Reading Updates and Other News

I have been busy, busy. I am making soap to gear up for fall. When you’re a soapmaker, you have to make the soap about four-six weeks in advance of the selling season because it needs that long to cure. I am doing a big arts and crafts fair on September 21, and I want have a good amount of stock.

School has started, at least for me. My students don’t return until September 8. We have pre-planning, though, and I have taken on a new role as English department chair. The start of the year has already been great.

I have been re-reading the Harry Potter series with Maggie. I have read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows much less often than the other books in the series. Re-reading Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix this last time made me think two things:

  1. A lot folks don’t like this one because Harry is so angry. Well, he was dealing with Voldemort’s emotions influencing his own, and even if that were not the case, he has a right, after everything that’s happened to him, to a bit of righteous anger. And he struggles through so much of that book.
  2. Every teacher and administrator working in schools should read this book. It has interesting things to say about teaching, especially about what happens when the government, and especially government officials who know nothing about education, interfere in schools.

I’m really enjoying reading these books with Maggie. I think she’s liking them as well.

I don’t have a lot of extra time with all this craziness, but my wardrobe is really frightening. I mean, I never shop for myself because I hate, hate, hate shopping. I absolutely loathe it. I hate hunting for something I like, I hate continually taking off my clothes and trying on outfits only to find they fit weird or I don’t like them, and I hate being in the store around people I don’t know well and with whom I have to have conversations. I also hate having to decline offers of a store credit card, along with the attempts to convince me that I could be saving so much money if only I had one. As a result, my clothing situation was getting close to desperate. One of my friends posted a link to this personal shopping service called Stitch Fix, and I thought, “yeah right, like I can afford a personal shopping service.”

Nevertheless, I visited the site, and I discovered that it was fairly reasonable. The styling fee is just $20, and the fee is applied to anything you buy. The personal stylist picks five items and sends them to you. You can set how often you receive packages. You fill out a comprehensive styling profile. I was impressed that Stitch Fix asked me for links to a Pinterest board where I pin clothes I like and my LinkedIn profile. I wouldn’t have thought to do either one, but it looks like it was helpful because I received my first shipment, and I liked everything so much that I kept it.

I am posting pictures of myself without makeup and with messy hair, so don’t look at my face, but check out what I received.

Plum Dress and White CardiganFirst, this plum wrap dress. I would have walked right by it if I had seen it in the store because I would never, ever have thought it would look good on me. The waist, however, is a little higher, so it actually covers up areas I might not want to show. It has capped sleeves, so I can easily add a long-sleeve sweater, tights, and boots, and I have a good winter/fall outfit, too. No, I do not have on tights; those are my really white legs.

Jeans, Cardigan, Dotted Print ShirtNext up, skinny jeans. Another item I’d have walked right by if I had seen them in the store. Truly. And they fit me really well. They are actually comfortable. I really liked the print on this shirt. It has no sleeves, so I have to wear the little short-sleeved cardigan they sent, which, incidentally, I also probably wouldn’t have picked out for myself. I have to admit it’s perfect for pairing with all sorts of outfits, thought.

Green ShirtI really liked this green shirt. It fit me well, and it’s versatile enough for work or casual dress. And it’s not too tight around my hips.

I was really pleased and surprised at how much I liked everything once I tried it on, with the prices (I got everything for less than $200), and with the convenience. I really think this is going to solve some of my issues with my wardrobe. I am trying out clothes I might not have tried, and I don’t have to go anywhere. And it costs about the same as I’d spend if I hauled my tuchus to the store. So I’m pretty happy. If you want to try it out, I have a referral code, and it would be awesome if you would use it when you sign up.

Stitch Fix

Jane Austen Soap Series

Jane Austen Soap Giveaway

I’m in the midst of re-reading Pride and Prejudice, and I had forgotten how quickly the story moves along. I just reached the part that contains perhaps my favorite lines:

“Come here, child,” cried her father as she appeared. “I have sent for you on an affair of importance. I understand that Mr. Collins has made you an offer of marriage. Is it true?” Elizabeth replied that it was. “Very well—and this offer of marriage you have refused?”

“I have, Sir.”

“Very well. We now come to the point. Your mother insists upon your accepting it. Is it not so, Mrs. Bennet?”

“Yes, or I will never see her again.”

“An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents.—Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.”

One of the best dad moments in literature, even if later we learn perhaps Mr. Bennet should be a little more watchful of his younger daughters.

In honor of my re-read, and just because they’re all ready to go (at last), I am giving away one bar of each soap in my Jane Austen soap series.

Jane Austen Soap Series
Jane Austen Soap Series

I have created five soaps based on heroines from three Jane Austen novels: Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma.

Bennet Sisters
Bennet Sisters

The Bennet sisters, featured in Pride and Prejudice are also available as a set in my Etsy store.

Mrs. Darcy
Mrs. Darcy

Mrs. Darcy is inspired by that delightful creature herself, Elizabeth Bennet. Created with her personality in mind, it contains goat milk (to represent her stubbornness) and rich vegetable oils, including olive oil, coconut oil, palm, oil, sweet almond oil, castor oil, and cocoa butter and is scented with fragrantly floral plumeria.

Sweet Jane
Sweet Jane

Sweet Jane is as nice as her namesake, Jane Bennet. Made with coconut milk, olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, cocoa butter, and castor oil, this soap has a clean, wholesome scent of lemon verbena.

Emma Woodhouse
Emma Woodhouse

Just like Emma herself, her namesake soap unites some of the best blessings of existence: beautiful calendula petals and luxurious silk with rich, moisturizing shea butter, olive oil, and sunflower seed oil and scented with citrusy tart yuzu and sweet orange.

Elinor
Elinor

Elinor’s soap has a fresh, mild, clean scent that evokes herbs and mint and is made with olive oil, sunflower oil, shea butter, and other rich, moisturizing oils.

Marianne's Passion
Marianne’s Passion

This wild swirl of black raspberry vanilla evokes Marianne Dashwood’s passionate nature. Made with olive oil, cocoa butter, silk and other rich, moisturizing oils, this soap is a treat for your skin.

What do you have to do to win this prize package? Simply leave a comment with your favorite quote from Pride and Prejudice and explain why it’s your favorite. A winner will be chosen at random on Friday, February 22, 2013. You can earn an extra entry if you like New England Handmade Artisan Soaps on Facebook and share the giveaway. Simply locate the giveaway on my Facebook page and share it on your Facebook timeline.

Good luck! And remember that if you don’t win, you can still order this fantastic collection from my Etsy store.

Sweet Jane

Sweet Jane

In honor of the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice, I am creating soaps based on some of the major characters in the book. I made my first batch yesterday. It is called “Sweet Jane” after Miss Jane Bennet. Here is a peek:

Sweet Jane

It is difficult to tell in the image, but it is a swirl of uncolored soap and lemon yellow soap scented with lemon verbena. I think Jane Bennet would smell like lemon verbena. It’s a lovely, clean scent. The soap is loaded with good things for your skin, like olive oil, sweet almond oil, and cocoa butter. It has rich coconut milk in it, too. It really is a lovely soap. The picture doesn’t quite do it justice.

The soap will reach its full cure on January 29, but it will be available for pre-order in my Etsy store in a couple of weeks. I will also be making Mrs. Darcy, a swirl of purple and white plumeria-scented goat milk soap as soon as my supplies arrive.

If you are interested in keeping up with my soaping, I have a blog and Facebook page.

Soap Blog

I know that folks read this blog for book reviews and other bookish things, so rather than potentially bore folks who aren’t interested in soap making, I have created a new blog to discuss my adventures in making soap. I would love for you to join me over there if it sounds like this is something you are interested in, but if you’re not, rest assured the soaping will be confined to that blog from now on. I have to admit that it is a really fun hobby, and I can’t remember taking up any other craft venture that I’ve enjoyed so much.

Nostalgia

remember when?

After today is over, my 40th birthday will officially be closer than my 39th.

What I want to know is where the time went. I feel like I was just in college, just yesterday, driving down Riverside in Macon in my friend Sheila’s car with this song going in the background.

It seems wrong that it should be over 20 years ago. Really wrong.

One of the reasons I keep this book blog is that I truly feel there are a lot of books I need to read in my lifetime, and I want to keep track. I know I’m not old, but I’m not young anymore, and it’s weird to think of myself that way. Especially because some things don’t seem to change—like how Georgia suddenly blooms in mid-March and you have to play “Blue Skies” by the Allman Brothers when you’re driving down the road. It’s a requirement.

How does 20 years go by so fast? Not fair, life. Not fair.

photo credit: Robert S. Donovan

It Might Get Loud

It Might Get LoudI know I usually limit my discussion on this blog to books, but I watched It Might Get Loud yesterday and absolutely loved it. Of course, it’s not a new film, and if you’re a fan of any of the guitarists featured, you’ve probably already seen it. If you haven’t seen it, though, it’s a documentary by David Guggenheim about the guitar, and it features three virtuoso guitarists from different generations: Jimmy Page, the Edge, and Jack White. All three are on Rolling Stone‘s list of the greatest guitarists of all time, although I’m not sure I necessarily agree with their placements on the list. Both Jimmy Page and the Edge should be higher up, in my opinion.

I love the way film opens as Jack White makes a guitar out of not much more than a few pieces of wood, nails, and a Coke bottle. It was interesting to learn about the Edge’s use of effects. Jimmy Page’s reflections on recording Led Zeppelin IV at Headley Grange were not necessarily new to me, but were still interesting to watch. I have been a fan of Jimmy Page’s for about 23 years when I discovered Led Zeppelin shortly before my sixteenth birthday. My Bon Jovi posters pretty much came down and were replaced with Led Zeppelin ones. Of course, that was also right about the time that Rattle & Hum was out, and I really enjoyed The Joshua Tree. As I’ve aged, my appreciation for both Led Zeppelin and U2 has only deepened. The guy I was not as familiar with was Jack White, and I have to say I really enjoyed learning about him and came away with a notion of buying some more of his music. I just sounded really old right there. Once there was a time when I knew what was going on in music, but that pretty much stopped about 10 years ago. I never would have believed you when I was a teenager if you had told me that day would come. New music just about needs to be put right in my face for me to notice it now.

My favorite part of the whole documentary came near the end when the three guitarists played “In My Time of Dying,” during which I picked out strains of “With or Without You,” and if Jack White contributed something original, I am afraid I wasn’t knowledgeable enough to recognize it. It was a great documentary, though, and it reminded me again why I love music.

Twitter

I announced this on my education blog, but just in case you are not a reader over there, you can follow me on Twitter now if you like.