Monday, September 30, 2013

Falling for Happy

Who here is having a hard time believing tomorrow is October? September, with its temperature swings, fits of rain, and ever earlier sunsets, put me through a gamut of activity and emotion. Still, my handy dandy How to be Happy list didn't fail me:
  1. Doodle. This I do frequently.
  2. Let loose. Less frequently, but it has been done.
  3. Organize a potluck dinner. Yes, for Becca's birthday.
  4. Play devil's advocate. My preferred mode of argument.
  5. Pretend it's a new year. With the new school year starting and so many changes happening around here (Brit in school, Becca/Diego moving in/out) it does feel like a "new" year.
  6. Go to a trade show or convention. Can I phone a friend for this one? Jesus is the convention-goer.
  7. Buy a new tool to complete a project. I bought several photo albums to complete my picture-printing-out project.
  8. Organize a group effort. Again, helped organize Becca's birthday celebration.
  9. Pray for something. Yes.
  10. Don't answer your phone. YES.
  11. Imagine you had all the money you want. what? Feel sad?  
  12. Send a postcard to yourself. Umm...I write myself letters in my journal.
  13. Read the Bible as literature. Yes.
  14. Stay home all day. Yes...terday.
  15. Eat popcorn for dinner. I don't think I've done that this month, but I've had crackers and cheese...
  16. Ask for directions. Yes, I do this...though I rarely need to. 
  17. Look through your personal archives. Journals/photos/memory box things...yep.
  18. Visit a university or college campus. Not sure I've done that this month, but I sometimes drive through DePaul for work.
  19. Start a tradition. Hmmm...I've continued traditions. Hard to say whether or not any are started, but I'll let you know next year I guess.
  20. Test drive your fantasy car. Would need a fantasy car first...
  21. Make an overseas phone call. Does the Gulf of Mexico/Panama Canal = overseas and Skype = phone call?
  22. Imagine your death. I would prefer not to.
  23. Be on time for every appointment. That's my M.O.
  24. Tell someone the story of "Little Red Riding Hood". ?? I definitely tell stories, but not this one.
  25. Play a board game. Yes.
  26. Organize a clash day. Another M.O. of mine...making every day Clash Day.
  27. Take a risk with money - gamble. ...Not my M.O. :/
  28. Think everything through before you act. Something I strive to do, except then I get caught up in the thinking too much and forget to act.
  29. Go on a boat ride. Sorry, did not have the chance to do this during September. 
  30. Wish on a star. Definitely had the chance to do this and definitely took that chance.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Interpreter of Maladies

Having enjoyed Jhumpa Lahiri's novel, The Namesake, I soon found and blazed through her collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies. I definitely like these short stories more than her longer work, but I have to keep reading her stuff so I know for sure what I prefer.

I like Lahiri's use of food, everyday routines, and simple actions to show universal emotions. The stories highlight a moment or a phase in a person's life, or in the life of a relationship. Similar themes of immigration, race, identity, mixed-culture, community, and ritual cycle through the stories so that while each one stands alone, the entire collection feels greater than the sum of its parts.

I laughed on several occasions, sighed, and cried (only once, but I had to put the book down for a second to compose myself). I'm curious to read more from Lahiri--she published another short story collection in 2008 and her second novel just came out this year.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

65th Emmy Awards/Bears vs Steelers

Two for the price of one! Tonight I will live-blog the Emmys, but as luck would have it, the Bears are also playing and my roommates would kick me out if I hogged the TV all night. Hopefully it's not confusing if I react to an acceptance speech and an interception in the same sentence. Keep this page open/refreshed -- the fun starts at 7 with the Emmys and gets amped up at 7:30 once the game starts.

6:45 pm: Putting the finishing touches on dinner, slow cooker chicken pot pie. We've gotten good at cooking for many/meals eaten in shifts to accommodate five people with different schedules.

6:57 pm: The Jets/Bills game is definitely still on CBS.

7:00 pm: Still commercials...

7:04 pm: And here we go!

7:08 pm: Interesting montage intro. Classy. NPH is charming, as always.

7:12 pm: Ha! Jimmy Kimmel. And Jane Lynch! And Jimmy Fallon! And Conan! And...that guy? I'm not good at TV.

7:15 pm: A moment, for Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Goddesses of TV. I know that. Tina is looking super fine tonight.

7:18 pm: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy: Merritt Wever, Nurse Jackie. No idea what that show is, but I recognize her from her role on New Girl, where she also shines. ...And best acceptance speech ever. Nailed it.

7:23 pm: Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series: Tina Fey, Tracy Wigfield, 30 Rock. I love funny women.

7:26 pm: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy: Tony Hale, Veep. Again, I don't know Veep, but I did love Hale in Arrested Development.

7:29 pm: Robin've aged.

7:37 pm: Jon Hamm and Alec Baldwin, silver foxes.

7:38 pm: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy: Julia Louis-Drefus, Veep. Does Tony Hale play the same kind of character on Veep that he did on AD?

7:40 pm: Outstanding Guest Actor/Actress in a Comedy: IF JUSTIN DIDN'T WIN...what?! Boo.

7:42 pm: Outstanding Director in a Comedy: Gail Mancuso, Modern Family. Still haven't watched that show. Go Ladies!

7:45 pm: Sophia, wow. Outstanding Actor in a Comedy: Jim Parsons, Big Bang Theory. Somehow this show always wins. I don't get the appeal.

7:49 pm: Bears are up, 3-0. First and goal....Touchdown! 10-0.

7:56 pm: Is it the lighting? Everyone looks shiny and washed out. These are not the Academy Awards.

7:58 pm: No one here is into this song, sorry Elton/Liberace. Watching the Bears score another Touchdown! make a big run!

8:02 pm: Touchdown?

8:04 pm: ...Touchdown?

8:08 pm: Touchdown!

8:10 pm: What did we miss, CBS? Oh, INTERVENTION. LOL.

8:13 pm: Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series: Henry Bromell, Homeland.

8:14 pm: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama: Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad. I think I should probably watch this show, based on the obsession everyone else seems to have for it.

8:22 pm: Cutler to Forte. Awesome. Cutler to ...the ground. Less awesome.

8:26 pm: SO glad we switched over right now. Loving this award song featuring Nathan Fillion and Sarah Silverman. Also loving all these gay jokes.

8:28 pm: Outstanding Reality Competition Program: The Voice. Wow, no win for The Amazing Race. I think that's a first.

8:38 pm: Something about Ben Roethlisberger gives me the creeps.

8:40 pm: THAT was a good catch.

8:45 pm: No, Carrie. Sorry. Back to the game.

8:50 pm: This game isn't exciting right now either. :/

8:53 pm: The accountants...and Bob Newhart!

8:55 pm: Outstanding Actress in a Drama: Claire Danes, Homeland. She needs a different dress. Different color. Different cut. Something.

8:58 pm: Outstanding Guest Actor/Actress in a Drama: Gonna be super honest here, didn't catch either of their names or the shows they were in.

8:59 pm: Outstanding Director in a Drama: David Fincher, House of Cards.

9:04 pm: Outstanding Writing in a OMG Bob Newhart is so cute. Sorry, Variety Series: Ummm there are a lot of writers on these shows. Room for one more? And the winner is...The Colbert Report. Have some class, writers...stop with the on-stage selfies.

9:06 pm: Director in a Variety Series: Don Roy King, SNL. For the Justin Show! By far the best in a while.

9:12 pm: Osos de Chicago! My Spanish class is really paying off.

9:20 pm: 27-10.

9:22 pm: Outstanding Variety Series: The Colbert Report. They win a lot, right?

9:31 pm: 27-13.

9:32 pm: Outstanding Writing in a Miniseries: (Full Disclosure, have not seen any of these)...Abi Morgan, The Hour. I like that her hair is simple/classy. Cute story too!

9:34 pm: More full disclosure, I know none of these actors/actresses.

9:37 pm: Kaley's dress is my favorite I've seen so far.

9:42 pm: Still 27-10.

9:45 pm: Break from Emmys and football to see Brooke's new school wardrobe. :)

9:47 pm: 27-13.

9:50 pm: 27-20. I looked away/stopped listening. What just happened? Watching two shows is tiring.

9:56 pm: Outstanding Actor in a Miniseries: Michael Douglas. Another guy who's really getting old. Great use of sexual innuendo.

9:58 pm: Outstanding Miniseries/Movie: Behind the Candelabra. I have a slight interest in seeing this.

10:09 pm: 27-23. The Bears have clearly taken precedence over the Emmys tonight. Sorry, non-Bears fans/non-football fans. Such is life when you live in Chicago/have more football fans than pop culture fans in your apartment.

10:13 pm: I can respect a quarterback who doesn't slide all the time/makes a hit as he's going down.

10:19 pm: We say it's a touchdown. Glad the refs agree. 34-23.

10:26 pm: 40-23. Polamalu is a beast.

10:34 pm: Side notes: We at the Naw are SO excited for the Season Premieres of Chicago Fire and Law and Order: SVU. This week, on NBC.

10:42 pm: Somehow the Bears are awesome this year. The Packers, not so much. The Steelers, really not at all.

10:44 pm: 40-23, game. See you at the next Awards Show/Football Game/Live Event!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Yogurt Chicken

This is one of the easiest, cleanest, tastiest, and healthiest dishes I've had the pleasure of making (twice in the last week). So far I've not had any leftovers when making it, but I think it would be great the next day as well. It's also super easy to modify - as shown by everyone's unique take on it. Don't like Greek yogurt? Use plain. Don't like yogurt at all? Try mayo. Experiment with cheeses, spices, etc. Try it on pork or fish or tofu. Above all, don't work too hard and have dinner ready in under an hour.

Yogurt Chicken

4-6 boneless/skinless chicken breasts
1 cup yogurt
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375.
Combine yogurt, cheese, and spices in shallow dish.
Line baking sheet with tin foil, lightly grease.
Coat chicken with yogurt mix (be generous!) and line on baking sheet.
Bake 45 minutes or until juices run clear/tops are golden brown.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Learning Via Music

I'm supposed to be studying Spanish for my class later. Currently this looks like youtubing Spanish music, looking up lyrics/translations, and learning new songs. Unsurprisingly, most of my favorite Spanish-language music is by Italian-born artists. Thankfully, most Italian singers release Spanish versions of their most popular songs (sometimes entire albums) along with the Italian versions. If they are lucky/popular enough, they release their songs in English as well. Here are a few of my favorite artists/songs:

Tiziano Ferro - I love a lot of this guy's music. Italian, Spanish, and English--he has a beautiful voice and it's hard to not enjoy such passionate songs.


Tardes Negras

Laura Pausini - Also a passionate Italian singer with songs in multiple languages. I sometimes confuse these new Spanish lyrics with Italian ones I learned while in Rome.

En Cambio No

Primavera Anticipada (featuring James Blunt)

La Sonrisa de Julia - an actual band from Spain, found when I googled "Spanish music that sounds like Jack Johnson/Coldplay/Dave Matthews Band"... Don't get me wrong, bachata/cumbia/salsa/other traditional Spanish-language music is great, but that's not what I typically listen to (even considering how diverse the genre "Latin" is). If I'm going to use music to support my language learning, I want it to be music that I would listen to regardless of language. These guys are a rock band who happen to speak Spanish.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Pain and Gain

Sometimes you watch a movie based on a true story that is so strange/horrifying you can't even cry. The reality of the events depicted is rather grim, despite its Hollywood glitz-and-glam facade, but you are too shocked to show any emotion. You sit there, asking (in your head and out loud) "Is that for real?" You laugh, sometimes because of the awkward hilarity, sometimes out of discomfort. You give your boyfriend the satisfaction of watching a movie about weightlifting for his second (but probably not last) time.

Pain and Gain, starring Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson, is a tragedy dressed in a clown suit. It tackles crimes like extortion, grand larceny, kidnapping, torture, and murder with satirical nonchalance. The main characters happen to be bodybuilders, but the movie focuses on their illegal shenanigans over their physical endeavors.

While based on actual events, the movie certainly takes creative liberty in dropping and inventing characters and plot. I thought it was well-written and crafted, and though gruesome in parts, the story itself was intriguing. I also enjoyed the large and diverse cast of veteran and rookie actors. If you have a soft stomach for blood or sensitive ears language-wise, I'd pass on this movie, but I think in general it appeals to a wide audience. Just remember, sometimes your pain is someone else's gain.

Monday, September 16, 2013


Sometimes you need a good cry over something not real. Movies are a perfect way to force catharsis, and animated movies are an even better medium to get emotional with, I say. When you just want to get hopelessly and needlessly slobbery and boogery, why not do it with characters who aren't even real people? Animated movies allow grown ups to let down their guards and have at it, emotion-wise.

Tangled, Disney's 2010 animated version of the Rapunzel story, had me in wrenching sobs by the end, but first I laughed and giggled at its silliness. While the music isn't particularly catchy, I enjoyed the story of the princess stolen as a baby and raised in a tower by a witch. I thought the animations were clever, and because I watched with Jesus, it was fun to make comparisons between ourselves and Rapunzel and Flynn/Eugene. I haven't cut my hair in over a year, so I could relate to Rapunzel's beauty routine, and Jesus feels he, like Flynn/Eugene, is "awesome in general" (his words).

As the movie came to climactic finish, I found myself fighting tears. I know Disney isn't about dramatic tragedies, but I couldn't help but put myself in the main characters' places and imagine the dire-ness of their situations if a miracle didn't occur. Even once I knew the happy ending was on its way, I still had tears--this time of joy for the good fortune of the now beloved characters.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Pretty Muddy

I don't normally run three miles (ever), but when I do, I make sure I get really muddy. Yesterday, Mom and I ran the Pretty Muddy Women's Mud Run, a tamer cousin of other mud runs out there. Mom and Dad have already run their own mud run, and now Mom is hooked. We figured this would be a good one for her to keep going on her kick and for me to ease into this whole trend. It was also their wedding anniversary yesterday, so it made for a fun way to celebrate.

We got to the course plenty early, so after some stretching and warming up, Mom and I were ready to go. From the Start/Finish line all we could see was a tunnel filled with soapy bubbles (the first obstacle) and a giant mud pit stretched out under some netting (the last obstacle). The rest of the course wound its way through several soybean fields and wooded areas.

We didn't run the whole 5K, but we did a lot of jogging, climbing, crawling, sliding, and carrying. Since the race wasn't timed, there wasn't a huge air of competition and many of the women cheered each other on at the obstacles, or commiserated with them over shared mud coverings. Mom and I wished there were more obstacles, since many of them only required a minimum of mud activity, but we still enjoyed the tranquil setting juxtaposed with splashing in pits of squelchy mud.

We saw big girls and small girls, young girls and old girls, mother-daughter teams and entire friend groups dressed in tutus, nun habits, tie dye t-shirts, cheetah leggings, wigs, and any other costumes people didn't mind getting dirty in. Mom said that if we had a team name it could be Half & Quarter Century because of our ages.

At the finish line we were greeted with cups of water and Pretty Muddy medals. Everything we touched got promptly covered in mud until we made our way back to the hose off station, where tons of women sprayed each other off in various stages of undress. One woman stripped down to undies and bra, revealing lacy whites only slightly muddy. Her friend asked why she wore such fancy underwear and she replied, "Didn't your mom tell you to always wear nice panties? You never know who might see them later!"

I felt good after the run, and was only a little tired later in the day, but I am sore this morning. When I woke up I limped to the bathroom, holding my butt and thighs. This is what I get for doing zero training before activities. Luckily I have today to recuperate on the couch...while watching FOOTBALLLLLLLLLLLL! Sayonara Summer, here comes Fall.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Hostel Del Naw

When can you call your apartment a hostel? Probably at about the time you host 7 different people in the span of a week. The Naw has had a revolving door this past week, housing out of towners, homeless friends, and travelers.

Whether they stayed for a night during longer travels, are biding their time until a new apartment opens up, or have full blown moved in until further notice, all of our guests have been wonderful and flexible, sleeping in whatever beds are available at the moment. Still, it's been crazy always having extra people around.

PROS of extra roommates:

  • Extra groceries - all of our guests have either brought us food, are willing to run to the grocery store for us, or have pitched in to grocery bills.
  • Homemade meals - it's a rare night when someone doesn't make dinner for the apartment, family-style.
  • Breakfast buddies - we have a built-in coffee clutch/tea time every morning!
  • Spanish practice - the majority of our guests have lived in Spanish-speaking countries or are fluent speakers, yay for me!
  • Extended closet - my wardrobe is always growing and changing.
  • Gossip - we are staying super in the loop about ourselves and all of our friends.

CONS of extra roommates:
  • Cramped bathroom time - we perform an elaborate dance at night between showers, brushing teeth, and bed prep and it starts all over in the morning.
  • Little to no privacy - I'm not a private person, per se, but every now and then I need some closed-door-by-myself-room-time.
  • Laundry woes - we have a lot of dirty laundry and only one washer/dryer.
  • Nothing lasts! - as much as we grocery shop, the bananas we got yesterday are always gone today.
  • Gossip - like the privacy issue, everyone who lives here currently knows everyone else's shit. Part of it is our "Full Disclosure" policy, part of it is the thin walls, part of it is we talk loud about everyone we know.
Much like MercyWorks, living at the Naw right now is fun, frustrating, tiring, and awesome. I'm enjoying the change of pace, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't keeping an eye out for quieter times ahead.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Never Let Me Go

There is a line in Never Let Me Go where the novel's narrator, Kathy, describes the way the students at Hailsham, her private school in the English countryside, are taught about their lives. She says their teachers ("guardians") never revealed so much as to shock or scare the children, but just enough so that they were never surprised by what they heard, like a kid who realizes he knows something, but can't remember where or when he learned it.

Kazuo Ishiguro, the novel's author, is much like Kathy's guardians while we readers are like Kathy. He reveals just enough to keep us hooked and informed, and as we read further and further we learn things we already sort of knew, or at least guessed at. His prose draws us along, pulls us through the novel, and takes us on the literary journey of Kathy's childhood to her present day adulthood.

Reviews of this book tend to be solid--I've seen it recommended on several lists--but some people weren't fans. They wanted more of a "twist," or didn't like the writer's style. There is a twist, but it's less twisty than curvy. I'd say more, but I think this book works best without prior knowledge of what this book is all about. What happens won't necessarily take you by surprise, but it will make you think.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Bristol Renaissance Fair

Labor Day has come and gone, and with it goes summer. I ended mine with a trip back to 1599, at the Renaissance Fair in Kenosha, WI. I've never been to a Renaissance Fair before, but my friend Becca warned me that there would be plenty of cleavage among all the characters who come out and dress up in traditional attire. There was also lots of facial hair, fairy wings, pet dragons, and swords.

Jesus and I dressed only for comfort, not for the time period, though Jesus did add some mustache wax to ensure plenty of compliments and 'stache comparisons. He also got picked to hold the end of a rope with several other men so that a performer could balance on it and juggle. I did not get picked for anything, but I did get a free hand massage to try out some candle lotion.

We saw men sword fight, a blacksmith demonstration, a glass-blowing demonstration, feats of strength and balance, magicians, jousting, falcons, and a man spewing insults as people pelted him with tomatoes. We ate modern food - calzones, nachos, roast beef, pizza - but there were also turkey legs, soup and bread, and beer in big mugs.

I'm glad I got to end the summer with a "Huzzah" ...but I'm looking forward to stretching out "summer" well into September, possibly October. When you're not in school anymore, summer is anytime the weather is nice.