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Lightening review: My Side of the Mountain

It’s always a pleasure to revisit an old favourite, and this is exactly what I did when I reread My Side of the Mountain by Jean George. It was one of my favourites as a kid; I read it many times, so it was nice to go back.

The story follows Sam, young teen from New York City, who has decided he will run away from home and live off the land. He makes his way to his great-grandfather’s land in the Catskill Mountains, determined to survive free of dependence on electricity and machines. Throughout the book he comes a long way from the first night – when he can’t get a fire started and is convinced he will freeze and starve – to making a home for himself, finding a plethora of food sources, and even making new clothes.

My Side of the Mountain is an interesting examination of survival and solitude. It was a fairly short read (I finished it in less than a day) but it’s well-crafted, interesting, and different from what I’ve been reading lately. Still holds up, all these years after publication (1959). Recommended for all from children to adults.


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Lightening review: P.S. I Love You

When I picked up P.S. I Love You from the TV stand in the bedroom where I was staying, I didn’t know it was set in Ireland. It was kind of cool, though, to read a book in the same country where it happens.

The book, published in 2014, is a sweetly sad story of a young widow, Holly, as she learns to cope with being alone after her husband’s death. But months after he’s gone, still drowning in grief, she receives a package from him. It contains a letter for her to open each month, and as she works through them she begins to grow, to change, and most importantly to heal. He seems to have known exactly what she would need each month, and issues challenges for her.

It’s a unique premise, which was obviously romantic enough to capture people’s hearts and garner a film contract (I still haven’t seen the movie). And it’s an easy read – almost too easy.

On the down side, first-time novelist Cecelia Ahern‘s writing is what one should expect from a first-time novelist. The writing is overly descriptive, especially the characters. They are explained rather than shown, which is frustrating. The characters want to have life, they want to jump off the page, but instead they are described and told. The author is telling the story rather than opening the pages and inviting us into her world. And this is forgivable because the story is an easy one; the story is likeable. But an adult reader can’t help but want something more. I would be interested in reading Ahern’s later novels to learn how her writing style has changed.

Like I said, an easy read. One I don’t regret. But this one also won’t be on my list of most memorable books or novels I have to get back to again sometime. When I eventually watch the movie, I’ll let you know how that is!

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New Year’s Resolutions 2017: update

We’re 1/4 through the year already! I need to keep checking in on my goals so they don’t slip away. So here’s my progress report for my 2017 resolutions:

Continue decreasing impact on environment. Along with trying to invest in products with limited packaging, avoiding plastic bags, and keeping a reusable water bottle handy, I’ve also been delighted by the weather. I’ve already gone on several short bike rides, to the gym and the grocery store. Trying to get in the habit of using my bike for everyday life.

Be on time. I’m getting better. A little. I’m trying very hard to build a buffer into my planning but it’s a tough mental adjustment. I always think I have more time than I do! I’m also trying to pack my things far in advance so when I suddenly realize it’s time to go.

Celebrate birthdays. So far I’ve sent two birthday cards to people I care about, and I try to wish people happy birthday online. I’m also doing my best to attend birthday celebrations, a pleasure that work sometimes prevents me from enjoying.

Celebrate life. Make traditions. Not much progress here yet. I’ve started making pizza regularly, if that counts. More to come with this one.

Buy used or local things. Haven’t bought too many things lately except some clothing, which can be tough to find in the right size/style. Certainly will continue trying to go used and/or local as the year continues and I find I need things. (Another note is that I’m trying to buy less this year.)

Connect with the people I care about. It’s only been a couple of phone calls, but I’m making an effort to connect with friends of mine who live in other provinces. It’s my goal to be the first one to make contact, not every time, but sometimes. If these people matter to me (and they do), I should show it.

Create often. I’m writing, taking pictures, and planning more projects. Right now I’m writing something every day. Doesn’t matter what, but something just needs to happen every day. I’ll start sharing more, but in the meantime here’s something I published on Medium.

Start selling something. Working on this.

Make money freelancing/writing. Working on this too.

Make a new dish every month. This went really well for January. I made several new things, and then had to wait for February. And then I was sick in February and procrastinated, and then I went on my trip in March … I need to try a few new recipes this month to catch up. I really did enjoy the cooking I did at the start of the year.

Track all spending, all year. This is going poorly. I haven’t found a good system for tracking expenses. I used an app to track my purchases for a while, but don’t remember to every time; I tried writing expenses down on paper and that was even worse. If anyone has any tips for me I’d appreciate it. Using a paper agenda is better for me than an electronic one; maybe I need a designated spending notebook or something.

Recover savings & resume investing. Working on this too. I’ll be resuming my contributions to my TFSA very soon – it’ll be a small amount to start with but I intend to work my way up to my original contribution amount soon!

Yoga 3x/week. My yoga habit got derailed when I got sick, and hasn’t gotten back on track yet. I was really enjoying it but for some reason I’m having a hard time getting it going. I’ve adjusted the goal to twice a week for now, and will readjust in a few weeks when I’ve made it a habit.

Read two books/month (one fiction, one non). This is going pretty well. I’m one non-fiction book short and one novel ahead (although I don’t carry books forward), and really enjoying myself so far. The Rosie Project is one of my favourites so far.

French. Level up again. I’m working my way through Duolingo (which you really need to check out if you’re not familiar). As with everything else, I haven’t been quite as consistent as I’d hoped, there’s still a lot of year left. I’ve also realized that it would be great to take another French course through USB – I’ll be doing that as soon as I have the funds available.

So I have a mixed bag – some things are right on track, others need a little more work. Right now I’m focusing on exercise and that’s always my first domino to health, productivity, and everything good.