Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Visit From the Goon Squad

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It seems like people either love or hate this book, and I guess I'm on the love side. It's full of all my favorite components: short story style chapters each focusing on a different character (while at the same time propelling the story as a whole forward), recurring themes, humor, relatability, and a fun concept chapter consisting of a power point. I liked it. It worked for me. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

ORD --> LAX --> SFO

See you later, Chicago! I'm off to explore San Francisco with my mom and watch one of my best friends get married. I haven't seen Marina since we left Rome in 2009, so this reunion is well overdue. I'm excited and happy and joyous and also I have a train (and plane) to catch....ciao!

2009...year of the side bang.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Emmys & Etc.

Did you watch The Emmys tonight? I'm guessing you noticed I didn't live blog them. (Or you don't care, but then why are you reading this? Of course you care.) Not only were they on a Monday (for the first time since 1976), but I'm still here at work (putting in overtime before vacation, remember?). That doesn't mean I didn't watch--because you can bet M and I spent our night ogling dresses and guessing category winners. (Okay. I ogled and guessed. M somehow split his attention between three screens.)

If I had live blogged, the night's commentary could be summed up with: I love TV.

But that's not what I want to write about tonight. Tonight, I want to first apologize to anyone who got a weird email from me today. Weird as in unsolicited and containing a strange link. I was hacked--that's spam, my friends.

Wait, that's not what I want to write about either.

This is what I want to say:

I can't complain about the weather because the weather happens to everyone.

(Read into that how you will.)

The End.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sunday Night Survey: On the Clock Edition

Yes, it's a Sunday night/Monday morning and I'm at work. I leave for California in just over two days, so I wanted to get in some extra time here before I left...don't want to miss it while I'm on vacation, right? Despite having a shortened weekend, I feel like I got a lot done. At least I'm mostly packed, and that feels like a huge accomplishment. There may or may not have been (but definitely was) some furniture rearranging somewhere in there as well. Oh, and Jesus and I snuck in a trip to Bristol Renaissance FaireWhat else is going on around here? Good question.

Making: a plan of attack for the day. (Monday, that is.)
Cooking: nothing yet...we're leftover city over here.
Eating: leftovers! (and veggie tempura at the Ren Faire!)
Drinking: sassafras and it was so good.
Walking: around and around in circles at Bristol.
Watching: Barely Balanced acrobatics, a glassblower and a blacksmith do their things, a joust, several sword fights, and a game of chess.
Cheering: for our jousting champion, Don Vincenzo.
Taking: a me moment while M is asleep.
Reading: Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan after finishing The Position by Meg Wolitzer
Realizing: Meg Wolitzer is one of my top ten (maybe even top five?) favorite authors.
Writing: packing lists, shopping lists, and to do lists.
Playing: with juggling toys.
Sleeping: in a guest bedroom.
Forgetting: to pack a razor. Oops.
Enjoying: air conditioning!
Taking: two ibuprofen before was a long day.
Wearing: shorts and tanks and anything breathable in this humidity.
Wondering: how early M will be up in the morning.
Hoping: he sleeps in so I can wake up slowly.
Listening to: the (by now familiar) sounds of someone else's house.
Smelling: fried food, roasted nuts, beer, sweat, and incense.
Needing: a vacation.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Quality of Life Report

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I liked this book the way you might like a directionless stroll around your neighborhood. It was nice enough, but in the end more of a leisurely exercise than a journey to a specific destination.

I found the protagonist, Lucinda, slightly off--she seemed like a construct, not an actual person--and the name "Lucinda" didn't help with that. The descriptions of New Yorkers vs Prairie Cityites was relatable to me as a person who grew up in a rural area and moved to a city, but they were still flat overall. And why are all the New Yorkers surprised to find lesbians in the Midwest? If there's one thing the Midwest has in abundance, it's lesbians.

Having previously read Daum's memoir, Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House, I could see bits of her in this story, but I prefer the nonfiction version over the story of Lucinda Trout's many bad decisions and strange crush on Sam Shepard.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The LEGO Movie

For having such a non-descriptive title, The LEGO Movie surprised me with its attention to fun details and simple (yet well-developed) plot. I was a fan from the start--the cast list itself is enough to get me excited--and this movie about building blocks kept me entertained the whole way through.

Emmet (Chris Pratt) is just a basic dude going about his basic life when he falls (literally) into an adventure. While he's used to following all instructions, both written and unwritten, this adventure requires him to go off the grid with Wildstyle (Elizabeth Banks), who is all too ready for the challenge of stopping Lord Business (Will Ferrell) in his plans to end the world. (Side note: I thought this movie would have been just fine had Wildstyle ended up being the "hero" instead of "the girl." She was written as a capable and intelligent character, so I was a little disheartened when she lost confidence in herself early on. That's my only critique.)

Joined by Batman (Will Arnett) and a team of "Master Builders," Emmet and Wildstyle navigate the LEGO universe, trying to return the Piece of Resistance to the Kragle, as the wizard Vitruvious (Morgan Freeman) prophesied "The Special" would do. If that sounds like a crazy story made up by a child, you're not far off, but no spoilers here!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Museum, A Meal, A Movie: 3 Relationship Lessons

Jesus and I took advantage of a free day to visit The Field Museum last weekend. We've both been there before, so this time we upgraded our basic tickets in order to check out a special exhibit: The Machine Inside: Biomechanics. We did a lot of people-watching (and people-following...not creepy in a museum), discovering, goofing around, and reminiscing. Later, we got dinner at Lazo's (one of our regular taco joints) and watched The LEGO Movie (A+, highly recommend, review to come). Along the way, we learned (and remembered) a few things about ourselves.
Thermal Selfie!
Spacial Awareness

Similarities: being aware of our surroundings. I grew up with "Be Aware of Your Surroundings" as a family rule, and Jesus's parkour years forced him to focus on what was around him.

Differences: our level of awareness based on where our surroundings are. Inside, Jesus always knows where he is and how to get where he wants to be. He likens indoor spaces to video game worlds: finite areas where it's impossible to get truly lost. I'm the opposite: huge indoor spaces overwhelm me and unless I have a map or a landmark, I have no way of knowing where exactly I am. (With a map I'm UNSTOPPABLE.) When we get outside, I can navigate my way nearly anywhere, but Jesus has no idea which way he's facing (even in Chicago).

Lesson: Rachel gets us to our destination and back home again; Jesus acts as tour guide while we're inside.
I got this. Facing east.
Eating Habits

Similarities: the need to eat every few hours, and subsequent habit of packing snacks for any day we plan on being out of the house. Hungry = our normal state of existence...but when our blood sugar starts to crash and we edge into hangry territory, watch out.

Differences: Jesus could eat the same three or four meals for the rest of his life, so finding food isn't that much of an issue for him when we are planning meals. I'm not picky either, but every now and then I do enjoy trying out a new restaurant or eating somewhere with a certain atmosphere. This has caused more than one disagreement/discussion (exacerbated by our growing hunger) when Jesus just wants to eat food and I want to enjoy a meal.

Lesson: Get on the same page about what we want before leaving the house.
We're not ourselves when we're hungry.
Taste in Movies

Similarities: we can always agree on animated kids movies (Wreck-It Ralph, Epic, Tangled), big screen versions of YA novels (Divergent, Ender's Game, Catching Fire), scary movies (anything that comes out in October), and superhero/comic book movies (anything from the Marvel or DC Comics world). The LEGO Movie suited both of us perfectly and it starred pretty much all of our favorite actors: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Will Forte, Jonah Hill, Jake Johnson, Liam Neeson, Nick Offerman...for real...everyone is in this movie, so we did a stellar job of picking it out.

Differences: I say why not tweak what could be improved; Jesus says don't fix what isn't broken. I like more drama and romance; Jesus prefers more gore, robots, and muscles.

Lesson: When in doubt, go with what you know will work--especially after a long day of walking and hangry fighting over where to eat. Sometimes the comfort of a familiar genre is exactly what you need.

Bonus Lesson: Remember to laugh out loud together. It can't hurt, and it'll probably help.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sunday Morning Shortlist Vol 4

I ran out of coffee last Friday and --gasp-- had to drink tea in the morning, but have no fear--I stocked up over the weekend so I can catch up on leisure reading with my favorite caffeinated companion. Won't you join me?
Museum Campus, Chicago (Jesus and I took advantage of a free day at the Field Museum yesterday.)
Rejoice! Packaged/processed food sales are going down! (Small victories are still victories.)

A clever (if not pricey) solution for growing plants. (I have a lily that wants a bigger home.)

Beautiful sketches. (Just try to not get this song stuck in your head after visiting.)

This is AWESOME. (I would love to have this option every weekend.)

How to Be Polite. (It's simpler than you think--and can change everything.)

If I'm not creating, I'm probably consuming. (These lists are a strange mixture of both.)

And with that, I'm off to do some creating! (Creating means napping and planning dinner.)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Parasol Protectorate

I recently finished a book series that I started well over a year ago--that's a while by my reading standards. The Parasol Protectorate is made up of five books: Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, Heartless, and Timeless. While I applaud the cleverness of the titles, sometimes it was hard to keep them straight. I also took lots of breaks between books, not because I wasn't interested (I was), but because there are so many (other) books to read!

This series is of the steampunk/sci-fi/romance/vampires & werewolves genre...aka, unlike anything I've read before, yet relatable to a lot of what I've read before. Each book follows Alexia Tarabotti, a woman who literally has no soul, as she navigates English society and the supernatural happenings around her. My favorite books were the first and the last--Soulless could stand on its own, and I thought Timeless wrapped Alexia's story up nicely. The middle three books were still good, but I got confused with the details at times.

All in all, this series was worth the time it took me to finally get through it...and it's a way better love story (stories...even minor characters get to grow and develop) than Twilight.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Getting Over the Hump

This has been a rough week, right? I don't think it's just me--I get the feeling we're all feeling a bit wrung out. I have a billion tabs open on my computer (nothing new), all reminders of things I have to do. I have several email drafts collecting proverbial dust in my inbox, all conversations I'm not ready to get into. I've been binge-reading, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, except I know I'm doing it as an escape from this downer of a week.

I have my alarm set early enough that I can get away with "snoozing" for at least another 30 minutes, though sometimes I lay in bed for an hour, drifting in and out of dream-filled/restless sleep. Today I forced myself to get up, even just to make coffee and sit--as long as I was out of bed. Baby steps.
Our garden--also making baby steps.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sunday Night Survey: Anniversary Editon

I'm back in Chicago after a weekend at home celebrating my grandparents's 60th wedding anniversary. I forgot to ask them what their secret was, but I'm pretty sure it has something to do with food and snark. What else did I spend the weekend doing? Glad you asked. In no particular order:

Making: coffee, with help from Mom

Cooking: nothing until just now, when I threw together some chicken fajitas with leftovers from the party
Eating: platters and platters of taco dip
Drinking: whatever Dad's having
Hogging: both bus seats
Looking: out the bus window, watching buildings fade to fields (and vice versa)
Taking: copious naps spread out on bus seats
Reading: The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault and One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak
Writing: this blog post and Thank You and Congratulations cards
Watching: Jesus play a video game while I type this
Wanting: a new phone (still)
Waiting: for T-Mobile to get the phone I want in stock
Playing: with second cousins
Sleeping: in
Sitting: in traffic
Wishing: Chicago and Colby were slightly closer to each other
Enjoying: the company of family and friends
Taking: only one picture the entire weekend, of me eating
Wearing: my new favorite maxi dress
Wondering: how I got so lucky to have so many examples of love
Listening to: country music, unexpectedly
Walking: around Colby with Mom and Dad after dinner and before breakfast
Smelling: coffee, bacon, beef, dairy air
Hoping: didn't forget anything in Wisconsin
Needing: to do laundry

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette

The Hidden Diary of Marie AntoinetteThe Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette by Carolly Erickson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a fun find from my local Little Free Library. I liked the more personal approach to history, and I've never met a journal/diary style novel that I didn't enjoy on some level. My biggest critique is the pacing/dates in this fictional diary. Sometimes "Marie Antoinette" didn't write for months or close to a year. Yeah, she explained why (people finding out about the secret diary, not having "time")...but this is fiction! The trivialities of real diary-keeping shouldn't factor in so much--at least not to where it affects the storytelling.

View all my reviews

Monday, August 4, 2014


As I started to draft this year's birthday post, I went back to my archives to see how I celebrated in the past. I didn't write about my birthday until 2012, when I turned 24, and even then, I didn't make my Year 24 Bucket List until August 15. It's like I had only the most arbitrary understanding of when my birthday is and that it's something to celebrate. Last year, I was flying back from Colorado on my birthday, so I was in blog mode and only one day late to publish my resolutions for 25.

If anything, I've at least gotten more organized and foresighted--this year I'm actually posting on my day of birth.

First, a look at how I did with last year's resolutions/goals:

traveling, reading, writing, exploring: yes, yes, yes, yes

Get bangs. It's time. : Check. I got bangs in January (and immediately decided to grow them out...).
Trick out my bike. Like with a chain that isn't nearly rusted through, maybe a milk crate and some bungee cords. : Still working on this one. My chain has gone from "nearly rusted through" to "rusty and stretched out," ...but it still got me from Point A to Point B, until this morning, when I found it like this:

So yeah. I'm pretty sure I'll have this completed by the time I turn 27.
Find health insurance. I'm almost 26, time to figure these things out. : I really don't want to talk about plan was to find new employment at some point. It's a work in progress. Until then, Obamacare, here I come.
Be charitable. I want to support things that I support. : My "charity" this year came in the form of sponsoring a friend when she ran a 5K, buying from small/local businesses, and donating to literacy programs.
Go camping or road tripping or just go big and jump trains. : Does taking three trips home in the same number of months count? I also biked a marathon and I have a mommy/daughter tripped planned for later this month.
Think about going back to school ( steps). : Still thinking...
Learn/improve my Spanish. I'm already enrolled in a beginner's class, here's hoping I retain something. : The beginner's class definitely helped me regain some of my Spanish confidence and got me back into the routine of practicing a language. I have the Duolingo app on my phone and I use it (almost) daily, so I'm less and less rusty every day.
Surround myself with love. : An ongoing process, but I think I've done well here.

*Note, I also happened to work on several items from my 24 list. I fixed my watch battery AND I tried out a new shade of lipstick. Maybe I should give myself two years for these things.

And finally, my 26 list:

Cultivate my life uniform. Or beauty uniform. Or closet/wardrobe/makeup palette. I want to continue buying clothes/accessories that are "Rachel" and stay away from impulse buys, too many statement/faddish pieces that go out of style super quick, and things that are ill-fitting or just not my style.
Be socially just, especially regarding food. Yes, I do little things here and there, but I can always do better.
Find new employment. Acquire health insurance. Learn about 401Ks. Basically, become the grown up that I think about when I think about growing up.
Keep dreaming. Keep balanced. Keep true to myself. Growing up isn't about growing boring.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Sunday Morning Shortlist Vol 3

While I nurse this coffee and my sore dancing feet, here are some interesting tidbits I've come across the past few weeks.
Yep, I live in this city. A stunning view from Trump Tower.
After attending my third wedding of the summer, this movie intrigues me even more.

We are beautiful/strong/unique in our broken places.

Remember when the government acted as a patron for artists? This gallery of posters by the WPA is great.

There are many reasons to take a social media vacation. These are the 12 Most Tranquil.

Another reminder to get your New Yorker reading in! Here are a few compilations of where to start.

And my own recommendations:

A clever set up & satisfying punchline.

A haunting story by George Saunders.

An in-depth look at Martha Stewart.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Hyperbole and a Half

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That HappenedHyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I expected a lot more from this blog-turned-memoir, and not just because I enjoy Brosh's actual blog and want a fellow female blogger to succeed. I also heard positive reviews from several people whose opinions I respect (comedians and writers, duh), so I was disappointed to find myself doing more flipping pages/skimming than actual reading.

My theory is, not all blogs are meant to also be books. Blogging is a unique medium, and things written for blogs don't necessarily translate into long form reading--novels, memoirs, self-help, etc.

It also might be that I really don't like dogs, and for some reason Brosh added a lot of dog chapters to her work. I missed the ruminations on grammar and writing, things that seem like perfect fodder for a book.

I'd like to see how Brosh tackles a book made of fresh material written specifically for publication (be it another memoir/collection of essays or something completely different) as opposed to a collection of recycled blog posts and random fillers. There's no denying she has talent and knows how to write!

View all my reviews

Friday, August 1, 2014

Party Time

Bye bye July, Hello Happiness Month! You guys do remember that August is all about Happiness Happening, right?

This is not to say July isn't happy, because it was! I saw my family again for Wedding #2, celebrated birthdays upon birthdays upon birthdays (mostly from afar, but a few here--including America's!), and biked a marathon. I love July and its Grab Life By The Horns mentality. It flows so well into August, with its Squeeze All The Fun Into Summer Before September Comes frenzy.

I'll be doing plenty of squeezing this year, starting with today/this weekend. It's Wedding #3 of the summer, and my MercyWorks community's second wedding, which means there will also be a reunion. And a celebration of a recent engagement. And a trip town memory lane. And a look forward to the third and fourth community weddings. (You might also remember we planned on having one community wedding per year post-MercyWorks...we missed 2013, but we're making it up with 2 weddings this year, so we're back on track!)

July, you're great. August, come join the party.