Category Archives: This and That

100 Books

The 100 Books Project by Thao Thai

Like most English majors, I went through books at a breakneck speed in college and graduate school. It was par the course–Dostoevsky in the morning, Alice Munro in the evening. At suppertime? A cookbook for pleasure reading.

So, a few years out of grad school and almost ten (ten!) out of college, I thought it would be fun to track a list of books I’ve read for the year. I remember once in college estimating my yearly book consumption to be around 100. So 100 will be the magic number (see the science in my approach?). Novels, poetry chapbooks, cookbooks–any full-length work that’s bound and printed (e-books can be the exception). As you’ll see, it’s an… eclectic mix.

Visit my 100 Books page to see a list of what I’ve read so far, along with a short and sweet rating system of 1 to 5, 5 being the most un-put-down-able. Since I recently started tracking books, I lost a couple of months there, due to my unfortunate lack of long term recall. But the book journey commences!

Recommendations are very welcome! Happy reading. :)

A Library Trip

black and white photo of bookshelf

Working from home, I don’t get out as much as I used to. It’s a regrettable, though unavoidable part of freelance life. So, during these chilly days of January, I’ve been making an effort to walk more, to capture a bit of that fleeting sun before it vanishes. I also seem to be reading faster, flying through books, then putting more on reserve at the library.

After my lunch, I pull on my snow boots, which keep my feet toasty even when there is no snow, and a hat (which I rarely wear except in extreme circumstances), and walk fifteen minutes to our nearest library. Growing up, nothing was more exciting  than a trip to the library–stacks of books, bright posters, those great little bean bags they’d toss on the floor for the kids. It was nice to feel that anticipation again. One day, while it was particularly cold, I found that the library was closed for another twenty minutes. New hours. I sat on a bench and waited.

In the course of those few minutes, many people walked by. They looked to me to explain the new hours. I shrugged, pointing them to the  sign on the door. Everyone was very disgruntled, and for some reason, that seemed a little funny to me.

One woman huffed. “You’ve got to be kidding me. I don’t have time for this.”

Another man found ulterior motives. “They’re just doing this so they can lay people off.”

My favorite, an elderly gentleman with earmuffs, became agitated and said to me, “Well, I’M going to wait in the car.”

I, shivering on my bench, wondered if that was a force of habit. It felt like something he said often to his wife, jiggling his keys at the doorway of a Macy’s. Then the library opened and flooded with readers. It was warm and well lit, and I gathered my books on reserve, adding a few more for good measure. As I was leaving, I heard someone say, “These new hours. Did anyone even bother to ask US first?”

Plant Life

Green stories photograph

Nearly everyone in my family is a gardener, but I’m unable to keep most plant-like things alive. And then we bought our house and it seemed to need some indoor greenery. So we got the easiest plants to maintain from our local garden shop. The ladies there took pity on us and taught us some basics, and only laughed a little when I picked out the tiniest watering can in the world to take home. They told me that plants are easy. Natural.

Now, eight months later, I wouldn’t say these plants thriving–that seems too optimistic–but they are alive. Mostly hydrated. Wilting only a little.

My good friend, who is a great gardener and once gifted me a lovely potted plant that I promptly let die, gave me some advice when she was visiting. She told me to pick out all the dead or dying leaves from the soil. “That way, all the energy will go to the new growth,” she said. She gently pressed a leaf between her fingers.

Here’s to new growth, and to all my sagely friends and family, who despite everything, continue to believe in my ability to nurture all sorts of things.

Twigs of January

I’m trying to find the beauty in this rather dreary month. At the start of a new year, the flash and sparkle seems to fade almost immediately.  There are resolutions, long lines at the gym, grey and muted skies. Yet. There’s also this: a spindly branch, backlit in the early morning, knobbed and gnarled but still, a sign of spring to come. A gift from January, made into a  wallpaper for your desktop and i-devices.

Wallpaper Image

Click the links to download:  Desktop | Tablet | Phone

All but the Corsage

We went to prom.

photo of Thao and Dan in a prom pose

Well, we went to a charity event that had a photo booth.

prom photo of Thao and Dan in front of a glittery wall

And here we are in Napa, last New Year’s Eve, in front of the most glittery wall you have ever seen. We’ve become pretty comfortable with these poses.

I looked up and down, I promise you, but I can’t find any photographic evidence of my prom, my ACTUAL high school prom. But let me paint you a picture. Florida; spring of 2003. Me and my date in a white Chevy Lumina. Thrumming music, gallons of Bath and Body Works body spray. Dinner at Carrabba’s, meeting friends at the beach afterwards. Sand in my black clutch and a dress with so many sparkles that I found them the next day in my armpit.

I’m one of those obnoxious people who really loved high school. I didn’t necessarily always like who I was in high school, but I loved the ritual of it all. My husband didn’t feel the same way (“What? You weren’t living in a Freddy Prinze Jr. movie?”), so it’s always interesting for us to compare. And, you know, relive all of the poses.