014 with a new mindset –  a very intentional one, as I know that long held self-beliefs and habits and ways of doing things take time to change.  But the old has gone, and the new has come, and I’m choosing new.

I had the absolute pleasure of seeing Paul Colman live at the end of 2012, where he sang a beautiful Irish ‘drinking song’ that he had written, ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’.  It’s become one of my theme songs for 2014, I’m saying ‘here’s to the failures we’re leaving behind, cheers to the future, ’cause it’s just begun, and the best is yet to come’.

Tell me, what is going to make 201 your best year yet?

What’s on your bookshelf?

I love words.

Ergo, I love books.  And anything that collates words.

If I could, I would spend all of my spare money on books, however seeing as spare money is a fable in my parts, the amount of books I own is inversely disproportionate to  the amount of books I read.  I am so very grateful for the amazing library we have here in our town, and the generosity of fellow book-loving friends, which means I have an endless supply of material to satisfy my craving to consume words.

Anne over at Modern Mrs Darcy is hosting a link up for we bibliophiles to share our love for all things book related – what we read, where we read, where we store it all.  At the moment, the vast majority of our books are stored in boxes in the garage while our back room is (slowly) being made-over.  So for now, my books are contained to my little bedside table shelf:

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Books in current ‘rotation’ live on top of the table and I pick up whatever I feel like reading at the time.  On the shelf at the moment:

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On the list at the moment (in no particular order) –

Train Like A Mother – Sarah Bowen Shea & Dimity McDowell.  Trying to kick my more-comfortable-on-the-couch-with-a-book bum into gear (by reading a book.  Yep, I see the irony), and I love how these ladies write and encourage.

The Power of a Praying Wife/Parent/Woman – Stormie Omartian.  This has become my go-to book for simple, relevant, relateable insight and wisdom.  I really relate to Stormie’s experiences and writing, and I love her heart for seeking and pressing into God.

Reading Like A Writer – Francine Prose.  I haven’t started this one yet, but picked it up from the library on recommendation of some writer bloggers whose art I love.

Sacred Rhythms – Ruth Haley Barton.  This book.  This book is permanently on my bedside table.  I’ve read through it completely once, and am working through it again.  It’s definitely a one-chapter-at-a-time read for me, I need to let the words sit and marinate and take root in me – not an overnight experience!

Lord, Teach Me To Study The Bible In 28 Days – Kay Arthur.  I’m normally somewhat allergic to ‘Do this in 1-2-57 steps/days/practices’ etc etc, but I love Kay Arthur’s inductive study technique, and I’m starting with this book to get into the habit of delving into the word each day.

Lead Me, Holy Spirit: Longing To hear The Voice Of God – Stormie Omartian – This has become another one-chapter-at-a-time book, simply because it is so rich and makes my brain work to take in and absorb what I’m reading.  So inspiring and encouraging, again Stormie’s heart for connecting with the Trinity shows through her words.

I Quit Sugar – Sarah Wilson.  I love sugar probably as much as I love books.  Only I hate what it does to my body.  I definitely have an addictive nature when it comes to sugar, and I love this post from Anne about the real danger of sugar in our diet.  I’ve realised I am most definitely an abstainer, it’s all-or-nothing when it comes to sugar.  Sarah is a passionate advocate of the benefit of a sugar-free life, and her book is a very easy-to-read, often confronting but encouraging guide to eliminating sugar from your diet, without missing out on the sweet things in life.

Knits Men Want – Bruce Weinstein.  My eldest son (16) asked me to knit him a jumper (sweater).  A simple, fitted jumper ‘like my school jumper’.  I was barely able to contain my joy at this request, and I totally underplayed the whole thing for fear of scaring him off with my wildly rampant ecstasy that HE. ASKED. ME. TO. KNIT. HIM. SOMETHING!!!!  Turns out finding a pattern for a very simple, fitted, casual jumper wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be, and I’m not confident enough to make my own pattern up yet.  Ravelry to the rescue, and a quick search on my library database had this gem delivered to my doorstep.  Mission accomplished!

Streams In The Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings – Mrs Charles E Cowman.  A dear friend gave this to me when I was baptised 7 years ago, and whilst it’s lain forgotten off an on over the years, it it a wonderfully rich source of inspiration and encouragement.

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare To Live Fully Right Where You Are – Ann Voskamp.  What can I say that hasn’t already been said about this beautiful creation?  I haven’t actually finished reading it the whole way through yet, and for me, it’s been because it’s been so confronting.  I struggle with finding joy every day, in the very day, because I tend to get weighed down by all the stuff of life.  I’m in a season now where I need the truth of Ann’s words, as hard as they may be for me to read and start living out every single day.

Help. Thanks. Wow: The Three Essential Prayers – Anne Lamott.  New on my current reading pile, loving what I’ve read so far.

Bird By Bird: Some Instructions On Writing And Life – Anne Lamott.  I’ve been waiting to read this ever since I first discovered it on a writer’s blog (not sure whom it was exactly, so many of my favourite bloggers recommend this treasure!).  Again, loving what I’ve read so far, and so encouraged and inspired by how Anne breaks down the writing process to a ‘one inch square’ view.  I can do that.

Principles of the Enneagram – Karen A Webb.  Anne introduced me to the Enneagram personality typing, and as with MBTI (I’m an INFJ, for the record), I’ve been able to tangibly realise nuances and elements of my personality that I couldn’t quite articulate before.  This was the first book I found and ordered through my library, I’m going to look for more Christian-centred, in-depth writings on the subject.  Any recommendations welcomed!

A Reliable Wife – Robert Goolrick.  Another blogger recommendation, through the first chapter so far, verdict’s still out on this one.

Too Much Happiness – Alice Munro.  Winning this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature brought Alice to my attention, especially the description of her writing as being ‘observations of life around her’.  I haven’t read much in the way of short stories, but I’m finding that they’re perfect for this current phase of my life, where my reading time is limited to a chapter at a time, and I’m looking forward to discovering more short story writers.

The Creative Habit: Learn It And Use It For Life – Twyla Tharp.  Yet another blogger recommendation, and one that’s really resonating with me even in the early stages of the book.  Tharp uses her extensive experience as an artist to frame the ‘how to’ of developing creative habits – life habits, really – in a tangible way that doesn’t leave you thinking ‘I’m not an artist like she is, I can’t do that’.  Loving this read so far.

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My current Kindle reads:

A Million Little Ways: Uncover The Art You Were Made To Live – Emily P. Freeman.  I discovered Emily’s blog last year, and have inhaled every word she’s written ever since.  So many times I find a part of my heart singing, I breathe ‘yes’ to so many words, I squirm when I’m challenged by her questions and musings and just all. the words.  This book, Emily’s third (but the first one I’ve read), is all this and so much more.  It is re-defining what I understand of art, of living as an artist, of just showing up every day and being the image-bearer God created me to be.  I’ll be ordering a physical copy to live on my bedside table, because this is not a single-read book.

Abundant Simplicity: Discovering The Unhurried Rhythms Of Grace – Jan Johnson.  Tsh Oxenreider’s list of summer reading brought this collection of inspiration to me.  It’s yet another one-chapter-at-a-time read, one that I’ve taken copious notes on and am on my way to filling a couple of notebooks with reflections and responses to Jan’s words and questions.  I’m finding it challenging, confronting, and sometimes my answers leave a sour taste in my mouth – not because of the writing, but because of what comes out of me in response.

One Thousand Gifts Devotional – Ann Voskamp.  A beautiful accompaniment to ‘One Thousand Gifts’, learning to find joy in the every day.

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual – Michael Pollan. My whole view and philosophy on food and it’s place in my life has been changing over the last few years, and I often feel that the more I learn, the more I want to bury my head in the sand and pretend that everything’s ok.  Only it’s not.  Due to some health issues I’m having to redefine what is ok for me and what’s not, but it’s more than that – I want to use food in a way that leaves minimum impact on the environment, and that nourishes my family well.  I’m only early into this one, but can already sense that this will be a great ‘how to’ for this process.

The Creative Call: An Artist’s Response to the Way of the Spirit – Janice Elsheimer.  I struggle with focus and direction, especially when it comes to creativity.  I’ve been working through ‘The Creative Call’ off and on for a while now, and know that each time I put it down, it’s because I’m challenged and become fearful.  To quote Jon Acuff, it’s time to punch fear in the face, and let Love rule (that last bit was all Lenny).

I thought this would be a quick little post to link up with Anne and discover what fellow bloggers are reading.  Not so much!  But it was fun, now I’m looking forward to finding inspiration and add to my ever-growing ‘to read’ list.

Any recommendations?  This list has been a bit light-on with fiction, I’d love to find some new authors to dig into.