In Which I Explain How I Created My Own Unique 2021 Reading Challenge

I’ve been meaning to write about how I arrived at my personalized 2021 reading challenge, but somehow got off track. I was probably reading a book…

For those of you who enjoy numbers: this is a 12″ high stack of 12 books with a total of 4,248 pages that I plan on reading in 2021. 🤓

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I barely read any books in 2020. My focus was too scattered, my anxiety was high, and I couldn’t stick with it.

I forgive myself for slip sliding away from reading for pleasure last year because I am still here in one piece, healthy, relatively sane– and with a renewed sense of purpose when it comes to reading.

Allow me to explain.

As some of you know I’m a fan of Modern Mrs. Darcy’s blog and get her newsletter. When I saw that she had created a questionnaire that I could use to make my own CHOOSE-YOUR-OWN-ADVENTURE-STYLE reading challenge I downloaded the worksheets.

By answering her simple questions, I set my 2021 intention, evaluated my reading needs, and then made a list of twelve prompts that resonated with me based on the concepts of variety and escapism. As Modern Mrs. Darcy says: “Remember, your goal isn’t just to get through this challenge. This challenge is a tool to develop the reading life you want.”

Hallelujah!

But then after further contemplating the reading life I wanted, I had a brainstorm, one in which I devised a way to make this reading challenge more personal– and a bit less costly. Please keep in mind that just because I didn’t read much in 2020 doesn’t mean that I didn’t buy books in 2020.

Thus I found myself thinking back to a decade ago when I read a wonderful memoir, Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill.

In this book Hill writes about her decision that for one year she would only re-read books already in the house. That is, she read what she had on hand, then mused upon what her life was like the first time she read the book. This practical approach to deciding what to read next made an impression on me.

Obviously, I guess.

Anyhow, to be clear, I won’t be re-reading anything this coming year, but I will be reading what is here in the house, pre-purchased in good faith you might say– and meant to be read by me, dammit.

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MY 2021 CHOOSE-YOUR-OWN-ADVENTURE-STYLE READ-WHAT-YOU-HAVE-IN-THE-HOUSE-ALREADY READING CHALLENGE

a thriller

a memoir

a fantasy novel

a cozy mystery

a book of short stories

a recent NYT bestseller

a novel previously abandoned

a NYT bestseller from a while ago

a novel based on something literary

a non-fiction book set where I live now

a non-fiction book set somewhere I’ve never visited

a book I’d never heard of yet is on many required reading lists

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Do you do any reading challenges? Have you ever made your own? Inquiring minds wanna know.

This Is How I Make 2 Types Of Images For My Blog

Have you ever heard someone say that their mantra is to always be recommending?  I love that idea.  Information is part of what makes the world go round.  

To wit, here’s what I use to make 2 types of unique images that I share on The Spectacled Bean. I’m often asked about where I get my images, so here you go.  

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WHEN I TURN PERSONAL PHOTOS INTO ART I use a free app called Waterlogue.  It’s on my phone, ezpz to use, and offers a variety of looks.  Here’s an example of a before and after image.

First I took a photo with my phone.  This is that photo.

Then I used the app choosing one of their filters, in this case the Illustrator, to make my photo look snazzy.  This is the after.

As you can see the app has taken a so-so photo and turned it into a bombdiggity blog-worthy picture.

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WHEN I CREATE IMAGES WITH TEXT I use Canva on my desktop computer [or here for your phone].  It’s a graphic design website [or an app for your phone] featuring a variety of free templates, many pre-sized for any social media you might use.

First I picked a template.  This is the before.

Then I did a fast little rewrite using the first movie quote that came to mind, thus creating something clever and unique.  This is the after.

In this example I did a color change & resized the font but there were many free and $$$ options I could have used to make this image even more amazeballs.

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I hope that this information is of some value to you.  

If you know of other ways to create blog post images [preferably free] please recommend them in the comments below.

And on that note, with nothing more to say here, I shall wish all of you Happy Blogging.

The One About The Broken Bowls & The Price You Have To Pay

I broke 3 dessert bowls last week. It’s a personal best.

One bowl I placed in the dishwasher wrong and it got chipped.

Mea culpa.

The second bowl I dropped while taking it down from the cabinet shelf.  The bowl slipped out of my hand, falling to the floor where, with a sense of drama that reminded me of a 3 y.o. having a meltdown over the way his PB&J sammie was cut, the bowl circled around the floor eventually crashing into the bottom of a cabinet where it broke.

The third bowl, like the other ones, was bone china, a notoriously sturdy substance when not around me.  It was part of the now discontinued Lenox Poppies on Blue that was our china when we got hitched.  I liked fussier things back then.

This third bowl cracked, then melted/broke, while in the microwave.  I don’t know if there was a slight crack in it before I put it in there, but while it was twirling around in the microwave I heard a loud pop.

When I went to take the damaged bowl out of the microwave, unaware that the bowl was damaged, I grabbed it with my right hand and the ceramic was so hot that it burned the fingerprint off my index finger.

Only sort of kidding.

*ouch*

So here’s where I find myself today: I’m a wise, slightly klutzy, woman who realizes, and accepts, that I will probably live the rest of my life a few dessert bowls short of 8 formal dinner place settings, as one does when one is too cheap to replace the broken bowls.

$19.99 a piece? I don’t think so.

Ain’t gonna happen.