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Friday, July 17, 2015

Oak Hammock Marsh

We couldn't wait for school to end this spring because two days after the boys finished Pre-K, second and fourth grades we were on our way to Winnipeg, Manitoba!

Why Winnipeg, you ask? Don't worry. Even the people in Winnipeg asked why we came to Winnipeg. We went to see the opening rounds of the FIFA Women's World Cup, of course. But more on that later.

But we couldn't stay in Winnipeg because all of the hotels in that city were sold out, so we stayed in a little town called Gimli and learned a ton about Canada and Iceland. Bonus! Staying outside of the city turned out to be a real win for us because we explored more of the southern part of the province than I think we would have otherwise.

One of the highlights of our adventures was to Oak Hammock Marsh. This environmental center was a delight! We timed our visit to the afternoon when the school field trips were done. Even though our kids were done school, kids in Manitoba had to wait until June 30.

The marsh was so lovely and peaceful. There's nothing like the expanse of a prairie to make you feel both insignificant and part of a larger whole. It seems so empty from a distance, but when you pause and watch carefully there is a lot of learn from the bustling life of a marsh.


From the observation station on the roof, we watched muskrats swim.
 

Inside the interpretive center, we observed the tiniest water bugs.



On our hike through the marsh we made friends with the fiesty ground squirrels!


And we even shared a meal with some hungry local salamanders.


Though we eventually had to flee from the mosquitos who wanted to make a meal out of us, we really loved our visit to Oak Hammock. It is known as a birding hotspot and we saw an incredible variety of birds. Our boys were inspired to design soccer uniforms based on bird colorations (always with the soccer). We also spotted a small leopard frog and an interesting spider. We learned about duck nest tunnels, how to tell female ticks from male ticks, and how to eat wood rose petals! 

This marsh is part of the Red River ecosystem and protecting the prairie is an important part of their mission. On our hike, we came across the sign highlighting other parts of the prairie. I wish all informational signs were written with this voice - it just made me want to come back and explore Oak Hammock even more! 






Thursday, July 16, 2015

What does the Hawk Say?

Warning! This post has a gross photo of a dead rabbit. For realz.

We have a lot of bird action at my house. Not pet birds, birds doing their thing out in nature. One boy compared being at our house to being at the Aviary. Bird poop on the porch railings, birds destroying our window screens to make their nests, and my ever-present guardian hawk.

Remember my guardian hawk?

I was hard at work today on an article about female sports stars from Pittsburgh and about to switch gears to a revision of a short story that one of my number one top target magazines thought was a "hoot" (more bird action) but needed a little revision. Though I was in a total groove I kept getting distracted by a crazy commotion - no a cacophony - of hawk sounds in the backyard. Not just regular hawk calls, but some really loud screams and then high-pitched scratchy screeches, lots of blue jay chatter and it all sounded really loud and close. And it went on for awhile.

Ok, ok, I thought. You want my attention. I'll be right outside.

I finished my sentence and grabbed my bird-watching binocs. But once I got to the backyard, it was quiet. No sound. I saw the hawk swooping behind the trees off to the west. I scanned the area a little longer, but even the bossy jays had departed or else finally gotten tired of bossing every other bird in the place.

Turning around to return home, I found it!!! It's like Watership Down in my freakin' backyard!!

Sorry. 

OK, I now I should probably be grossed out by this but I'm not. It's just a dead rabbit. Hawks gotta eat, yo. This was probably supposed to be lunch for my hawk. I don't know why it's still in my backyard, because my guardian hawk is definitely strong enough to carry this bunny. But I realized now that some of those crazy screeches and screams might actually have been from this rabbit. So now I have an idea of what the rabbit says, too. 




Saturday, July 11, 2015

Still Trying: Candy Cane Jars

I need help.

Not everything that I try is going to be a success. There was the time I couldn't finish the Presque Isle Triathlon. And the many cooking disasters. Lots of writing rejections. And then there were those knitting projects.

But I'm not giving up. Instead, I'm asking for help!

A few months ago, I had an idea to transform the leftover glass jars hanging around my house into cute custom-painted candy cane jars to fill and transform into gifts around the holidays. It's not a difficult process, but I just can't get it right. So what am I doing wrong?

For my first jar, I used a paint brush and paint sponge. I painted the jar white and realized the brushstrokes were really visible even after two coats. I decided to move ahead anyway, thinking a brushstroke wasn't a bad look. I applied the blue painter's tape and painted the red stripes. I let the paint dry. When I peeled away the tape I had messy bleeds everywhere. I figured I needed to press the tape down better.


Try 1: Brushes and paint
I took the second jar outside with some spray paint. I am not familiar with spray paint. This was the first time I have ever used this medium, which is why I accidentally made jar-shaped grafitti on my sidewalk. (It's gone now.) I thought spray paint might leave a smoother finish, but you can still see drip marks on the top left corner. Maybe I was too close? Maybe I need another coat? I pressed the blue painter's tape down really well, I thought, but still had bleeding. Also, the blue tape peeled off the white.

Try 2: Spray Paint 

I don't give up easily, so I tried one more time. White spray paint and red stripes, this time with a jaunty diagonal plan. I pressed that tape down and got much less bleeding but peeled off lots more of the white paint. And my fingers are painted red.


I am not an expert at this kind of activity. But I am an expert at giving things a try. And I'm also an expert at turning to the experts of the world and saying, "What am I doing wrong? How can I do this better?"

So now it's your turn experts. Help me make some candy cane jars!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Gimli, Manitoba: Lovely Little Paradise

The journey away from the Winnipeg airport filled me with worry. We left the industrial outskirts of town behind us and faced the flat, unending prairie of Manitoba. But we had no choice: all of the hotels in Winnipeg were completely sold out. We booked a room in the Lakeview Resort and Conference Center over an hour outside of town. But karma must have been on our side, because our week in Gimli was definitely delightful.

In Icelandic, Gimli means "paradise" and this charming little town on the shores of massive Lake Winnipeg is full of incredibly friendly people and delightful opportunities to experience the beauty of Canada.

My sons have asked me before if we could ever go on a vacation without learning things and I have told them it just wasn't possible. It's the best part of travel! So it makes sense that one of our first stops was the New Iceland Heritage Museum.

Here we learned that Gimli was founded by Icelanders fleeing volcanoes, drought and disease in their homeland.  My favorite new fact was that Icelandic mythology blames all of the volcanic activity on the Midgard Serpent that encircles the earth! I was seriously impressed with the work that went into creating this quilted volcano that represents scientific reality, but I still love the serpent.

But what my boys really loved was learning about the people of Iceland and trying on Viking gear! Ok, I loved it more than a little, too.


The young woman who greeted us at this museum was incredibly nice, too. She taught the boys about runic writing and gave us an assignment to collect flat stones at the beach and practice writing our names in runes. So we did it!


As I learned more about the myths and legends of the region, I discovered the tale of wishing stones. A stone with a hole in it is your wishing stone. A stone with an incomplete hole is someone else's wish. Put it back so they can find it.


Gimli is not a large town. But it does boast of a hippy health food store, a library, an art club, at least two decent coffee shops and lots of places serving fish. The fish of choice is pickerel and I enjoyed my serving of it from Beach Boy. Be warned: helpings of food are not dainty. While we certainly didn't starve during our vacation, I wouldn't say we had anything incredibly gourmet or fresh and local. Except for the fish, most likely. Since we were eating a little less than healthy, we made sure to get in some good exercise. 

A video posted by Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan (@epagelhogan) on
(If the video won't load, click here)

Continuing in the theme of the magic and legend of Gimli, it's time to talk about the Huldefolk. One bright day in Gimli, my middle son was on the search for a safety pin to secure his Viking sword to his breeches, I men shorts. The hotel staff suggested we visit the sewing store next store. True to friendly Manitoba form, the lovely ladies at Jocelyn's provided a safety pin at no charge. Then they turned to us with a smile and asked if we had met the Huldefolk yet. Of course we hadn't.

"Stop by Tergeson's first and ask for the book," they suggested. "Then climb into the attic of the old school and see if you find them."

That was enticing enough for us. We visited Tergeson's and picked up our copy of the story of Snorri and Snaebjorn, two little Icelandic spirit people that also journeyed to Gimli. We read the story over and over before bed, then the next day we headed to the old school. 

We followed their footsteps across the wooden floors then slowly climbed the curved wooden stair case to the attic. Even though my boys like to say they are grown-up, it was quite obvious that they were not too old to believe in the magic of spirit people from Iceland. At the top of the stairs we discovered the attic home of Snorri and Snaebjorn, complete with two little beds, two chairs, a table setting for meals and even a bookcase hiding a secret passage! 
We explored the dark and somewhat dusty attic and discussed where we thought they were at the moment, because we though we looked in every little corner, the Huldefolk were not letting themselves be seen by us that day. We think we heard some tiny footsteps on the roof, but by the time we got outside again to check, the roof was empty.

The discovery of the Huldefolk was entirely thanks to the wonderful ladies at Jocelyn's store. We stopped by Jocelyn's again and shared stories from our family adventures and learned about her family. We bonded over our love of magic and fairy tales and even soccer! 

I almost feel bad encouraging people to visit Gimli because it was such an idyllic week for our family. We walked quiet streets and climbed on Viking statues and chatted with people we had only met the day before like they were old friends. But if you do find your way to Gimli, stop by Jocelyn's and tell her the Hogans from Pittsburgh recommended a visit. Then head to Tergeson's and get a copy of the story of the Huldefolk. You won't find the second story of Tergeson's where it used to be, though. You'll have to walk down the street to Brennevin's Pizza Hus and ask them. Grab a bite to eat then keep going about a block and turn left. There you'll find the old school. If the light is on in the attic, you know Snorri and Snaebjorn are in. And then you'd better watch for falling bricks!





Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Balayage Live Blog!!

Inspired by my friend's live blog of Bloomsday, an event celebrating one of the most challenging literary accomplishments in history, I'm live blogging my new hair style!! 

Yes, this is not literary. It's hair. But it sounds French. It's 10:25 and we've selected the color. We is actually Lauren, my super stylist who I trust with all hair-related decisions. 

10:33 balayage is freehand highlights. I have no hair skills but Lauren does. 

10:35 Lauren is going to the Riverhounds game tonight too! I asked her if we can do yellow and blue Hounds color in my hair and she pretended not to hear me. 


10:37 I realize I forgot to ask Lauren's permission to discuss her in my blog. 

10:42 it dawns on my I don't have cash to tip Lauren. She is not surprised by this. I still owe her a tip from the haircut she did before vacation. I am the worst client. 

10:43 Lauren assures me I am not her worst client. 

10:54 My hair is still being painted. 

10:58 Lauren leaves to get more cotton. I snap this sneaky photo before she returns. 

10:59 Lauren's back and my conscience demands that I tell her about the photo I took. She's fine with it and I feel better. 

11:00 Desperado is on the radio now. The previous song was Sweet Home Alabama and before that was DMB and before that was the song that was played at the end of that one Simpsons episode. I don't know the name but it starts "anyway you want it, that's the way you got it." I can't grasp the genre of this station.  

11:02 My husband texts me that the Hounds want a gold out tonight. Now I'm stressed to find a gold shirt when I leave here. 

11:05 Lauren clues me in on the show Married at First Sight. Insane. 

11:08 I discover this description of balayage. Then I wonder if Lauren recommended this because I'm going grey!!! 


Lauren denies my accusation. She says in a comforting tone that I only have one grey hair. 

11:41 Processing. 

11:47 I'm bored so I dig through my purse. I find some Smarties from Canada and my American flag sunglasses. 

Abby Wombach shared photos of her new hair color on Instagram. Thinking about Abby just makes me
Mad at the dumb commentators who said she was using turf as an excuse.  Hardly. 

11:48 Cotton falls out of my hair. I wonder if I should hide it before Lauren sees it. 

12:09 I manage to complete all the steps necessary to send Lauren her tips (both of them) via PayPal. I'm pretty sure she's not mad at me. 

12:14 Toner. 

12:20 Scanning Instagram and I discover the WafflerTruck will be on McKnight Road today! Could this day get any better?! 

12:22 Lauren offers to style my hair curly. Yay! 

12:23 Lauren reminds me balayage is great for people who don't pay attention to their hair (like me) because it grows out looking very natural. No sharp lines like with foil highlights!! She doesn't mention grey hair. 

12:29 Another stylist walks by and Lauren tells her she did balayage. The other stylist says "Oooo!" Don't be jelly. 

12:32 It's going to rain tonight! My cool
new balayage hair will be covered by my non-stylish poncho hood. Boo. #firstworldproblems

12:38 Radio now playing Hotel California.
Lauren told me my hair curls nice. She's so nice but I already sent my tip. 

12:39 I feel the need to clarify that was a joke and I love Lauren! 

12:50 I just finished snooping on people via Facebook and glanced up at my hair. 
Half and half! 

12:51 I meant to do some writing work while I got my hair done. Fail. This is kind of like writing. I did clean out my purse and gave Lauren the last Twizzler in the pack my kids bought. It would only cause fights because there are thee of them and only one Twizzler. I couldn't eat it because Twizzlers are disgusting. And I'm saving room for WAFFLES. 

12:58 It's been almost 3 hours. Was it worth it?

HELL YEAH. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Pennsylvania Schools in Hot Water

“It’s not fair!”

As a parent, I’ve heard those words more times than I can count. But what bothers me most about that phrase is not the whiny voice my kids use. It’s that they have no idea what fair means.



Do you?

When I trained  to become an educator, I learned this simple definition: Fairness doesn’t mean everyone gets the same thing. Fairness means people get what they need. I felt this was a useful and sensible definition.

And Pennsylvania isn’t fair when it comes to funding public school education. That’s why the Campaign for Fair Education Funding is calling for the legislature to create a Basic Education Funding formula. Can you believe we don’t already have a adequate and equitable way to distribute funding to schools? We’re one of only three states in the country without a formula.

An article on Newsworks reported that Pennsylvania schools are the most inequitably funded in the
entire country, with poorer school districts receiving 33.5 percent less in education funding than moreaffluent school districts across the state."

What’s really unfair is that as state funding for schools has decreased, the burden to make up the funding deficit falls on local communities. And if those communities are poor, they aren’t able to make up the difference. So the kids in those districts get less than they need. And they struggle and suffer.

My husband compared this problem to boiling a frog. The slow, almost unnoticeable process of heating the water until the frog is dead. We don’t notice the problem until it’s too late.

Inequitable (unfair) funding is hurting our kids, our communities and our states. And it hurts some kids more than others. “This is concentrated disadvantage: the children who need the most are concentrated in schools least likely to have the resources to meet those needs.” Check out this map.

Is our school in trouble?

This fall, all three of my children will attend school in the North Hills School District in Allegheny County. But I realized I had no idea if my school district received enough funding. I assumed things were going ok, but I didn’t know until I looked up the information. Our school is doing well and my children have access to a great library, an excellent music problem, and enough teachers.



Is your school in trouble? Get the fast facts on your district.

Even if your district isn’t struggling, schools and students in your state are not being set up for success.That’s why Pennsylvania needs a funding formula. Voters support the idea. Now, we must convince our local legislators to prioritize students as well.

There are two fair funding formulas that the Pennsylvania School Boards Association feel are worth considering. Both formulas take into consideration the needs of students and district and weight those needs. So for instance, schools with more English Language Learners or students experiencing poverty will receive more money. Also rural areas, which operate schools for small populations, require additional dollars.



You can learn about this important issue before we’re all in hot water by visiting the Campaign for Fair Education Funding website. Then, get http://fairfundingpa.!

Take action! Send a tweet (like this one) to your local legislator. And join the #FairFundingPA Twitter Chat Monday, June 15 at 1-2 PM EST.

Or take action in person. If you love a good road trip combined with a one-of-a-kind educational experience for your kids,  join us in Harrisburg on June 23 for the Campaign for Fair Education Funding Rally!

Want legislators to make sure every child has a fair shot at academic success? Sign up & get involved: http://ow.ly/NPX8b #FairFundingPA



I’m teaming up with the Campaign for Fair Education Funding to speak out for students across Pennsylvania. Although I am receiving some form of compensation, all opinions remain my own. #FairFundingPA

Monday, June 1, 2015

Best Books in 2013

Inspired by a post from Sarah by the Sea - I will keep track of the books I read in 2013 and see if I can read an average of 1 a week. I'm a quick reader but time is tough to come by in my house, so this will require patience and focus. If we could count the books I read to my children each night, I'd be done this challenge in about a month.

Total: 52 Books
Goal: 52 Books
(0 to go!)
I did it! Finished on Dec 17, 2013.



Jan 2013 - 1 book officially. Lots of magazines. Edited a 200 page manuscript for a client.
  • I finished American Short Story Masterpieces (1987) but didn't start it in 2013, so it can't really count.
  • Proud to say this month included Last Call in the City of Bridges the first book from a local publishing house. 

Feb 2013 - 7 books. And more magazines.

  • Just completed The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel  by Jasper Fforde, loaned to me by a friend.
  • The Book of Dragons (Looking Glass Library) was a quick enjoyable read and since I love writing fantasy for the middle grade/young adult crowd I also counted it as research. 
  • Working off a list compiled by Phillip Pullman, I plan to tackle some of the 100 books he thinkgs everyone should read. The Phantom Tollbooth 50th Anniversary Edition is on that list, and now it's one of my 52!
  • Struggled to finish The Dragon's Tooth: Ashtown Burials #1. Though it has good reviews I had difficulty enjoying it. I found the descriptions confusing, the characters a bit unbelievable, the language not quite natural. 
  • Flew through Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks with a hard and fast desire to devour the entire story greedily. Now that was a gripping work of historical fiction. Highly, highly recommend. 
  • Absolutely laughed the entire way through Tina Fey's Bossypants. While I recently learned I am the only person in America who never heard the phrase "shit-eating grin" I believe I understood everything Tina Fey was trying to say. 
  • Acquired incredibly valuable information from The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Blogged about it here
March 2013 - 4 books.
    • Even though I first encountered Up the Down Staircase as a child, I didn't read it until now. I'm glad I waited, because it was so much more meaningful to me as an adult, especially as an adult who had once considered teaching to be her calling. 
    • I enjoy every opportunity I get to be creative with copywriting, and  The Idea Writers: Copywriting in a New Media and Marketing Era (Advertising Age) offered lots of inspiration and good advice.
    • It didn't get great reviews but all in all I found The Casual Vacancy to be engaging and thought-provoking. I cried at the end. 
    • And last, I read Pump Six and Other Stories. This collection of short stories was especially provocative since I was reading them at the Farm to Table Conference in Pittsburgh, surrounded by food. 
    April 2013 - 2 books.

      14 books as of April 4, 2013. 38 to go.

      May 2013

      Though I started two other books in April, I haven't finished them yet. They are big books. I plan to finish them this month.

      • I read Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? in one morning. Author Beverly Daniel Tatum provides a thoughtful analysis of the literature surrounding the development of racial identity and a challenging definition of the term 'racism'. The insights in this book will stay with me and I'm hopeful I'll begin to bring about some changes in my own sphere of influence. I especially appreciated her suggestions for books for young children to counteract stereotypes. This book was written in 1997, and I am curious to see if Dr. Tatum has written anything since Barack Obama became our president. 
      • Enjoyed Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg by Margo L. Dill. I took a class taught by Margo and won her book in a contest on another author's blog. I love historical fiction and I learned a lot from this book both as a writer & historian. 
      • Basically neutral to unimpressed with The Book by Jessica Bell. The tough part for me was the child's voice. I have three kids, and I spend a lot of time with children. I just didn't find the parts narrated by the child to be authentic. The concept was interesting but not well executed. 

      June/July/August 2013

      While most people get a lot of reading done in the summer I struggled to finish a single book. With the kids home more, triathlon training ramping up and taking on a new client my own reading got pushed to the side. But I did squeeze in three books. 

      • Triathlon for the Every Woman: You Can Be a Triathlete. Yes. You. by Meredith Atwood was a good choice leading up to my first Olympic distance triathlon. Meredith has completed sprints, Olympics, HIM and Ironman distances. Many parts of her story resonated with me and I actually used one of her race mantras during the bike portion of my first Olympic. 
      • I finally finished The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood by James Gleick. The book is long, which doesn't usually deter me, but it's dense and I often paused to take notes or reflect on concepts. Do not pick this book up for a light read, but absolutely pick it up if you are like me and wonder just how we ever communicate with each other at all. It took me way too long to read, but I really loved this book. 
      • The last book I read this summer was Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink. Totally applicable for the business world but also for my triathlon and running training and for parenting! If your strategy to motivate lacks autonomy, mastery and purpose you need to read this book. 
      Yes, that's it for this summer. Three books. My current total for the year is 20. I have to read 32 books in three months to hit 52 books. Now, if you counted all the magazines, websites and children's books I've been reading I'm sure my actual time reading is quite significant. It's just hard for me to sit down and tackle a complete book. But I'm going to refocus and work hard to reach my goal.

      September 2013

      This month I surpassed my summer reading total and finished four books. My total is now 24. 28 to go.
      • An online acquaintance (but I can't remember exactly who!) recommended  It's Not About You: A Little Story About What Matters Most in Business by Bob Burg. Anyway, I read the Kindle version and found it useful and affirming. I tweeted a line from the book that reminded readers we can be blunt without being tactless. I'm working on that. 
      • I finished  You Can Write Children's Books by Tracey Dils. This book reinforced concepts that I knew but often overlooked and introduced important new concepts. It is written with brevity and clarity and I appreciate the informative appendix most of all. Right now I'm focused on the concept of 'internal conflict' that is key in YA literature.
      • My next choice took a historical curve and I read The Killer Angels: The Classic Novel of the Civil War by Michael Shaara, called 'the classic novel of the Civil War.' I thought that was Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt, which I haven't read since middle school. Regardless, this was an excellent book. It was very sad reading mostly because of the futility of some of the military decisions, something I hadn't known. As a writer, I found it interesting that Shaara changed viewpoints frequently, really operating from a third person omniscient point of view. Although writers are often advised against that, in this book it worked. 
      • My last book this month was Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson. Wow was this an amazing book! I was thrilled to learn so many provocative and inspiring facts, not the least was that the printing press was an innovation derived from grape presses used to make wine. I took lots of notes and learned about commonplacing, phase-lock, and ran into another reference to the concept of flow also discussed in Gleick's The Information  and Pink's Drive, two books I read this summer (see above). 
      • I also read the short story "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry as a free e-book from the Gutenberg project but I don't think it counts toward my total. 
      October 2013
        • I've been meaning to read Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss for ages and finally finished it. It was definitely entertaining and not at all dry. I can't say I was stunned by anything in the book but I'm not sure I agree with her opinion about the movie Two Weeks Notice.
        • After hearing an interview on The Diane Rehm Show over the summer I was inspired to get a copy of Porgy by Du Bose Heyward. Do not read this if you're looking for a delightful tale. The language is evocative, the dialogue may slow you down a bit but push through. People need to read this book and spend a some time with the residents of Catfish Row. 

        At this point, I am now halfway to my goal.  I have a big stack of print books and a good collection of e-books waiting for my attention? Do you have any recommendations?

          Don't have time to write long summaries of each or pop up the links (yet) but here are six more books I've read this month.
          • Magdalen
          • Watermelon
          • An Everlasting Meal
          • The Invention of Hugo Cabret
          • Happier at Hom
          • The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
          November 2013 
            I'm pretty busy with NaNoWriMo, writing conferences, holidays and client work, so I'm just keeping a list now instead of doing mini-reviews. I'm also getting close to my goal. I'm hopeful I can make it!

            34. City of Bones
            35. Epitaph for a Peach
            36. Happy Trails to You - Julie Hecht
            37. The Keep - Jennifer Egan
            (skimmed a book called Breaking Bread about immigrants and food)
            38. The Magician's Elephant - Kate DiCamilio
            39. The Midwife's Apprentice
            40. Divergent
            41. Breadcrumbs (quick word here:  my favorite part involved The Little Match Girl. I loved how the author indulged herself a little there.)
            42. Insurgent
            43. Allegiant
            44. Saffy's Angel - will definitely read more by Hilary McKay
            45. Wonder
            46. Small as an Elephant - loved this. Can't wait for my sons to be old enough to read it.
            47. Inventing Victor - by local Pittsburgh author Jen Bannan. Loved this collection of short stories.
            48. An Amateur's Guide to to Pursuit of Happiness -  also by local Pittsburgh author Britt Reints. She made some amazing choices to pursue happiness!
            49. Bonded - received this as a gift in Bermuda, it's by a Bermudian author McCal Roberts. There are some very strange moments in this book but there's a good idea in there somewhere.
            50. Schottenfreude. Not a story, but perhaps one of the most interesting books I've read in a long time.

            That's right, only 2 books to go. That's because I spent a week in Bermuda and was able to read every single day!!! I read 9 books in 1 week. It was incredible. It was rejuvenating. Now I know why writers are always advised to read, it feeds the writing soul.

            On to December! Only 2 books left to meet my goal. That's an awesome feeling. And I'm already starting to look for more books to read. I'm prepared: I have two big book lists I'm waiting to tackle, including the nominees for the 2013 National Book Award and another random list I printed online that asked well-known young adult authors to list their favorite books. I think there are 100 books on this list, and if I can get through these two lists in the next year I shall be very well-read indeed.

            December
            51. Treasure Island
            52. Skellig

            (but now the big question...do I count books I have started this year in next year's tally?)