Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sunday Night Survey: Work Hard/Play Hard Edition

How did another weekend come and go so fast? More importantly, how is September over this week? I picked up an extra shift at Mercy on Saturday, which meant Sunday (today) was my day of rest. The Packers did their work on the field so I can celebrate gloat tomorrow. I got to see a pretty cool and local circus. And we're heading into the season of scares and squash and candy...which means I'm planning out the last three months of the year. Among other things:

Making: a plan of attack for shorter/colder days
Smelling: wood stoves
Cooking: scrambled eggs for the guys at work
Eating: vegan at Native Foods and lazy at Fast Wok
Drinking: homemade horchata (found a simple recipe thanks to Bailey!)
Putting: self care at the top of my list

Convincing: teenagers to finish their homework
Being: grateful for extra work
Spending: probably more than I should because of it
Wondering: how to rearrange my room next
Missing: my basil plant

Attending: the Midnight Circus in the afternoon
Keeping: my eyes wide open during each performance--I didn't want to miss anything!
Doing: this survey way too late at night

Uploading: (almost) all my pics from this summer
Watching: football (Go Packers!) and circus performers
Walking: to our Chinese place for lo mein and crab rangoon
Reading: If You Follow Me by Malena Watrous
Writing: in my journal
Playing: Duolingo vocab games to retain more Spanish
Listening to: Vivaldi and Vagabond Opera
Wanting: a back massage
Needing: an ibuprofen or two

Saturday, September 27, 2014

August/September Book Report

Okay: I read a lot. And I like to review/summarize what I read, mostly to document it for myself. Just recently I started keeping a better (more detailed and consistent) book journal, but there are a few books pre-journal that I only wrote a few sentences about. This week I'm playing catch up with those books:

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I've always been on the fence about Alice, but I love a good retelling. This one was well thought out and had some nice little details. I'm game to read the rest of the series.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It has similarities to the movie, but it's not the movie. And that's okay. The "Other Stories" were hit and miss. Some got me real good (and made me think I should have waited until October to read), while others I skimmed through.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
First thoughts: I really wish I could have saved this one for my California vacation...but it was so good I couldn't stop reading. I Loved this character-driven story, and the last lines especially got me.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
First thoughts: It took me a few tries to warm up to this book, but once I got into it I found it absorbing. I loved having Bibi Chen as the omniscient narrator. Her descriptions of each traveler and the people they met along their journey revealed who she was just as much as who they were.
Recommended for: travelers, lovers of characters, book clubs.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday Night Links 3: On My Grind

Friday night is like Thursday night when you work Saturday morning. Tonight's pizza is a no-nonsense sausage + veggie combo that will also serve as a great breakfast/lunch tomorrow. Tonight's links are all "work"-related because that's the frame of mind I'm in.

First, thoughts about the "business" of blogging (in quotes for me because I make zero dollars on this labor of love) and what happens when you suffer burnout. (There are also a few responses to this article, which make good points like: doesn't everyone in every job experience burnout? Bloggers aren't unique. I was also impressed with myself for knowing/following most of the bloggers mentioned by the article.)

This guy is making it his job to become a Future Former Millionaire. An interesting concept in itself, regardless of the amount he earns/gives back.

If I got a raise for visiting the library, I'd be a Current Actual Millionaire.

If Strangers Talked to Everybody like They Talk to Writers.

This shiny new blogger pretty much says exactly how I feel about the job search process. While I feel a kindred connection to her, I also feel way more jaded (read: old) about the whole thing.

And speaking of the process...

Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sayonara, Summer

Because we had the rental car until Monday morning anyway, we decided to make good use of it Sunday afternoon and take a little trip north to Chicago's Botanic Gardens. Even though some blooms are done for the season, there was still plenty to see and lots of people out enjoying the mild weather. I definitely want to visit again when I have more time to take leisurely walks around the grounds.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Au Revoir, Summer

Five weddings, one anniversary party, three birthday parties, and several festivals, farmers markets, and beach days later, we made it to fall. This weekend I bid summer adieu with 2014's last wedding and an impromptu visit to the Chicago Botanic Garden (more pics to come!).

Pre-wedding car selfie (which was followed by the traditional pre-wedding beer, after we found the church).
Reception at the local train station = genius. And gorgeous.
Oh yeah, we got to play on trains.
He wore that hat all night.
#mike&jilligethitched ...the pencils had our names/tables on them AND they could be used to do the crossword puzzle that served as our placemat. Also: that cupcake had cheesecake inside of it.
The details in this wedding were insane. I would say this was a "Pinterest" wedding, but to be honest--from the frozen margaritas at the bar to the homemade napkins and jam--it was a Mike and Jillian wedding. And a perfect little retreat from the city. Just what I needed before fall starts for real.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Walnut Apple Maple Granola

With last week's slight huge dip in temps, I got to turn on my oven again. I used that power for good by making a modified version of this granola from this food blogger. I love having granola in the house again and I'm realizing I might be a fall person, but how can you not be excited for cinnamon and apples in September?

There's really no wrong way to prepare or consume this granola. My way turns it into a granola/apple crisp mash-up that makes it perfect for breakfast, snacking, or dessert. However you go about it, it won't sit on your counter for long. Not if you have a house full of grazers, anyway.

Walnut Apple Maple Granola (WAM!)

2 cups rolled oats
3 apples cored and diced
1 cup chopped walnuts (The original recipe calls for almonds, but walnuts + apples = yum.)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup brown sugar (This is my addition. I wasn't ready to not have brown sugar in my granola and, again, brown sugar + apples = duh.)
slightly less than 1 tbsp vanilla (I'm not always the biggest fan of real maple, so I like having the vanilla, but feel free to let the syrup be the star of this!)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Mix oats, apples, walnuts, and cinnamon in a bowl.
In a sauce pot over medium heat, stir together butter, syrup, sugar, and vanilla until the butter is melted and the edges start to bubble.
Pour liquid mixture over dry ingredients and stir to combine.
Spread granola onto a baking sheet (covered in parchment paper if that's how you roll) and put it in the oven.
(By now things should be smelling pretty darn good and it's tempting to just eat what you have straight out of the bowl. I won't stop you, but I promise it's worth it to bake this bad boy.)
Bake for 30 minutes, stir, then bake for 15-20 more minutes--watch at the end because it goes from toasty and golden to dark brown pretty quick!
Let cool (or don't) and enjoy!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

One More Thing

One More Thing: Stories and Other StoriesOne More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First thoughts: so funny. so quick. so easy to dip in and out of.

My favorite was when characters/ideas from earlier stories made their way into later ones.

Where I read: CTA, which made me feel tres chic.

Recommended for: funny people, fans of The Office, snarky people.

Suggestions for improvement: Yeah, some stories were probably not necessary in this collection, but I kind of liked the hodgepodge. My suggestion is keep writing!

Final thought: Novak's Instagram is also delightful.

View all my reviews

Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday Night Links 2

Tonight is pre-wedding mini-reunion night for my community (okay so it's mostly Jesus and me waiting for two of the out-of-towners), so my usual pizza + wine night looks more like chips/salsa + wine. This will be our third community wedding since 2012 and my fifth and last wedding this summer. It's also summer's final weekend! In the coming weeks I'll be uploading and printing out pictures from the last three months as I squeeze all I can out of a summery fall.

Let's not get too serious on Summer 2014's final Friday. Lighthearted links only!

What are the women in classic art thinking? This will never not be funny.

The "If Our Bodies Could Talk" Series by Dr. James Hamblin: spot on. Here's a wine-inspired one.

The power of reading. Way to go, Chicago kids!

A history lesson for a song I'll probably hear/dance to this weekend.

And one more wine link for the road: I think I'll stick to my corkscrew, but if I ever misplace it, I have options. (PS: they are totally drinking Three Buck Chuck from Trader Joe's...they should know Winking Owl from Aldi is cheaper & tastier!)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Hay Fever & Heritage Thoughts

I spent today in a Benadryl hangover--a totally real thing that happens the day after you take Benadryl--so I'm even more daydreamy than normal. I try to stay away from pharmaceuticals as much as possible, but my garbage can overflowing with snot-filled tissues and the bags under my eyes convinced me to say yes to drugs. I sneezed 97% less today (super scientific statistic) than I have all week, and my eye bags are more lavender than deep purple. Trade offs.

In any case, I don't know if it's the Benadryl haze, this gorgeous last week of summer, or just that I haven't finished with something until I've over-analyzed it, but I'm still thinking about the surveys Jesus and I did for Monday and yesterday.

Mostly I'm thinking about how differently we answered the questions. More specifically, I'm thinking about how Jesus never once mentioned his hair, eyes, or skin--the first three indicators I gave for my heritage and what I would consider some of the most obvious indicators for his. I also talked about food more than he did, which I didn't expect. (Although both of our families eat way more than just "traditional" foods, our childhood experiences with rice and beans couldn't be more different. In my family, rice is eaten with sugar and milk. And beans just means Bush's Baked.)

When it comes down to it, though, the way our families are similar or different has less to do with where our ancestors are from and more to do with how Crespos do things compared to how Kaisers do things. (Not to mention things like sibling order, hometown, hometown population, or hometown population as a ratio of people to cows.) If my own parents discussed their heritage/childhood, they'd appear similar: German-American, Catholic, rural. And still I have traits that are clearly Rachu or Kaiser.

Maybe this next month is for celebrating German or Hispanic heritages specifically, but the definition of heritage doesn't necessarily include race or ethnicity. It just means "things passed down"--whether that be traditions or objects. In that regard, Jesus and I will both celebrate by being grateful for the things passed down to us, especially snarky wit and strong wills. (In simpler terms, thanks for making us stubborn smart asses Moms and Dads!)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What Being Hispanic Means to Me (Guest Post!)

Yesterday was the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, which goes from mid-September to mid-October in order to encompass the independence days of many Hispanic countries (Mexico's is today). Since I already shared a bit about being German-American, I asked Jesus if he would answer the same questions about being Hispanic. I didn't coach him at all (as in, I simply asked the question and let him interpret it on his own) and he didn't see my answers before he shared his experience, so I did make a few changes/additions to questions for clarification. I think the differences in how we answered are interesting, and though I wasn't surprised by his answers, there were a few things I expected him to say that he didn't.

[Disclaimer] This is Jesus's personal experience and is in no way meant to speak for Hispanics/Latinos/Mexicans/Puerto Ricans/Mexican-Puerto Rican-Americans as a whole. I wanted to hear more about his views on ethnicity and I thought a guest post would be a fun way to start the conversation. If you want to learn more about Hispanic and/or Latino culture in general, talk to more people/read some books/travel. This blog is personal, and he can only speak for himself. [End Disclaimer]

Do you identify as Hispanic-American? No.

What do you identify as? Plain old Hispanic or Latino.

What's the difference? Saying that I'm Hispanic-American implies that I'm not whole unless I'm American [as well] and I don't feel I need to add the American to my Hispanic. I can be Hispanic without being American in that same way that I can identify as American [without being Hispanic]. I can identify as American or Hispanic. They can be separate. They don't have to be the same thing.

What parts of you/your personality do you attribute to being Hispanic? Having a mother who speaks Spanish and a father who is, well, 100% Puerto Rican...they raised me in a Hispanic fashion...with Hispanic customs and traditions. Living in America, I still picked up on "American" traditions on my own. They never tried to seclude me from American culture.

What does it mean (to you) to be raised in "a Hispanic fashion"? The food, the language, what was considered culturally acceptable (discipline-wise).

Is anything about you not Hispanic? My girlfriend. I fit Hispanic stereotypes pretty great, but I can fit American stereotypes as well. I'm also pretty weird in general, so...

How did you know you were Hispanic growing up? (Did you know?) Any family traditions? Things that set you apart from people you knew who were not Hispanic? Just the fact that I grew up among Spanish-speaking people and speaking Spanish with them. I was lucky enough to attend a pretty diverse school so I understood that there were differences between all the different kids and their families and upbringings.

What do you think people assume about you when they see you? Do you get tagged with Hispanic stereotypes? I've spent a lot of my grown up life having people be surprised to find out I was Hispanic. When I would say I was Mexican and Puerto Rican they would say, "What, really?" so I guess I didn't act/look Hispanic enough...I don't know what they thought I was.

Will you celebrate at all this month? If so, how? No, not at all. Not in the least bit. I actually hate the traffic and the parades.

Monday, September 15, 2014

What Being German-American Means to Me

German-American Day isn't until October 6th, but today marks the beginning of German-American Heritage Month. It stretches from mid-September to mid-October to encompass the most German-y festivals and traditions (according to several sources--the documentation isn't great on this). In any case, I wanted to take some time to share about my experience as a German-American, and how it's shaped who I am. (Today also marks the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, so I'll be bringing in a very special guest tomorrow to share his experience--I hope you're as excited as I am!)

[Disclaimer] This is my own personal experience and is in no way meant to speak for German-Americans as a whole. You'll understand as you read, but I would never claim my worldview as "typical" of my "people"--whether that be German-Americans, Wisconsonites, white people, rural people, urbanites, females, or any other groups I identify with. This blog is personal, and I can only speak for myself. [End Disclaimer]

Do you identify as German-American? Yes. I'm very clearly white. I have blond hair and blue eyes. My last name is Kaiser, for crying out loud.

Is there anything else about you that you attribute to being German-American? My family has been in the United States for more than a few generations and we're fully assimilated, so I can't say if my personality is "German" (nature/DNA/aligned with the majority of other Germans) or just how I was raised (nurture/shaped by my family and environment). Things like my stubbornness, thrift, snark, and penchant for argument definitely fall under the German stereotype umbrella. It's also nice to be able to say, "Yeah, I follow rules and enjoy order--I'm German," and to explain myself easily that way. I'm punctual. I like brats and pretzels and rye bread and egg noodles and sauerkraut. That being said, I'm definitely more American than German. I feel no natural camaraderie with German people, as if they were my fellow countrymen. (That might make me more German, actually, if the stereotype of German coldness/reservation is true.)

Is anything about you not German-American? I don't speak any German. I don't like beer. Or soccer--further proof I'm more American than German.

How did you know you were German-American growing up? Any family traditions? Things that set you apart from people you knew who were not German-American? Other a casual interest in my ancestry and my last name, I never felt German/German-American growing up. I think because where I grew up was very German/Polish, so I never felt apart from others. Much like being white, being German-American in central Wisconsin doesn't necessarily challenge you or make you think about who you are. My extended family drinks a solid amount of beer and we play traditional card games, but there was never a time where I was like, "OMG my family is so German it's embarrassing," because we weren't doing anything that different from anyone else I knew.

When I went to college I started to understand (or rather, understand more) that not all families valued structure and routine like mine. Moving to Chicago was even more of an eye-opener in actually experiencing how families are different instead of just a conceptual knowledge of the fact.

What do you think people assume about you when they see you? Do you get tagged with German-American stereotypes? I think my whiteness supersedes any other, more specific, stereotyping. From what I've heard from people who are now friends, when they first saw/met me they thought I was reserved, goofy, intense, prone to daydreaming, sarcastic, and (from my boyfriend) blond. All of these things are partly true part of the time, but they are in no way stereotypes based on my looks. (Except blond. Jesus learned quickly that I'm not the blond white girl he fantasized about growing up, but I think that's for the best in the long run.) When people learn about my German heritage, they say they understand me better.

Will you celebrate this month? If so, how? Probably not. I might drink a cider at some point? Like I said, I'm more American than German. If anything, I'll cook a German dish, write about it here, and be grateful for what my ancestors did for me.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday Night Survey: Church Edition

My boyfriend took me to church this morning. That was a second. (I was about to say first, but he did take me to his childhood church earlier this summer.) We went to Christian Community Church's official opening of their Lincoln Square campus to support our friends Matt and Amanda, who hold leadership positions there. They've been putting in long hours to grow this church location and it was great to see the results of what they've been working on. The free food wasn't bad either. :)

The rest of the day (and earlier this weekend) went like this:

Making: two batches of granola since we ate the first one in two days
Smelling: cinnamon and nutmeg.
Cooking: the first granola for the season, plus a pizza
Eating: pulled pork and potatoes and carnitas (aka more pulled pork)
Drinking: coffee, wine, horchata, jarritos
Putting: flannel sheets on my bed.
Being: okay with that?
Wondering: if I'm a fall person, or just a season change person.
Missing: summer weather nonetheless.
Sneezing: everywhere.
Lighting: candles.
Doing: all the laundry I've been putting off since Labor Day.
Watching: football (Go Bears!) and Miss America (it's a scholarship competition!).
Walking: to our taqueria for carnitas.
Layering: all my clothes.
Reading: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Writing: A scary story based on a prompt from Jesus.
Playing: scary games.
Listening to: RiotFest from a few blocks away.
Wanting: more days like today, weather-wise.
Needing: to buy more floss. (Keepin it real.)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Broken Teaglass

The Broken TeaglassThe Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First thoughts: Huh, that was interesting. A little like A Lover's Dictionary, but less captivating. Could have been sharper, but I like the idea of a mysterious story hidden in reference cards at a dictionary publishing house. Mostly I like the idea of a dictionary publishing house. Lately I relate to the mindless job/new job/job search aspect of any book I read. Also: teaglass?

Favorite character: the old guy...whose name I can't remember. And Billy's dad. (Billy being the protagonist and the new guy at the publishing house.)

Where I read it: on a coach bus to and from Wisconsin.

Recommended for: word lovers, job searchers, people who take a lot of bus rides.

Suggestions for improvement: another round of edits to remove some awkward dialogue and fluff.

Final thoughts: not bad, but kinda forgettable.

View all my reviews

Friday, September 12, 2014

It's Fall! (Friday Night Links 1)

Don't misread me: it's still summer. But for today, it's fall. I'm wearing a sweater. I had hot coffee this morning. The air smells like wood stoves and wet dog. (Just Chicago? Oh.) And for the first time since June, I'm using my oven without regret. If you can guess what I'm making, well, that just means you've read one or two of my Friday night blogs before.

Yeah, it's pizza. Red sauce, broccoli, peppers, and caramelized onions. You know the drill.
And granola! I found this recipe last week and have been waiting for sub-70 degree weather to try it out. Tonight's the night, but stay tuned for my tweaked version of it. (Spoiler alert, I add sugar.)

A few other food-themed things I've found in the past few weeks:

My next granola recipe. (I want to become a granola connoisseur this year. Maybe I'll write a cookbook like this.)

An interesting take on part-time veganism.

Following foodies on Instagram = my other day job.

Who knew almonds affected so many facets of life? I'm rethinking my love of almond milk.

I think I could be the founding member of a wine-ercising club. Or the only member of a I drink wine alone while I eat half a pizza club.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Half My Life

Most days aren't that different from the day before--any changes are gradual--but today felt different. Definitely cooler. Grayer. A distinct shift from what yesterday and the past few months have offered. A good day for meditation and remembrance.

September 11, 2001 seems like a lifetime ago. For some people it is. For me, it's half a lifetime ago. I was in eighth grade at St. Mary's, but that morning I was at the high school for band class. We always turned the TV on when class was over and while we waited for our ride back to St. Mary's, so I wasn't really paying attention to what was happening. But then I was.

From now on, more of my existence will be post-9/11 than pre. And yet, I'm still surprised when a book I'm reading mentions September 11th, or when it in some way influences the plot. It seems so fresh still. I do the same thing every time--flip to the front pages to check the publication date. 2003. 2008. 2011. Last year. How long until September 11th feels like history instead of current events?

I know that's a loaded question, so I won't even attempt an answer. Instead, an excerpt from this letter written by Frank Culbertson, the only American not on Earth on September 11th:

"I know that we are on the threshold (or beyond) of a terrible shift in the history of the world. Many things will never be the same again after September 11, 2001. Not just for the thousands and thousands of people directly affected by these horrendous acts of terrorism, but probably for all of us....It's horrible to see smoke pouring from wounds in your own country from such a fantastic vantage point. The dichotomy of being on a spacecraft dedicated to improving life on the earth and watching life being destroyed by such willful, terrible acts is jolting to the psyche, no matter who you are."

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A to Z: a Bookish Survey

As I tweak and grow my blog, I've taken time to think more about my reading life. Reading will always be my happy place, but I also want it to be my learning place, teaching place, and connecting place. My book reviews have evolved to reflect my desire to share my joys of reading, and posts like this one help as well. Even though I'm not back in school, I wanted to take stock of some of my recent reading habits. I've seen this survey pop up on a few bookish blogs recently, and I think I found where it originated. The Perpetual Page-Turner created this one way back in August of 2013. It's a simple and fun way to document how I feel about reading at this moment and to see what books have affected me most--and it'll be interesting to see how my answers change if I come back to this in several months or years.

Author you've read the most: That's got to be Anne Tyler or Dave Eggers. Anne Tyler just because of her expanse, Dave Eggers because of my devotion. Meg Wolitzer is catching up to these guys, though.
Best sequel ever: Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card--which is funny, because he had the idea for that book first, and wrote Ender's Game as more of a "prequel" so he could write Speaker without having to explain all of Ender's history first. And then Ender's Game went on to become his most famous book (now a movie as well). 
Currently reading: The Ten-Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer.
Drink of choice while reading: In the AM: coffee. In the PM: white wine/tea.
E-reader or physical book?: Physical book. I don't have an e-reader so that makes this easy, plus I'm slow to jump on the technology bandwagon. I'm sure I'll be reading things on  an e-reader/my phone by maybe 2052.
Fictional character you would have dated in college: Hmmm. I see facets of my current relationship in the relationships of fictional characters, but (thankfully) none of my college relationships were successful. I dated/crushed on a lot of Peter Pans.
Glad you gave this book a chance: Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan. I really didn't think I'd get into it, but thanks to a four-hour plane ride I had few other choices for entertainment. I ended up getting lost in the world of the story and the lives of the characters.
Hidden gem book: The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan...not sure how hidden it is, but I can't remember how I stumbled upon it. Or The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, which I read so long ago it feels like a dream.
Important moment in your reading life: I don't remember the book itself, just that I was in third grade and realized the "chapter" book I was reading was actually just a long book...I kept waiting for the next chapter to signify where I could pause, but it never I never stopped reading. I realized the power of a story to keep me engaged for extended periods of time.
Just finished: Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card. Five stars.
Kinds of books you won’t read: I judge books largely by their covers, so books with bad graphics? I'm also not a fan of most memoirs, unless they are hilarious/written by comedians.
Longest book you’ve read: AKA, Longest Book I've ATTEMPTED to read: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I think I did pretty well on this monster. I read a lot of articles about the book, and the parts I did read included the footnotes.
Most major book hangover: right now, Speaker for the Dead. It's been a while since a book stuck with me like this one is. Biggest "book hangover" of all time: nothing can top We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver.
Number of bookcases you own: three. One actual bookcase, one hutch turned into a bookcase, one stack of books by my bed that serves as a Read These Next bookcase. I also have several virtual bookcases. And one wish-listed physical bookcase in an online shopping cart.
One book you have read multiple times: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Once when I needed food, once when I needed God, once when I needed love.
Preferred place to read: bed/couch/Saturday/bench/morning
Quote that you like, from a book you’ve read: Oh, gosh. I have journals full of quotes I like and quotes that have stuck with me to this day. I'll go with the most recent: "As long as you keep getting born, it's alright to die sometimes." (Orson Scott Card/Ender Wiggins, Speaker for the Dead)
Reading regret: Not giving up on lemons sooner. Life is too short to waste on books that aren't AWESOME.
Series you started and need to finish: The All Souls Trilogy...I've only read A Discovery of Witches.
Three of your all-time favorite books: How We Are Hungry by Dave Eggers, (perfect perfect nugget of literature) Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (met me at the right time in my life) and The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (inspiration for one of my tattoos). And Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow (I read it twice in three days). (Oops, that was four. Math was never my strongest subject.)
Unapologetic fangirl for: Dave Eggers, Elizabeth Gilbert, Tina Fey, Michael Pollan, David Sedaris, Margaret Atwood, Meg Wolitzer (recently), A.J. Jacobs, Jhumpa Lahiri...
Very excited for this release more than all the others: I'm lucky if I read a book within five years of its release, much less being excited for said release. That being said, I want to read Amy Poehler's upcoming book (Yes Please) sooner rather than later.
Worst bookish habit: Dog-ears. Sorry future readers...this just means there was something insightful on that page!
X marks the spot: Start at the top of your shelf and pick the 27th book: The Sound and the Fury by William Faulker. One of my Own But Haven't Read.
Your latest book purchase: Well, it was definitely at the thrift store, since that's usually where I buy books. Possibly a Michael Crichton. Or A Discovery of Witches.
Zzz snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY too late): Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card. Can you tell I finished this recently and it's still on my mind a bunch?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sunday Night Survey: Zoo Edition

School is back in session, football is back on TV, and my sweats are slowing making their way back in my wardrobe...but summer isn't over yet! Yesterday I went to the beach and today Jesus and I took a trip to the Brookfield Zoo. I'm gonna stretch this season out while there's still daylight and 80 degree temps. Summer is a way of life more than a set amount of time. It looks something like this:

Making: faces at small children.
Cooking: nothing! Brit and Diego made dinner for Becca's birthday celebration Friday night and Dalia made us dinner after the zoo. :)
Eating: rice and beans and veggies and chicken and cake.
Drinking: RC Cola and gin and a horchata (not all at once).

Celebrating: Becca's birthday here and my parents' wedding anniversary from afar. Cheers to 27 and 29 years!
Walking: all around the zoo and along the lakefront.
Watching: Vines and Sunday Night Football--my only concession to fall. (Get ready for that to not change until February.)
Cheering: for the Colts to get back in this game.

Laying: out at the beach.
Taking: allergy medicine.
Reading: The Ten-Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer

Fixing: my broken bike (minor repair--nothing to worry about).
Writing: cover letters.
Playing: a Toy Story-themed video game.
Sleeping: in.
Enjoying: a play for Becca's birthday celebration and the company of old friends.
Wearing: football jerseys and sweatshirts (at night at least).
Wondering: how I got so old (Saturday morning) and why my neighbor hates her dog so much (Sunday morning).
Hoping: my nose stops running soon.
Listening to: Euro trance.
Smelling: animal food and poo (at the zoo).

Wanting: snuggles.
Needing: snuggles.

Getting: snuggled. Thanks boyfriend!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?

Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? by Dave Eggers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First thoughts: interesting, unorthodox, unsettling, preachy-ish, funny, engaging, mouthful of a title.

Recommended for: conversationalists, white guys, existentialists, Dave Eggers fans.

This completely dialogue-driven story unfolded like a conversation, because that's what it was. For me, it was like reading a play without the stage directions, like reading the transcript of an interrogation with no context. And it worked.

At this point, Dave Eggers can pretty much write whatever he wants and it'll get published--and I'll read it. I like that he's stretching the definition of "novel" and trying different things.

View all my reviews

Friday, September 5, 2014

NorCal Day 4: Wedding!

(Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 if you missed them.)

Our last full day in Cali was spent celebrating Marina and Nate at the gorgeous Ravenswood Historical Site in Livermore. I laughed (when the ring bearer, Marina's dog, came down the aisle), I cried (when Marina came down the aisle), and I ate some bomb comfort food.

Ice Cream: Day 4. It had to happen.
Marley, the guard dog/ring bearer
Mom & Me...we ditched the heels pretty early in the day.
Still can't believe this actually happened! 
We may or may not have cried together a little.
And like that, our trip was over. Well, not exactly...first we had to drive back to the airport the next morning, which took us across yet another bridge. Then we flew back to the Midwest. I put my hair back into its usual messy bun and started planning the next reunion (which hopefully happens much sooner than five years from now).

Thursday, September 4, 2014

NorCal Day 3: Livermore

(Day 1 and Day 2 if you missed them.)

Being in Livermore felt surreal, yet totally normal. Mom and I went for a walk downtown to start off our day, checking out the sights Marina had pointed out to us the night before. We did a little thrift store shopping, lots of window shopping, and imagined what it would be like to live in a climate where we could wear our hair down and not worry about neck sweat (maybe that was just me).
Once it got closer to noon (we're classy), we went to a local winery for a tour and tasting. Wente Vineyards is one of Livermore's oldest family wineries, and I was especially excited to check it out because they recently changed their name from Wente Bros to Wente Vineyards thanks to their female CEO, Carolyn Wente. You go, girl!
It smelled amazing in here.
The tour was, sadly, disappointing. After a lot of hype (beautiful grounds, stunning views of the vineyards, elaborate tasting room), following around a curmudgeon named Jerry while he rattled off a bunch of jargon and warned us against pretending we knew more than he did wasn't the best way to advertise this award-winning winery. Luckily, the tasting was great--I'm not a wine connoisseur by any means (I like my wine to taste like juice), but I'm game to try new things and Jerry warmed up considerably once he was behind the counter pouring el vino. (Sidenote: if anyone from Wente reads this, I could totally be your tour guide. I'm great at ice breaker jokes and I have an awesome memory. Hire me!)

Back in town and well overdue for lunch, Mom and I checked out Lemon Grass Thai. After I convinced Mom that she might actually like Thai. The conversation went like this:
"I don't like Thai."
"How do you know?"
"I don't know. Okay, let's try it."
We did and we liked it. Especially the fried banana and coconut ice cream. (If you're following along, yes, we've had ice cream every day so far. The trend continues tomorrow.)

Friday night was Marina and Nate's rehearsal dinner, and we were graciously invited over to Marina's parents' house to join in the celebration. I've either met or heard lots about the friends and family gathered, so it was nice to reunite before the craziness of the big day. I learned all about Bay Area traffic, the California grind, and that the current weather was considered "humid" (I laughed out loud at that one). More importantly, I learned that five years and 2100 miles isn't too far to lose something truly special--Marina and I met at just the right time and place in our lives to ensure that. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

NorCal Day 2: San Francisco and Bay Area Traffic

The sun wasn't quite up, but we were. We grabbed a quick breakfast from the motel's lobby and headed back towards the city, back across the Golden Gate Bridge. Spoiler alert: it's just as majestic at dawn as it is at dusk. I know some people drive across it during their daily commute, and I'm sure it feels like whatever to them, but man was it hard to keep my eyes on the road and not on the views.

In San Francisco, we parked for the day and headed out on foot. Our agenda looked like this: Notice something interesting. Walk towards it. Repeat. We also let food be our guide: Do you smell donuts? I guess it's mid-morning snack time.
This looks interesting... (Chinatown)
Verrrrryy interesting... (Transamerica Pyramid Center)
We noticed the sign said "Don't Touch" after the picture...but c'mon, that hand was made to be held!
Port of San Francisco
Bay Bridge
Pier 39
Yes, we got the donuts.
Hmmm...what's that? Looks interesting!
These were just the stairs leading to The Stairs.
A view from one of the tops (my quads are in GREAT shape).
Coit Tower
City View
Water View
All of those cars are driving, not parked on Lombard Street.
Of course we had to walk to the top!
Rewarding ourselves with Mama's
When we got here (at about 2 pm), that's where we were in line (can you see Mom standing way back by the chairs?). Worth the wait!
By four we were ready to head to wine country (and take a nap), so we joined everyone else leaving the city and got a certified Bay Area rush hour cultural experience. Eventually we got to Livermore, checked in to our home for the rest of the week, and waited (eagerly!) for Marina to pick us up for dinner! It was a reunion five years in the making, and I love that it happened in the parking lot of a motel. Typical.
And yes, that picture is hanging sideways.
For our very first meal shared in America (our very first time doing anything together in America, besides playing phone tag or texting or missing each other), Marina took us to First Street Alehouse for some comfort food. And ice cream after, of course!
sweating, holding food...sounds like us.
To be continued...and if you missed it, Day 1.