Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover

Tag Archive: books

Friday favorites, volume 6

Friday favorites. This week’s is a quickie because I’m a slacker and didn’t get it done last night and now my daughter is on summer break and I can only hide from her for so long. 

Favorite song

Black Stone Cherry is a relatively new to me band, and I just love them now. They’re songs are fun, rockin’, and honestly, who can’t love a band with a song “White Trash Millionaire?” And let me just say that when I first watched a video, I was NOT expecting the singer to look the way he does.

Favorite frugal find

Remember how I said earlier in the week that my fat ass needs to lose some weight? Well, I found a coupon for 50% off Weight Watchers for 3 months. Now, I’m not a huge advocate of paying for weight loss services since there are so many good, free ones but I lost a ton of weight with them once before so it’s worth a shot again. As a balance, I no longer belong to a gym and workout for free at home. 

Favorite TV thing

This. Only this. 


 Favorite book thing

Last summer, I read Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris. It is a well written, kind of weird, completely creative story about the environment in an ad agency at the end of the internet boom, and it’s written in the first person plural. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and when I realized that the author had written two more books, I jumped on that wagon train. I just finished The Unnamed and have started To Rise Again at a Decent Hour. I am troubled that he only has these 3 books but if you’re looking for something to read this summer, any of those come highly recommended. 

book cover
Favorite celebrity doing something good instead of being a dickhead

Apparently, Aaron Lewis, the lead singer of Staind, went on a tirade at one of their concerts, STOPPING their set to yell at a bunch of lecherous, disgusting assholes who were, by all accounts, molesting a 16 year old girl who was crowd surfing. When you think about all the crowd surfing he’s seen, to stop a performance to yell at (and threaten) these dudes, it must have been bad. Like really, really bad. But kudos to you, Mr. Lewis, for stopping it.

Favorite funnies

bathtub dog cookies eLazYHq


Have a great weekend, y’all!! 

Linking up, as always, with Amanda:

Friday Favorites

Little House Book Club: Little House in the Big Woods

I’m so excited to bring you the inaugural post in the Little House book club series! Every month, on the last day of the month, we’ll discuss a book from the Little House on the Prairie series both on the blog and on Facebook. I hope that, even if you missed this month, you’ll join us for the next one! 

little house in the big woods

Confession: I have never once, not ever been a part of a book club. This is a completely new experience for me so please bear with me as I muddle through this discussion of the first book in the Little House series, Little House in the Big Woods. 

I’m not really sure where to start. For those who haven’t read the book, it essentially covers the Ingalls family during their time in the Big Woods (as they call it) in Wisconsin. The 5 of them–Ma, Pa, Mary, Laura, and Baby Carrie–live, as you would expect, in a small cabin in the middle of the woods. For income, Pa traps furs and raises wheat. They have cows for milk, pigs for bacon and salt pork (a favorite of theirs), Pa hunts and fishes (but not in the spring and summer. His ethics, rather than the need to provide his family with fresh meat, kick in during those seasons), a garden, and pretty much everything a pioneer could ask for, including family and friends nearby. They work hard in the summer, spend quality time together as a family in the winter, and are generally happy.

Things are good for the Ingalls. 

Throughout the book, Laura describes in sometimes painstaking detail (no joke. It’s painful and tedious to read at times), what it was like to be a pioneer during her childhood. Particularly as it relates to food. Laura spends an awful lot of time talking about food. How it’s killed, prepared, what they eat and when, how it tastes, and how it’s stored. There’s one part in the book where she talks about how there’s meat and dried fruits and vegetables hanging in the attic where she as Mary played. Literally. They played among deer carcasses and used pumpkins as chairs and tables. And I could not get that scene from Rocky out of my head and also, it’s just weird. I like to think that maybe there were some creative liberties taken with that part of the book but honestly, I don’t know. It was kind of interesting, though, and demonstrated that they really did use what they had on hand for everything possible. Talk about making do.

Another part of the book that I enjoyed were the stories Laura told about spending time with their friends and family. It must have been fun to go to a gathering back then and actually interacted with people, rather than everyone sitting around on their phones. They talked, danced, ate, played, and took turns hosting. Hospitality was something to be enjoyed rather than a big nuisance. It made their pioneer life seem full and fun, rather than lonely and miserable. But what it also highlighted, at least when they were getting ready for that sugar dance/party, is that even back then, they still cared, maybe more than they should, about their appearances. It was hard not to notice a) that Laura gave almost no detail regarding what Pa or the other men wore and b) that she made it a point to discuss the fact that the ladies wanted to have small waists tucked inside their fancy dresses. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing that they cared how they looked when they were going to be in public but it’s interesting just how little has changed for women in that respect.

Just something to think about. 

Three other parts of the book I enjoyed:

  • One, I liked how they pooled resources and labor with neighbors to work efficiently. Everyone got something out of it, and it made the work more efficient. They realized that if they worked together, they could get more accomplished and there was an understanding that helping was just something you did. You helped and got help in return. I think that’s something we can all do a little more of, realizing that not everything is a competition and we can be more successful if we work together. 
  • The tone of optimism. Throughout the book, even when Laura was getting reprimanded or a family member was stung by bees from head to toe (anyone else think of My Girl when they read that?) or there were wolves, nothing ever seemed that bad. There was hope that it would all work out and that everything copacetic. They were snug and cozy (two words I have grown to loathe as a result of this book). They wanted for nothing. Which makes it kind of hard to figure out why exactly they left and, having read the rest of the books in the series, makes me realize they spent their time after they left the Big Woods trying to recapture everything they had while they were there. Makes you realize that honestly, the grass isn’t always greener. 
  • When Laura slapped Mary across the face for picking on her for having brown hair. Nothing is wrong with brown hair, bitch, and you got what you deserved. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what I couldn’t stand about this book. Just a few quick items other than the ones I’ve mentioned (the overuse of the words “snug” and “cozy”, and the sometimes extraordinary detail Laura used to describe some of the most mundane things):

  • Pa. I’m going to say it. I don’t particularly care for Pa. I think he’s kind of an ass and his stories bugged me to no end. I thought they were mostly hyperbole and while I understand why she included them in the book, they kind of disrupted the flow of the main story for me. I also understand that Laura admires and respects her father, which is a good thing, but looking at things as an outsider, she seems to have put him on a pedestal that maybe he didn’t deserve. This opinion might also be influenced by having read the other books. 
  • Using the cow organs as toys. I get not wanting to waste anything but that just made me sick. 

Overall, I liked the book. I enjoyed getting a glimpse into their daily lives and their family dynamic. I also enjoy the fact that I can read this book with my 7 year old and we both get something out of it. Like the idea to make homemade butter

book club button

Did you read the book? If you did an you posted about it, share your post below (and make sure to grab your official Little House Book Club Member badge from the sidebar):

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Encouraging the non-reader

If I remember my American history correctly (which, let’s face it, I might not. You know, because I’m getting old), pioneers loved books (well, the ones who could read loved books). And given the fact that books and magazines were not published with the frequency that they are today, and were not as readily available as they are today, they treasured the ones they could get their hands on.

books 2I get it. I love books. Like, a lot. I genuinely cannot remember a time in my life that I couldn’t read or had bookshelves full of books or a list of more books to read than I could ever find time for. Everything about books makes me happy and I’m pretty sure one of my dream jobs would be working as a book buyer for my state’s library system. Buying books with someone else’s money?!

Sign. Me. Up.

Given my enthusiasm for books, it makes me sad when people tell me they don’t like to read, especially when you think about the pioneers who wanted books and had no access to them. I once worked with a woman who told me she hadn’t been to a library since her son, who was 22 at the time, was a toddler. I wept a little inside at that comment. But it’s people like her that I want to reach. It’s people like her that I want to come around and understand the immense value and power of books.

But how?

That’s the hard part.

So I started brainstorming some ideas for getting those who don’t enjoy reading to read more (and enjoy it!). Or, at the very least, to give it a shot. Here’s what I came up with:

Start a book club
Invite some friends or co-workers and choose a book with widespread appeal (even if you don’t understand the appeal of the book. Yes, 50 Shades series, I’m looking at you). Make it an enjoyable experience and hold the monthly discussions at a restaurant or hold a potluck. Talk about the book in general rather than philosophical terms. If you don’t want to start a book club, recommend one that you know about (like the Little House book club I’m hosting).

Attend an author reading
Sometimes seeing an author passionately speak about a book or read passages from it is enough to get you hooked. I saw Garth Stein do a talk/reading about The Art of Racing in the Rain a few years ago and I am an even bigger fan now. If someone you know isn’t into reading, try to convince them to go with you to something like that, especially if it’s free. They might make a personal connection to the author and give his or her books a try.

Buy books as gifts
I know that for someone who doesn’t like to read, a book may seem like a strange gift. But maybe she doesn’t read because the thought of picking out a book is overwhelming or they just don’t know what they like to read or he doesn’t have the money to buy books or something else. If you take some time to think about that person’s interests, likes, hobbies, etc., I’m certain you will find something enjoyable for that person to read. Then, she might read it because it a) was free and b) is in the house.

Some other ideas I came up with are: drive someone to the library and on the way, espouse the benefits using it; talk about or mention books you’re reading in conversations (as in “Did you see the trailer for Gone Girl? What a great book! I hope the movie does it justice.”); or you can mention all the ways that your kids’ school encourages them to read or the free programs to get books to kids (PJ Library, Imagination Library) and how you wish adults had that. This might open up a conversation, too.books 1

I understand that book brainwashing might not be effective on everyone. But if one person converts from a non-reader to a reader, then it’s worth it.



What would you do to convince someone to start reading more or just start reading?

April goals (and a book club giveaway!)


I’m starting something new. I’ve seen it on other blogs and even tried it once before on a previous site. For some reason, it’s never stuck, but you know what? It’s worth a shot again.

What the heck am I talking about? I’m talking about sharing my monthly goals.

While I’m usually not one to put that kind of information out there, I think that it’s a good way to keep myself and my project on track. I have a tendency to self-sabotage when things are going well and I want to break that cycle. I’m hoping that by sharing my goals with you guys, it’ll keep me focused and also, because I did share my goals, I don’t want to seem like a huge slacker and I’ll actually be productive.

So here we go. For the month of April, I plan to:

  1. Make homemade butter. This was the first pin I put in my pioneer project Pinterest board. I don’t know that it’s necessarily cheaper than buying store made butter but it’s one of the hallmarks of pioneer living. It’s time.
  2. Crochet one dish cloth. After trying and practicing on a crochet hook and the knitting loom, I think crocheting is the way to go right now. It’ll be nice to put something homemade in my kitchen, too (you know, that’s not edible). I also have a goal to make it look nice, not like something my dog made.
  3. Work on my business. Many pioneers were entrepreneurial, and that’s actually something I had going for me before I started this project. I own and operate a blogger mentoring program and this month, I need to finish the site redesign and update the menu of services.
  4. Start our garden. This is more of my husband’s project than mine because he loves gardening. I do not. However, I need to be more involved and this means actually having an opinion on what we grow, how big the garden should be, and assisting in planting. It’s unpleasant but I’ll do it. Pioneers had to do shit they didn’t like all the time.
  5. Participate in the Watch Your Wallet Challenge. I adore the concept of this challenge, hosted by Steph at Life According to Steph and Marla at Luck Fupus, particularly as you get to make your own rules. My rules for the challenge are: no stupid tax (late fees, library fines, etc), only make frivolous purchases using gift cards, stick to my grocery budget, use coupons more often, refrain from buying more craft supplies, and keep up with our 52 week savings challenge.
Life According to Steph

There are a few more goals on my list but there’s no need to share them. But what I can share is this nifty button I made for anyone who’s joining the Little House bookclub (it starts tomorrow!) and, below the button, is a giveaway for a complete set of the Little House books! That’s right, one lucky reader will get a chance to win all 9 books! Thanks to Steph, Jenniemarie, and Athena for assisting with the giveaway. Good luck!

P.S. Please excuse the horrible formatting of what you’re about to see. WP is being an asshole or I’m doing something wrong and can’t get it to do what I want. But I think you get the point.

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What I’m reading: Pioneer project edition

I. Love. Books.

Given the choice, I’d pick reading above almost every activity imaginable. I can’t remember the last time I went a day without reading at least a few pages of a book. And it recently occurred to me that if I were stuck in my house for days on end, as long as I had green tea, ingredients for grilled cheese, and books, I could entertain and sustain myself without getting bored.

It should come as no surprise, then, that as part of my pioneer project, I’ve done some research and identified a few books that are an integral part of the project:

The Modern Pioneer: Simple Living in the 21st Century–This is basically my handbook for my project. Many of the recipes, activities, and crafts I have planned are ideas taken from this book. My husband is particularly excited about brewing our own beer. I’m looking forward to having a completed sewing project that doesn’t look like shit.


Confessions of a Prairie Bitch–memoir by the actress who played Nellie Oleson on the Little House series. I love memoirs, and I am really excited that she wrote one. I hope she talks extensively about Michael Landon because he always seemed like such a nice guy. Also, I want to know what she thought about being hated and how she got through it.


O Pioneers!–part of a trilogy by Willa Cather about life on the prairie land. From what I’ve heard about it, it’s a little more accurate than the Little House series so I’m hoping to get an even broader perspective of frontier life. If this one is good, I’ll read the whole trilogy.


Bootstrapper: From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm–I picked this one up on a whim at the library but had so many books out at the time, I made a note to read it later. The book is another memoir, this one about a woman who had to employ survival skills that would have made the pioneers proud to save her farm after her divorce.


I’m also in the middle of reading the whole Little House series with my daughter and, because it was essential to the pioneers, I’m trying to read the Bible.

I hadn’t originally folded reading into my project plan but I figured, why not? Many pioneers valued reading and devoured what they could get their hands on. That’s right in line with what I do anyway, so adding just seemed logical.

What books would you add or recommend?